1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 199

The evening shadows were beginning to grow long in Tameo's compound, and the air was filled with the scent of wood fire and food.

"You carry the bucket for me, will you, Isao-kun?" Emi, Susumu's wife said, stepping out of the main house.

"You think Seiji-sama needs this much water?" the boy asked, coming out right behind her. He carried a bucket of water in his right hand.

Emi smiled at the boy. "Oh, you might be surprised." She shifted the tray she carried in her hands. It had a covered bowl in it, smelling of food. "As much as he drank, he's either going to be very thirsty or get sick or both. Maybe it'll help keep him from yelling for more."

Isao looked thoughtful for a moment. "I...the last time Joben-ojisan had too much, he was sick for a day."

"That's not unusual," Emi said. "I'm not sure why people drink that much, but it means we get a lot of practice on getting them over the effects."

"I guess," the boy said, nodding.

They crossed the courtyard to the lockup building. A cat looked up as they passed, and went back to sleep. No one else was about that they could see.

They stopped by the side of the lockup, where a small door was built into the wall, too small to get out of, but large enough to push a bucket through. "Open the door, will you, Isao-kun?"

"I don't know why you're bothering," said a young voice from around the corner. "He's not awake yet. He won't be able to eat."

"Sukeo-kun?" Emi said.

The boy walked around from the side of the building where he had been sitting. He dusted off his pants as he moved towards them. His shoulders were slumped and his head down, like he expected to be reprimanded for being there.

"What are you doing here?" Isao said, frowning.

"Hush," Emi said. "No doubt he's being a good son and keeping watch over his father."

That made Sukeo look up, surprised at Emi's reaction. "You're not mad?"

"Why should I be mad?" she asked. Turning to Isao, she nodded towards the door. "Open it up, and let's get this done."

Isao opened the door, and Emi gracefully knelt down. "The food first," she said, and slid the tray into the room. She looked at Isao, who pushed the bucket in, and then closed and latched the door.

The two of them stood up. "Did you eat yet, Sukeo-kun?" Emi asked.

The boy shook his head. "After I made sure Haha-ue and my brother were home safe, I came back here."

"Would you like something?" the woman asked.

"I...I don't want to leave." He chewed on his bottom lip and looked down. "When Chichi-ue drinks too much, he doesn't always remember what happened."

Isao frowned. "So? He wouldn't be here if he didn't deserve it."

Sukeo narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. "Shut up. Don't talk about my Otousan. At least my Otousan didn't run off like yours."

Isao started to lunge forward, but Emi caught him. "Hush, both of you."

"But, but . . . " Isao said, looking up at Emi.

She stepped in between of the two boys. "Sukeo is to be commended for his loyalty to his father, but neither one of you will be commended if you bring Susumu-chan or Kinjiro out here to break up a fight."

Isao glared at Sukeo but nodded, then bowed towards the woman. "You are right, Emi-obasan. I apologize."

Emi looked at Sukeo, who dropped his eyes, but not his stance.

"But it's true," he said, still defiant.

"Truth. Neither one of you have perfect fathers. This should make you friends, not enemies," Emi said. "You owe an apology."

He took a deep breath, and nodded, but bowed more shallowly than he should have. "I apologize. I shouldn't have said that here."

Emi sighed, and decided not to push it further. "Once again, would you like something to eat. I'll bring it out. You won't have to leave."

Sukeo once again was surprised, and he dropped his stiffness. "You'd do that?"

"Yes, boy," the woman said, giving him the smallest of smiles. "I hate to see hungry boys when I have food to share."

Sukeo nodded.

"Good. Now, Isao-kun, let's go back in," she said to her young companion. "I'm sure you would like to eat as well."

Isao nodded, and the two headed back towards the house. Before they got inside, he turned to look over his shoulder at Sukeo. The boy had gone back to sitting next to the lockup building, his legs drawn up tightly to his body and his arms wrapped around his legs. His forehead was resting on his knees, hiding his face. He looked small and very sad.

"Maybe my otousan did me a favor," Isao said, very softly. "At least I don't have to go through what he's going through."

Emi gave him a sad smile and a nod of the head. "There is that."

Together, they walked inside the house.

Up on the hill, InuYasha picked up his rice bowl, and looked over at his wife. The room was quieter than normal, and the quiet was not a comfortable one.

He broke the silence. "So do you want to go to the market with Koume and the other women?" he asked.

Kagome looked up at him a moment, as if surprised at the sound, but then shrugged. "I don't know," she said, putting down her soup bowl.

"Kaede might have some things she wants bought," the hanyou said. "Sometimes I ask her before we go. Forgot to, last time."

"Maybe," she said. Her voice was soft, but with a small edge, as if she really didn't want to talk. She picked up her rice bowl, not meeting his eyes. "I'll ask her tomorrow."

"Good idea," he said, then turned his attention to his rice. As he ate, though, he watched Kagome out of the corner of his eye. She was eating listlessly, as if getting the food down was a hard thing.

His nostrils flared as he tried to figure out what was wrong with her, but her scent was a bad mix of tired and sad that didn't let him know exactly what was wrong. "Are you all right?" he asked, putting his own bowl down.

Kagome nodded, and took another bite before setting the dish on her tray. "I...I guess I'm just not very hungry." She looked at InuYasha, who was looking back at her with concern marking his amber eyes, and gave him a small smile which was supposed to be reassuring, but it didn't match her scent or how she was holding herself.

"Maybe you need rest more than food," he said.

She nodded and turned her attention back her rice bowl. "Maybe." She ate two more bites, then put her bowl down and handed him her dish of pickles. "Here. I just don't think I can eat any more."

He frowned, and put the dish on his tray then reached out and put his hand on her forehead. "You're not getting sick, are you? You don't feel like you have a fever."

Kagome pulled his hand off her forehead. "I don't think so. You worry too much."

"Keh," he said, picking up a pickle slice. "There's only one of you. You're worth worrying about." He put the pickle in his mouth.

She smiled back at him, an honest, if small, smile this time. "And there's only one of you. But you used to fuss at me all the time for worrying about you."

"That's because that was my job, not yours." He grinned at her, pleased to see her reacting like herself. "I'm a lot harder to hurt than you are. And I don't get sick."

"Well, I'm not sick, either," she said, picking her soup bowl back up. She took a sip, then reached over to InuYasha's tray, and grabbed one of her pickle slices.

"Hey," he said. "I thought you were giving those to me."

"I was. But I wanted one after all," she replied, smiling larger this time. "Now you know what it feels like when you take one of mine."

He picked up a slice himself, and chewed it thoughtfully. "It's not the same. They taste better when I steal them off your tray."

This time, much to his satisfaction, Kagome laughed.

Dinner over, he took his water buckets to the stream to fill them up. The water, rushing over the rocks in the stream made a pleasant sound. He normally enjoyed doing this little chore, but as he neared he began to frown. Miroku was standing on the stone-lined bank where he would dip up from, watching the water flow.

Even though the hanyou moved almost silently, the monk still noticed his presence. "You're late today," he said, looking over his shoulder at the frowning hanyou.

"What am I, your time piece?" InuYasha asked, dropping his buckets. "You're beginning to make a habit of this. You plan on coming over here every evening?"

"No," Miroku said, shaking his head. He stepped out of the way, and went to sit on the grass nearby. "I just was out and found myself walking this way. I like it here. It's peaceful."

InuYasha grabbed one of the buckets and moved to the edge of the water, kneeling down on the stone. "Stream runs by your place, too," the hanyou said, looking over his shoulder at his smiling friend, right before dipping the bucket into the flow.

"But it's not quite so peaceful there," the monk said, laying his staff across his lap. "My household is, well, noisier. The girls want to pick up every pebble. Plus, nobody's made such a nice place to dip. Sango prefers to use her well."

"Not my fault. You could do it yourself, like I did," InuYasha said. "So did you just come over here to share the noise?" He reached out and picked up the bucket.

"More to steal your quiet," Miroku said, grinning. "Noise I have. It's quiet I want."

"You're good at that," InuYasha said, putting the full bucket on the bank. "I hope you're enjoying it."

"I am, I am," the monk said as he watched the hanyou take his second bucket to the water. "The quiet is good, especially after a day like today."

The hanyou looked up at his friend, who, although grinning, was still not quite as content as he was pretending to be. There were still threads of sadness and anger in his scent, and his eyes lacked their usual mischief.

"It has been a rough day," InuYasha agreed. "Kagome's really tired. She chased me out to get the water, and said she was going to try to sew, but I hope she's asleep when I get back."

"It's a good thing babies don't come every day," Miroku said, nodding.

"Keh," the hanyou said. "Tomorrow better be better. Daitaro's woman, she's going to be really disappointed if anything goes wrong."

"It is supposed to be a day of special good fortune," Miroku said. "Let's hope the kami will look down and chase away anything bad."

"Yeah," InuYasha picked up his bucket and walked back to the bank with it. "I think we all need a good one." He sat down next to his friend.

For a moment they sat quietly, listening to the stream and watching the evening fall.

Miroku, though, broke the silence."So when do we go to Odawara?" he asked. "I'd like to get there before the rains really start."

InuYasha glared at him. "Go home, monk. I've got other things to think about today." He got up and grabbed his water buckets.

"Now that the roof is fixed, there's no reason to put it off," the monk said, also standing up. "Think about it. I'll see you tomorrow."

He walked off. InuYasha smiled a little. "Bouzu must be feeling better. At least something's going right."

He headed home.