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

Chapter 51

Kagome stepped out of the house. "Was that Daitaro-sama? He came back?"

"Yeah," InuYasha said, still trying to wrap his head around what the old man said. "But he's gone already."

She held the doormat open while InuYasha walked into the house with the water buckets. "Does he always walk through the woods like this?"

"I guess." InuYasha put the buckets down near the fire pit. "He told me that when he was younger, he'd sneak into the woods to pick mushrooms, even though Kaede was telling people it was forbidden."

Kagome smiled at that. "It sounds like the type of thing he'd do. He seems to like to do things his way."

InuYasha poured water into the big pot to heat for their bath, then put it on the fire. "Yeah, it does. But I think he's still really angry about the kids who messed with his saké. He might be walking around to blow off steam. That's something I know he takes seriously."

"He does, doesn't he?" Kagome went to her place at the fire pit, and lifted the lid to the stew pot that held their dinner. The aroma of the food, rich with onion and rabbit, filled the room. She stirred it, and tested a piece of the meat with her cooking chopsticks. "Almost ready," she said.

"Good," InuYasha said. "I didn't realize how hungry I was until I walked back in here." He knelt down and put some extra wood under the big pot then sat down at his place by the fire. "Said he was going to send one of his sons around to keep an eye on things tomorrow."

"With someone going around vandalizing things, that's not a bad idea," Kagome began scooping up their dinner rice.

"I was wondering . . . " the hanyou said. His eyes looked at Kagome, questioning.

Kagome put a bowl of rice on his tray. "Wondering what?"

InuYasha watched Kagome dip up the stew while he tried to get his thoughts together. "People confuse me sometimes, the way they act. But it seems like Daitaro, well he likes us."

She handed him a bowl. "He does, doesn't he?"

The hanyou picked up his chopsticks. "I can understand that Tameo feels some sort of life debt, because he thinks I saved him when he was a brat, and that he wants to do right by you because Kikyou was one of his relatives. But why is Daitaro doing this? He keeps coming by."

Kagome smiled at her husband, and passed him some pickles. "Could be that he just likes talking to you. Or that he's kind of adopted you as a son, maybe. People do that sometimes."

"Son, huh?" He shook his head. "I...that just feels . . . " His voice drifted off as he tried to find the words.

"He probably thought well of you all along," Kagome said. She lifted a pickle slice off her dish and passed it to him. "There, so you don't have to steal one."

He snorted, but then his face grew questioning again. "How come I never noticed it before?"

"You weren't looking," she said, picking up her rice bowl, but didn't start to eat. She chewed on her lip thoughtfully, then put her bowl down to touch his hand. "The last three years weren't all that easy for us. I know I didn't pay as much attention to people as I used to for a long time. I was busy just trying to keep things together and finish school. I bet it wasn't any easier for you."

His ear twitched, and he stared down at his stew. "Not easy. Yeah, that's one way to describe it."

She picked her bowl back up and nodded. "I bet there was a lot you didn't notice. Maybe my being here gave him more excuse to come visit. Maybe, since everything's different now, you're just paying attention more. But I think you have a friend, and one who doesn't tease you like Miroku does."

"Yeah," InuYasha said. He fished a slice of mushroom out of his stew, and what Daitaro had told him about them, and why the old man had given him some. "Although I'm not so sure he never teases . . . "

Kagome looked up at him. He merely gave her a smile, then put the piece of mushroom in his mouth.

They didn't talk much more during the meal, and talked even less while they bathed. Afterwards, as Kagome sat by the fire pit and combed out her hair, he took the tub of water outside to empty it, something he did every night after they bathed. She heard him pour the water out and then rest the tub against the side of the house. She expected him to come in, but for some reason he took longer than usual.

She put her comb away, and curious about why her husband was taking so long, she slipped on her shoes and walked outside. Kagome found him staring up at the moon, his back towards her as he stood just beyond the verandah of the house. The moon was full and very bright, just a day past full. The silver light spilled over his hair, touching it in places with a color that was beyond white or gray, a glowing silver. The shadows, though, made his red garments almost black. She could feel his youki rising a little as he stood there looking up at the moon, but she didn't know if it was from the pull of the moon or his uneasiness about what was going on in their lives, or even something he was sensing in the cool evening air.

His ear flicked as he heard her, but he didn't turn, so she walked up next to him, resting her hand on his shoulder.

"The moon's so bright," she said. "We never saw it this bright back home."

"Yeah." His arm wrapped around her, the fabric of his sleeve draping across the thin fabric of her white kosode. Unlike InuYasha, she hadn't bothered getting fully dressed after getting out of the tub. It felt good; the night air was still chilly. "Hard to believe how noisy and bright this place'll get in the future." He pulled her a little closer. "And stinky, too."

That made her smile, and she rested her head against him. "So is that why you're still out here? Thinking about the time I came from?"

InuYasha shook his head. "No. Other stuff."

"Like what?" she asked. Off in the distance she could hear an owl call. InuYasha's ear flicked at the sound, tracking it, but he didn't move.

"About today, and tomorrow. About what happened all those years I was stuck to the Goshinboku." He leaned over and gently kissed the top of Kagome's head. "Daitaro told me that when he was young, he'd come up here while I was still pinned to the tree and tell me thanks for keeping all the other mushroom hunters away," he said after a moment. "Sometimes, he said he'd even eat his lunch at the base of the tree."

She looked up at him. His eyes were still fixed at the moon, now high above the trees."How did that make you feel?"

Finally, he turned and looked at her, and gave her a small, wry smile. "Strange. I have no idea what happened during that time. One minute I saw Kikyou's arrow coming at me, and the next moment, I saw you. Makes me wonder what else happened all those years I was just stuck there."

"I know Kaede would come up here sometimes. She told me." Kagome leaned back against his shoulder.

"Yeah, well that was kind of her job, making sure the bakemono didn't get loose and come after the village," he said. There was an edge of bite in his voice.

"Is that what you think?" Kagome said, moving a bit away so she could see his face better. "She came up here to make sure the seal wasn't loosening? I kind of think it was to keep an eye on you, and make sure nobody did anything to bother you, even more than checking on the seal. I think she had a bit of a crush on you."

This got a bittersweet guffaw out of the hanyou. "No way," he said, shaking his head. "She was too young when . . . when I got pinned."

"You don't know girls very well," Kagome said, smiling. She reached up and kissed InuYasha's chin. "You were gorgeous and exotic and dashing. She might not have known about Naraku yet, but she knew there was some dark magic that got involved with Kikyou's death and your sealing. She knew that Onigumo's cave was empty. And you know she was surprisingly kind to you after I released you. If she really thought you were the real killer of her sister, would she have treated you like that?"

"Feh," InuYasha said, pulling her back into his arms. "She put the beads on me quick enough."

"You kind of earned that one," Kagome said, settling back into his arms. "But think - it's not like she went from little girl to old woman. They say when she was young, she was as beautiful as Kikyou. Young men did court her, but she refused them all. And she was the one who tried to make sure that people were kept out of the area around the Goshinboku, even if Daitaro would sometimes sneak up here. Maybe there was a reason beyond just being the village miko. Maybe it was because she felt that watching over you was her duty, like Kikyou's was the Shikon no Tama." She rested a hand on InuYasha's chest. "Or maybe it was something more."

The hanyou shook his head. "Losing those fifty years makes things weird."

"You think fifty years is hard, try juggling as many years off as I am," she said

He sighed, and kissed the top of her head. They fell quiet for a few moments more. "Daitaro said because I was good at catching bulls, he knew I was worth knowing. That felt even stranger."

Kagome laughed. "You can really tell what matters to him."

InuYasha snorted. "You can, can't you?" he said and pulled her in front of him. "Saké and cattle."

He wrapped his arms around her. "You want to go in? You feel like you're getting cold."

She leaned back against his warmth, covered by his sleeves. The flare of his youki calmed and wrapped around her like a warm, comfortable blanket. "Not quite yet. The way you're holding me makes me feel nice and warm," she said. "It's so beautiful tonight."

He brushed his cheek against the side of her head. "Beautiful."

"Nobody to make us worried or confused." She laced her fingers into one of his hands, and rested it across her waist. "Just you and me and the moon."

As they stood there, he freed his hand and pulled her closer. After a few moments, his hands began moving from Kagome's waist upward to cup her breasts. She took a deep breath as his thumbs brushed across her nipples. His voice was warm on her ear, sending little shivers down her spine. "Really beautiful."

Shivering a little at his touch, she turned around to face him. "Let's go inside."

"I thought you wanted to stay outside," he said.

She tiptoed up and kissed him, a short but passionate kiss that promised much more. "I just remembered that I owed you something. Remember what I told you when Shippou interrupted us?" She reached up and tweaked his ear. "Want to join me?"

"Never forgot, woman," he said, kissing her back. It was a long kiss, with intricate play of tongue and lips, combined with gentle exploring hands and the heat of his body pressing hard against hers. As she began to melt in his arms, and the sweet perfume of her arousal washed over him, he broke the kiss. "I was just waiting to see if you remembered, too."

"At least this time we won't be interrupted," she said.

"Won't be responsible for what happens if they do," he said. And catching her beneath her legs, he lifted her up, and walked her into the house.