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

Chapter 8

It didn't take InuYasha and Kagome long before they stacked a neat pile of belongings in the front of the house - the chest, the low table, and all the other loose bits that had rested on the wooden floor. The futon and quilt were airing out on the new clothes line not too far from the back of the house. The door mat was rolled up, and the window was unshuttered to let in the air and sunlight. It spoke of change and industry, but most importantly to InuYasha, of a woman's touch. Kagome's touch.

"Never would have thought of doing all this," he said to himself as he carried an armful of chopped wood into the house to add to the wood cradle. Even filling up the wood cradle instead of only grabbing a handful off the wood rick outside was itself a change of rhythm.

When he stepped over the threshold, he stopped for a moment and just looked. Kagome was on her hands and knees mopping the floor, her backside to him. The air smelled of vinegar and springtime. He watched her dip her rag into the water, wring it out and swirl the cloth over the floor in steady circles. In the light, he could see how small the house was and he noticed every flaw in the walls and floor. As he looked, he considered what he had brought her to, scrubbing floors in borrowed clothes of peasant linen. It made a bad comparison in his heart to the memory of his mother in her robes of silk and with her attendants. His ear twitched at the thought that Kagome, whom he loved every bit as much as his mother, should be doing that type of work for his house, and yet he couldn't deny she seemed perfectly content with what she was doing. She began humming, then singing softly.

"Why does the crow caw
flying over the mountain,
kawaii, kawaii
hear her calling," she sang.

It was a pretty tune, the type children sing when they play.

"Crows," InuYasha said, not yet moving. "They're not always so cute. What about that crow youkai that led to the jewel being shattered in the first place?"

She turned around and smiled at him, blowing a strand of hair that had escaped from her scarf away from her nose. It fell right back to where it had been tickling her, and she sat up and tucked it back into place.

"It certainly changed our lives forever, didn't it, trying to fly away over the mountain like that," she said. "Today would have never happened if that crow hadn't tried to take the jewel, so maybe we should be grateful."

"I guess," he said, giving her an uncertain smile. "It sounds weird to think of it that way."

Kagome laughed, and went back to her mopping.

Like all houses in the area, the raised wooden floor of the house was fronted with a doma, a wide strip of beaten earth that was used for storage and other things. He moved across it to where the wood cradle rested. It only had a couple of armfuls of wood in it yet. Carefully, he began to stack the wood up for later, taking pains not to get any bits of bark or splinters on the raised platform.

As he worked, someone knocked on the door frame, and two young women peered into the room. They were pretty girls, giggling as they looked in. Both were around Kagome's age. The older wore a kosode in light blue and a wrap skirt that moved from light to dark blue, with a pattern of red flowers printed on it, the other a similar garment in a pale orange, both dressed better than many of the other girls in the village.

"Kagome-chan?" the older of the two said.

"Kaede-obasan said you were staying here," said the younger. "So we had to come see. We didn't get a chance to talk to you yesterday."

Kagome dropped her mop cloth. "Erime? Tama?" she asked.

InuYasha placed the last piece of wood in the cradle. "Yeah. That's who it is." He turned to the girls. "Your dad let you get this far from his side of the village? Takeshi must be getting soft."

"Oh no, InuYasha-sama," Erime said, as she and her sister bowed. "Is it all right that we are here? Hisa-obasan told us Kagome-chan was staying here, Tameo-ojisan thought it was a good idea, and Kaede-obasan told us the way."

"It'll be all right long as you cut out that sama shit." He stuck his arms in his sleeves, looking at them rather lordly in spite of himself. Tama covered her face with her hand, trying to suppress a giggle.

"We can't, InuYasha-sama." Erime said, bowing again. "If our father or uncle heard us talk that way, they would lock us in the cow shed all night, so sorry."

"Feh," he replied, and headed back outside.

Kagome made her way to the entry way where the two girls were standing. Back during the wild year of the Shikon quest, they had been acquaintances who enjoyed a few good moments, and if there had been more time, they would have become friends. Wiping her hands clean with a piece of linen, she bowed a greeting and smiled at both of them.

"Is it true?" Erime asked.

"You're staying and going to be InuYasha-sama's wife?" Tama asked.

Kagome smiled at them and nodded.

"Congratulations! I was hoping you'd get to come back," Erime said. "Hisa-obasan sent this to help you get settled down." She handed Kagome a basket filled with food.

"Tell your aunt thank you very much," Kagome said. "It was very kind of her."

"We will." Erime looked around the little house, and saw the mop bucket and the stacks of things outside. "She always did like you, and Ojisan does, too. I guess we should let you get back to your work. I didn't realize you'd be cleaning up today."

"I didn't either," Kagome replied. "But I guess there's a lot to do when you want to get settled in."

"Mother always says that men can find a lot for women to do even when they're not trying to," Erime said. Tama gave her a little nudge. Erime frowned, and Tama giggled.

"You'll be finding out if that's true, soon enough," Tama said. She turned back to Kagome. "O, you must come and visit when you get caught up. We've got so much to talk about! Erime's getting married, too. You'll have to hear all about it!"

Erime blushed a little, and nodded.

"You can come back, too, you know," Kagome said. "Now I won't be running off all over the place anymore. We'll have more time to talk."

Erime pulled her sister back towards the door. "We will. We're glad you're back, Kagome-chan. Come soon. We'll have tea!"

The girls bowed and left, giggling between themselves. InuYasha walked back in, shaking his head. "That's something I didn't expect."

Kagome sat down on the edge of the raised floor. "Me either. It's a good sign, I think."

"I hope so," InuYasha said. Finding the bucket they used for drinking water, he dipped up a ladle full and drank. "I'll be outside working until you're ready to move the furniture back in."

Soon, Kagome could hear the sound of wood being chopped. She went back to her mopping, humming her song.

Those were not their only visitors. Two other women from the village stopped by in the early afternoon, also bringing gifts of food, but the most interesting visit from InuYasha's point of view was when Daitaro, the elderly owner of the best stud bull in the village came by, bearing a jug of saké. His animal was notorious for escaping from its pen, and InuYasha had helped round it up more than once when it made off.

Daitaro, his silver hair pulled back neatly into a tea whisk topknot, showed up right as they were beginning to move things back inside. For a moment, he stood next to InuYasha and watched Kagome with a sharp eye moving in and out of the house, carrying out her mop water, retrieving her quilt, and noticing how InuYasha's eyes followed her every move.

"Take good care of her," the old man said, shoving the saké into the hanyou's hand. "You're a fool if you don't." And then, as quietly as he had arrived, he left, leaving the dazed hanyou looking down at the jug as he went on about his way.

For some reason, that, more than any of the visits by the village women, made the hanyou begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, the village would accept them. Clinging to that unexpected feeling of acceptance, he grabbed the futon off the clothesline, and carried it and the saké into the house.