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Family

Chapter 32

Chapter 32: Family

 

     “Shippou’s here! Shippou’s here!” Shiro bounded out the front door of the Higurashi home, the gangly black and white dog, Sachi, at his heels. He dashed headlong down the stairs and flung himself at the small boy with the red hair, sending them both crashing into a bed of peonies. They rolled on the ground, tussling happily. Sachi raced in circles around them, barking his head off.

 

     “Be quiet, Sachi!” Kagome emerged from the house to greet her cousin and his family. She made a half-hearted grab for the dog. Sachi barked happily at the onset of one of his favorite games. He dropped his forepaws to the ground and wagged his tail in the air, eager for the chase to begin. Today, Kagome had better things to do than try to catch a dog that didn’t want to be caught. She ignored him, and the young animal was soon distracted by the fun the boys seemed to be having and decided to see if he could help.

 

     Kagome hugged Taro, careful not to upset the covered dish he carried, and leaned towards Naomi to coo at the toddler in her arms. Jiro shyly hid his face against his mother’s shoulder, peeking at her with a tentative grin on his face.

 

     “Where’s your mother?” Taro boomed. “We brought potato salad.”

 

     “I love potato salad! Mama’s around back.” Kagome gestured vaguely with one hand. “She’ll tell you where to put it.” She headed for the stairs at the sound of an outraged childish shout. She quickened her steps and found Shiro sitting on top of Shippou in the middle of the destroyed flowerbed. A quick check showed Sachi not too far away, marking the neighbor’s mailbox.

 

     “Take that back!” Shiro pushed the other boy’s face into the soft dirt. Shippou, smaller and lighter than his friend, grunted unintelligibly and flailed his arms and legs.

 

     “Shiro!” Kagome’s shocked voice caused the boy to freeze in his efforts to force-feed dirt to Shippou. He clambered to his feet, backing away as Kagome helped Shippou to sit up. She brushed dirt off of Shippou’s clothes, frowning at the ground-in brownish stains. Shiro decided that it was better to be elsewhere and attempted to slink away unnoticed.

 

     Kagome turned around and pinned him with glare. Shiro found his shoes to suddenly be very interesting. With a hand under his chin, she encouraged him to look at her. “What were you doing to poor Shippou?”

 

     Shiro swallowed, but he didn’t try to turn away. “He wouldn’t take it back,” he admitted in a small voice.

 

     Kagome sighed and rubbed her forehead, leaving a dirty streak. “Take what back?”

 

     “He was bragging about his little brother.” Shiro scuffed his foot against the ground. “Jiro can do all sorts of things. He can walk and talk and Shippou said that his little brother is better than my--“

 

     “That’s enough, Shiro,” Kagome interrupted. “No matter what Shippou said, that is no excuse for what you did. Do you understand me?” Shiro nodded. “Now apologize to Shippou and try to remain friends for the rest of the afternoon.”

 

     Shiro peered around his mother to look at Shippou. Loose dirt still clung to Shippou’s hair, which had been partially pulled out of the ribbon used to contain it. He rubbed his nose with a grimy hand, returning Shiro’s look expectantly.

 

     “I’m sorry I pushed your face in the dirt and called you a weenie,” Shiro mumbled. Kagome raised her eyebrows at the admittance of name-calling, but didn’t say anything. An apology was being made, and that was what was important.

 

     “That’s okay.” Shippou shrugged indifferently, the reason for the argument already fading. “Jiro’s not really that great. He cries all the time and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Do you want to play tag? I’ll be ‘it.’”

 

     Kagome restrained the boys long enough to brush the rest of the dirt out of Shippou’s hair and retie his ribbon. They darted out of sight around the corner of the house, shouting and laughing like the best of friends. Sachi finished watering the neighbor’s property and dashed after them. He didn’t want to be left out, and tag greatly resembled his favorite game of chase.

 

     “Very nice, Kagome.” Kagome turned to see Miroku and Sango approaching. “I can see that you’ve got this mother thing down.” Miroku grinned at her, brandishing a basket from which arose the mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked bread. “We come bearing food. Where’s Inuyasha?”

 

     “Probably still inside.” Kagome straightened from her kneeling position on the ground, absently brushing dirt off of her skirt and legs. “You can give the basket to Mama. She’s in charge of the food.”

 

     “Will do.” Miroku threw her a jaunty salute and sauntered in the direction of the house.

 

     “What happened here?” Sango eyed the mutilated flowerbed with curiosity.

 

     “Shiro and Shippou had a little argument, but it’s all fixed.” She glanced down the sidewalk before turning her attention to Sango. “Where’s Hiroshi?”

 

     “Kohaku’s bringing him.” Sango smiled. “Those two are inseparable. They’re walking, so it might take a while. Hiroshi’s not too steady on his feet yet.”

 

     “Well, I hope they get here before the food is all gone. Inuyasha can be such a pig.”

 

     Sango laughed and linked her arm with Kagome’s. They started up the stairs together. “Miroku’s not much better. He nearly burned his fingers trying to sneak a piece of bread just after it came out of the oven.”

 

     An angry wail filled the air, followed by an anxious shout. “Kagome!” Kagome ran up the last few steps with Sango right behind her. Inuyasha met her at the top, bouncing a fussy six-month-old baby who was voicing her displeasure at the top of her lungs. “Do something! She won’t stop crying!”

 

     “She’s probably hungry, Inuyasha.” At the sound of her mother’s voice, the baby stopped crying and reached for the familiar figure. “Do you want some lunch, Kohana?”

 

     Kohana snuggled against Kagome’s chest, making an annoyed sound when she found that her mother’s shirt was in the way. She whimpered, threatening to indulge in a crying fit again. Kagome rubbed her hand over the baby’s back. “How about a nice jar of mashed peas, and then I’ll let you nurse for a while.”

 

     “Nice to see you again, Inuyasha,” Sango greeted. “Your daughter has a healthy pair of lungs.” She nodded in the direction of the house where Kohana could be heard protesting that her lunch wasn’t coming fast enough.

 

     Inuyasha ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t remember Shiro being this demanding.”

 

     “She’s a baby. It’s in their nature to be demanding. Let’s go help Makiko with the preparations for the barbecue.”

 

^**^

 

     “Does Kohana do anything interesting yet?” Shippou watched the baby lying on her back on a bright yellow blanket that had been spread out on the grass. The baby gurgled happily as she tried to fit her toes in her mouth.

 

     “Not really.” Shiro regarded his sister with disappointment. “She cries a lot and she’s always hungry. But watch this.” He approached the baby who released her foot, letting out a delighted squeal at the sight of her brother. He poked her fat little belly. Kohana giggled. Again he tickled her and Kohana shrieked with laughter, trying to grab Shiro’s hand.

 

     Shippou pressed his hands over his ears. “She’s louder than Jiro,” he complained.

 

     “Uh huh.” Shiro nodded. “She always laughs when you poke her there. I think it’s her giggle button.”

 

     “She’s cuter than Jiro, too.” Shippou wiggled his fingers in front of the baby’s face. She managed to grab hold and tried to bring his hand to her mouth. “Do you want to trade? You can have Jiro. All he says is ‘No’ and Mom says I have to be nice to him because he’s only a baby and doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He wrinkled his nose, allowing Kohana to suck on his finger until she bit down too hard with one of her newly developing teeth. “He’s got lots of nice toys, but he’s always taking mine.”

 

     “I think we’d better keep her. Mommy says that I am responsible for Kohana because I’m a big brother now.” He sat down on the blanket beside the baby. “And that she’ll be more fun when she gets older. Daddy says that I can teach her how to swim and count and write her name.”

 

     “Okay.” Shippou plopped down beside his friend. The two boys watched Kohana grab at a brightly colored butterfly fluttering just above her head. Over where the adults were setting up for the picnic, Kagome’s voice rose as she berated Inuyasha for snitching food. Sachi’s barking punctuated the hum of conversation, ending with a yelp as someone tripped over him.

 

     “Hey, Shippou.” Six-year-old Shiro turned to his friend who, at seven, qualified as older and wiser in his mind. “Do you know where babies come from?”

 

     Shippou stared at him blankly. “What?”

 

     “Mommy got big and fat before Kohana was born.” Shiro lay down on his back, his eyes following the movements of the fluffy clouds floating serenely across the sky. “She said that was because the baby was growing inside her tummy. I asked Daddy how the baby got in there and he turned funny colors and told me to ask Mommy.” He sighed, turning his head to look at Shippou. “Daddy said that he found me under a cabbage leaf. Mommy said something about an egg and then she told me that Kohana was delivered by a stork and they had to go to the hospital to pick her up. I don’t think babies come from cabbage patches. When Mommy first brought Kohana home, she was always fussing about her getting too hot or too cold, so I don’t think she would have been happy if Kohana had been left outside. And the only thing that comes from stork eggs are baby storks. I saw that on Animal Planet. So do you know?”

 

     “Sure.” Shippou shifted position until he was facing Shiro. “Mommy and Daddy told me all about it before Jiro was born. And they let me come to the hospital and watch. Do you really wanna know?” At the younger boy’s enthusiastic nod, Shippou settled himself more comfortably on the blanket and took a deep breath.

 

     “When a mommy and daddy want to have a baby... “

 

^**^

 

     Kagome set the last plate on the table. She put her hands in the middle of her back and stretched. Two strong arms wrapped around her from behind, earning a startled squeak out of her.

 

     “Did I tell you that you look incredibly sexy when you do that?” Inuyasha nuzzled the side of her neck.

 

     “Inuyasha!” Kagome giggled, pushing him away despite his protests. “Not now! We’re at my mother’s house in front of all our family and friends. We’ll do that later!”

 

     “Is that a promise?” Inuyasha’s husky whisper caused gooseflesh to rise on Kagome’s arms. “I’m sure your mom would love to have the kids spend the night.” He lowered his head to kiss her.

 

     “Don’t you have anything better to do?” Miroku’s mocking voice disturbed the moment. “And in front of the children, too.”

 

     Kagome sighed and watched as Inuyasha grabbed the bread knife and started chasing his best friend. That man was worse than Shiro or Kohana when it came to interrupting. She decided to find Shiro and have him wash his hands since it was almost time to eat. Looking around, she spotted him sitting with Shippou under the shading limbs of the tree where Kohana had been placed to keep her out from underfoot.

 

     The boys appeared to be having a serious conversation. Kagome could hear them clearly as she walked closer.

 

     “Ewwww!” Shiro made a face. “That’s gross! Why would they do that?”

 

     “That’s what Mommy told me.” Shippou nodded his head sagely. “And Daddy said that when I’m older, I’ll want to do it, too.”

 

     “Well, I’m never going to do it!” Shiro crossed his arms over his chest, looking like his father at his most stubborn. “When I get married, I’m never going to kiss or do any of that other stuff.” His voice lowered to a disgusted whisper. “Dai told me that girls have cooties.” He shuddered.

 

     “I think there’s a rule that you have to when you get married.” Shippou shrugged. “Mom and Dad seem to like kissing. And sometimes me and Jiro stay with Grandma and Grandpa when they want what Dad calls ‘grown-up time.’”

 

     Kohana squealed at the approach of her mother, holding out her chubby arms to be picked up. Kagome obliged, tickling her daughter just to hear her laugh.

 

     “What are you two talking about?”

 

     “Do I have to kiss girls when I grow up, Mommy?” Shiro asked.

 

     “You don’t have to,” Kagome answered slowly, “but you’ll probably want to.”

 

     Shiro shook his head and Shippou copied him. “Not me! Girls have cooties! I don’t want to catch any cootie germs!”

 

     “But I’m a girl. Do I have cooties? And Kohana’s a girl.”

 

     “You’re not a regular girl, you’re Mommy,” Shiro explained the distinction patiently, “and Kohana’s only a baby.”

 

     Kagome gave up trying to understand the workings of a small boy’s mind. “This is too deep for me. Go inside and wash your hands. It’s almost time to eat.”

 

     They sprang to their feet and took off, racing each other to the house. “And remember to use soap!” Kagome shouted after them.

 

^**^

 

     “When are you starting college, Kagome?” Sango asked, handing Hiroshi a bowl of banana slices. With a giggle, he thrust both hands into the bowl and started smooshing the banana between his fingers. At his age, he spent more time playing with his food instead of actually eating it.

 

     “This fall.” She leveled a glare at Shiro who was tossing peas at Shippou. Shiro immediately put his hands in his lap, radiating innocence. Sachi, sitting as close to the table as he could get, nudged Shiro’s arm in hopes of getting a tidbit. Palming a piece of carrot off of his plate, Shiro slipped it to the dog. Kagome pretended not to notice and continued talking with Sango. “Just part-time to start. Mama’s going to watch Kohana. And she’ll pick up Shiro from school when I can’t make it.”

 

     “What are you going to study?”

 

     “I’m going to major in business management with a minor in computer information sciences. I’ve been helping Inuyasha with some of his work from the office and it’s really fascinating. I’ll probably add more classes as Kohana gets older, unless my darling husband gets me pregnant again.” Inuyasha attempted to look innocent. He was all in favor of Kagome continuing her education, but he also dreamed of a house full of children. “What are you up to these days?”

 

     Sango flushed with pleasure. “I’ll be continuing school, too. But I haven’t decided what I’ll study yet.”

 

     “That’s great, Sango,” Kagome congratulated.

 

     “Not to change the subject,” Miroku interjected, “but have you heard anything about Kikyo or Naraku.”

 

     “According to Sesshoumaru, Naraku is not making himself popular with his fellow inmates.” Inuyasha rolled his eyes. “He keeps annoying the other hardened criminals. They put him in solitary for his own protection. And Sesshoumaru has promised to keep him locked up and off of the streets for as long as possible. I’m hoping that it will be years before he sees daylight through anything other than prison bars.”

 

     “Kikyo’s been seeing some kind of psychologist.” Kagome continued the thread of the conversation. “I think she’s blaming all of her problems on her mother’s lack of affection when she was a child. She’s happy I guess. Finally, she’s found someone who will listen to her talk endlessly about herself.”

 

     “Where is your brother by the way?” Miroku addressed Inuyasha. “Wasn’t he invited?”

 

     “He said he might make it by dessert.” Inuyasha shrugged. “The dress rehearsal for Rin’s play was today. Sesshoumaru is pleased that his little girl landed the lead.”

 

     “Can I go now, Daddy?” Shiro piped up. He bounced impatiently on the bench. Inuyasha nodded absently. Shiro shot away from the table with Shippou in close pursuit. Kagome eyed the untouched vegetables on Shiro’s plate, sighed, and didn’t say anything. Sachi stayed glued to the table for a few more seconds, but when it became clear that nobody was going to feed him, he bounded off in search of the boys. Kagome got up and reached for Kohana who was sitting in her high chair at the end of the table, but Mama got there first.

 

     “How’s my little flower?” Mama cooed. “Why don’t you and Nana play together for a while and give Mommy a break.” Kohana giggled, holding up her arms to her grandmother.

 

     Kagome and Sango cleared the table with the guys’ less than enthusiastic help, but elected to leave the dishwashing for later.

 

     “Are you coming, Kagome?” Sango paused at the door, waiting for her friend while Miroku and Inuyasha strolled across the grass.

 

     “I’ll be there in a minute. You go ahead.” Kagome watched Sango walk away.

 

     Souta stood in the middle of the yard holding a soccer ball in both hands, and appeared to be discussing something with Kohaku. Her little brother had recently discovered that there was more to life than video games and was interested in getting pointers from Kohaku who was the captain for the school soccer team.

 

     “Koko! Koko!” Hiroshi toddled up to his beloved uncle and wrapped his arms around Kohaku’s leg with a triumphant cry.

 

     Miroku and Inuyasha started a game with Shippou and Shiro that looked like a cross between keep away and tag. Rin and Sesshoumaru appeared from around the corner of the house and, after a quick look at Papa Fluffy to make sure it was okay, Rin ran to join them. Cousin Taro left his wife talking with Sango and Mama to help with the chasing. Sachi raced around like a mad thing, having the time of his life. Shrieks of laughter echoed in the air. Kagome shook her head. What was it about barbecues that turned grown men into little boys?

 

     Kagome smiled as she took in the happy sight of all of her family and friends gathered together. Who would have believed two years ago that things would turn out like this when she first met the rude and arrogant Inuyasha Takashi?

 

     ‘Will you be my mommy?’ Kagome remembered Shiro’s sweet voice asking that question for the very first time. The same day that Inuyasha finally kissed her. So much had happened. They almost broke up because of Kouga. A psychotic monkey man and his messed up girlfriend kidnapped her and Shiro, and Inuyasha got shot coming to their rescue. After a few rough spots, the future looked very bright. Inuyasha caught her eye and waved at her. Shiro was sitting on his shoulders, gripping his hair with both hands. Mama held Kohana who laughed and reached for her brother. Sachi, exhausted from play, lay at their feet. His tongue lolled out as he panted and he thumped his tail briefly against the ground in lazy contentment.

 

     Kagome smiled again and went to join her family.

 

The End.

 

^**^

 

Food for thought (courtesy of Skiddy16):

 

Yesterday is history

 

Tomorrow is a mystery

 

Today is a gift... that’s why it’s called the present

copyright: The Literary Dragon 2004