Kagome put away her sewing and put out the lamp where she was working. Atae was already asleep in his basket cradle, and she quietly laid out the futon for the night, then took off and folded her wrap skirt and outer kosode. Her husband made no sign or sound as she did these things. InuYasha stared into the fire, instead, saying nothing, lost in his thoughts.
“InuYasha,” she said, watching her husband, how tensely he sat, barely moving with his hands stuffed into his sleeves, his bangs covering his eyes and his right ear twitching as he brooded.
He looked up at her, made eye contact for a moment, then turned his eyes back to the fire. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
“It’s not your fault,” Kagome replied. She got up from her seat and moved next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. “You didn’t send that man to the village.”
“Keh,” he said, then he sighed, and put an arm around Kagome.
Kagome said nothing, thinking about the small bloody body InuYasha had brought back to the village in the afternoon, Miroku chanting sutra, trailing in his wake. “Poor Aya-chan. And her mother. Suzume has had such bad luck this year. First losing her baby and now her older daughter, too.” She took her husband’s hand. He was reluctant to let her hold it at first, but eventually laced his fingers with hers.
“If I had just been a little faster when I heard her scream . . . ” he murmured.
“Nobody could have done it quicker.” Kagome looked up at InuYasha and saw the self-blame in his eyes. “You’re not responsible for every evil that wanders into the village. He came here with Haname’s brother. If anybody’s to blame it’s Haru for having a friend like that.”
“Didn’t like either one of them first time I saw them,” he said. “Don’t think Haname or Haru think much of me, for that matter. But at least I’ve never hurt a kid on purpose. “
They fell quiet for a time, listening to the wind and the sound of the fire crackling.
“He dropped his knife and ran off when he heard us coming, but it didn’t take me long to catch him.” InuYasha said, breaking the silence. He pulled his hands away from Kagome, and stared at them as they rested in his lap. “I didn’t give him a chance to pull his sword.”
“Tomeo sent some of the villagers to take care of his body,” Kagome said.
He nodded. “More than he deserves.”
Kagome moved in front of him and took both of his hands. “You’ve defended the village before.”
He nodded. “This time . . . it just feels different.”
“Why?” she asked, running her thumbs over his fingers.
InuYasha took a deep sigh, not meeting her eyes. “It just is, all right?”
Brushing his bangs out of his face, Kagome kissed him gently on the forehead. “Yes, it’s all right. Let’s go to bed.”
He nodded. Kagome held his hand as she stood up, and let it drop, smiling at him. InuYasha banked the fire, and in the dim light walked over to the futon, and unfastened his jacket and shrugged it off. She watched him undress in silence, and noticed how he took extra time to fold his clothes as if reluctant to join her. His silver hair reddened a little by the last of the light nearly hid his shoulders from her as he stood back to her and rolled them one time. Sighing, he turned and met her gaze, briefly, then slid into bed, turning his back to her.
Kagome rested a hand on his arm. He tensed for a moment, then relaxed, and covered her hand with his. Her lips went to the top of his shoulder.
“When I first saw Jiro standing over Aya,” he said after a moment, “I thought it was Rin. Rin has a kimono a lot like the one she was wearing. I didn’t take the time to think about her scent. I saw red. The bastard never had a chance. It wasn’t until he was dead that I realized who he had really attacked.”
Kagome cupped the side of his face, and ran her thumb lightly over his lips. “You would have acted the same way no matter who you thought it was. There’s no way you would have let anybody get away with hurting a child like that.” She pressed her lips gently, chastely over his. “You did the right thing.”
“Feh,” InuYasha replied. “All I could think about at first was what I was going to tell Sesshoumaru. I felt so relieved once I knew it wasn’t her. I didn’t even think about what it would mean to the girl’s family. I was just glad it was somebody else, not Rin. What does that make me?”
“It makes you someone who cares about the people in his life,” Kagome said. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. “Anybody would have been relieved it wasn’t one of the people he was close to. It’s a sad thing it happened to Suzume’s family. But the important thing is you kept Jiro from doing this to anybody else ever again. No other family will have to cry because he did something like that to one of their daughters. And that’s a good thing.”
“I wish everybody thought like you did. I heard them talking in the village before I came home.” He rested his head against Kagome’s shoulder.
“Oh, I’m sure Haru and Haname and the rest of her family will try to start something, but Tomeo knows how to deal with them and besides, Miroku was there.” She kissed the tip of one of his ears, which twitched at the contact. “And it was your right to do that. You are the village protector, and you are good at what you do.”
“If you say so, woman,” he said
“I do,” she replied. “Now go to sleep.”
He nodded, and closed his eyes, but as he lay there in the twilight between wakefulness and sleep, he wondered about the difference between human and youkai evil, and could not decide which was the blacker.
A/N: In my post manga story universe, Tomeo is the village headman and a cousin of Kaede.