Author: Adrianna Dobhran PM
[AU, TasukixMiaka] Brought together by pastry... what else could it be but love? [Long one shot, possible continuation!]Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Miaka & Tasuki - Words: 11,836 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 10 - Published: 06-06-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2977108
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own Fushigi Yuugi, nor any character therein. They all belong to Yu Watase.
A/N: For the sake of my story, Tasuki is 18 and Miaka is 17. The rating is M due to language and situations. There won't be anything explicit, but I just wanted to make sure everyone understood their ages. Also, this story takes a lot of creative license within the time line of FY..so please bear with me:))))
Dedication: For my sister, who loves Ever After and fairy tales...and strawberry cream pie.
"Che! You're not doin' it right! You need to do it slower.. like this..."
"Oooohm! That is sooo good...! More!"
"Is that an order...?"
"Yes! As your Priestess, I order you to give it to me."
"Don't I get some..?"
"...Maybe. I kinda like you watching me do it."
"You're cruel, woman. You know how much I love it!"
Giggling at Tasuki's tortured expression, Miaka finally gave in.
"Okay. You can have some. But just a little taste..." Leaning across the table, Miaka held out the puffy bean cake so Tasuki could take a bite.
Tasuki felt his cheeks burn brightly. His gaze flickered from Miaka to the bean cake, his heart thumping wildly.
'You're supposed to eat it out of her hand, baka! It's called 'being flirtatious'! Are you sure you weren't dropped on your head when--'
Tasuki shook his head slightly, as if to rid himself of an irksome fly. Why did his private thoughts sound like Nuriko...?
Miaka smiled expectantly at him, holding the delicious treat just inches away from his watering mouth.
'Take it, fool!'
Tasuki shook his head again.
"I think you've had too much sugar," Miaka said knowingly, observing Tasuki's odd behavior with a wise nod.
"Therefore, for your own good I'll--" and she brought the bean cake to her lips, preparing to take the last bite. Tasuki's eyes widened in horror.
"Ooh no ya don't!" he growled as Miaka laughed at his irate expression. Leaning across the table, Tasuki caught her hand before she could take a bite and drew it towards his own mouth. Crying out in protest, Miaka tried to pull it back to hers. Locked in a strange sort of arm wrestling match, Miaka gasped in outrage as she felt Tasuki's fingers brush lightly up and down her arm with his other hand.
"Give up?" he asked huskily as he continued to tickle her arm mercilessly. Miaka felt her cheeks flush with heat, and something tighten within her stomach. All of a sudden his touch did not make her ticklish, but warm in places she dared not name.
'I can play this game too!' she thought determinedly, refusing to let the way his mouth gave her a lop-sided grin melt her resolve. This means war!
Tasuki watched her moisten her lips, and as her gaze became increasingly intense his hand slowed, the motion of his fingers more like a caress than a tickle. Ignoring the ruckus from the other restaurant patrons around them, Miaka impulsively slipped her foot slowly up the side of Tasuki's leg.
The bandit's eyes popped.
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Tasuki gaped at her as she giggled triumphantly.
"Mm..I'll never give in!" she whispered, her foot inching its way along the inside of his leg now, stopping at his knee and making slow circles with her toes. She felt him jerk reflexively, and suck in a sharp breath. Unable to stop the curious urge, Miaka tilted her head to the side and watched his reaction as she pushed her foot further along the inside of his thigh. Tasuki's eyes closed for a moment, the muscles in his jaw clenching. When the tips of her toes met with something hard that Miaka couldn't quite discern, she knew she had gone too far. His eyes shot open, pinning her to her chair with a gaze she'd never seen him have before. She let out a small cry as his hand reached under the table with lightening speed and caught her foot.
At first she thought he might be angry with her, the way his face was suddenly devoid of humor. She was about to apologize when she felt his hand begin to massage her foot. The tension in her stomach tightened, causing her heart rate to increase rapidly. When his fingers began to slide up the curve of her ankle, his touch leaving a trail of fire in its wake she couldn't take it any longer. Knowing he had won, Miaka let her arm go slack to let Tasuki take the last bite of dessert. She tried to pull her foot out of his grasp, but he gripped it firmly.
Just where do you think you're goin'? his expression seemed to say as he took the bean cake from her unresisting hand and to her surprise, held it out for her.
Miaka felt a smile bloom on her lips as she watched both shyness and desire flicker within his gaze. Excitement rushed through her as his fingers continued to massage her ankle...her calf...
Without thinking, Miaka leaned forwards and took a bite of the bean cake from his hand. Tasuki's massaging became a little harder as her tongue accidentally touched his fingers.
He watched her chew and swallow the treat, his body feeling as though if he did not grab her and carry her off again right now, he would explode. His mind skipped back to when he had almost succeeded in capturing her lips. They had been as moist and pink as they were now, only currently they were covered in white sugar. It would be so easy to just lean towards her a little more, and then...
"Miaka-chaaaaaaan! Tasuki-Baka!" a voice boomed out over the other rowdy voices.
It was as if someone had shattered the glass bubble Miaka and Tasuki had been occupying. Breaking apart, Miaka tugged her foot back and Tasuki let his hand drop. They both leaned back in their chairs, putting as much space between them as possible.
"There you are!" Nuriko exclaimed, two cups of steaming tea in his hands. He slid into the seat next to Miaka, and Tasuki felt his temper flare.
"Where the hell have you been? And where's the monk? Don't tell me ya lost him." he said dryly, fixing the purple haired Seishi with a glare that could have melted steel.
"Chichiri-san is asking the proprietor of this..." Nuriko trailed off to glance about the crowded restaurant, disdain clearly written on his face.
"...fine establishment about rooms for the night."
"Ooh!" Miaka said a little too cheerfully as Nuriko slid her one of the cups of tea.
"Thanks, Nuriko-san." she said gratefully, thankful that she could now hide her blushing expression behind the big cup.
"I thought you were in a hurry to get to Hokkan," Tasuki said gruffly, still eyeing Nuriko crossly.
"We are in a hurry," Nuriko corrected, "But seeing as how someone kept falling off their horse and snoring so loudly that the whole of Kutou probably heard, I thought it might be an idea if we all got a good nights sleep."
Miaka felt the urge to giggle at Tasuki's murderous expression, his ears burning to match the color of his hair. Nuriko glanced quickly and astutely between the two younger teenagers.
"Drink your tea, Miaka-baka. It's jasmine. It'll help with your monthly pains."
Miaka's eyes widened in horror and she nearly spluttered her tea all over Tasuki who looked too grumpy to care.
"Nurikoooo!" she gasped furiously, her eyes darting around to make sure no one had overheard. Fortunately, Tasuki didn't seem to have caught on to what Nuriko had been referring to.
"Ooh, stop being such a girl!" Nuriko scoffed with a wave of his hand.
Miaka narrowed her eyes at him.
"I am a girl! Unlike some people at this table!" Miaka fumed.
Nuriko ignored her comment, and flipped his long braid over his shoulder giving the patrons around them a dazzling smile. Several men in the area were knocked to their feet from the blast.
"You are a woman!" Nuriko corrected her sternly, and this time he gave Tasuki a pointed look. "And as a woman, you will summon Suzaku."
Tasuki, who until this moment had not met Nuriko's gaze now looked at him fiercely. Miaka shifted in her seat a little as the tension mounted, and the silence dragged on.
"I'm goin' to make sure they fed the horses." Tasuki finally said to Nuriko. Nuriko watched him as he rose. Miaka was about to protest, but without another word or even a glance in her direction Tasuki disappeared into the crowd of villagers singing and drinking happily. Nuriko sighed, and dusted off his hands as if he had just cleaned up an unsightly mess.
"Now then, why don't we go and find Chichiri? I'm sure he's been able to procure us rooms by now."
"You go." Miaka said quietly, unsure as to what had transpired between Nuriko and Tasuki but feeling a vast amount of frustration at her purple haired Seishi. Nuriko hesitated.
"I'll be right back. You stay here." he said sternly, standing and placing a hand on her shoulder. Usually, the gesture would have melted Miaka's feelings of anger but at the moment it only fueled her strange mood. Miaka tried to smile as Nuriko glanced back at her, picking his way through the throng.
"I wish... I wish I could have some time alone." she thought to herself, feeling selfish and guilty immediately after thinking it. But as she imagined a relaxing sun-drenched beach where she could swim and bask in the sand, carefree, she was anything but alone. With the scent of something spicy still making her feel tingly, Miaka imagined Tasuki with her on the beach, laughing his easy roaring laugh and looking at her the same way he had before Nuriko had ...interrupted them. Looking down into her steaming cup, the jasmine scented steam drove away the spicy fragrance that always accompanied the bandit.
"Why can't I stop thinking about him?" Miaka thought in frustration. She was still getting over Tamahome, wasn't she? But as Tamahome's face floated up into the forefront of her mind, she no longer felt longing, but anger. After everything they had been through together, Tamahome had abandoned her. At first, she had not been able to stop crying. Then, she had spent almost all of her waking hours devising plans to get him back. Now, she was angry. It was strange that the angry part of her broke free when she met her fourth Seishi; Tasuki had lit a fire in her she was finding hard to control, and to predict.
Nuriko glanced back at Miaka, who appeared to be lost in thought.
"Never a good sign," he thought dubiously as he turned his attention back to Chichiri who was walking towards him.
"Its all settled, no da!" he said cheerfully, his real features no doubt in perfect sync with his masked ones.
"Good. The more quickly morning comes the better. I'm tired, famished, and ...can you smell that, or is it just my own fine tuned nose picking up hints of--"
"It's best not to dwell on the negative." Chichiri cut in with sage like tones, his fingers clutching his prayer beads tightly as a very drunken man was carried out the door just beside them.
"Heeeey its a monk-ie!" the man garbled, pointing at Chichiri and breaking into a hysterical fit of giggles.
"Mmm." Nuriko grumbled darkly.
"Remind me never to refuse Hotohori-sama's advice again. We should have had an Imperial escort. At least then we'd be safe from all the riff-raff."
Chichiri looked at Nuriko questioningly.
"But ...then Tasuki-san couldn't have come with us if we'd had to wait, no da."
"Exactly." Nuriko muttered to himself, his eyes searching out Miaka.
"You think perhaps Miaka and Tasuki-san are--"
"Not yet." Nuriko said with a heavy sigh. "But I think if left un-attended, they just might find a way into each others arms. I've been watching them closely. I don't think they're fully aware of their feelings yet, even if everyone else is."
Chichiri nodded slowly. "At their age, I think it unlikely that they are aware of how powerful sexual ki can be."
"She is the Priestess of Suzaku. A holy vessel...she can't give in to those urges!" Nuriko said determinedly. "Our world depends on it."
"Not much pressure to put on a young lady, no da." he said. "You forget Nuriko-san, that to us Miaka is still very young and inexperienced. But to her, she is just beginning to discover who she really is. I think its very unfair of us to expect both she and Tasuki to disregard that yearning for discovery simply because we are told to view her not as a woman, but as a vessel of Suzaku."
"I still think we should keep a close eye on him," Nuriko said after a moment, his expression softened but not convinced.
"If only to protect Miaka from having another Tamahome."
"Tasuki is very different from Tamahome, no da." Chichiri said thoughtfully. "And if I were you, I'd be more concerned about Miaka trying something. Not Tasuki."
Nuriko said nothing, but watched with growing unease as Miaka sat at the table, watching the doorway where Tasuki had disappeared.
Tasuki kicked at the ground as he stomped down to the stables.
"Damn. Fuckin'. Stuck up...!" he cursed with each kick, sending evening strollers scurrying past with looks of alarm.
"Thinks I'm not good enough to be a Seishi!" he growled to himself, the image of Nuriko's disdainful expression fueling the rage that boiled in his blood. The way the purple haired Seishi had looked at him made him want to punch something, preferrably his smug face.
"He thinks I'm not good enough to take care of Miaka-chan. Like I'd ever let somethin' happen to her..." he thought darkly, kicking a nearby rock with such force that it nearly hit one of the stable keeps. The young boy shrieked, and ran out of the irate bandit's path as he strode past.
"I gave up eveythin' to come along. I should be home, not runnin' around the country like some starved dog beggin' for the Priestess's attention!"
He stopped inside the dimly lit stable, realizing that he had no clue which of the stalls contained his horse.
"Oi, ya old hag! Where are you?" he yelled out, receiving a few disgruntled snorts and an irritable whinny in answer.
Suddenly, a creamy muzzle shot out of the stall he was standing beside and bit him hard on the arm.
Containing the torrent of curses that were ready to explode from between his clenched teeth, Tasuki undid the buttons of his jacket and slipped out of it.
"HAH!" he said in triumph, pointing at the palomino.
"Thought you got me that time, ne? You should learn that you can never trap a Mt. Reikaku bandit, rrrrah-hah!"
Tora, also lovingly called 'ol' hag' by Tasuki drew back her lips in a good imitation of a sneer, and bucked her head up and down so Tasuki's jacket flew up and smacked him in the face.
Wondering if horse meat would taste the same as mutton, Tasuki glared at the beast and plopped down on a hay bale that sat just outside Tora's stall.
"You're just as bad as the rest of em'." Tasuki muttered to the horse, remembering the first time he'd tried to ride the animal. Tora was a horse from the Imperial stables, and as such had a pedigree longer than Tasuki's entire family tree. They had not bonded well, and for the first two days in which Tasuki frequently complained hysterically that the horse was trying to kill him, no one had gotten a moment's peace. Since then, they had come to a sort of truce, whereby Tasuki wouldn't eat him and Tora wouldn't step on the bandit in his sleep. Tasuki felt his cheeks flush as he remembered how Miaka had even offered to ride with him, because for some reason he couldn't fathom, Tora adored the kid.
"She's not a kid. You're around the same age, and you know it dumbass." his more Kouji-like inner voice reprimanded.
Why the hell couldn't he ever be alone with his thoughts?
Heaving a sigh, Tasuki scowled at the ground. That's when it had truly begun to become a problem; when Miaka had ridden with him for a couple of days to give everyone a break from Tasuki and Tora's bickering. Other than the disasterous time they'd spent in the cabin, they'd had no real time alone together. At first, Tasuki tried to forget everything that had happened in the cabin. His pride, more than his duty as a Seishi had prompted him to behave as if the whole thing was a joke, and that he had no interest in Miaka other than as a means by which he could finally fulfill his promise to his old boss and go home.
But after those few days of riding with her alone...
Talking with her about Mt. Reikaku, and being delighted that she laughed at his jokes.
Feeling her grab hold of him if Tora suddenly decided to go for a mid-day jog.
Listening to her stories about her own world, and the wonders he'd never imagined could exist there.
His mind narrowed in on one particularly sweet memory.
They had been riding for hours, and to pass the time since he could feel Miaka slumped against his chest he had been humming to himself. When he stopped, he heard a small voice float up from where she was nestled.
"Why'd you stop...?"
Tasuki felt his ears burn.
"I thought you were asleep," he said dumbly, cursing himself for becoming more and more of an ass around her.
"You have a nice voice," she said quietly. Tasuki shifted in the saddle, suddenly very uncomfortable at their nearness.
"Uhh, thanks. Kouji says I sound like a dyin' cat, but he wouldn't know a good tune if it bit him on the--OW!" Tasuki exclaimed as Tora turned her head and bit his foot.
"What the hells wrong with you, horse!" Tasuki accused, shaking a fist. Tora merely continued to plod along the road as if nothing had happened. Tasuki felt his temper flare when he heard Miaka giggling.
"I don't think she likes it when you swear," she said, smiling up at him playfully. Tasuki opened his mouth to reply, but found that his brain had drawn a complete blank as he absorbed her soft features. Before he could stop himself, he realized that her mouth had a way of lighting up when she smiled, like a flower blooming before his very eyes.
"Bah, ya fuckin' pansy." Kouji's voice resounded in his ears.
"What's that face?" Miaka asked with an impish glimmer in her eyes. Tasuki felt his cheeks flush and gumbled, "What do ya mean? Its just my face. What's wrong with it?" Miaka leaned closer, and Tauki felt his breath catch in an unfamiliar way as he leaned back in the saddle, trying to keep some distance between them.
"Why is your cheek twitching?" she asked amusedly, poking his face gently with a finger.
" 'Cause your pokin' it!" Tasuki growled warningly, shifting back in the saddle further when Miaka reached up with both hands to cup his face.
"You have such a funny face!" she was saying between laughs, as she molded his mouth into different positions.
"Fanks afot," Tasuki said darkly as she giggled at one particularly odd looking face she'd just made by pressing on either sides of his mouth to give him a distinctly fish-like demeanor. Tasuki made his eyes grow wide, and drew towards her, as if about to bite her with his fishy jaws. With a startled cry, Miaka drew back from him and dropped her hands from his face. Triumphant, Tasuki arranged his features in a lofty, dignified way that reminded Miaka of Hotohori. Sticking his chin in the air, Tasuki let his eyes fall back to the road.
A comfortable silence floated between them, broken only when something gurgled loudly.
"Keep it to yourself, would ya Tora?" Tasuki said as the horse stopped to nibble at some grass sprigs along the side of the road.
"Umm.. Tasuki-chan, that wasn't Tora. That was...me. I'm hungry again."
The fact that she had said "chan" immediately diffused his initial reaction of outrage. They had only just had breakfast three hours ago.
Then, inspiration struck. With a sly smile, Tasuki glanced down at his burden who was still cuddled into his arms.
"You wouldn't happen to like...bean cakes, would ya?" he asked non-chalantly.
He could feel her hungry gaze crying out in a resounding "YES!"
" 'Cause I happen to know of a place that's supposed to have the best lo po pang in Konan!"
He waited for her admiring cries of praise.
"Tasuki...what's a 'lo po fang'?"
Tasuki's jaw dropped. For all her world's technology and wonders, they didn't have the best dessert known to mankind? It was sacrilege.
"Lo po pang," Tasuki corrected her, "Are only the tastiest, sweetest cakes in the world! I had my first one when I was just a kid, and they've been my favorite ever since! Kouji told me about this famous tavern that's supposed to be close by...I'd always meant to go, but hell, I never thought I'd be out this far from Mt. Reikaku again."
Miaka felt a twinge of guilt at his offhanded comment. Picking up on her sudden mood change, Tasuki called out to Nuriko and Chichiri who were riding a ways ahead.
"Oi! Why don't we stop and get somethin' to eat ne? I'm starvin'!" he added with a wink at Miaka.
"Why is he being so kind to me?" Miaka thought, her spirits rising. "Its because of me he had to leave the mountains, and his family." but even as this thought rose up in her mind, she remembered the way Tasuki had looked at her when he first told her the truth; that he was a Suzaku Seishi. There had been an unexplainable connection between them at that moment, something almost tangible in its intensity. Like an invisible string binding them together, Miaka found she couldn't deny the fact that he was attractive. As if to compound this realization, Miaka felt her muscles jump and her heart flutter as Tasuki's arm suddenly wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him tightly. He clicked his tongue, and Tora's ears perked up as she broke into a trot to catch up with the others.
"Are you feeling hungry, Miaka?" Chichiri asked kindly, even though Nuriko rolled his eyes irritably.
"Of course she is! We've been ridin' for ages!" Tasuki shot back looking not at Chichiri, but at Nuriko challengingly.
Nuriko said nothing, and nodded with an air of dignity before directing his horse towards the town. Chichiri smiled at them, then turned his horse to follow Nuriko.
"See? You just have to say what you want, and not accept no for an answer," Tasuki said to Miaka as he gave Tora a little nudge to get her going.
"Bandit Rule number one: Take first, ask questions later."
"How many 'Bandit Rules' are there?" Miaka asked, curious. Tasuki looked thoughtful for a moment.
"I dunno. I've never made it past one."
Tasuki, the memory of her soft laughter still vibrating in his head, felt his heart constrict painfully.
How could this have happened? She was his Priestess! A sacred being!
Clenching his eyes shut tight, Tasuki dropped his head into his hands, his head pounding with anger and unreleased desire.
If only he hadn't listened to Rule number One, maybe he wouldn't be in this mess. Miaka had not been his to take from Eiken, but as soon as he'd seen her lying there beside him, her eyes wide with fright he'd had no choice. If only he hadn't tried to kiss her perhaps he wouldn't have gotten a black eye-- and a bruised heart.
If only he had known she was the Priestess...
"Would that have stopped you?" he asked himself, knowing full well that it most definitely would not have stopped him from trying to kiss her. Living with forty men he was very unaccustomed to being around women. As someone who lived by their impulses, he was simply following one that was powerful enough to over ride his natural hesitancy when it came to matters of the heart. He had reason to feel he was on shaky ground when it came to women; his sisters and mother had taught him that lesson well. Nothing he ever did was right, and everything that went wrong was somehow his fault. The harder he had tried to become the perfect farmer like his father, the more he had displeased them.
But Miaka treated him differently. He saw with some degree of surprise the respect that was in her eyes when she looked at him. And that was before he had become Tasuki and was still Genrou, leader of a rag-tag band of mountain bandits. Ire and disappointment he could deal with in women, for he was used to it; but this new found feeling of being needed and wanted made him completely flustered.
He felt a smile break apart the frown that had been on his lips as he remembered the way Miaka had welcomed him into the tribe.
Reaching out her hand, she had taken his and shaken it. Too confused to protest, Tasuki had let her wring his hand with enthusiasm.
"I'm so glad you came, Genrou. Thank you..."
It had been enough to melt his will to dislike her right then and there. And since then, platonic feelings had been wiped away to reveal a bush fire that was fed every time she directed her smile his way. He should have known he couldn't lie to himself. The fact that he kept having dreams in which Miaka didn't sock him in the cabin, and instead ended up kissing him not only once, but two, three, four times...
Tasuki felt his blood begin to heat again.
Standing abruptly, he tried to control the pulsing need that was centering in his nether regions. Suddenly, the world went dark as his jacket was tossed unceremoniously over his head.
Tora nickered gleefully.
Tasuki decided not to sleep the night in the stable after all.
Nuriko gazed at Miaka, who glared back defiantly.
"Just let me do it." Nuriko commanded.
"No! You'll pull!"
"I won't, unless you squirm around like a little eel."
Miaka looked upset, and glanced down at her hands.
"You're mean to Tasuki-chan." she said softly, and Nuriko thought he heard tears lacing her voice.
Nuriko felt alarmed. What if this infatuation was serious, like Chichiri hinted? After all, the bandit's head may be stuffed with wood chips, but his heart was ...(Nuriko hated to admit) sincere.
"I don't mean to be," Nuriko began with a sigh, sliding behind Miaka and untying her hair ribbons to let it fall free.
Miaka turned and gave Nuriko a 'don't try and deny it!' look.
Turning Miaka's chin firmly back so she was facing away from him again, Nuriko began to brush the girl's hair vigorously.
"Alright. So I mean to be. I'm just trying to watch out for our interests."
" 'Interests'?" Miaka asked suspiciously, wanting to turn around again but feeling Nuriko's hand on her neck, keeping her head still as he brushed.
"Yes. It is in all of our interests that we make it to the summoning alive and well. Especially you."
Miaka was quiet for a moment, Nuriko's words hitting a nerve that had twinged painfully every time she was reminded of what it was she had to do.
"But ...does that mean the Seishi...all of us, can't be friends?" she felt Nuriko pause in his brushing, his voice turning surprisingly soft and kind.
"No, it doesn't mean that. Suzaku is after all, a God of love. But being friends is one thing, being lovers is another."
Miaka's cheeks flushed with bright color.
"L-lovers? Who said anything about lovers? Tamahome and I were just--"
"I wasn't referring to Tamahome." Nuriko said quietly.
Without asking, Tasuki's lop-sided smile appeared vividly within Miaka's mind. Her heart fluttered excitedly.
"I.." she began, but Nuriko beat her to it.
"Did Tasuki tell you the legend behind the lo po pang?"
Miaka turned to face Nuriko, curious. "No, he didn't...what kind of legend?"
Nuriko paused, unsure if he should continue. Miaka leaned closer; she loved Nuriko's stories. He knew so much about Konan and its folklore that Miaka looked forwards to hearing him explain the history behind everyday things. Nuriko arranged his robes around himself with care, as if preparing to entertain a distinguished guest; it was an instinctive reaction that spoke of his training within the Emperor's harem.
"Lo po pang means 'sweet heart'. Many years ago, there lived a beautiful courtesan. She was said to be 'a lady of the moon' because her face was sweet and round. She was the favorite of a very powerful military general, who was so infatuated with her that he used to give the courtesan a military escort wherever she went."
"That must have made her angry, being surrounded by soldiers all the time," Miaka said quietly, but Nuriko shushed her and continued.
"She did not mind at first, because she was treated like an Empress due to her influential connection with the general. It was said that she always smiled; even though she was never allowed out of the soldier's sight. One day, she was traveling through the village in one of the general's carriages when she saw a young man being accosted by a local vendor. The vendor was waving a knife at the man, and the courtesan cried out for the fight to stop. 'But my lady!' the vendor said, 'this man is nothing more than a petty thief whom I caught trying to steal my delicious cakes!' ..."
"Ah-hah!" Miaka said excitedly. "Cakes! He was selling lo po pang cakes, right?"
Nuriko gave her a look, and shook his head.
"No. He was selling sweet red bean cakes. The courtesan however, having a kind heart, asked the vendor if she could pay for the cake the young man had tried to steal. The vendor gave her three cakes, saying how beneficent she was in wasting her kindness on the likes of the thief. The courtesan gave the cakes to the young man, whom she guessed (and guessed rightly) was starving. As she leaned out of the carriage to hand the cakes to the young man, their eyes met and their hands touched.
From that day on, they were in love. Each day, the young man would work until his body could no longer support him in order to gain enough money to buy a red bean cake. Then, he would hollow out a small hole in the center where he would hide a little scroll of paper containing a love poem for the courtesan. Each day when the courtesan would ride past, she would stop the carriage and accept his gift. They corresponded this way for years, secret lovers hiding their confessions of love within a sweet, delicious dessert."
Nuriko stopped and regarded Miaka; she was slightly pink faced and was gazing into space. "What happened to them? Did they ever get the chance to love each other freely?" she asked softly.
"No. The general discovered their letters and had the young man killed, as well as his favorite courtesan. That is why to this day it is considered bad luck to leave a lo po pang unfinished; the cake represents the undying spirits of the courtesan and her lover."
Miaka stared at Nuriko, who was giving her a meaningful look.
"Nuriko... that was a beautiful, sad story. But just because Tasuki and I shared a sweet heart cake together, doesn't mean that he love--"
"I've been watching the both of you. You may not see it, but I do. He's in love with you...and I'm worried that when the time comes, Tasuki won't ..." Nuriko paused, tucking a finger beneath Miaka's chin so she would meet his eyes.
"He won't be able to let you go." he finished, looking at her with such earnest concern that Miaka wanted to cry. She dropped her eyes to her folded hands, unable to meet his searching gaze.
"What if I don't want him to let me go?" she whispered, tears now welling in her eyes and blurring the pattern of Nuriko's beautiful robe.
"Then I can only hope when that time comes, you'll make the right decision. For all of us."
Miaka nodded, the image of Tasuki still burning within her mind. Nuriko watched her with growing guilt, hating to have to crush her hopes like this. But it had to be done. His arms rose a little to embrace her, but soon the urge was replaced by purpose and he let them drop, shifting away from her.
"You should get some sleep. Come, I'll sing to you for a little while, ne?" he offered gently. Miaka tried to smile, but it trembled as she wiped her eyes. Blowing out the night lamps, Nuriko slipped under the covers next to Miaka, making sure she was well covered. Miaka closed her eyes immediately, and Nuriko gazed at her troubled face. She reminded him so much of his little sister. His Kourin. She had the same temperament; hyper, cheerful, and utterly naive when it came to other people. It had brought about a fierce protectiveness in Nuriko he'd never thought he could feel towards another person again. At first, he had hated Miaka for tearing away his mask of indifference and revealing the lonely man he had become. But it was in witnessing Miaka's vulnerability that he had finally accepted his own. Now, he couldn't imagine life without her; couldn't imagine going to bed without her next to him or waking and finding she had flung herself around him in the night.
Whether it was a passionate love he refused to explore, or a healing love that he had sought avoid since his sister's death, he didn't know.
Singing gently to her, Nuriko wondered if his own dislike of Tasuki was truly because he was worried for Miaka, or jealous that his own masculinity had been taken from him for so long. Either way, he would be damned if he was going to let Miaka be hurt again.
Still singing a song he had once sung for his sister, Nuriko watched her until her breathing slowed, and her features relaxed in sleep.
"I'm sorry, Miaka-chan. But it's best this way. This way, none of us will get hurt..."
Nuriko felt his own eyelids grow heavy. As he slipped into a floating, disembodied doze he thought he heard something faintly calling...
Moon lady, moon lady...
Smile upon me
Take from me letters of love
So we can be free...
"An unfair accusation, no da."
"You're messin' with the dice! Probably usin' some holy charm to give you good numbers!"
Chichiri smiled, patiently. "The Buddha does not believe that a man need go to such lengths to prove his worth," he said wisely, not appearing to have noticed his burly companion's red face or murderous scowl.
"Don't start preachin' to me, monk!" the man said angrily, slamming his fist down on the table and making it shake. "I know a cheat when I see one! Now, gimme back my money or I'll-"
"If you do, you'll be answerin' to me."
The man whirled around, regarding the new comer. He was about three inches shorter than himself, and looked wiry enough to still be in his late teens. The only feature that stood out in the man's hazy, slightly drunken mind was the kid's shock of red hair that seemed to stab the sky defiantly.
"Oh really?" the man growled, rising from the table and glowering at Tasuki.
"Really. This monk as he calls himself, owes me money too. And I'm not lettin' anyone have him until I'm through."
"Yeah? Well he cheated me! So he's mine!"
Tasuki scoffed, his adrenaline pumping excitedly. He was itching to get rid of some of his pent up tension, and a good brawl might be just what the monk ordered.
Cracking his knuckles, Tasuki narrowed a sarcastic look at the man. "Are you sure he cheated you? Maybe your just a fuckin' idiot who can't count."
The man's blood shot eyes popped, a vein throbbing violently in his temple. Chichiri took that moment to back away slowly from the table.
"Aaah.. Tasuki-san, I don't think there's any need for violence-" but his warning was cut short as the drunken man howled with rage and threw the table at Tasuki. It flew through straight towards the bandit, cups, bowls and all. With a smash the table broke apart sending splinters flying. Smiling in triumph, the beefy man blinked a few times before he realized that the scrawny kid was no where to be seen within the wreckage. With a giant question mark still blinking over his head, he felt someone tap his shoulder. Turning, he was met with a punch that sent him sprawling backwards, his bulky body crashing into the remains of the table he'd just destroyed.
Tasuki grinned down at the man, ignoring the searing pain in his hand.
"Damn, what the hell's this guy got in his head? Iron for brains?" he thought as his opponent picked himself up from the table and lunged for him again. Using his quick speed Tasuki managed to block and evade the man's flailing, hard punches, causing him to spin in circles. Swaying on the spot, he blinked furiously at Tasuki. "I thought you were trouble the moment I saw your group walk in the place!" he said while trying to beat Tasuki with a ham like fist.
"Thinking was your first mistake!" Tasuki shot back sardonically as he dodged another fist and brought his own slicing through the air to punch the man hard across his unshaven jaw. The man stumbled backwards with a bloody lip, but grinned maliciously at Tasuki.
"That woman you're traveling with.. she's a sweet young thing, isn't she? Maybe after I get rid of you two, I'll ask her if she wants to see the town with me. Of course, she's not gonna have much of a choice--"
The man went flying backwards as Tasuki's fist hit him square in the face. Pain shot through Tasuki's fist at the force of the impact, but he was too blind with rage to notice. Not caring if the man was significantly stronger than he was, Tasuki jumped on him, beating whatever parts he could find with his fists. Suddenly, he heard the sound of something being unsheathed and the glint of a shiny blade caught his eye. Before he had the chance to react however, there was a loud thunk! and the man's face contorted with pain. His eyes rolling back in his head, he fell limply to the floor.
Chichiri, still holding his staff aloft looked down at the man with disgust.
"That'll teach you to draw a weapon on an unarmed man!" he said in the most serious voice Tasuki had ever heard him use. It was kinda scary.
Blinking up at his fellow Seishi through a mix of sweat and blood, Tasuki looked at Chichiri's offered hand. A grin slowly spread across his face, the gesture hurting due to a nasty cut on his lip where the burly man had clipped him. Taking the monk's hand, Tasuki let Chichiri hoist him to his feet. They stood for a moment, grasping each others hand. Tasuki understood the gesture to mean a new found respect had been forged, for both of them.
"What's going on in here?" cried a hysterical voice from the doorway.
"My tavern! What happened?" the proprietor exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at both Tasuki and Chichiri.
"My good tables, ruined! And YOU!" he said rounding on Chichiri.
"A monk! You should be ashamed of yourself!"
Chichiri's cheeks went slightly pink as he said calmly "The Buddha always said, he who gambles and gets away, lives to gamble another day!"
The proprietor bristled, his already bushy mustache puffing up.
"That's not a proverb! You just made that up!"
"One has to be flexible in these troubled times, no da."
"You--Arrrrrgh!" the proprietor fumed, fixing Tasuki with a glare as he tried to drag the unconscious man out of the restaurant by himself. Tasuki bent down and helped him, drawing the drunken man's limp arm around his shoulders. Damn, he was heavy!
"Well, I suppose I should be thanking you," the proprietor said grudgingly as he looked with distaste at their burden.
"I've been trying to get this lout out of my tavern for weeks. The local police won't do anything, so I suppose a few smashed tables is a small price to pay for peace."
"Here," Tasuki said, tossing the man a bag of gold from his belt. The coins clinked invitingly, and the proprietor looked stunned.
"Why, thank you...thank you sir!" he said amazed, looking at Tasuki as if he were a celebrity. Tasuki gave him a fanged grin.
After depositing the drunken trouble maker out onto the road where hopefully, Tasuki thought he might be picked up the local authorities or run over by a passing cart, he and Chichiri said goodnight to an extremely grateful proprietor.
"Here is the key to one of our biggest rooms! Two young men such as yourselves should have your own rooms! And if you would like breakfast in the morning, just let me know and I'll bring it up to you myself."
"I'm sure it'll be tasty!" Tasuki said kindly, trying to pry himself away without seeming ungrateful. As he and Chichiri ascended the stairs, Chichiri turned to shoot a questioning glance at him.
"When did you acquire such a purse full of gold, Tasuki-san?"
Tasuki, knowing this question had been coming smiled.
"Since you started gambling." he said with a sly grin.
Chichiri's hands immediately flew to his belt. His purse, which had held all his nights winnings, was gone. Tasuki gave a throaty laugh at the monk's unusually flustered expression.
"I got it off yah when you bent down to help me up. Honestly, you really shouldn't wear your purse in such plain sight. You never know who'll take advantage of you."
"I suppose that's a Mt. Reikaku proverb, no da?" Chichiri said dryly, frowning as Tasuki only chuckled more.
"Serves you right! After all, didn't Buddha say 'he who acquires wealth must learn to let it go'?"
Chichiri grumbled. "You're not such a slow learner after all, no da."
"And you're not exactly what I pictured a monk to be like." Tasuki said, still smiling. Chichiri returned the gesture. "Then, we were both fools in judgment." he said quietly. Tasuki said nothing, but handed him the key the proprietor had thrust into his hand.
"You take the royal suite. I'm not gonna get a lot of sleep tonight anyways."
"Those cuts look painful, no da. Do you want me to wake Nuriko--"
"Naw!" Tasuki protested quickly, glancing down the hall towards the room where Miaka lay sleeping peacefully. Tasuki felt a small smile spread across his lips. She was probably lost in a dream, her hands tucked under chin and her cute little mouth open slightly...
"I wasn't thinkin' anything!" Tasuki blurted out, but the flush that crept into his cheeks betrayed him. Chichiri didn't mention it, to Tasuki's immense relief.
"Alright. But if you need something in the night just ask. That man really punched hard, no da."
Tasuki gave a wince that he attempted to turn into a roguish grin. Trying to keep from leaning against the doorframe, his body cried out in agreement. Hell yeah! Who knew lookin' after a monk could be so fuckin' dangerous to your health!
"Nah," Tasuki said lazily. "The only thing that hurt more was havin' to look at his ugly mug when he talked about Miaka."
"You're a loyal Seishi, Tasuki-san. Never forget that. And never let anyone tell you to disregard your feelings. Your passion gives you the strength to fight for what you believe is right."
Tasuki gazed at the monk, unsure of what to say. He was touched, but also unnerved. He knew Chichiri was referring to Miaka. Unable to reply, Tasuki simply nodded and watched as Chichiri turned and disappeared into his room.
Miaka was lost in the most pleasant dream she could ever remember having. It was heavenly!
More delicious than the dream in which she'd been whisked away to the land of sweets.
More tantalizing than a daydream in which she'd been lost in an enchanted forest, and a shimmering fairy kept making her strawberry cream pies.
It was as though she were drinking sweet ice wine; it was the only alcoholic beverage Miaka's mother sometimes let her sip when they were in a restaurant. It always left her with a warm tingling feeling in her stomach, a sensation that she was experiencing now in her dream.
She was sitting on a cabin floor which she remembered had been cold and uncomfortable. Yet before she could register the familiar cabin, or the fact that she seemed to be curiously devoid of her usual clothing something utterly unexpected happened.
She was kissed.
It was a soft, light kiss that lasted only a moment. Miaka let her eyes focus on the face floating just above hers, and a small smile spread across her lips, her heart jumping wildly. The man who had kissed her not moments before gave her a lop-sided grin, gazing at her bemusedly. Miaka felt her stomach flip; it was exactly the type of look she had seen him give her so many times, but this time there was something more...
His eyes flickered back to her mouth, and she knew immediately what that something was.
'Tasuki, kiss me!' she thought feverishly, and as though he had read her mind Tasuki cupped his hand behind her head and guided her into a warm, sweet kiss.
Miaka's brain tried to register the way he gently kneaded her lips with his mouth, but found that it could no longer muster any sort of coherent thought except: He tastes like cinnamon...
Not thinking about the consequences of her actions, Miaka let her tongue flicker across his bottom lip, aching for more of his taste. Tasuki's arms immediately wrapped around her, drawing her close.
'Miaka, my love...' he whispered to her.
Miaka let herself melt into his embrace and wound her arms around his neck, pulling him closer...
Miaka felt herself yanked unceremoniously from her dream feet first. She shot up in bed, her chest still heaving and her brain crying out in an echoing protest. She tried to get her bearings, her body still warm and slightly damp. She was about to re-conjure the last heated moments of her reverie when she heard it again-- the dreaded sound that had interrupted her so rudely.
Nuriko snored loudly.
Miaka felt her heart deflate. Turning to look at her Seishi she felt the urge to whack him soundly with the nearest pillow.
Nuriko, mouth agape, lay flat on his back in a most undignified manner.
"He looks just like my brother!" Miaka thought with a mixture of frustration and amusement. Nuriko gave another snore and smacked his lips.
Heaving a deep sigh that did not help to calm her nerves, Miaka turned and began the task of re-arranging the purple haired Seishi so he wouldn't wake the whole tavern. Lifting his arms so they rested by his sides again --instead of over his head and across her mid-driff-- Miaka then pinched his nose between her thumb and forefinger. Nuriko gave a snort, his face scrunching up like a four year old who has been presented with broccoli.
He closed his mouth immediately and Miaka let go of his nose. Nuriko's face relaxed again, and he turned his head towards her and nuzzled his pillow with a soft snuffle. Miaka brought a hand to her lips to contain the laugh that was building up within her. He looked so peaceful and innocent. He looked completely at ease, and because his features were relaxed Miaka noticed that he looked quite masculine when he wasn't trying to look down his nose at everyone.
She tried to lie back down with Nuriko, but she could not bring herself to close her eyes. Instead, she gazed at his sleeping face and listened to the sound of his deep breaths. Her mind felt fuzzy, and the more she tried to forget the dream she'd just had the more vivid it became.
Suddenly, Nuriko's words floated back to her.
"I'm worried that when the time comes, Tasuki won't be able to let you go..."
Miaka felt her heart skip nervously as she decided what she had to do. If Tasuki felt the way she did, they wouldn't have to let go. She could be with him right now, and when the time came to summon Suzaku, she would deal with the consequences of their actions. Slipping quietly from beneath the blankets, Miaka slipped her feet into the warm slippers Nuriko had acquired for her before their journey.
"If your going to blend in, you'll need some decent clothing!" he had said loftily, although he'd spent days gathering her a beautiful wardrobe. Miaka glanced back over her shoulder to find Nuriko still in a deep sleep.
"I'm sorry, Nuriko-chan. I know you said that I should do what is right for all of us. But I can handle myself. I won't let things get out of control. I need to know if he feels the same way I do..."
And before she could re-think her course of action Miaka tip toed from the room and shut the door soundlessly behind her.
Tasuki knocked another white pebble out of its safe haven on the game board, and grinned triumphantly.
"Mmm.. how you gonna get outta this one?" he said to the empty chair in front of him which contained his imaginary opponent.
"Meh, I already know what you're thinkin'," Tasuki grumbled as he surveyed the board.
"You think I've let my guard down too soon. Let's see if you're right."
He swiped up his cup of sake and took a generous swig before turning the board around so he could make his opponent's move. His brow furrowed and he scratched his chin absently, concentrating on the best way to maneuver his next piece. Then, his eyes lit up.
"Check mate!" he said confidently, grinning at the empty chair. "You always did know how to trick me into moving too soon, ne Hakurou-san?"
The chair remained silent, and Tasuki felt his smile falter.
He took another gulp of sake and set the cup back down on the table with more force than was necessary. He hadn't touched a drop of sake since he had left Mt. Reikaku a Seishi. Thus far he had kept his word to his mentor and boss, Hakurou; that he should fulfill his obligations with dignity, as a representative of the Mt. Reikaku bandits. He even thought he hadn't been doing such a bad job until he realized the worst possible thing had happened right under his nose.
He'd fallen in love with her.
So that was why he was now semi-inebriated, and playing a game of Chinese chess with his boss who had been dead for nearly six months now.
Tasuki hiccupped. He reached out his hand for the sake bottle, but stopped. He couldn't allow himself to wallow in self-pity. Someone depended on him, and the only thing worse than not being able to show Miaka his feelings was letting her down. He tossed the sake cup away from him, and it slid across the table.
"You knew this would happen, didn't you ol' man?" Tasuki said with a slight smile as he gazed at the empty chair which in his mind, seated his old boss. Tasuki felt the gnawing urge of tears, his eyes stinging. He missed Hakurou, who had been more of a father to him than his own ever was. He had been shocked and furious when he'd discovered upon returning to the mountain that Hakurou had left him. It was selfish, but Tasuki was angry that his mentor hadn't told him of his declining health.
"He had a bad heart. No one knew. You know how he was. He was too proud to ask for help. And he wouldn't have wanted us to see him weak like that," Kouji had said when Tasuki had demanded to know why the hell Hakurou hadn't called for a doctor.
And that had been that.
Never again would Tasuki hear Hakurou's easy, thunderous laugh.
Tasuki's vision swam before his eyes, and he wiped them with the back of his hand. If it hadn't been for Miaka, he wouldn't have even been able to pay his respects at Hakurou's burial. He remembered with a pang the way she had stood in between himself and Kouji, her face red and her eyes filled with tears. She hadn't even known Hakurou; to her, he was just the leader of a bunch of displaced men who could never fit into proper society. Yet she known the kind of man he was, and had mourned his passing.
Her support had meant more to him than any sacred celestial destiny had. It was in that moment that Tasuki knew he was meant to protect her.
"Even if that means protectin' her from myself," he thought miserably, but determinedly.
"I can't tell her how much I want her..."
Tasuki felt his body flood with heat.
He wanted her.
It was such a forceful need that he clenched his jaw shut tight and tried to take a deep breath. Things would be fine as long as they weren't alone together again. He could handle being with her around the other Seishi, even if it did strike a cord of jealousy within his brain. But he was resolved to keep things under control.
It would be fine. He was used to challenges.
Standing and swaying only slightly on his feet, Tasuki gave the empty chair a courteous nod and strode towards the door. He felt restless and some fresh, cold air was exactly what he needed. His mind immediately shifted to what he knew he really needed, which was his sleeping Priestess who was lying innocently in the room just down the hall...
Tasuki gritted his teeth, knowing that this challenge would likely be his most demanding one yet.
"Just as long as she doesn't jump outta no where and catch me off guard with those green eyes again..." Tasuki repeated to himself as he grabbed his outer jacket and swung the door open.
Green eyes clashed with molten amber ones.
There, in his doorway with her hair tousled and falling loose over her shoulders was the beautiful kink in his plan. Miaka, her arms crossed over her chest and her light robes giving him tantalizing hints at the contours that lay beneath moistened her lips determinedly.
Tasuki felt his hand slip down a couple of inches from where it gripped the doorframe.
"May I come in?"
"No! God damnit, woman you can't come in!"
"Of course," Tasuki said numbly, shoving the part of him that flailed in protest into a compact corner of his brain where it became suitably muffled.
Miaka's eyes shifted nervously to his arm, which still barred her from entering the room. Tasuki's hand had been gripping the door frame so hard, that when he let go to let her pass by it throbbed painfully.
"Are you sure you don't mind? I know its late but I thought maybe we could-- what's that!" she suddenly cried, pointing at him.
"What?" Tasuki exclaimed in alarm, whipping around to see what had frightened her-- and slamming hard into the still open door. Stars exploded within his brain, and for a moment his vision went inky. Then he felt soft hands tugging his head downwards.
"Tasuki! I'm sorry, I was talking about your lip! What happened? Are you alright? Should I wake Chichiri? I can go and see if--" Miaka was saying as she fluttered around his head like a small bird. With effort, Tasuki closed her hands in his and drew them away from his face.
"It's nothin. Just a scratch. I'm fine, Mi-chan!' he said through a half grin, amused at the way her face was a perfectly exaggerated expression of concern. Without thinking, he reached up and smoothed the worry lines from in-between her eyebrows with his thumb.
Miaka's face relaxed a little, and Tasuki felt himself being drawn towards her light pink bottom lip...
'Don't make us all look like perverts, jackass!' a voice that sounded suspiciously like Kouji echoed with his head.
"Tasuki...?" Miaka said softly, her breathing suddenly labored.
"Yeah?" he answered as if in a trance, his eyes drinking in the sight of her face so close to his.
"You're stepping on my foot!" she squeaked, the color in her cheeks suddenly making him realize he was still wearing his heavy riding boots. He stepped away from her immediately, and as she bent down to rub her injured foot he bent down as well to inspect it for her.
Their heads met with a dull crack, sending them both staggering backwards holding their foreheads. Tasuki was mortified. Hesitant to reach out and see if she was okay but unable to stop himself he gripped her shoulder. Her head was bent, and her shoulders shook. Tasuki felt the bottom of his stomach drop away with a clang. Was she crying? Had he hurt her?
"Miaka!" he said desperately, gripping her by both shoulders and trying to look into her face.
"I'm sorry, I--" but he stopped as he heard something light and soft float up from her. She was laughing...
Tasuki frowned, unwilling to see the humor in their situation. Besides which, her head was like a rock! His forehead still throbbed.
"Lemme take a look at that foot." he said gruffly.
Miaka shook her head and couldn't help but laugh at his confused expression. This was certainly not the way things had gone in her dream! Suddenly, she felt the air rush from her in a soundless cry as she was lifted from the ground.
"Tasuki--!" Miaka cried as he tried to hoist her over his shoulder, but couldn't quite make it as she had thrown her arms around his neck in a semi-head lock.
"Damnit let go!" Tasuki panted, his hands gripping her back and legs awkwardly.
"You first!" Miaka replied just as awkwardly, the blood rushing to her head as she held onto him.
"I'll drop you!" he threatened, and she heard a hint of laughter in his voice even though he sounded slightly choked.
"No you won't!" Miaka answered stubbornly, wondering how much longer they could stay in their stalemate without both of them collapsing. Tasuki walked bow-legged towards the bed, Miaka draped over him. His face was red from her throttle hold, and as he reached the mattress he turned and tried to shake her off.
With a muffled cry she fell in a heap onto the straw mattress, her legs and arms flailing. Tasuki caught her foot just as it was about to collide accidentally with his jaw.
"Hell, I've known full grown men who weren't as dangerous as you!" Tasuki said incredulously as Miaka tried to wriggle her foot out of his grasp.
Miaka felt her cheeks flush as her robes fell open to reveal her leg. She saw Tasuki's eyes flicker over her bare skin, but then he was absorbed once more in inspecting her foot.
This was not the way she had planned things to go! She was supposed to impress him with her poise, not knock him unconscious! Her mind spinning, Miaka tried to gather her thoughts together and tell him why she had come in the middle of the night to see him when her purpose melted away. He was gently massaging her foot between his large hands, the soreness disappearing at his touch. She was about to let her eyes drift shut when she saw him gazing at her.
Liquid heat poured into her stomach as his eyes made a smoldering ascent up her out- stretched leg, lingered on her breasts and then finally rested on her mouth.
"I want you to kiss me!" Miaka blurted out loud.
Tasuki blinked, as if just remembering where and who he was. Miaka felt the urge to clap a hand over her mouth, but instead she tilted her chin up to look him square in the face. This was it! His answer would tell her whether or not she was alone in her feelings. Miaka felt her heart pound as they stared at each other, locked in a battle of wills.
Tasuki's hands placed her foot back on the bed gently, as if it were made of glass.
"You should get back to your room," he said hoarsely, averting his eyes from her.
Miaka felt her heart constrict painfully, and her eyes well with tears. Sitting up, she pulled her robe back down over her legs, and wrapped her arms around herself.
"What have I done...?" she wondered, terrified that she'd gone too far and that now things could never be as they were before. The thought caused tears to fall silently into her lap. She jumped, startled when she felt his thumb graze her cheek and wipe away the moisture there. Suddenly, her cheeks flushed with anger. Looking up at him through narrowed eyes, Miaka moved her head from his reach.
"How can you do it?" she asked, her voice hoarse from tears and full of hurt.
Tasuki let his hand drop back to his side. "Do what?" he asked quietly.
"Act as if what we do together is something wrong?" Miaka said, searching his face. Tasuki raised his eyes to meet hers, his own temper flaring.
" 'Cause it is! Damnit can't you understand that I'm not for you? Not just 'cause your my Priestess, but 'cause of who I am!"
"I don't care who you think you are--"
"Well you should!" Tasuki interrupted angrily, unable to remain still any longer and striding across the room. His back to her, he seemed to try and gather his patience.
"I had no right to try n' kiss you," he said to the wall, his hands clenched.
"You never asked me if I wanted you to!" Miaka said in frustration, her voice heavy with tears.
Tasuki turned to look at her; she was still sitting on his bed, her face flushed and moist from tears, her eyes gazing at him imploringly. Against his better judgment, against every logical thought that told him they would both regret it, Tasuki asked her what he'd longed to ever since he first saw her.
"Do you want me t'kiss you?" he asked thickly, moving towards her without even realizing it.
" 'Cause if I do, I can't take it back..." he continued, her beautiful face and runny nose drawing him towards her like a moth to a flame.
Miaka rose from the bed, her heart jumping as he approached her steadily.
"You're runnin' out of time odango," Tasuki murmured huskily, now only a few feet from her. His eyes washed over her face and locked onto her trembling lips. Miaka barely had time to nod yes to his question before she was scooped up against him. Her back hit the wall behind them just as she wound her arms around his neck, and he caught her lips in an open mouthed kiss.
It was nothing like it had been in her dream. His mouth was moist and hot, and his chin stubble scratched her soft skin. But she didn't care. Tangling her fingers in his hair, her mouth opened in a silent gasp as his hands slid down her sides to cup her bottom. She held on to his shoulders as he lifted her up, their mouths still pressed together. Wrapping her legs around his waist, Miaka heard him growl against her lips as she balanced on his hips. Wrapping her legs more tightly around his waist so she could gain better access to his demanding mouth, Miaka felt her body arch reflexively against him as her most delicate area came into contact with something very.. hard. At first her hazy mind thought it must be his belt-- but then he groaned and pushed against her even more, and with a sharp intake of breath she realized it was him.
"You know," she said half -teasingly in between their feverish kisses, "I didn't ...actually..say yes."
She let out a delighted cry as Tasuki let out a frustrated growl, burying his face in her neck, and nipping at her delicate skin. Miaka let her head fall back, a soft moan escaping her lips. Tasuki slowed his ministrations, allowing his lips to brush up the length of her throat.
"Say it," he murmured huskily into her throat, the vibrations of his deep voice sending a cascade of shivers down her entire body.
"Mmmmm..." Miaka replied, unable to formulate a coherent thought as he caught the fluttering pulse point at the base of her neck with his lips. She let out a surprised giggle when he lifted his head and caught the lobe of her ear between his lips.
"C'mon..." he growled playfully into her ear, the sensation of his voice and stubbled cheek making Miaka ticklish. She sobered when she felt him breathe deeply as he buried his face in her hair. They stayed that way for a moment, neither one wishing their embrace to come to an end.
Miaka's heart felt as though it would overflow with longing as she hugged him, knowing that at last he was allowing her to comfort him.
Slowly, her hands slipped from his hair to cup his face, bringing it up to meet her gaze. His eyes were a smoldering amber, like the color of liquid honey.
"Kiss me," she said softly, her fingers gently stroking across his cheeks. Tasuki looked down at her with awe. Slowly, he let his mouth be guided down to meet hers. Her lips parted, and Tasuki felt his blood begin to boil as her tongue brushed against his bottom lip. Some frayed part of his mind was warning him that this would go to far, that he'd already lost control-- but he ignored it. Slipping his hands from her waist, Tasuki drew them up her sides to cup her breasts, his mouth slanting across hers to deepen the kiss.
Miaka arched into his hands, her stifled plea resounding in his ears.
"Tasuki...please, I want you...!"
Without knowing how Tasuki found himself stumbling back towards the bed, Miaka still attached to his hips.
When Miaka felt her back sink into the soft mattress, she looked up into his face which hovered just above hers.
"I came to tell you I love you," she said with a hint of shyness, her fingers winding softly in his hair. Tasuki looked down at her, trying to contain the tremble that passed through his body at her touch.
Miaka saw a myriad of emotions pass within his eyes; joy, sadness, fear...but all were eclipsed by the most loving smile she'd ever seen. It warmed her to the very tips of her toes, and made her sure that she had done the right thing in coming to him.
"Miaka," he murmured to her softly, kissing first her forehead, then her nose...
"My little lo po pang," he continued, placing another kiss on her each of her cheeks and chin.
'Lo po pang means 'sweet heart'," Nuriko's voice echoed somewhere within her mind.
Miaka curled her arms around Tasuki's neck as he captured her lips this time.
"My sweet heart..."
A/N: I think I might be continuing this story, though I'm not sure right now! I have an important test coming up, and I might have to put everything on hold for a bit! If anyone has any technical suggestions, please let me know! Its getting a bit tricky sometimes having to edit my own work! Thanks for reading!