The Sunday sun was just beginning to fade as a lone visitor made his way to the Higurashi family shrine; a lone pilgrim, clad in black, carrying a small but elegantly wrapped gift box. He stopped at her door first, out of habit, even though he figured it would be futile.
"Is Higurashi-san in?" he queried politely, although he knew what the reply would be. No, not in right now… or perhaps Oh, she's caught a terrible case of malaria…she'll see you some other time.
Ah yes, denied…just as he expected. Typhoid fever this time; they must really be desperate. He was, however, a rather persistent creature, and usually he would just come again—or insist on leaving his token of affection with her relatives.
But today, the joking tone didn't quite make it into her grandfather's words, and the strain around his eyes told Houjo that something was amiss. Something was terribly wrong with his schoolmate…and he was willing to bet he knew what.
It was time.
She was in the well house, as he had predicted the instant her grandfather turned him away so abruptly. A less observant person might have missed the more subtle signs – the slight crack in the door was a dead giveaway – but Houjo picked them all up with practiced ease. With a girl like Higurashi, you had to be quick on the uptake…otherwise, the school boy mused, her lies would run circles around you.
He didn't bother to knock, because he knew she wouldn't hear him anyway, but he did take his shoes off - even though the floor promised to freeze him from the toes up. Damn, it's cold! he grimaced, forcing his stinging feet to move over the icy wooden floor.
Rustling movements at the bottom of the stairs betrayed her presence even before his dark eyes adjusted to the dim light, and Houjo waited.
Eventually, the rustling noises gave rise to scraping sounds…the groaning protests of an old ladder, bearing weight…and Higurashi Kagome's head crested above the well's mouth. Her cheeks were flushed, burning with an unnatural, raw redness, and the salt-trails of tears still lingered on her face. Houjo continued staring, impassively, holding his gift. It took her a few seconds, but finally her bleary eyes lit upon him.
"Higurashi?" the word hung in the cold air, echoing heavily.
"Ah-uaaaah!!!" she screeched, nearly falling backwards off her ladder. True to form, Houjo rushed forward to assist, seizing her wrist with a strength she hadn't guessed he possessed. For a moment, neither moved; then Kagome remembered herself and scrambled up the ladder in record time.
"Ah, Houjo-kun!" she exclaimed breathlessly, quickly assuming the vapid, bubbly persona she used with him. "Why-why ever are you here?" It disgusted him, how she could write him off so easily.
"I saw." he stated flatly.
"Y-you what..." her words crystallized in her throat. How could she explain her presence in the well house? He would think she was nuts…and with the well broken, she couldn't even demonstrate… "Oh, I was just—" she started, dropping her false cheerfulness for once.
"I saw you go through the well."
Well. That took care of that problem.
"When?" she asked, dumbfounded.
"A while ago." he replied vaguely, and his jaw tightened. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, and for once his own mask dropped in turn. "Why, Kagome?" his eyes flashed accusations at her, and his fists bunched into hard knots.
"Ho-Houjo, I..." What could she say? Her best friends didn't even believe a fraction of what she'd told them, how could she expect him to deal with it? Gods, he hadn't even figured out she had a boyfriend, how could he understand that she had been skipping class to time travel… Kagome's scowl deepened, and Houjo's shoulders slumped dejectedly.
"But I've been waiting for so long..." he whispered, tears brewing at the corners of his eyes.
"Houjo--!" she gasped, and looked at him again--for the first time. There was something familiar about him...something in the way his hair fell. The eerie brightness of his eyes. And she couldn't quite place it, but suddenly she knew she'd seen him…before
"No. Not Houjo." Dark eyes, right in front of her. Unsettling, and achingly real.
His lips descended to capture hers possessively, and her eyes slid shut of their own accord. It really is you... she tried to whisper, but the words disappeared in the space between their lips, swallowed as he kissed her again.
"I told you, didn't I?" he murmured, pulling away only slightly. "I always wanted to make you mine."
"Inuyasha..." she sighed, running her hands through soft, black hair. Short, yes, but so familiar…she had always wanted to play with his hair more when they spent time together in the Sengoku Jidai.
His eyes crinkled, but Houjo did not return her caresses. Slowly, as though she were moving underwater, she let him guide her back toward the well house steps. Slowly, as though he too were swimming, he moved in front of the well itself...as if to shield her from it. Kagome could only watch as his slender, nimble fingers (had they always been so fragile-looking?) moved to unfasten his shirt, button by button.
"Hey wait!" she gasped, blushing furiously at his boldness; her grandfather could walk in at any minute! "You can't—we shouldn't—I mean---"
"Shh..." he admonished, removing his shirt in one fluid motion, letting the dark fabric pool in his arms. She was staring again, unable to help herself. He really did look the same, she thought, so well-built but so terribly thin. And scarred—his arms were covered with marks, obviously old but not quite faded. How had he lived, she wondered – how could he still be alive if he'd used the Shikon no Tama to turn human?
"I mended all the pieces shortly after you left." he said softly, as if he were reading her mind. "Such a pain, this thing was." He raised the gift box, letting her notice its shape and packaging – exactly the right size for a small jewelry box. "And then, I waited."
Dark, wild eyes met her brown ones, and he licked his lips predatorily.
"I waited for you."
"Inuyasha…" she whispered, shivering at the double-meanings. The entire world stood still as he sauntered forward, giving her a hard stare. Suddenly, his brow knotted in aggravation, and Houjo jerked his chin haughtily upward.
"It's a shame though…I had hoped you would recognize me." he stated coolly, and Kagome blinked. There was something dangerously unsettling about that grin…
He turned around.
Directly in the center of his back, burned into the muscle itself, was an unmistakable spider-shaped scar.
Hehe…did I surprise you? If not, why? Was it because of Houjo himself? I've always thought he was vaguely creepy in that "way-too-nice" sort of way myself…*shudders* So why not Houjo = Naraku? That certainly would be a grand ol' kick in the ass…
'Tis the season to review!