Author's Note:  Wow, this story was much harder to write than "Afternoon Delight".  It is the same type of story as "Afternoon Delight", but you don't have to have read that one for this to make sense, which is a good thing since no one's read that story anyway.  This story shares nothing with that one other than the general theme and the characters, who, by the way, belong to Takahashi Rumiko and not to me.  (Like how I sneaked that in?)  I'm thinking about writing a "Morning" story to go with these two.

Evening Reflections

An I/K one-shot

By Maia Serrelinda

The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon, tinting the sky a deep red-violet.  The warmth of the day was slowly fading, taking the light with it.  The miko paused in her work to light the torches that were placed around the small hut.  She knew that her surrogate "family" would soon be hungry, and some of them were not known for their patience.  She sighed and placed her work on a small shelf to begin preparing the evening meal.  She worked around the sleeping kitsune and fire-cat youkai, the kitsune's small body cushioned by that of the small youkai.  She sent them a fond smile as she worked, occasionally stopping to adjust her long hair out of the way.

Inuyasha paused in his running, lured by the scent of the evening meal cooking.  He had been making a quick patrol of the village's surrounding forest, wanting to make sure that his small, unorthodox "pack" could sleep in relative safety tonight.  He knew that the weak humans traveling with him needed more sleep than he did, and also that they had a tendency to sleep more soundly than he himself did.  He'd be awake, silently keeping watch anyway, but it never hurt to patrol as much as he could before everyone settled down.  He changed directions quickly, grinning to himself at the thought of a hot meal, cooked over a real fire instead of out in the forest as usual.

She was stirring the evening meal, but sensed that the hanyou was approaching.  She looked up as he pushed aside the bamboo door covering.  The setting sun lit his silver hair afire, almost creating a halo.  She snorted silently to herself, knowing that the rude, foul-mouthed inu-hanyou was far from an angel.  She knew that he had a softer side, but that he tried never to show it.  His golden eyes widened slightly as he sniffed the air appreciatively.

She turned from the simmering stew to reach for a stack of bowls set on a nearby shelf.  She picked up the top bowl in the stack and turned her attention back to the pot.  The hanyou tapped his foot impatiently, never taking his eyes off of the miko as she prepared his dinner.  He knew it would only be a matter of time before the rest of the group smelled the stew and he wanted his first, dammit!

The miko ladled a generous serving of hot stew into the bowl.  She picked up a pair of chopsticks and handed both to the hanyou.  He looked at her as she smiled slightly, knowing that he really should thank her for preparing the dinner.  She didn't have to – she was certainly not the only member of the group who had some cooking skill.  He moved off to his familiar corner of the hut, deftly avoiding the pair of sleeping youkai on the floor.  He settled himself into a seated position and looked down at his bowl.  He debated actually thanking her for the meal, something he'd never done in all the time he'd known her.  It was rare that they spent any time alone together, and even more rare that he wasn't yelling about something or other.  He looked up at her again as she went back to work, silently preparing bowls for everyone else, occasionally glancing at the hanyou and wondering why he hadn't immediately started gobbling his food, as usual.

He came to a decision.  He looked up at her and opened his mouth to speak—

"Kaede-bachan?"  Kagome slid aside the door covering and entered the small hut, followed by Miroku and Sango. 

Inuyasha groaned mentally.  There was no way he could thank her in front of everyone else!

The elderly miko looked up and smiled warmly at Kagome.  She glanced at Inuyasha, sure he'd been about to say something, but the moment was gone.  She handed stew-filled bowls to the rest of the group, including the two youkai who'd been sleeping on the floor.  The sounds of quiet chatter filled the hut as everyone contentedly slurped their stew. 

The hanyou finished first, as usual.  He stood and placed his now-empty bowl on the small table against the wall.  He rose to leave, but as he pushed aside the door covering, he paused and looked back at Kaede, who'd paused in her conversation to glance at him. 

"Oi, baba!"  Inuyasha's voice rose above the general chatter.

"Hai?"  Kaede responded as Kagome scowled at the hanyou's rude address.

"Arigato.  You know, for the food and all."  He turned and left the hut with a soft "keh", intent on one last patrol before turning in for the evening.

Silence fell over the other occupants of the hut.  Kagome's chopsticks paused halfway to her mouth, her eyes wide.  Sango blinked several times, her mouth frozen open.  Miroku sat frozen, dazed by what had just happened.

"Keh!  It's not that unusual!"  The faint shout came from outside the hut, sounding as if the hanyou had perched himself on the thatched root of the hut.

Kagome started to laugh, followed shortly by the rest of the group.  Kaede laughed softly before shaking her head and gathering the empty bowls, hoping to get them cleaned before it was fully dark.