Stress Relief: Back in the Sengoku Jidai

"You know we never did get him drunk."

"Kagome-chan?" Sango looked up at her young friend with inquisitive eyes, momentarily abandoning her previous task. Kirara reminded her none-too-gently with a nudge to the hand that she was supposed to be petting the demon cat. With an indulging smile, the demon-exterminator resumed the back scratch while continuing to hold Kagome in a curious stare.

Kagome, for her part, gazed out the front door of the small hut at the early spring blooms outside, grateful that the long winter had ended. Of course, good weather meant shard hunts, which further meant long hours trekking through the medieval forests and being bitten by various sorts of bloodthirsty insects. She cringed at the thought, and averted her gaze back indoors. "When we tried to play poker last time," she finally answered her friend's curiosity. "Remember? We wanted to see how much alcohol it took to get Inuyasha drunk, but we kinda got... sidetracked." She blushed at the memory, and felt the heat spread throughout her body.

Sango smiled, an evil glint shining in her dark eyes. "Well, there's always next time," she suggested, knowing full well Kagome was having the same thoughts she was; that the next time should be tonight, the night of the spring festival.

Catching the taijiya's line of thought, Kagome offered up a matching grin and rose quickly to her legs, groaning at the ache from sitting so long in such a confining position. "Don't suppose you could keep Inuyasha occupied for an hour while I run home?"

Nodding, Sango giggled softly. "Yeah, I think he and Miroku will be busy for a while yet anyway." Her eyes lit up suddenly. "Ne, Kagome-chan, do you have anymore of that Ka—"she frowned, "Kawala...Kanula..."

"Kahlua?"

"Hai, exactly, Kahlua!"

Kagome laughed merrily. "Yes, I'm sure I do. I hid it all under my bed so Mama wouldn't find out what we'd been up to."

"You didn't get in trouble, did you?"

"No," Kagome assured her with a wave of the hand, "it's just that I'm considered underage for alcohol in my time, and I didn't want to worry Mama." She grabbed her backpack, emptying it of its contents in the corner to make room for her stash and lifted the much lighter tote to her shoulder. "I'll be back soon. Later!"

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Inuyasha tossed the last of the chopped wood onto the heap, as Miroku set about ensuring the logs stayed put. This Spring Festival would have the biggest bonfire ever, thanks to the resident hanyou's propensity towards tree-felling in fits of frustration. Oh but he'd been most frustrated only a few months before. Damned wench, teasing him like that. It still ached to think about; feeling her body pressed up against his, the taste of her on his tongue, her scent wafting through him with every breath.

"Kuso," he cursed silently. Now was not the time for relieving his... er... tensions.

"Inuyasha?" Miroku glanced over at the hanyou, who seemed disturbed by some phantom annoyance. He was being ignored, which was fine with the monk. Better to be ignored than attacked, and at the moment he could sense an attitude problem of mammoth proportions building not six feet away.

The houshi wiped his hands on his cloak, expected their handiwork, and then glanced up at the sky for the time. A few hours past noon, he surmised, meaning the festival would begin soon. What a festival it would be, too: freshly harvested spring berries, confections and breads baked with the remainder of the winter's wheat, more sake than an army required in battle, and women – oh how he loved the women.

One woman in particular, and he could only pray that she would join in the festive dancing about the bonfire that night. Perhaps, he grinned inwardly at the thought, she would provide him with a more private performance afterwards. His smile fell rapidly as he realized that the chances of her indulging his lecherous dreams were less than one of the farmer's pigs taking flight. Ah well, he would win the lovely taijiya over one day. It was just a matter of time.

"We done?" Inuyasha growled impatiently. He hated festivals. They were loud, smelly, ostentatious shows that served little purpose other than annoying him. Or so he'd rationalized to himself. Mostly, they reminded him of how little he fit in, when he sat on the sidelines watching the young men of the village court their ladies of choice while engaging in companionable revelry complete with teasing, games, and drinking. The drinking he'd taken part in, but never more than five cups in a sitting and to be honest, he didn't understand the thrill.

Miroku followed the irate hanyou toward Kaede's hut, shaking his head at his friend's perennially temperamental mood. Today was a day for fun, and if he had to force it down his throat, he would make sure the half-demon had his share of it. They entered the hut to find Sango sitting alone, sorting through a small pile of brightly colored kimonos.

"Where's the wench?" Inuyasha demanded when he noticed the contents of her bag piled in the corner.

Sango's mind raced with an appropriate distraction, suddenly hitting on the one thing Inuyasha wouldn't dare check up on.

"She's at the stream."

"Damned girl bathes too much," he grumbled, accepting the answer and coming to a crouch on the floor. "She'd better get back soon 'cuz I'm hungry."

Sango and Miroku shared a glance, each rolling their eyes and going about their own business. "Sango, will you and Kagome-sama be joining in the ceremonial dance tonight?"

"Nothing would make you happier, I imagine," she ground out in annoyance.

"I take it that's a 'yes'?"

She ignored him, silently fuming. Why she'd agreed to this was beyond her. Kaede asked, Kagome happily volunteered, and then proceeded to pester her until she, too, gave in. The dance was well-known as something of a courtship ritual, originally meant to display the village's single and marriageable young women to the bachelors. Nothing more than a meat market in her eyes, but she had to admit that the beating of the drums and the light of the bonfire did make for an exhilarating atmosphere. Perhaps if she tuned out the audience, the show wouldn't be so bad after all.

"Sango-chan, I got...it... Oh! Hello Inuyasha!" Kagome quickly stuffed the bottle of Kahlua into her bag, pasting an innocent grin on her face.

"You bathe too much," was Inuyasha's only response.

Kagome frowned in confusion, but a look from Sango told her to play along. "Hai, well, can never be too clean," she replied.

"Keh."

A commotion outside piqued their attention, and as one their eyes shot out the front door to see a small parade of children racing after three village men lugging a roast boar on a spit.

"And so it begins," Miroku announced, rising again to exit the hut. "Are you coming?"

"I'm hungry," Inuyasha pouted. "Kagome, make me some ramen."

The miko rolled her eyes. "There will be plenty of food at the festival. Stop being such a baby and come with us." When he made no move to follow the trio toward the celebration, Kagome glared at him. "You're not really going to sit here alone, are you?"

BAM.

"DAMMIT, WENCH, WHAT'D YOU DO THAT FOR?"

Kagome just tossed a smile over her shoulder and rushed to catch up with Miroku and Sango, who were heading towards Shippo and the barbeque pits.

"Is he coming?"

Kagome smiled and accepted a small bowl of rice from one of the women serving dinner. "Any minute now. Trust me."

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The half-demon sat on the picnic blanket, an empty bowl from dinner knocked over beside him. He watched with quick, surreptitious glances as Kagome helped a circle of girls create dandelion wreaths, taking secret pleasure in the sound of her melodious laughter when the girls draped their wreaths upon her raven hair. She was a vision of grace and beauty at that moment, and he groaned at the thought.

"So, Inuyasha," Miroku plopped down beside the hanyou, taking note of his view of the miko. "Having any fun?"

"Keh. I don't see the point of all this," he grumbled.

"The point, my friend, is to relax with friends and welcome the Spring."

"We relax too much as it is," he pointed out irritably.

"Ah," Miroku grinned, "but not with sake!" He poured two cups of the alcohol and offered up the larger one to his friend before quickly tipping back his own and refilling it. Sighing contentedly, the monk leaned against the tree beside their picnic blanket and gazed up at the orange sky, watching the early evening stars begin to emerge.

"Hey, none for us?" Kagome and Sango had been abandoned at the promise of sweets, and came ambling up the small hill to join the monk and hanyou lounging there. When she was comfortably seated beside the half-demon, Kagome retrieved the hidden bottles of liquor and smiled at Sango. "Well, since the men aren't going to share, I suppose we'll have to make do."

"Hey, you didn't tell me you brought your foreign libations," Miroku complained, setting aside his own jug and blinking with a pathetic, pleading expression. Kagome laughed, and poured four cups of the vodka, making sure to fill up the hanyou's cup to near-overflowing.

In his sour mood, Inuyasha didn't notice the unequal portions, and gulped down the concoction as though it were mere water, his eyes nonetheless stinging with tears from the bite. Kagome shared a secretive smile with Sango, and quickly went to refill his cup.

"So what now?"

Miroku reached for the next bottle over – the Goldschlager – and helped himself to another round. The girls both had the same thought: If they were lucky, both men would be thoroughly drunk tonight, and at their mercies. They struggled to contain their excitement, nursing their first drinks as the men picked up the speed with which they were imbibing.

From the center of the village, the foursome could clearly hear the sounds of drums beating, and as the sun dipped lower in the sky the bonfire was at last lit, surrounded throughout the village by smaller torches and campfires. Children, now completely drugged with sugar, ran amok between groups of picnicking families and shouted out the calls for their various games. Shippou raced past them, popping into his balloon form to give rides to little girls who were, as always, completely amazed with his shape-shifting abilities.

The mood was pure magic.

Miroku and Inuyasha were on their fourth and sixth round of drinks, respectively, and the girls continued to water down their vodka with Sprite, which Kagome had snuck between them during round three. The first clue that their efforts were having any effect came when a young boy of six lost control of his ball, allowing it to sail past their blanket.

Inuyasha jumped up, and chased after it. When he'd retrieved it only seconds later, he threw it back at the boy and plopped down as though he'd never gotten up in the first place. Kagome's eyes widened, and she got an idea.

"Sato?" the little boy looked at her questioningly.

"May I borrow your ball, please?"

He nodded quickly, handing the toy to the respected young miko before dashing off to join his friends. Kagome tossed the ball up in the air a few times, noting with glee that Inuyasha's eyes were following the projectile very closely. Without warning, she threw the ball as fast as she could and watched as Inuyasha raced off after it.

Heh heh heh...

The half-demon returned, a wide grin begging for its freedom shining in his eyes. He tossed the ball at Kagome, and was about to sit again when she threw it past him once more. His bright eyes gazed at her curiously for only a second before dashing off again. He didn't know why, but this amused him. Somewhere deep inside the hanyou knew that he should be scolding her for her childish antics, but ... he just didn't have the heart.

He returned again with the ball, by now anticipating the game and almost eager for it. She rewarded him with a playful grin, feigning right then tossing it in the opposite direction toward the stream. Inuyasha caught the ball just before it rolled into the water, and raced back to the blanket. Beside the miko, Miroku and Sango stared, bewildered.

"Can I try, Kagome-chan?"

When Inuyasha came back, she handed the toy to Sango and laughed when the taijiya threw the ball so far that the inuhanyou had to squint in its general direction to locate it. His keen eyesight proved useful as he bounded off into the twilight, searching for his lost toy. Sango laughed, poured Miroku another drink, and shared a happy glance with Kagome.

When at last he returned, Inuyasha was panting from his efforts and held fast to the ball, indicating 'game over.' Kagome handed him his next round of drinks. The plan was working, and having quite an effect – loosening up their pouty dog demon most wonderfully.

Kaede's voice called from the distance. It was time for the girls to join the dance. Helping each other up, Sango and Kagome hurried toward the village center, their festive kimonos billowing in the wind. They reached the hoard of girls just in time to catch the start of the dance, joining hands and circling the bonfire. The beat was steady and invigorating, leading them into the dance almost hypnotically. Sango looked in the direction of their picnic blanket and found that Miroku had managed to drag Inuyasha away from the relative seclusion of their spot to join the audience. She nudged Kagome in their direction, and the miko blushed to find Inuyasha watching her with an intense gaze.

The vodka, Miroku realized with heavy disappointment, was gone. The Goldschlager was on its last drops as well. A nearby table held several jugs of the more potent sake, which he quickly took up, handing one jug to his slightly inebriated hanyou companion. "This ish some good sa – hiccup – ke. Ne, Inuyasha?"

The half-demon nodded absently, his eyes glued to the shadowy, dancing form of Kagome. Her hair was blowing with the wind, lit orange by the blaze before her making it appear as though she herself were made of fire. He was certain touching her would burn him, but with each gulp of sake he realized that thought wasn't much of a deterrent. He wanted her. Badly.

All around him, the village was alive with excitement and merriment. For once, the thrill was rubbing off on him, as well. While one part of him knew he should scorn such silliness, another part, louder, cheered him on. The girls' dance waned, and one by one the boys began picking them off to dance in more intimate loops. Miroku attempted to cajole Sango into a dance, and might have succeeded had he kept his hands to himself.

Inuyasha scanned the rapidly thickening crowd to find the object of his desires, growling audibly when he found her surrounded by three young men, each begging for her favor in a loop about the fire. The hanyou leapt above the dancing couples, practically yanking her from the boys' view and pressing her up against himself possessively.

"Inu...yasha?"

He dropped the almost empty sake jug from his hand onto a nearby table and took a delicate hand into his own rough claws, leading her back toward the searing bonfire. Kagome was stunned beyond belief when he began to lead her in the circle, following him numbly. It wasn't dancing, exactly, especially when several small groups joined together in something reminiscent of a conga line. Feeling the eager pulse of her partner's heartbeat through her own hand, Kagome wasn't about to complain.

They followed the crowd about the fire, the laughter in Kagome's eyes answered with a heated gaze from Inuyasha. After a while the dancing calmed, and couples began drifting off for more intimate activities, while the older and younger villagers headed for the comfort of their futons at home. Kagome separated reluctantly from Inuyasha, walking toward their blanket where Sango sat a safe distance away from her lecherous houshi admirer.

"Oi, Inuyasha," Miroku called with a hitch in his voice, "the girls here have been cheating us!"

"What are you talking about, monk?"

He held up the almost-empty bottle of Sprite, and pointed an accusing finger at Sango. "They've been drinking this, all the while letting us think they were sharing the vodka with us."

Inuyasha grabbed the bottle, sniffed at the lemon-lime soda, and tossed it back at the monk with a shrug. "So?"

Miroku sputtered, but remained silent. So much for easing his way into Sango's good graces. Then again, he admitted to himself, he had no interest in a drunken romp anyway. When she gave herself to him, he wanted her of sound body and mind.

Kagome and Sango shared a relieved sigh, settling side-by-side on the blanket. Inuyasha and Miroku fought genially over the last of their alcohol, the tequila which had resulted in so much sexual tension the last time, while Kagome searched through her backpack.

"Want me to paint your nails, Sango-chan?" There was nothing else to do, Kagome realized, since Inuyasha and Miroku were doing quite an excellent job of getting themselves drunk without much interference on their part. Sango regarded the gaudy bottle of red liquid dubiously, but nodded. Kagome squealed with glee, and set about decorating her female friend.

The scent of the polish caught Inuyasha's attention, and he scrunched his nose with distaste. "What is that smelly crap?"

"Hm? This?" Kagome opened her mouth to answer, but quickly snapped it shut when an idea formed in her mind. "It's war paint."

Sango, Miroku, and Inuyasha stared at her in disbelief. From what little they knew of her time, war wasn't exactly an every day occurrence.

"War paint, Kagome-sama?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"I want some."

The miko smiled; he was making this far too easy. "Sure, give me your claws."

Inuyasha crawled his drunken body over to sit before her, holding out his hands as ordered. Giving him no time to change his mind, she whipped out the brush and layered on a thick strip of red lacquer. Her clearer mind made quick work of each of his claws, finishing with a proud flourish. "There. Now just give it a moment to dry and you're good to go."

Inuyasha studied his nails, red as though stained with fresh blood. He grinned toothily.

"What about me?" Miroku pouted.

Kagome bit her lip in thought, then thrust the bottle at Sango. "Sango-chan, will you do the honors?"

"I—um—"

"Thanks." Kagome stood up quickly, and skipped merrily toward the top of the hill, gazing up at the stars. She'd gotten him to play fetch, danced with him, painted his nails... what else could she do to the poor hanyou? The sudden sensation of hands upon her shoulders, spinning her around caught her off guard and the young miko stumbled, falling into Inuyasha's firm, muscled torso.

The scent of alcohol was heavy on his breath, but not altogether unpleasant. Thanks to the Goldschlager Miroku had filled him with, his breath had a clean, cinnamon undertone that reminded her of her favorite chewing gum. "Hi."

"H-hi." She stared at him, uncertain of her next actions. He'd approached her with an almost hungry look in his eyes, belied by a childlike glee she'd rarely witnessed in him. It was enchanting.

He took the initiative, sparing her the trouble of acting. His hands drifted down from her shoulders, along her arms, gently tracing over the skin of her hands to clasp them in his own. She watched his movements in surprise and no small amount of nervousness, her heart thumping when he leaned down to sniff at her hair. "You smell nice."

"Th-thank – ahem," she closed her eyes and tried to steady her tremulous breathing, "thank you?"

"You're welcome."

What in Kami's name has gotten into him? Her mind raced, searching for all the possible explanations. Was he an imposter? Had he hit his head? What could have produced this change in attitude she was witnessing? She had little time to mull over these thoughts when he leaned down and pressed his lips against hers.

She froze, staring cross-eyed at his own closed orbs, shocked at the impulsive action. It felt good! When he persisted, she relaxed into the kiss, leaning into him for support and softening her own body to mold to his. The gentleness with which he'd started the kiss gave way to the raw passion with which she'd attacked him on their last drunken evening. The memory of that night came back to her in its entirety, and Kagome felt an alien, but welcome warmth suffuse her body, arousing all of her senses.

He pulled back from the kiss, giving them both the chance to catch their breath.

"Inuyasha," she breathed, her eyes still closed.

The hanyou studied her from heavy-lidded eyes, a claw traveling back up her arm to tangle in her hair. As soon as his name left her lips, he descended upon her again, eager to recapture the taste and scent of her. She came willingly, quickly finding a comfortable familiarity in the intimacy. With Inuyasha it was just... right. She felt herself being pulled carefully toward the ground, and somewhere in the back of her mind she worried over being discovered.

Doing what, exactly? she questioned in her mind, with no small amount of trepidation. Modesty be damned, this is what you've been waiting for!

He was hovering over her, lips firmly pressed against her own, and she could feel him prying her into a deeper kiss. She opened up to him eagerly, gasping when she felt a clawed hand trailing lightly against the outer collar of her kimono. Kagome could only guess how far this would go if she allowed it to, but as wonderful as she felt having his undivided attention, as musical as his hungry growls were to her ears, she knew she had to stop this before it became something they'd both regret. Well, something he would regret, anyway.

"Inuyasha... we have to stop."

He growled again, this time in annoyance, and lifted himself up slightly to peer into her worried eyes. He felt a myriad of emotions battling for dominance: embarrassment, fear, rejection, and above all, frustration. He nuzzled her ear, hoping to entice her back into willingness but heaved a sigh when her body tensed beneath him.

"What's wrong?" he grumbled, trying to force calm into his voice lest he intimidate her.

"This isn't right. You... you're only doing this because you're drunk and it's all my fault."

"Your fault?"

She turned her head to avoid his gaze, only to feel him nudging her softly with the tip of his nose. "Sango and I were trying to get you drunk. We—we wanted to know if it was even possible with your demon blood." As she finished her admission in a whisper, she closed her eyes, prepared for the inevitable angry outburst.

It never came.

Instead, she felt a tremor, followed by puffs of hot breath, and then the unmistakable sound of Inuyasha snickering.

Nani?!

"So, we have to stop because I'm drunk and you don't want to take advantage of me?"

She nodded, peeking up at him guardedly.

Now he laughed fully, barely able to maintain his precarious position above her without putting all his weight upon her slight form.

"What's so funny?"

His laughter abated a bit, and he leaned in closer, enjoying the way her eyes widened and breath quickened at the nearness. "You are." He pushed her head gently to face him directly and pressed a chaste kiss to her lips. "I'm not drunk, Kagome."

"You... you're not? But you... and then you..."

"I was drunk," he agreed. "That was actually the second time in my life that I've been drunk. It is possible for a demon to get a snootful, but it rarely lasts for long."

"How long have you been sober?"

"I'd say about the last thirty minutes."

"Thirty minutes?" She felt her heart beat fearfully in her chest. Did that mean...

"I know that's not war paint you put on my claws, wench."

She blushed demurely. "Sorry."

"You know the last time we were in a position like this, you left me hanging."

"Sorry," she repeated. It was all she could say. Why isn't he moving?

"I should punish you."

Gulp.

He tapped his claws thoughtfully on the ground, devoting all his energy toward hiding his burning desire to resume their earlier makeout session. "Close your eyes, Kagome."

She blinked up at him uncertainly.

"Close your eyes," he repeated with a bit more force.

The miko complied, realizing all too well that without vision, her remaining senses were heightened to almost painful proportions. She felt him drag a claw along her collarbone, felt his warm cinnamon breath upon her face, drawing ever nearer. His weight shifted, the sensation of being towered over suffused her entire being. Her hair was being brushed away from her face, and the breath kept coming closer... and closer... and closer...

And all at once, the sensations were gone and she felt the lonely chill of night.

"Oyasumi, Kagome!"

She blinked her eyes open, quickly searching around herself for the suddenly absent hanyou. She caught sight of him dashing away at top speed, heading into the forest. Sitting up, she rested her head in her hands, desperately shaking off the aftermath of his false seduction.

Oh Kami, he got me again.