A/N: Wrote this one for a fanfic challenge on LJ. Didn't get first place, but did take Moderator's Choice. Whee!
A Question of Manners
"Because," the priestess said, pushing a pair of chopsticks at him. "It's how humans eat their food."
He looked annoyed, his ears flattening as he regarded her. Reaching out one sharp clawed finger, he pushed the eating utensils back at her. "In case you ain't noticed," he sneered. "I ain't no human."
She sighed, settling back where she knelt in the grass. She'd sensed he was going to be difficult about this. Her hand waved over the small table she'd set up for them. "I know you aren't human," she said in her usual soft, serious voice. "I am well aware. I just thought that if you were more comfortable with human customs, it might be easier for you to interact with us."
"Bah," he said, rising up in a half crouch to regard her steadily. "Humans don't like me no matter what I do. And I don't care. Your little sticks can't change that, priestess." His lip curled slightly as he looked down at the neat little meal she'd prepared for them. A tiny laquered table set up in the soft grass, two small bowls of rice, each with its own set of offending chopsticks, a small plate of pickles. To the side, a few freshly grilled fish were laying on a large leaf, the smell of their meat was tantalizing. He was hungry.
Without really considering her reaction, he made a quick grab for one of the fish. Her lips thinned in annoyance as he snatched one up and wolfed it down whole. A little sloppy maybe, he had to admit it as he brushed bits and pieces of the meat off his face. He didn't like that look in her eyes, it wasn't her place to make judgments either. He'd caught the fish. He could eat it however he wanted.
"Is it because you don't know how to use them?" the young woman persisted. He'd grown up rough and wild, she knew that even if he had been closemouthed about his past. She didn't want to change the hanyou, but it hurt her heart for some reason that he was all alone in the world. She couldn't blame the villagers for being frightened of him even if he really hadn't done a thing to threaten them. He was wildness itself, the unknown threat lurking in the darkness. A nightmare, half youkai, and to be feared by ordinary mortals.
She was no ordinary mortal and his isolation tugged at her kind nature. He reminded her a little of herself for some strange reason. She was also solitary, preferring the quiet of the forest when she could get it. It was difficult sometimes to be everything to everyone. Difficult and tiring. She wasn't allowed to have bad days or temper tantrums. She was required to be the perfect priestess, never showing fear, never showing exhaustion. The priestess wasn't allowed to want, the priestess wasn't allowed to need. In her own way, she was every bit as much of an outcast from normal human society as he was. Just because it was reverence that set her apart instead of fear didn't make it easier to bear.
"Do you know how to use them?"
He glared at her, folding his arms over his chest and huffing. "Of course I know how to use your damn chopsticks," he grumbled. "My mother was a human, I told you that. She taught me when I was just a runt."
The priestess smiled. "So show me then. It's such a small thing I ask."
The hanyou pouted, one full lip pushing out slightly as he looked back down at her table. The sight made her want to giggle, but that was one of the reasons she kept seeing him. He was rude and temperamental, always on his guard and so cocky it was hard to believe, but he made her smile. He made her forget about her sacred duty, just for a couple hours here and there, but she welcomed any respite these days. More and more demons were coming after the jewel, more and more she'd been forced to kill. And she hated killing, even youkai that saw humans as nothing more than vermin. She had been born with an innate appreciation of all life that suited her spiritual calling.
That was why she hadn't killed this one. That and when she'd had him defeated, pinned helplessly by her arrows, she'd looked into those angry golden eyes and felt something she'd never felt before. Curiosity. She'd never seen a demon like him before and she was loathe to destroy him, for all his cursing and blustering. When she found out he was half human, she'd said a quick prayer of thanks that her bow had not taken his life. It would have been murder no matter what he intended to do with that jewel. And he was so young, how could she expect him to know better?
She smiled slightly as his hand reached out again for the chopsticks, picking them up carefully in those strong claws that could so easily shred whatever they touched. It amused her that he was trying to be delicate with them as he held up the utensils and sniffed them suspiciously. His ears twitched and the priestess resisted the urge to reach across the table and tweak them. Even her little sister, who was still more afraid of him than not, thought those ears were cute. She thought they made him look like a puppy and the priestess agreed, although she didn't tell her sister what a dangerous little puppy this could be.
He knew she was waiting and he knew that she wasn't going to let the matter drop. He'd learned that much about her by now. She could be stubborn as any demon herself and was far too used to getting her own way. A little glimmer of anger sparked in his eyes at the thought of anyone, human priestess or no, making him do what they wanted. He was tempted to kick over the table, yell at her and storm into the woods. Tell her where she could put her precious little sticks and be done with this game they were playing. He was after the jewel, nothing more. He didn't need friendship from a human if that was what she was trying to offer him. Although he wondered why she bothered.
And he wondered why he bothered, why he was letting her befriend him. It went against all his instincts and it went against everything he lived by. Hanyou didn't have friends, they especially didn't have human priestesses for friends. He watched her face as he played with the chopsticks, making a show of examining the pale wooden sticks for hidden threats. He liked her face, she was pretty as her kind went, and something about her smell made him keep coming back to see her. He didn't think about it much beyond that, not being much of a thinker in the first place. If he didn't do this, she might just decide to stop wasting her time on him. She might stop bringing him food. Rice and roots for the most part, plain boring human food but better than nothing if you were hungry. He'd prefer meat, if he was hungry enough he wouldn't bother to cook it, let alone use a silly pair of human chopsticks to eat it.
Still, he had let himself get used to her and even a stubborn hanyou had to admit it wasn't at all bad. Since his mother had died, so many years ago, there hadn't been many people he could talk to. And this priestess was easier to talk to than most humans. She didn't call him a dirty half breed, she didn't look at him like he was something tainted. And he liked that. More than he wanted to acknowledge, somewhere in the tight little ball that had become his heart he liked that. He liked her.
So, with a sigh of resignation and a quick glance up to make sure she appreciated this monumental effort he made in trying to please her, the hanyou picked up his bowl of rice and started to eat.