Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this little ficlet… especially for the irascible young man who should be swatted for the simple fact that he was able to identify Kagome after just one glimpse of her backside.
Author's Note: Many thanks to my beta, the charming Fenikkusuken, who can pluck at heartstrings like an angel.
The Monk and the White Ribbon
"Kagome-sama? Is that you?"
The pert posterior shifted slightly, and Kagome peeped up at the monk from under her arm. "Miroku-sama? Thank goodness!" came the miko's muffled voice. "Could you help me please? I'm stuck."
Leaning against his jangling shakujou for balance, the monk crouched down next to the young woman, who was on her hands and knees on the damp ground. It didn't take long to assess her predicament. Kagome's long hair had become inextricably tangled in some overhanging brambles. "How did you manage this, Kagome-sama?" asked Miroku with a hint of amusement.
The young woman groaned in frustration. "I was just trying to pick some of these early flowers, and I got snagged."
Parting the bushes with his gauntleted hand, Miroku spotted a small cluster of snowdrops. The few blossoms Kagome had already plucked lay forgotten on the ground. "You're lucky I was up early this morning, Kagome-sama. The spot I usually go for meditation is out this way." Miroku scooted closer to the bush's captive and cautiously moved a few of the offending branches, stopping when Kagome whimpered. "You've got quite a mess here. How long have you been trying to free yourself?"
The young woman gave a hunched shrug of her shoulders. "For a while now. Long enough to make things worse, apparently."
"Why didn't you call for help, Kagome-sama?" asked the monk curiously.
"Well, it's a little embarrassing, and I thought I could get myself loose," she admitted sheepishly. A tentative tug on the nest of twigs and hair brought tears to the miko's eyes, and she caught her breath sharply. "Ow, ow, ow, ow!"
"I'm afraid this is going to take both hands. May I?"
"Yes, please," agreed Kagome dejectedly. "Just behave yourself."
Miroku laid aside his staff and rolled back his sleeves, then reached over the miko's shoulders, trying to determine the best way to unsnarl the girl. "Pardon the liberty, Kagome-sama, but your hair ribbon is…." The monk trailed off, and Kagome felt a pull as the monk carefully drew the tie from her hair, releasing much of it to fall down around her shoulders. Miroku tucked the length of satin into a fold of his robes, and began gently teasing the strands of Kagome's hair out of the thorn bush. When she hissed again in pain, Miroku tried to distract her from the discomfort through conversation. "We weren't expecting you back yet, Kagome-sama. I'm surprised to see you here."
"Yeah. I wasn't really planning to be here for a couple more days. I just needed these flowers"
"What are the flowers for, Kagome-sama?"
"It's kind of a long story. You see, today is White Day."
"White Day?" asked the monk interestedly.
"Yes. It's a holiday in my time when small gifts are given—traditionally something white. The flowers are for Mama. Well, actually, they aren't really supposed to be from me, but from my little brother."
Kagome paused as Miroku's fingertips grazed against her scalp. His touch was light, and the young woman couldn't help reacting with a little shiver.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?" asked Miroku with concern.
"No, no. You're fine." Kagome cleared her throat and continued. "You see, my Dad always gave Mama snowdrops on White Day, but since he's been gone Souta does it. They're not blooming yet in my era, and Souta asked for my help. I remembered seeing these here earlier in the week, so I offered to come for some this morning."
Miroku laid a liberated section of hair aside, smoothing it into the rest before returning to the perplexing knot above. The strands he unwound were soft to the touch, and Miroku swallowed heavily before speaking up, this time to distract himself. "So the gifts on White Day are given to those of the feminine persuasion?"
"That's right," replied the miko, biting her lip at an unexpected jerk.
"And will you be receiving many gifts on this White Day, Kagome-sama?" Miroku asked as he eased another tendril of hair out of the mess.
"Oh, I doubt it," replied the young woman philosophically.
After another minute, Miroku snapped a twig away from the bramble, trying to speed up the process. "Almost done, Kagome-sama," he reassured her as he threaded the fingers of one hand through her hair, seeking out stray barbs.
"Mm hmm," replied the young woman with a sigh as she leaned slightly into his touch.
Miroku gave a low chuckle, "Are you enjoying this, Kagome-sama?" he asked teasingly.
The girl stiffened, "No! I… Who would enjoy being tangled in a bush?" she replied evasively.
Miroku treated himself to one last lingering sweep of fingers through hair before patting the young woman on top of her head. "There you go, Kagome-sama. You're free."
The miko sat back on her haunches, hands flying to massage the tender spot on top of her head. "Thank you, Miroku-sama," murmured Kagome with relief, her cheeks flushed prettily
Miroku grinned and nodded back towards the underbrush. "You'd better gather those flowers for your mother," he prompted.
"Oh, yes! Of course!" exclaimed Kagome, a little flustered at having forgotten her task. The monk held back the troublemaking briars with his staff, and Kagome quickly gathered up a handful of the white blooms.
"Permit me to escort you back to the Well, then, Kagome-sama?" offered Miroku.
"If you like," responded the miko with a smile.
When they reached the Bone Eater's Well, Kagome turned to say her goodbyes. "Thank you again for coming to my rescue, Miroku-sama. I am very grateful."
"It's quite all right, Kagome-sama," assured Miroku. "I hope you and your family have a pleasant White Day."
"Thank you. I'll see you in a couple more days, then Miroku-sama," replied Kagome as she climbed up onto the ledge of the Well, clutching her little bouquet protectively.
"Oh! Wait a moment!" the monk called, patting the front of his robes. "I almost forgot. This is yours." Miroku pulled the white satin ribbon from where it had been tucked away. Coiling it carefully, he extended it towards the young woman, who had turned to face him. The strangest expression crossed Kagome's face, and when she didn't move to take it, Miroku stepped closer and reached for the miko's free hand. Gently, he turned it over, pressed the ribbon into her palm, and closed her fingers around it. "Are you quite all right, Kagome-sama?"
Kagome looked at the ribbon then up into the violet eyes of the man who had given it to her. "Yes, Miroku-sama," she whispered.
The monk quirked a questioning eyebrow at the girl's distraction, but Kagome straightened and smiled lopsidedly at Miroku. "I wasn't expecting to be presented with a white ribbon today, that's all."
Miroku's eyes widened, "Is there some significance?"
Kagome's laughed softly, "Yes and no. It's nothing to worry about, Miroku-sama."
Concerned by the young woman's strange response, the monk moved to place a hand on her shoulder. "What does the ribbon mean, Kagome-sama?"
Sighing, the miko explained. "In my time, every girl knows that if a boy gives her a white ribbon, he's telling her that he likes her."
"Ah," said the monk, understanding. "Have you ever been given a white ribbon before, Kagome-sama?" he asked gently.
"No," she replied softly.
Miroku squeezed her shoulder lightly. "I see." The monk gathered his thoughts for a moment before choosing to speak. "You are quite likeable, Kagome-sama," he stated matter-of-factly.
"That's nice of you to say, Miroku-sama," Kagome replied with a small smile, "but it's not the same, is it?"
"Isn't it?" he asked, and before Kagome could stop him, he'd plucked the white ribbon from her hand. Propping his staff against the Well, he stepped closer and reached around the young woman's shoulders to gather her hair in both hands, lightly running his fingers through the dark tresses as he did so. Enclosed within the intimate circle of his arms, Kagome flushed; at this close range, she couldn't help but notice how much strength and masculinity Miroku emanated. As his wide sleeves brushed against her back and his long fingers worked through her hair, Kagome allowed her forehead to lean against his broad chest, swathed in the familiar purple of his robes.
Miroku finished smoothing the girl's abundant hair, tying it back in a neat bow with her ribbon. Then he folded Kagome into a warm embrace. "There," he said as he laid his cheek atop her head, nuzzling the soft hair surreptitiously. "You have those who like you very much… You have received what will undoubtedly be the first of many white ribbons… And you have a brother waiting for those flowers." Miroku bent down to look into Kagome's face as he spoke earnestly. "Do not be upset, Kagome-sama. Enjoy your holiday."
Impulsively, Kagome reached up on tiptoe to place a quick kiss on Miroku's cheek. "Of course you're right, Miroku-sama. I'll try; really, I will. Thank you again. I'll see you in a couple days." With a bright smile and a little wave, she launched herself into the future.
Bemused, Miroku propped his elbows onto the Well's rim, lost in thought as he gazed down into the now-empty shaft. When he finally turned back towards the village, he lifted a hand to touch his cheek and smiled softly to himself.
End Notes: White Day is a companion holiday of sorts to Valentines Day in Japan. It is customary for girls to give presents to boys on Valentines Day. One month later, the boys reciprocate by offering gifts to the girls on White Day, March 14. Originally, the custom was that a man would give a white ribbon to the woman he had feelings for. It was said that if the man tied his ribbon into the hair of the woman he loved, their love would last forever. These days, however, the giving of a ribbon can simply be a sign of friendship, and does not always signify love.
If you enjoyed this bit of M/K mischief, I would encourage you to check out the other oneshots in what has become something of a series. The Monk's Trick, The Monk and the Mistletoe, and The Monk's Valentine all showcase Miroku's fondness for teasing a certain pretty miko. Such a flirt!