Cool…so this is for my awesome sister who is always requesting fluff. I hope she approves and that the rest of y'all do to! (Eep…my accent slipped out!) Oh, and I don't own Inuyasha. Also this was beta-ed but I didn't re-check the editing so be warned. (But I still love you beta! Don't leave me!) See? Notes, disclaimer and blame shifter all in one. I Rock.
"Ouch! Inuyasha, what's wrong?" Kagome asked, senses on high alert.
"Nothing," he growled, not even bothering to flick an ear back at her. She could feel his growl continue though, rumbling through him like a steady roll of thunder.
He'd been doing it all day, growling and leaping haphazardly through the air with her doing her level best to hold on. She knew she wasn't about to fall off – or rather she knew he wouldn't drop her – but it didn't change the fact that there was something wrong with him.
"Then put me down!" she cried as he made another enormous leap, tightening his hold on her. "You're hurting me!"
"Keh." He said exactly what she had expected him to but somehow it didn't seem like he was going to fight her about stopping early for lunch. And he left off the part about humans being weak and pathetic.
So, she decided, there was definitely something wrong with Inuyasha. He probably didn't even realize what he was doing to her. She winced again as he shot up into the air, his claws gouging her painfully. He had better have a really good reason for this, she thought, or he was going to get the "sit" of his life when she was back on solid ground.
"Sango! Miroku! Lunch!" he yelled, dropping back below the canopy of the trees towards the plains that were beginning to stretch out before them.
Kagome barely waited for him to land properly before she was on the ground herself, pushing him away. Of course, she was the one who landed on her rear, he just crossed his arms across his chest with a muttered, "Keh, whatever."
"Ow!" she said, running a hand over the back of her leg, feeling the warm slickness of blood. There were five perfectly round punctures in the back of each of her legs. Inuyasha's claws.
"Kagome!" Sango yelled as Kirara landed not too far away. "What's wrong?" she asked, sliding off and "accidentally" whacking Miroku's wandering hands away.
"I don't know," Kagome replied, standing. "Ask him!" she all but screamed, pointing a bloody finger at Inuyasha.
"Keh. Nothing's wrong. You're the one that wanted to stop," he said, back still turned.
In all honesty she was surprised at herself when she didn't just tell him to sit. He seemed surprised too, if the twitch of one of his ears towards her and the tiny, almost hidden flinch that accompanied it were any indication. But there was something wrong, he had never hurt her before and he had most certainly never failed to notice the smell of her blood before. There was no way she was letting him off with "nothing" as an excuse.
"Inuyasha, look at me," she commanded, waving off Sango's sudden exclamation at the blood running down the backs of her legs.
He complied, but he waited just a second to show her he was doing it because he wanted to, not because she had told him to.
"Noticing the problem yet?" she asked sarcastically, holding out her bloody hand. Both his ears twitched forward and his eyes narrowed. If she didn't know better she would have sworn that he had almost stepped forward towards her.
"How did you manage to do that?" he asked, feigning disinterest. His ears were still trained on her and he was having a hard time looking at her face instead of her bloody fingers.
"You did it, you baka!" She was on the verge of yelling the "word" but was cut short by a hiss of pain as Shippo collided with the back of her legs in an attempt to comfort her.
When she looked up again, back towards the guilty hanyou, she was almost tempted to forgive him. Almost. His claws, her blood fresh and glittering on the tips, seemed to repulse him as he stared at them, horror struck. But he seemed to realize he had an audience and stuffed his hands back into his sleeves. "I didn't mean to," he said, sounding gruff and defensive. "Must have just slipped."
"Slipped?" the excuse sounded pathetic as she flung it back at him. He flinched as the blood began to drip off of her leg and on to the grass. "Inyasha, what's wrong with you? And don't say 'nothing'!" She warned, voice rising dangerously towards the dreaded "sit" tone.
"SIT!" she screamed, flattening him into the ground. Only the memory of his face as he looked at his claws held her back from saying it again. Repeatedly.
Of course, it didn't stop her from ignoring him as she and Sango applied a few band-aids and Miroku built a fire. By the time she looked back he had disappeared, probably to sulk in the trees.
She pretended not to notice, or worry, when he didn't come back for lunch. It seemed that not even Ramen was going to get him back that soon. She considered yelling "sit" into the shadowy branches and following the sounds of his creative cursing, but somehow she felt that he was probably punishing himself more than she would ever be able to. After all, he was refusing ramen…
But that didn't mean she was going to let Shippo eat his portion. The cup sat abandoned by the fire for the rest of the day, waiting for him to come and retrieve it.
It wasn't until much later that he dared show his face again. And even then he waited until they had all bedded down for the night. No one had dared go on without him, not with the fact that it was the night of the new moon and they knew that, no matter what, he wasn't likely to go so far away as to be out of their protection on this night.
The fire was reduced to embers when he came back, walking silently. Miroku, hand twitching dangerously towards Sango, was muttering something in his sleep and, for once, Inuyasha was glad he couldn't hear what it was.
Sango, Shippo and Kirara were all curled up together, well out of the way of Miroku's nocturnal groping. He frowned a little at the kitsune, wondering vaguely why he wasn't snuggly in the arms of his "Mama" and yet grateful that he would be able to wake Kagome without the runts interference.
But that was a whole different problem. Waking Kagome. He needed her help, but he didn't want to face her. What would she say? What if she was still mad? What if…what if she was afraid? What if she never wanted to talk to him again? What if she told him to just leave?
"Keh," he snorted to himself. "Like I care."
He reached a hand out towards her, snuggled comfortably in her "sleeping bag", but pulled back as though burned. It didn't matter that he didn't have claws anymore, or that he had spent the day repeatedly submerging himself in the river to get the smell of her blood off, he couldn't get the image out of his mind…her blood on his hands, her flinching, her blood dripping into the grass…
But he couldn't take it anymore. The pain was driving him insane. And the waiting cup of uneaten Ramen by the fire gave him a little reassurance that she was, at the very least, not going to abandon him.
Of course, that didn't mean he was going to touch her.
"…Kagome?" She didn't respond. "Kagome!" he hissed again, shooting a glance at the monk as he mumbled again. "Hey, wake up!"
"Mmmm, 'nuyasha back yet?" she questioned sleepily, not fully aware of her surroundings yet.
"Kagome," he said again, taking a seat few feet away from her, ready to bolt if need be. "Over here."
She sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and trying to smooth her hair out of her face. She looked at him for a moment in silence, her expression unreadable.
He couldn't help the tiny whimper that escaped him no matter how hard he tried to push it back in his throat. "Damn this human weakness!" he thought, watching as her face melted into worry.
"Are you…hurt?" she asked, not believing the sound she had just heard. She forgot her anger, which was mostly just for show at this point anyway, and found herself on the ground in front of him, reaching out for him. But he seemed intent on staying just out of her reach, like a skittish horse. But that damn sound escaped him again.
"Inuyasha, did something happen?" she asked, "Did something attack you?"
He couldn't take this anymore. "You're not mad?"
"Mad? What are you-" she leaned forward and her leg, which throbbed in pain as a reminder. She flinched and he flinched too, guilt flaring up. He was suddenly grateful that his own claws were so much less dangerous than his brothers. "This has been going on all day, hasn't it?" she asked, realization dawning. "You've been hurting all day."
He nodded miserably. "I wasn't paying attention; I didn't mean to…you know…I guess I was distracted…"
It was the only apology she was going to get and she wasn't going to make this any harder for him. "It's all right," she said reassuringly. "Now what's wrong?"
That little whine escaped again and she realized that the low growl she had been hearing all day was the same thing. It was an indication of pain.
"My ears," he admitted at last. "You can fix it, right?"
"I didn't stutter did I?" he asked sarcastically, pulling his arms tighter around himself to stop any more whimpers trying to escape. He'd admitted his weakness, he wasn't going to repeat himself.
"You're joking, right?"
"Does this look funny to you?" you growled. "Fix it."
"Inuyasha, all this because of an earache…"
"It's not an earache!" he defended, a little louder than he meant to. Sango had twitched. "It's both ears," he sulked, lowering his voice. "Surely you've got something in that stupid first aid thing you always insist on carrying around…"
He almost whined again as she shook her head in sympathy. "But…but you can fix this, right?" He could have kicked himself for sounding so damn pathetic.
"Don't worry," she said, reaching a hand out to him again. He didn't pull back but he wasn't exactly thrilled either as she threaded her fingers through his hair towards his all too human, piercingly painful, ears. "It's just that I don't usually carry that sort of medicine with me. Usually, heat helps this sort of thing…like a heating pad but that wouldn't work out here anyway. Besides," she reasoned, "You're ears are a little…unique."
He flinched and looked away. He really didn't want to talk about his ears.
"You didn't clean your ears out after that swamp demon got a hold of you, did you?" She asked accusingly, trying not to be hurt that he was shying away from her again.
"This is your own fault then," she told him. "I warned you-"
"Shippo got pulled under too!" he reminded her. "He doesn't seem sick to me." He said looking over Kagome's shoulder, almost jealous of the runt.
"That's because he let me wash him up afterwards!" She huffed a little but handed him two smallish pills anyway. "Take those and swallow them," she instructed. "It won't fix the problem, but it'll make it stop hurting for a while. I'm going to have to go back home and get something better for you tomorrow."
"Why?" he asked plaintively, uncomfortable with the look on her face. "I don't care as long as you can just make it stop trying to rip my head in half."
"Tomorrow you won't be human," she reminded him, maybe a little too harshly. "I don't know what those pills would do to you then. And I don't think you'd want to chance that they make things worse."
He would have flattened his ears against his skull if he could have but, as it was, he muttered something inaudible, and then stuffed the pills in his mouth and took the sip of water she was offering.
They sat in silence for a while, Inuyasha too proud to stop pouting and Kagome to stubborn to give up and go back to sleep. Still, the nights were getting colder and, seeing as he wasn't really going anywhere, she reasoned that there was no shame in retreating to her sleeping bag…
She had nearly dozed off again when he decided that the ringing in his head was subdued enough for him to talk again. "…Kagome?"
"Huh?" she asked, fixing him with a sleepy gaze.
"You won't have to…you won't have to touch them, will you?" he asked tentatively, rubbing at one of his ears.
"I don't know," she said at last, "Maybe." She was glad he couldn't smell the lie on her tonight. If taking care of a cat's ears was anything like taking care of a dog's then he was going to be even more miserable tomorrow. But she knew that if he had any idea of just how much touching his little hanyou ears were going to receive he would be so far up a tree that not even a "sit" would be able to get him down. "Go to sleep Inuyasha; be happy that it doesn't hurt."
"Sango?" Kagome asked, smiling down at the sleeping slayer. "Hey, Sango?"
"…What? The sun's only just up, Kagome. You're worse than Inuyasha," she complained. Shippo tried to burrow further into her arms and ended up nearly smothering her with his tail.
"I heard that," growled Inuyasha. But he was doing a lot of growling now that his furry ears were back on top of his head and he was no longer allowed the relief of Kagome's medicine.
"Sorry, but I forgot something really, really important and I wanted to know if I could take Kirara back to the well…?"
"What did you forget?"
A slight volume change in the hanyou's growl warned her that now might be a good time to lie a little. "A school thing, one of my books," she said hurriedly, hoping the shadows would still be enough to hide her blush. She really wasn't very good at lying.
"…Okay," Sango agreed slowly, not quite believing her.
"Thanks!" Kagome squealed, not wasting anytime in slinging her backpack over her shoulder and hopping on to the newly transformed cat. "I should be back before sunset; I'm not planning on wasting any time!"
If Sango noticed that the reassurance was directed primarily at the grumpy hanyou she didn't say anything.
"Keh, whatever," he said as she shot off into the sky.
"What kind of dog do you have again?" the woman asked, looking suspicious.
"Oh, uh…well, he's sort of a mutt," Kagome said, smiling innocently. She was glad Inuyasha wasn't there to hear her. "He's sort of white though, and kind of large." She could only imagine the look the hanyou would be giving her at that moment and she was extremely glad that he was five hundred years in the past.
"And he has an ear infection?"
"Well, yeah…he's sort of new, we just got him from a shelter and he wasn't very well taken care of."
It was a good thing this woman didn't know Kagome very well or she would have seen straight through the lies. As it was, she wasn't exactly buying the story.
"And where is he now?"
"Uh, my brothers got him at home, giving him a bath," she said, hoping not to sound too guilty. "So, do you have anything I can use for his ears?"
"Use this. You'll have to use it twice a day and make sure you wipe his ears out after every time to remove the build up. Clearing out the infection's no good if you don't get rid of the gunk."
Kagome's heart pounded. This didn't sound at all pleasant. "There's no other way? My dog's kind of…touchy…about his ears."
"That's why we sell muzzles as well," she woman said tartly. "Anything else you need?"
She dreaded going back through the well and having to explain but she dreaded even more the idea of Inuyasha showing up in her home, pissed off and hurting. Besides, Kirara was waiting for her and she had promised to be back soon.
As the two flew back to the rest of the group she wondered how she was going to get the hanyou to cooperate…somehow she didn't think that slamming him face first into the ground was going to get her very far this time. She was just going to have to hope that he trusted her enough, and that he felt guilty enough about hurting her, to let her take care of this for him.
Her return was tense for a moment. Inuyasha was trying hard not to be overjoyed when she touched down and the others, unaware of the hanyou's predicament, were all walking on eggshells around him, unsure of when his temper was going to flare up.
But Inuyasha seemed to have everything planned out so that he could get some privacy while she fixed his ears for him. "Miroku, take those two and get some dinner," he said, waving them off haughtily. "I've got better things to do than catch fish with a perverted monk."
Miroku eyed Inuyasha and Kagome with a little smirk but what ever he was thinking was squashed by a growl form the half demon and a solid smack from Sango.
Inuyasha amazed them both by waiting a full minute before making a dive for the bag that Kagome had brought back with her.
"Inuyasha," she began, fidgety. "You're not going to like this…"
"Shut up. You can fix it, right?"
"Yeah, but it's kind of "hands on" if you know what I mean…"
He pouted a second and she brushed a hand over one of the bandages on her leg to add a little guilt. She was going to make him do this weather he liked it or not. "A lot?"
"A lot what?"
"Would you have to touch them a lot?"
"Well…yeah." She decided that now wasn't the best time to mention that it would be twice a day. For a week.
"But just once, right? Like only tonight?" She hated that she was about to crush the hope in his voice.
"I don't…it might take a while. But you never know, maybe once I get it started you could do it yourself after that…" She knew it was a weak ploy and that he wouldn't fall for it.
"What do you have to do?" he asked at last. She could see him eyeing the bandages on her legs and his clawed hands.
"There's some medicine to keep your ears clean. I have to make sure it goes in and I have to make sure that I wipe your ears out. Twice a day." He shrank back a little so she softened the blow. "It won't hurt."
"…Maybe. Just once," he cautioned quickly. "I'm not letting you pet me."
She conveniently didn't mention that she'd already gotten her hands on him once before and he hadn't seemed to mind then.
Of course, that had been more of an experimental tweak than a through introduction to the wonders of hanyou puppy ears.
"Well…you can always tell me to stop if you want. They're your ears after all." She was suddenly feeling nervous.
"Just…tell me what you're doing, alright?"
She didn't like this at all. It was so…un-Inuyasha like. He was always so…strong and smug. He wasn't supposed to be hurt and afraid and helpless sounding. Especially not because of the cute little untouchable ears on his head were aching.
She blushed a little, trying to convince herself that she was imagining things and that she had not just called his ears cute…
Not that they weren't of course…
"Right," she said, trying to focus again as she stood behind him, looking down at his bowed head. One of the ears twitched at her as though it knew what she was thinking. "I don't know exactly what this is going to feel like, but apparently this is the worst part. It's going to be kind of wet," she warned, taking the tip of one ear gently between her fingers. It twitched away, seemingly of its own accord. "Inuyasha, will you hold still? I'm not hurting you, am I?"
"…No! But I can't help it. I don't like people touching my ears."
She sighed. "That's why this it the worst part. You have to stay still so that I can get the drops in deeper. I promise, after that it won't be so much like I'm trying to annoy you." She took the tip of his ear in her fingers again and he didn't move. She had the sneaking suspicion that he was holding his breath. A light squeeze of the bottle sent a thin slow stream into one ear followed almost instantly by the other and she tried to ignore the tiny growl that escaped him.
"Was that so bad right?" She said hopefully, capping the bottle again.
"Well, this is the part that's more like petting," she admitted. "I have to make sure that it gets in deep and cleans out your ears." Her fingers sunk into his mane a little, brushing the base of his ears and he stiffened. "I'll be careful. I know you don't like it."
She was cautious about what she was doing. With her cat she knew what to expect, he loved having his ears rubbed but this was different. There was a boy underneath these ears, one who could very easily get mad at her and leave her behind. But she didn't have a choice.
She massaged the base of his ears gently, willing him to stop growling and willing him to relax. She had to make sure that she could kill the infection deep down in his ear, where it was bound to be causing him the most pain. Really, she reasoned, it wasn't any more personal a thing to do than to take care of any of the other wounds he'd had…
"What are you doing?" he growled, pulling away suddenly.
"Oh, I'm sorry…did I hurt you?"
"No." The rumble was still on going in his chest though.
"Well, I have to make sure that the medicine gets in deep to clear the infection out. The only way is to force it down like that, make sure it's evenly spread. I…I could just let it drip down I guess but it wouldn't work as well and I doubt it would feel very nice…"
He shuddered at the thought but he didn't relinquish his ears. He ran a claw over his left ear protectively and, as it twitched, she realized she had never seen him touch his ears either. Sure, he would wag them as people and they followed sounds as they swiveled around on his head but he never touched them.
"You really don't like things touching your ears, do you? Not even yourself."
His ear twitched again. "You don't have anything in your hands, right?"
She held her empty hands out as an answer. The growl was still under his voice and she wondered if he was even aware of making it. "Fine," he said, settling back down. "You can keep going… but only because you're not finished yet. Don't think this means you can just touch my ears whenever."
"Aright," she agreed, sinking her fingers back into his hair and resuming the gentle, firm circles she had been making at the base his ears. "At least this is better than the fist part though, right?" He didn't exactly answer, but he didn't deny it either.
"Kagome?" he said at last, breaking the silence.
"Could you…could you be a little less careful with the left one? I don't think its working."
"Less careful? Are you sure?"
He nodded. She wanted to ask why but she didn't dare.
She found out soon enough. As her fingers explored that ear she realized that there was something slightly off, something…thicker. Like…like scar tissue, a lot of it. No wonder he couldn't feel her hands there. She pressed her fingers against the fur a little more firmly, determined to massage that one just as much as she had the other, determined to get rid of his ear infection, determined…
Determined to find out if this was why he was so over protective of his ears.
"Better?" she asked at last, feeling that there was nothing more she could do. He nodded, still silent, and she realized that the growl was almost gone. It was too low to hear now, but she could feel it through the balls of her feet. "Alright then, I just have to make sure that we get rid of any excess still up in the tops of your ears."
An ear twitched back at her in question as she remover her hands from his hair and pulled a clean handkerchief from her bag. "Here," she said, handing it to him for his inspection. "You can do it yourself it you want."
He handed it back. "I'd rather you did," he admitted, "I doubt I'd do it right." She took it back and, carefully, wiped away any sign that she had touched his ears to begin with. Of course, now that she was back to dealing with the more visible parts of his ears, she couldn't help but notice how soft and sensitive they were. The slightest touch and they were twitching away, the silky fur brushing her hand. The only way to handle them was to cup one hand behind them and steady them as she dabbed gently at the pink insides.
She tried not to blush as she put the medicine away, but it was no use. Inuyasha, fingering the end of one of his ears as though amazed, seemed insistent to know what was wrong with her now.
"Oy, wench, are you laughing?"
He was certainly feeling better. His vocabulary had certainly returned to normal at least.
"You are. You're laughing at my ears!"
"I am not!" She insisted indignantly. "It's just…they're so…"
"So what? Spit it out!"
"Soft!" she squeaked, coving her mouth in embarrassment.
His eyes narrowed dangerously. "Soft? Are you serious?"
She nodded. "Cute too," she added, figuring that if she was only going to get one chance to play with his ears she might as well fess up to everything all at once. It wasn't like he as every going to let her take care of them again anyway.
"Soft and cute? You think my ears are soft and cute?"
"Well, they are!" she defended. "I mean, I know they're just ears and you use then to listen to things but…but…look at them!" The right one twitched forward at her, and she grinned. "I wish mine would do that."
"Do what exactly?" he was getting more and more suspicious by the second.
"It's just…I mean, I always knew they were there, they were one of the first things I noticed about you, but now that I've gotten to see them better…it's amazing the way they move around like that. Do you think about it, or do they just move…?" She trailed off, unsure of the look he was giving her.
"You like them?"
She didn't know how to answer. It seemed so obvious. Of course she liked them. They were adorable! And useful too, she added to herself. Useful. Inuyasha wouldn't like her saying they were adorable.
"Don't you?" she asked at last.
"You're avoiding the question."
"Well I…I don't think you'd like to know what I think." His face fell and she realized he had taken that the wrong way. "No! I just meant…I mean, telling you they're adorable is just too embarrassing…oh no…" she said, covering her face with her hands. "Just forget I said anything; never mind!"
She had never been more grateful in her life for Miroku's "cursed hand" when a resounding "smack" alerted then to the return of their friends and she got to escape further conversation by building a fire. Inuyasha retreated to a nearby tree to sulk.
Somehow, though, she wasn't surprised when a clawed hand shook her awake just before sunrise and handed her the little bottle of drops. "Just 'cuz I'm letting you do this doesn't mean you get to pet me," he reminded her harshly. "And it doesn't mean I like it." She had the sneaking suspicion that he liked it a lot more than he would admit even to himself. "And if you tell anyone I let you do this then I'm pushing you back through that damn well for good. Now…you said twice a day right?"
She nodded, accepting the bottle.
"Let's go," he said, scooping her up and taking off for the trees. "I don't want Shippo getting any ideas."