Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Inuyasha feels horrible (and a little curious) about his transformations into his youkai self. Set in the Stone Oni episode of the anime, after Inuyasha transforms back and Kagome faints but before they get back to Kaede's village. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. A missing moment. One-Shot.
As usual, A/N and translations are at the bottom.
When Kagome woke up, the first thing she noticed was that her feet were burning and cold at the same time. Withholding a whimper, she opened her eyes and tried to figure out where she was and what had happened.
The stone oni… she remembered, staring up at the sky overhead. Inuyasha used Tetsusaiga. The jewel shard… it was too strong. I stood in the acid to keep Inuyasha sane. Inuyasha transformed… is he okay? Please be okay!
Suddenly worried, Kagome struggled to sit up, her eyes casting about the area for Inuyasha's familiar face. As she did so, force of habit made her hand fly to her throat, seeking the jewel shard bottle that usually hung there, although it was now smashed. Instead, her fingers landed on a little cloth bundle on a string, and inside she could sense the jewel shard. Apparently they had managed to remove the shard from the Tetsusaiga, and someone had given it back to her to keep it pure, tied into a little makeshift pouch.
Kagome's gaze snapped up when Inuyasha's voice interrupted her momentary distraction. He was sitting nearby, with his arms crossed and his hands tucked into his sleeves in what she'd come to recognize as a defensive posture. She searched his appearance for any sign that anything was wrong with him, but he seemed unhurt and back to his regular hanyou self, although very subdued.
"Is everyone okay?" she asked, watching his expression carefully. She was getting a strong vibe from him that suggested to her that while he seemed physically unharmed, he was not all right.
"Yeah," Inuyasha said, "They're over there." He tilted his head to indicate a spot just beyond some bushes where Kagome could see movement and colour through the leaves. "Miroku's still passed out, but we think he'll live." There was a long pause. "How are your feet?"
For the first time, Kagome realized that she was on the bank of a small stream, and she had been positioned so that her feet hung off the bank into the cold water. Her socks and shoes were nowhere in sight, although there probably hadn't been much left of them anyway. Her feet felt like they were going numb, which dulled the pain, and she lifted them out of the water to see the damage. The skin was reddened and raw looking, but hadn't blistered, except in one or two little spots. With any luck it wouldn't scar.
"They aren't that bad," Kagome answered. "Are we heading back to the village soon?"
She stuck her feet back into the water, not so much because of the pain but more because she was feeling slightly exposed without her knee-socks. It had been a while since she'd had the opportunity to shave her legs. Of course, Inuyasha never seemed to care (and had once asked her why she would waste her time on something so stupid anyway, since it would only grow back). It was probably a little odd that she didn't feel more embarrassed. It just seemed a bit ridiculous to feel overly self-conscious about her body when Inuyasha had not only seen her naked on several occasions, but had also seen her at her worst. Unwashed hair, dark circles under her eyes, the occasional pimple, or being covered in youkai slime… he'd seen it all without flinching.
Come to think of it… Kagome turned her head towards her shoulder, taking a surreptitious sniff while she examined a lock of hair from behind her ear. Yep — she absolutely reeked, and she was in desperate need of a good shampoo. Of course, that's what hanging around in oni stomachs would do to a girl.
"We didn't travel very far from where the oni was," Inuyasha was saying quietly. "We needed to get your feet washed off before that acid could do any more damage, so we stopped here. We'll move farther off to make camp after everyone's had the chance to rest, and then we can head back to the village tomorrow. Hopefully Miroku will have woken up by morning. He really shouldn't be moved too much until he does. I'll try to find a spot where you can have a bath tonight."
Hoping that he hadn't caught her smelling herself (but suspecting that he had), she drew annoyance around her like a defensive shield. "Are you saying I stink?" she demanded irritably, despite having already decided that she did.
She knew something was really wrong when he didn't rise to her bait. Not even a little. He didn't even bother to answer her.
"Hey," she said, in a gentler tone of voice, abandoning her ire as quickly as she had summoned it. "Are you okay?"
She quickly rephrased — that question would almost always garner a response of "I'm fine" from him, no matter the situation, followed by posturing about weak humans and how he wasn't one of them.
"What's wrong?" she asked instead.
This was a slightly more useful question, although it often produced an answer of…
"Nothing," he replied, unconvincingly.
Kagome chewed on her lip worriedly, trying to decide how to get him to open up. It was always like pulling teeth, but something about his tone of voice made her wonder if maybe he wanted her to pry the problem out of him. He usually put a lot more energy into trying to redirect or distract her.
"Is it about what happened with the jewel shard?" she asked, trying to broach the subject of his transformation delicately.
An ear twitched, but he didn't answer. She waited a moment, just in case he opened his mouth, before she tried again.
"I was so scared," she admitted, remembering the gut-churning fear that she felt each time he transformed. It always terrified her to see the recognition fade from his eyes, to see him lose all sensibility to pain no matter how badly he might get hurt, to see the horror in his eyes afterwards. This time at least he hadn't been hurt, but her fear had still been present.
"Do I really look that horrible when I transform?" Inuyasha asked quietly, his voice hollow.
It took her a moment to realize that he'd taken her confession entirely the wrong way. "No!" she told him. "No, that's not it at all. I wasn't scared of you. I was scared for you."
He didn't look like he believed her, so she crawled across the bank to where he was sitting and planted herself right in his line of vision, refusing to let him withdraw. It occurred to her, then, that he had never seen how he looked when his youkai blood took over. He certainly didn't have the presence of mind to locate a reflective surface and get a look at himself.
He'd seen her at her worst, but she'd seen him at his worst too. And compared to turning into an insane, savage, bloodthirsty youkai, her own insecurities about greasy hair or smelling bad or not shaving her legs seemed very, very silly.
"You really don't look horrible," Kagome told him, grasping his hand for fear that he might run off. "Ferocious and wild, but not awful."
His eyes bored into hers, searching for any sign of deception. Finally, he seemed to believe that she was sincere, even if he didn't necessarily believe that she was right. "What do I look like, then?" he asked, his voice still subdued, but a little curious.
She lowered her eyes as she organized her thoughts, letting her gaze fall upon his hand where she clutched it in hers. She started there.
"Your claws are longer," she said, tracing one with a fingertip. His hand twitched, as if he wanted to pull it away, but she held it firmly. "At least twice as long, I think. They look sharper, too."
Still holding onto his hand, she raised her eyes again, looking him over. She lifted her free hand and fingered a lock of his hair. "Your hair doesn't change," she told him. "It still looks the same, although it tends to float in the air when your youki grows." Her eyes travelled higher, and she smiled a little. "Your ears are still the same," she continued, rubbing one. For once, he didn't complain. "Really, except for your face, you look pretty much the same all over. I mean, your shape stays the same. You don't start to change into some other form, like Sesshoumaru, for example. Shippou says that your scent changes to that of a full youkai. He says you smell a lot like your brother."
She studied his face now. He was still watching her, and it was a little unnerving to be looked at so intently, but she was fairly used to his intense stares by now, so she pushed the brief nervousness aside. "The shape of your face stays the same," she offered. "But you can't close your mouth very well because your fangs grow so big. They sort of make you look like you're snarling even when you're not. I'm not sure how well you'd be able to bite with them, either, because you'd have to open your mouth quite wide to use them." She pondered this for a moment.
"Your eyes turn red," she said. "And blue in the centers. And then there are markings on your face."
"Markings?" Inuyasha repeated, his interest apparently caught by the word.
"You have one purple mark on each cheek," she replied, absently tracing a line with her finger on his skin. "Sort of triangular, but not like your brother's. They're thicker and jagged. And you have a sort of black line around the edges of your eyes that's most noticeable on your lower eyelids. It sort of comes out to a point."
She smiled at him. "You really don't look all that scary," she told him. "In fact… when I hugged you, and your eyes turned gold again, and your fangs shrank back almost to normal, but you still had your markings…" she felt her cheeks heat. "…You looked sort of… beautiful."
Inuyasha looked surprised, and incredulous, and maybe just a little flattered. Kagome had to avert her gaze to concentrate on calming her blush. But she knew that Inuyasha had never been good at accepting compliments. He tended to doubt them, or find them embarrassing. There was a long silence, before Inuyasha reverted to his usual coping methods.
"Keh! Beautiful ain't something you say about men!"
Kagome smiled a little. Leave it to him to try to distract her from the point by arguing about semantics. For someone who liked to brag and draw attention to himself, he really was rather shy and self-critical.
"Handsome, then," she conceded, to humour him.
On the inside, however, she stuck by her first description. He really had been beautiful. He usually was.
"Are your feet any better?" he asked. "We should get moving. I don't like staying so close to where we last saw Naraku when half our group is down."
Kagome nodded and started to push herself to her feet, wincing. Inuyasha, whose hand she still had a grip on, rose as well to help her up. She smiled at him when she gained her balance, and hugged him impulsively. She knew that he would probably freak out, or struggle out of her grasp, or freeze up, but she did it anyway. To her surprise, he did none of these things, but hugged her back in return, though a bit awkwardly.
She smiled into his shoulder. She fully intended to keep on hugging him regularly until he got used to it. Maybe she could somehow make up for all the years that he'd been alone and un-hugged. She'd like to try.
"Come on," he said, drawing back and picking her up as though she weighed no more than Shippou. His arms supported her around her shoulders and under her knees, instead of moving her to her usual place on his back. She found that she liked being carried this way by him, because she could see his face.
"Time to go," he added, and they left the little stream to collect the rest of their group and move on.
He still wasn't completely okay, she knew. There was still guilt and frustration and wariness in his eyes. But she hoped that what she'd said would stick with him, because she'd meant every word.
You may not believe it, but you're beautiful. You really are, whether you're hanyou or youkai or human. You're beautiful, just the way you are.
Oni – ogre
Youkai – demon
Youki – demonic aura
A/N – Not sure if I'm fully satisfied with this piece, but it says what it needs to say, and it's not going to change no matter how many times I try to edit it, so here it is.