Author's Note: This fic is dedicated to Sumiregusa—both because it was one of her fics that inspired the idea, and because I wrote it partly to cheer her up while she's recovering in the hospital. Best wishes and get well soon!
On a similar note, if you're into the Rurouni Kenshin fandom at all, you should definitely read her story Traditions, which gave me the idea for this fic. Actually, you should read all her stories, because they're all awesome—but Traditions is my personal favorite… ;)
And last but not least, if anyone should find themselves baffled by this story's premise, there will be a brief historical note at the end…
Rated M for language, subject matter, and suggestiveness.
There was something weird about this village.
Granted, in Inuyasha's opinion, there was something weird about nearly every village they passed through on their travels. Sometimes it was something more on the obvious side, like having a princess who was possessed by a giant demon head, or being populated only by women who had been infected with salamander demon embryos—but sometimes it was just the usual human quirkiness, like being obsessed with bathing or feeling a need to sleep nearly half the hours in the day or getting freaked out by what was obviously an incredibly minor weasel demon hiding under the headman's house.
In the case of this village, it was that they were having some kind of festival.
Well, okay, that in itself wasn't all that weird—humans had festivals all the time, especially around this time of year, when summer was on the horizon and the rice was being planted to carry them through the year to come. And he supposed that wasn't such a ridiculous thing to celebrate, as festivals went. He could have done with a nice, once-a-year replenishing of his main food source during all those years he'd been growing up alone in the woods. If he could have had just one day in which he hunted and stockpiled a year's worth of small woodland creatures to cover all his meals he probably would have celebrated that too. The festival wouldn't have been very widely attended—but then the addition of guests besides himself would have just meant he needed to kill even more animals to feed them all anyway. Wouldn't have been much of a festival if he'd been stuck out in the woods frantically killing things while all the stupid weak humans were hanging around the village square laughing and talking and eating to their hearts' content. That just sounded like an ordinary Tuesday.
Where had he been going with this?
Right. Stupid human festivals.
As soon as they had wandered into the hustle and bustle of this latest village, the air filled with rough country music and the mismatched smells of a hundred different local delicacies, a circle of men and women dancing in loose unison around a fire in the central square, Inuyasha had tried very hard to drag them all right back out again. He hadn't gotten very far.
"Inuyasha," Kagome moaned in that "I'm-not-going-to-sit-you-but-I-wish-you'd-quit-being-such-a-wet-blanket" tone he knew so well. "It's just one night."
"You always say that," he grumbled.
"And it's always true!"
"But if you string a bunch of 'one nights' together, they're not just one night, are they!" he countered, pointing an accusing claw at the tip of her nose.
"Inuyasha…" she warned, and this time there actually was a "sit" in the offing.
His ears lowered at the sound, eyes narrowing into a glare. But he wasn't stupid. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he could recognize a lost battle when he saw one. "Fine," he relented with a heavy sigh.
Her face brightened immediately and she bounced a little on the balls of her feet, clapping in triumph. "Yay! Thanks Inuyasha!"
And then, apparently without even thinking about it, she leaned up and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. His glare fell away into a dumbstruck expression, but she didn't even seem to notice as she whirled away, darting through the crowd to go try some kind of pastry that she had said reminded her of something her mother made back at home sometimes. Inuyasha stared after her for several minutes, easily tracking the green and white sailor suit and that ever-familiar scent amongst the throng of farmers and country girls.
Then he frowned again and turned away, trying to put the brief gesture of affection out of his mind. Things were different in Kagome's time—he had to keep reminding himself of that. Where she came from, people hugged and kissed each other like it meant nothing, just out of the blue, saying "hello" or "thanks" or "goodbye." There was something weird about every human village, but in Inuyasha's experience Kagome's village was absolutely the weirdest one of all. And that included the one full of women possessed by salamanders.
Around him the celebrations continued unabated. Everyone seemed so elated and joyful that they barely even noticed the half-demon in their midst. Occasionally one of the women would nearly bump into him, and a smile would falter, eyes widening as she looked up at his disgruntled expression—but then she would whirl away again, rejoining the dance. Inuyasha, for his part, steadfastly refused to participate, even after he caught sight of Sango and Miroku clumsily trying to follow the steps somewhere across the circle. Kagome had eventually joined in too in another section of the circle, laughing and dancing enthusiastically, though she seemed to be adding in her own steps in place of the ones she hadn't quite picked up yet. Inuyasha thought he caught her doing a small piece of a dance she'd shown him once called "the Macarena." He snorted a small laugh at that in spite of himself.
There definitely was something weird going on though, he realized—more than just the dancing and the close quarters and the mind-boggling mixture of smells and sounds. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about this place and these people was making him distinctly uneasy—more uneasy than usual. He reached out with his senses as best he could in the crowd, listening for signs of some danger in the offing, feeling for some sign of youki or other evidence of any malevolent supernatural presence—but he couldn't find anything. As best he could tell, there was nothing here to fear except fear itself.
As the evening wore on and the crowd began to thin, a steady stream of villagers gradually trailing off into the night toward their homes, Inuyasha finally started to realize what had him on edge—it was the way the men in this village kept looking at the women around them. Or, more specifically, at Kagome. Not that this was the first time any males they'd encountered had had the balls to leer at her within his line of sight—hell, Kouga was king of the manhandling-jackass brigade, and he didn't seem to care who knew it—but there was something different about the way these men were looking at her. Their eyes seemed to slide over her body from head to toe, considering every inch of her before moving on to the next woman, the way Kagome's eyes sometimes perused the strangely attired mannequins in the store windows whenever she dragged him down to Harajuku. Like they were considering whether or not they'd like to try her on for size.
Well fuck that.
Inuyasha tried to tamp down his irritation. If that was all the danger he was sensing, then there was really nothing to worry about. Even if these village men did happen to have the balls to look at her that way in public, he was pretty sure they wouldn't have the balls to actually try anything. And if they did, Inuyasha would make damn sure that they didn't have any balls at all soon afterward. That was, if Kagome didn't beat him to it. People might be a little easier with their affections back in her time, but he knew Kagome wasn't the type of girl to just fall into bed with any man who glanced her way. If she were, the two of them probably would have…
But she wasn't. So that was really beside the point.
When his irritation proved stubbornly resistant to his efforts to tamp it down, Inuyasha finally gave in and started making his way through the crowd over to where Kagome was still dancing with the remaining revelers. Her skin was pleasantly flushed from the heat of the fire and the energy of the dance, and he caught himself staring at her in something that was just to the pitiful-longing side of a leer before he finally managed to shake himself back to irritation. He pushed through the rest of the crowd and placed himself resolutely at her shoulder, blocking the view of the man next to her who seemed to be surreptitiously trying to sneak a peek down her top.
"Inuyasha!" she said with an elated smile, latching onto his elbow and tugging him along with the dance. He stumbled sideways a bit, awkwardly following the general flow of the crowd, but he steadfastly refused to actually "dance." He was only standing here because he didn't like having her so far out of reach.
"Isn't this great?" she said, letting go of his arm to twirl around in a circle along with everyone around them. Except Inuyasha, of course.
"Yeah," he mumbled, "great. Listen, if you want to get any sleep tonight you should probably get to bed. We've got to get on the road again early in the morning."
"Inuyasha, quit being such a stick in the mud," she scolded, hitting him lightly on the shoulder as she continued to dance.
"I'm not being a stick in the mud," he protested, shooting a glare over his shoulder as one of the other dancers stumbled against his side. "You were the one who said you wanted a good night's sleep."
"I know, but look at all this!" she breathed. "This is once in a lifetime—why not enjoy it?"
"It's not once in a lifetime," Inuyasha replied, dodging another clumsy human who very nearly stepped on his toes. "They do this every year."
"Yeah, but I don't," she pointed out.
"Okay, so next year when the summer comes you can go outside and dance around in a circle like a crazy person again, alright? Problem solved. Now get to bed so I don't have to listen to your whining tomorrow."
"Inuyasha," she said wryly, "it's not the same."
"Looks the same to me," he muttered, glancing around at all the crazy people surrounding them.
Finally Kagome sighed and stumbled against him again, catching onto his elbow for support. He didn't mind it so much when Kagome was the clumsy one. Made the flesh on his arm tingle where her panting breath slipped through the split sleeve of his suikan and warmed the fabric of his kosode. He kept his eyes on her prettily flushed cheeks as he elbowed away another person who had bumped into him from the other side.
"Alright," she agreed, smiling into the fabric of his fire rat as she leaned against him, trying to catch her breath. "I admit it, I'm tired."
She didn't protest as he dragged her out of the circle of dancers, and she even breathed a small sigh of relief as they stumbled out into a less crowded area at the edge of the village square. "Where are Miroku and Sango?" she asked, straightening up to support her own weight and twisting her head back and forth as she scanned the crowd for their friends' familiar faces. Inuyasha tried not to feel disappointed at the loss of her warmth pressed against his side. Instead he halfheartedly looked around as well.
"Who knows?" he said when he could see no sign of them. "They're big kids though—they can take care of themselves. Where are you supposed to sleep?"
"That hut over by the forest's edge," she said, pointing to a small wooden structure ahead of them as they walked, her hand sliding from the crook of his elbow to lace fingers with his. Another one of those unconscious gestures she seemed to think so little of that made his stomach quiver in response.
"A hut?" he asked with a curious frown as he trailed along a half a step behind her.
"I know, it's weird, right?" she said with a little laugh and a stifled yawn. "We asked about an inn, but the headman gave us a funny look when Sango and I said we could share a room. I don't know—I guess they must just not have an inn in town. Still, I don't know why they thought they had to assign us more than one hut—it's not like we're not all used to squeezing together."
He darted a look at the back of her head at the turn of phrase, then rolled his eyes at himself for his own vivid mental imagery.
When she moved to carry straight on up the steps and into the hut without letting go of him, he stopped short. She kept walking until she felt the jerk of his dead weight at the end of her arm, and swung around with a curious expression on her face. "Something wrong?" she asked.
He stared at her for a moment, then at the door to the hut behind her, acutely aware of every square centimeter of her warm skin pressed against his palm. It was one thing to sleep above her in a clearing, surrounded by the snores of their companions, or to be in the next room with Miroku or on the opposite side of a privacy screen at an inn—but being alone with Kagome in a tiny hut at the edge of some strange village? Didn't she understand how…inappropriate that was? What people would say about her the next day when they walked out together, the miko and her hanyou lover? Even if nothing happened—which obviously it wouldn't, let's face it—everyone would assume it had. Didn't that bother her at all? Or did she just not even realize it?
Okay, so maybe once or twice he had snuck into her bedroom while she was sleeping just to listen to her breathe and wrap himself in the comfort of her scent—but that was totally different. She didn't know about that.
Gently he tugged his fingers out of hers and took a step back, clearing his throat slightly as he tucked his hands into his sleeves. He glanced away, trying for his usual indifference. "I'll sleep in the forest."
She laughed a little, smiling at him. "Inuyasha, you don't have to—it's fine with me if you sleep inside."
"Don't be stupid," he scoffed—though he meant it more as a reprimand to the pathetically hopeful little voice in the back of his head saying "Really, Kagome?" than as a response to her kind offer. "I'll be fine," he amended, a little less harshly. "I like it better outside anyway."
He wasn't quite oblivious enough to miss the slight drop of her shoulders or the note of disappointment in her voice when she replied, though he admonished himself not to read too much into either. "Okay," she said with a shrug. "If that's the way you want it. I guess I'll see you in the morning then."
He gave a short nod and turned away to stalk off toward the forest, concentrating his energy on selecting a suitable tree branch high up off the ground, where her sweet, affectionate scent wouldn't keep him awake too much. "Goodnight, Kagome," he called back carelessly.
Her reply was very quiet, but his right ear flicked back involuntarily to catch it anyway. "Goodnight, Inuyasha."
If she lived a hundred years, Kagome didn't think she would ever really understand Inuyasha.
She dropped the reed curtain back into place over the doorway behind her, staring around the sparse interior of the small, disused hut. Definitely nothing fancy, but it was still a step up from sleeping on the ground. There was even a thin sleeping mat laid out for her just across the room. Not much on its own, but once she rolled out her sleeping bag on top it would be quite nice.
Her backpack was waiting for her over in the corner of the room—the headman had offered to put it away for her so she could enjoy the festival, which she'd thought exceptionally hospitable of him. Not that most people they met were especially rude or anything like that, but for some reason she'd found these people particularly solicitous, as though they were practically eager for them to stay the night. Sango and Kagome, at least—the headman had barely glanced at Miroku. Which, come to think of it, was a little odd in itself. Usually village authorities seemed more comfortable dealing with Miroku than any of the rest of them, as he was a monk, and the only male non-demon in their party. Of course, these people generally didn't realize he was the most likely of all of them to try to swindle them, but hey, their loss for being chauvinistic jerks.
Kagome wandered over to her things and unrolled the sleeping bag over the existing bedding. Then she knelt down beside her backpack and started pulling out her night things so she could brush her hair and get changed for bed. As she tugged her clean cotton sleep camisole down over her head, she caught herself listening vaguely to the forest outside her door, wondering where exactly Inuyasha had ended up.
She knew he wouldn't have gone far. He was never far away—even when she wanted him to be, she thought wryly. She'd started to suspect that on more than one occasion he had actually followed her to school when she was back for tests, just to keep an eye on her. At least he was getting better at doing it without making a scene—the only way she knew it had happened was because she'd occasionally found the baseball cap he usually used with a new smudge of dirt on the rim, or sitting in a slightly different spot than where she'd left it.
And then there was this evening. He had been his usual grumpy self with respect to the festival, steadfastly refusing to enjoy himself—and yet he hadn't disappeared off into the forest to catch rabbits or chop down trees or do whatever else he would have preferred to do with the time. He had stayed there all evening, alone in the crowd, being jostled and stepped on even though he was plainly miserable, just to keep her in sight.
She could still feel the warm, familiar callouses on his fingers. She knew he liked it when she held onto him—she liked it too, and frankly she wished he would touch her occasionally without prompting, and without the immediate impetus of something large and scaly hurtling toward her to rip her in half. It had happened occasionally, sure, a casual touch here and there. He had even held her a few times. But it always seemed to be over too quickly, and he always seemed to want to act as if it hadn't happened afterward. That didn't make sense to her. Why was he so ashamed of wanting to be close to her?
Unless he didn't actually want to be close to her, and she was just misreading his signals completely. But she didn't think she was.
Then again, maybe she was. She could still remember the startled look on his face when she'd tried to lead him into the hut, like he'd taken a wrong turn in a bad neighborhood. It had seemed to her like a perfect opportunity—a secluded hut, a distant village, the quiet at the edge of the forest. And it wasn't like he could have just not picked up on it—she had actually invited him in. She didn't think she could have been much clearer if she had scrawled "Come on, Inuyasha, make your move!" over the doorway in lipstick.
But still he was outside sleeping in a tree, and she was inside sleeping alone.
Kagome sighed as she crawled into her sleeping bag and curled up on her side. It was comfortable, but it would have been a lot more comfortable with another warm body curled up behind her.
She tried to put that thought out of her mind, turning her face a little deeper into her pillow and listening to the lullaby of the nearby forest.
The white noise of the breeze rustling through the trees followed her beneath the surface of consciousness as her breathing evened out, her body relaxed. After a little while, she thought she heard something—another soft rustling sound, a little closer than the trees, but she didn't think much of it. Then there was a lightly creaking floorboard, groaning beneath the weight of a bare foot. When she felt the edge of her sleeping bag gently lifting up against the underside of her arm, and a warm body sliding in behind her, she smiled to herself, eyes still closed. She had a feeling this was going to be one of her better dreams.
She felt his arms wrapping tentatively around her midsection, his chest sliding up against her back, and she realized he was almost completely naked. So much the better. It was always such a hassle to try to imagine how all those ties and folds were supposed to be undone. When she felt his hot, shaky breath against her shoulder, his lips closing over the sensitive skin at the base of her throat, her mouth fell open slightly in a silent gasp, and she arched back against him.
Actually, come to think of it, that had felt quite real. She knew she had a good imagination, but was it really this good?
Her eyes fluttered open as his mouth began to move more hungrily over her skin, trailing a path from the base of her neck out to the edge of her shoulder, his arms tightening around her. Real. This was definitely real, she realized as her breath caught in her throat at the new rush of sensations. Holy crap—Inuyasha had really come to her this time. He was really here, holding her, kissing her, his hitched breath in her ear, his warmth pressed against her back.
Nope. As long as she lived, she would never understand him. But as long as he kept licking her earlobe like that, she was quite happy to live in confusion.
Her own breath starting to tremble, she slid her arms beneath the covers and ran her fingertips lightly over his forearms, feeling the little hairs stand up on his flesh as she did so. Growing bolder, she reached back with one arm and ran her palm over the smooth, bare flesh of his side, loving the way his breath faltered as her fingers bumped against the twisted fabric that secured his fundoshi at his hip.
Her stomach caved in and she arched against him again when his fingers found their way beneath the hem of her camisole to trace patterns with blunt fingernails over her heated flesh. Her brow dipped inward even as she reveled in the sensation. Blunt fingernails? She'd forgotten it was the night of the new moon. How could she have forgotten? She usually always remembered.
Something cold crept over her skin, and her eyes blinked open again distractedly, staring at the dim, blue-white light pooled on the floor of the hut. Moonlight.
It wasn't the new moon.
And this wasn't Inuyasha.
Inuyasha had found himself a comfortable spot in the cradle of one of the higher branches of a nearby tree, and had settled in for a light doze in which he tried very hard not to think about Kagome.
As usual, he'd had little success.
Her smiling countenance always seemed to be sitting there on the edge of his consciousness, just waiting for him to close his eyes so she could wind her arms around his neck and snuggle against his side. It was really irritating. Not because he didn't want her there, but because he very much did—and though he had a vivid imagination, it wasn't quite vivid enough to allow him to believe it was really her. Especially since in order to be snuggling against him at the moment, she would have to be floating in midair—which he was about ninety-eight percent sure she wasn't capable of doing. Not without borrowing Kikyo's shinidama-chuu anyway.
Now there was a creepy thought.
Anyway, he couldn't smell her. Well, he could, but only far away in the hut below him. Still, there didn't seem much point in fighting it. If his mind wanted to pretend she was there with him, he wouldn't complain.
After a while, Inuyasha started to realize that Kagome wasn't the only thing he could smell. Well, obviously he could smell all the usual things, like the trees and the grass and the remnants of the fire from the village square. But he could also smell…something else. Something that made him really uncomfortable. Halfway between disgusted and aroused—which was really uncomfortable. And it seemed to be coming from…kinda everywhere.
As his eyes drifted open, his nose wrinkling at the stench, he started to realize he could hear things too—people sneaking into various huts across the village, stifled moans of pleasure, moist slapping sounds that he really preferred not to investigate too closely. What the hell kind of place was this anyway?
He tried to close his ears and burrow his nose down beneath the collar of his shirt, blocking out as much of the evidence of the apparent orgy going on down below as possible. But his right ear flicked back up again when he heard a very soft creaking sound somewhere much closer at hand. Brow lowering in a frown, he leaned forward on his branch and looked down at the hut where Kagome still lay quietly. He couldn't see anything amiss from the outside, and it was difficult to pinpoint much else in this weird mixture of unpleasant stimuli. He cautiously pulled his nose out from underneath his collar and sniffed at the air.
Those smells were still everywhere, but he sifted through them until he could locate Kagome's scent again. She was still there in the hut, and she didn't seem panicked or anything. But…there was someone else in there too. A man.
An aroused man.
"Oh fuck that," Inuyasha growled to himself, eyes flashing as he shoved himself off the branch and dropped a good thirty feet to the ground. He barely even flinched at the impact, taking off toward the hut the moment his feet touched the ground. He heard Kagome gasp as he ripped the reed curtain clean off the doorjamb, paused just long enough to register that there was a strange and apparently naked male wrapped around her inside her sleeping bag, and then dashed across the room to rip him away from her and slam him bodily against the wall, one clawed fist at the spluttering man's throat.
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't rip out your guts and tie them around your throat right now!" Inuyasha snarled. The man scrabbled at his wrist in desperation as Inuyasha tightened his fingers marginally, claw tips pricking into the man's skin to back up the threat.
"Please—" the man rasped, still tugging helplessly at Inuyasha's hand, "I—please don't—I'll do any—I can't—!"
"Inuyasha!" Kagome panted, aghast, and he could hear her stumbling to her feet behind him. "Inuyasha, let him go!"
"Are you fucking kidding me, Kagome?" he growled back at her. "After what he just tried to do to you?"
"Yes!" she snapped. "You're strangling him!"
"Good!" he snapped defiantly, jerking around to glare at her. When his eyes took in her disheveled state and her anxious scent, he suddenly realized something he hadn't realized before. The man had been in her sleeping bag, and she had clearly been awake when Inuyasha had burst in. The way the man had been curled around her, she couldn't possibly have not noticed him there. So…why hadn't she called out for help?
And why did she smell…?
Inuyasha's eyes flashed as they snapped up to her face again. "Kagome," he said with quiet dismay, the horrible truth dawning on him at last. She seemed to see it in his expression, her own reflecting a growing fear.
"Inuyasha, just let him go and we'll talk about this, okay?" she reiterated as calmly as she could manage, her eyes flicking worriedly to the struggling man—whose struggles, Inuyasha realized, were growing weaker.
Inuyasha turned back to the man, whose face was now turning a slightly revolting shade of purple. For a moment he actually considered eviscerating him—but the fight had almost gone out of Inuyasha somehow, cold reality settling in the pit of his stomach. Anyway, he'd just have to clean up the mess later. And Kagome wouldn't like it.
Finally he let the man go, watching unsympathetically as the pathetic figure dropped to his knees on the floor, gasping for breath. As soon as he had control of his shaking limbs again, the little maggot of a man staggered to his feet and stumbled for the door as fast as he could. Inuyasha watched him go in silence. Then he flicked his eyes to Kagome, who was still staring at him with that guilty look on her face, like she was terrified of what he was going to say next.
As soon as she saw that look on his face, Kagome knew Inuyasha had figured it out. How in the hell was she going to explain this? Well, she could explain it—but she needed to explain it in a way that wouldn't completely freak him out and ruin their friendship forever. And somehow she didn't think that "I let that guy touch me because I thought it was you and I've been dying to jump your bones for months" was really a safe route back to a long-lasting platonic relationship.
"Inuyasha," she faltered, hating the way her voice seemed to catch in her throat. "It's not what you think. At least, I don't think it's what you think…"
Inuyasha just kept staring at her with that horrible betrayed look in his eyes. She wished he would say something. It really freaked her out to see him so obviously upset and yet apparently unable to utter a sound.
"Why didn't you call for me, Kagome?" he asked finally, his voice frighteningly quiet.
Kagome frowned—that wasn't quite the question she had expected. "Why didn't I call for you?"
For some reason her confusion seemed to make him incredibly angry. "You didn't even think of it, did you?" he spat accusingly. "You were just going to let that bastard—" he broke off harshly, pacing across the room as his breathing picked up, fingers clenching and unclenching with restrained fury. "I can't believe it," he fumed. "All this time I thought—but then you go and—you fucking slut!"
Kagome flinched as he hurled this at her, as if it were a physical blow. Then, setting her jaw, she marched right over to him and slapped him hard across the face. "How dare you," she gritted out.
Inuyasha staggered from the unexpected blow, his anger apparently forgotten for the moment in favor of surprise as he lifted a clawed hand to his reddening cheek—but Kagome showed him no sympathy. "Just because a woman wants to have sex doesn't make her a slut!"
"It does if she'll jump into bed with anything that moves!" Inuyasha shot back, and Kagome swore she could see his other cheek reddening to match the one she'd just slapped.
"Oh yeah? Well then what the hell was that guy doing all over you?"
"I didn't know who he was!"
"And that makes it better?"
"No, you idiot," she growled, clenching her fist as she restrained the urge to punch him this time, "I mean I thought he was you!"
When every drop of anger suddenly disappeared from Inuyasha's face, his jaw falling open slightly, Kagome realized what she'd just said. Well, it wasn't quite as bad as her first thought, but it still tipped her hand pretty damn effectively. She clapped her fingers over her mouth, trying to think of a way to take it back.
"You thought he was…me?" Inuyasha said, stunned.
Then his eyes narrowed, a little of the anger coming back. "You mean you thought I would try to…force myself on you?"
She shook her head quickly, lifting a hand to stop him following that train of thought too far. "No," she said, "you didn't—I mean, he wasn't really forcing himself on me. I'm pretty sure he would have stopped if I hadn't—I mean, if I had asked him to."
"But you didn't," Inuyasha said.
She shook her head.
"Because you thought he was me."
She hesitated a little before nodding slowly.
He had a strange look on his face again, weirdly similar to the dismay he had shown earlier—yet somehow she could tell this was different. More like disbelief.
"So you…" he swallowed audibly, "wanted it to be me?"
The slight note of trepidation in his voice and the sweetly hopeful droop of his ears made her smile a little. She nodded again, this time with a little less reluctance.
He glanced away, apparently trying to process this. His cheeks were definitely both red now, though she was pretty sure the mark from the slap was fading. She watched several shades of confusion and understanding pass across his eyes. Then he looked up again, his gaze settling somewhere near her shoulder, and he crossed over to her. She watched him curiously as he stood just a few inches in front of her, and finally leaned his head down to press a small, sweet kiss to her left cheek—just a peck, like the one she'd given him earlier that evening when he'd agreed to let them stay in the village.
She frowned in confusion at this until he straightened again and finally met her eyes—and then she could see it, what it meant to him. That tiny little gesture that came so easily to her—to him it was Mount Everest. He could sweep her into his arms and carry her to safety, he could hold her and tell her he wanted her to stay, he could let her take her hand in his—but that simple little kiss was no-man's-land, across the line thou shalt not cross. Of course it wouldn't have been him. Of course he wouldn't have snuck into her sleeping bag and started touching her without permission. Inuyasha wasn't like that. He might talk a good game, but until he'd met Kikyo he'd never known a human who would dare to look at him with kindness, much less touch him. In battle he was always the first to rush in where angels feared to tread—but when it came to physical affection, he was way out of his depth.
Kagome reached up and stroked his wounded cheek with her hand. He winced a little at the touch, but tried not to show it. She gave him an apologetic smile—and then she leaned up and pressed her lips to his.
As she'd expected, Inuyasha seemed a bit surprised by this—but she didn't let that deter her. It was obvious to her now why her little hints had fallen on deaf ears. She'd been too subtle—or perhaps, in a way, not subtle enough. Because she gave her affection so freely, Inuyasha had thought she didn't mean it. If there was any way they were going to get past this hurdle, she had to show him as clearly as possible exactly what she wanted—and what she was willing to give.
She felt his palms rest hesitantly on her back, he head tilting slightly to return the kiss, and she smiled against his lips. Encouraging his affections, she wound her arms around his shoulders and leaned her body flush against his, nibbling slightly at his lower lip. When she heard him make a little involuntary sound of pleasure in the back of his throat, felt his fingertips digging gently into her back, she smiled again and made a similar humming sound.
Unfortunately this seemed to startle him back to his senses, and he suddenly pulled away, panting slightly as he held her at arm's length. "Wait," he said, "I don't understand."
"Yes you do," Kagome said patiently.
But he shook her head, his eyes still fearful, like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. "No, I don't. I mean, we can't just…do stuff."
"Because," he floundered, "people will say things."
"What, like call me a slut?" she said wryly.
His ears lowered contritely, and she laughed a little to show him she wasn't holding a grudge.
"Inuyasha, I don't care what anybody says. What difference does that make? It's not like we'll ever see any of these people again."
"What about Miroku and Sango?" he pointed out.
Kagome shrugged, unconcerned. "Sango is my best friend, and Miroku is Miroku—he's in no position to judge anyone for promiscuity. Besides, it's none of their business what we do. It's our business."
"But don't you have to—I don't know—be married or something first?"
Kagome shook her head. "Not where I come from, you don't. You can be if it's what you want, but you don't have to wait. All that matters to me is that we care about each other, and we want to be together. Unless," she said, a sudden fear gripping her, "unless…you don't care about me that way."
Inuyasha looked up in alarm, hands tightening on her shoulders. "Of course I do," he said quickly. "Fuck, Kagome—if I didn't…I wouldn't have stopped you…"
Kagome suppressed a grin and looked away again, biting her lip. When she glanced up at him his expression seemed to have a hint of anticipation in it, and when she moved toward him again he didn't prevent her.
This time instead of aiming for his lips, however, she pressed a warm, gentle kiss to the base of his throat. She felt the flesh tug lightly underneath her caress as she heard him swallow. When his hands found their way back to her sides, she could feel his calloused fingertips slipping beneath the hem of her camisole.
She felt his head bend down next to her ear, pressing a hesitant kiss to the side of her jaw. "Are you sure about this, Kagome?" he whispered.
She nodded against his throat and slid one arm around his waist to hold him a little closer against her. "Absolutely," she murmured, and she felt a tremor run through his body as her voice rumbled against his collarbone.
Jiro's first two visits of the night had not gone well. The first had told him she was waiting for someone else. The second had thrown a ladle at his head.
Oh well—hopefully the third time would be the charm.
He lightened his footsteps as he approached the hut at the edge of the village where the girl with the strange foreign clothing slept. She was quite beautiful—he had noticed her during the festival dance. And with that skimpy clothing, he couldn't imagine she was too fussy about who she took to bed.
He glanced at the displaced reed curtain curiously as he approached the door, but didn't pay it any mind. In any case, when he caught sight of her contentedly sleeping face, her bare shoulder just visible from beneath the strange blanket she had wrapped around her body, all other thoughts flew out of his head. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. Her hair seemed longer too, and though it was a beautifully tousled inky black up near her face, it seemed to glow almost silver in the moonlight where it fanned out on the floor behind her.
Jiro took a silent step into the room and grinned in anticipation as the covers began to stir. He expected her eyes to flutter open, a seductive smile bowing her lips as she invited him in—but her face remained quite still. Instead, to his horror, a second head rose up from just behind her shoulder. A head with dog ears, silver hair, and dangerous golden eyes.
Well damn. She really wasn't too fussy about who—or what—she took to bed.
"Don't even think about it," the dog demon threatened with a low growl, and Jiro tried very hard not to pee himself. Why was there never a ladle around when you needed one?
"Uh…my mistake," he whispered, backing toward the door. "Wrong hut."
The woman snuggled a little deeper into the demon's embrace as he tightened his hold on her protectively, those frightening yellow eyes following Jiro all the way out of sight.
Jiro heaved a sigh as he once again found himself in the safety of the silent village streets. Zero for three.
Oh well—there was always next year…
Inuyasha awoke alone, naked, and slightly chilled inside Kagome's sleeping bag. These circumstances utterly baffled him until he rolled onto his back to stare up at the ceiling of the hut, and his memories of the previous night gradually started to return to him.
Some of them in quite vivid detail. Like the sound of Kagome's hitched and feverish breath in his ear, gasping his name. Or the way their sweat-dampened bodies had molded together like they were made for each other.
Where the hell was she anyway?
Inuyasha pushed himself up to sit, the strange futuristic material of the sleeping bag pooling around his waist as he glanced around the hut for his clothes. His kosode was pretty close at hand, but his hakama had somehow ended up hanging from one of the ceiling beams. How the fuck had that happened?
A light breeze skated over his damp skin, and he realized the reason he was a bit chilled was because the door was wide open—he'd torn the curtain off in his haste to rescue Kagome from the intruder. That was, of course, before he himself had become the "intruder"…
He reached over and grabbed his kosode, slipping it on so he could climb out of the sleeping bag without being on public display to any unlucky passersby. Then he walked across the room to where his hakama was hanging from the ceiling. Just as he tugged it down so that it flopped onto his upturned face, he heard Kagome's light laughter coming from the doorway.
He turned over in her direction and gave her a bland look as he tugged the hakama off his face, swiping back a few displaced locks of hair. "Where have you been?" he grumbled as she passed him on the way over to her backpack.
"I needed a bath," she said. "I was hoping to get back before you woke up."
Inuyasha tugged his hakama up over his hips, tucking in the tail of his kosode before tying the knot into place at the front. "You and your baths," he mumbled.
She straightened again and turned to him with a coy smile that made his insides go all mushy and his mind conjure up further images from the previous night. "Well this time I definitely needed one," she said as she leaned up and kissed him lightly on the mouth. He didn't let her get far away before he pulled her in again for another lingering kiss. Just to savor it while he could.
When he finally released her to settle back down on her heels, her palms still resting on his chest, he looked down into her gorgeously flushed face and felt himself smiling with a contentment he hadn't felt in a very long time. If ever.
"Kagome," he said, running his hands along her forearms until they curled over her own, "Thank you. For last night I mean. Even if it never happens again, I just wanted to…thank you."
Her smile faded a little as he said this, and her brow dipped inward. "Don't you want it to happen again?"
Inuyasha's stomach lurched in surprise. "Of course," he breathed, holding her hands a little tighter. "I just meant—I mean, I wasn't sure if you…"
Kagome's smile returned, even brighter with relief, and she leaned up to kiss him lightly again before settling back again with that same coy grin. "You really do think I'm a slut, don't you," she teased. "One night and I'm already bored, on to the next conquest."
Inuyasha growled a little at the suggestion of a next "conquest," and he kissed her again to shut her up. When she had been thoroughly silenced, he pulled back a little, one hand still cradling her face. "I don't think you're a slut," he said seriously. "And I want every part of you for as long as you'll have me."
Her breath caught a little at this, and he thought he saw a tear in her eye even as she smiled up at him. "Well good," she said, her voice a little unsteady with emotion even as she tried to sound flippant, "because I'm afraid you're stuck with me."
After spending a little while longer standing like that in each other's arms and occasionally threatening each other with a repeat of the previous night's performance, they finished gathering up their things and went outside to meet up with their companions. As they picked their way through the aftermath of the festival, Inuyasha's nose was once again assaulted with the scent of everyone else's "aftermath." Not only that, but he noticed a lot of sheepish faces and hidden smiles from the few people who wandered by—and when they finally found Miroku and Sango waiting by the road leading out of town, he noticed that Miroku looked rather more pleased with himself than usual, and Sango was refusing to look at him at all.
Sango and Kagome met eyes almost immediately and set off down the road with their heads together, speaking in fervent whispers. Inuyasha raised an eyebrow at this peculiar behavior, but didn't think much of it as he fell in step beside Miroku at a slightly more leisurely pace.
Inuyasha craned his neck around to stare at another young man who seemed to be avoiding everyone's gaze as they made their way out of town.
"Okay, seriously," he said, turning back to Miroku, "what the hell's going on around here? I mean, the whole place smells like…you know…"
"Spunk?" Miroku offered helpfully.
Inuyasha punched him in the side of the head, but Miroku only laughed.
"Why Inuyasha, I'm surprised at you," the monk chuckled, regaining his composure. "It's the rice planting festival, after all—didn't you realize?"
Inuyasha looked askance at him. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Haven't you ever heard of the tradition of Yobai?"
"'Night-crawling'?" Inuyasha repeated with a bewildered glance. And then something flickered across the back of his mind—some long-ago snippet of an overheard conversation, two women chuckling together about another who had just given birth to a "child of the Yobai." He remembered the bold behavior of the men at the festival the previous evening, the sounds and smells of fervent encounters, the man he'd caught in Kagome's bed, the other man who'd tried to take his place, the flushed and sheepish faces of those few villagers they had seen this morning on their way out of town—and suddenly all the bizarre events of the previous night began to make a little more sense.
Yep, there was definitely something weird about this village.
Then again, he thought as his flesh heated slightly at the memory, he wasn't really in any position to judge…
He noticed Miroku smirking at him out of the corner of his eye and cleared his throat, trying to wipe the blush off his face. "So," he said, changing the subject, "where did you disappear to last night anyway? We were looking for you."
"Me?" Miroku said innocently, his gaze drifting ahead of them to the lithe form of the slayer as his smirk turned slightly lecherous. "I was engaging in local traditions, of course…"
They made it at least another thirty feet up the road before the inevitable slap rang out.
Inuyasha lifted a hand to the light bruise on his own cheek, and grinned.
A/N: Is it just me, or does this fic have an odd sense of humor? And by "this fic," I suppose I mean me… ;)
According to my (very light) research, the whole Yobai tradition is a real thing. The theory was that on this particular night, men were allowed to sneak into women's beds to sleep with them, and then sneak out again before dawn. It was a way for young couples to get past the awkward hurdle between public modesty and private physical intimacy, and in many cases it was a prelude to marriage. It was most common in rural communities in centuries past, though (according to the internet) it occasionally still happens in certain remote areas today. It's also worth mentioning that while the approach seems rather presumptuous to the modern Western ear, what I've read seems to suggest that the woman had the freedom to turn down her "midnight visitor" if she wanted. It wasn't just a complete free-for-all. Sounds like a better deal than primae noctis at any rate, eh?
As you've probably already gathered, it was the Yobai concept that I borrowed from Sumiregusa, and she apparently first ran across it reading Tale of Genji—so that's another place to look if you're curious about it.
Oh, by the way, the description of the festival dance is loosely based on a scene from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. Not sure how rigidly historically accurate that film is, but at least it's genuinely Japanese and it takes place in the Sengoku Jidai—if it's good enough for Kurosawa, it's good enough for me… ;)