Hanako hesitated in the doorway. Inuyasha had assured her they were alone now; no one was watching the house from anywhere near the property. Still, it made Hanako's skin crawl to see Kavan seated in a patch of sun on the deck, back to the wall, face turned up towards the sun.
She'd understood most of the discussion earlier, and had gotten clarification from Inuyasha on the rest. She was a bit surprised at how quickly she was picking up English -- it was as if she'd known it, at one point before in her life. She knew her spoken English was bad, but she was at least starting to understand what everyone else said. Near total mmersion was a very effective way to pick a language up.
Quietly, she stepped outside, and scanned the hillsides visible below the house. Her Slayer senses insisted they were alone as well, and she'd learned to trust that.
Kavan was crying.
Shocked, she stared at him. They were man tears -- very dignified. He wasn't sobbing or sniffling or bawling. But as she stood and watched, water trickled down his cheeks. His blue eyes gazed far off into the distance, and his expression was very still, and somehow very lost.
Hanako coughed delicately, to let him know she was there. She asked, hoping she would make sense, "Bring you ... water?"
He glanced over at her. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
He wasn't fine. She knew, from the tone of what he said, that he wasn't fine at all. She sat down next to him, and said quietly, "My mother, dead."
"Twice. Once a vampire, once I kill the vampire. My brother, my father ... still vampires."
He repeated, "I'm sorry."
"She look like mother. She sound like mother. I kill anyway." Hanako stared at her hands. She had never told anyone this; it had happened after she'd learned she was a Slayer, but not long after. The other Slayers didn't even know about this.
She'd pissed off the wrong master vampire and he'd gotten revenge by turning her family. "Then I find out yesterday ... soul. Like with Kenshin. I could. But then they live with bad things they've do. Maybe better I just kill. I don't know. Every vampire, somebody's mother, brother, father. But we cannot bring all back. Too much evil. Make sense?"
Kavan wiped his tears away with his thumb. "They would have to live with everything they've done."
"Dead is dead." Hanako frowned. "Buffy say heaven is real. I bring them back for me, it is selfish. Buffy said it hurt, to come back, here. She was talking to Inuyasha last night. I hear too. She died, they brought her back."
"Humans think my people don't have souls, to go to heaven." Kavan tucked one leg to his chest and rested his chin on his knee. His long blond hair fell down around his leg, having come loose from its tie at some point earlier.
Hanako reached a hand out and brushed his hair back so she could see his face. She didn't know why she did it, only that his grief drew her to him. He looked up and met her eyes, then smiled faintly. "I don't agree. My people are good."
He shuddered. "I'm all alone now. I've really done it. I have nobody in this world ... I have betrayed my own people and ... humans will never accept me. Not if they know what I am. I am entirely alone."
Hanako put her arm around his shoulder. She had understood most of what he said, but she didn't think she could find words to help him. Even if she had a better grasp of English, what words were there that could ease his grief? He was correct that he'd turned against his own race, and that humanity as a whole would never accept him. Individual people might -- she thought she would not have a problem with that -- but it was true that he was not human. And really, with his ethereal good looks, she wasn't sure he could even casually pass for human as some demons did.
For a moment, he didn't seem to acknowledge her arm. Then he leaned into her touch, and turned his face again to look at her. She reached a hand up to his cheek, intending to encourage him to rest his head on her shoulder.
Instead, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to her lips. His hands came up, and he pulled her closer, and tried to deepen the embrace. She was so shocked she froze in place, at least until his hand started wandering lower to butt, where it wasn't wanted. He tried to pull her into his lap.
She shoved hard, pulled her hand back, and delivered a ringing slap across his already bruised face. In Japanese, she snarled, "Pervert!"
He stared at her. A smile touched his lips, then faded. "I'm sorry. I thought you were coming on to me."
And then he rose, and she scrambled up too, hand lifted to hit him again.
He held his palms up defensively. "I'm sorry. I've never been with a woman. There are no free women with my people who are unattached to others. I thought, before I die in battle, I might find comfort with you, at least once. I may die in the coming fights. I see I misunderstood your intent. Don't ..."
"Pervert!" She was too mad to really understand what he was saying, so she hit him again, another slap, hard enough to raise a red mark on his cheek this time.
The noise of her shouting had brought Inuyasha and Kagome running out of their bedroom and leaping right off their balcony, Inuyasha carrying Kagome. He set her down and spun around all in one move, and then stared up onto the deck. Inuyasha suddenly started to smirk. Kagome glanced at him, then looked back at them -- her eyes seemed to be focused on Kavan, who was backing away from Hanako with his hands still upraised defensively.
Kagome said, "Inuyasha, you don't think ...?" her mouth snapped shut.
"Feh. Probably." To Hanako, he added, "Oye, Slayer. Don't kill him. He's not a complete idiot, and he'll make you some nice ba ..."
"Inuyasha!" Kagome spun and hit him so hard he fell over backwards. To Hanako, she said, in a completely aggrieved tone of voice, "Boys!"
Inuyasha just laughed from his position laying on his back on the ground.
Kagome found Kavan seated, later, in the kitchen. She'd given him a few moments to calm down; she had also convinced Hanako to go to bed. Hanako hadn't slept in at least twenty-four hours and was probably running on fumes. They all were. She'd been asleep for only a few minutes when the young slayer's furious cries of, "Pervert!" had woken her.
Her tone of voice had been so familiar that Kagome had half expected to find her beating up a young monk. Instead, Hanako had slapped Kavan ... and Kavan had been staring at her with stunned blue eyes. There was absolutely no physical resemblance, but the expression on his face had been achingly familiar.
The impression was there, now that she knew to look for it. Miroku had been brave and honorable to a fault, but, in retrospect, terribly lonely. His habit of hitting on anything female had been born not of perversion but of a desperate need for human connections. He had been effectively dying of Naraku's curse, he had been alone in the world until he'd joined up with them, and he had so terribly wanted love and a normal future. And so he'd sought out affection from women, in a rather dysfunctional way. He'd been willing to accept a slap or a curse if he couldn't get more positive attention.
"I'm sorry," he said, without looking up at her. "I think I upset her."
"She'll get over it," Kagome said, smiling. Miroku never would have said he was sorry, but then he'd also been born five centuries ago in a decidedly chauvenistic culture. She'd gotten the impression somehow that the daoine sidhe were not nearly as misogynistic as fifteenth century Japan had been.
"I though ... I really thought she was hitting on me." He ran a hand over his face. "She was just trying to be friendly. Sympethetic. I really screwed up."
"So apologize ..."
Kavan started to rise.
"... later." Kagome put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into the seat. Hopefully, Hanako was in bed upstairs. "I'm going to get some sleep. I suggest you do the same. Talk to Hanako later. I'm sure she'll forgive you for your presumptions."
She tilted her head sideways, then suggested, "You'll get farther with her if you keep your hands to yourself until she makes the first move."
Miserably, he responded, "I thought she was making the first move!"
Sometime around midmorning, Kay woke to the sound of Kenshin returning from what she assumed was a tryst with Lord Torin. She lifted her head from the pillow in his bed and then sat up sleepily. "Do you want the bed?" she asked, hesitantly.
Kenshin shook his head. He seemed nonchalant, perhaps too much so. He explained, "I've got to go hire some trolls this morning, after I read my e-mail."
She tucked her legs to her chest and watched as he padded to his laptop and turned it on. He sat down and read for a moment, then said, "I've got a task for you, first off. You know those fake bodies we made?"
"I need the head off the one that looks like Prince Kavan. Apparently his daddy's planning on siding with Torin -- he hasn't approached us yet, but I guess he's going to -- and he wants Kavan dead for defying him. We're going to send it to the head to him to take the heat off Kavan."
"You'll find the bodies in the kitchen, probably. I doubt they've served the heads yet; the heads and the hands are typically are saved for the officers' Friday night banquet. It's Thursday. -- By the way, the staff and soldiers will leave you alone. Word's spread by now that I have a new girl, and they won't mess with you because you're mine."
She stared at him.
He glanced over at her. Concern touched his pale eyes. "Are you okay with that? The head, I mean?"
"Yeah ... it's a fake head. I mean, it's real flesh, it was just a troll, not actually Prince Kavan. Kinda eww, but I can do it."
"Thanks." He yawned.
"Did you get any sleep last night?" she asked, with concern. She'd only gotten a few hours herself.
He made a face. "No."
"Do you want me to get you anything?"
"Coffee, and --" he hesitated, gave a tired sigh, then added, "-- a bottle of blood. I need to eat, even if I'd really rather not."
"I understand. Do you need it warmed up?"
"They know how I like it."
He turned abruptly back to his laptop. "You'd best hurry. I need to leave in half an hour for the hiring hall."
Kenshin was correct in that nobody bothered her on the way to the kitchens. She found them easily enough, needing only to ask directions once. The odor of cooking meat and spices was very strong and easy to follow.
"Excuse me?" she stuck her head through the door, and hailed the first girl who looked her way.
The girl was young -- perhaps fifteen -- and dressed in a shabby sweater and stained pants. She looked at Kay briefly, then seemed to recognize her -- or, more likely, her description from the keep's gossip network -- and said, "What do you want?" in a distinctly unfriendly tone of voice.
"Hitokiri wants a bottle of blood, and some coffee. Umm. And can I get something to eat?"
"What do you want?" The girl seemed weary, and very reserved.
"Ummm ..." she tried to think of something easy. The kitchen was full of people working at a frantic pace, most of them ignoring her. "What do you suggest?"
"You're Hitokiri's woman, you get what you want." The girl then fell silent, apparently waiting for her to make a request.
"Can you do, I guess, oatmeal and coffee for me, too -- do you have any apples?"
Oatmeal and an apple seemed safe enough, and unlikely to be contaminated by anything that the trolls found good eating. She got the distinct impression they were entirely carnivorous, and not at all picky about what they ate. She could peel the fruit to make sure she didn't catch any unpleasant bugs -- she had a sneaking suspicion that traveler's trots could be a problem here. "And a paring knife."
"Oatmeal and an apple. I'll have someone bring it up, and Hitokiri's blood and the coffee." The girl turned her back on Kay at that point.
"Umm. Hitokiri also wanted the head from the blond elf. It's not been ... consumed ... has it? And he wants me to bring everything back personally."
The girl said, "I'll get it for you," and walked off towards the back of the room. She realized the carcasses were stacked along a back wall, except for one that was trussed up on a spit in a very large fireplace.
Kay hesitantly stepped into the room, and followed the girl. She seemed completely unsurprised by the request. Kay wondered just how often Kenshin sent bits and pieces of dead bodies in the mail to his enemies for the girl to be so very bland about it. As Kay watched, she got a very large knife out, whacked the head off with several full-force blows -- Kay couldn't help but cringe as her stomach flipped over -- and then picked the head up by the hair and dropped it into a burlap bag. She handed the bag to Kay, then said, "I'll get your food."
"Umm. Thanks." Suddenly, she wasn't hungry at all.
Hanako woke to the sound of giggling girls. Blearily, she lifted her head up from the mattress. The other young Slayers had slept a good bit more than she had -- she'd gotten maybe three or four hours of sleep.
They were staring out the window, whispering and laughing, as they watched something. Hanako muttered, "What?"
"He's sooooo cute," one of the other girls said.
Inuyasha, probably. He was cute, if you liked your men with that sort of an edge. Hanako, realizing further sleep was going to be impossible with the others up, joined them at the window.
It wasn't Inuyasha.
Stripped to the waist.
Sharply defined muscles and a few good scars.
Blond hair hanging loose.
In the driveway.
"Uh-huh," she said, then pushed the window open and shouted out it, to the vocal disappointment of the other girls, "Hey Kavan-san! You see you got girls looking?"
He paused in mid-kata, one leg comically upraised. He looked over his shoulder, blushed furiously and visibly even at this distance, then gave her a brief salute of acknowledgment, and continued with his exercises.
The other girls loved it. They squealed and giggled in response and shouted innuendo down at him that she wasn't sure she completely understood.
Hanako touched her lips, remembering the weight of his. And the look in his eyes, the desperate and terrible loneliness. She remembered the tears that had quietly trickled down his cheeks. She found herself wondering what it would take to drive those shadows away. And what it would be like if she willingly kissed him back someday.
She shook her head, trying to dispell those thoughts. She told herself that he had made it pretty clear that he just didn't want to die a virgin. She had just been convenient. Very likely, he'd end up sleeping with one of the other young Slayers in the next few days. And she didn't care about that, did she?
She had bigger things to worry about than one adorable elf -- like saving the world.