Nighttime spread its dark blanket over the countryside. Below it, the forest lay still, too still. Animals, their superior perception often underestimated by man, hid silently in their burrows and lairs, primitive instincts warning of death. Overhead, a huge form flew, blocking out the light of the stars. A shrill scream echoed, and all living things within earshot trembled.
Meanwhile...Xander and his new-found friends were relaxing at a small inn. They had been doubly lucky to find an inn with hotspring baths available. The baths were natural pools set behind the inn, with a large bamboo screen separating the men's from the women's. Although the idea of public bathing was a bit strange to Xander, he had quickly gotten used to it. After all, he had spent that time in the sauna when he was on the swim team... this wasn't much different. After a couple of days traveling, it was nice to get a bath, and if it meant sharing with Inuyasha, Miroku, and Shippo, so be it. While he didn't really get along with the dog demon, he was really starting to like the others. Miroku, in particular, shared his quirky sense of humor, even though he was a lech. It was amazing that the man didn't have a hand print permanently etched into his cheek from the sheer number of times he got slapped. If the few days they had spent traveling together was any indication, the monk probably got slapped on an average of 20 times a week. Still, the man had one advantage on Xander: he wasn't a demon magnet. Speaking of which...
Things had certainly been...interesting with Kagura around. She acted moderately aloof, at least around the others, but around Xander...around Xander, she had acted almost kittenish. It seemed that by freeing her from Naraku, he had gained a devotee. The attention was nice, but he was wary of her intentions. After all, Dru had looked at him much like that, and her intentions had not exactly been honorable. Still, this demoness was sane, formerly murderous, but sane nonetheless. It was a step up. But what to do? If it was sheer gratitude on her part, it would eventually fade. If not, could he risk bringing her home with him? Buffy would just see yet another demon after him, and her 'stake first, ask questions never' policy would leave SOMEONE dead. Kagura was very powerful, though she went for distance attacks rather than up close and personal, so there would be no way of knowing who would come out on top in a fight. Hmm...if it wouldn't leave someone either dead or seriously hurt, that fight would be one he wouldn't mind seeing. He shook his head, drawing himself out of his reverie.
“So,” Miroku asked, “you are from A future, but maybe not OUR future, right?”
“Yeah. I know it's kind of a strange idea to wrap your head around. There are a lot of alternate realities out there. Some are very similar on the surface, but underneath, they have a lot of differences.”
“How come I can't sense your demon half anymore?” Inuyasha demanded. “When we were all fighting Kagura, I could sense the demon in you, but now it's gone.”
“I'm only part or half demon,” Xander replied. “Most of that lies dormant unless I want to access my power. That's when I change. It's common for my kind of half-demon.”
Miroku raised an eyebrow. He had never seen a half demon like this before. “That is VERY unusual; I have never heard of a demon or half-demon who could maintain a human appearance. That is why few half-demons survive; they and their parents are cast out of their villages or killed outright.”
Xander simmered in anger at the thought of innocent children being killed simply for existing. “That's horrible. I know people can be such bigots at times, but still, to hurt children...” he trailed off. “This is probably not my world. Back home, many demons and half-demons can hide what they are. And if they can't, well, there are a lot of places where people dress and act very strangely, places like L.A. and New York, where they can go out without hardly a second glance. The supernatural either remains hidden away from view, disguises itself, or hides in plain sight. People are so blind to anything that doesn't fit into their narrow world view that they take no notice of it.”
Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by a muffled scream. Everyone jumped up and ran towards the source, which just happened to be the ladies' bath. As they came around the screen, they found a very naked Kagome huddled away from a rock where a large turtle was sitting. The other women were relaxed, lounging back and laughing at the embarrassed girl's plight.
“What happened?” Inuyasha asked.
Kagome's face contorted with embarrassment and anger. The other women looked up in surprise. Suddenly there was a trio of slaps, and the three men lay on the ground, nursing bruises. “Hey!” Inuyasha shouted. “We heard screaming; we were just trying to help! What'd you do that for?”
“Hmph!” Kagome snorted, quickly sliding back into the bath. “You got a good look, perverts!”
“And why the heck didn't Shippo get the same treatment?” Inuyasha demanded.
“As if! He's just a kid; he doesn't deserve to be corrupted by you three.”
As the women laughed, Xander went back to his bath with a groan. Looked like the old Harris luck was still in full force.