Miaka was acting weird, no doubt about it. Or weirder than usual, the little voice inside his head cackled uncharitably. Whatever. He pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated on brushing the dust off the horse before the last of the light faded.
The voice had been right, though. Miaka had been acting oddly for about two weeks now. She had taken to sitting as far away from him as possible during the nights they were forced to camp outdoors, hunched over something in her hands and half-turned from the firelight. On the blissfully rare evenings they'd been able to stop at an inn, she had abandoned him altogether, bolting herself in her room and calling out cheerfully,“I'm ok, Tasuki, don't worry about me!” when he had pounded on her door. After the first week, he had tried to discover the cause of her behavior, leaving the fireside as silently as possible, cutting around the camp and swooping in unexpectedly, as only a bandit can.
She had stabbed him.
Miaka had jumped to her feet, horrified, and he'd let out a strangled cry as the blade nearly sliced through the muscle of his upper arm. He had stared at her in shock, unable to believe that the chipper miko had actually knifed him, before swearing loudly and removing the metal from his body. Luck was on his side; the knife was small, and the wound was clean. He'd gotten worse practice-fighting with Kouji and the other bandits. Of course, she didn't need to know that.
She had hovered over him, a terrified expression on her face, before falling to her knees besides him and clumsily wrapping a handkerchief around the bleeding wound. “I didn't mean to, Tasuki, I'm so sorry, please believe me, I didn't know you were there...”
And he, like a damned fool, had forgiven her. Hell, he always would, even though she was nothing but trouble. Because somewhere along the line, between her reappearance in this world and the night she had driven her meat-knife into his bicep, he had fallen head over heels for the kind-hearted woman she had become. Not, of course, that he was ever going to tell her. She was still grieving over Tamahome's- no, Taka's- death, and besides, women were nothing but trouble, especially when they were armed with vicious pointy eating utensils.
After that night, he had left her to her own devices, preferring not to risk further injury. Let her have her little secrets, he thought, not unkindly, and it'll keep her out of mine!
Still, it didn't stop him from wondering exactly what was going on.
He sighed, putting down the horse brush and rolling his stiff shoulders. Only a few more days till we meet up with Chichiri and civilization and we can stay in a proper inn again, he thought, already planning to cheat some money so he could get a few bottles of sake. He grinned to himself and whistled a tune as he double-checked the knots keeping horse and tree attached to the sturdy rope.
“Tasuki?” Miaka's voice, soft, hesitant, cut off his impromptu song, and he looked back over his shoulder at her.
“What? Wantin' a bath? Soap's in the saddle-bags, but hurry up, I smell more like a horse than this beast does and I'll be taking my turn at those springs as soon as you're done.” He slapped a hand against the horse's flank and narrowly dodged the powerful head that swung around to strike him. Miaka giggled.
“No. Well, yes, I want a bath, but first, I have something I want to tell you.”
She looked so serious that Tasuki felt a grip of apprehension around his heart. He schooled his features and kept his voice deceptively light. “What's that?”
She stared at her feet, clad in soft deerskin boots that he had made for her when she arrived back in the Universe of the Four Gods. She seemed unaccountably shy, which worried Tasuki more than he was willing to let on.
Finally she spoke. “In my world, today is a holiday called Kinro Kansha no Hi. It's, um, Labor Thanksgiving Day, where we thank the people that work throughout the year, and express gratitude for the fruits of those labors. When we was in nursery school, Yui and I used to make little crafts to give to the police officers, because they oversaw our safety everyday. And I was just thinking that you do the same thing for me too, so I wanted to show you how much it means to me. And...thank you.” She held out her hand to him.
Lying on her palm was a crafted necklace of corded leather, strung with wooden beads. He reached for it, held it up in the last vestiges of fading light. Each bead had been carefully carved, sanded, and polished with oil until they shone. The grain of each bead created a complicated, beautiful pattern.
She had made him a necklace. She was thanking him. She'd thought of him and planned a surprise.
Somehow,the stabbing part didn't matter so much anymore.
Before he could gather his composure, he reached for her, and she was in his arms, held tightly against his chest, his cheek resting on the top of her head. He could feel the muffled thumping of her heartbeat.
“I was working on the last beads when you startled me. My knife slipped. I'm so sorry you were hurt, if I'd known you were there I-”
Tasuki did the only thing he could think of to quiet her. He tilted his head down and captured her mouth with his own. She smiled against his lips and kissed him back.