Author's Note: Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote anything worth posting. This is the first in a series of short vignettes. Chapter two is already written and should be posted in the next couple of days. Chapter three is in the process of being written. Feedback is always welcomed; I'm a little rusty as I don't think I've written anything in about a year.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.

Scenes of Life
by Maia Serrelinda

Chapter One: Embers

Higurashi Kagome was a light sleeper.

Tucked securely into her pink sleeping bag, she lay almost motionless, the sleeping kitsune either atop the pink synthetic fabric (not her first choice, but durable and practical) or inside it, tucked against the curve of her waist. Only the soft rise of her chest signaled that she slept; he found himself pausing in his silent vigil to listen for the soft sighs of her sleep.

Outdoors, she slept on her back. She always said it was more comfortable that way, but he saw (as he always did) the way she glanced constantly around her whenever they stopped for the night. She was careful not to face away from any one direction for too long. He approved of this even as he wished she felt secure enough under his protection to relax.

He watched from the lonely perch of a tree as the embers of the banked campfire traced her delicate features in a soft glow. Her eyelashes dusted her cheeks, sending fragile shadows dancing across the skin she tried so hard to keep from the sun and wind. Despite her efforts, she had acquired a soft golden sheen to her skin. She often bemoaned it, especially with the way her white uniform top set off the glow. Privately, he thought it became her. Her face radiated health. Even more privately, he thought that he was pleased with her obvious health and attractive appearance, because it meant that somehow, he was Doing It Right - he was a good provider for her and for the small group they traveled with.

His eyes lingered on the soft hollow of her neck, watching for the telltale beats of her heart beneath the skin. He loved to watch her like this - when they were outside, as they were tonight, he had more opportunity to watch to his heart's content. He was distant enough that no one could clearly see what he was looking at, but close enough that if he was caught, it could be plausibly explained away as protection of the group.

Secure in his little deception, he missed the knowing looks the monk and the taijiya passed between themselves, missed the speculating glances of the firecat and the kitsune.

Distantly, he heard the rustling of the trees as the wind picked up very slightly. His ears swiveled to gauge the direction just as the slight chill moved past him. He turned to glance at the fire - it would need building up so Kagome... so no one would catch cold.

He jumped from the low hanging bough to land silently on bare feet. Gathering up some loose twigs and branches around the base of the tree, he made his way to the fire.

He crouched down (near her sleeping form, because of course it was the most convenient spot) and slowly fed the wood to the small fire. Turning to watch her again, he lost concentration and dropped a small twig into the fire. It snapped softly, and she roused slightly as he held his breath.

"Inuyasha?" She was instantly alert and wide-eyed. He regretted waking her even as he was proud of the way she reacted quickly.

"I was just building up the fire," he whispered, reluctant to wake the entire camp. "There's a cool wind blowing in."

She smiled, the increased light from the fire painting her in radiant orange and gold. "Thank you."

He felt the blood rush to his cheeks. "Keh, it's nothing. If you get sick it'll delay us."

"Oyasumi, Inuyasha. Try to get some sleep, ne?" The sparkle in her eyes told him she wasn't fooled. She closed her eyes and listened as he finished stoking the fire and returned to his arboreal perch. Soon, she was asleep, and having shaken off his embarrassment, he found his eyes straying to her once again.