Timeline: Hypothetical post-series universe, manga version.
Author's Note: This story is set in the continuity I sort of started with Spring Snow and Exitus. Since there is still no canon resolution for the series, at least for diehard manga purists such as myself, poetic licence has been heavily applied to close the gaps. Read Exitus if you'd like to know how I once envisioned Inuyasha would conclude. And now, gentle reader, I hope you enjoy the story.
In the Background: Punainen nro. 6, G and Puuvertaus by CMX. I seem unable to write IY bedroom scenes without this band. Go figure. Also, Vanity by Kajiura Yuki. Put that on if you have it, it is inspiration in aural form.


I'll be there by your side
Share your fears in the silent redemption
Touch my lips, hold me tight
Live in vanity for a while

- Kajiura Yuki, Vanity


There had been a time in Kagome's life when she had loved snow. That morning, the mounds of it covering the entire shrine hill had made her groan in earnest. Snowfall this abundant was a rare occurrence in Kaede's village, but it appeared that the weather, mild thus far, had decided to take a turn into a much more wintry direction.

Kagome's troop of snow-fighters, some of them intimidated into the work only with her very scariest Look, consisted of Inuyasha, Shippou, Kohaku and herself. Miroku was away to exorcise a stolid mononoke in a neighbouring village; Sango's back had been troubling her lately and she was resting. Had it been up to the huntress she probably would have been out helping, but Kaede, not much slowed by her worsening rheumatism, had brusquely told her it was for the best of her unborn child that she not exert herself. Sango had listened.

Kagome was thankful for that. The snow was clean, wet and damnably heavy, and there were two hundred stairs and a sizable shrine yard on top of that to clear. The undertaking had sped up when Inuyasha had finally joined in with a considerable economy of motion, throwing great chunks of snow left and right as he progressed. Kagome and Shippou trailed after him with their brooms.

The work was backbreaking, but somehow very rewarding. Kagome straightened herself and surveyed the fruits of their labours with a satisfied sigh. The wooden stairs were open all the way to the top now, and Kohaku was clearing a path through the courtyard to the shrine itself. The young hunter, still skittish in company save for Sango's, had seized the shovel and gone to work with the zest of a fit adolescent who was finding his physical limits constantly expanding. He was shooting up into a strapping, bright youth, if still wide-eyed at the life he must have thought he would never have a second chance at.

Then again, Kagome herself was already able to find joy and meaning to her days in this world, not just grieve for the one she had lost.

"Kagome-chan!" Sango was small and dark against the whiteness of the slope, her hands cupped round her mouth as she called up the hill to her friend. "I'm heating the bath water, so don't take too much longer! You've been working since dawn!"

"We're almost done here!" Kagome yelled back. "Thank you!" Sango's shadow stretched out long behind her as she bustled back towards Kaede's hut. The brief midwinter day was already descending into a cloudy nightfall; the grey skies portended another snowstorm before the next morning.

Well, at least there would be less snow to shovel tomorrow. With a resolute flex of her hands, Kagome grabbed her broom again.


The bath was like a blessing. Wince though she did at the steaming water, Kagome sank into the tub and was rewarded with a gust of prickling warmth soaking into her sore joints and muscles. The quiet life at the village was taking its toll. The daily chores kept her in shape, but her physical prowess these days fell far short of what it had been during the months spent on the road, battling youkai and countering one scheme after another from Naraku.

Now he, too, was gone. The price of the victory had been dearer than she had thought she could pay. Even now, over a year later, the thought of the sacrifice she - and her family - had unwittingly made with the destruction of the Shikon no Tama was still enough to undo her.

Cognisant that the numbing sorrow was only stalking for an opening, Kagome briskly climbed out of the tub. Standing naked on the icy floor of the bathhouse, she dipped her fingers into a bowl of greasy soap and rubbed the sweat and dirt from her skin. A bath, much less a hot one, was not an everyday luxury in the dead of winter, when firewood had to be rationed with care. She released her hair from the bun and was almost surprised to see it swish down to the middle of her back. She had not cut it once since...

No, no, no; she was shivering already, she would not make herself more miserable. She lathered her hair, then braced herself and upended a pail of cold water over herself with a bit of a shriek. Gathering a towel around herself, she slipped to the tiny porch from the bathing area.

Inuyasha, lazily angled against the wall of the porch, scowled at her as if to say he did not know why she wasted her time. The lone candle illuminating the room cast his features into a crisp relief of light and shadow, leaving his feral eyes shining from deep in their sockets.

Kagome steeled herself. She knew she was pinkish, dripping water and clad only in a towel and straw sandals, but she would be damned if she let any of those things undermine her authority in this particular matter.

"You done?" His voice was hushed, the words courting a drawl.

"Yes, I'm done. The bath's all yours."

"Keh." He crossed his arms over his chest, the sleeves of his kariginu concealing his hands.

"With all due respect, you smell. Worse now that I'm clean."

"I do not." There was a hint of child-like obnoxiousness to Inuyasha's stance now.

"Oh, that's right," Kagome scoffed, her arms akimbo. "You stink. I know it's winter, but I for one won't be sleeping in the same futon with you unless you bathe. Now."

Inuyasha rolled his eyes, but there was doubt on his face. Kagome knew he valued their nighttime proximity, no matter how much he tried to act nonchalant about it. Heck, she had to have something with which to throw him for a loop, now that the devastatingly straightforward trick of making him sit was gone.

It just was not right to keep a person you loved bridled like that. After Naraku's defeat, when there was not even the ostensible hazard of having to stop Inuyasha from getting himself killed in a bout of idiocy, she had lifted the string of prayer beads from around his neck.

And then kissed him like there was no tomorrow, until they were both breathless with the emotion neither of them quite yet dared to believe was mutual.

They had had long months to learn about each other, and the simple goodness of it had helped her through the worst days of despair towards gradual acceptance of what she could not change. All through it, he had been there, for her, as if it was all he lived for. As if it was all he could do.

Perhaps it had been.

To him, some things seemed so self-evident. Why could this not be?

Ah, right. Kagome directed herself back to the task of getting Inuyasha into the tub before the water cooled. "I mean it. You choose." She prodded him in the arm with a finger.

"Whatever," he barked, blustering to cover up the sting of her small victory. He snagged the fresh towel she offered him. Stripping off his coat and shirt to the bench where Kagome's clothes lay, he slunk into the bathing area and banged the sliding door shut with reverberating force.

Kagome began pulling on her clothes, closed her eyes and relived her glimpse of the chiselled lines of his back, the blemishes of old wounds here and there, the wiry muscles rippling as he moved like a stalking wolf, and imagined how they would feel under her fingers.


"It is Yuki-onna's night," Kaede said by way of greeting as Kagome and Inuyasha clambered into the hut from the snow-filled darkness. "Come sit, you two."

"Yuki-onna's?" Kagome echoed, trying to ignore the way her gut wrenched. Grandpa had a dozen versions of this old legend, of the inhumanly lovely, pale woman who preyed on lone travellers on deep winter nights. She would never again hear him droning on about the myriad talismans that would keep the snow witch from snatching her en route to school.

She would never forget, but she had already almost drowned in sorrow once. Only Inuyasha's persistence had brought her back from her grief - and she was sure her family would not want her to pine for them forever. Mama would understand. This was her life now. She was loved and welcome here.

"I thought she just wandered the wilds and such, Kaede-obabaa," Shippou remarked, balancing a heap of earthenware bowls as tall as himself. He set them down with a clatter beside Sango, who was tending to the slowly simmering seasoned rice.

"Mmmm." Kagome sniffed at the air as she removed her mino. "Smells wonderful."

"Well, they say that on dark nights, the Snow Woman dances with the ghosts of those who died of the cold," the old priestess said, "and then she may venture close to roads and towns as well. It is claimed that she searches for her lost children - or her lover."

"That's so sad, somehow," Kagome said. "I always felt so sorry for her."

"Yuki-onna is a force of nature, Kagome, as ferocious and unforgiving as the winter cold that birthed her." Kaede removed a kettle of boiling water from the fire, poured its contents into a teapot and began whisking in coarse tea powder. "She is not for mortals to love, much less to wed."

Kagome felt very much that she had no desire to test the truth of this particular myth. She had had to shed the concept of the world as a place of scientific and safe order long ago, but still the matter-of-fact timbre of Kaede's voice unnerved her. In Kaede's world - her world, now - there was no doubt that if you were lost in the untamed lands in wintertime, there was a very real peril of a wraithlike figure gliding towards you from the dark, her bluer than blue eyes the last thing you ever would see.

In this world, the borders between the natural and the supernatural were much less substantial, but no less binding. Youkai and humans did not mingle; the former, tiny in numbers but formidable in magic and might, still terrorised and tempted mankind rather at will. When the two did come together peacefully, the occurrence was always remarkable, if only for its rarity.

Kagome could not help but send a sideways look towards Inuyasha. Here she was, witnessing such an occurrence every single day - living, travelling, eating, laughing, arguing with and loving him.

Kagome shifted closer to the hanyou, who was sitting, cross-legged, at the edge of the fire pit. Even if he did not get cold, he still seemed to prefer the fireglow. She put her head on his shoulder, comfortable in her right to do so. Bowls and chopsticks in tow, Shippou pounced towards them, and Sango began passing out the rice and sweet potatoes. Incidental chatter kept the room from a complete silence, but the calm was welcome and familiar. Even though Miroku and Sango had had their own house for almost a year now, they all still gathered for supper either in their or Kaede's hut on most evenings.

"Kagome-chan? Inuyasha?" Sango broke the quiet when Kaede brought out the tea she had been brewing. "Would you like to borrow our hut for tonight?"

Kagome concealed her face behind her bowl best as she could, certain that her cheeks were flaming. "Well -" She would not blurt out how much she liked that idea.

"I'm just being selfish, really," Sango continued, rocking back on her heels as she squatted by the fire to scoop more rice into Shippou's bowl. "The hut's cold right now, and Kaede-sama is brewing a drink for my backaches, and I don't feel like going in and starting the fire all over again. I thought I'd just sleep here."

"Ah," Kagome said. "Um, Inuyasha?"

"Huh?" He had finished his supper already and was now lounging on top of a pile of reed mats in a corner of the room. At the sound of her voice, he glanced her way.

"Do you want to go and warm Sango-chan's hut for the night? She's staying here, and Miroku-sama's probably waiting out the storm before he comes home."

"Whatever," he replied, his head hanging upside down from the edge of the pile. "If you want to."

Of course, he could have slept in a tree had he cared to. It was still unsettling to see him walking barefoot in the snow when everyone else was bundled up in straw cloaks and leather tabi, but Inuyasha's youkai blood kept him functioning normally in the subfreezing temperature.

Kagome turned to Sango again. "I guess we would, then. What about Kohaku-kun? Where is he, by the way?"

The mention of her brother brought a smile to Sango's lips. "He's at Toki-san's house. The younger villagers gathered to tell stories, and he wanted to go, too. I'm just happy he's getting comfortable here."

"Yeah," Kagome agreed. Kohaku was still standoffish and very shy in company, his natural qualities amplified by his long ordeal under Naraku's control. It was one of those things they did not, by unspoken agreement, often discuss, like the inexplicable closing of the Bone-Gobbling Well. "So he's spending the night at the village?"

"So he said. Both of Toki-san's elder daughters married recently, so she has plenty of space in the house." Sango winked conspiratorially. "And her youngest, Makie, I think Kohaku's a little sweet on her.

"But then he is thirteen already," the taijiya continued, more to herself. "Two winters from now he could be getting married."

Sipping at her tea, Kagome mused to herself that she would never get used to that. She was not seventeen and some of the village women already considered her an old maid.

Then again, Inuyasha was not exactly a typical case either. She knew their relationship was the subject of some rumours around the village, but an acerbic scowl from Kaede was always enough to quench them. They were content with each other, for the most part, and to Kagome, that more than sufficed - for the most part.

"I'll do the dishes tomorrow," Sango skipped into another topic as she began, with Shippou's help, clearing away the supper. "Right now I'd just like to lie down."

"Then do," Kagome said, rising to fetch her bedroll. "You can take my futon, it's better aired than the spare ones."

"Kagome-chan, you're fretting again." Sango scowled at her, without much venom. "I'm just pregnant."

"I'm allowed to fret," she retorted with a laugh. "'Just pregnant', indeed!" In truth, Sango was in radiant health, with hardly a trace of the constant nausea and muscle pains that had accompanied her first time with child. The disastrous end of it was why Miroku, Kaede and Kagome had all flocked around the huntress, watching over her every movement, ever since it had turned out she was expecting again. However, hope, and Kaede's confidence, was high that this time the child would be born at its right time. Kagome, for her part, enjoyed fussing over Sango, who normally provided very few opportunities for anyone to take care of her.

"Are you sure Miroku-sama will be okay?" Kagome asked as she donned her mino again. It was getting late, and if they - she - did not want to shake the night through, they would have to get the fire going in Sango's hut as soon as possible.

"He will," Sango said. "He wouldn't leave if the sky looked like it did this afternoon. Even if he has left, the road's well travelled. It won't be covered by this kind of snowfall."

"If you start to worry at all, Sango-chan, come get us." She lowered her voice, feeling herself redden. "But knock first, please."

Sango flashed a smile that said more cogently than any words that she knew and understood. "I will. And you can bet that if Miroku returns tonight, he'll be here first, knowing I won't be sleeping there on my own. You'll be safe." Not knowing whether to giggle or blush, Kagome threw a timorous glance at Inuyasha, but Kaede was loading him with extra futon, quite occupying his attention.

"I don't think anything'll happen," Sango went on. "Miroku's been on the road half his life. He can handle himself in the face of anything but pretty teahouse girls."

Kagome chuckled and thought that Sango had come a long way. Miroku's womanising had always been the greatest hurdle in their relationship, but now Sango was secure enough to crack jokes of her husband's worst vice. It must be hard to doubt a man whose child you carried - and who obviously treasured you all the more for it.

What about her, then? What about Inuyasha? How secure were they? They would be alone tonight like they had not been in weeks, ever since the first snowfall had made camping in the woods too troublesome for her. The thought caused a splash both suffocating and tantalising in her belly.

"Good night, Kaede-baachan." Kagome waved from the doorway. Inuyasha had gone ahead with the bundle of quilts: she wanted to dash after him before the driving snow concealed his tracks.

"Good night, dear one." Kaede's smile was soft, belying her usual briskness. Shippou waved back at her from the pile of cushions and blankets he had built for his bed in a corner; Kirara chirped from her perch upon a ceiling beam above the fire, basking in the uprising current of balmy air. Shielding the flame of her candle-lamp with one hand, Kagome hurried to follow Inuyasha.


The hut was quite a bit less spacious than Kaede's, but Kagome adored it. It radiated cosiness of a slightly eccentric nature: Sango's boomerang, Hiraikotsu, hung on the wall, its edge just as razor-sharp as during their adventuring days, its red rope handles snugly braided and neat. Kohaku's kusarigama was on a hook next to it. About three fourths of the floor was a raised wooden platform, as was usual; it served as a sleeping and living area, while the space underneath the platform was reserved for storage. A finely brushed painting of a racing horse was a touch of Miroku in the room, whereas the rusty red of the sitting cushions brought to mind Sango's deep colours.

Inuyasha had crouched by the fire pit, stacking dry pieces of birchwood over the morning's ashes. Sango kept a basket of wood shavings, birch bark and twigs to use as kindling by the hearth; he made a mound of these before craning his head at Kagome.

"You have flint and steel? I can't find Sango's."

Kagome patted at her coat. No seamstress in sixteenth century Japan would dare to add pockets to a garment, but she had, much preferring that to using a carrying cloth, which she still found complicated. Fishing out the requested item, she tossed the pouch to Inuyasha. "Here."

He caught it without looking and resumed his efforts to light the fire, poking the iron pot-hooks out of his way. Their ends were shaped like dancing foxes. The simple home was full of little, lovingly crafted details, and Sango and Miroku had made it unmistakably theirs. Kagome headed to the area behind the fire pit, in the corner of which was an orderly pile of mattresses. She dragged two to the floor and then spread the quilts from Kaede on top of them; soon she had a nest of wool and hemp made that would keep the cold at bay. There certainly was room for two people in it.

Customarily they slept back to back on her futon in Kaede's hut. Sometimes, if she managed to stir without moving too much, she might catch Inuyasha still dozing with an arm round her waist - most often he would be up long before her, sitting against the wall quite a chaste distance away. Only when they were alone by a campfire or, in the summer, out in the woods would he actually go to sleep hugging her; he might kiss her cheek or neck, very faintly, and pull away.

But, more or less, that was it.

The fire grew, but Kagome kept her mino and gloves on; their breath still puffed in the air in tufts of vapour. Inuyasha slouched on the futon with boneless grace reminiscent of a drowsy animal, his sheathed sword laid beside the bedding. Only his ears were perked for any strange sound; they were soon immersed in a shared silence.

The wind wailed outside, spreading the snow ever deeper outside the hut. Every now and then a gust entered the rafters, sending a cloud of sparks fluttering from the fire, rocking the sprays of herbs and flowers Sango had hung from the ceiling beams. Somehow the darkness seemed much vaster here. She thought of the countless kilometres of roads that were the only thing connecting the village to the nearest settlements, and shuffled closer to Inuyasha.

Inuyasha sat up as Kagome scooted next to him; there was a hint of nervousness to her bearing. He clasped an arm around her upper back, and she inclined against him with a sigh. "Cold?" he asked, knowing that it was a concept they understood very differently.

"A bit," she admitted. "This place isn't warming up very fast." Usually the fire was never allowed to go out during the winter moons; as the houses were made of wood and earth, heat did not linger well. The hut had lain vacant for some hours, and it would take time for the chill to withdraw.

Not that he minded, as long as Kagome was not uncomfortable. The scent of her hair in his nose was nice, not to mention the way her side pressed into his. There was much about her that was bewildering to him, mesmerising and frightening at the same time, but this, at least, was well-known ground.

For a long period, contrary to all her suspicions, he had been able to stand behind his claim that he had no desire to peek at her when she was bathing. Since Naraku's death, as their life had begun to gain defined, regular routines, that situation had also begun to change. Kikyou had died in his arms, and for what she had done to defeat Naraku, she would cross the river of the dead with a cleansed soul; the woman who had both shadowed his life and been the pinnacle of it for so long, was at peace at last. Even the village where he had first met her wore a new face: now, it was home.

Sango, Miroku, Shippou and Kaede-babaa were all there to live that discovery beside him, but no one was nearer, or mattered more, than this girl next to him. Kagome was home. And so many things more.

"You want to turn in, Inuyasha?" She disrupted his ruminations. "It might be warmer that way."

Suppressing the tingling surge her words sent throughout him, Inuyasha nodded. "Suit yourself." He felt somewhat inane, watching Kagome unbundle herself from the layers of her clothing: the woven straw cloak over two hempen tops and a shift of softer cotton; the scarf protecting her head and neck. She removed her socks - and yelped as her bare feet met the floor.

"It's freezing!" She hopped onto the mattress and undid the waistband of her hakama; Inuyasha's gaze snapped to the far end of the room. She might not be able to sit him any more, but it hardly decreased her scariness factor when she found reason to be mad at him.

And, as said, he really could not protest his innocence when it came to looking at her these days.

His upper body angled forward above his crossed legs, Inuyasha scrutinised the far wall. Kagome examined him, in turn, as she loosened the cotton bandages from around her chest. They still felt constricting, and she disliked having to sleep feeling like she could not breathe unhampered. She unfolded her sleeping robe and tucked her hands through the sleeves, her eyes still on the hanyou. His nobility in this one matter was both flattering and aggravating to her. It was nice that he was courteous, but it really was like having a handful of water to splash her face with when she was dying for a long swim.

The robe flowed from her shoulders to the floor. A decision crystallised.

Alert for whatever his response would be, Kagome slipped her arms around Inuyasha's neck from behind. He made no complaint, but his face still registered surprise as she kissed him, yanking his head to the side to meet hers. His lips opened to hers, though, and his hand cradled the back of her head until they parted, with mutual reluctance. Kagome seized the collar of his kariginu and - leaving him ample time to react - began to slide his coat and shirt off his shoulders, brushing the mane of his hair out of the way. His skin took on a golden tint in the firelight, and she had to resist the impulse to paint the shapes of his shoulder blades with a finger. His lean back was a familiar enough sight to her, but here, in the sphere bordered by the shadows of the room, her actions acquired an entirely new meaning.

Inuyasha peeked up at her; she sensed him tautening. He did not speak, but his eyes were wide. She settled against his back, heated shudders going through her and gnarling in the pit of her stomach.

Inuyasha uttered a stifled sound as Kagome leaned into him, his skin swarming with sparks wherever they came into contact. He had little idea what he should do, but he knew he never wanted her to get any further away from him than she was now. His muscles leapt under her hands as they ranged down his arms, up his sides, over his chest. As her lips grazed his neck just below the jaw, he had to smile a tad, for he had learned that nuzzling that spot on her neck was always a sure bet. This was immensely more distracting, and powerful; the way she moved against him made his toes curl with want and warmth.

Her fingers dragged five lines of heat down his abdomen. He willed himself to stay still and let her explore, even though she was drifting closer to the ache in his loins, her touch dancing over his still clothed legs. Inuyasha lifted a hand to stroke her hair. Its texture was coarser than it had been when she had still used the strange soaps of the future to wash it, and it wove round his fingers as if of its own volition.

With a tug, Kagome unfastened the sash of his pants. He clutched at her scalp in something akin to alarm; she stopped stock-still. Forcing himself to relax, Inuyasha continued to smooth her hair in an attempt to apologise. Apparently she caught his message, for she gave him a small squeeze around the waist.

Easy, he told himself. Whatever she was doing, so far it had all been good...

Then his hips ripped upwards as she, one cautious finger at a time, curled a hand around his shaft. The calloused inside of her palm was like warm sand on silk. His breath hitched as she ran her cupped hand up and down his length. Her thumb timidly stroked the very tip. Acutely he realised how aware she was of his fierce gasp.

Kagome thought hazily that if her heart rate increased any more her chest might burst. Her impulse had borne irresistible fruit: Inuyasha's head had tilted back against her shoulder; his frame pressed into hers. She braced her knees on either side of him, her left arm circling his middle. Her right hand she allowed to roam; to skim his lower stomach, to, with meticulous care, brush his testicles - this elicited a wordless noise out of him.

Always, as if entranced, she returned to his arousal, though. Gentle exploration made her wiser of him by the moment; she tightened her grip and stroked faster. She realised the wetness between her own legs; yet it was her touching him.

A harsh groan tore from Inuyasha's mouth; his back went taut and he fumbled for her, locking her in an awkward backwards hug as if she were his only pinnacle. Kagome ceased the motion of her hand. She did not want to hurt him: she herself was brimming with so much feeling that pleasure and pain blurred, and if her own state was any indication of his...

Inuyasha's hand found her withdrawing one and placed it back low on his abdomen. She could feel his muscles contracting and relaxing beneath the skin; his breath wavered in the same rhythm. Unspeaking, they eased back against each other, sharing the burden of their weight. He was slick with sweat and her fingers slippery with something else; a salty tang, mixed with Inuyasha's own pines-and-earth musk, met her nose.

Kagome swallowed. There was a heat in her that demanded release, and Inuyasha's trembling bespoke of much the same need. Every movement they now made was somehow magical; it was not only her who appeared loath to be even an inch apart from the other's skin. Inuyasha's gaze followed her as she drew away.

He could not look away, so he watched her raptly. His hair clung to the sheen of moisture on her skin. She incidentally brushed a lock away from her breast and his heart skipped a beat. Kneeling before him, she began tying her hair back with a ribbon. She was supple, not powerful like Sango, but rather sleek and travel-hardened. The peaks of her breasts stood out from her immaculate skin; only a few faded scars limned a life of hazards upon her body. She smelled of herbs and incense these days, the burnished wood of the shrine walls.

She had captured him, and he listened to the pounding of his heart and waited.

Her ponytail secured, Kagome sat so she was astride his thighs. His hands caressed her sides and waist unbidden, and beneath the daze of sensation stirred a desire to make every contour of her body his as she seemed to possess his own. Had his thoughts been any more coherent it would have nettled him that she seemed to know so much more about pleasing him than the other way around.

Her breath was hot and sweet on his skin as she dropped a trail of kisses along his throat and collarbone. Inuyasha drew a hand up her spine and her back moulded to his touch, a purring sigh escaping her. The motion lifted her upper body into his field of vision, her skin glowing in coppery tones in the banked light of the fire pit, the nubs of her breasts dark and inviting. Inuyasha let his hand rove over Kagome's arm and carefully cupped her left breast into his palm.

She let out the sweetest sound he had ever heard, a small, low noise between a gasp and chuckle. Her fingers tightened on the futon, gathering handfuls of fabric into crumpled balls. He dared to press his hand up against her chest. Kagome seemed to melt, inhaling sharply as his thumb found her nipple. Emboldened by her response, he took the peak between two fingers and kneaded it experimentally.

The way she practically undulated against him, skin gliding on sweat-smoothed skin, was definitely encouraging. He drew her up into a kiss that left them both panting as it ended.

They were both quivering; Inuyasha felt awash in the heat that knotted deep in his stomach. Kagome's hand travelled down his side again and he tensed expectantly. Still, only his back-thrown arms cushioned his tumble into the futon as a shiver of lightning passed through him. Her hand settled at the base of his shaft like it were the most natural place for it to be. The movement of her hand soon built into a steady, quickening tempo he had no wish nor will to break. Sweat and his own wetness formed a sweet friction beneath her working fingers; her weight upon his legs held his hips nearly immobile.

Was this really Kagome, this wanton, clever creature who had stolen him off into a space where all that mattered was the heat of her body and the pressure of her touch? She had made him open and vulnerable and made him not care.

This was Kagome, as real and as near as she had ever been to him.

She gripped him more firmly then and all thought was lost. Time became a matter of staccato heartbeats as her fingers swirled from the base of his length to the head and back again, in deft motions.

He shouted as she took the tip of his erection into her mouth. Her tongue probed at him, hardly a ghost of a touch, but the sensation rushed through him like a cresting wave. He felt like he might just come apart as she tasted and studied him, teasing the sensitive head. Gradually she began to suck on it, with care that was all the more maddening for its tenderness.

"Kagome -" His hips lifted off the futon as he felt the pressure of her knees slip down and away, and then the pliant, hot mouth on him was too much. Kagome jerked her head away as he came, gasping, his fingers clenching into the quilts. Everything flared white for a heartbeat, frozen between two instants of brightness.

It took him a while to open his eyes. The shadows of the ceiling again slithered into focus in his vision; the smells of the hut, woodsmoke and hay and earth, returned. And yet nothing was like it had been a moment before. "Oh, hell."

"Here." Kagome's voice startled him. He rose into a half-sitting position to find her sitting next to him, a cotton cloth in her lap. She handed it to him with an almost too quick motion and ducked back.

Perhaps the presence of the damp piece of fabric in his hand made him aware of the stickiness on his loins and stomach; he felt his face colour as he dried himself off. Kagome was watching him, he knew. Something told him the clenching of her jaw was not right, or the trembling of her shoulders which she tried to hide by rolling them backwards. She should have been beautiful to him then; now anxiety marred her face.

"Kagome." There was no feverish desire in his saying of her name this time; instead, he tried to muster all the reassurance he could into it. Inuyasha sat back with his legs crossed, facing the girl. "You all right?"

She picked a tendril of hair out of her eyes, an idle gesture. "Y-yeah. I am."

Dear gods, he was so - Kagome discovered she had no words to describe what she suddenly thought of Inuyasha. She had been shocked when he tensed beneath her, muscles spasming, face strained, rasping out her name as if unable to breathe. She did not know what she had expected, but the sheer raw presence of him had crashed into her, leaving her stunned speechless and tingling deliciously all at once. She had done that to him, taken him to some far edge she herself had only an intoxicating inkling of.

And things had changed, that she knew.

"Kagome - would you come here?" It was as close to an entreaty as she had ever heard Inuyasha utter. His chin dipped low as he peered up at her. The fire made his eyes glimmer like dark, polished amber, full of warm highlights.

She went to him across the arm's length of rumpled blankets and nestled into his lap. "I'm here," she whispered. "I'm here, Inuyasha."

He leaned his cheek into the side of her head. "Did-did I scare you?" His voice was heavy with concern.

"Uh-uh," Kagome muttered, shaking her head in denial. Her arms snaked around his waist. "Maybe. But I don't want to be scared of you. It - it was just - a little shocking.

"I'm okay," she concluded after a pause, needing to reaffirm that to him. "You?"

Inuyasha draped one of the quilts around them both, into a nest of coarse wool and life-heat against the drafty interior of the hut. The walls and roof were well caulked, and the raised wooden floor sheltered them from the cold of the ground, but the air was nippy on their damp skin.

At length, he nodded, his visage serious. He held her with such care, as if afraid that she might break. But Kagome understood, or thought she did: what had just happened between them made her want to shout with joy, yet made her queasy with uncertainty. She had almost been ready to cry when he had sat up, from sheer fright of having done something weird or wrong. She laughed, a jittery sound born more from relief than any real mirth.

"What's funny?" There was a note of suspicion in his voice.

She hastened to amend her chuckle before he misinterpreted it. "Well - it's you, Inuyasha. Why would I be scared of you?"

"I don't know," he said huskily. "Why'd I be scared of you?"

"Are you?" She turned her face into the crook of his neck. "All I can do these days is glare at you evilly," she chortled, unable to resist the urge to plant a kiss on the side of his throat.

He let out an appreciative noise that thrummed delightfully against her cheek. "You're doing a lot more at the moment, Kagome."

She had to be blushing. Why on earth was she blushing now, when they had been doing something enormously more intimate just minutes ago? "Um... should I stop?"

There. That was where it all focused, when all was said and done. What should she - he - they do now?

"Uh-unless you want to - no." Trust Inuyasha to be blunt, if nothing else. "I - it feels good." His voice fell into a near whisper.

Kagome had to bite back another threatening sob, he was just so disarmingly frank, and it was as if she had never cherished him so much as she did right then. She did not know why, but somehow an immense amount of emotion culminated in that admission.

"Kagome?" Inuyasha sounded surprised, and she realised he had probably heard her sniffle. Of course he would, with those ears.

"It's nothing." She shook her head. "I was just thinking." He nodded his understanding against her tousled hair.

Inuyasha made to speak again, then seemed to suddenly think better of it and inhaled as if to swallow what he'd meant to say. Being as close as she was, Kagome could sense him fidget. She did not feel quite stable herself, a large part of her still in turmoil from their intimacy, but she turned towards him nevertheless. "What is it, Inuyasha?"

He looked away past the crown of her head. "I just - thought."

"Thought what?"

"I really... don't know that much. About this. About you." There was a hint of exasperation to his words.

"Neither do I," Kagome said, honestly. "Look, maybe I've got a little more information, but... we're on the same line, Inuyasha." She halted. "I-I'd like to learn with you, though."

He gasped, and the smile that lit his face made her ache. "Together," she went on, through the thickness in her throat, "if that's what you want."

With a slightly shaky motion, she opened her arms. "I want you."

For a heartbeat, Inuyasha just stared at her as if she were a spirit suddenly made flesh before his very eyes. Then he hugged her with such force that she almost heard her ribs creak, and she could only hold onto him in return. His eyes were half-closed as he kissed her, gently and thoroughly. His hands grasped hers.

"Guide me," he said, very simply. "Together." Kagome nodded.

The blanket fell away as he raised her up, facing him, his lips nipping at her jaw and the tendons of her neck. His hands wandered over her back in unhurried whirls; she, smiling a smile shining with trust, collected the stray locks of his hair and twisted them into a loose tail with the ribbon she took from her own hair. For a moment he studied her undertaking, then nodded his agreement. Strange as it was to think such at that moment, what she was doing was sensible.

But she was still thinking too much, Inuyasha decided. He laid his palms over her hips, the balls of his thumbs crawling down the inner curves of her thighs.

Kagome almost ceased to breathe, her senses inflaming as his fingertips drew trails upon her skin. She had never wanted anything so badly as now for him to... to...

He began kissing, slowly, down her belly, then again up along her ribcage. As his tongue flicked to the hollow between her breasts, she put her arms about his shoulders and tried not to clutch at him, rigid with anticipation.

Kagome knew her face showed her surprise as Inuyasha looked up at her. "Kagome. Relax. I'm here." He looked more tender and soothing than he had any right to be. She slackened against him. Pushing her back upright with one hand, Inuyasha let that hand cover her right breast, first simply holding the taut softness of it. Her face twisted in pleasure and trepidation.

Determined to wash away her ambivalence, Inuyasha kissed the nipple he had closed between thumb and forefinger. His free hand found her other breast, and his fingertips skimmed the peak, one by one.

"Yes," Kagome managed. "Oh -" Gaining confidence from her assents, he continued to caress her breasts, tentatively sucking on a nipple, sliding the back of his hand over them. With an indrawn breath of concentration, he lowered a hand at the apex of her thighs; he was met with slick moisture, the centre of her arousal. Here he stopped, at a loss all of a sudden. The musky scent of her need was strong, and she was gripping him with all the strength in her body, but he hesitated, uncertain as to what she wanted.

Her hand alighted atop his, guiding it downwards. "There," she murmured. "Just - go slow."

Mindful of his claws, he moved his forefinger inside her, rubbing in tiny circles along the soft folds. She uttered a choked groan as he struck a sensitive spot; he let his finger trace over it again and felt her suddenly wrap around him, her toes digging into the futon. "Don't stop," she moaned, and he complied, heady with the urgency of her reaction.

Kagome gasped, her loins bucking against his hand. She buried her head into his shoulder, and her teeth set together against his skin. Steadying her with an arm across her back, he continued to stroke her as the release ripped through her with spine-tingling force.

Little by little, Kagome's breathing eased into a more normal rhythm. She pushed back from Inuyasha, reaching for the water pail to dash herself with a ladleful or two. He slunk away from her, and she found herself thinking of a wild animal again; his every movement was a nimble and purposeful, even when he was languishing, like now. He observed her each gesture as she went to the fire pit to add a few logs into the smouldering ashes. There was still enough heat left that given a while, the well-dried wood would catch flame. The sleeping area was a tangle of unruly blankets, their clothes strewn all about the disaligned futon.

Kagome plucked her shirt from the floor. "Look at this mess. It's Miroku-sama and Sango-chan's hut, too."

"Kagome. D'you really think we did anything this house's not seen yet?" Inuyasha's voice had regained its usual edge, but it mingled with a dash of laughter.

"Inuyasha!" She threw the shirt at him, for lack of a better projectile.

"What? I'm pretty damn sure the bouzu has a dirtier mind than us put together."

Now, there were a few possible replies to that. Kagome began putting their sleeping place to rights as she debated with herself which to pick; she stacked their clothes to one corner of the room and fluffed the scattered quilts.

The fire flared up again, casting the room with a warm orange ambience. Kagome was folding her hakama when she was grabbed from behind, causing her to tumble down into the blankets. Not heeding her muffled protest, Inuyasha pulled the covers over her, too, and slid one arm under her neck so her head bent into the hollow of his throat.

"You can straighten 'em in the morning," he said through a languid yawn.

"I suppose," she conceded. The flow of the firelight across the ceiling was lulling; so was Inuyasha there next to her, even if he was exciting, compelling, at the same time. "You sleepy yet?"

"Not really," his voice came in a mutter. "You?"

"It depends." Kagome ran a playful finger along his jaw. "What else could we do?"

Outside the wind blew spirals of snow off the ground, to dance amidst the trees like the ghosts of lovers twining and melding in the star-speckled night; but between the silence of the frosty moon and the gleaming embers of the fire pit was a sacred space that belonged all to them.


baachan: a familiar way of saying "grandmother"
(o)babaa: a colloquial, even rude term for "old woman"; "old bag" might be an apt translation. The o-prefix slightly softens the expression: I love the way Shippou could be said to call Kaede an "honoured old hag".
bouzu: a rude term for a Buddhist monk; I don't think there is an English equivalent
futon: a thick Japanese mattress
hakama: wide skirt-pants; traditional Japanese attire
kariginu: a samurai hunting jacket; the term I have chosen to use for Inuyasha's actually slightly unhistorical red top
kusarigama: a sickle on a weighted length of chain; Kohaku's weapon of choice
mino: a rain cloak woven of straws or reeds; Warring States winter wear
mononoke: literally "the spirit of a thing"; a malevolent, restless spirit
tabi: a toed sock
youkai: demon; more exactly means a creature of magical or occult nature, but "demon" is close enough for my purposes
Yuki-onna: the Snow Woman; a recurring character in kaiden, Japanese ghost stories: a beautiful woman who brings cold death to lost travellers by sucking the heat out of their bodies; in some stories, she has a mortal lover and children

Notes: So, why aren't half-demons cold? I point to the flashback scenes in episode 15 of the anime, where it is winter, Kikyou is walking across a snowy landscape, and Inuyasha is hopping after her, to my eyes in his omnipresent red clothes and barefoot. Draw your own conclusions.

As pertains to this story, and as I have been ranting to various people in the near past, I wanted to write a somewhat different InuyashaxKagome lemon. To my mind, Inuyasha is a very withdrawn, sexually reserved and inexperienced person; Kagome would certainly have more knowledge - and confidence - if not experience. Also, the whole "going into heat" concept never sat well with me. That's just me, forever wading against the mainstream of the fandom. If someone wants to throw me a rope, you're welcome. And if someone wants to chuck stones at me, I'll warn you that I'm rather apt at deflecting verbal projectiles. ;) Catch you on the otherside.