Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters. I'd be able to afford new sneakers if I did.

Summary: Investigating a cold draft at night, Mrs. Higurashi muses on Inuyasha's nature, and his presence in her daughter's life. A silent interaction. One Shot.


Mrs. Higurashi was climbing the stairs in the quiet, darkened house, thinking contentedly about sleep, when the cold draught hit her feet. It took only a moment to trace the chill to its source, and she paused outside her daughter's bedroom, wondering why there was so much cold air leaking from the gap beneath the door. Kagome had returned from the Feudal Era that afternoon, fuming about a quarrel she'd had with Inuyasha. After taking a long bath and spending most of supper poking sullenly at her plate, she had slouched upstairs to study.

There was no light beneath the door, so Mrs. Higurashi assumed Kagome was asleep. Curious about the draught, she turned the knob and pushed the door open with the silence of one well-versed in the art of sneaking into rooms to check on her children. All was dark and quiet, and Mrs. Higurashi could just discern her daughter's figure huddled under the blankets, curled up tight in defence against the frigid air. The cause of the problem was easily discovered. Angry at Inuyasha, indeed! In spite of all Kagome's irritation, her bedroom window stood wide open in blatant invitation.

Still, it was January, and the temperature had dropped below freezing outside, an uncommon occurrence in this area of Japan. With a wry smile, Mrs. Higurashi crossed the room and stood at the window for a moment, goosebumps prickling her arms and legs. It was difficult to see the stars in Tokyo; the city cast too much of a glow into the night sky, visible over the treetops that blocked her direct view of the city lights. But the cloudless night left the waxing moon clearly visible, and the Goshinboku's bare branches glittered with moonlit frost. The courtyard below was quite well lit, but there was no sign of a rather distinctive hanyou boy, so she slid the window closed with a soft click. Then, reconsidering, she slid it back a bit, leaving it just slightly ajar.

After making sure Kagome had enough blankets and was well tucked in, she exited the room, leaving the door open a little to let the warm air from the rest of the house enter the room.

When she awoke a few hours later to use the bathroom, the cold had deepened outside, and it was almost physically painful to leave her toasty bed and pad barefoot down the hall (her slippers must have ended up under the bed somewhere, unless Buyo had taken to carrying them around the house again — in any case, she wasn't about to go looking for them now). As she passed Kagome's door, the icy breeze bit at her ankles, and she paused in confusion, her mind still fuzzy from sleep but working feverishly to explain this. She was certain she'd closed the window before bed, and the crack she'd left was too small to let this much cold in. She pushed the unlatched door inward to investigate.

The moon had risen high in the sky in the last few hours, and was now shining directly in the wide-open window. The scene was almost otherworldly, lit in shades of black, blue, and silver, and it was bright enough that her eyes took a moment to adjust. When they did, the first thing she noticed was the silver-white fall of Inuyasha's long, unruly hair. He was kneeling by the head of Kagome's bed, his arms folded on the edge of her mattress and his chin resting atop his forearms, all his attention trained on her sleeping face. His arresting expression caught Mrs. Higurashi's attention at once, as he stared at her daughter with a mixture of adoration and remorse, his cute puppy ears drooping dejectedly. His forlorn expression was not one she was accustomed to seeing; he was normally full of bluster and bravado, and in fact, he had a certain Peter Pan charm, although his adventures were of a decidedly more lethal nature. In her mind he had always embodied defiant ferocity and boyish carelessness and feral innocence all at once. Somehow this more tender side of his nature, which she had only caught glimpses of before, fit seamlessly with her previous impression of him.

She thought she was being quiet, but some sound or scent must have alerted him to her presence, because he suddenly sat up straight and focused on her. It was disconcerting to have those luminous gold eyes fixed on her with such fierce intensity, and for a moment she felt just the tiniest hint of fear creep through her heart. This was no puppy, but a nearly-grown hanyou who could have (and by all accounts, had already) torn apart full-blooded youkai with his bare hands. But her fear disappeared even before he realized who she was and dampened down his protective glare. How could she fear a creature who so instinctively placed himself between Kagome and any possible danger with that unwavering expression on his face?

The moment he recognized her, the defensive posture faded only to be replaced with a rather guilty countenance. Did he think she knew what he and Kagome had argued over? Kagome had not been forthcoming. Did he think she would side with her daughter against him? She was hardly inclined to do so — it was likely they were both at fault. Was he worried she would disapprove of him creeping into her daughter's bedroom in the dead of night? Propriety dictated that she ought to be appalled, but somehow, she felt her daughter was in good hands. She'd already permitted him to spend the night in Kagome's room many times in the past. The boy was clearly smitten with Kagome, and the idea of him taking liberties with her was patently ridiculous. He was too shy, for one thing, although she could picture her strong-willed daughter being the instigator in a few years once she'd sorted herself out. Also, they spent nearly every waking (and sleeping) hour in close proximity without parental supervision, so if they ever did get it into their heads to start anything, it was unlikely to be on this side of the well, and Mrs. Higurashi could hardly do anything about that except daydream about hypothetical puppy-eared grandchildren.

The cold air on her feet reminded her why she was here. She pushed the door open a little wider and walked quietly across the room, watched closely by Inuyasha the whole way. She reached out and patted his shoulder reassuringly as she passed him, and did not fail to notice how he tensed at the gesture. She had heard fragments of this boy's story from Kagome, not enough to form the full picture but enough to read between the lines. How had he been treated in the past that caused him to tense in the presence of a human woman who could not possibly best him in a fight? Who had hurt him so badly that he read potential threats in the most innocent actions? How long had he been alone?

She did not give him any indication that she had seen his reaction; his defences were clearly down at the moment, and he was too proud to accept her pity. She continued past him to the window, which she closed as silently as she could, before going to Kagome's closet and easing the door open. She felt around in the dark for a moment before pulling a couple heavy blankets down from the top shelf. Inuyasha's eyes continued to follow her as she shook out the folds and draped a blanket over Kagome's sleeping form, but this time she thought she sensed approval in his gaze. She took a moment to arrange the blanket, drawing it up to Kagome's chin, before indulging herself by stroking Kagome's hair lightly and pressing a kiss to her daughter's brow — how she missed her when she was away! As she straightened back up, she stole a glance at Inuyasha; he had already turned his attention back to Kagome, apparently dismissing the non-threat now that it was clear he wasn't going to be yelled at.

She picked up the other blanket and unfolded it, then settled it carefully around the seated hanyou. He turned startled gold eyes towards her again, clawed hands gripping the edge of the soft material reflexively. So surprised! She felt dismayed at his reaction. Was he so starved for affection that even such a simple gesture shook his equilibrium? His mother must be weeping in the afterlife at the thought of what this boy had suffered, and Mrs. Higurashi's heart ached in sympathy, as well as with the sort of pain only a mother could know. She reached out to him again and let her hand fall gently on his head, sifting lightly through the satin curtain of silver hair as she would her own children's. She felt, more than saw, the shudder that passed through him, and he seemed to both tense and relax at the same time, an unfamiliar look of yearning defeating the wariness in his bright eyes. Then, impulsively — because far be it for her to withhold a gesture of love from a child, even one who was nearly fully grown — she stooped and pressed a much-needed kiss into his hair right between the two silky ears atop his head. She heard his breath catch in his throat, and she straightened back up, careful not to draw attention to the vulnerability in his eyes. She regarded him for another moment, then padded back to the door. Just before she pulled the door to, she turned and gave him a gentle smile in which he would find no pity.

Proud, beautiful, wild, lost boy…

If no one else would claim him, she would.