Chapter 9

"Ana told us she found you in a snow drift!" Kagome's mother exclaimed, wrapping her arms around the bundle of blankets that engulfed her daughter.

"How did you get yourselves buried in snow in the first place?" Shuichi's mother asked, sitting down next to the other bundle that contained her son.

The two teens had settled in front of the fireplace with mugs of the spicy hot chocolate Ana loved to prepare. She had found them a little after the incident with the squirrel and swiftly blew the incident out of proportion – her official story was that she had had to dig them out of half a meter of snow and that cocooning them in blankets in front of the fire was definitely not her twisted idea of getting them to share a romantic evening. She might even go so far as to insist that they were frozen to each other, though she would go to greater lengths to avoid saying how.

Truth was, they had gotten into a snow fight for old time's sake and, struggling to get the upper hand, they'd managed to dig themselves in. The rest of the story was entirely her making, but they weren't going to argue when they were being bribed with hot chocolate and the alternative was having to explain why certain demonic plants were better than others at flinging snow and how a single burst of purifying energy was enough to render them useless and leave their wielder under a snowdrift.

"It was just a snowball fight," Kagome tried to wave the subject away, though waving anything was nearly impossible from under three layers of blanket.

"And the blankets?" Shiori asked with concern, probably convinced that the two suffered from frostbite or hypothermia.

"Ana tried fixing the generator and blew up the heating system. They've got an expert in, but it was already freezing when we got back," Shuichi explained with a shrug, his head partly disappearing into the cocoon.

Ana again. That girl seemed to get her nose into everything and had concentrated her attention on the two teens and on ruining the plumbing of the lodge. On the other hand, the two mothers thought, sharing a conspiratorial smile, she was concentrating her attention on the two teens. At least they couldn't be accused of meddling.

"Do you want some more chocolate?" Shiori asked, getting up. She was glancing toward her friend and discreetly nodding toward the door. The message must have gotten across, as Kagome was finally released from her mother's embrace and the two women walked out, presumably to get more hot chocolate.

"They're not very good at being subtle, are they?" Kagome asked, suppressing a giggle.

Kurama chuckled. It was alarming and amusing to watch their mothers being so excited about playing matchmaker. "They're having fun."

"It makes me want to play along to see what how they'd take it." Kagome scooted closer to Kurama, their blankets pressed close between them.

The kitsune grinned, his eyes taking on a mischievous gleam. "What are you suggesting, Miss Higurashi?" he asked with mock-innocence.

She giggled and nudged him gently with her shoulder.

As if on cue, the old grandmother walked in with a tray. Without a word, she placed the two mugs on the table in front of them and looked them over with a knowing smile on her face. She was probably satisfied by what she saw, as she left looking quite pleased and Ana didn't show up to convey threatening messages afterwards.

"We probably shouldn't," the girl argued, "but it's the only way they'll get over it."

"Or it could make them worse. They might actually be serious about… us." He reluctantly left the warmth of his blankets to reach for the two mugs – still hot – and handed one to Kagome who had somehow managed to get only one hand out. She looked thoughtful and he wondered if it was such a bad thing if their mothers really were serious – Kagome knew of his job helping the spirit detective and knew a little of his past before he became human, although he still left out the part about still being on probation, and from what she had told him, even if she wasn't fully aware of it, she could hold her own against powerful demons and, unlike himself, she had her family's support in her adventures.

Kagome took a sip of her hot chocolate and sighed. She had wondered about this nearly all day but couldn't bring herself to answer – why not? After all, what were her options? A reckless hanyou who even now pinned over his dead love and was set on bringing her back no matter how it hurt Kagome, an over-possessive wolf who was after her to satisfy his ego and poor Hojo who didn't even deserve to be dragged into the mess that was her life at the moment. It would be nice to have someone to come back to who understood her, someone who wasn't family. "Would it be that bad?" she eventually asked with a shy smile.

There was a phone call that evening from home. Kagome was startled when her grandfather had passed the phone over to Inuyasha. He sounded impatient and she could imagine him giving angry looks to the receiver. "You said your mom needed you and what do I find when I come to check on you? You're gone! Out of the country!" her friend complained in an increasingly annoyed tone.

"You've managed without me for longer before," she protested.

"Out of the country!" Inuyasha insisted. "Did you take the shards with you?"

She couldn't tell if he was worried or glad that she had. To be honest, she hadn't, but she wasn't going to tell him where she had hidden them – she wasn't going to take something like that with her on a plane, especially not now that she knew youkai were still around. "They're safe," she said flatly.

"Keh! I can come after you, make sure you're safe," he offered.

Kagome gritted her teeth at the image of Inuyasha bounding across Asia and part of Europe after her. He would do it, she knew he would.

"I thought I told you to sit-" She heard a thump and imagined him twitching on the floor. "Sit tight and wait for me to get back. Did you have another argument with Kikyo?"

"I was worried about you!" he protested, his voice muffled by the carpet.

She knew he meant it, but he had long given up on the right to meddle in her life on this side of the well. "I bet you were. Stay out of trouble for a few more days until I get back," she told him and handed the phone over to her mother. There was no need for good byes the same way there was no need for hellos.

It was odd at best.

Despite being stuck babysitting for the whole day, Kagome and Kurama hadn't found the time to plan anything for the evening. The day was a long string of games and snow fights and getting Mia not to burry her brother under the failed igloo – the children were a handful even when they didn't cause permanent damage. Meanwhile, the adults were busy preparing for the big night, making the two wonder if they shouldn't be more worried by what they had planned.

It looked like they were preparing for a grand ball – the hall was all decked out, a stage was being improvised for a live band, the kitchen was off-limits and , once the children were tired of playing in the snow, the two teens were snatched by their mothers before they got a moment for themselves. There had been quite a few deliveries made during the day, but what exactly had been brought in remained a surprise until they made it to their respective rooms.

"Isn't it gorgeous?" Kagome's mother enthused over the dark blue dress she was holding up. It looked… Victorian. It was long, frilly, with a narrow waistline and an anachronistic cleavage. The colours were nice – pale gray-blue with delicate crimson embroidery. It looked like it had cost a fortune.

Kagome's lips moved soundlessly.

"It's rented, don't get so worked up," her mother assured her, seeing her visible distress. "We've been planning this from the beginning. Actually, we were starting to worry the costumes wouldn't get here on time, but we're safe."

The girl still wasn't sure how to react. Her mother was definitely acting out of character. Trying hard not no make any sudden movements, she took the dress. "And what are you going as?" she asked carefully.

Her mother beamed. "You'll see."

Kagome wasn't entirely sure she liked the gleeful tone in her mother's voice. Whatever she was going to wear, there was probably nothing Kagome could do about it at this point. Instead, she set about preparing herself for the evening, while her mother sequestered herself in the bathroom.

Kurama was praying he was hallucinating. He hoped Ana had spiked their drinks and he wasn't really seeing a group of forty-something women, dressed like harem girls (very modest harem girls, but with definitely too much skin to make him feel any better about it), doing the Dance of the Seven Veils. And there was a high chance someone had drugged the food as well, because one of those women was his mother and none of the men present found anything wrong with that.

Incidentally, there seemed to be a general understanding among them, as they were all dressed like Count Dracula – or at least that what it looked like to him.

Kagome and Mia stuck out as the youngest and most covered up of the bunch, both wearing Victorian dresses, though Kagome's would have most definitely been deemed immodest at the time.

The other kids had skedaddled to bed, a bit unsure of what was going on and were probably going to grow up with the conviction that they had been witness to an orgy… at least until they were old enough to know what an actual orgy was.

He finished his mulled wine and walked over to the two girls. He bowed. "May I have this dance?"

Mia shook her head. "No, but you can have the next one. I've promised this one to Daddy!" she replied without hesitation.

Kagome kept on a straight face during the exchange, but nearly cracked up when she saw the deeply hurt look on the boy's face. She fought the giggle and extended her hand. "Ladies' choice!" she called, and pulled him onto the dance floor, leaving a giggling Mia behind.

The band smoothly transitions to the Arabian rhythm from earlier into a more traditional waltz, somehow keeping an Oriental flavor to it.

The two eased into their practiced dancing style, neither of them actually leading, but both moving with grace. They moved quietly around the dance floor, the oddly dressed couples around them providing a surreal setting for the scene.

Eventually, Kagome broke the silence. "I've been trying all evening to figure out what you're supposed to be dressed as." He was wearing a mask, his hair was braided and he was dressed in a crimson suit that gave her an eerie feeling.

"Apparently, I'm supposed to be Reynard the Fox," he said, twirling her away from him.

"I thought she didn't know," she said when she was back in his arms.

He shrugged and twirled her again. It wasn't exactly a waltz, not really, but neither was the music and they soon found themselves giving up on the flourishes and dancing much closer than the music required.

When the music eventually stopped, they were still in each other's arms and Kagome was leaning her head on his shoulder.

The adults, with their mothers as leads, had stopped to watch them, waiting almost breathless to see how this was going to play out. No one had noticed the mistletoe bush growing out of the woodwork just as the two came to a stop.

With a cheeky smile, Kagome raised her face to look into Kurama's eyes. Though they hadn't discussed the details of the plan, she knew they were going to leave their audience speechless for a long while.

As if no one was looking, the young man leaned down and brushed his lips against hers only to have her stand up on tiptoe and deepen the kiss.

Indeed, the crowd had gone quiet except of a tiny 'squee,' not loud enough to break the spell of the moment.

The End

A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing.