Blanket Disclaimer:

Inuyasha, and the characters therein, are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. I am in no way affiliated with Takahashi, or VIZ Productions.

Nominated for Best Characterization, IYFG, 1st Quarter 2011

Winner! 2nd Place for Best Canon, IYFG, 1st Quarter 2011

Winner! 2nd Place for Best Lemon, IYFG, 1st Quarter 2011

Winner! 2nd Place Tie for Best One-shot, IYFG, 1st Quarter 2011

Winner! 1st Place Tie for Best One-shot, Feudal Association, 2nd Quarter 2011


This one-shot takes place in Feudal Japan, but is AU, meaning I can screw with the canon however I want to. So there!

In this particular universe, Kagome was originally a miko-in-training under the watchful eye of old Kaede, though she's not any more. You'll find out why. For simplicity's sake, Kikyou does not exist in this universe, and neither does Naraku or the sacred jewel.

Inuyasha is, for all intents and purposes, the exact same Inuyasha we all know and love. In keeping with some semblance of the original canon, he does not have Tetsusaiga, nor does he know such a sword even exists. He is pretty much the Inuyasha he was prior to meeting Kikyou, the only kindness he had ever known having disappeared from his life the day his mother died. I am also keeping with the age suggested in the third movie, in that he is actually around two hundred years old, rather than the mere fifteen-year-old boy that he appears to be. Kagome is also a little older in this world, in her mid-twenties. That might not seem very old to you or I, but back in those days, it was way beyond 'old maid' status.

Well, that's enough background info I think. Don't want to give too much away. Enjoy the show!

~ Comfort Food ~

Trekking through the snow, Kagome hugged her arms more tightly around herself, her makeshift moccasins keeping her legs and feet warm as she stayed on the alert in more ways than one. It was starting to get dark, the sun having set a few minutes prior. Still, she had felt a demonic aura heading straight for her, and even though it was gone now, she needed to make sure the danger had actually passed.

If this creature can mask its presence, then I could be in a lot of trouble, she thought, worrying her bottom lip as she tightened her grip on her bow.

A snapping twig caught her attention and she immediately spun around only to grin in surprise and delight at the sight of a rabbit darting out from behind its thicket.

"Ah-ha…gotcha." she whispered, firing her arrow and felling the furry animal in a single shot.

For a minute there she had been worried she wouldn't catch anything, believing the mortal animals of the area had probably all fled. She had been out on the hunt when a sudden tingling of youki against her senses had pulled her thoughts away from her stomach, temporarily making her feel like the one being hunted, but she was pretty sure that whatever it was was gone now. Stretching her senses, she still couldn't detect anything beyond the normal hum of youki the forest always contained. Coming forward and claiming her dinner, then, Kagome pulled the arrow out, the missile undamaged and able to be used again as she slipped it into the quiver on her back before tossing the dead rabbit into the leather pouch she carried. Turning and heading back towards her home, her thoughts were on the various ways she could make this meat last when a sudden splash of red in the dying light immediately grabbed her attention.

Gasping, she dropped her bag, her first thought upon seeing a patch of red against the stark contrast of white snow being that somebody had to be terribly injured, if not killed, her thoughts quickly going back to the powerful youki signature she had felt a few minutes earlier. Rushing forward, she was caught off guard when the red spot suddenly retreated further into the bushes, and quickly realizing that what she'd seen hadn't been blood, after all, she nevertheless continued forward, calling out a softly spoken, "Hello?" as she slowed her approach.

Receiving no answer, she continued to approach cautiously, noting the footprints in the snow. Coming around a thick patch of bushes, she gasped in surprise a second time at what she saw huddled between the thicket and the rocks.

A boy…she realized, her eyes softening in worry even as his stared up at her in frozen panic. He was dressed in a red suikan and hakama, his raven hair long and unruly. It didn't take her long to notice his bare feet, and given the amount of snow on the ground, she cringed at the thought of him having no proper footwear. Not that she had any proper footwear, either, though she had at least crafted something to protect her feet. Although as she continued to stare at him, she did notice that his feet seemed to be healthy, not discolored or swollen, which was actually rather odd considering how far he had to have walked through the snow to get to where he was.

I wonder

Shaking her curiosity free, she knew she couldn't just stand there gaping at the man, whoever he was.

"Hello…my name's Kagome." she spoke up then, her voice soothing and gentle. "You don't have to be afraid of me, I won't hurt you."

Inuyasha was frozen to the spot, though he quickly started relaxing as he realized the woman standing before him had no idea what he really was.

It was always so hard for him to find shelter during the new moon, and usually, he preferred staying closer to human settlements at that time of the month, if for no other reason than the closer he got to humans, the less likely it was that he'd run into any overly troublesome youkai. But this latest village had caught him by surprise. He hadn't known upon following the scent of smoke and the sounds of activity that they would possess such a powerful old miko, a miko who had felt his presence out in the woods and had quickly sent a hunting party out after him. Making a run for it, he had immediately started heading up the mountain he now rested upon, staying in the trees though following the same route as the beaten path that connected the miko's village to a farming community that rested on the other side. It had been his original intention to continue on in that direction, hoping to make it closer to the farming town on the other side of the mountain before nightfall, but upon hearing somebody out in the woods he had immediately ducked and hidden behind a thicket against an outcropping of rocks, cursing his weakened senses that had prevented him from realizing there was anybody nearby.

He'd felt both relieved and terrified as the sun slipped out of sight and completed his transformation. Now that he was human, it meant that if whoever was out in the woods actually found him, the odds were good that they wouldn't know he was really a hanyou, but on the other hand, now that he was human, he also stood a pretty good chance of freezing to death.

As the strangely dressed woman standing before him continued to speak softly, assuring him she wouldn't hurt him while offering him her hand to help him stand up, he quickly realized he had nothing to fear from this woman. She just thought he was a lost vagrant, a wanderer who had gotten caught by surprise by that afternoon's snowfall.

Accepting her hand, then, Inuyasha sucked in air through his teeth at the sting of his bare feet settling into the snow as he stepped out from behind the bushes. He hated the new moon.

"Are you hurt?" Kagome asked, genuine concern in her voice and in her eyes.

"No…I'm okay." he answered hesitantly, almost afraid to speak, as if something in his voice would give away the fact that he wasn't entirely human.

Though the longer he took in the sight of the woman before him, the less he feared he had to worry about such things. She was clearly a hermit, dressed in what appeared to be a white sleeping yukata tucked within dark blue hakama, the bottoms of her pant legs held tightly against her skin by handcrafted leather boots that went from mid-calf all the way down around her feet, a slit in the leather between her toes like what you would see in a pair of tabi, her wooden geta having seen better days with fraying cotton straps. The fact that her boots were on the outside of her hakama was strange enough, but the fact that she was also still using geta just made it even weirder. He quickly deduced that the soft hide of her leather tabi had no hardened soles, and perhaps she wore them on the outside of her hakama because she simply couldn't stand the feel of them against her skin, or perhaps doing it that way offered her extra warmth because it prevented any sort of breeze from drifting up the baggy pant legs. Though the outfit was bizarre, she didn't look crazy. She merely seemed to care more about practicality than appearances. He could respect that. She wasn't a total slob, her long raven locks far more orderly than his own, tied back in a low tail at the end of her neck with a white ribbon, like a miko would wear. She was also armed, though he didn't fear her arrows because he'd just seen her use them to take down a rabbit. Despite being a good shot, she clearly hadn't been after him if she had been hunting dinner. But what woman hunted her own game out in the middle of nowhere? And had she made those leather socks herself? What of the satchel containing her catch? If she'd tanned and crafted the hides herself then she was an eta; that would explain why she was all by herself. Internally, Inuyasha smiled at the thought; she was like him, an outcast.

"Come with me." she told him then, her kind voice pulling him from his thoughts. "The night will only grow colder. I will give you a warm meal and a place to stay until morning."

He was taken aback by her generosity, but quickly reminded himself that she thought he was human. Though, technically, in that precise moment in time he was human, and a full belly and shelter from the cold definitely sounded better than going hungry while tempting hypothermia, his fire-rat garments currently rendered as powerless as he was. He quickly decided to take her up on her offer, figuring that so long as he made sure to slip out before dawn then she would never have to be burdened with the knowledge of just what she had actually invited into her home.

"T-thank you." he answered after a moment, desperately trying to cling to what few memories he had of his mother's lessons on manners.

Smiling, Kagome turned and collected her bag before making her way back through the woods she knew so well, towards a steep rocky uprise along the mountainside near the river that fed her old village.

Inuyasha's eyes widened as they came upon a tiny cabin nestled in between the trees, not too far from the mouth of a small cave that sat carved into the rocky hillside. Several animal hides were hanging from various ropes as a sweet-smelling herb to lure insects away burned in a small, shielded fire pit. It looked like she utilized both the cave and the cabin, several other hides and pelts piled on the ground just inside the entrance to the cave.

"I hope you are not offended by what you see." Kagome stated regretfully as she pulled the dead rabbit from her bag and took it over to where she would hang it for bleeding. "I live on my own and do what I must to survive. Vegetables are practically nonexistent during the winter, so I must eat meat, and I refuse to let the leather go to waste."

Inuyasha nodded slowly, honestly the opposite of offended. He was actually quite impressed by all that he saw, a part of him wanting to know her story, though he knew it was none of his business.

"Like I have room to talk." he answered, brushing off and having a seat on a large tree stump to get his feet out of the snow as he admitted, "I don't even got a home."

Kagome nodded her understanding, having already presumed as much. Making brief conversation as she worked, she admitted, "At first, I lived in the cave, though I knew a small wooden hut would be much easier to keep warm in the winter. Building it took some time, but it was time well spent."

It was his turn to nod his understanding, though he was silently in awe of all she had accomplished all by herself.

Noting how pink and tender his feet had become after their brief trek back to her cabin, Kagome told him in passing that he could go inside while she finished up, if he wanted, but he declined to enter her home without her, stating how it wouldn't be right and that he was fine where he was for the moment. Though she hadn't been worried because she knew she had nothing worth stealing, Kagome smiled a little to herself at his statement, surprised but also pleased by his sense of honor. Once her catch was bled, she then proceeded to skin and gut the animal, and Inuyasha almost felt compelled to offer to do it for her, though she seemed to be proficient in her work, and honestly, he figured her knife skills were probably far better than his own, considering he had never before used such a tool.

Gesturing for him to follow her inside once she had the rabbit meat ready to cook, he did so only to become impressed yet again by the sturdiness of the structure, as well as how much space was being utilized on the inside by her numerous shelves. Removing her geta and placing them near the door, Kagome quickly instructed her guest to have a seat wherever he liked as she reached for her flint and metal, quickly starting a fire under the large pot of water she had left sitting over the indoor fire pit. Once the water was boiling she tossed in the rabbit meat, along with several other herbs and powders she'd had sitting in a few different bowls on her shelves, and it seemed like no time at all when the delicious aroma of soup reached his nose.

"I'm afraid it's not much." Kagome stated apologetically as she scooped out two bowls of rabbit meat soup, putting a couple of scoops of precooked rice she'd had left over from breakfast into each bowl for added substance. "As I said, there's not much in the way of vegetables this time of year."

"You don't gotta apologize." he stated sincerely as he accepted his bowl, closing his eyes for a moment as he relished in the simple pleasure of the warm vessel heating his hands.

Taking his first sip after the broth had cooled enough to not burn his tongue, Inuyasha's eyes widened marginally in surprise of just how good the liquid actually tasted. Whatever those dried herbs were that she'd added to the water had really made a world of difference, though he supposed it wasn't so unusual that a hermit such as herself would have extensive knowledge of herbs. But usually hermits were crotchety old men. How had a young woman come to find herself out here in the middle of nowhere, in the woods in between two thriving villages? Had she been cast out from one of them? And if so, why not merely go to the other? Had she committed some sort of crime? But how could she have truly constructed all that he saw all by herself? And where had her rice come from? Her routine seemed well established. Just how long had she actually been living like this?

As curious as he was, though, he knew it was not his place to ask such questions.

"This is good, Kagome-sama. Thank you."

It felt weird being so polite, but he was only ever an ass to people because they were asses to him first. Right now she was keeping him safe for another month, not to mention feeding him. He couldn't risk offending her and getting his weak human ass tossed out into the snow.

Although he was afraid he had offended her anyway for a moment there, by the way she crinkled her nose as he said her name. Was he not permitted to address her as such? Then why had she introduced herself?

"I am not worthy of such a title." she stated then, and he quickly realized she had only been bothered by the 'sama' part. "I am truly not so above you, please, just call me Kagome."

He was floored by her request, nodding silently with wide eyes before taking another sip from his bowl. Thinking for a moment, he finally said, "You can call me…Yasha."

Kagome pursed her lips in mild amusement.

"Forest spirit? That seems truly fitting. Perhaps I should have changed my name as well, but as women typically keep only one name throughout our lives I have decided to remain what my father called me at birth."

Silently nodding his understanding, on the inside Inuyasha sighed in relief, having hoped the slight modification of his name would be accepted without question.

Once they finished their soup, Kagome removed the pot from the fire and added more wood to fully heat the tiny cabin. Apologizing that only one side of the single-room dwelling had been fashioned for sleep, her makeshift bed constructed from a futon stuffed with scrap leather and a blanket made from sewn together fur pelts looking especially warm and inviting given the outside temperature, Inuyasha attempted to brush off her concerns, telling her that the wooden floor of her hut was a thousand times better than the frozen, snow covered dirt of the forest outside.

"While that is undoubtedly true, I still feel bad." Kagome admitted, offering, "I can go and collect some of my larger hides from the cave and sew them together for a blanket for you. It would only take me a few minutes if I stitched them loosely. I wish I had a deer hide but at this time I do not."

"You don't gotta trouble yourself with nothin' for my sake." Inuyasha stated sincerely, humbled by her offer. "You've already done so much, way more than anyone else ever has."

Reluctantly accepting his acquiescence of the situation, Kagome nodded then before reaching behind herself to pull the ribbon from her hair, allowing her raven locks to flow free. Moving over to her bedding and having a seat on its surface, she then reached down to untie her moccasins. Inuyasha was fascinated by their construction and asked if he could see one once she'd removed it. The boots were each sewn together from two strips of leather, the backsides wider so that the edges could curve up and around her legs and feet, with a top 'tongue' strap sewn on top of it, attached at the sides. The seems where the edges met were pinched wide, with holes cut into the extra ridges of leather allowing for laces to be woven through, in order to cinch the boots tight. The gap in the toes appeared to be shaped directly into the hide, and he imagined she had done so by pressing it into shape and allowing it to dry in that position. Such leatherwork wasn't completely unknown to him since certain species of youkai utilized similar techniques, but this was the first time he'd ever seen a human wearing such a thing. Most humans who wore leather, like the taijiya for example, were much more meticulous and sophisticated in their work. But given what Kagome had to work with, presumably the hides of whatever wild game animals she happened to be lucky enough to catch at any given time, he was truly floored by all that she'd accomplished.

Ceasing her undressing with her boots, more for propriety's sake than for warmth since her bedding was quite warm indeed, Kagome felt her cheeks take on a splash of heat, themselves, before she braved facing her houseguest to make her second offer.

"If it pleases you, Yasha, you may share in the warmth of my bedding for the night."

He gaped at her, his eyes wide in disbelief even as a light splash of crimson dusted his cheeks as well.

"Y-you can't be serious." he stated, clearly flustered.

Crawling back towards him, Kagome made her point by reaching for his face with the back of her fingers, his cheek facing away from the fire ice cold to her touch. His eyes were wide in nervousness as she brushed her fingers against his cheek, making her wonder just how starved for human contact this boy truly was.

"Relax…" she soothed then, assuring him, "I meant only to sleep. The fire will not last throughout the entire night, and believe me, though it is much warmer than the cave, this little hut does indeed get quite cold without a fire."

Quickly shaking off his anxiety, Inuyasha squared his shoulders, brushing off her hand as well as her concern.

"Keh, I can add more wood to keep it warm in here. I ain't gotta sleep. Just having a warm place to wait out the night is all I need."

He never did sleep during his human nights, anyway, not that he could tell her that.

"Nonsense." Kagome chastised politely. "Please, I insist." she stated as she made her way back to said bedding.

It sounded awfully tempting, especially when an involuntary shiver ran through him as the nighttime cold began seeping up through the floorboards, making his ass feel numb where he sat. But what she was suggesting was crazy!

"But it isn't proper, Kagome. I…I can't share your bed with you, even if it's just to stay warm."

He seriously wondered what had been going through her head, and if perhaps she had simply been living on her own for so long that the compromising nature of such a position hadn't occurred to her. At the very least, even if she had been aware but had decided that his health was more important than her honor, she should be appreciative and understanding of why he had refused. Eta or no, he couldn't allow her to make such a drastic sacrifice of image for his sake. He wasn't worth it.

He was not expecting Kagome's reaction to his reasoning, as she snorted quite unladylike before brushing off his concerns with a wave of her hand.

"If you are concerned for my honor, or what little of it I have left, don't be. I saw the questions burning in your eyes throughout dinner, though you neglected out of respect to voice them. I will answer some of them for you now. I was born in the village east from here, just down at the base of this side of the mountain, but I was exiled at age fifteen after I was raped by a…bandit, while collecting herbs out in the woods for my sensei."

Inuyasha's eyes grew wide at that knowledge, never having guessed she would have experienced something so horrible.

"They exiled you for…that?" he questioned hesitantly.

She nodded, explaining, "My father…my father said I was ruined, useless. At first I had been training under our miko to become a healer, but now in the eyes of my fellow villagers I was unclean, and nobody wanted me for my original purpose. I overheard my father discussing the prospect of marrying me off, a few of the village men willing to take pity upon me enough to offer me a home with them. But that wasn't the life I'd wanted, and I felt so betrayed, not only by my father but by everyone, for so quickly turning their backs on me. I would have been respected, revered even, but that future had died along with my innocence. And then…and then I discovered I was pregnant."

Inuyasha gasped.

"My suitors, while they had been willing to accept me, none of them would even consider allowing me to keep the baby, and I just couldn't…I couldn't take the herbs my sensei wanted me to take that would have ended the pregnancy. Fortunately, she sympathized with my situation, at least acknowledging that nothing that had happened had been my fault. She pitied me, but she hadn't turned against me, and my mother was furious with my father for what he wanted to force me to do, though she was powerless to stop him. But when I refused to give up my child, my potential husbands refused to take me in, and as my father in turn also refused to allow me sanctuary under his roof any longer, Kaede-sama and Okaa-san both offered me what assistance they could as I made the decision to run away rather than kill my baby."

Inuyasha glanced around the tiny room in that moment, as if searching for a child he already knew there had been no sign off. Sighing, Kagome dropped the final bomb and admitted, "After everything I went through, I ended up losing the child, anyway. I think the stress of everything I went through in the beginning had been too great."

"I'm so sorry." he stated right away, questioning hesitantly, "Did you…ever try going back home? After losing the baby?"

"To those traitors?" she questioned in defiance. "I know Okaa-san would take me back with open arms, but she would be the only one. No, I've said my farewells to that life, and though it was rough at first, and I'd feared not surviving my first winter, I pulled through and now I have a fairly happy, if not somewhat lonely life."

"How do you get the supplies that you need? Surely you did not make all of those baskets and bowls yourself, and your rice…?" he questioned, gesturing to her shelves where she stored many things in various vessels, dry rice among them.

"No, I have established a bargain with the tradesman in a small village west of here, on the other side of the mountain. It's over half a day's travel there and back, but it saves me from having to make the three-day journey to the nearest trading town by myself. He goes there monthly on behalf of his village, trading their crops and crafts for other goods, and I bring to him in advance of his trip hides or ropes or bone tools, things I can make from the forest that he can sell on the open market. He does so in exchange for me letting him keep whatever profits are to be had after he has acquired for me the simple things I need such as bowls or fabric, needle and thread, more arrowheads, or rice and certain herbs not found on this mountain. Perhaps if I had already lost the baby I would have tried to make a home for myself in that village somewhere, but that was when I was still pregnant and it didn't take long for what little reputation I'd already had in that village as their neighbor to be ruined forever. They wouldn't have me either, but the tradesman, he agreed to help me when I came to him later with a felled pig. His family ate well that night, and in exchange for the meat he gave me a few supplies that helped me get through. Okaa-san and Kaede-sama had also given me as many supplies as they could, a pot for cooking, a knife and saw, spare clothing. Okaa-san tied everything together for me in a blanket the night I left, which I've since used to make my futon."

Inuyasha shook his head slowly, the unfathomable cruelty of humans always taking him by surprise. She was one of their own. To turn their backs on her simply because her maternal instincts had refused to allow her to kill an innocent baby…

"So you can see then why I care little about what is deemed proper." Kagome continued then, pulling Inuyasha from his thoughts. "I have no honor, no innocence to ruin. Please, Yasha, do not add to my guilt should you permit yourself to freeze to death in my home. I gave up everything to protect a child I could not save. Allow me to protect you, even if only for one night."

If Inuyasha hadn't lost his ability to cry after his mother's death, he was sure he probably would have felt tears stinging the backs of his eyes at her words. Although she didn't know what it was she had offered to protect, the fact that somebody, anybody, wanted to do for him whatever they could, truly meant a lot to him. He couldn't refuse her after that.

Kagome, meanwhile, was desperately trying to get her frantic heart rate back under control. It didn't bother her that she had revealed so much of her past, having left a few key elements out of her retelling. No, the only reason her heart was currently threatening to fly right out of her chest was because it looked like she was actually going to share her bedding with a man. Despite all she'd said, which was true because she most certainly didn't give a shit about propriety – and who was there to witness their act of indecency, anyway? – Kagome was still a woman, and she couldn't help feeling butterflies at the prospect of sharing her bed with another. It wasn't going to be one of her many dreams; this was real. Though they were only going to be sleeping, there would actually be another person lying there next to her. There would actually be a man lying there next to her. She would get to experience, at least for one night, what it was like to be a normal woman with a husband, instead of the bitter crone she was destined to become.

Still, as eager as she was, that didn't mean she wasn't also flustered. True, her houseguest was very young, almost a boy in her eyes, but he was a man nonetheless. If anything, his youth made it that much worse, because odds were favorable that he had never shared a bed with a woman before, either. Especially considering the fact that he had already admitted to not having a home. Just how long had he been on the run, and for what reason? Though Kagome suspected she might know the answer to at least one of those questions.

"All right." Inuyasha answered then, pulling her from her thoughts.

Gulping, and with a sinking feeling that he just might regret it later, Inuyasha made his way over to where Kagome sat upon her bedding. She immediately pulled back the blanket, and the two of them made their way about settling down over the futon that Kagome had fashioned a bit on the large side for a single person, though it was honestly too small to fit two people comfortably. He felt awkward and embarrassed, but as her fur blanket enveloped them, he also immediately felt a hundred times warmer. There was truly nothing to worry about, he decided then, allowing himself to enjoy the moment without further second guessing everything. Besides, they were each still fully dressed, save for their bare feet. It was a little awkward at first to figure out where to place his left arm, and he was just about to turn over, figuring it would be best to sleep back to back with her anyway, when she made his cheeks exploded into a deep crimson as she sensed his fidgeting and grabbed his shifting limb to drape it gently over her side. Once the shock wore off as he realized it was apparently okay to physically touch her while lying so closely behind her on their right sides, he relaxed into their loose spooning posture, unembarrassed when her feet accidentally brushed against his own as she finished settling.

It seemed like no time at all when Inuyasha felt all of the tension from his life just melt right out of him. In that moment, sharing a warm bed with a beautiful woman, his arm draped casually across her body as he lied on his side behind her, he wondered if that was what it was like to feel normal, to feel wanted.

Trying to keep his mind occupied so that he wouldn't risk accidentally falling asleep, he thought back over her story, half tempted to march right back to that stupid village come morning and give them all a good long scare as payment for the horrible things that had been done to her. She'd told him that she had been fifteen at the time. She was certainly much older than that now, and that more or less answered his question of how long she had been living like this. Her routine seemed fully established because it was, because she had been living this way for at least a decade. How she hadn't gone mad in her solitude was another thing that impressed him. While he'd been living on his own for a lot longer, most humans had fairly weak minds when it came to such things. Though he supposed it helped that she socialized at least briefly with somebody once a month, collecting and giving wares. She had also picked a very sensible location to live by oneself, considering the cave had provided her with remedial shelter until she could complete construction on her hut, and there was also a small river not too far away for fresh water and fish. She'd said the other village had already known of her, at least partially, so that led him to believe that she had made a few journeys to that village before. She had probably been familiar with the layout of the mountain and had known in advance where she would run to when she'd made the decision to flee her hometown rather than surrender to her father's wishes.

The thought that anyone would be so cruel to their own child really had Inuyasha's blood boiling. Just because she had been raped, she was suddenly no longer worthy of training to become a healer? She'd said that her father had immediately labeled her ruined, even before they had learned that she was with-child. He imagined she had softened the blow of their words for his sake. He knew how heartless humans could sometimes be. He wouldn't put it passed the villagers to have called her a whore, probably to her face, especially after she'd announced her desire to keep the baby.

He regretted on her behalf that the child had been lost; something in him told him that she would have made a wonderful mother. Something in her reminded him of his own mother; unassuming, polite and compassionate despite the cruelties she had been forced to endure. He supposed that after everything she'd been through, and what she'd voluntarily done to the rest of her reputation by openly trading leather wares with the other village, it was really no wonder why she was so unconcerned about sharing her bed with him.

On the other hand, the fact that she had been violated in the past made him question how she could so easily expose her backside to a man she didn't even know, allowing him to rest his arm across her body when at any time he could theoretically decide to raise his hand and choke the life right out of her. Not that he could ever do such a thing. Though he did wonder how soft her neck would feel under his touch. He wished in that moment for his hanyou sense of smell, imagining that she smelled quite lovely indeed. Her clothing hadn't seemed dirty, and neither did her hair. She seemed to take pride in keeping herself clean.

As she shifted in her sleep, pressing her backside more fully against him, Inuyasha felt himself harden at the contact, and he silently cursed his overactive hormones. While it was true that he was a lot older than he looked, it was also true that proportionally, based on his lifespan, he was still an adolescent. She shifted again, and he moaned quietly. It was a tight squeeze, fitting the both of them together on her bed. Her breathing was even and he was certain she was asleep, her body most likely unconsciously trying to find a more comfortable position and not understanding why its path was being obstructed. Still, it was quickly becoming unbearable torture, the way his nether regions started pulsing heavily with the gathering of blood. Unconsciously, he tightened his arm around her, pressing his hand against her stomach as he gently rocked his hips forward.

In Kagome's sleep-trodden mind, she felt Inuyasha's increased proximity, but she was too deeply imbedded in her slumber for it to set off any sort of warning bells. Instead, whatever minuscule portion of her conscious mind still lingered in that limbo between sleep and awake immediately transferred the sensation into her dreams. She felt his hand press more firmly against her belly, and in her mind's eye, she snuggled further into the tender embrace of her lover. It was not the first time she had dreamt of a mystery lover coming to her in the middle of the night, her years of solitude having been spent with many the fantasy of one day finding somebody to share her life with. As unrealistic as she knew that was during the waking hours of her life, her dreams were a whole other story. Her dreams were her own, and nobody could take them away from her. Not even her father. As she felt her dream lover rock against her, she reciprocated the motion, no longer consciously aware of the fact that there was actually a real person behind her.

Eventually getting sleepy himself, despite his best efforts to stay awake, Inuyasha didn't notice it as his mind slowly started to leave him, as he allowed himself to get lost in the fantasy that was the woman lying in his arms. Her bed was just too warm and comfortable for his own good, the feel of her body pressed against his own too good to be true. In his mind, he imagined Kagome deliberately grinding herself back against him. He imagined her rolling over to face him and planting delicate kisses all along his face and neck before reaching for the ties of his clothing in order to reach even more skin. As his eyes began dancing behind closed lids, he believed he saw her hovering over him as she next removed her own clothing as well, encouraging him to touch her wherever he liked.

A particularly loud groan rumbled from deep in his throat as he pulled her flush against him, and Kagome bolted awake with a gasp in that moment, her foggy mind scrambling to catch up as she quickly realized with a growing feeling of dread that this latest dream hadn't been a dream at all. Her action immediately jarred Inuyasha out of his own stupor, his mind also desperately struggling to catch up to where he was and what he was doing.

For a split second she started to get angry, appalled that he would dare stoop so low after her generosity, but the way his dazed expression quickly morphed into unbridled horror immediately had her realizing he had merely been dreaming as well.


Humiliated, Inuyasha quickly scrambled out from underneath her blankets, the sting of the cool night air in her hut doing nothing to douse the fire in his veins as he hastily moved to the other end of the small building.

"Yasha, wait…I…I am not angry with you." Kagome spoke up then, the cold affecting her more vividly as she belatedly realized upon his abrupt departure just how much warmer her bedding had truly become when shared with another. She longed to get that feeling back.

"Doesn't matter." he mumbled, half tempted to toss her straw mat aside and dart out into the snow to cool himself off.

"You cannot be held accountable for what your body does in your sleep." she continued, and he snorted, debating momentarily whether or not he should confess to the fact that her presence had exited him even before he'd fallen asleep.

Besides, the fact that he had fallen asleep was even more unsettling that what he'd begun dreaming about. He couldn't allow unconsciousness to find him a second time.

"I'm awake now." he stated matter-of-factly, dancing around the fact that his body was still aroused.

Crawling out from her bedding and tossing more wood into the fire pit, Kagome met his eyes with purpose as she replied with, "So am I."

He gaped at her tone.


Gazing across the room at him, the firelight casting dancing shadows on his face, something in her mind snapped in that moment. After everything she'd had to suffer through over the last eleven years, everything that had been robbed from her…

"You may return to my bed, if it pleases you." she stated softly, the tone of her voice suddenly anything but innocent.

Having no idea what to say to that, Inuyasha merely blinked at her, an untimely twitch from between his legs alerting him to the fact that at least part of his anatomy desperately wanted to take her up on the offer.

Kneeling before him from the other side of the room, Kagome began unfastening the tie on her hakama. That got his attention, as he hesitantly croaked out, "K-Kagome? What are you…?"

"I have a confession to make. I was dreaming of it, also, and I do not believe it would be fair to place the blame fully on you for what happened. I realize that what happened was unintentional on the surface, a product of our fantasies, but perhaps we should listen to what the bringer of dreams is trying to tell us. I have never been touched by a man in pleasurable ways, Yasha, and while I would not have originally asked such a thing of you, I cannot remove the feeling of your body pressed against mine from my memory. I want to feel your touch again, in more ways than one, and I know you feel the same way. You want me, and you needn't fear that. I will allow you to have me."

He shook his head slowly, pinching his eyes shut. She didn't know what she was asking. To bed with him would ruin her far beyond anything she had already experienced. He couldn't contribute to her excommunication from the human race.

"Just because everyone else thinks you're a whore doesn't mean I'm going to treat you like one." he blurted before his eyes widened in panic at his crude choice of words.

"I…I mean-"

"You mean what you said." she interrupted, her tone of voice surprisingly appreciative. "I do not want to be treated like a whore, because whores are given no pleasure, expected only to deliver it to their men. Perhaps 'have me' was a poor choice of words, but I want to allow you this, Yasha, and I want to allow myself this as well. I am not a whore, but for tonight I will be your lover."

"As much as I…want that…I can't allow you to make such a mistake. You don't know anything about me. I'm not…who you think I am."

She smirked knowingly and replied with, "What is there to know? Your true name? Where you came from? What happened to cause you to call the forests your home? I doubt you were born in the wild, and yours is probably a story of exile even harsher than my own, for at least I had help, and still do, in some form. But I do not care who you are, what you did or what happened to you. You are free to tell me, of course, and I would gladly listen as you listened to my own tale, but I will not demand it of you." Softening her eyes, she added, "Nor will I demand this of you. I will not force you as I was forced. If perhaps your heart belongs to another-"

He snorted at that, his turn to interrupt her.

"My heart belongs to no one but me. The only person I ever loved was the only person who ever loved me, my mother, and she's dead now."

Kagome cringed at the harshness of his tone, though she knew his irritation wasn't really directed towards her. Still, perhaps she'd made enough of a fool of herself for one night. Glancing down to her lap for a moment, the straps to her hakama unfastened, she started to reach for them to retie them when a sudden shifting had her glancing back up in surprise to suddenly find her houseguest crouching directly in front of her, his eyes troubled yet also eager.

"Are you sure you want this? That I am who you want?"

"Who else is there?" she countered, and he raised an eyebrow in challenge.

"Do you only want me because I am the only man available to you?"

"I could ask you the same thing, considering we both know how your body reacted to my proximity."

"And what if I hadn't reacted to you? Or worse, what if I wasn't someone who hadn't touched a woman before, who reacted unintentionally, but a filthy womanizing highwayman? What then?"

"The answer to your first question is obvious. If you had not reacted then you would not have woken me, and my dreams would have remained nothing more, no different from any other night. If you were a womanizing highwayman?" She snorted a laugh. "Please, do not think me so unscrupulous. Didn't we just establish how I am not a whore? I am not so desperate for physical contact, or I would make the journey to the trading village and become a true whore in their teahouse. Though I have never shared my home with a man before, I can assure you that I would not be so ready to share myself with just any man who happened upon me." Raising an eyebrow, Kagome cryptically added, "But you are not just any man, now are you, Yasha?"

His eyes widened a bit at her tone, though at her sly smile he smirked. He was sure her words were meant only to fuel his ego, though he could admit that they were working. She had no idea how accurate her statement actually was, but in that moment, he suddenly found that he didn't care. When would he ever be faced with such an opportunity again? He had gone from fearing he might just freeze to death to suddenly finding himself in a warm hut, with a full belly, and with a beautiful woman openly inviting him not only into her bed, but into her body. Only a fool would turn down a woman openly offering herself to him, and while he had been called a lot of things in his long life, a fool wasn't one of them.

Kagome had her answer when he suddenly moved forward, one hand reaching for her own and ceasing her attempt at refastening her hakama while his other hand tangled in her raven locks as he closed the distance between them and brought her mouth to his. Kagome immediately responded, melting into the kiss as she fisted his suikan, and he found himself rumbling approvingly in the back of his throat. He was always so much more emotional on his human nights, and even as he broke his mouth away from hers to trail his tongue along her neck, he was certain he would never have permitted such a thing were he in his right frame of mind. But in that moment, being human for him was like being drunk; he felt overly emotional and he just didn't care, wanting only to indulge in the sensation of the feelings washing through him even though he knew he might regret it come morning.

Loosening the neck of her yukata to reach more skin, Inuyasha didn't hesitate to trail his tongue along her collarbone, relishing in her taste even as he longed for the ability to taste her properly. But despite that passing desire, his thoughts were as far away from the pending morning as they could get as he assisted her with raising up long enough to pull her loosened hakama down and off. Still dressed in her yukata, though the robe was dangerously loose, Kagome made her way back to her bedding, and quickly shedding his own hakama and suikan, he rejoined her under her blanket wearing nothing but his kosode and straining fundoshi.

Fantasy became reality, then, as Kagome maneuvered herself so that she was lying on her left side facing him, as he once again lied on his right, his left hand cupping the back of her head as he leaned forward for more kisses. Kagome reciprocated by reaching up with her right hand to cup the side of his face, her heart soaring as a large part of her desperately prayed this wasn't yet another dream. Inuyasha's thoughts mirrored her own as he braved removing his hand from her head in the pursuit of less neutral territory, tugging gently on the front of her yukata until the flaps loosened enough to reveal the short kosode she had on underneath, similar in style to his own. Well…surely he hadn't thought she hadn't layered up while out in the cold, right? But she was more than eager to assist him with his efforts of shedding her layers in that moment, as she pulled her arms out of her yukata sleeves and allowed the shin-length robe to fall open behind her.

Inuyasha quickly reached for the ties of her kosode next, and Kagome in turn reached for the ties of his own, as they undressed each other. It was rather cold in the small hut, despite the fire, so a silent agreement was reached when their last robes were opened but left on, each of them trailing their hands within the opened garment of their partner to familiarize themselves with the bodies that lied hidden within. Inuyasha quickly discovered that Kagome had not been wearing a chest binding underneath her kosode. His touch was hesitant, but pleasurable, and Kagome soon found herself mewling under his ministrations.

"Did you not say you had never touched a woman before?" she questioned in disbelief as he leaned over her, bringing a hardened pebble into his mouth.

"That doesn't mean I don't know what to do." he smirked against her skin, admitting, "I have heard stories."

Kagome snaked her hand down between their bodies and reached for his fundoshi, squeezing lightly. He gasped and rocked his hips forward into her touch.

"Listening to other men speak of their conquests is not the same thing as experiencing such things for yourself." she replied suggestively, and he couldn't agree with her more as his own hand found its way down to her most intimate place.

It was Kagome's turn to gasp as she felt another's touch for the first time since it happened; she was not suddenly traumatized by latent memories of her assault. Reaching down with her other hand to grab at her lover's, she merely showed him what to do, what she knew through years of personal experience that she liked best. Inuyasha was a fast learner and eagerly accepted Kagome's guidance, completely floored by the way she started panting and moaning his name – or at least the name he had given her – as his strokes became more frequent and pronounced. Kagome's own hands were far from idle, making it quite hard for him to concentrate with all of the delicious waves of pleasure crashing against him one right after the other. He wasn't without his own personal experience when it came to such things, but there was unquestionably something much more enjoyable with the act when the stimulation came from somebody else's hand. As he felt her pluck loose the tied off end of his fundoshi, unwrapping the fabric to the point of exposing him directly, he hissed in delight as her fingers encased him, the sensation of simply being held by another far better than he could have ever imagined.

Remembering her statement about having never been touched by a man in pleasurable ways, Inuyasha had the desire in that moment to bring Kagome as much joy as possible, so reaching down with his free hand he stilled her own upon his body, wishing to concentrate for the moment on her pleasure alone. Kagome was too far gone to protest, easily switching from what she had been doing to merely fisting the bedding beneath her, her eyes pinched shut as she trembled. It didn't take too long before Inuyasha had her crying out in ecstasy, and as he felt her excitement coat his hand, he knew she was ready for him. Bringing that same hand to his own member, he lubricated himself in preparation while using his other hand to fully remove his loosened fundoshi.

Shifting and maneuvering himself underneath her blankets to crawl on top of her, settling his legs between her own as she opened herself below him in clear invitation, Inuyasha paused for a moment before completing their joining, staring down at her face in wonder in the flickering firelight. Never…never would he have ever imagined that he would ever find himself in such a position, about to become one with a woman. Such basic rights of life were denied him; pleasure was forbidden and enjoyment a fleeting fantasy never to be realized. Perhaps this was all a dream. Perhaps nobody had ever found him, as he'd crouched between the shrubbery and rocks like a frightened rabbit hiding from a wolf. Perhaps he was freezing to death in that very moment, and all that had transpired since believing Kagome had discovered him there was merely his own mind trying to soften the blow of his pending demise. But if that were the case, then he had nothing to lose by going forward with the fantasy. And if it turned out to be real? Then this would be his most cherished memory, something he would carry with him throughout the rest of his long life to function as a constant reminder that at least the gods, if no one else, could occasionally take pity upon him.

Progressing without hesitation, then, Inuyasha reached up with both hands to lovingly cup the sides of Kagome's face, bringing her concentration back to him as he continued to gaze down at her in wonder and awe. Moving his hips forward, he felt Kagome's hand snake between them to assist with his alignment, and as he began pressing inside, he had to force himself to keep his eyes open, as he concentrated on Kagome's loving gaze as she stared back up at him with adoration and gratitude.

Joining with her completely, he remained still for a few moments, his eyes eventually drifting shut as he concentrated on not allowing his body to end things between them too quickly. The feelings washing through him were far more intense than anything he could have ever imagined. There was no way this was a dream. The woman below him was also experiencing similar thoughts, as Kagome finally learned in that moment what it felt like to be a woman. There was no pain, despite the single previous time she had engaged in such an activity being nearly a dozen years prior. The beast that had attacked her had taken from her what he'd wanted and left her for dead. She hadn't even thought of the act in terms of destroying her innocence until the reactions of everyone around her had made her realize the true severity of the attack. Initially, in her innocent mind, she had believed only that she had been physically assaulted, no different from anyone else who might be attacked in one way or another. Sure, she had known in what capacity her body had been abused, but certainly such a violation couldn't be blamed on her. She had been hurt physically, but not mentally. That second blow had come from the reactions of her friends and family. Her father's words, the villagers' view of her, that had hurt worse than any physical blow to the body ever could.

But in that moment, as the man above her slowly retracted himself before sinking forward once more, all of the pain she had suffered during her youth was instantly erased. Wrapping her arms up and around his back, holding him to her, Kagome prayed for time to stop in that moment so that she could live in that instant in time forever. She knew her houseguest would be gone in the morning, and she would probably never see him again, but refusing to ruin the present by worrying about the future, no matter how near a future it was, Kagome refrained from closing her eyes, gazing up into the chocolate orbs of the man making love to her.

As Inuyasha met Kagome's eyes with his own, he hoped to portray to her in his gaze just how grateful, just how blessed she had truly made him. He knew he would most likely never be with another woman again for as long as he lived, but even if, in a century or two, he somehow miraculously managed to find himself perhaps a female hanyou who would accept him, Kagome would forever hold a cherished place in his heart as the first woman after his mother to show him any form of kindness, and the first woman ever to gift him with physical love. Her body beneath his felt absolutely amazing, and he knew he would never again be able to pleasure himself without imagining her face, her eyes so full of longing as she gazed back up at him lovingly.

Unfortunately, time stands still for no one, no matter how desperately both persons might wish it so. It didn't take too long before Inuyasha started to feel that telltale tingling that indicated their joining would be coming to an end. Stilling all movement, he closed his eyes for a moment, panting heavily. He didn't want his night with Kagome to end.

"Let it go." she whispered then, and he opened his eyes to gaze back down at her.

"Kagome, I…"

He what? What was he going to say? What could he possibly tell her of how he felt?

"I know…" she answered quietly, and even though he didn't even know it himself, somehow, he believed her.

Pulling his hips back once more, he quickly picked up where he'd left off, his rhythm steadily increasing as he began to feel himself lose it. Kagome could sense the building release within him, and encouraged him in that moment by softly murmuring, "That's it, you can do it."

"Ka…Kagome…I…I'm gonna…"

"Yes, Yasha, yes…"

He grunted loudly as his release overpowered him, his hips locking tight as he buried his face in the crook of her neck, desperately trying to muffle his cry, as if someone would hear him and try to kill him all the more violently for having had the audacity to presume he was worthy of experiencing such joy. Of course, those bastards could try, but they wouldn't be successful, he thought then with a small chuckle. No one would ever be able to kill him now, not now that he'd finally discovered he actually had something worth living for. If it'd happened once it could happen again. If one woman could find it in her heart to take such care of him, then who's to say that such consideration was truly above him? Not that he was so eager to exchange Kagome for another woman. Just the opposite, in fact; he would be quite satisfied if Kagome remained the only woman in his life, though not if that meant this was a single and unrecurring encounter. No…somehow, someway, he had to see Kagome again. Perhaps he could even return to her cabin in one single month's time. Maybe she wouldn't make the connection of the lunar cycle and he could merely tell her that he had happened to be in the area again and had then remembered her. Surely it would work at least once, though becoming a regular monthly caller would certainly raise too many suspicions on her part. But he knew one thing for certain in that moment, and that was that he could not permit himself to never see Kagome again for the rest of his life. Maybe it would be wiser to wait a couple of months, but he would definitely be seeing her again, at least one more time.

In that moment, though, as much as he wanted to plan out how he could go about returning to her cabin in one or two months' time, so that he could leave with a smile as he knew his plan for the next visit was already in place, his mind suddenly became so drowsy in that moment that it was all he could do to remember that he had to actually leave at all. But sunrise was still several hours away; the night was young. It wouldn't hurt anything, he decided then, to savor the feeling of holding Kagome in his arms for a little while longer. As he shifted the two of them under her blanket, she immediately understood where he was going and assisted him with the maneuver, allowing him to lie flatly on his back while she rolled over onto her left side, snuggling herself against him as she lied half on her bedding and half on top of him. Resting her head against his shoulder, his right arm went underneath and around her body to hold her to him as he rested his hand on her side. Her right leg was bent and resting gently in between his own, his left hand gently cupping her right as she rested it against his stomach, and when she stretched her neck to lean up and peck his cheek before murmuring "Goodnight." Inuyasha couldn't help thinking that yes, yes it was.


Inuyasha didn't think he had fallen asleep, but that was only because his body was so warn out in such an enjoyable way that he didn't enter the land of dreams. He recalled distinctly that he was awake, staring up at the firelight dancing across her ceiling, and then the next thing he knew, Kagome was shifting against him, languidly drawing his attention seconds before his eyes widened in terror to realize the light inside the cabin was much brighter and steady than what the fire had been producing. Glancing around the room, he saw that the fire was out, and morning light was creeping in around the edges of her door mat and through the ventilation notches at the edge of her slanted roof to allow rising smoke to escape. The sun hadn't risen yet, but it was close. Too close.

Shit! he mentally cursed, panic-stricken as he frantically worked on untangling himself from Kagome's way too inviting warmth. He didn't have the luxury of stealth, and he was praying the girl was a heavy sleeper, but that prayer proved to go unanswered when, as he pulled his arm out from under her as gently as he could, she moaned before shifting once more, cracking her eyes open to greet him with a crooked smile.

"Good morning." she murmured sleepily, and he froze.

Kagome wasn't stupid, she knew that her houseguest had been trying to make his escape undetected, but even though she knew that he couldn't stay with her indefinitely, she figured the least he could do was say his farewells to her face.

"Are you truly in such a hurry to rejoin your solitude?" she asked, a small touch of hurt in her voice despite herself. While she had known that he would be leaving her in the morning, that hadn't stopped a small portion of her heart from hoping that it wouldn't be so. "Could you not at the very least allow me to prepare you breakfast?"

"I…don't want to be a burden on you." he tried, hissing as the cool morning air burned his skin as he slipped out from her bedding, his open kosode revealing the body she had felt the night before, bringing a dark blush to both of their faces as he quickly wrapped his robe closed around himself while she shifted her head to grant him privacy for dressing.

"That is a weak excuse, as we both know it would be no burden." Kagome stated mostly to herself, though loud enough for him to hear her.

"Kagome, please…don't be like this." he pleaded as he finished tying his kosode before reaching for the rest of his clothing.

"You're right, I'm sorry." she stated sincerely as she turned to look his way once he was dressed. "Can you do one small thing for me though, before you depart?"

Anxiously shifting from foot to foot, he tried to judge how much time he had left by calculating the amount of brightness creeping in from the outside. He really needed to see the eastern horizon.

"What?" he asked more harshly than he would have liked.

Suddenly, Kagome flung her blanket aside, revealing her own nude form spilling out from the opened kosode that hung loosely at her sides. Unconcerned about modesty as his eyes momentarily widened at the unexpected sight, Kagome flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around him tightly.

"K-Kagome? What-"

"Wait until after sunrise." she murmured against him, causing his mind to come to a screeching halt.

Did she just…but how could she…does that mean…but I can't…this is…

He couldn't complete a single thought, and as his mind rotated in that spiral of descending panic he became completely unaware of anything and everything save for the shivering woman clinging to him so desperately.

And then, to his utmost horror, he felt the first pulses of youki rush through him, the moonless night coming to an official end as the morning sun breached the horizon.

"Let me go!" he yelled, roughly shoving Kagome away, though it was already too late. The changes consumed him as he reached for the doormat, shoving it aside with clawed hands, a trail of silver hair flying in his wake as he bolted outside.

He was too lost in his own turmoil to notice any oddity in the lacking of a gasp of shock or horror from the woman he left behind, but as the final pulse of the transformation gave him back the full strength of his powers, his departure came to a sudden and immediate halt as the unmistakable hum of reiki suddenly assaulted his senses. Turning to glance back at Kagome's cabin in total shock and disbelief, his canine ears both swiveled forward on instinct only to lower to his head as the miserable sound of sniffling reached his ears. Despite his better judgment, he hesitantly crept back towards the door of her hut, too afraid to enter though too mesmerized to leave, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him. Kagome was a miko? But how could that be? And if it was true, then what the hell was he still doing there? He should run before she came after him with those arrows of hers. But yet, despite knowing that, he stayed, the heart he hadn't even thought he'd still had breaking just a little bit as the scent of her tears reached his nose.

"I know you're out there, I can feel you." Kagome called suddenly, her voice a little shaky but yet also firm.

Startled, Inuyasha gulped before hesitantly brushing the mat aside, sliding it open to gaze inside the hut though he didn't cross over the threshold. Kagome was just finishing up with the tie on her hakama, and she gazed his way with a sad smile, completely unresponsive to his altered appearance.

"You knew." he accused softly.

"I suspected." she amended, confessing, "I wasn't certain until you were suddenly so desperate to leave before sunup."

Collecting her boots and pulling them on, Inuyasha stood silent in her doorway as he watched her finish dressing. Rising to her feet, Kagome nodded his way and he nodded once in turn, stepping aside to let her exit as she slipped her geta on her feet. Heading around to the tree stump he had sat on the night before, Kagome took a seat, gazing up at her houseguest apologetically. She couldn't blame him for the touch of betrayal she could see in his eyes, but the truth was that she hadn't meant to use him in any way.

"I felt your youki the night before, while I had been hunting." she began, knowing without being prompted that he deserved to hear the truth. "When I had first discovered you there, I had been surprised, and I hadn't initially made the connection. But then I noticed how your feet did not seem to have been affected by the snow at all, which should have been impossible. Thinking back on it, I quickly realized that the youki I had felt had disappeared the same instant the sun had set, and having been trained to be a miko, I knew that when it came to hanyou, they sometimes have moments when they become fully human, most often ruled by the cycle of night and day. It had only been a speculation; I'd had no way of knowing if my guess was right or not."

"You said you had been trained to be a healer." he pointed out harshly, catching her in her first lie.

"Being a healer is part of being a miko, and I did undergo such training. But I hadn't wanted to confess to being trained as a miko incase you were what I'd suspected you might be. I hadn't wanted to needlessly frighten you."

"Something doesn't make sense." he accused, crossing his arms and glaring down at her defiantly. "Even suspecting that I might be a hanyou, then why the hell would you offer yourself to me? What trickery is this?"

"No trickery…" Kagome assured him, gazing up into his eyes beseechingly. "I…it simply hadn't mattered to me. Everything that happened between us happened just as you'd believed it did. I had become as excited by your closeness as you had of mine, and I had wanted to experience pleasure with a man. I had not planned it in advance, I swear to you."

"Pleasure with a man…" he repeated sarcastically. "But I'm not a man."

Looking down into her lap, he was caught off guard as a new wave of tears hit his nose. "That doesn't matter." Kagome stated solemnly. "I long ago gave up the beliefs I had been raised with, that youkai are naturally evil and humans are naturally good. That is foolish closed mindedness. Every being with a soul has the choice to be either good or evil; it is not the makeup of the blood that decides such things."

With his eyes softening ever so slightly, Inuyasha asked, "Did you decide this after you were raped by a human bandit?"

Cringing, Kagome raised her eyes back up to meet his own and confessed hesitantly, "That had been a lie."

Recoiling as if he'd been slapped, he was just about to tear into her when she added, "It had not been a bandit, but an oni."

That shut him up, as he stared at her with wide eyes full of disbelief and concern. "Th-then how can you defend that not all youkai are evil? Shouldn't you hate my kind more after experiencing something like that?"

Shaking her head sadly, Kagome murmured quietly, "I could never have hated my baby, no matter what."

Suddenly, it all made perfect sense. Why Kagome's village had treated her so harshly, and why she had been so kind to him despite suspecting he might be hanyou. The rape story, that had been true. She had merely bent the truth by stating it had been a bandit. She had been raped by an oni, and knowing how powerful that old miko's reiki was from firsthand experience, she had probably come running at the feel of the oni's presence, meaning it had been caught in the act, which had probably been what had saved Kagome's life, though it'd also meant that she couldn't keep what had happened to her a secret. No wonder her father had said she was ruined; no one would trust the touch of a healer who had been tarnished in such a way. And then to suddenly realize she was pregnant, with an oni's child? Kagome had been pregnant with a hanyou baby, and she…and she had given up her life in order to protect her child. No wonder she had never attempted going back home even after losing the pregnancy. While he believed her hostility when she'd referred to her once-kinsmen as traitors, it was also very likely that she had also been telling the truth when she'd said that only her mother would accept her back, anyway. She had chosen to protect a hanyou, she had chosen to become the mother of a hanyou, and the fact that the child hadn't survived in the end was irrelevant. That disgrace would haunt her for the rest of her life in their eyes. He knew from firsthand experience just how most humans treated the mother of a hanyou babe.

"I…I'm so sorry, Kagome."

"I know, Yasha, it is all right. That was several years ago."

It was his turn to cringe mildly.

"Yasha is not my full name." he confessed.

"I hadn't truly thought it was your name at all." she replied, inquiring, "It is in fact part of your name?"

Nodding, he told her, "My name from birth is Inuyasha."

"Ah…canine forest spirit. So you are inu. I suspected as much from your new appearance, though I wasn't certain. No wonder I was so drawn to you. Inu are natural companions to mankind, after all."

"Yeah, well…" he answered with a mild blush, uncrossing his arms to raise his right hand to the back of his head awkwardly. "I've never really done the whole guardian/protector gig. I'm still half human, to a human mother. I was raised like a normal kid, or as normal as she could raise me considering everyone in our entire village hated the both of us. She didn't have anyone who pitied her for her plight, my father hadn't raped her; they had been lovers and she was branded a youkai's whore by her family and everyone else. Though her family didn't disown her, she was a disgrace, and I was a curse. Upon her death I was cast out, and I've been living by myself ever since. I usually don't go anywhere near other humans except during my transformation. Outside of that, I just do what I gotta do to survive."

"As do I. We are not so different, you and I." Kagome stated with a smile, inquiring gently, "So you do not turn human nightly?"

"Hell no." he balked, mildly offended that she thought him so weak. "Only once a month."

Thinking about it for a moment, Kagome commented, "Ah, the night of the new moon."

He fidgeted a little before murmuring, "Don't go spreadin' that around, all right?"

"And whom would I tell? You forget I am nearly as much of an outcast as yourself."

"I…I haven't forgotten."

Kagome relaxed at the kindness in his eyes, and what beautiful eyes they were, like molten gold. She found in that moment that she could gaze into their depths forever. The oni that had attacked her had been physically attractive enough, it hadn't been a horrid, misshapen monster, but there had been an evilness in his black eyes that had chilled her to the bone. She had been too new, too inexperienced to properly protect herself when he'd caught her off guard while she'd been collecting herbs for Kaede. She had tried to fight him off, but she had only injured him enough to enrage him, and sneering that he would teach her a lesson about respecting beings more superior than herself, he had proceeded to do what he'd done more from a desire to break her spirit than anything else. He hadn't succeeded. She'd struggled against him until the very end, when Kaede had come rushing onto the scene and felled the oni with a rapid succession of three arrows. He hadn't broken her spirit, though the villagers had nearly completed that task for him. But she had bounced back in the end, proving if to no one but herself that she was a lot stronger than anyone had ever given her credit for. For one thing, she hadn't lost her spiritual powers; a feat Kaede had commented should have been impossible. Now, as Kagome gazed up into Inuyasha's smiling, golden eyes, she knew more than ever that it was the purity of the heart and soul that mattered, not the content of one's blood or the condition of their body.

"Now that you no longer have cause to rush off in such a hurry," Kagome spoke up after a moment, changing the subject with a gentle smile on her lips, "Would you allow me to fix you breakfast?"

Laughing a little, Inuyasha nodded his consent, though he then proceeded to surprise Kagome by stating that an appetite such as his wouldn't be satisfied with mere rice alone, as he declared that he would go catch them both a fish from the nearby river. Surprised, though pleasantly so, Kagome put more rice on to cook while awaiting his return, and when he came back only a few minutes later with two large fish in his grasp, she proceeded to scale and gut them for roasting.

Inuyasha made his departure shortly after breakfast, asking shyly if it was all right with her if he tracked her down in one month's time. Kagome wanted to tell Inuyasha that he needn't depart in the first place, though she could understand how somebody who had spent so much of their life on the run couldn't so easily accept the notion of settling down in one location. Telling him cryptically that he would always be welcome, she bid him farewell with a pleasant smile.

It didn't take him long to start missing her, as he ran through the forest, leaping through the trees. A part of him had wanted to stay, but he had feared for her safety above anything else, knowing from past experiences that if he stayed put in one place for too long, eventually his presence drew unwanted attention, as the other youkai of the world sensed their proximity to a hanyou and took it upon themselves to attempt to rid the world of his filth. So long as he kept on moving, then most of the various local youkai let him go, understanding that he was merely passing through and wouldn't be a thorn in their side for very long. Every once in a while he encountered a youkai or oni vindictive enough to come after him after a single sniff, but more often than not they left him alone unless they got the impression that it was his intention to settle down where they deemed it too close for comfort. Nobody wanted a hanyou taking up permanent residence in their own backyard, and he was sure the same would be true for whatever local youkai deemed the mountain Kagome resided upon as their domain. They undoubtedly left her alone because they could sense her miko powers, but he didn't want to gamble that that would be enough of a deterrent to keep her safe if a youkai decided to come after him while he was with her.

Even so, he had been telling the truth before when he'd sworn to himself that he would see Kagome again, that he would not let this encounter remain a one time thing, and that was a vow he had every intention of keeping now that Kagome had already told him that he would be welcome in her home again come the next new moon. Now that she already knew what he was and he didn't have to worry about her figuring it out, perhaps becoming a regular monthly caller was within the realm of possibility, after all. And that wasn't even to say that he expected her to bed with him every single time. He had also been telling the truth when he'd said he wouldn't treat her like a whore. No, it wasn't about the sex…although he would most certainly never turn her down were she to offer…but more than anything, as he continued to put more distance between them, he realized that it was simply about Kagome, and his desire to be in her presence. For the first time in his life, Inuyasha actually found himself looking forward to the next new moon.

As Kagome stretched her senses to their absolute limit until she could no longer detect even the slightest trace of his youki in the distance, her thoughts were running along similar lines, realizing that she would miss him as she discovered that for all her efforts to be self-sustaining, she desperately missed having the companionship of another. Still, in that moment she knew that she would be seeing him again, come the next new moon, so there was nothing for it in the mean time except to get on with her daily routine.

The days seemed to pass by more slowly than usual, at first, but it didn't take too long for her life to go back to normal, as she worked on completing the collection of small leather sagemono pouches with bone fasteners she had been fashioning for the tradesman to sell during his next trek to market. Delivering her wares on schedule, she collected from him the items he had acquired for her on his previous trip, including more fabric and thread, and she immediately set about sewing clothing for a collection of small wooden dolls she had been working on on the side. That would keep her mind occupied into the coming weeks. Once spring and summer rolled around her days were always much busier, filled with tending to the many vegetables and herbs she always planted on a yearly basis to aid with her self-reliance, but the winter months were much slower, filled with cold and hungry nights where her greatest concentration was on staying warm, while she worked diligently on her crafts so that she could purchase whatever she needed to survive. Once, a little over a year ago, she had even been paid by the tradesman directly when upon her arrival he had inquired on her knowledge of herbs, asking on behalf of another for her assistance from her past training on knowing which herbs could be safely mixed together to treat what had been ailing that villager. Kagome mused that one day, perhaps she would become the old witch everyone knew lived high on the mountain, and young ones would seek her and her knowledge for their personal gain, but assuming such a future awaited her it was still a long ways off. In the meantime, she would focus on dressing her wooden dolls until her guest's return.


After what seemed like the longest month of his life, Inuyasha was surprisingly unsure of himself as he stood silent in the lingering snow, facing Kagome's cabin through the trees. She was inside; he could both smell and hear her, not to mention the thin trail of cooking smoke that was exiting out through the notches at the edge of her roof. It smelled of roasting fish. His stomach growled.

Suddenly, the straw mat moved aside, as Kagome peered out into the forest. She could sense his youki.

"Inuyasha?" she called, glancing around until her eyes focused on his form, the deep red of his kimono making it easy for her to spot him as the sun glistened off of the remaining snow that surrounded them. Her face blossomed into a huge grin as he stepped closer, into the small clearing that more or less functioned as her front yard.

"Hey." he greeted awkwardly.

"Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise." Kagome acknowledged, waving him inside as she darted back into her hut. "I wasn't expecting you until tonight, not that I'm complaining. This fish is much too large for me to finish all by myself, anyway. Won't you join me for lunch?"


They ate in companionable silence, but it didn't take too long to finish with their meal, and then Kagome immediately launched into asking him how he'd been and what he had done with himself over the last month while also filling him in on the more recent events of her own life. Inuyasha was surprised by how relaxed he felt in her presence, but deciding not to fight the feeling, he confessed how he hadn't really gone all that far away, more or less circling her general area over and over so as to avoid staying still for too long until it was time for him to return. Kagome appreciated his concern for her well being, once that reasoning had been explained to her, although she didn't believe there were any local youkai that would cause him any trouble.

"Yours is the strongest youki I've sensed on this mountain since the day that oni attacked me. Perhaps this realm had been his domain at that time, but nobody else has claimed it in his stead." she told him. "Perhaps you should consider becoming a yama-inu and claiming this mountain for yourself. It could become known as Inuyasha's Forest."

He scoffed at that notion, at first, believing she was teasing him, but as the seriousness behind her eyes slowly registered he humbly told her that he had never been invited to stay anywhere before, and that if there were truly no other powerful youkai in the area that would raise a fit about it, perhaps…just perhaps…he would consider taking her up on the offer. He knew he couldn't get too close to the old miko's village, but apparently Kagome's cabin was beyond Kaede's sensing range. Either that, or the old miko didn't care so long as he didn't get any closer. When he had fled from her hunting party the previous month, he had heard it when they had turned and headed back, and he had not yet been as close to the summit as where Kagome's homestead resided. Kagome had spoken of Kaede with an air of kindness, expressing that the elderly miko had sympathized with her plight and had not personally ostracized her for carrying a hanyou baby, though the woman had had her hands tied as far as what kindness she could truly offer her ex-apprentice in light of the villagers' hostility. But the impression he had gathered of Kaede from Kagome's telling had him believing that so long as she didn't deem him a direct threat to her village, then she would most likely leave him alone.

That day would function as an initial test to that theory, considering he was there so early. He would scout around for a while once it got closer to sunset to make sure there weren't any troubles heading their way. In the meantime, he was fascinated to learn of all of the various crafts and skills Kagome had taught herself over the years, impressed by the detail of her woodcarving as he examined the dolls she was working on. They were nothing grand, but they would make nice playthings for children.

The mention of children made the atmosphere between them more somber for a moment, but Kagome quickly waved off his concerns. She was a firm believer in all things happening for a reason, as she explained that she had clearly not been meant to have her child, though at the same time the attack that had happened to her must have been the will of the kami; it must have been in their design that she would leave her village to live by herself as she now did.

"Perhaps I was destined to find you that night." she stated whimsically, glancing his way slyly as she went about setting a pot of water to boil in preparation for that night's dinner.

"Or perhaps I was the one destined to find you…" Inuyasha answered with a touch of bravado that surprised them both, as he leaned forward for a quick peck of a kiss before darting out into the woods to scout for threats and hunt dinner before he lost his powers.

Dinner was simple, another soup comprised of rabbit meat, but neither of them complained when they were gifted the opportunity to share the meal with somebody else. They both silently relished in the companionship of the other; Inuyasha especially, once his human emotions flooded to the surface.

After dinner, it was pretty much a given that he would again be sharing Kagome's bedding, although he'd meant what he'd told himself the month before. He refused to treat her like a whore, and wouldn't make any presumptions. The unasked question was answered, though, when as Kagome began undressing for bed, she didn't stop with her leather tabi. Reaching for and tugging loose the ties of her hakama, she sent him a silent grin and he immediately got the hint, removing his own clothing as she continued undressing.

Instead of stopping at her kosode, Kagome got completely nude. Spring would be approaching soon, so the nighttime temperatures, while still very cold, were not quite as chilly as they had been before. Following suit, Inuyasha removed all of his clothing as well, joining her under her fur blankets once they were each fully bare, relishing in the simple sensation of flesh on flesh wherever their bodies touched. Few words were spoken between them, though as Kagome gasped his name in between kisses, his true name, Inuyasha felt a new sort of possessiveness bubble up from deep within his being. Never would anyone else hear their name fall from her lips in such a manner. Kagome was his.

Their second joining was slow and tender, though he still didn't last as long as he would have liked. Having made sure to deliver Kagome's pleasure first, he didn't fight it when his body signaled the approach of his own release, and afterwards, he voluntarily allowed himself to fall asleep while holding her close, unconcerned of his pending transformation. He was awoken the following morning by the return of his youki, neither of them able to ignore the sensation of his youkai blood flaring to life, but then much to Inuyasha's joy, Kagome proved her honesty in not caring about his hanyou status as she merely snuggled back against his side again, her fingers lazily exploring newly defined muscles.

The scent of their joining hung heavily in the air, something he hadn't been in a position to take note of last month, and breathing in deeply, he was quickly aroused again. Rumbling deep in his chest, he grabbed Kagome's hand and moved it from his abdomen to an area located further south.

The former miko opened her eyes once more to gaze at him playfully, as she gave him a gentle squeeze. His own eyes closed as a hiss of pleasure tumbled past his lips, while his whole body arched slightly as he leaned his head back while pressing himself further into her hand. "Damn…" he grumbled appreciatively, getting up to craw himself on top of her as she giggled. If they weren't careful she would probably end up pregnant with a hanyou baby all over again, but as that thought crossed her mind as he entered her, Kagome merely smiled, thinking she would be okay with that. At least this time she knew she wouldn't be all by herself. Perhaps her attack had been a means to an end, perhaps she and Inuyasha truly were destined for one another. That was about the extent of her thought process throughout the rest of the morning, though, as Inuyasha showed her that more defined abdominals weren't the only muscles to gain in size or strength while in his hanyou form. He quickly thought that he could get used to the sound of her gasping in pleasure below him.

~ Fin ~