We don't know what lies ahead
And we still have a ways to go
For now I will take your hand
Treasure what I get to hold
- Imaginary Future, "All My Love"
After she left, he found her scarf in Kaede’s hut. It was the last thing he pulled out of the monstrous yellow backpack she'd left behind, all wadded up and crumpled at the bottom, buried beneath the pile of crap she always hauled around: clothing and towels and textbooks and food and water bottles and medical supplies and dozens of knick knacks whose purpose he couldn't even begin to guess. He took out each item individually and held it with both hands—gently, carefully—gazing at it for long moments before setting it aside and pulling out the next thing. This was fast becoming a nightly ritual for him, a compulsion he didn't even try to fight anymore: going through the things she'd left behind, touching what she had once touched, catching the faintest residual traces of her scent. It was stronger on some of her things than on others, but it was strongest on the scarf. That's why he always held it the longest.
He rubbed the sky-blue scarf between his fingers, careful not to snag it with his claws. It was soft, made of the same material as some of her sweaters. He lifted it to his nose and inhaled slowly. Her scent was faded, but still there. It triggered a rush of images and memories, rising in him like a flash flood.
He remembered one night in her room, watching her pack. She was preparing for a longer-than-usual stay in the feudal era, because after a solid week of his strategic guerilla warfare—or as Sango archly put it, his descending on every petty opportunity to gripe about Kagome's absences like a hawk descending on a wounded hare—he had finally convinced Kagome to stay in his era for an uninterrupted month. She hadn't given in easy, but once she'd agreed she seemed almost energized by the prospect. She was definitely extra lively as she packed that night, fretting over what to bring and trying to plan for contingencies.
"It's so hard to plan for the weather at this time of year," she'd said, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth and glaring at the already-overstuffed backpack sitting on her bed as though it was responsible for her dilemma. "Do you think I should pack extra blankets in case the temperature drops?"
He'd been sitting cross-legged on the floor under her window, arms crossed and resting inside his sleeves, Tetsusaiga propped against his shoulder. He'd watched her attentively as she paced back and forth between her closet and the backpack on her bed. He'd offered a couple comments here and there about the supplies, but he was mostly content to quietly observe her and absorb the peace he always felt here, in her room. At her question, he merely shrugged. "We could make do without 'em."
She gave an exasperated little eye roll. "Well sure, but how miserable will we be while we 'make do'?" She tapped her forefinger against her chin in consideration. "I guess I'd better bring some, just in case."
Then she marched back over to her closet, pulled out four enormous fuzzy blankets, and plopped them down on her bed. Stacked together, they were taller than her backpack and nearly as wide.
The corner of his mouth twitched up. He covered it with, "Keh! You'll never make those fit."
She threw him a haughty look. "Watch me, dog-boy."
Taking the topmost blanket, she placed it on the mound of things already bursting out of the backpack. She then proceeded to push, shove, knee, elbow, sit on, and at one point bounce on the blanket to force it inside the bag. It didn't budge an inch.
After a few more minutes of wrestling with the blanket and getting nowhere, she growled under her breath, took a couple steps back from the bed, planted her hands on her hips and leveled a narrowed-eyed look of challenge at the blanket. It was the same expression she often got right before she sat him, and it was his undoing. He ducked his head as he snorted back a chuckle.
Her narrow-eyed glare slid in his direction, and her lips pursed. "What's so funny?"
He glanced back up at her, and this time didn't bother hiding his smirk. "Told ya it wouldn't fit."
"Hmph. Well maybe if someone got off his rear and used his extra-human strength, it would fit."
"I could use Bakuryūha on that thing and it still wouldn't fit. You've got too much crap in there."
She huffed at that. "It's not crap! It's supplies."
She treated him to another little eye roll. Then, groaning in exasperation, she walked over and sat down next to him on the floor. "This is all your fault, you know," she grumbled. "You're the one who insisted I stay for a whole month. Now I have to pack for five people for four weeks!" As though exhausted by the mere thought, she leaned into his side, laying her head against his shoulder.
For a moment, all he could concentrate on was the warmth of her body settled against him. Heat filtered into his cheeks and across the bridge of his nose. "You're not responsible for everyone. Just pack for yourself."
"I can't do that!" she cried, sounding almost offended. "It's hardly fair. Everyone deserves to be comfortable."
He shrugged again thoughtlessly, the action jostling her head; in response, she threaded her arm through his crossed one and squeezed it tightly to steady herself. His face got hotter.
She was hugging his arm. She was leaning against his side and hugging his arm and she was really warm and—
He cleared his throat nervously, and offered a somewhat shaky, "K-keh! We can handle a little discomfort, wench."
"Sure, you say that now. But if we get caught in a storm on the road, you'll be glad to have some extra blankets."
"I wouldn't need any. It's you puny humans who can't handle a little cold."
"Uh huh. And if we get caught in a storm, and we can't keep warm, we'll get sick. Think about how long that would delay you, dog-boy."
She had a point. Though he doubted they'd run into any truly dangerous conditions, there was really no way of knowing for sure. Early winter could be unpredictable. Not for the first time and probably not for the last, he marveled at how frail humans could be.
He sighed. "Fine. We'll bring a couple extra blankets. For emergencies." He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "But only two, okay? There's no way we can carry four."
She shook her head in disagreement... or was she nuzzling her cheek against his arm? It kind of felt like nuzzling. He hoped it was nuzzling. His heart skipped a beat at the thought.
"But what'll we do if we all need to keep warm?" she asked.
Heart still beating erratically—the stupid bastard—and face still hot, Inuyasha just hoped she wouldn't look up and notice. He forced his voice gruff so he'd at least sound normal. "Like I said, we'll make do. Sango and Miroku can each take a blanket. Shippo's a runt, so he can easily share with one of them. Kirara's a fire cat, she'll be fine. And you'd just share my—"
By the time his brain caught up with his mouth, it was too late to take the words back. But that didn't stop him from trying. "Uh, I mean—you wouldn't need—I mean we—"
Her head lifted from his shoulder, and she turned just slightly towards him, staring up at his face with wide eyes. The baffled but vaguely expectant look in those eyes had him backpedaling like his life—and his dignity—depended on it. "K-k-keh! This is stupid! We ain't gonna get caught in a storm! And even if we do, we'll just tough it out like always. You're worrying over nothing!"
Lifting his chin, he turned his head away to show in no uncertain terms that the conversation was over.
But then, when had Kagome ever let that stop her? Instead of dropping it like anyone else would have, she tugged at his sleeve and said, "Wait, what were you going to say?"
He half-heartedly tried to jerk his sleeve out of her grip. "Nothin'. Drop it."
"Oh come on, just tell me."
"You know you want to tell me," she wheedled, poking at his ribs with her free hand. Her other arm was still threaded through his, and he gave it a warning squeeze. She kept poking him anyway. "Let's hear it, what's the rest of your emergency plan? I'd share...?"
"Sango's blanket?" she continued, and he could hear the grin in her voice. Then her tone got a little a sly as she added, "Miroku's blanket?"
Some distant, muffled part of his brain warned him not to react to her teasing, but it was instantly overwhelmed by a blaze of possessive irritation. He whipped his head around to scowl at her. "Fat chance of that, wench! I'd throw the monk into the middle of a blizzard before I let you anywhere near him."
He straightened his shoulders and narrowed his eyes. "That's right."
"Well then, what's your alternative, Inuyasha?"
There was no backing down now. Lifting his chin with an air of authority, he said in a tone that brooked no argument, "You'd take my haori."
He watched as her mouth opened automatically, as though she had some comeback prepared, but when his words registered, she paused. Color suffused her cheeks as her eyes widened just slightly, and her mouth snapped shut. She stared up at him with those big grey eyes.
His own blush grew hot, and his spine stiffened as he realized that he'd surprised her. That's not what she'd been expecting him to say. Maybe he'd even shocked her. Embarrassed her. Or worse, offended her.
The longer she stared at him in silence, the more panicked he became. This conversation needed to be over. Now. His voice became surly when he said, "Forget it, all right? Stop worrying. You're being stupid." He jerked his arm from hers and shifted, angling his body until he was half-turned away from her. "You should get back to packing, we ain't got all night."
There was another moment of silence—during which he thought his spine might snap from tension—then he heard her get to her feet. His ears swiveled back to track her movements as she walked over to her bed. She paused there for a moment; then he heard the softest rustle of cloth, and then her footsteps padding back over to him. If it were possible, his back stiffened even more when she kneeled directly in front of him, forcing him to look at her.
Her expression was calm, though she was still blushing. She looked down at her lap, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, took a steadying breath, and then peeked back up at him through her bangs. And though he'd deny it until he was cold in his grave, when she looked at him like that, he thought that he never wanted to be anywhere else but right there with her.
Then she spoke. "I like your plan," she said softly. "We'll... share your haori."
He blinked, mind blanking out. He opened his mouth to say something, but all the air rushed out of his lungs instead.
Her hands were fiddling with some kind of cloth in her lap. She cleared her throat nervously and continued, "And we can share this, too." She lifted the sky-blue material held loosely in her hands and presented it to him. It took him a few seconds to realize it was a scarf, long and thick, the ends dangling from her hands and nearly touching the floor.
"... that?" he asked cautiously, for lack of anything else to say.
She nodded, grinning a little, and tilted her face up towards him. "It's warm, and long enough for two. Look, see?"
Then she rose to her knees and leaned forward. Arms outstretched, she began looping the blue scarf around his neck. One of her hands rested on his shoulder, steadying her, while the other wrapped one end of the scarf around him. As she worked, his arms uncrossed and dropped from his chest, hands coming to rest unwittingly on her waist. She looped the scarf around him twice before then wrapping the nearer end around her own neck. By the time she finished, the scarf was draped snugly around both of them, only the shortest length of sky-blue material between them, connecting them.
Now both of her hands gripped his shoulders. Her upper body was still bent forward, hovering just a few inches shy of his chest. He suddenly became very aware of the heat of her waist under his palms. Her face was very, very close to his. He gulped. His fingers flexed against her waist.
"There," she said, voice hushed and soft. She was so close he could see each individual eyelash when she blinked. "It's warm, right?"
He could only bring himself to nod, afraid that if he spoke he'd either wake himself up from what was obviously a dream too good to be real, or he'd say the wrong thing and ruin the moment.
She smiled—a slow gentle unfurling of lips, the rosy blossoming of cheeks, a warmth in her gaze that was just for him, one that he'd never understood yet fiercely cherished. He’d never forget that moment. The way she looked at him, the brightness of her smile, her nearness.
Suddenly, cutting through the fog of memory, there came a jarring childish shriek, followed by another child’s shout and Miroku’s guffaw. Inuyasha’s eyes shot open—he didn’t remember closing them—and Kagome’s face faded as he became aware of his surroundings: alone in Kaede’s hut, fingering Kagome’s scarf, the rest of her things spread across the floor around him. He vaguely registered that the children’s voices belonged to the twins, high-pitched and loud as ever. Playful sounds; nothing indicating danger.
He grimaced, then sighed, and slowly began repacking Kagome’s things into her backpack. Though most days he was grateful for the company of Sango and Miroku and their new family, sometimes he preferred to be alone with his memories.
It was the closest he could get to Kagome now.
Every three days, he visited the Bone Eater’s Well; jumped in and hoped, for that one brief moment of flight, that he’d land 500 years in the future. He used to check it every day, back when Kagome had first been taken. Over time, Sango and Miroku convinced him to come less often, but they could never convince him to stop altogether.
He couldn't find the right way to explain to them that he knew, somewhere in his gut—or maybe his heart—that he would see Kagome again. It was a matter of when, not if. And, as usual, she was taking her good sweet time in coming back to him. Nothing new there, he thought with a tiny snort. So he came here, every three days, to remind her to hurry it up.
He crouched down in the darkness of the Well, fingering the dirt at its bottom. With his other hand, he touched the sky-blue scarf wrapped around his neck.
“C’mon Kagome,” he said quietly. “Don’t you think it’s time you came back and collected your crap? You left all this stuff here, y’know. What do you expect me to do with all of it? It’s yours. Come back and make use of it, will ya?”
His voice echoed against the cold earthen walls.
“I’ll hold onto it until you get back. Just… just don’t make me wait too long, okay?”
The echoes of his question lingered even after he left, answered only by silence.
Then, one day, she returned. Stepped out of the Well like she always used to: smiling, radiant, and real—just as he remembered her. It was a day he’d never forget, not for the rest of his life.
One night during their first winter together, they were inside the hut he had built for them. Kagome was huddled close to the hearthfire, trying to keep off the winter chill; he stood near the door, preparing to go out for more firewood. Before he could even open the door—one which he’d modeled on the “western style” doors of her former home, wanting to surround her with familiar comforts—she called out to him, “Inuyasha, wait! Are you going out in that?”
He paused and glanced down at himself. He wore his usual fire rat haori and hakama. Then he turned to her and raised an eyebrow. “You want I should go out there naked instead?”
She rolled her eyes at him and stood up. “No, but I’d prefer it if you dressed a little more warmly.” She moved to the corner of the room next to their futon.
“I’ll be fine, wench,” he said to her back. She started rummaging in something—he could hear the rustle of cloth, and her quiet muttering—but her body blocked his view.
Not that it really mattered. He had a good guess what she was doing.
“Half-demon, remember?” he continued, a note of amused exasperation in his tone. “I can handle a little snow.”
“Uh huh,” she said. “Famous last words if I ever—ah ha! There it is!” She turned around, a grin lighting her face, and marched towards him. The yellow backpack, propped against the corner behind her, was left open. When she reached him, she leaned up on tiptoe and began looping a sky-blue scarf around his neck. He waited patiently for her to finish, feeling chagrined by her feminine sensibilities, yet also inexplicably pleased by the attention. Once the scarf was wrapped snugly around his neck, she stayed where she was, both hands resting on his chest as her face tilted up to his.
“There,” she said. “Now if you really want to make me happy, you’ll put on an extra kosode under your haori.”
He sighed, but it was quickly followed by a grin. His hands rose to hold hers against his chest. “The scarf will do.”
She pouted. “You’re not nearly careful enough.”
He bent his head down, lips hovering over hers. “I’ll be back before you even finish pouting.”
She huffed, the puff of her breath warm against his mouth. “If you get a cold, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Even as she spoke, she leaned even further into him.
“Worry-wart,” he mumbled, lips brushing against hers.
“Dog-boy,” she countered, ending the argument by pressing her lips fully against his. He closed his eyes with a sigh, and angled his head to deepen the kiss. Her hands rose slowly and drifted around his neck. His arms wrapped around her back, pulling her firmly against him, and he reveled in her warmth and scent and presence.
He never did make it out for firewood that night, but neither of them were cold.