DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inuyasha. I just like to play with them.

Caught In A Moment

By: Lara Winner

I was unconscious,

Half asleep

The water is warm,

'til you discover how deep

I wasn't jumping,

For me it was a fall

And it's a long way down to nothing at all

-U2 "Stuck in a moment you can't get out of"

Rain

I never realized how such a simple act of nature, something that is often a nuisance, could sound so comforting and reassuring. I listen intently to the heavy drops making a pattering rhythm on the roof as I cast a worried glance to the young man lying on the futon before me. The soft rumble of approaching thunder in the distance has not disturbed him from his slumber and I am not sure if I should be relieved or concerned.

Trying to find some measure of warmth, I bring knees to my chest and wrap my arms around my legs, hugging them tightly. Along with the rain the air has taken on a damp chill. I can feel the cold down to my bones. A tiny shiver courses down my spine and for the hundredth time I wonder if Miroku is warm enough despite the blankets I have tucked around him.

Guilt and fear are a miserable combination and both emotions battle for dominance inside my heart as my eyes keep a steady vigil over my Houshi-sama. Kaede has seen to his wounds yet she can not assure me that he will be well. Though I have very little knowledge in the art of healing I do know that the pale color of Miroku's skin and the shallowness of his uneven breathing are not good signs. Just admitting this makes my eyes sting with unshed tears.

For the moment Miroku and I are alone. Here in the empty hut the rain keeps me company, singing a gentle lullaby that is echoed by the soft wail of the wind. But there is little peace to be found as one by one scalding tears began to trail down my cheeks.

This is all my fault. Miroku was injured trying to protect me and had I been on my guard there would have been no need for this to happen. My fists ball up in angry frustration because I know I could have prevented this. I can't loose him now. He's all I have left.

I don't understand his reasoning. Miroku was not nearly healed enough to join us on this last shard hunt. Even after two months of recuperation time, he was still recovering from his injured shoulder. It was too soon for him to exert himself so much and, of course, he just had to take a blow that was meant for me.

I don't want to remember but the images remain vivid every time I close my eyes. The tiger demon, an impressive Nekoyoukai, equipped with the body of a man and the temperamental, blood-thirsty reasoning of a caged animal, had knocked Kagome to the ground. Inuyasha had immediately forsaken the fight to see if she was alright. That left Miroku and I to try and bring the creature down. Numbing fear had taken hold of me when Miroku held up his right hand, removed the binding prayer beads and cried out the usual warning he gave whenever he unleashed the kazaana.

As seemed to be the case of late, the moment Miroku prepared to employ the wind-tunnel Naraku's damn wasps came swarming from nowhere just waiting for the kazaana to open. It only took a moment for this to happen and that was all the nekoyoukai needed to begin changing into his true form. His skin was already covered in golden fur that was striped black along his sides. His face was a hideous combination of human and animal as his large fangs became visible. With speed faster than our eyes could follow, he swiped his claws in the air sending a channel of pure black energy directly at both Miroku and I.

Miroku easily blocked the attack with his staff and tried to pull me behind the glowing blue barrier also, but I was too far away. His desperate, clumsy tug only made me loose my footing and my grip on hiraikotsu. I hit the ground just as the dark force tore through my body causing unimaginable agony to course through me. I think I even screamed. In that one second the demon had caught us both unaware with his sudden attack and I was right where he wanted me, prone and defenseless. In the blink of an eye he lunged at me, in mid transformation, angling his razor sharp incisors to rip my throat out.

There was nothing I could do. Almost in slow motion, I watched the demon come closer and closer. My mind was amazingly clear as I realized I was going to die. Vaguely, I heard Inuyasha's furious cry but even the hanyou could not move fast enough to intercept the beast before it landed on me.

And then suddenly the world around me exploded into a mad frenzy of action as the word "kazaana!" was shouted. Right before my eyes the demon was pulled away in a gust of wind so strong that I had to claw my fingers into the packed earth to keep from following suit.

From that point on the memory is a blur. All I remember is Miroku collapsing beside me, an expression of pain pinching his features and he clutched his hand to his chest. I don't know how many wasps were pulled in the kazaana but their poison was already taking effect. Miroku was deathly pale, trembling as beads of sweat trickled down his face. His gorgeous blue eyes were dimmed with pain but he managed to give me a tiny worried smile.

Then he lost consciousness.

It's been three days. His condition has barely improved and until it does, I refuse to leave his side. Kagome and Kaede keep prompting me to rest. Apparently when the demon attacked me he came close enough to rip through my armor with his claws and leave three long scratches across my right side. I don't remember that part of the ordeal and I'm not concerned. I've suffered worse and survived. My only concern is Miroku.

Bolts of lightening dance across the stormy gray clouds illuminating the dark sky. The flashes of light play in the shadows of the room. Nervous agitation prompts me to move closer to Miroku's side. I've never really taken the time to watch him sleep before and gently I run my fingers lightly through the damp locks of hair that cover his brow. His skin is burning up beneath my finger tips and I bite my lip to fight the urge to cry.

I'm not sure how much more this I can take. I try to be strong but I'm not like the others. I'm afraid. Every time we face a new demon I feel like I'm powerless because I know that one day one of us may not be lucky enough to survive the out come. If Kami-sama is listening to my prayers I'll give my soul, right here and now, for Miroku to be all right. But the truth is a bitter pill to swallow and I've lost too many people in my life to think that my meager request will be heard.

I must calm myself. If I don't the fear will most assuredly make me fall apart at the seams. Miroku needs me now. I will do him no good if I'm a pathetic, blubbering mess. I have to be strong.

Hastily, I wipe at my eyes and take a deep calming breath. With easy movements, as not to cause him discomfort, I shift our positions and place Miroku's head in my lap. He looks so boyish when he is relaxed in slumber. It makes me realize that he is still quite young, though his knowledge and his outlook on life seem to be that of someone much older. Despite his usual mask of good cheer, I've noticed the shadows in eyes and dark mysteries that lie behind his smile.

Deep down I wonder if my love ever had the chance to be a child?

It all seems so sad now. As I look back on my life I realize that I was one of the lucky ones. As a child the dream of becoming a skilled taiji-a was the only worry I had. Perhaps I was sheltered and maybe that is why I am broken now, but I can not regret having had my family to fall back on. Long ago, I was little girl with hopes and dreams. Now, I'm a lost soul who is slowly loosing her will to fight a loosing battle.

Yet all my heartache seems petty in comparison to what Miroku, Inuyasha and even Kagome must suffer in these sick games of hide and seek that we play with Naraku and the remaining shards. How can I be so selfish and wallow in my own self-pity when they have suffered just as I have? That is why I must be strong. That is why I can not falter on the path I have chosen. If anyone is unworthy of life we fight to protect then it is me.

I have already failed. The shame I carry is a great weight on my shoulders. Miroku was wrong when he said it is important having tried. Trying is not good enough. Trying will not bring my father back. Trying will not give Kohaku his life back once the Shikon shard that animates his body is taken away. And trying will not compensate Miroku for nearly giving his life for me. I let them all down. When it came to the moment of truth I was weak and in turn my loved ones have paid for my mistakes. Vengeance is the only way to atone for my sins and even Naraku's blood will never be enough.

I will never forgive myself for what I've done.

And now there is a new sin to add to the list of recriminations that haunt my dreams. I should never have fallen in love with Miroku. It wasn't something I could help. I don't even think it was conscious on my part. It just happened and now that I think back on it I suppose it was bound to. No body else has ever taken the time or put so much effort into charming me right off my feet. A girl can get used to that sort of attention and I'm a normal girl after all. I couldn't help myself.

Even now, as I look down at his peaceful face, I'm reminded of how it felt to be in his arms as he held me tightly. It was only one night and it seems so long ago now that I fear it was only a fantasy, but my heart tells me it was real. My soul cherishes the memory and continues to draw from it what strength it can. We were caught in a moment that belonged to the two of us and in that desperate need for human contact emotional chasms were breached and invisible walls came tumbling down under the onslaught of something far more powerful than fear.

Understanding.

Miroku understood me. There, safe and secure in his embrace, he reached out to touch something in me that I thought was lost. He needed me just as much as I needed him. He understood my confusion and my anger and… and even my guilt. Yet he didn't judge me or condemn me for my weakness. He simply accepted that I was afraid and did what only he could do to comfort me.

For that alone I would have loved him, if he didn't already possess my what is left of my heart. I've often contemplated the power I have given him. My soul is in his hands. He could break me completely should he choose to be so cruel. And perhaps that is precisely what has me at his mercy.

There is no place for love amidst the anger and vengeance that drive us both. We are comrades in a battle that will more than likely cost us our lives. The emotion that binds us sits upon a knife point. The slightest move in any direction could cut us to pieces. I know this. I even know how foolish it is entertain these thoughts, but this is one fight I never had a chance of winning. Whatever the outcome, I will never regret loving him.

I pray Houshi-sama returns my feelings. Despite his smooth tongue and ease with words, he's never voiced what exists between us. Maybe that is because I've never asked. It's as if by some unspoken request, we skirt the conversation, sometimes coming close but never crossing that line after which we could never go back. And the distance between us that was closed for one precious night, has once again opened creating an even greater divide between what we need and what we want. And more often than not I feel the point of our double edged knife prick me till I'm raw and bleeding.

The most painful memory was only a fortnight ago. Our group had come to a small village to find more information on the latest shard rumor. No sooner were we among the villagers before Miroku was off plying his sweet, persuasive tactics to a gathering of young women. I tried not to show my anger. I even bit my lip to the point of drawing blood to keep the tears at bay. Yet as hard as I tried I could not tear my eyes away. He held their hands so gently. He looked deeply into their eyes as he read their palms and asked them to bear his child. Of course he didn't receive a definite answer but I knew exactly what those girls were feeling. I know because I've been on the receiving end of that mischievous expression more times than I care to remember.

But he's never asked me that cursed question.

Sometimes, when I'm in a particularly masochistic mood, I'll ponder why Miroku lets me close only to push me away in the end. I ask myself why I catch him looking at me over the campfire or across a room, and for a split second I'll see longing with a touch of an even deeper emotion I can not name. Then I have to question why he always turns away and acts as though it were nothing. Why does he pester me with irritating advances to catch me off guard and yet when I expect him to be a hentai he will then surprise me by being a perfect gentleman.

Does he do this for his own amusement? Or is he afraid of what will change if we grow closer?

I don't guess I'll ever know the answer. I am a coward. I don't have the courage to ask and part of me would rather not know. I've experienced far too much heartbreak to be careless with my feelings. Logic warns me that he will only hurt me, possibly even stop me from putting Kohaku to rest. Usually I let logic guide my actions and I willingly keep my distance from Miroku. But its moments like this that make me realize I can only pretend for so long. Soon, I will have to tell him how I truly feel.

Our time is running out and I may even be too late. With the lightest touch, I trail my finger tips over his pale lips. Leaning down, I press a chaste kiss to his brow and, closing my eyes, once again I silently plead to Kami for Miroku to awaken. I am already in too deep. I love Miroku with all my heart and I know his death will be my undoing. He is my last source of strength. Without him I would loose my reason to look for tomorrow.

Kami I need him...

Fabric rustles and I feel something soft, yet cold as ice, brush my cheek and I still, fearing it is only my imagination. Taking a shuddering breath I slowly open my eyes. My heart is pounding frantically, afraid and anxious, but the long fingers that trace the path of my tears are very real.

Miroku smiles weakly, the strain from his effort is obvious for he can barely open his eyes. As their cerulean depths focus, his brow settles in a worried frown. With his voice low, scratchy, and carrying an undertone of confused alarm he states, "You're crying?"

The tears are coming faster now as my entire body slumps in relief. The days I've spent coiled and tensed with sick dread and nerve wracking fear have taken their toll and I can do nothing to stop the silent sobs that start pouring out of me. I manage to gasp, "Miroku…" and the simple name seems to open a floodgate as I begin to babble almost incoherently between sobs, "When you didn't wake up I thought I lost you and there wasn't anything I could do to help you 'cuz all of this is my fault and I'm sorry… I'm so sorry."

The entire time I vent everything I've kept inside Miroku simply watches me, trying to offer me what comfort he can by taking one of my hands in his own and holding it tightly. His grip is strong despite the fact that he is weakened by pain. His gaze is ironically alert considering at any moment unconsciousness will try and claim him again. The inane thoughts are a stark comparison to the multitude of recriminations whirling in my mind and it is enough to jar me into awareness of what I'm saying and doing.

Pressing a trembling hand to my lips, I try to reign in my tears. I know how wretched I must appear now that I've become overly emotional in this utterly disgraceful display. Yet I'm grateful my blush of humiliation is hidden by my efforts to dry the evidence of my tears. I should be ashamed of myself for behaving so disgustingly. Houshi-sama is unwell and the last thing that should be on his mind is concern for me. My lack of control is unacceptable. I can not believe I've acted so selfishly.

As I regain my composure Miroku is still observing my every move. There is a suspicious quirk to his lips as he gives my hand a gentle squeeze. "It pains me to see you cry Sango. There is no need to worry yourself on my account. A little rest and I will be fine."

"You will say anything to calm me." I sniff indignantly.

This time a guilty flush turns his cheeks a pale shade of pink as he replies, "That obvious, am I?"

"To me? Yes." Even as I speak my anger begins to simmer. I've been itching to lecture him- nay, scold him on exactly how foolish his gallant rescue truly was. Idiot monk!

"Do you have any idea how close you came to dying?" I ask, my voice deceptively calm. Miroku opens his mouth to protest but I don't give him the chance. "Three days Miroku! Three days you've been laying here, dead to the world. None of Kaede's medicinal concoctions worked and your fever still hasn't broken. Inuyasha had to help Kaede reset your shoulder all over again and, as if that isn't enough, you've torn the kazaana again. Inuyasha and Kagome have gone to fetch Mushin. You better pray he can stitch it up this time. Grrr… Don't you ever do anything that stupid again!"

"But Sango-"

"Don't!" I hiss, cutting him off. "What in the hell were you thinking? What possessed you to open kazaana? You saw the wasps there. You knew you were going to get hurt. I don't see what made you do something so stupid!"

"I was trying to save your life damn it!" Miroku yells… well, as close as he can come to yelling since his voice refuses to raise much higher than a whisper. I realize this is the first time he's ever spoken to me in anger and I look away, feeling embarrassed. He doesn't seem to notice as he continues, "It might seem incredibly foolish to you but it was important to me! I'm not going to let anything happen to you, especially if there is something I can do to prevent it."

I close my eyes feeling the tears coming once again. "You almost died. It wasn't worth it."

Miroku sighs, a sign of his strained patience. He still has not let go of my hand and I become aware of this as his fingers entwine themselves with my own. My eyes snap open as he moves my hand to his lips, lightly brushing a kiss on my trembling fingers.

Ever-so-softly, he whispers, "I told you I would do anything for you and I meant that. However, I did react without thinking. I should be the one to apologize for being the cause of your distress. I gave no thought to how you would feel. But I can not promise that if the situation arises I won't do it again."

"Meaning you're really not the least bit sorry." I clarify, trying not to blush at the warmth pooling around my heart.

"Can you truly hold me at fault?" He asks smiling innocently. "I did it for you."

That confession paired with the sincerity in his voice erases any remaining anger I could have felt. Although it really wasn't anger I was feeling. More like fear, frustration, longing…

Miroku is looking up at me with those half lidded eyes and I avert my gaze but it's too late. I already feel myself falling prey to his charms. I love him. I can't help myself nor can I stop hoping that one day the uncertainty will vanish and there will no longer be any hesitation between us. I think he loves me. I really think he does but…

There's only one way to find out.

"I'm not mad. How can I be when I love you baka?" I confess with a furious blush staining my cheeks. I can't face him after admitting the very emotions I've kept to myself for so long. Closing my eyes, my thoughts and my heart are both racing anxiously as I wait for him respond. The seconds tick by until I can take the silence no longer and peak at the man who had my heart.

Eyes closed…

Breathing even…

Expression peaceful…

"Miroku?"

The lack of response tells me he's sound asleep once again. I sigh, not sure if I'm relieved or disappointed my confession remains a secret. It figures, the one time I finally gain the courage to say those three little words…

At least I know how I feel.

A.N.- I hope you enjoyed. There will be more now that I've decided to continue this so as soon as I get around I'll work on the sequel for this. *hugs* thanks for reading! Luv ya guys!