Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or the characters of Inuyasha.

Author's note: This is the second of what will hopefully become a small set of short stories. 

  This one is based on an idea I've had for a while, and only now thought through enough in my head to write it out properly.  And yes, this is a follow-on, time-wise, from 'To Forgive', i.e. Kagome and Inuyasha's relationship retains the progression from that story.

  Well, that said, I hope you like it!

 New Moon

  It rushed in a darting flash of black lightning towards her, inhumanly fast, unknowably deadly, unheedingly cruel in the darkness of the night's shadows…

  Its fangs flashed palely, slick with greedy saliva as its neck reared back, angling its great head ready to sweep in for the kill, as a snake's head arches and darts from above. 

  Kagome lay helpless, her ankle hopelessly twisted and painful beneath her, her hair moving slowly against her cheek as time seemed to slow down, the breeze that moved past her slowing to a frightened, creeping pace.  Her eyes were wide with horror and disbelief as death sped towards her at a pace only demons possess, with eyes narrowed to slits in preparation for the kill, flaming red with bloodlust.

  It couldn't happen- she couldn't die!  Not here, not now!

  "INUYASHA!"

  Kagome woke with a start, her body sticky and hot with sweat, her hands trembling nervously.

  She'd had a nightmare, she realised numbly.  She pulled her knees up and hugged them to her, rocking slightly to try and calm her wildly beating heart and shaking body.

  It had been a month ago- a month tonight.

  A great serpent youkai, the power of three shikon shards coursing through its body, had attacked them, drawn by the power of the shards Kagome possessed.  It had come upon them in the dead of night, though Kagome had sensed its approach because of the shards in its body.

  The first to react, Inuyasha had attacked, as he always did every time they were in danger, but…

  It was not the night of the new moon every time.

  Inuyasha had been dealt a near-lethal blow by the serpent's lashing tail, and then, with the speed of lightning, it had sped towards Kagome, the holder of the shikon shards.

  Its passage had included snapping, enraged attacks on Miroku and Shippou, before it made the final dive for Kagome.

  She had run in terror, not even stopping to wish she'd grabbed her bow and arrows from where she'd been sleeping, and everything had gone very, very wrong when Kagome missed her footing in the darkness, and fell, twisting her ankle.

  Too late to run further, Kagome lay frozen in utter horror as the youkai darted towards her.

  She'd screamed Inuyasha's name, but he lay helpless and injured on the ground, a hundred metres away.

  Kagome would be dead were it not for Sango and her great boomerang-styled weapon…

  Now, a month on, Kagome gazed up at the dark sky, wondering where the moon was, hidden in the Earth's shadow.  The night was a lot darker without the moon's silvery light.

  Her eyes moved instinctively to a tall tree that soared overhead nearby: somehow, she just knew where Inuyasha was.

  As her eyes searched the shadowy boughs above her, a familiar voice came out of the darkness.

  "Were you dreaming about it again?"

  He sounded almost accusatory…

  Kagome blinked, as Inuyasha's pale face became faintly visible high in the tree.  She stared up at him, but he turned to look away from her.

  "How did you..?"

  "I could smell the fear on you, even with this stupid human nose."  He spoke abruptly.

  "Oh."

  There was a pause, as Kagome tried to decipher Inuyasha's mood, and failed.  Not wishing to go back to sleep, and wondering why Inuyasha sounded so moody, she decided to climb up to the half-demon's perch.

  The tree was not very difficult to climb: it had a few low-set boughs to start her off, and lots of thick branches to support her passage upwards.

  "What are you doing?"  Inuyasha's question was not long in coming.  He sounded a little surprised, and a little strained.

  Kagome gasped out her words as she reached for an extra-high branch.  "Joining you," she replied.

  It didn't take very long for her to reach the dog demon.

  He was perched on a sturdy, wide branch, quite a way up the tree.  He leaned over slightly to lend her a hesitant hand, and then Kagome was sat on the branch beside him, swinging her legs slightly while he sat motionless, his back against the trunk of the tree and his legs crossed at the ankles.

  He avoided her gaze, his head turned away to face the dark landscape.

  "Why are you up here?" he asked gruffly.

  "To see you," Kagome said simply, taking in the sight of his black hair and dark eyes.  She rarely saw him in his human form, and something about it comforted her.

  Inuyasha seemed to be able to feel her eyes on him, for he suddenly growled, "What are you staring at, wench?"

  Kagome was not irritated the way she normally would be at that kind of outburst.

  "You," she said.

  "Hmph.  Why?  Is it funny to see me as a human?"  He sounded overtly angry, but there was something else in his tone…  Pain?

  "Not funny.  Just different.  I like the way you look when you're human."

  Inuyasha seemed to be taken off-guard by that.  His eyes flickered over Kagome's face, quickly meeting her intent gaze before skittering away.

  "Not much use though, am I?" he responded suddenly.

  Kagome's brows knitted as a heavy pause fell between them.

  "What do you mean?" she asked finally.

  "I mean, your nightmares- you wouldn't be having them if I hadn't been so pathetic, would you?"

  Kagome leant back slightly in surprise.  Was this why he had sounded angry?  Angry at himself, not her?

  She studied his profile with an intensely searching gaze.  His brow had lowered darkly over his eyes, his black hair hiding much of his face from her.  His shoulders were hunched over, his arms crossed: everything about him screamed frustration and self-directed anger.

  "It wasn't about being pathetic, Inuyasha."

  He made an inarticulate sound, low in his throat.

  "It wasn't.  We can't time when we get attacked- just like you can't decide when you become human.  It's just something you have to deal with," she said quietly, a hint of urgency in her tone as she tried to push her point home to the stubborn hannyou.

  He didn't answer.

  Kagome sighed, and turned her head to gaze out over the treetops.  There were several hours to go before dawn, and Inuyasha's transformation.  At least they weren't being attacked this time.

  "I'm supposed to protect you, Kagome."

  The girl turned her head back in surprise as Inuyasha spoke quietly.  She watched him as he went on, his eyes never leaving the dark horizon to his right.

  "You're a weak human- you need me to protect you.  Some help I am.  You nearly died.  And there was nothing I could do about it."  He paused.  "What if we get attacked again right now?  Will I be able to save you?  No.  Because I'm a pathetic hannyou," he said in a disgusted, hopeless tone.  "Human, once a month.  Unable to protect you, every month."  His words came out sounding bitter, but Kagome knew he was only angry with himself.

  She blinked slowly, thinking through his words, and how to phrase her reply.

  "It isn't about being a hannyou," she said slowly.  Inuyasha didn't move, didn't look at her.  She carried on anyway, her eyes down, on the short space of bark between them.  "I'm human every day, but that gives me strength as well as weakness.  It isn't about what you are, or who you are.  It's about what you do- the things you do, and the choices you make, and the strength you show.  It's about how you set aside your weakness, and rise above it.

  "The bravest thing is when you fight your hardest, even when you know you will probably fail."

  Kagome finally raised her eyes to find Inuyasha's gaze resting intently on her face.  She met his eyes without fear or nervousness, only an open, earnest calm.

  His face wore a similar expression, though he looked as if he felt determined about something as he searched her soul through her eyes.

  Kagome waited patiently under his gaze, allowing him in, opening her most honest gaze to him.

  After a moment, he blinked and the search seemed to be over.  He had evidently found whatever he had been looking for.

  "You're not that stupid, for a human," he said gruffly.

  Kagome smiled.  "Neither are you."

  Inuyasha glanced back at her, but when he saw the teasing look on her face, he grinned slightly back.

  "Wench."

  "Baka."

  Inuyasha moved a little so that his back was fully against the trunk of the tree, lifting his arms to allow room for Kagome as she moved across to sit between his legs, her back resting against his stomach and chest.

  She let her head fall gently back against his shoulder, as his arms closed possessively around her.  Her hands came up to rest on top of his.

  He dropped his head slightly to rest his chin on her shoulder, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair, her skin, her.  He let his eyes close as he drank her in, letting her flood his senses.

  Kagome closed her eyes also, sleepiness returning as the feeling of safety that came from nowhere but where she was right then crept over her.  She let out a contented sigh as she felt Inuyasha's warm breath caress her neck, as he nuzzled gently against her skin.

  Warm and happy, Kagome fell gradually asleep without much further thought, except…

  I will always feel safe with you, Inuyasha…

Author's note:  I hope you liked it!  I've wanted to explore the idea of Inuyasha's 'handicap' for a while in this way, and I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.  And lookie, no rain!  ^_^  Quite unusual for me. 

  Please leave a review, please please please!  ^_^