A/N: Not much I can say that would be an adequate apology for how long I let this story sit around. It has been so long that I've had to read the entire story over again, and in a way it felt like I was reading something that someone else wrote. But in the process of reading it, I did rediscover my love for this plot. How I could have let it gather dust for so long, I just don't know.

Well, now I'm taking it off the shelf and dusting it off! So pull out your 'Let's make Inuyasha Squirm' membership cards, folks, and get ready to rumble! We have a special guest today, and he's anxious to stir up some trouble...

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha and crew, but that is probably a good thing. After all, since I don't currently have a job, they'd probably just get sold on e-bay along with all my other junk.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Chapter Twelve

The next day dawned cloudy and ominous.

'This can't be a good sign.' Kagome thought, sighing as she stared at the roiling clouds overhead. She was once again perched on Inuyasha's back, as the group was back on the move in pursuit of the elusive shard rumored to be nearby. "Figures it would storm while we are out in the middle of nowhere." She grumbled to no one in particular.

"Keh. Quit complaining. A little water ain't gonna hurt anybody." Inuyasha responded testily. He'd been in a pretty foul mood all morning, and it didn't seem that he would get over it any time soon.

Ignoring him completely, Kagome let her eyes wander around the surrounding landscape in a futile attempt to detect any shards in the area. The lack of progress was beginning to frustrate her, because she was anxious to head back home and get some more clothes. As it was, she was still wearing Inuyasha's haori since it was the only article of clothing available that could cover everything important.

Glancing over at Sango and Miroku as they traveled on the back of Kirara, Kagome noticed the expression on the other female's face was almost...anxious? Well, it was either that or guilt. Either way, what could possibly have Sango so worked up?

'Oh, I need to stop worrying about everyone and just concentrate on one crazy person at a time.' Kagome reminded herself firmly. Setting her jaw in a stubborn fashion, she made herself focus on her goal. 'I decided I was going to get down to the bottom of this mess starting with Inuyasha, so that's what I'm going to do even if it kills me!'

Clearing her throat in preparation, Kagome decided that the first place to start was the most logical one. She needed to find out for sure what had happened the night before. For instance, had there really been another youkai, or was Inuyasha the true culprit? After considering everything in the light of day (though there was little of it to come by because of the brewing storm), Kagome couldn't help but doubt the story that she'd fallen so easily for the night before.

"So..." Kagome began while attempting to sound as casual as possible. "Just out of curiosity, what kind of youkai was it last night that stole my clothes? I mean, what did he look like?"

Suspiciously, Inuyasha stiffened after the question was spoken and faltered a bit in his stride. That wasn't something common for the normally graceful hanyou to do and Kagome couldn't help but take note of it even as she received an answer from one of her companions.

"Ah, Kagome-sama, remember that I said we had never encountered such a demon on our travels? It was such an unusual creature that even I find it hard to express properly in words." Miroku responded as smoothly as ever. "But if you would really like to know, then perhaps Inuyasha could attempt to enlighten us? After all, he did get the best look as this...strange foe." He turned to Inuyasha with a politely inquiring look, as if he'd just asked for the other male's opinion on the weather.

Once again the hanyou faltered, though this time it was a bit more noticeable and even Kirara's riders noticed it. Sango seemed to be eyeing the half-demon with something akin to sympathy.

"Keh!" Inuyasha paused before his faced darkened into scowl that even Kagome couldn't miss, though she didn't exactly have a great vantage point. Distractedly, she also noted that his palms were beginning to sweat. "Why the hell it is so important anyway?" He huffed. "It was just a stupid, weak demon!"

Kagome leaned a bit farther forward in an effort to see his face better. "Quit being a jerk and just answer the question!"

Abruptly Inuyasha stopped running and dropped Kagome on her butt into the dirt and grass of a small clearing. The future girl shrieked angrily at the unexpected move, but the hanyou was already up in a tree and far out of her reach.

"Oi, we're gonna stop for lunch, so...just...do whatever!" Getting fed up with his inability to think of anything better to say, Inuyasha turned his back on his incensed companion with a muted growl of warning. All who knew Inuyasha well enough would be able to recognize that sound for what it was. He was ticked off about something and didn't want to be bothered for a while.

As she stood up, Kagome issued a small growl of her own. "Stupid Inuyasha! That hurt, you jerk!" She rubbed her tail bone as she glared up at the one responsible.

There was no response from the occupant of the tree except for a slight flinch, which meant that he'd heard, but was choosing to ignore her. Kagome began looking around for something to throw at him. Preferably something heavy and pointy...

"Kagome-chan!" Sango, Miroku, Kirara, and Shippo had finally managed to double back after their companions had unexpectedly stopped. The worried demon exterminator hopped of the fire cat and jogged over to her friend. "What happened? Are you okay?"

Kagome was still glaring fiercely at Inuyasha's back. "Our resident evil demon over-lord decided he wanted to stop for lunch." She grumbled, her hand continuing to rub her sore rear.

Sango blinked in confusion. "This early? But we've only been searching for a few hours."

"Yeah, well..." Kagome gestured to the sulking hanyou. "Tell that to his highness over there."

"Ladies, ladies..." Miroku suddenly appeared behind them, and as old habits die hard, the two women hurried to turn around in defense of their assets. "I am sure Inuyasha was only thinking of your welfare when he decided to stop so early! Isn't that right, my friend?"

The only response he got was a derisive snort from the treed hanyou.

Miroku shook his head. "Well, whatever the case, we should not pass up the chance to take a much needed rest."

The two women were ushered over to an area that looked ideal for sitting by the very solicitous monk, and he even helped Kagome pull out her sleeping bag and fold it for a cushion to protect her bruised posterior.

After deciding that they were settled, he then dug through Kagome's back until he found some snacks and water for them all to share.

"So Kagome-sama," Miroku was munching on some of his favorite chips when he turned toward her. "Did you ever receive an answer to your question from Inuyasha?"

Kagome was surprised to realize that she'd forgotten all about it. "Well, no..."

Miroku gave a long suffering sigh. "Well, I shall have to be the courteous one as usual, I see."

As he was talking Sango was watching his every move carefully, like a prison guard would watch a prisoner. He didn't seem to take any notice of it.

"You see, Kagome-sama," Miroku began his tale like the master story teller he was. "This was truly the most unique youkai I have ever had the good fortune of seeing! I had hoped that Inuyasha would tell us more about it, but I am sad to say that due to his refusal, all you are left with now is my poor vantage point."

Despite herself, Kagome forgot her intention of being skeptical and leaned forward with anticipation.

Miroku placed one finger to his chin. "It was...oh, a fairly small youkai of unidentifiable gender, probably on the young side. Very slight and easy to miss if you aren't paying careful attention." He turned to Sango so intently that the demon exterminator herself was nearly caught up in the drama of the moment, despite knowing it was all one big lie. "It was difficult to tell in the dark what color it was. Do you think it might have been purple, or perhaps a bluish color?"

Sango's eyes widened and she laughed nervously at being pulled into the creation of the lie. "Er...I couldn't tell, either...too dark!"

Miroku smiled in understanding. "No matter, Sango-sama. That wasn't what really called our attention to him anyway, was it? It had other attributes far more interesting than being a strange color. Do you remember what I speak of?"

Now Sango was really sweating bullets. What was this idiot trying to pull, anyway? "Oh! Um...it did have a...a strange shape..." She finally responded awkwardly. She would kill him later, but for the moment she just tried to be as vague as possible and leave the creative thinking up to the expert liar of the group.

Now Miroku was laughing, as if he had recalled something very funny. "Oh, strange is a mild way of putting it! Ugly is really a better word to describe what we saw, don't you think?"

Sango gave him a tight smile. "Oh, yes. What I was looking at last night was VERY ugly."

Miroku gracefully ignored the jab coming from his irritated and unwilling co-conspirator. "Really, it was a very appalling yet fascinating sight, if I do say so myself. I believe that was the first time that I have ever seen a youkai that had the body of a kappa, the head of a lizard, and the bushiest facial hair I have ever seen on anyone, human or youkai!"

Kagome and Sango both stared at him incredulously, though for different reasons.

"We've hardly ever seen any youkai with facial hair, now that you mention it." Kagome commented, obviously baffled. "I've never really thought of it before, but that is a little weird. I thought they were all naturally clean cut like Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru until they just got old like Toutousai or...or something. You said this one looked young?"

Miroku nodded seriously. "He might have been just a child, now that I think about. Very young, indeed."

"Wow." Shippo spoke up for the first time as he stopped suffing his face to stare at Miroku in awe. "There was really a youkai like that, and I missed it?" The baby kitsune was disappointed that he'd missed so much excitement.

Meanwhile, Sango was gritting her teeth and forcing herself to refrain from choking the idiot she was listening to. What did he think he was doing, concocting such an outrageous lie? Anyone with any brains would know that such a youkai didn't exist! Well, Kagome falling for it was understandable to an extent since she wasn't even from their time, and Shippo was still really too young to know better, but anyone else was sure to know it for the falsehood that is was! All it would take would be for Kagome or Shippo to tell someone else and the gig would be up-

Wait a minute. Why was she so worried about him keeping his little game a secret, anyway? The possibility that Miroku was corrupting her made Sango shiver with dread. Oh, what had she gotten herself into?

"Kagome-sama, when we as finished with our rest, you should ask Inuyasha if he can give you any more details about this mysterious and rare youkai." Miroku instructed solemnly. "As a holy monk and priestess, it is our duty to know all we can of our possible enemies. We must educate ourselves and others in an effort to protect all those around us."

Totally suckered into the idea of duty and honor as a priestess, Kagome was nodding earnestly at everything he was saying. He really knew what everyone's weaknesses were.

'So that's it.' Sango watched the pair with a growing sense of annoyance as understanding of Miroku's scheme finally dawned on her. 'He's just trying to set Inuyasha up. The more Kagome bugs him about this imaginary youkai, the more Inuyasha is going to squirm and avoid any situations where Kagome might be able get him alone. That monk really knows how to play these two, doesn't he?'

She was refusing to consider the idea that she was being played as well, though the intelligent exterminator knew full well somewhere in her mind that she was. And that he was doing a damn good job, to boot.

"Well, I believe that it is time we move on, don't you?" Miroku seemed to be finished with the brain washing of his victim, and was already standing and stretching like a satisfied cat. "If we don't start moving soon, we'll no doubt be stuck out in the rain."

Everyone looked up at the sky, and as if on cue a streak of lighting ripped through the dark mass of clouds above them. A few seconds later it was followed by a deafening crash of thunder.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome called loudly, making sure she could be heard over the wind as it was picking up. "We need to get moving to see if we can find a village or some shelter!"

A second later Inuyasha dropped out of the tree, looking more foul than ever. He didn't protest, however, and allowed Kagome to climb on his back as the others situated themselves. "Oi, there might be some place we can find cover over that way." Inuyasha gestured with his head once everyone was ready to go. "From the tree I could see some rocks and stuff on a hillside, so there might be a cave or something." He might have been in a foul mood, but that didn't mean he was going to be an idiot and jeopardize everyone's safety.

"A cave?" Kagome questioned, looking nervous. "But a cave has...bugs...and youkai...and bugs...and..."

Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "Either that, or take your chances with the lightening. What'll it be?"

Not a hard choice when it was put that way. "Cave it is!"

The group set off in search of shelter, but Kagome was startled out of her thoughts of finding safe place when a sudden, vague sensation poured over her. It was almost too faint to tell at the moment, but could it really be...?

Oh, this was NOT good! Not good at all...

The rain was coming down heavily, but despite that, the hair on the back Kouga's neck was still standing on end in a telling fashion. Not a good sign. They needed to find shelter before they were fried by the frequent lightening strikes going on around them.

"Head for that hill!" Kouga shouted over the rain and gestured clearly to his two followers as he visually scouted the area ahead of them. There was the possibility that they could find some shelter there. After checking to make sure they understood, Kouga then took off without them, knowing they'd follow as soon as their slowness would allow.

Ginta and Hakkaku followed with weary expression, as expected.

It didn't take Kouga long to reach his intended destination, and his sharp eyes immediately began examining the rocks for some sort of opening large enough for them to shelter in. They seemed to be the ruins of some sort of den. Probably once belonged to some kitsune or tanuki, but at least it seemed to be currently abandoned.

A huge crash of thunder and lightening struck at once, and Kouga cursed darkly before speeding up his search. That had been much too close for his comfort, spurring his sense of urgency.

Ah ha! Finally, the wolf youkai spotted well-hidden break in the rocks. After crouching and peering inside, he determined that the interior was much larger than the outside suggested. It would be perfect as a temporary shelter.

Before he could enter, however, there was a sudden disturbance behind him and to the right. Kouga whipped around to face whatever had approached him, while cursing the rain for dulling his senses so much. It was hard to hear or smell anything over the heavy downpour.

"Kouga!" A familiar voice shouted, and not a welcome one. It was that stupid mutt with his even stupider sword! But wait- where the dog was, his mistress was sure to be.

"Kagome!" Kouga cried happily as he spotted her on his enemy's back. Not an ideal situation by any means in his mind, but one that could be corrected easily. "I've found a shelter from the storm and would be honored for you to join me!" Through the rain he could see the rest of the group as well, and smirked. "I'll even let your other friends in, but not the wet dog! He'll make the cave smell!"

Inuyasha growled. "Dammit, I saw this place first, so it's ours! You're the one that can't go in!"

Kouga's eyes went from amused to hard and cold in a second. "I found the cave, not you, mutt-face! That means you can just stay outside like the dirty little dog you are!"

Another heavy crash of thunder and lightening occurred too close together for comfort, and that was when Kagome knew she'd better intervene. The situation was getting desperate, and that called for threats, not peace talks. "This is no time to be petty and immature!" She yelled over the roaring wind and rain. "We aren't safe as long as we stay out here, and until you both agree to share the cave peacefully, I won't set one toe inside!"

That made the two growling males pause.

"Well..." Kouga was the first to give. "I could never risk Kagome's life just because she had a soft spot for disgusting animals, so I suppose I'll allow the mutt to come in!"

Inuyasha wanted to lash out at the nasty, idiot wolf, but knew he'd come out looking like the bad one if he did. "Fine, the stinking wolf can stay, but if he makes one move outta line, I won't be responsible for my actions!" He glared threatening at Kouga, though the effect was ruined by the soggy hair hanging in his face.

And so an uneasy truce began.

A/N: So, what do you think? Sorry, no perverted Inuyasha this time, but after the nut house that has been the last several chapters, it seemed like a goodidea to slow the pace and set up the next big event. This is the first time I've tried to write Kouga's character, and it was fun! I'm sure the next chapter will be even more entertaining to write, because...well, let's just say there will be an occurrence far rarer than even Inuyasha being a perv, lol...