Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.

A/N: This is written a little differently than my other works... Be forewarned that any run-ons or missed capitalization is intentional. Enjoy, and don't kill me afterwards, okay?

Heartbeat

It's midday and my face hurts.

It's the Sango-induced sort of pain, fortunately, so I can cope.

We have been walking for hours now, following a hunch of Kagome's. So far, we've found nothing, and I am unsurprised. Things with Shikon shards move quickly, especially once they've caught wind of us.

Instead of watching where I'm going, I watch my attacker. The sun catches her brown hair and turns sections of it a shimmery bronze. I long to touch it, and I reach out to do so, but Kagome looks at me at that precise moment, causing me to drop my hand to Sango's lower back and place it there instead.

She stiffens and I cringe.

-thump thump-

When I come to my senses, we are at a fork in the road. Kagome is pointing adamantly down one path while Inuyasha is certain that he smells a demon in the other direction. Sango is trying to negotiate, but nothing does much good once those two get started.

I put the tip of my staff on the ground and let it fall. It points down Inuyasha's path, so I put an arm around Sango's shoulders and persuade her to come with me.

There's an armory there, if I'm not mistaken, I tell her. You can replenish your poison stores, spend some time with your favorite monk, and maybe hunt up some new armor. Not necessarily in that order.

She does not look impressed with my tact, but she agrees. Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippou head down the other path while Sango, Kirara and I head down the one that fate chose. We walk in comfortable silence.

-thump thump-

Why are the village heads always ancient?

This one is practically belching dust as he tells Sango and I of a massive demon that has been regularly shredding villagers apart.

I knew there was an ominous cloud.

It is Sango who gets us lodging this time. The village head's son seemed to like her

hands off, my Sango, my Sango

and he set us up in a marvelous room that is very secluded from other lodgers. There is one futon. I think he has the wrong idea. Or maybe the right one.

I shrug and remove my kesa and Sango is already blushing.

-thump thump-

How long, I call, are you going to sit over there?

Sango doesn't move. She is still sitting flush to the wall and looking very uncomfortable. I get the odd feeling that I could prance around the room nude and she wouldn't look up, but I'm in no hurry to remove my shorts.

I move as if to stand and she presses her face into her knees and I can practically feel her embarrassment.

You'll catch cold, I try again. We'll be tracking that demon tomorrow and you can't afford to get sick.

This reaches her. She crawls over to the futon, pointedly looking everywhere but at me. Don't- she starts, but I shush her, simply moving over and lying on my side, facing away from her.

Several minutes later, I feel the covers lifting slightly and she slides in beside/behind me, trying her best not to touch.

I won't break, you know, I murmur.

To my surprise, she places one small hand on my back, then leans into me slightly. She is still fully dressed, of course (she sleeps that way unless she is injured) but it sends shockwaves through me all the same.

Her soft breath tickles the back of my neck as she whispers something that could be 'good night' or could be a dozen other things that I want her to say.

-thump thump-

I wake alone, my back cold. I sit up and dress quickly, wondering where Sango's gone and if I maybe said something in my sleep or if I was too forward or-

Sango comes in, bearing food. I smile and take it from her, voicing my thanks. She tells me that the village head has informed her of the demon's normal haunt.

I frown, remembering why we're here, and hide my expression in a teacup.

-thump thump-

Sango is beautiful. Beautiful in every sense, no matter what she's doing. When she fights, she moves as liquid and I notice the little things, like how the fine hairs at the nape of her neck become matted with sweat.

I wonder if she notices my gaze.

I'm not sure how I ended up as Sango's backup, but I am.

The demon is hideous, just a dark, amorphous body with two long arms ending in wickedly sharp claws. As I watch, Sango launches Hiraikotsu and the demon rolls away unharmed.

An arm (with flexed, gleaming claws) stretches toward Sango and the panic on her face is evident.

-thump THUMP-

My broken shakujou lies in front of me as I sit with my eyes closed.

Sango has been apologizing since we returned. I keep telling her that it's fine, really, but what will I do to protect her now save warding the place and making her stay put?

She apologizes. I forgive.

-thump thump-

She's cradled against my back again, only this time, her chest bindings and a gown lent to her by the village head's son

damnit, my Sango, mine

are all that separate our flesh. She whispers my name and an apology, though she is supposed to be sleeping. I roll over and find that she's looking right back at me, honey-brown eyes desperate.

I reassure her with a chaste kiss to the forehead and restrain my twitching hands.

-THUMP thump-

The demon's back and I'm on backup duty.

It makes sense. I can't fight without a weapon, can I?

Sango has given me her katana, but it is insubstantial, impervious to my houriki and of no use to me. It's nothing but a sharp edge to cut myself with. I study it for a moment, then return my gaze to the fight.

I look up too late.

-thump thump-

A child, running past with his fists over his eyes and wailing. I see Sango and my heart skips.

-th- thump-

She dashes toward the child, oblivious to the imminent danger of that damned demon. Its claws hurtle toward her back as the world seems to slow down and happen in segue

fragmented

I'm dimly aware of yelling her name, aware of her soft warmth in my hands as I shove her aside, aware of four places where pain blossoms as if flowing from a ruptured

(heart)

-thump thump-

dimly aware that it wasn't my wandering hand that got me into trouble this time

feeling claws inside me as if reaching for my heart & i wish i had the energy the breath to say "you idiot, sango stole it long ago"

a flash of silver & the demon's head rolls to a stop beside me

inuyasha, i not-say

then i hear sango screaming to me

miroku!

oh is that my name i wonder faintly

i always thought it was houshi-sama

-thump thu-