Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.

And, to quell any rather disturbing thoughts before they even arise: this is not an Inuyasha/Miroku fic (Inuyasha yaoi? Oh dear. Something is amiss). Nor is it a Kagome/Miroku fic. I don't really use non-canon pairings, I dunno why. But this is all canon pairings, unless otherwise specified.

:00:00:

It was a cold, miserable night. It had been snowing all day long, small white flakes landing on every available surface and sticking to create a thin white layer on the world. But as night fell, the temperature had contrarily risen, until the falling snowflakes had become fat raindrops that turned the snow into heavy slush. Dense fog hung over everything, obscuring the shapes of the trees.

A small, country road, about as close as a road could be to dirt without actually being so, wound through these trees. The sludge that had once been snow was still predominantly white and pristine; few cars passed this way. The road led from nowhere to nowhere, a connection between two places that were hardly likely to ever need that connection.

A small blue car sped through the slush, exceeding the posted speed limit by at least twenty kilometers per hour in spite of the dismal road conditions. Slush sprayed from beneath its tires, arcing through the air behind it and leaving a sort of wake behind it, a wake that froze into a faintly brownish crest the moment it hit the earth. The wind of its passing created streamers in the mist, wisps of stray fog blowing aside momentarily before swaying back into place. And still the car sped on, barely in control, leaving wide tracks as it turned a corner and kept driving.

Miroku gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckled hands, glaring through the fogged windshield of his car. Not enough… not enough that his entire life had been ripped apart just as surely as his father's laboratory had been. Not enough that everything he had once held dear was gone, erased with one careless stroke of fate. No, he just had to receive that one piece of crucial information… that bastard just had to have told him before he died. Why couldn't he have just kept his damn mouth shut?

No, his mind tried to tell him through the chaos, you'd be even more miserable if he had kept silent. After all, those were your father's last words, of a sort

He kept his eyes fixed on the blur that was the road ahead. It was very late, past midnight probably, though he'd turned off all the lights on the dashboard so it would be impossible to tell for sure. The clock was probably broken anyway; he'd felt something inside of it burst loose when he'd first gotten into the car, shaking and desperate, and had flicked the knob to turn off the displays. He didn't know how long he'd been driving, trying to get away from it all, away from the mess that had once been his life, but chances were that it had been long enough. People back in the city ought to be worried by now, wondering where he'd gone.

Or maybe they just thought he'd died in the explosion, along with his dear father. There was a good chance that this was the case. Mushin ought to have told people by now how Miroku had run to the lab just before the accident, and that was the last anyone had seen of him. They would search the ruins. They might even find his father's body. They wouldn't find anything of Miroku, except maybe for a few drops of blood where he'd tripped while running and sliced his hand on some broken glass. But that wouldn't indicate an actual death. No, his absence would be the main reason for any rumours.

But that was all right. As long as nothing followed him. He didn't think he would be able to take it if something was to come up now…

If only he could escape the rest of it, though. The burning sensation of the power, that he knew he would feel if he put his hand anywhere near the ofuda hidden in the glove compartment. For some reason only his right hand could work the things; well, he wouldn't complain about that, not after what he'd heard.

Why? he found himself asking again. Why did he have to tell me that… suddenly, fiercely, he pushed those thoughts away, down into a deep corner of his mind. "Stop thinking," he told himself, his voice weak, shaking. "Thinking and driving is a dangerous combination."

He tried to laugh, and after a couple of tries he managed it, but unfortunately also managed to nearly make the car swerve off the slippery road. He barely managed to maintain his control over the vehicle, and when he finally left his adrenaline-induced haze, he realized he was still laughing.

It sounded like something Mushin would have said, if 'thinking' were replaced with some sort of alcoholic beverage. Mushin had very few cares in the world. Miroku happened to be one of them. Miroku's father had been, too, but… well, Miroku's father no longer existed. He would have to get used to that. he could still remember the old man, taking a long swig of liquor and in the same breath start in on Miroku about the sins of alcohol. It had confused him, the first time he'd met the man. Now, it made him laugh.

Well, that life was over now. He had to go forward. Maybe to another city, where he could settle down, find a girl perhaps, and forget about the whole business. Yes. And the girl would be pretty: now that would be a definite plus.

His mind was almost painfully easy to distract. Having finally, after all these hours, found something to think about other than his own misery, he settled back in the driver's seat and pictured the girl he would meet; pushing his worries, yet again, to the dark corner of his mind he had designated for them. Girls had always been his passion, at least they had been before…

No, for his dream girl simply pretty wasn't the right word. She would be beautiful, all curves with no hard edges, and delicate features. Her eyes… well, that was easy. A deep, warm chocolate brown, smooth and sensual, easy to get lost in. And as for the rest of her…

He didn't realize that he'd stopped paying attention to what was visible within the veil of fog before him until he noticed that the dark shape he had taken to be a tree was moving too much to be a plant. In fact, it was moving across the road.

In fact, it was directly in front of his car, and as he continued to speed forwards, he could see its distinctly human shape, and caught a brief glimpse of a startled face before he was stepping on the brakes with all the force he could muster.

"Oh, shit!" he yelped as the car didn't stop. The wheels weren't even skidding, they were simply sliding along through the slush, and the car wasn't going any slower. Frantically he turned the wheel hard to the left, thankful that he was in the middle of nowhere and, thus, there were no other cars to worry about. It fishtailed wildly, the back end sliding quickly to catch up to the front and then past, the vehicle finally beginning to slow down just as he thought it would go off the road.

When the car had slid to a slow, slippery stop without hitting anything, he pried his fingers away from the steering wheel and simply sat for long moments, just breathing. Suddenly the details of what had just transpired hit him and he threw open the door of the car and was storming out, all in one angry motion.

"Hey, idiot, what the hell do you think you're doing?" he yelled. "In case you didn't notice, this is a highway, not some little walkway!"

He was about to continue when the person, who at first had simply stood there staring at him, staggered sideways and fell to their knees with a definitely masculine grunt that was at odds with the person's long, pale blond hair.

Oh, great, he's drunk, thought Miroku with a measure of disgust. He had seen Mushin drunk, many times, and never thought anything of it; but at this moment, the thought of a drunken stranger forcing him to slow down filled him with loathing. But it seemed that this didn't matter anyway—it took Miroku barely another second to see the red tinge to the snow beneath the strange man's feet.

No, not drunk… he's hurt, Miroku realized, even as the man groaned and began to slip sideways. "Oi! No you don't!" he shouted out, and before he could stop himself he had lunged forwards and caught the man around the shoulders, preventing him from falling.

He peered into the stranger's pain-stricken face, trying to determine whether he was still conscious, when a sudden flash of recognition burst into his mind. He… knew this man?

Beneath a fringe of pale hair, amber eyes opened briefly. Miroku froze as familiarity washed over him. Yes, he definitely knew him. But… from where?

The stranger was squinting at him, as if he couldn't quite see properly. "Nnh… Miroku?" he said faintly.

Miroku gasped. "You… I do know you!" As the feeling of familiarity intensified, he shifted his gaze to the long hair that hung nearly all the way to the boy's waist, hair that in his panic he had taken to be blond. It was matted slightly with blood, but the colour was unmistakeable.

Silver. Definitely silver. The feeling of familiarity was growing stronger…

"I thought you never swore, bouzu," murmured the other man—no, boy, if he was right about the stranger's identity, this kid couldn't be older than eighteen—before the pale eyes closed again.

:00:00:

All was darkness. She was lost in the darkness, couldn't see anything, but at the same time she could hear… she could feel… she was sure that she should be very confused at this moment, but she couldn't. Something inside her knew what was going on.

"You saw the look in his eyes, didn't you," murmured a soft voice. Low, menacing—why did she trust the voice? She had a very strong feeling that she shouldn't, but something was blocking out her suspicion. Uncertainty clouded all of her thoughts. "Greedy, covetous… he wants it, dear. You have to realize that someday. He wants that jewel more than he wants you and that's a fact."

"No!" She didn't want to believe that. Couldn't. "No, I don't…"

But the voice kept going. She might as well not have been there. In fact, she had the odd feeling that she wasn't.

"I'm truly sorry, dearest, but… I'd been hoping I wouldn't have to show you this." A rustle of paper. "I knew it would hurt…"

All was darkness. She had the very strange feeling of unreality, that something was amiss, that she really shouldn't be here, almost as if she was intruding. But the awful uncertainty, the suspicion that turned her stomach, it was so strong… there was no way this could be fake.

The darkness began to move, a whirl of black within pitch, and suddenly power such as she had never felt before was burning through her veins. It stung at her skin, making her feel on fire… no, like she was fire, it came from within her, deep within. But the fire would remain untouched for this, this last of jobs… she'd meant to use it in the beginning, she knew that much, but the voice was too insistent. There was coldness in her hands, something hard, metallic. Her finger curled around something slender within a cage of metal, like a wire had been wound in a circle and she was pressing her index finger to one side of it. A deep sorrow nestled in the pit of her stomach, surrounded by so much loathing, hatred and… yes, the uncertainty was still there, too. Whatever happened next, she was deeply afraid.

"Hey," said a soft voice—a familiar voice—even though at the same time she knew she'd never heard it before in her life. And before she could do anything, before the mess of feelings inside her had the chance to change, her arm was moving, swinging upwards even though her mind was suddenly screaming to stop.

Why? she wondered dully. What am I doing? Her finger was tightening, the cold circle of metal wrapped around it was still there, digging into her flesh, and sound ripped through her ears. The darkness vanished in a flare of pinkish violet, revealing just the faintest glimpse of silver, and amber eyes wide with shock and desperation… and the deep, red hue of blood…

:0:

Kagome Higurashi sat up in her bed, the sheets twisted around her ankles, and shivered immediately.

Ahh! It's so cold! she hissed in her mind as she wrapped her arms around herself. Well, it sure suits that dream I just had… talk about freaky! She shivered again as she thought about it, but at the same time couldn't help the curiosity that grew within her. Even in dreams, she hated cliffhangers—and this was an exceptionally bad one. Occasionally, when she woke up in the middle of a dream, if she managed to get back to sleep again right away the dream would continue. And this particular one seemed familiar somehow… Maybe she'd had it before.

She was on the verge of climbing back beneath the thick duvet and falling back asleep when she realized how cold it was. Too cold. Standing, she shivered as she looked around before putting on a pair of white slippers and noticing that her breath was misting in the air. Too bad mum is washing my robe… she thought, rubbing her arms through her flimsy pyjama shirt. She didn't have any clothes that were truly suited to the severe winters they received up in the countryside, and it was definitely chilly inside the house. She turned on the light, a small lamp that sat nestled between an alarm clock and a box of tissues, but it didn't help any.

Looking at the window, she noticed that the snow that had been piled on the sill during the day was gone, and streaks of water ran down the glass. Walking over slowly, her slippers making soft shushing noises against her beige carpet, she pressed her nose against the window, resisting another shiver at the icy feel of the glass against her face, and looked out.

She couldn't see much. Fog obscured everything farther than the street below her second-story room, and even that was hazy. She could see the dim glow of the nearest streetlight, a pale orange glimmer that shed next to no light on the street.

Looking down at the front of her own house, she gasped suddenly. Was that a curtain blowing around? She tried to lean forwards, earning herself a soft bump as her forehead came into contact with the glass. Leaning back in, she could just see the end of a soft blue curtain being blown about by the wind, a curtain she recognized—as it happened to be attached to the front window in the shop her mother and grandfather managed, the shop that occupied the entire lower level of the house.

"Oh, darn it!" she said aloud, and turned quickly to run to her door. In this weather, she could only assume that they'd forgotten to shut the window before closing the shop, though why the window would be open in the first place was beyond her—it had been snowing all day long. Perhaps it had blown open…?

She hurried down the stairs, unlocking the door at the bottom that led to the smallish bookstore. Her mother was always worrying about the shop, one of the reasons why Kagome had offered to work for her instead of looking for a different job. The other reasons were that Aneston was too small a town, and no one else had been interested—all of Kagome's friends from school either took the bus in from the neighbouring town of Haughton or had jobs already. Aneston itself wasn't even big enough for its own school. Kagome, wanting to get used to the world of business and jobs, had wanted to try out some sort of work before she graduated and had to do it for real, so her mother had offered her a job at the bookshop, complete with pay. And Kagome had taken it. Perhaps, once she was gone, her younger brother Souta could take her place, and help mum out with the store…

It really was a useful experience, though she hardly intended to go into the field of bookkeeping as a career. Kagome planned on graduating from high school, going to a good university, then finding a job in the big city. Perhaps she could go to university there, too, if it came to that…

The draught of cold air was even stronger downstairs. Kagome closed the door leading to the staircase and ventured farther in. The rows of bookshelves looked somehow ominous in the darkness. She almost thought she could make out shapes among the books, patterns in the different colours of the spines, eerie faces that leered at her.

But she'd been down here before, she'd known these shelves like the back of her own hand ever since she could remember. It was impossible for her to feel afraid here—living in Aneston, nothing bad ever really happened. She hadn't even considered the possibility of a break-in, because it was impossible.Even alone, in the dark, she moved between the shelves without fear.

She found the main power switch beside the door and turned on all five switches, lighting up the store as brightly as if it were daytime. Fully illuminated, the chill in the air felt even more out of place, an unfamiliar sensation in this most familiar of places.

She followed the sensation to the front of the store where, just as she'd suspected, one of the old windows had burst open. The blue curtain was whipping around in the wind ouside, and melted snow mingled with rainwater was streaming in, wetting the walls and ground inside. There was a box of new books sitting just below the window, where her mother had put it before closing up the shop; they were getting a thorough soaking now. She pulled the now-dripping curtain back in before closing the heavy, wood-framed window and latching it at the bottom, noting with some frustration that the wood was half-rotten. They lived in an old house, and it seemed that, no matter how much they renovated or replaced, there was always something else that needed fixing. The extreme weather couldn't be helping either. The bright paint that had been applied to the red bricks making up the outside of the house had been steadily flaking off for weeks, and the fence in the backyard was falling down.

Turning around, she began to survey the damage done to the books. It wasn't looking good for the new merchandise. The box full of new books that had recently arrived was nearly soaked, and she could already see the telltale rippling of the soft covers. Sighing, she lifted the box and began to carry it to the back. They certainly couldn't sell these. Well, that was a loss of good money that her mother had paid to buy these—they were on the best-selling list in the city, apparently, some sort of steamy romance novel.

Suddenly a banging noise broke in on her thoughts. The slight chime that sounded with each bang told her that it was the door currently being assaulted. Perhaps the neighbour's dog was fighting with a wild animal again... that spaniel never would sleep properly at night, not even on a miserable one like this, and whenever it was awake, it seemed to try to keep everyone else up too. Sighing again, she put down the box and turned around—they would have to get the door fixed too, it had to be loose in its frame if jarring it like that would ring the bell.

There was no dog.

Instead, there was a young man standing there, pounding hard on the solid portion of the door, just below the window set into it. He stopped as Kagome turned around. Her eyes widened. If this was a burglar… living in Aneston, her mother had never seen the need to put bars in front of the door to protect against break-ins… but then again, if this was a thief, then why would he be trying now, rather than wait until she'd left? Or maybe he was a murderer…

All this ran through her head in a matter of seconds. She hadn't realized she'd frozen until the man, a desperate look in his eyes, started banging again. He mouthed something through the door at her which she couldn't hear, and she noticed with a jolt that he wasn't bad-looking… short black hair (oddly, he wasn't wearing a hat even in the cold weather), a nicely-shaped face (from what she could see through the somewhat hazy glass, anyway). He couldn't be a murderer, she realized—if that were all he was after, he would have just broken down the door and killed her.

The idea that he could have done that already, and could still do it if he took a mind to it, nearly made her freeze again. Instead, she mouthed back to him, 'we're closed!' and pointed to the sign for good measure, before beginning to turn away so that she could pick up the box once more.

The man's eyes darted to the sign and then back up to her, pleadingly, and she stopped turning despite herself. There was a trace of desperation in his dark eyes, something she hadn't seen before. It was an unfamiliar look.

No, wait… Suddenly her mind flickered back to the dream she'd had. She could still see those eyes, the last (and only) thing she'd seen before awakening… pale gold, slightly glazed, but still alive with the same expression that she found herself being confronted by right now. The intensity of that look was the final blow to her will.

The man, sensing the change in her attitude, stepped back from the door and waited as she walked slowly over. Well, no one ever said I was smart, she thought wryly. Bracing herself slightly—this is going to be cold—she unlocked the door and opened it.

Immediately rain hammered in at her, soaking her shoulders almost immediately through the thin fabric of her pyjama shirt. The man's face broadened into a heartfelt grin.

"Thank you!" he shouted at her above the sound of the rapidly rising wind. "Thank you so much, Miss! My friend—he's in the car—this was the only place with lights that I could see, Miss, I'm sorry to bother you—but he needs help badly! I… will you help us?"

She looked past him to a small blue car. It was one of those new designs that looked like nothing so much as a large turtle with wheels. She couldn't see through the windows at all. Anything could be in there...

"Who do I look like?" she yelled back at him. "Of course I'll help! Just get him in here and—"

She hadn't even finished speaking when the man, suddenly ecstatic with relief, was running back to the car.

"Thank you," Miroku muttered to any deity who happened to be listening. He didn't know why he was grinning, the boy was probably dead in the backseat of his car by now, but he couldn't help it, he was just so relieved. He threw open the car's rear door. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

:00:00:

Fixed a typo.

Well, there it is, my Inuyasha AU fic. Sorry it's so agsty right at the beginning. It will lighten up… and then it will darken… before lightening once more…Yes, it's an awful cliffhanger, I know, but… well, there'll be another chapter. And soon, with any luck. And, if you happen to stumble across this fic, please review! (And no, I don't like flames. Please don't send them. My ego is fragile enough as it is… just constructive criticism.)

If Miroku seems a bit OOC, that's because of the trauma and all. He'll go back to his normal lecherous self soon enough.

Oh yes; as to the setting, it isn't set in Japan. It doesn't seem very Japanese, does it (except for that one word: bouzu. It basically means 'idiot monk.')? It's not set in America, either, though. I don't think it's a country that exists at the moment... at any rate, it's not important.