"Kagome?" His voice was uncharacteristically quiet and concerned, as it always was at times like these.
She snuggled a bit closer to him and exhaled heavily, not quite sighing.
Shippo's anxious voice pounded into her head. "Kagome? Are you awake, Kagome? Are you all right?"
She pried her eyes open, mustering her smile from the low growl she could feel through Inuyasha's chest. "I'm fine, Shippo. Don't worry about me."
A large eye blinked at her; she absentmindedly realized that Inuyasha must have made him fly on his own instead of hitching a ride with them. "You always say that, Kagome."
Inuyasha's muscles tensed for a moment before he seemed to force himself to relax.
"Maybe…" she mused to herself, more than him. "Maybe… it's because all of you are always with me."
"Inuyashaaaaaaa…" whined Shippo, his concern transferred to himself now that he knew Kagome was going to be all right. "I can't hold this form much longer!"
"You're going to have to, I ain't stopping!" the hanyou snapped back impatiently.
"I said no!"
"Inuyasha!" rebuked Kagome.
He smirked down at her. "What, you can't sit me when we're up here!"
Her nose scrunched up in distaste, and he grinned in triumph.
"I can always say it when we're back on the ground." she pointed out.
"That's right, that's right!" crowed Shippo, though beads of sweat were starting to appear. "Have a little sympathy, Inuyasha, I'm about to lose it here!"
Kirara suddenly glided up alongside them. "We need to stop!" Sango called urgently.
"Ahaha, even Sango's on my side!" the little kitsune gloated.
"You dirty…" Inuyasha lowered his head in ill temper and started to snarl, but Sango cut him off.
"It's Houshi- sama. Kagome- chan, there's still some medicine left, isn't there?"
Kagome stiffened in Inuyasha's arms even as he cursed and spared a glance for the pale monk. "I think so… Inuyasha, let's stop."
He went down without further protest, Kagome turning her yellow pack to her front and rummaging around in it even before they made it to the ground. "Oh, thank goodness… I have a bit left, it ought to be enough to keep him until we can get to Kaede- obachan's."
Inuyasha gently placed Kagome on her knees in a sitting position as she uncapped the herbal mixture for the Saimyoushou's poison, and he went over to Kirara, taking the unconscious houshi from Sango as she too dismounted. He carried the other boy over to Kagome, who was waiting with medicine in hand. The taijiya helped urge the remedy into the monk's mouth, chasing it with a bit of water Kagome had in her pack.
They waited in tense silence, Miroku's labored breathing the only sound any of them made. Kagome had silently handed him over to Sango, and his head was resting on the taiyjia's lap; Kagome was now at his side, Inuyasha and Shippo (as always) not far from hers. Kirara rested her head on his knee, watching him without blinking.
Sango didn't take her eyes from him as she asked Kagome, "Shouldn't it have taken effect by now?"
"It usually does." she admitted, and the older girl's brow furrowed in heightened worry, "but Miroku- sama absorbed even more than the usual amount of Saimyoushou, and we didn't give him very much antidote before we left the ogre… it could be that it's just taking it longer to work."
Inuyasha's ear twitched.
"Wait… listen!" cried Shippo.
The girls fell silent, only to exchange relieved glances as they realized the houshi's breaths were coming the slightest bit easier.
"I think that's as good as we're going to get… let's go." Kagome said softly, and they all moved at her words.
They arrived in the village a few hours later; Kaede, having seen the state of them before they'd touched down, ushered them into her hut, where she'd already prepared beds, bandages and medicines.
Inuyasha took Kagome to the stream to wash off her feet while Kaede began tending to Miroku, the most seriously injured among them. He hadn't regained consciousness yet, and the medicine seemed to be beginning to wear off again.
"Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, as he gently put her feet in the water. "Do you think- do you think Miroku- sama will be all right this time?"
"Of course he will." the hanyou returned gruffly. "He always is."
"There's going to be one time that he isn't." she said, unusually morbid. "And if it isn't the Saimyoushou, it'll be the Kazaana… how does he deal with that? He has to be reminded that his time here is short every time something like this happens, but he keeps on going without giving any sign…"
"Doesn't have a choice, does he?" Inuyasha snorted. "Feeling sorry for himself isn't going to do him any good. Besides, that shallow sukebe probably doesn't even think about it."
She shoved his shoulder with her own. "There's more to Miroku- sama than that!"
"If there is I haven't seen it." he groused.
"Sango- chan wouldn't love him if there weren't anything else there."
"Who said Sango loved that bouzu?"
"I do! Trust me, I can tell."
"Keh." said Inuyasha, uninterested in the romantic entanglements of the wayward houshi and beautiful taijiya.
But later that night, when Kagome, Shippo, and even Kaede had fallen asleep, he found himself peering surreptitiously at Sango's vigil at the monk's bedside. Kirara, though curled up in the taijiya's lap, was also awake; Inuyasha suspected that if Sango's fatigue got the better of her, the neko would take over her watch.
It was a bit of a waste, really, since Inuyasha himself wouldn't have been able to sleep. Not because Miroku was injured, of course. He didn't care much what became of the other man, after all; no, he was just reliving the battle with Naraku in his mind, thinking about what could kill a demon so tenacious.
Yeah. That was it.
The next morning found Sango dozing uneasily, awaking every fifteen minutes or so to check on the monk. Inuyasha watched this peripherally, not having slept at all; Kaede awoke and with more creaking and a few more groans than she would have liked, got to her feet and prepared breakfast for the group and a medicated foot soak for Kagome, who was soundly asleep with Shippo curled against her. Kirara, who sometime during the night seemed to have decided that Miroku would be fine and subsequently slept, blinked her eyes open, stretched as only cats can, and made it her new job to follow Kaede and the food around.
They seemed to come home with injuries far more often than not; it was a wonder to Kaede that they had survived this long. Other women might have gotten impatient with the cycle of leaving with heightened hopes and coming back with injuries, of always having to patch someone back together, of having them come crashing in only when they needed something… but such was a miko's life, and Kaede was used to it.
Injured or not, she actually preferred it when they were there. It was nice, to have them in her hut; to watch them be lively, and remember what it had been to be young.
Perhaps this was what it would have been like to have children.
Baba's getting old. Inuyasha thought to himself, watching the old miko putter around. The contrast between the aged woman and the young girl he remembered was startling. Humans are so fragile. This one would probably die soon; he figured she only had a few years left.
A pang hit his heart at the thought, but Inuyasha quashed it. Why should he care what happened to the hag, who even when she was young had only been an annoyance- and one he put up with solely for Kikyo's sake?
This was a good reason not to get attached to humans in the first place. Fragile, unreliable creatures they were.
His gaze drifted to Kagome.
Or so he'd once thought.
A/N: Forgive me any spelling, suffix, or other Japanese- word mistakes, and forgive me the awkwardness of the ending and pointlessness of this fic!