In the Dark

a/n: Despite the fact that I'm completely swamped, have more creative writing assignments than I can handle, have to read Frankenstein by tomorrow, and I'm completely out of clean clothes and towels, the overwhelming urge to post fanfiction rules all. That and an undying love of Miroku. I'm sure you all can sympathize. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, but if I did…if I did……..

Dedication: For Angel Artist. Thanks a lot, kid. Consider me sucked in.


An hour after dark, her fingers pruned and her bar of soap smaller than when she'd left, Kagome walked out of the trees and into the fire's warm halo. What was left of dinner had been picked up, and there was a lazy, comfortable silence radiating from the group. She saw Shippou's tail poking out of Inuyasha's lap and smiled, and then felt a familiar spot in her chest warm and expand when Inuyasha's ears perked up at her arrival.

Sango and Miroku sat opposite Inuyasha, their faces dusky charcoal sketches in the unsteady light. Their heads were bowed together, knees a breath away from touching, and Sango was talking to him seriously, her eyes warm. Miroku ducked his head to hide a soft little smile. The sight was so casually intimate that Kagome had the feeling she was intruding on them. She looked away to give them some privacy, and their voices faded into a soothing murmur in the back of her mind.

Inuyasha had heard her coming the moment she stepped out of the hotsprings, drops of water sliding off of her smooth skin to darken the rocks and steam in the cool night air. He was aware of the moment each landed, and regarded the tiny splashes with what he hoped was a casually indifferent expression, but couldn't help fidgeting and twitching one soft, white ear at the sound of her clothes rustling as she pulled them on over damp skin.

Kagome padded up behind Inuyasha, smelling of soap and nighttime, and he ignored her. She leaned over his shoulder, and he wondered if she was aware of the effect her scent had on him, surrounding him so fully in the pleasantly gloomy light. He forced a look of arrogant disinterest, and stubbornly held it even when she bent down close to his shoulder to pick up Shippou from his lap and whispered, "Good boy."

Something in the corners of her mouth was laughing at him, he realized, but not unkindly. He imagined the way her eyes were crinkling up somewhere beyond his right ear, and breathed out a huffy little gust of air. He rolled his eyes, just to make sure he got his point across, but Kagome just patted him on the head and carried the kitsune—who made a quiet sort of sound and curled into the soft dip of her collarbone—over to her sleeping bag.

Once she'd settled Shippou down for the night, Kagome started rummaging around in her backpack, and Inuyasha watched her out of the corner of his eye.

She found what she was looking for—a smooth, round brush with a wooden handle—and pulled her wet hair over her left shoulder. Starting with the dripping, midnight black tips and working her way higher as the tangles fell out of the slick strands, Kagome settled into a practiced rhythm that eventually tamed her hair into a glossy mass that tumbled down her back.

Inuyasha forgot that he was being subtle.

His eyes couldn't take in enough of the fire's reflection on her hair, or the way it relaxed into waves for the last few inches. The tangles were gone, but Kagome kept up the brush's hypnotic slide from scalp to tip. Her eyes closed and her head tipped back. The fire cast dramatic shadows on her face, and Inuyasha was memorizing them one by one when she lazily glanced his way.

Busted.

Inuyasha was sure that his expression was anything but arrogantly disinterested now, and he whipped around to stare into the fire, blushing rather violently.

Kagome decided to cut him some slack and looked elsewhere. She was surprised to find that Sango and Miroku had already gone to sleep, he against a tree, and she curled up under a blanket, facing Kagome. The fire illuminated her face enough that Kagome could make out her contented smile. Reassured that all was well, Kagome curled around Shippou's warm little body, and felt him wiggling in closer to her, tickling her nose with his fur.

"Goodnight Inuyasha." Kagome said into the fur.

He grunted and skulked off into the forest, but Kagome knew he was up a tree somewhere nearby, keeping a watchful eye on the companions as they slept.

And of course, she was right.


"Will you wake up already, wench?" Inuyasha growled, nudging Kagome unceremoniously with his clawed foot.

"You leave Kagome alone!" Shippou burst out of Kagome's sleeping bag and latched onto Inuyasha's leg. He went to work at chewing the red haori, his sharp little teeth pinching painfully even through the thick fabric.

"Get off!" Inuyasha howled, jumping around on one leg and shaking the other furiously, trying to dislodge the kitsune. Shippou held on for dear life, clinging with arms and legs and teeth. He began wailing miserably—a long, high-pitched sound that had Inuyasha flattening his ears to his skull, "Kagomeeeee! Kagoooooomeeeeee!"

Kagome rolled over and slitted her eyes open to take in the cause of the commotion.

"Inuyasha," she breathed sleepily.

He froze. "Damn."

"Sit."


Kagome pointed off into the distance, "That way. Several shards. They're pretty clo-"

"Let's go." Inuyasha said, scooping Kagome onto his back and taking off at a sprint. Kirara transformed and the others scrambled to catch up.

"Are we getting close?" Inuyasha called over his shoulder. He was darting from tree branch to tree branch, occasionally breaking through the canopy of leaves to hang suspended for a few long seconds before disappearing again. Kagome was about to answer that yes, they were very close, when an enormous hairy tentacle reached up from somewhere in the forest and batted them out of the sky.

Kagome heard an alarmed yell from Sango, who must have been close behind them, and then found herself pressed close to Inuyasha's chest. He twisted in the air so that he took the brunt of the impact, and kept her tucked against him until they skidded to a stop.

Inuyasha lay on his back breathing heavily, quickly regained his bearings, and rasped, "You okay, Kagome?"

"I'm fine." Kagome said, "Look out!"

Inuyasha rolled to his feet, barely avoiding the tentacle that crashed into the ground where he'd been. He drew Tetsusaiga in one swift motion and lowered into a fighting stance just as Kirara landed behind him. Miroku vaulted off of the fire cat's back and ran to Inuyasha's side, "Is this the demon we have been looking for, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha looked at the demon across the clearing and wondered if it was looking back at him. It's apparent lack of eyes was unsettling. It seemed to simply be a writhing mass of tentacles, covered in long tangled brown hair, full of leaves and twigs. He shrugged and shot a questioning look at Kagome.

"That's it." She said, "Three shards in the center somewhere."

"Three?" Inuyasha asked wearily.

Kagome nodded.

Inuyasha extended his sword in front of him and squared his shoulders, "Nothin' I can't handle."

The demon seemed to understand this as a challenge, and sent out several tentacles. Inuyasha raised the Tetsusaiga, but they weren't headed for him. The first tentacle was deflected by a sharp, spinning blow from Miroku's staff, but the second was too fast, and it wrapped around his ankle and dragged him straight up into the air.

"Inuyasha, here!"

Inuyasha made a grab for the monk's staff as it was extended toward him, but he couldn't get ahold of it. Miroku dropped the staff and swung up to get a handhold in the demon's matted hair. The tentacle thrashed wildly.

"Miroku!" He heard Sango's voice from somewhere far below him. Steeling himself, he braced his free foot against the demon and hauled back on the thick hairs as hard as he could. The result was immediate. He was only just aware of having been flung toward his companions—of a voice screaming something that sounded like his name—when the world went dark.

Miroku crashed to the ground somewhere behind Inuyasha. The half-demon gritted his teeth and leaped into the fray, "All right, demon, you've had your fun, but now you've got me to deal with!"

He held Tetsusaiga over his head and charged at the demon. Kagome threw a quick glance over her shoulder to check on Miroku, and found that he was unconscious, but alive. He was sprawled on his back, chest rising and falling with a slight catch, and Sango was leaning over him smoothing his hair back from his forehead and talking to him quietly. Shippou hovered nervously nearby.

Kagome turned back to the fight and called, "Careful, Inuyasha!"

Inuyasha was headed straight for the demon's core, running on the balls of his feet and dodging lightly as the tree-trunk thick arms of the demon flew at him from every direction. He tripped, turned it into a dive, rolled to his feet, and kept going. One tentacle glanced off of the back of his head, and he staggered. That was all it took. The demon had him off the ground—limbs, chest, neck wrapped in its furry tentacles—within seconds.

One of the coils tightened until Inuyasha's wrist made a sickening pop, and Kagome yelled and squeezed her eyes shut. Inuyasha's fingers lost their grip on the Tetsusaiga, and the weapon clattered to the ground, "D-damn."

Kagome pulled her bow from her shoulder and nocked an arrow in one smooth motion. She let the arrow fly and took out the tentacle around Inuyasha's neck.

"Stay back, Kagome!" Inuyasha yelled, trying to pull free from the demon.

"Protect Miroku, Shippou." Sango said, running past Kagome and hurling the hiraikotsu straight for the demon's center. The weapon had no effect, and was easily deflected and flung into the woods.

The demon tightened its hold on Inuyasha, and he growled deep in his throat, straining even harder to break free. Sango pulled her sword and ran forward. She vaulted onto the first tentacle that came her way and stabbed it through. The demon shrieked and flung her away. She rolled into a crouch rubbing her shoulder, but seemed unharmed.

Kagome loosed another arrow, freeing Inuyasha's right arm. He pulled the injured limb to his chest, and Kagome ran in closer for a better shot.

"Get back!" He yelled so ferociously that she faltered, but when two tentacles flew in to replace the ones she'd already removed, Kagome took off at a dead sprint, dropping the bow and pelting straight for him.

"What are you doing, idiot?" He managed to force out. She ignored him. Just when Inuyasha was starting to think her plan was simply to slam into him, she dove, rolled under him, and came up behind him with the Tetsusaiga in her hand. She kept running, straight for the demon's core. She didn't get far.

A tentacle slammed into her, coiling around her like a snake and lifting her into the air.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha yelled, "Sango, cut her down!"

Sango was being forced away from the battle, barely able to hold off the redoubled attack against her. She found the forest at her back and slashed at the waving mass coming at her, but couldn't gain any ground.

On the other end of the clearing, Miroku's gloved hand was closing around his staff. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he braced the staff against the ground and pulled himself to his feet. The demon had only been toying with them before, he realized. It was easily holding Sango at bay while keeping both Inuyasha and Kagome immobile, and still had dozens of the thick, powerful tentacles to spare.

As Miroku stood leaning heavily on his staff, the demon tightened its grasp on the struggling Kagome, effectively cutting off her air supply. Her lungs emptied painfully, and she made a soft choking noise that had Inuyasha struggling wildly to get free, "Kagome! Kagome!"

Her eyes were wide and unblinking, and her mouth opened and closed as if she was trying to speak. The coil shifted, and Kagome clenched her teeth, slamming her eyes shut against the pain.

Sango had recovered her hiraikotsu and was beating back the monster unflinchingly, but she would never make it to Kagome in time. Shippou had run up to the base of the limb holding Kagome, and was hitting it with his tiny fists, crying out of frustration. The demon didn't even notice he was there.

It also didn't notice when Kirara came up beside Miroku, crouching down so he could pull himself onto her back, and leapt into the air.

Kagome's eyes, fixed intensely on Inuyasha's, began to drift closed. His heart pounded painfully in his chest, and his breath came in rough gasps, "Don't, Kagome. Don't close your eyes."

Kagome tried to smile at him, pouring all of the warmth and love she had in her into that one gesture, and then went limp in the demon's grasp. The Tetsusaiga fell from her slack fingers and thudded into the ground, humming softly from the impact, its point imbedded in the hard earth.


a/n: Bwaha! Cliffhanger! I have the second (and final) chapter drafted, but I have to work on it and then type it up. I'm going to try to post it in a week or so. In the meantime, I hope you liked it! Thanks for reading, and please give a poor writer a review...

-Veranda