A/N: This is the first chapter of my first fanfic. Please keep that in mind when you read and review!

Also, I watch the anime religiously but I'm just staring the manga, so everything will be based off the anime.

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of the characters created by Takahashi.

Chapter 1 – Amphibious Kiss

He had gone to her again. Kagome had seen the soul collectors overhead, almost hidden by the dense canopy of branches, and Inuyasha had disappeared minutes later. The others hadn't noticed yet; they were busy eating the stew that Kagome and Sango had prepared earlier that evening. Lately, Miroku and Sango didn't notice much of anything but each other, anyway. Kagome sighed and glanced to the tree that Inuyasha had recently vacated, then back to her own bowl that was sitting on the ground beside her, untouched.

What did she expect? That after two years as companions, he would love her as much as she did him? That he would accept that his first love was dead and move on – to her? 'I'm such a fool', she thought as she absently smoothed a pleat in her green school-issued skirt. 'It's not like I've told him how I feel'. Just the thought of speaking those words to him filled her stomach with butterflies. Would he laugh? Would he turn away with a typical "Feh! Stupid girl." Would he blush as reached for her, whispering…

"Kagome, why aren't you eating?"

Kagome jumped, then flushed when she saw two emerald eyes staring at her in concern. "Shippo! I was… waiting for it to cool off, that's all." She snatched up her bowl and took a quick sip, suppressing a grimace at the tepid liquid. "Yep! Cool enough to eat!" She forced a sunny grin and continued sipping the soup.

"OK", Shippo said doubtfully.

She didn't think she'd fooled him; he was a precocious child and knew way too much for a kit his age. 'I wonder how old he really is…', she mused as she glanced over at him again and gave him another smile. 'He is much more aware of relationships and feeling than Inuyasha… oh, Inuyasha'. She sighed again as the image of soul collectors filled her mind, followed by Inuyasha embracing Kikyo beneath the trees, moonlight touching their hair.

She set aside her empty bowl and got to her feet. "I'm going to the hot springs", she announced as she dug her soap, shampoo, and towel out of her bag. "Sango?" The demon slayer glanced up.

"You go ahead without me, Kagome. I'll follow in a minute."

Kagome nodded and left camp, following the deer path to the natural hot springs she knew was close by. This wasn't the first time they had camped here and she was confident that could find her way there and back without mishap. 'I don't need protection every minute of every day, after all', she thought as she kicked at the leaves on the path. 'In fact, I could take care of my self if I had to… except that I left my bow and arrows back at camp'. A hidden tree root caught her foot and she stumbled, catching her balance with her hand on the offending tree. She hung her head, letting her bangs hide her face. 'Maybe I am a useless, stupid girl'.

The sound of trickling water brought her out her self-condemnation and brightened her spirits a little. Steam curled into the night air and seemed to caress the boulders that partially hid the pool while dozens of fireflies darted around, lending the spring an unearthly, magical glow. The tinkling of water originated from a small figure of a frog carved bas-relief from the rock wall on the other side of the spring. Water seeped from between it's lips, which were puckered as if ready for a kiss.

Kagome quickly stripped and folded her clothes neatly, placing them on one of the rocks and making sure her fragments of the sacred jewel were on top, then pinned her hair into a pile on her head. Smiling, her first real smile of the evening since she had seen the soul collectors, she eased one foot, then the other, then her entire body into the hot water. She sat and leaned against one of the rocks and let her muscles relax.

'I know I promised to always stay by his side. Maybe I'm holding him back? Maybe he doesn't want me here anymore?' Inuyasha's behavior toward her hadn't changed; he was still her friend, but she sensed a distance between them that was growing steadily wider. When she had made that promise, she had thought friendship would be enough. Now she knew it wasn't. 'Maybe he is holding me back?' She cupped her hands and squirted water at the stone frog. "What do you think, mister frog?" Squirt, squirt. "It's not like he's the only boy in town", she mumbled, then hunkered down under the water until it came to her nose. 'Who am I trying to fool, he's been the only boy since the day I met him. But I'm not the only girl for him.' Something about the frog nagged at the back of her mind, but she couldn't put her finger on it.

She waded closer to the frog and used a delicate finger to trace its carved lines. 'I'm not as beautiful, as strong, as powerful as Kikyo.' Her finger glided down the bridge of its nose. 'I'm just a human. I can't compete', she echoed her own words of so long ago. She spoke aloud, "I wish I was as powerful and strong as Inuyasha. Then maybe he would look at me like he does Kikyo." Without thinking, she bent forward and kissed the stone lips of the frog.

A sudden jolt ripped through her, as if she were being electrocuted, and was gone just as suddenly. She fell back into the water with a small shriek and rubbed her buzzing lips. 'Well, that was weird. I should have known better.' She gave her body a quick once-over. 'I don't seem to be hurt, though. Where is Sango, anyway?' She waded back to where she had left her clothes, unpinned her hair, grabbed her soaps, and finished her bath as quickly as she could. The frog hadn't changed, but she realized that she wanted to be at camp as soon as possible. Barely taking the time to dry off, she got into her uniform, now damp from the steam, and headed back toward camp.

The more distance she put between her and the frog, the more the incident seemed to fade from her mind and the more aware of the night she became. Trees whispered overhead; she could almost make out words. Night creatures scurried in the underbrush and she found that if she tried, she could follow their path by listening alone. The loamy scent of earth intermingled with that of decaying leaves, vegetable stew, and a largish animal off to her left that was quickly approaching. Wrapped up in the experience and not paying attention to exactly what it was her senses were telling her, Kagome continued down the path.

'Is this what electrocution does to people?' Without noticing that she could now see it, she stepped over the gnarled root that had tripped her before. 'Silly, the Warring States Era doesn't have electricity!'

A quiet rustle and an almost silent creak, along with the wild, woodsy scent of the large animal brought her attention overhead. A sharpness to the scent told her that whatever it was, it was angry. Looking up, she saw two golden eyes, widened in surprise, framed by a mane of silky silver hair and two white triangular dog-ears. He was crouched on the branch like a tiger, an embodiment of grace and strength.

"It's not polite to sneak up on people, ya know".

Inuyasha was dumb-struck. He had fully intended to drop to the ground in front of her, startling her, then give her piece of his mind about the stupidity of wandering off alone. "How did you…"

"You've lost your touch, Inuyasha. Anyone could have heard you a mile away". Kagome stepped down the path with a smug grin, her spirits a little lighter but wondering why Inuyasha's patented silent approach had been so loud.

Inuyasha dropped from the tree behind her, scowling. "Hey you! I ain't finished!"


She didn't look back at the hanyou, sputtering with his face planted in the earth, as she followed the dim glow of the fire to the campsite.

Shippo stirred from sleep as Kagome stepped into the circle of firelight. "Kagome! You're back!" The excited little kit jumped up from where he had been sitting and bounded into her arms, embracing her tightly.

"Shippo! I was only gone a few minutes!" she laughed and returned his hug. Miroku, a red handprint gracing his face, smiled softly at the two of them from his bedroll. Sango glanced up guiltily from sharpening her short sword. Kagome grinned at her and waved away the unspoken apology.

Shippo's emerald green eyes gleamed a little brighter. "You were so sad when you left… I was worried," he said softly. Kagome laughed again and cuddled him to her chest.

"I can't be sad with you around, Shippo" she replied just as quietly. She yawned widely and walked the both of them to her sleeping bag. With one arm, she balanced the kit on her hip; with the other she unrolled the sleeping bag and unzipped it. She was so sleepy all of a sudden, she could hardly see straight. Her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and her amazing senses of just a few minutes ago rapidly receded. With barely enough time to crawl in and adjust to a comfortable position, her eyes closing of their own accord, she fell into a deep sleep. Shippo sniffed at her, slightly alarmed at her exhaustion. She smelled a little strange, but she always did after a bath. It was soon forgotten as he, too, drifted off to sleep.

Leaping from tree branch to tree branch, Inuyasha arrived at camp a few minutes later, but stayed in the forest canopy. Looking down at his companions through the branches, he saw nothing obviously amiss. Kagome was sacked out with Shippo in her arms, Sango and Miroku were apparently recovering from an argument, probably caused by the hentai's wandering hands.

Still… Kagome should not have been able to sense him in that tree. He had been successfully sneaking up on her in that manner for the past two years and she had never shown even the slightest sign that she had heard him. This time, she not only spotted him before he was ready, she seemed to know he was coming.

He tried to catch a whiff of her scent, but all he could get was floral soap and Shippo. 'Idiot. Why did she go off by herself? Something could have happened to her.' He flinched and flattened his ears when he remembered where he had been when she left camp. It would have been his fault if she had gotten hurt; he was her protector, after all. But he hadn't been able to help himself when he caught wind of Kikyo's soul collectors.

He had left as quietly as possible, tracking the demons until he found her, bathed in moonlight with her soul collectors slowly circling her. Like a celestial being she had stood, mysterious, beautiful and … cold. His heart had skipped a beat and he had meant to approach, but before he had taken a step forward, an image of Kagome's laughing face had risen in his mind. Warm where Kikyo was cold, joyful to Kikyo's melancholy, living instead of dead. He watched her a few minutes more, then left as silently as he had arrived.

He had taken his time finding his way back to his companions, letting his thoughts and feet wander. He still loved Kikyo, didn't he? Yes, he did, but he wasn't in love. 'I promised to avenge her. I promised my life to her'. Is that what he really wanted? Not anymore: there was so much to live for. For the first time in his life, he had friends, trust and acceptance. He had paused and gazed up at the sky. The waning moon was a closing eye in a jewel-scattered blanket. Tomorrow night would be the new moon and this night of weakness.

He couldn't imagine life without his friends, especially Kagome. She had made it all possible; the others would not have given him the time of day if it had not been for her. Frankly, he wouldn't have cared, before she had entered his life. He hadn't recognized how alone he had been until he had been surrounded by companionship.

His wandering feet had almost led him back to camp when he had realized that the woman in his thoughts was not there. He had immediately taken to the treetops, rightly guessing that she had gone to the spring.

'How the hell did she know I was there?' He scowled down at her sleeping form, tracing the graceful curve of her neck with his eyes. Thick eyelashes brushed her cheeks, inky black hair spread over her sleeping bag like fingers of night. Alive… but unattainable. She was his friend and she knew of his promise to Kikyo. Regardless, no woman in her right mind would be interested in a half-breed like himself, especially not one as powerful, strong-spirited, desirable and as Kagome. He imagined running his clawed fingers through her silky hair, watching those sooty eyelashes flutter like captured moths. 'Don't be ridiculous. She's not for someone like me.' Suppressing a sigh, he settled more comfortably into the crotch of the tree. The least he could do was keep watch while the others slept.