There is no sympathy for him as he groans awake, lifting suddenly- thousand pound eyelids with Herculean effort; instead there is a severe brown gaze and pursed pink lips. Her touch is gentle, however, as she takes the cloth from his forehead, dips it in a bowl of water near his head, wrings it out, and replaces it.

He starts to croak out her name as he usually does at times like these, but she cuts him off. "You were reckless." she states accusingly, staring him down.

He blinks slowly.

She sighs. "Inuyasha can afford to be rash. We're only human; we cannot." She leaves the especially you unsaid.

He chooses his words carefully. "I took a calculated risk-"

"That's called a gamble," she interrupts, "and while I know you've been- delinquent- before you usually have far more sense." Her voice softens. "Tell me why."

He sighs. She has a right to know- why, why had he ever asked her!- but that doesn't really make it easier.

She'd smiled at him earlier that day; a genuine smile, just for him, and he had felt content with the world just looking at her.

What right had he to do this to her?

"Tell me." she insists, and he can see her fear.

"Two days ago," he obliges in a heavy tone, "was the anniversary of my father's death."

Her hand rises to her mouth in guilt; how coldly she'd treated him when he'd finally come back, with her hurt and angry from assuming the worst! How patient he had been, taking it! She snapped back as he continued.

"Ever year the Kazaana expands. Mine will consume me soon." There is a moment of silence before he confesses in a whisper, "It is my greatest fear.

"Though I am still several years younger than my father and grandfather were when the curse swallowed them, I have used and damaged it more." She can barely hear him. "I don't have much time left." His tone turns abruptly businesslike. "And so I gambled today that I could end it- and lost, as I always do." He manages a chuckle. "I have never had any luck with gambling."

She gathers herself with considerable effort, but it pays off- her face is not panicked, and her voice, while concerned, is steady. "But, Houshi- sama, there's still... still time... unless there's something you're not telling me?" she realized, the dread in her eyes begging him to grope her and let her know she was wrong, that it would be all right. That's what he always did, wasn't it? He wouldn't lie... he wasn't lying all the times he'd... had he?

His face is still as those of the statues that represent the ideal he serves. "Sango... it is... unlikely... given our present rate, and Naraku's present strength, that I will be saved."

Her voice is raspy. "How much time?"

His eyes half- close, shielding his gaze from her. "I cannot say exactly-"

"How- much- time?" she bites out, and he is smart enough to be slightly scared of her at that moment.

"Months, not years." is all he will say, but it's all she needs to know. She is silent and dry- eyed as her heart breaks, a thin red threadall that's keepingthe pieces from falling into an abysmal hell from which there is no return; outside, a grim hanyou stalks deep into the forest named for him, downing trees and whatever else is foolish enough to cross his path; a young girl claps a hand over a crying kitsune's mouth while quiet tears run down her own lovely face, and an old miko closes her lone eye in grief and leans against the wall, feeling her years weigh oppressively on her.