Title: Breathe
Author: SkyFire

Rating: PG13
Summary: The hanyou Inuyasha finds himself on the receiving end of a quest for revenge.
Genre: Genfic. Oneshot.
Characters: Inuyasha & co.
Warnings: None?
Author's Notes: A oneshot I've been working on for a while now, ever since I wrote the first paragraph of 'Behind the Blue Moon', actually. Hope you like it!

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha, or any of the other characters you might recognize from the anime series, movies, manga, cards, or anything else. Of course, if anyone cares to donate a rosary-bound Sesshomaru, I'd gladly accept... :o)

oOoOo
Breathe
by SkyFire

There was no warning.

One moment he stood in that clearing in his forest, pacing impatiently around the Bone Eater's Well as he waited for Kagome to come through, growing ever more determined to go in and bring her back himself with every passing hour.

The next moment, he collapsed to the grassy ground, hands at his throat as he choked, the greenery around him wilting and browning in the heavy toxic fog that had so suddenly filled the typically-peaceful clearing.

As the world faded away into black fog, glazing amber eyes had only moments to see feet come to a stop all around him.

Green feet, blue feet, red feet, all generously webbed.

/Wha... toad demons? And... What.../

Blackness.

oOo

Kagome heaved herself out of the well, bracing as she did for the storm of impatient reprimands she knew Inuyasha was bound to heap on her for being so late.

So she had lagged a bit in her return. It wasn't as if she had meant to -- and even if she had, what of it? She had her own life to live, in her own time, with her own friends. Wasn't she entitled to some "girl-time" away from the past and the Jewel and the Enemy of the Week that wanted her dead or at least seriously wounded? Wasn't she allowed time away from all that, even if only for a little while?

It wasn't as if she didn't know how important collecting the shards was, nor as if she wasn't going back, after all...

...If only Inuyasha would look at it that way.

She sighed heavily, then looked curiously around the clearing. Why hadn't Inuyasha started in on her yet? He was usually right there when she was back late.

Mental ramblings came to an abrupt halt in mid-rant, a gasp of shock and dismay escaping her as she finally noticed the brown, wilted, and generally dead state of the clearing.

Another sound of dismay escaped her even as a deep worry took hold as she saw something that made her blood run cold.

Near the center of the dead patch, metal of hilts gleaming in the light of the early afternoon sun, lay the Tetsusaiga--

--And no sign of Inuyasha.

oOo

It was one of those times when -- though the mind is fully awake and aware -- the body is not, and responds only slowly and heavily when it bothers to respond at all.

And so he lay where he was, an unaccustomed feeling of anxiety running through him at the realization of his helplessness and vulnerability.

As he waited for his body to come back under his control, he stretched out what senses he could in an effort to figure out just where he was and what situation he would find himself in.

He was lying on something cold and hard, the cold seeping into him, robbing him of what heat he had. Stone? He sniffed. No. It smelled more of earth than stone. Also mixed with the earthy scent was a certain dampness -- not wet, per se, but damp. A fact that only served to make that persistent chill more penetrating.

Where was he?

It was as he lay there on the cold ground that he noticed on important fact. Usually if he woke to find himself on the ground like that after having been swatted away in battle, his waist was uncomfortably constricted as the Tetsusaiga (or at least its sheath) twisted his belt. That feeling was lacking, and judging from his position, it should not have been.

There was only one conclusion to be drawn from that fact: the Tetsusaiga was missing.

From somewhere behind him -- and above? -- he could hear a faint murmur of conversation. Irritating that he couldn't make out the words as he could have were he not still under the influence of whatever that fog that had knocked him out had been.

An eternity of helplessness and growing angry frustration later, he was able to push himself to his feet, though one clawed hand was forced to reach immediately to the nearest wall as a wave of dizziness washed over him. His legs were not entirely sure he should be up yet and they trembled beneath his weight.

He blinked rapidly clearing gold eyes, looked about himself, taking in the dampness, the darkness. Where was he?

Snorted in derision.

A well.

Admittedly, a particularly deep well, the earth and clay bottom hard-packed beneath his feet. The walls were lined with stone sealed with mortar to what he supposed was ground level, then wood above that. The sky was a small blue square high above.

Still, a well?

/What are they -- whoever 'they' are -- thinking? Even if I couldn't make the jump -- which I can -- the walls aren't worn so smooth that I couldn't just climb out./ A superior smirk eerily reminiscent of Sesshomaru. /Try to trap me in some old well, did they? Well, they're in for an unpleasant surprise./

He crouched, eyes fixed on that patch of blue. Sprang, claws ready to tear into the group he could still hear mumbling above --

-- Tumbled back down to the bottom of the well with a quickly-cut-off cry of surprise and pain as he leap face first into a Barrier, getting forcefully repelled with a flash of bright light.

The voices above stopped abruptly.

At the bottom of the well, he shook himself, stood.

He looked up as the well became suddenly darker. Silhouetted against the bright blueness were several roundish, bulbous shapes -- heads?

His suspicion was proven true as an odd voice -- seemingly a cross between a whine and a gurgle -- came from above.

"Inuyasha," said the voice.

"Yeah," Inuyasha said, annoyance ringing clear in his voice. "Who are you? What's the big idea; putting me down here?"

"We were followers of the Toad Prince and the Water God, both of whom were destroyed by you."

"So this is revenge?" Inuyasha scoffed. "Usually demons try to kill me, not trap me somewhere. This is pathetic."

There was an angry-feeling silence above, held for long moments. Then:

"So you don't mind staying in the well?" The voice continued, an evil glee nearly tangible: "Perhaps you are right. But that is only half of our revenge."

Inuyasha snorted. "Is the other half you boring me to death?"

Amused now, the voice answered. "Your death will follow, rest assured, half-breed, but boredom is not the means." One of the silhouettes turned to another. "Bring it."

Chest rumbling as an annoyed-bordering-on-angry growl made its way free, Inuyasha watched as first one of the shapes disappeared, then returned.

He ducked out of the way as a small, fist-sized stone, not bothered by the Barrier, was dropped down the well.

"What's the big idea? You put me down here so you can throw rocks at me? That really is pathetic!"

"Ah, but we're only dropping the one stone," came the voice from above in a smug, superior, and victorious tone. "And it's a special stone, marked with a special spell, just for you."

Inuyasha blinked, looked to the stone. It just sat there being all round and grey and -- well, stonelike.

Then it wasn't.

From the spell carved into the pitted grey surface, water began to gush. The flow wasn't terribly great, nor fast, but the revenge they had engineered became all too clear.

Ever so slowly, the old dry well would fill. Even now, the water was deep enough to cover the bottom of the narrow well, splashing as it rushed from the stone, as he shuffled his feet. Ever so slowly, the well would fill, and either he would tire of keeping himself afloat against the drag of his clothes, or of clinging to the uneven stone walls.

Even if he didn't, the well would just keep filling. Eventually, the well would fill up enough that the Barrier would keep him under.

There was no doubt about it.

He was in trouble.

oOo

That small blue square of sky was getting distressingly close.

Clinging tightly to the rough stone of the well wall, Inuyasha knew he was in trouble.

Water lapped at his feet as he edged further up. Before he got to the bottom of the wooden section, he felt the warning pressure of the Barrier from above.

That was as high as he was going to get while the Barrier held.

He looked down.

If he stretched just a little, his toes would get wet.

Growling under his breath, Inuyasha shifted his position then slammed a clenched fist into the stone, sending shards flying everywhere, stone plopping down into the malevolently placid water.

He blinked as the dust cleared, frowned at the small gouge in the stone as if the mere weight of his glare could worsen the damage he had done.

It didn't.

Once again, he raised his fist, slammed it into the side of the well. Again. Again. Again.

A short cry as he was flung away from the hole he had made by a powerful force. He flew across the well-shaft, slammed forcefully into the opposite wall, and fell down to splash into the too-close water. Surfaced, sputtering. He latched back onto the walls, began to pull himself back up.

The light in the well dimmed.

He looked up and, as before, saw a series of people standing around the edge of the well, staring down at him. He was close enough now that he could see -- even though they were still backlit -- their faces. A series of demons stood there, their faces showing them to be toads, fish, crabs.

One of the toads smirked widely, eyeing the damage that had been done to the well-shaft. "Made a little discovery, have you? You didn't think we would be so foolish as to put a Barrier over the top of the well and not up its sides, did you?"

"Damn it!" Inuyasha cursed, dragging his waterlogged self up as high as the barrier would allow. "Let me out of here!" His feet and calves were still under the water.

Hoarse gurgles came from above as the aquatic demons laughed.

"You defeated our lords, half-breed! Now we will destroy you." More gurgles of cruel laughter. "Very soon, now, you will watch as the water rises above the Barrier, and then you will drown. How very fitting, don't you think?"

Inuyasha growled helplessly in reply, water tugging gently at his knees. He could feel the demon in him fighting for freedom, let it. He felt the power surge through his limbs, felt the world fade away as the demonic presence took control of his body, as it lunged--

Awareness surged back into him and he found himself once again treading water. The shaft walls were gouged by the marks of frantic clawing, but he could tell that the Barrier still held.

The Demon had failed.

Knowing he would get no mercy from the demons above, he didn't even try to sway them to his side.

They, on the other hand, continued to rain taunts, jeers, and curses down on him even as the rising water forced him up toward the Barrier.

Time flew by too quickly.

Far too soon, Inuyasha found himself unable to go any further up.

From above, he heard the faint murmur of conversation, but couldn't make out the words above the sounds of his own splashing.

The water kept rising.

He had just gulped what he knew to be his last breath of air when he heard a more-than-welcome sound right before the water closed over his head, filled his ears.

"Hiraikotsu!"

oOo

It wasn't every day that they arrived in a clearing to find a crowd of aquatic youkai clustered around a well, staring into it as if it contained all they ever wanted.

Instinctively knowing that something was amiss, and also knowing that it could possibly concern their missing hanyou companion, they readied their weapons.

Even though they suspected the demons of some unspecified evil, they would not attack without provocation.

Miroku stepped forward, called out to the gathered demons. He bowed slightly, respectfully, then said; "Greetings! I am Miroku and these are my companions Sango and Kagome, the fox Shippo, and the two-tailed fire-cat Kirara. We're looking for another of our friends; perhaps you've seen him? The hanyou Inuyasha?"

The demons gurgled together for a moment before one answered. "That vile half-breed?" A brief hesitation. "Haven't seen him."

"Liar!" Sango growled. She drew back her weapon for the throw. "Hiraikotsu!"

Perhaps a quarter of the gathered demons fell with that first pass of the slayer's mighty weapon before they scattered.

After that, the fight evened a bit; the toads having their toxic breath weapons and Inuyasha's friends having their own weapons both physical and spiritual.

It wasn't long before Sango and the others noticed that the demons seemed -- oddly enough -- to be defending the well, trying to keep them away from it.

Why would they do that?

Unless...

"Inuyasha," Sango realized. She saw water reach the very top of the well, begin spilling over in glistening silver streams. The streams that grew larger and larger, until water was evenly overflowing the well, turning the wood a darker, wetter shade even as it turned the surrounding ground to mud.

"The well!" Sango cried, even as she sent the deadly hiraikotsu out once more. "We have to get to the well!"

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her companions pale as they realized where their missing friend could be.

"Inuyasha!" cried Kagome. She shot arrow after arrow into the crowd.

Miroku saw the overflowing well and knew that if his sliver-haired friend was in there, something was preventing him from surfacing -- and that meant time was, therefore, quickly running short. And so: "Get back!" he called to his companions, already reaching for the beads that bound his right hand.

Knowing what the monk intended, the others quickly got clear.

"Wind Tunnel!"

oOo

The last of the demons vanished, screaming, into the hole in the cursed monk's right hand.

The second the wind tunnel was sealed once more, the companions rushed to the well, ignoring the mud that sucked at their feet.

"A Barrier!" Neither Miroku nor Kagome knew which of them uttered the low murmur, but both instinctively knew its truth.

And if there was a Barrier, perhaps--

They peered into the darkness of the well, light reflecting off the streamng water dazzling their eyes. For a long moment they saw nothing but the distorted reflection of the clearing around them, then, as their eyes became accustomed to the lightplay--

A mass of fine white strands floated ghostily not two feet below the lip of the well. Wings of water-darkened crimson spread limply to either side. The only movement was that made by the current as the water continued to flow up and out of the well.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome cried in panic. She reached down into the water, reaching for him, only to have her hand repelled by the Barrier with a muted flash of light.

"Kagome, quick!" Miroku said. "Shoot an arrow into the well!"

A shaky nod, then the girl set arrow to string and took careful aim.

Shot.

There was a bright flare of pinkish light as the power in Kagome's sacred arrow combined with her will to shatter the Barrier.

Miroku and Sango worked quickly to pull the bobbing hanyou from the water. He hung limp in their grasp as they carried him from the well and over to a patch of dry -- if flattened -- grass nearby. As they lay him down on the grass, Miroku took the opportunity to press his ear to the strong chest, listening.

"He's not breathing," Sango stated, worry ringing clear in her voice. "Miroku?"

"His heart is still beating, though weakly," came the reply.

"Inuyasha," Kagome whispered as she fell to her knees beside him, bow dropping unnoticed from her hands. She heard what the others said, registering the meaning only slowly.

Not breathing.

No!

She would not lose him; not before things were settled between he, she, and Kikyo! And she would certainly not lose him because of the plotting of those weak demons!

"No."

Lessons surfaced in her mind; training she had taken back in her own time, even before she discovered the secret of the Bone Eater's Well.

Tip the head back; make sure the airway was clear; pinch the nose; seal her mouth to his -- careful of his fangs! His lips were cold, wet, and limp against hers.

Blow. Pause. Again. Pause.

Breathe for him as he couldn't for himself.

Even as she labored over him, a part of her mind wandered free. She saw the clear blue of the sky; the way the leaves rustled faintly in the light breeze; the way sunlight and shadow dappled the clearing in ever-changing patterns.

How odd it was for him to lie there, seeming so helpless and small as she fought to get him to breathe on his own once more.

A tiny gasp from the otherwise-still hanyou.

Encouraged, she continued her actions.

Breathe. Pause. Breathe.

oOo

Once again, awareness flooded him, this time accompanied by a burning, stabbing pain in his chest. He coughed, water spewing free. He felt hands at torso and leg, turning him onto his side. He felt liquid rush up his throat as he was turned, helplessly vomited water onto the ground in front of him.

The pain in his chest eased slightly, though it was still reminiscent of the time Sesshomaru drove his hand into his back and out his stomach in a spray of poison acid, thoughthis pain was focused higher in his chest and lungs.

A hand was touching him, rubbing his back in firm circles. Why wouldn't they stop touching him? He didn't like it at the best of times and now, when he was so weak-feeling and vulnerable, it was nearly intolerable. His growl of warning was swallowed by his involuntary coughs and gasps.

Ever so slowly, his breathing eased, the pain receding somewhat, though still achingly present. Partially-opened eyes still recognized nothing but the slowly-drying grass directly in front of him. Sodden ears drooped under the doubled burdens of water and weariness. The slight breeze that ran through the clearing, barely enough to make the flowers bow slightly, caught in his wet clothing enough to make his shiver weakly, too exhausted and worn from his drowning and near-death to do aught else.

He felt his hands moved from where they had been clutching at his hurting chest, then felt something pressed into them. Even as dazed and exhausted as he was, he easily recognized the object as the sheathed Tetsusaiga. Relief flooding through him -- these must be his friends; no one else would have returned his sword to him -- he hugged the sword to him.

The vague sight of grass wavered, then faded out completely as amber eyes drooped closed. Sleep called out for him, beckoned, won.

His friends would protect him; it was safe for him to rest.

So he did.

END