Chapter 5- Our Memories

It didn't matter how weak and drawn she felt from her encounter. The blood was pooling at the hanyou's side onto the ground, which made Kagome even more distressed. Inuyasha was always so vulnerable in his human form and truth be told, it scared the miko at times. Not because of the fact that Inuyasha couldn't protect her, but the reasoning behind why it worried her was because Kagome feared that something terrible would happen to him; that he'd end up so severely injured that it could possibly kill him. Shaken, and trying her best to remove the horrible thoughts from her mind, Kagome placed her hands on both of Inuyasha's sides.

"Sango-chan, Miroku-sama, can you please get me some bandages and something to clean his wounds?!" the young priestess called out frantically as she carefully rolled the hanyou onto his back.

She removed his kimono and laid it off to the side in a crumpled pile next to his haori, which had fallen off of her body in her moment of panic. Feeling cold and tired wasn't important anymore as the haori lay forgotten along with his undershirt kimono leaving Inuyasha bare chested. Kagome stopped for a brief moment while the taijiya and houshi had left to retrieve her necessities and stared at his lightly tanned, naked flesh. Strands of the hanyou turned human's ebony hair fell down his defined shoulders. There was a bit of dampness lingering on him, making his creamy skin glisten and seem inviting, depsite the wound that had been inflicted in Inuyasha's side.

The miko's hands longed to reach out and trace her fingertips gently down his smooth body, from his pectorals down to the small bumps that were his stomach. Her eyes fell over each individual abdominal muscle moving with every breath he took. How she longed to trail her fingers down each seperate set of his abdominals. Inuyasha's structuring and anatomy of his naked torso was almost tempting the miko to just reach out her palms and tenderly rub them up and down his middle. She'd seen him bare-chested like this many times before and never found her mind wandering in this direction. It was so tantalizing, so intoxicating and so captivating that the young woman found her hands slowly making their way towards his naked, shimmering skin. Kagome mentally slapped herself and drew her hands back as quickly as they had moved forward. No, not now! Bad Kagome! You can't be thinking of things like this right now! Inuyasha needs you to take care of him, not turn all hentai on him!

The miko scolded herself silently for harboring such thoughts. She brushed off her intimate musings and placed her hand over the bleeding wound. Any moment Sango and Miroku would return with the first aid kit, and the last thing Kagome wanted was for them to see her like this. The young priestess didn't want to get herself caught admiring Inuyasha's bare body. She knew if that were to happen, Kagome would never hear the end of it from the lecherous houshi. Turning her gaze back at the injury, the miko breathed a soft sigh of relief to see that the flow of blood had decreased immensely. Cringing she saw three of those stinger-like pieces that had been attatched to serpent youkai's tentacles, lodged into the hanyou turned human's open flesh.

It didn't take long before the monk and demon slayer approached Kagome with the giant first aid kit and sat it down at her side. Sango had seated herself near the young priestess, drawing her knees up to her chest and resting her chin in her cupped hand. Miroku sat next to the demon exterminator, the two gazing with slight worry at the unconcious Inuyasha. They knew, just as well as Kagome did, how dangerous it was for Inuyasha to be attacked while in human form. They worried for his safety almost as much as the little miko did.

Kagome quickly set to work, pulling out bandages, a pair of tweezers, some gauze, medical tape and the same medicinal ointment she had used on Shippou's wounded leg. Kagome clenched her teeth, hissing through them softly as she placed the tweezers on the tip of one of the stingers and withdrew it from the raven-haired man's side. She removed the other two with ease, laying them off to the side. As the miko worked on begining to cleanse Inuyasha's wound, Miroku crouched next to her, staring downward intently. He lowered his hand and lifted one of the greenish-gray spines in between his index finger and thumb, studying it closely with contemplative expressions.

"Houshi-sama," Sango began softly, scooting over towards Miroku, curious on what he was doing. "What is it?"

"Hmmm, I've heard of this before. If I'm not mistaken these spines carry a sort of toxin that once inserted into your flesh, it puts it's victim to sleep. However, I might be wrong," the monk replied thoughtfully, though more to himself than to Sango. He lifted his ebony head in the miko's direction where she was still busying herself with bandaging up Inuyasha's wounds. "Kagome-sama, does Inuyasha's skin feel cold to you at all? If it doesn't, that is one way we'll know for sure that these contain no poison."

"Hmmm," the miko hummed as she ran her hand across the sleeping, raven-haired man's face. She didn't feel any difference in the temperature of his flesh and shook her dark head back and forth. "Nope, there's no difference at all. He's neither running a fever nor is he unusually cold."

"Yes, I surmised as much. This is why Inuyasha is currently unconcious," Miroku nodded his head observently. "These stingers are exactly what I thought, so I know for sure there is no poison in them. I declare that Inuyasha will awaken and be cognizant once more."

True to his word, there was a gentle groan as the hanyou turned human's head stirred gently in Kagome's lap. Those familiar, blue-gray orbs of his slowly fluttered open. Inuyasha blinked a few times to gather his bearings and gazed up into Kagome's warm and inviting gaze. His head was resting easily in her lap and the miko had taken to running her fingertips across his cheekbone tenderly. She smiled as his eyes locked with hers and brushed back a few locks of his hair, tucking them gently behind his ear.

"Hey, you're awake. How are you feeling?" the miko asked in a concerned voice.

"Ka...Ka-go-me?" came his voice as he struggled to wake up. "Nnnh, I feel...kinda tired and a little...ah...sore," Inuyasha replied, as he moved to sit up. He placed a hand over his bandaged side, wincing slightly from the pain. "What in the hell happened to me?"

"Don't you remember, Inuyasha?" Sango asked curiously, leaning a bit towards him. "It seems as though we failed to kill the serpent youkai that attacked Kagome-chan," the demon exterminator pointed out.

"Oh damn...that's right. It attacked us again while we were asleep. That must be why my side feels so fucking sore," the raven-haired man acknowledged. "That bastard stuck his tentacle in me. I remember now. Those spines...they weren't, poisonous were they?" he questioned in dreaded tones. Inuyasha looked at Kagome apprehensively but the miko just smiled a comforting, reassuring smile...that 'Kagome' smile. The smile that always seemed to alleviate every small ounce of uneasiness the hanyou might be experiencing.

"No, they weren't. I treated your wounds. Miroku-sama discovered something about those spines that were attatched to it's tentacles, though. He found out that they merely just put you to sleep, nothing more. You're going to be just fine," the raven-haired miko assured Inuyasha, placing a hand on his bare arm and trying not to let those earlier thoughts creep back into her mind.

"That's good to hear," the young man breathed a sigh of relief as he lay back once more in Kagome's lap, staring up at the moonless night sky. He quickly sat up with a light blush appearing across his cheeks when he realized he was without a shirt on. "Would you mind h-handing over my clothes, it's k-kinda chilly," Inuyasha stammered, pointing over to his shirt.

The young man wasn't cold in the least, but a little embarrassed that he had been shirtless and was laying down in Kagome's lap like that. If it had been any other fucking night...I wouldn't even be laying in her lap like this...would I? He quickly noticed the goosebumps traveling down Kagome's legs and mistook them for her being cold and not quite something else. He didn't notice the blush that had also appeared across the miko's cheeks. "Put on the fire rat so you don't catch a cold," Inuyasha told her as he pulled on his tan-hued kimono shirt.

"Oh...ummm sure thing, Inuyasha," the miko answered sounding just as timid as the hanyou turned human had.

She gathered up the soft, crimson haori and placed it around her body, snuggling up into it more, feeling it's warmth close in over her body once more. The miko closed her dark eyes, picturing the form of Inuyasha behind her, with his arms placed comfortably and snugly around her body, holding her close to his. His chin rested on her shoulder as he whispered into her ear softly. Kagome sighed, wishing that it really were that way. The young woman opened her eyes, snapping out of her silent reverie to find that the hanyou turned human was sitting rather close to her. "Inuyasha?"

"Ummm Sango and Miroku left to go and get some sleep," Inuyasha pointed over to where Sango lay curled up in a sleeping back, resting on the houshi's lap. The monk was laying against a tree, one hand placed tenderly on the taijiya's head. The two were sound asleep. They must have been really exhausted to fall asleep so fast...The hanyou turned human was slumped over slightly, his elbows resting on his knees, staring at the ground. The young man issued a soft sight of defeat. "I don't...really want to go to sleep tonight," Inuyasha admitted, his voice wavering with slight apprehension.

"I understand why you wouldn't. That was one really terrible youkai," the miko nodded her dark head in agreement.

"Yeah that's for sure. You certainly finished him off with that purifying arrow of yours, considering how tired you must be. I mean...there was a lot of water in your lungs and being drug around by the demon like that must have left you feeling pretty worn out and weak," Inuyasha pointed out. "I mean...what I'm saying is...," he paused rubbing his side carefully with his fingertips. Why oh why did he have to show so much compassion every single night he was human? It was bad enough he was struggling with the torment and the remorse of Kikyou's death and his feelings for Kagome too. So why did it seem that tonight he felt...maybe even more closer to Kagome than usual?

The young miko gazed up at the profile features of the handsome half-demon watching his brows furrow and tilted her head slightly. "You don't have to tell me, I know," Kagome replied softly. Trying to change the subject, the priestess's eyes wandered to his side. "So, how are you feeling?"

"Keh, it's just a little scratch is all," the raven-haired man began haughtily, but he gritted his teeth, placing his hand over the obviously painful wound.

Kagome raised one, thin eyebrow at him, causing Inuyasha to blush slightly. "That doesn't seem like just a little scratch. Besides, I treated that wound, so I know it's not a little scratch."

"Yeah, I just...I hate being human like this. I hate feeling weak and vulnerable because this isn't me. I feel so...inadequate," Inuyasha sighed in defeat, staring straight ahead into the flickering flames.

"You know...if you're hurting, you could borrow my lap?" Kagome proposed quietly. "I mean...that is, i-if you want to since you're hurt and all."

"I...ummm...," Inuyasha fumbled with his words. His heart was crying out to him, telling him yes to accept her proposal but at the same time his head was screaming not to do it, only because he feared of getting too close to the miko. What if I do allow myself to get any closer? What will I do if something happens to her, just like it did Kikyou? Then what? But...it's only her lap and hell it's just tonight...what's the harm in it? The young ningen man knew that if he could lay back in her lap it most likely would be more comfortable than laying on the cold, hard ground. He allowed his heart to win the ongoing battle between it and his mind. "S-sure, that'd be great."

The miko smiled as she positioned herself and Inuyasha slowly lay back, resting his head against the warmth of Kagome's flesh. He lay on his uninjured side, facing away from Kagome's lovely face. He didn't want to be driven into more temptation and another battle raged inside of his head. He was vulnerable, he'd just lost Kikyou and yet here was Kagome, offering him comfort. Inuyasha didn't want to allow himself to fall too much into it. What if Kagome thought he was just using her for comfort just to get over Kikyou? Gah! Why in the hell am I thinking of all these things now!? The thoughts were quickly driven from the hanyou's mind as he felt her place tiny finger tips near his ear, running them gently through his ebony hair. It made Inuyasha blanch very slightly, but he soon gave into the soothing, comforting motions of Kagome's hands in his hair. The young miko had felt him slightly recoil from her touch but also felt his relaxing against her lap. She couldn't help but smile slightly. Kagome could recall another time he had been human and she had allowed his injured self to rest in her lap exactly like this.

"Inuyasha...do you remember the first time I ever saw you turn human?" the miko questioned a little nervously, hoping that bringing up the past wouldn't upset him.

"Yeah...I'll never forget that. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have realized...," the hanyou broke of his words, blushing furiously. That was the first time I had ever seen you cry for me...my life had been put into danger. I was just barely hanging on. You protected me for a change, Kagome. You shed tears for my sake...I think that was when I began to realize just how important you are to me and that I could trust you...

oo00oo

The hanyou was now making his way into the temple, trying to remain confident in his susceptible state. He'd be able to take care of the demons himself. Was the hanyou turned human ever wrong. Inuyasha had been attacked by the lead of the spiderheads with nothing to defend himself, considering he was only a mere human at this point. The spider youkai had buried his fangs into Inuyasha's flesh, injecting massive quanitities of poison and he had been rendered completely helpless. Inuyasha threw his head back, howling in pain as he felt the fangs enter his flesh. The poison began coursing through his veins. The hanyou was left to hang there, suspended by the white spidersilk that bound him to the poles inside of the temple. He was surprised when the young miko burst into the room, clutching Tetsusaiga in her hands, Nazuna by her side. She had clarified that the priest had been decieving the little girl when her eyes caught sight of Inuyasha hanging helplessly upside down by the spidersilk.

"Ka-go-me, save yourself," the hanyou turned human strained to speak Kagome, who was determinedly making her way towards him.

"No chance!" she told him furiously as she continued to leap up the wooden poles advancing towards the trapped hanyou..

"I'm serious...it's too late for me!" Inuyasha urged, trying to will Kagome to get out of any sort of danger. Tonight he just couldn't protect her and if anything had happened to her because of his weakness, Inuyasha would never be able to forgive himself.

"I'm not leaving here without you!" Kagome insisted as she climbed up towards him, unrelenting tears filling her eyes. "No...way!"

The girl took a diving leap forward with Tetsusaiga clutched in both hands, holding the weapon as if she were going to do chin-ups with it. Inuyasha blinked in awe as he stared at the miko ascending towards him. Crystalline tears were flying from the corners of her eyes, and she slammed the sword into the spidersilk, breaking the hold it had on the hanyou. The two fell to the floor of the temple. Once they landed, Inuyasha had gone completely unconcious. With the help of Shippou and Nazuna, they had managed to get him safely into a room while thrusting Tetsusaiga into the closed door to buy them time.

It would ward off the spiderhead youkai and Kagome would be able to tend to Inuyasha until he regained his youki once more. Later that night, Myouga had taken to drawing out the poison inside of Inuyasha and retreated to the corner, where Shippou and Nazuna had fallen asleep, full of poison and the hanyou's blood. Inuyasha's breathing had become labored as his body began fightning to live. He had dried blood at the corner of his mouth, and his face was drenched in persperation.

"He's covered in sweat!" Kagome had taken a handkerchief from her backpack and began dabbing tenderly at his forehead. "Oh!" she whimpered sympathetically when the hanyou opened his steely gray eyes staring upward at the beauty in front of him. She moved the cloth from his head and held it at her chest.

"I'm sorry! Did I wake you up?" the miko asked softly.

"No," Inuyasha replied in a strained voice. He turned his head away from Kagome, gazing off at nothing, wanting to ask her the question that burned in his mind, but found he could not face the miko. There was something about tonight that touched his heart more than he could explain. So, averting his gaze, he asked the lingering question. "Kagome," he began.

"What is it?" Kagome asked, leaning closer towards him, trying to see his face, but Inuyasha kept his dark head turned from her, his deep, blue-grey orbs staring at the wooden beams underneath them..

"Tell me something...why were you crying?" he asked, still not able to find the courage to look at her.

"Huh? Back in the other room?" Kagome asked him incredulously, probably wondering why on earth he had asked her such a question. Inuyasha closed his eyes as he remembered what he saw when Kagome had came to his rescue for a change. Sparkling tears had flown from the corners of her eyes as she zoomed determinedly towards the hanyou, desperate to free him, to save him. It had shocked him. Nobody had ever cried for him before except for his mother.

"Because...I thought I was going to lose you," Kagome told him honestly. "I thought you were gonna...die," she spoke the last word with dreaded emphasis.

"You shed tears for me...cried for me," Inuyasha stated more to himself than to anyone. He would never admit this to Kagome, but the fact that she had cried for his sake touched him more than she knew. "Kagome," he continued. "If it's not too much trouble, may I lie on your lap?"

Much to Inuyasha's relief, Kagome had agreed to it and she moved his head tenderly into her lap, so he could rest easily. "How do you feel? A little better than before?" the miko asked softly, gazing downward at his weakened state. His dark, blue-gray eyes remained closed.

"Yes," he replied softly, turning his head slightly towards her stomach. "Kagome...you smell kind of nice."

"Okay that's it. You made it a point before to tell me that you couldn't stand my scent!" Kagome pointed out. Inuyasha could tell she was shocked by his words.


"I did," the hanyou began as he turned his head even closer to her. "But I was lying..."

oo00oo

"Inuyasha?" questioned Kagome softly, as the hanyou turned human had drifted off into his memories. He snapped back out of his nostalgia as the miko's tender voice reached his ears. He felt his heart swell with warmth at the reminiscence and at Kagome's gentle tones. Inuyasha sighed softly against her leg.

"Hmmm? Oh, I'm sorry Kagome...I was just...thinking I guess," the raven-haired man admitted. He was glad he was turned away from Kagome's face, otherwise she'd be able to tell he was blushing slightly.

"What were you thinking about?" the miko questioned curiously. "I mean...if you want to tell me."

"Oh...i-it's nothing," Inuyasha lied.

Why is it when I'm human like this...I always find myself remembering all of those times? Why do I have to feel this way? This is why I HATE being mortal! I can't get rid of these damned emotions. These memories won't stop! Could feeling this way be sacrilige to Kikyou? Kikyou... Every since Kikyou had passed on, Inuyasha seemed as though he were standing on a very unsturdy precipice. If he were to even try and make a single move, it would crumble and fall beneath him, taking him down along with it. However, whenever the little miko had been near him, to offer him the comfort it made things just a little more endurable for him.

Despite the fact that he usually denied her comfort, the hanyou always found that somehow and some way, Kagome seemed to make him back away from it, bringing him even closer to her. How he wished things didn't have to be this way. How he wished that he could allow himself to get even more closer to Kagome, but the mere thought of it sent tremmors of dread coursing through Inuyasha's body. What if Naraku did the exact same thing to Kagome as he had done to Kikyou? The hanyou turned human was snapped from his thoughts as the young priestess's warm voice sounded in his ears.

"Are you sure? You know if there's something on your mind you can share it with me. You have before. Are you...are you okay?" Kagome asked softly, trying to get him to open up and talk to her. What could he possibly be thinking about? Could it be Kikyou maybe? Maybe that's why he won't talk to me... "Inuyasha?" the miko retierated.

"I'm...so sorry, Kagome," Inuyasha told her, closing his deep, dark orbs. He breathed in the young woman's scent and sighed again.

"It's okay, Inuyasha. I understand," the miko told him softly, still caressing his locks of hair gently. "You can talk to me when you're ready." The pair grew silent, though neither knew that they were both delving into the same memory of the night in Tougenkyo, yet another night where Inuyasha had been mortal and in terrible danger of either being crushed to death or devoured alive.

oo00oo

"Nnnh...ugh..."

The now raven-haired, young man struggled to awaken himself as the pain tore through his body. He groaned softly and his dark-hued irises slowly fluttered open. Inuyasha blinked a few times to clear his blurred vision and gasped as he stared down at himself. What in the hell had happened? Why was he in so much pain and more than that...where was he!? Inuyasha had found that he'd been suspended in the air, held fast by some kind of thorny vines. They were piercing their sharp pointed ends into his soft flesh. The massive briar was wound firmly around his arms pulling them upward. They also wrapped around his torso rather tightly and around his legs. The more he moved, the deeper the thorns dug into his skin, slicing it like a scapel.

'What's this?' he thought to himself as his eyes traveled down to his legs. He'd been rendered helpless once more, in his cursed human form and knew he wouldn't have the strength to break free from these sharp appendages.

"Ah, you've awakened, I see," came a somewhat harsh voice that sent irritation running down Inuyasha's spine. The voice was extremely familiar.

The man that had spoken turned around to face the hanyou turned ningen. He wore a tan, fur vest over a blue-striped shirt that had obviously been torn open by the man's gigantic belly. On top of his head he had a mop of unkempt hair that could have been mistaken for blades of grass. He was the sage that had shruken and swallowed Inuyasha whole into a jar filled with some kind of liquid that could have been as strong as acid. Inuyasha had been trapped in the disgusting man's jar. He was administered completely defenseless as he changed into a human, while trying to claw his way out.

The sheath at his side had began to rattle something terrible. Inuyasha realized that the sheath was calling Tetsusaiga and he held the black wood outward, beckoning his sword to come. The sword had thrust itself into the sage's the jar, putting a rather large hole into it and cracking it completely open freeing the hanyou from instant death. Inuyasha had fallen, landing hard on the ground and changed back into his normal size once he had been released from the jar and free from the spell that had shruken him. The last thing Inuyasha remembered was fighting with the giant of a man, and now he was waking up, in intense pain and hardly able to move.

"You...," growled Inuyasha as he clutched his fists tightly, glaring at the man, very near the size of an ogre, in front of him. Now he remembered...that man had landed on his body, nearly crushing the hanyou turned human's bones into dust.

"Now I understand, you're nothing but a hanyou!" taunted the sage as he gathered the oddly shaped, pink fruits, placing them into a massive clay-like jug that had been placed in front of him.

"If you're gonna kill me, then do it now!" snapped the young man, who was only growing more angry by the moment the longer he was trapped by the thick, thorned vines.

"Youkai power is good nourishment for Ninmenka, the tree of human faced fruits," the sage continued as he placed the strange looking fruit, with a human face carved into it, into one of the extensive jars. "With you in the broth, it'll bare the fruit of longevity more quickly."

"FORGET IT!" Inuyasha shouted, straining against the sharp briar that continued to hold him. The raven-haired man groaned as he felt the knifelike thorns dig further into his flesh, cutting him deeper and causing more blood loss. The half-demon turned human could feel the open wounds in his body and the blood seeping down his flesh. It had already soaked through his clothes. If he didn't hurry, he would eventually die from the blood loss.

"Hurry and make your demon powers return," ordered the sage as he finished putting the last of the fruits into the jar. He turned towards Inuyasha, grinning sinisterly with his horrible eyes bulging and his teeth bared hungrily.

"Nnnnh!" was all the hanyou turned hingen could say as he fought against the thick tree-like vines, still holding him.

"Keep struggling. If the thorns pierce your skin it'll be that much easier to extract your juices," the green-haired giant taunted him.

"Damn you," Inuyasha growled, staring at the filthy, gargantuan human in front of him. The hanyou turned human's eyes scanned the room looking for some way to free himself when his eyes caught sight of a spindly, wooden table. On top of it was a tiny, glass jar. The jar was completely empty and it looked very familiar to Inuyasha. 'That's the bottle Kagome used to keep the jewel shards in!' he thought to himself and turned his gaze back over to the sage, staring at his jelly-like stomach. His eyes caught sight of the extra jewel shards, Kagome had posessed, lodged into the sage's navel.

"Tell me what you've done with the owner of the shards of the Shikon no Tama!" the hanyou demanded to know.

"Owner?" questioned the sage. "I haven't seen any owner." He sat down the giant jug of fruits he had been lugging across the room and patted his stomach gently. "I found these."

"Don't play innocent with me! You stole those from Kagome!" Inuyasha snapped, growing more furious by the minute and even more worried about the little miko. What had happened to her? Why didn't she have her jewel shards? Did the sage already devour her?

"Kagome?" continued the sage in a confused manner.

"The girl who had the shards of the Shikon no Tama!" the hanyou urged, irritation shrouding his voice.

"A girl you say?" questioned the sage who was now turning back towards Inuyasha. His grotesque-looking face broke into another smile. His massive eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets and his mouth opened wide like a toad's mouth when croaking. Small pointed teeth set into his jaws were being bared portentously.

"What tremendous news! A girl inside my house!" The massive sage turned and began walking towards the door, only stopping to release a few more taunting words towards Inuyasha. "The demon tree Ninmenka loves women too." The green-headed sage stopped and gazed over his shoulder, the same nasty grin on his face. "And the younger the better." He walked away issuing sinister laughter and left Inuyasha to hang helplessly from the thorny briar, not knowing where Kagome was or what could be happening to her. 'Kagome, I'll find you! Just keep hiding until I can get to you!' the hanyou turned human thought frantically as he fought in vain against the thickset roots wrapped around his weakening body.

ooooo

"KAGOME! EVERYTHING'S SET OVER HERE!" came the little kitsune's voice from on top of the rocks that set inside of the sage's small village. Shippou had taken three aluminum cans of hairspray from Kagome's bag and lodged them under a rock, hoping that the plan himself, the miko and Miroku had derived would work.

"ALRIGHT!" the young woman called back, waving a hand to Shippou, letting him know she had heard him. Kagome turned and looked at the taller man who stood beside her. "Okay Miroku-sama?"

"I'm ready when you are," nodded the monk, holding his golden, ringed staff against his shoulder.

Kagome lifted a hand and waved it towards the young kit's direction, signifying that she and the houshi were ready to begin the operation. As soon as the kit saw Kagome's signal, he raised a little hand and waved it towards the cans of hairspray. "KITSUNE-BI!" cried out the little youkai, releasing a massive selection of teal-blue flames towards right on the aluminum. It caused a small explosion, sending the rock to break free and roll down the cliff right towards Kagome and Miroku.

As soon as they caught sight of it, Miroku released the prayer beads from around his hand and held it wide open. "KAZAANAAAA!" cried the houshi, his hand pointed directly at the rock. The massive boulder came hurling down, heading straight for the little ebony-haired miko.

"Here it comes!" she exclaimed as the broken boulder was advancing right upon her.

The rock was just inches away from Kagome when Miroku lept out and grabbed the little miko out of harm's way. The rock continued to roll and crashed right through the wall of the little house the gang was trapped inside, creating a decent sized hole. The three didn't have much time to congratulate themselves when a gigantic eye was seen swirling around in all directions from the sky of the little house.

"There she is!" came a raspy, harsh sounding voice.

Kagome and Miroku both looked up but before they could do anything, a hand to fit the size of the eye slipped through the clouds and descended right upon the young priestess reaching out for her. Kagome gasped and screamed in terror, squeezing her eyes shut as the disgusting, fat fingers wrapped themselves around her currently shruken body. More virulent laughter issued from the gargantuan sage's mouth.

"Hahaha! Found her! Excellent!" jeered the porcine man. He opened up his fist, obviously proud of himself for this accomplishment. "A young girl. She's filthy but she's sure to please Ninmenka."

Kagome sat in the palm of the sage's hand, cringing and keeping her eyes squeezed tightly closed. "Oh no!" she whimpered, opening up one dark orb to peer up at what had captured her. Her eyes both opened wide as she stared in shock at what was in front of her. A small gasp materalized from her chest. 'He must be the sage, Tokajiin!'

"This has been a fine day!" Tokajiin continued to carry on. "An unusual half-demon and a young maiden all within hours! So by tomorrow, I should have the fruit of longevity!"

At the words 'half demon' this sent both anger and fear winding down Kagome's back. She cringed furiously, drawing in her eyebrows and gathering her courage. "Did you see Inuyasha!?" the fiesty little miko demanded to know. Feeling even more brave by the moment, the young woman lept to her feet, balling her fists up as though she were going to attack Tokajiin. "ANSWER ME!" Kagome shouted. "Inuyasha's not hurt is he!? You'll be sorry if he is!" Kagome waited for the sage to answer her demand and when he didn't the little miko found herself growing more irritated by the moment. "HELLO!? I'M TALKING TO YOU!" Kagome shouted, but before she could say anything else she felt that giant hand wrap tightly around her body. The miko squealed in surprise.

"Pipe down and GO TO SLEEP!" rasped Tokajiin as his hand squeezed even tighter around Kagome's body and before she knew it, the girl had been rendered unconcious.

ooooo

Inuyasha was still struggling and fightning against the sharp briar. He was becoming angrier by the second and even more so worried about Kagome. "I can't STAND it!" he grunted as he jerked, tugged and pulled, trying to break free from the thorny vines' hold on him.

'Human bodies are so weak and vulnerable...' he thought to himself. The hanyou sighed, letting his arms fall and his head hang listlessly. Long, raven locks of hair curtained the sides of his face. 'I've lost too much blood...I'm starting to get dizzy...' Inuyasha thought. He could feel his strength wavering from his body and didn't know how much longer he'd last until he passed out cold or would just eventually die from the blood loss. "Huh?" he moaned as the sounds of the door knob turning reached his ears. Inuyasha struggled to lift his raven head, fightning to keep his dark, blue-gray orbs open. His vision was blurring vastly, and it had become rather difficult to see anything.

"Still alive, are you hanyou?" came Tokajiin's taunting voice as he had made his way back into the room where Inuyasha was still being held captive.

The half-demon gazed up, glaring at Tokajiin. His eyes scanned the monstrous man and they fell on something in his hand. He tossed the garments aside and they landed in a small heap on the floor. Inuyasha's eyes followed them and he blinked a few times to better focus. They looked all too familiar. 'Kagome's clothes...no! She couldn't be!' the hanyou thought frantically. Feeling a newfound energy surge through his veins, Inuyasha lifted his head.

"Where's Kagome?! Tell me where the girl is!" Inuyasha commanded the simpering sage.

The massive inhuman creature chose to ignore the half-demon's question as he seated himself on one of the clay jugs. "Extracting nourishment has become rather bothersome since you broke my gourd," he told the young ningen in irritated tones.

"Extracting nourishment!?" Inuyasha asked incredulously, balling his hands into tight fists. If he had had his claws, they would have been digging into his palms and cutting his hands from the rate of fury coursing through his blood.

"Why the angry look?" Tokajiin inquired knowingly.

"WHERE'S KAGOME, YOU ANIMAL!" Inuyasha roared forcefuly, staring daggers at Tokajin. If he had the strength to do it, the hanyou would have already broken free and attacked the hell out of the sage, but he was still extremely vulnerable. The antagonism and rage was rising higher and higher, hastily rushing to his head. Inuyasha could feel his face growing hot from the fury that tore through his heart. All he cared about was Kagome being safe and alive.

"Oh I see. You're expression says it all. You're in love with that filthy girl," Tokajiin jeered tauntingly at the hanyou, putting emphasis on the word 'love' to further agitate him.

Inuyasha didn't protest against the beastly sage. It was true, he did love Kagome and if something had happened to her, the hanyou would never forgive himself. He had promised to protect her and what was he doing now? Being trapped helplessly by some obese sage that he could have easily taken out if he had his youkai power. At these thoughts, he only grew ever more furious, baring his teeth and growling at the disgusting excuse for a human.

"You'll see her soon enough...inside my belly that is," Tokajiin continued provoking the defenseless, young man. "You will both become the fruit of longevity and I will relish every last bite!" He opened his toad-like mouth once more, revealing the tiny sharp sets of teeth in his mouth and issuing a horrible, raspy laugh.

"YOU'RE DISPICABLE!" Inuyasha exploded as he pulled even harder against the briar still suspending him. He reached out wanting so badly to grab Tokajiin and maul him until nothing was left. How DARE he speak like that. How DARE he even think of laying his ugly, disgusting fingers on Kagome.

"You're wasting your time. You cannot escape from those thorny roots," the gargantuan sage pointed out.

Inuyasha didn't care, he was going to do everything he could to break free and rescue Kagome before Tokajiin could turn Kagome into the fruit of longevity. He pulled and tugged against the roots when he felt a force pulling along with him. The hanyou wasn't sure exactly what was happening, but he could them beginning to break loose. The raven-haired man cried out in agony and fear as he gave one more giant struggle against the briar and felt them break. He landed on the hard floor, the pile of vines falling right on top of himself and Tokajiin, burying him underneath. Inuyasha soon found his way out of the roots and looked over at the sage who had been knocked out cold. His mind was on one thing and one thing only and that was finding Kagome and taking her somewhere safe.

"Kagome!" he spoke the miko's name desperately as he got up and advanced towards the doorway opening. All he knew was that it was crucial that he find the miko and fast before she was devoured alive by Tokajiin.

oo00oo

"Hey Kagome," Inuyasha began as he sat up from the girl's lap. "I was just thinking...about that time in Tougenkyo."

"You too?" Kagome asked softly, drawing her knees up to her chest, pulling the haori more snug around her body and staring up at the moonless sky. "Kami Inuyasha, I will never forget that night."

"Keh, me neither...I was just...thinking about how worried I was for you, kinda like how I was tonight...I thought that Tokajiin had eaten you alive. I was almost certain that the serpent was going to eat you too."

"Yeah, I'm still kind of embarrassed about what happened though," the priestess replied, blushing. "I mean, if I had known I was completely naked...I never would have..."

"I-it's alright...that was a long time ago, right?" Inuyasha stammered.

The hanyou turned ningen blushed furiously as he turned away from Kagome remembering all too well that she had lept out of the tub she was placed in, completely nude when Inuyasha had entered the room. The raven-haired man didn't have a clue that Kagome would be complete stripped of any type of clothing when he found her. His mind was too filled with the concern and worry for her safety. However the moment he laid eyes on her, Inuyasha had to admit himself from just the look her tender, smooth flesh and plump bouncing breasts were enough to send the boy over the edge. If he hadn't been so severely wounded he probably would have let his feelings get the best of him, but the hanyou had been too injured at that point in time to worry about such things. Inuyasha had lost entirely too much blood.

Though for Kagome's sake, he had done everything he could to keep a straight face and remain confident, not wanting her to realize how badly injured he was and how much pain he was in. It wasn't long until after Inuyasha had removed his fire rat haori and tossed it to Kagome so she would have something to wear, that the young man had fallen to the ground. Inuyasha had been rendered weak and completely passed out from lack of blood and strength to keep him going. Breaking from his thoughts once more, the half-demon could feel himself starting to get weary and tired now. Even though he'd been injured by the serpent youkai and hadn't lost that much blood he was still feeling the normal affects of fatigue take over him. It would be morning soon and Inuyasha could hardly wait. He was growing tired of being in his ningen form. He was always more suseptable to feeling exhausted, harboring emotions and anything else any other mere mortal would feel.

Inuyasha yawned and lay back, resting his hands behind his head. He closed his blue-gray irises. Perhaps it would be safe to rest for a few hours. Kagome had grown awfully quiet, and Inuyasha inclined his head to look up at her. The little miko was resting her head face down in her arms that had been folded over top of her knees. Inuyasha was almost certain Kagome had just fallen asleep and so he turned his head away from her and closed his eyes once more. The young priestess lifted her head up from her arms and stared down at the handsome young man laying next to her. His head was turned very slightly and his eyes were closed. Kagome studied his body movements, taking note of his gentle, relaxed breathing. She would stay next to him tonight and make sure nothing happened to him.

"Just rest easy, Inuyasha," the little miko spoke softly. She didn't want to awaken him. "I'll stay here with you all night and protect you...just as you always did for me." Kagome sighed and rested her chin on her knees. She stared ahead at the flickering fire and then turned her head, watching it's light dancing on the sleeping hanyou's relaxed form. A small smile crept up on her face, but soon dissapated. It had been so long since Kagome had truly smiled. Every since Kikyou's death, it was hard for the girl to even laugh. She couldn't remember the last time she had genuinely laughed or smiled for that matter. The dark-haired girl let out another soft sigh, continuing to gaze down at her beloved hanyou.

"Inuyasha, I don't know if you know this, but all the times you'd been rendered unconcious in your human form or even your demon form, I've always been there for you. I know that's something you and I share that you and Kikyou never did. She never saw you as a human or a youkai. I have always been there for you when you're human. I've seen you change in both ways and I've done everything I could to help you and protect you," the little miko admitted silently to the sleeping hanyou.

"Kikyou was never there when you were human nor did she ever see you when you transformed into youkai, Inuyasha but I have. We've been through more together than you and Kikyou were, right? I mean...I know that you and Kikyou were so close before I was ever born and...well, I know I'm not the beauty that Kikyou was, but Inuyasha can't you just...," Kagome paused and sighed, shaking her raven head. "Hmm, I guess it's a good thing he's asleep. I just wish I had the courage to say all of these things right to you, Inuyasha, instead of just sitting here and talking to myself." The little miko felt her eyes stinging and she closed them tightly, doing her best to ward off the tears that were threatening to fall once more. Inuyasha...will things ever be the same between us again?

Inuyasha had not been asleep while the miko spoke. He'd heard and drew in on every single word. The hanyou rolled over onto his side, closing his tightly once more against the lingering pain. Kagome...I'm so sorry...