Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha, or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

The Demon in the Water

Warning: Some tense scenes.

Chapter 2: Coming to Terms

It was the dead of night when InuYasha suddenly woke up. Fully alert, he found himself looking around, sniffing the air, his sensitive ears straining to pick up anything that was potentially threatening. He detected nothing, and yet…he felt cold. It wasn't the chill of the night, but rather a dread, a certainty that something was wrong. It didn't take long for him realize what exactly it was.

"What the…? Where the Hell am I?" InuYasha wondered blankly as he continued to look around the forest where he now found himself. There was no sign of Kagome or the others, of the burnt-out campfire they had gone to sleep around. There wasn't even a trace of their scent.

Quickly getting to his feet, InuYasha once again scanned his surroundings. He didn't see any recognizable markers to indicate his location. No scents. Nothing.

"What's going on? How did I get here?!" InuYasha asked with even greater confusion, anger mixed with fear as he tried to figure out what he should do. He could only think of one thing; getting back to the others. With that, the half-demon looked at what appeared to be the largest tree available. With natural skill, InuYasha began leaping up the various branches until he finally reach the top. When he found his vision still obscured by the other trees, he leapt with all the strength his legs could muster.

Carried high into the sky by his jump, InuYasha quickly scanned the terrain around him. Once again, he saw nothing familiar. Nothing to indicate where he was. But just when his frustration threatened to overwhelm him, the half-demon sighted something familiar. A lone Soul Collector, winding its way through the treetops, the precious cargo it constantly sought trapped within its claw-like legs.

Kikyo! She must be nearby! InuYasha thought, and with that his decision was made. InuYasha quickly made note of the Soul Collector's general course, and upon touching down upon another tree branch, propelled himself in the direction he thought would enable him to intersect with the Soul Collector's path.

It didn't take long for him to find the Soul Collector (or another one; the strange entities seldom traveled alone). The thing paid no attention as InuYasha started to follow it, intent on delivering the soul it carried to its mistress.

As InuYasha followed, more Soul Collectors came into view, and he smiled, knowing that Kikyo had to be close now. He smiled even more when the undead priestess finally came into view. "Kikyo!" he called out to Kikyo, who had her back to him. When he stopped a few feet from her, InuYasha stopped, his confusion mounting once again. Kikyo hadn't moved, hadn't shown any sign that she was aware of his presence. "Kikyo?" he tried again, somewhat hesitantly as he took another step forward.

There was silence for a few seconds before the priestess's voice finally broke it. "InuYasha," she said, no emotion heard in her voice. Nothing to indicate the love they had had for each other. Even more perplexed, InuYasha could only watch as she slowly turned about it front of him. And then he gasped in horror, for Kikyo's kimono was spattered with blood.

"W-what the…?!" InuYasha sputtered, noting the many wounds she now bore. Wounds that were impossible; Kikyo was now a clay statue, animated by her share of Kagome's soul. She couldn't be injured in the traditional sense, and she certainly couldn't bleed!

"InuYasha," Kikyo spoke again, a slight, horrible smile upon her lips. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

"Thank you?" InuYasha repeated dumbly, a sensation of pure dread running up and down his spine. "For what?"

"For sending me your friends," Kikyo replied simply, parting so that InuYasha could see what she had been examining before. His eyes widening, InuYasha jerked back in horror, for what Kikyo had been studying was the broken bodies of Kagome and the others. Their blood spread out from the campsite like a perverse pool of death, and their empty eyes stared hauntingly, accusingly at InuYasha.

Their friend. Their betrayer. Their murderer.

Numbed beyond the ability to think, InuYasha swiveled his gaze back to Kikyo, whose expression was even more demented. "Thank you, InuYasha," she spoke, her smile even more horrible. "Now…I won't be alone in death."

Jolted by the sheer horror of what he had seen, InuYasha awakened with a start, breathing heavily as he shakily looked around. He was once again in the camp site, with everybody asleep. Jumping to his feet, InuYasha rushed over to the others and quickly examined them. He didn't touch them; he was afraid to even lay a claw upon any one of them. But he didn't have to. All of them were alive, unmarked. Unaware of the terror InuYasha had faced in his mind.

Still breathing heavily, but satisfied that everybody was still alive, InuYasha found that he just couldn't stand there. He was afraid to just stand there, hovering over his friends. Turning about, the half-demon quickly walked away, heading towards the river.

Falling to his knees by the water's edge, InuYasha splashed several handfuls of liquid into his face, trying to chase away the remains of sleep and nightmares that still hounded him. It didn't work. His claws still stank of the bandits' blood. The demon in the water still stared at him, eagerly awaiting the next time the Tetsusaiga fell from his hands. The next time it could kill.

The Tetsusaiga. Water still dripping from his brow and hair, InuYasha's eyes slowly went to the heirloom sword his father, InuTaisho, had left him. At one time, it had been purely of his father's fang, but not anymore.

Scared and frustrated, InuYasha stood up and drew the Tetsusaiga, holding it up to the moonlight. In its regular form, the Tetsusaiga looked little more than a rusted old stick. But with a thought, InuYasha transformed it into its true form; a monstrous fang capable of obliterating a hundred demons with one sweep. A fang that was now monstrously heavy.

Unable to support the Tetsusaiga's new weight with one hand, InuYasha watched helplessly as the mighty blade fell from his hand, crashing to the ground with a thud. Sighing miserably as the sword reverted, InuYasha fell to his knees, feeling more helpless than he ever could have imagined.

"I can't do this…" he whispered, knowing that he would not be able to return to sleep. He dreaded the thought of closing his eyes, knowing that the next time he opened them, his nightmares wouldn't stop with his awakening. He couldn't face the terror that lay just beneath the surface of his mind. He couldn't face the prospect of living with this horror, with that monster living in his blood.

"InuYasha," came Kagome's voice. Startled, InuYasha shifted about to look at her. The girl stood behind him, the half-demon so distracted that he had never even noticed her approach.

"What? Kagome?" InuYasha spoke, feeling completely out of it. "What the…I thought you were asleep…"

Kagome shrugged helplessly at InuYasha. "I was…but I woke up and saw you were gone, so…"

There was silence for a time as the two looked at each other. Kagome had known InuYasha long enough to know what the half-demon was going through. She saw the expression on his face, the horror of what he was going through in his eyes. Sighing, Kagome, thought for a moment, and decided on she needed to do.

"InuYasha," she started, her voice firm and compassionate at the same time. "I want you to go see Totosai."

After a few seconds, Kagome's words register with the half-demon. "What?" he finally asked.

"Totosai forged the Tetsusaiga, right?" Kagome insists. "He must know some way to make it lighter."

"Then why the hell didn't he tell me about it the last time? After he 'fixed' my sword?!" InuYasha countered snippily, some of his usual attitude appearing as he shot Kagome a dirty look.

Wincing, Kagome recalled the less-than-brilliant advice Totosai had given InuYasha the last time they had seen him, as well as the lumps the half-demon had rewarded the blacksmith with. "Okay, I know, he wasn't exactly helpful, but he still knows more about the Tetsusaiga than any of us," she pointed out. Watching InuYasha scowl with false fierceness, Kagome took a deep breath. "I think it's at least worth a try."

InuYasha thought about it for a while, and he had to admit that what Kagome was saying made sense. After all, what were his choices? Just stand around, waiting for the demon to rise up again? With Naraku just waiting for any opportunity to press his advantage against them?

Frowning, InuYasha finally picked up the Tetsusaiga and sheathed it before standing. "Alright, Kagome. I'll go. But I'll go alone."

Sighing, Kagome saw the determined look in InuYasha's face, and knew that no amount of pleading will change his mind. "I understand," she finally said. Though she was saddened by the half-demon's decision, she also understood why it had to be this way. "Don't worry; I'll tell the others goodbye for you."

Taking a breath, InuYasha looked at Kagome in gratitude. He could have said thanks, he could have said any number of things, but he didn't. The half-demon had never been good in dealing with moments such as this, even with Kagome. So he just said, "Well…I guess I'll see you later…" And with that, he turned away.

"Wait," Kagome spoke, moving over to InuYasha. The half-demon just looked at her questioningly, unsure as to what she wanted to say now. As the black-haired girl came to stand in front of him, InuYasha just stood there as Kagome leaned forward, cupping his cheek in her hand.

Unsure, almost afraid, InuYasha just looked into Kagome's eyes as she drew herself closer, and finally kissed him. As he felt Kagome's tender lips upon his own, InuYasha's first impulse was to resist, but as the comfort and love Kagome intended for him filled the half-demon's heart, he relaxed, and instead took the girl in his arms and returned her affections in kind. The two of them stood intertwined for a moment that lasted an eternity as the mismatched pair kissed. When they ultimately broke contact, they both knew that too short a time had passed.

Still embracing Kagome, InuYasha looked at her and whispered, "Kagome…thank you." That said, the half-demon released her and turned away, already orienting himself to find the shortest route to the volcano where Totosai made his home.

As InuYasha starting walking away, Kagome felt the tears welling up in her eyes. The raven-haired stood staring after the half-demon for several seconds before the emotions she felt overwhelmed her. "You'll come back, InuYasha," she spoke, so softly that she couldn't tell if InuYasha had heard her or not. "You have to…"

Several hours passed as InuYasha walked through the woods. The sun had risen some time ago, and he knew that Kagome must have told the others about where he was going by now.

"I just hope that they're not stupid enough to try and follow me," he muttered at one point, just for the sake of hearing his own voice. Things were just too quiet without the others. He actually found himself missing Shippo's whining, the loud screech and subsequent sound of Sango's hand smacking into Miroku's face after the monk had dared to stroke her butt for the umpteenth time.

And Kagome…he missed her the most.

She had filled the hole in his heart after Kikyo's supposed betrayal, a result of Naraku's treachery. She had helped him start to live again, to trust and hope for a better tomorrow. It was because he had found her that he had found all his other friends.

As InuYasha thought about the others, about Kagome calling out to him and how she clearly wanted him to come back, he found himself passing a small waterfall. As he looked at the river flowing gently down before him, he once again saw it. The miserable demon that lurked in his blood was once again snarling at him from the water, desperately awaiting the next opportunity to drown itself in blood and death.

The half-demon stopped to glare hatefully at the full-blooded abomination. "You're not going to take them," InuYasha vowed as the demon snarled in response. "I don't care what it takes; you're not going to have them." And with that, the half-demon continued, leaving the demon in the water behind.

A few days later, InuYasha was staring grumpily at Kagome and the others as they set up a picnic lunch. The group had stopped next to a lake, with the sun shining brilliantly, making the few clouds that were overhead even bright and more brilliant than they were normally.

A lot had happened since he had parted with her that night. Totosai had told InuYasha that the only way to make the Tetsusaiga lighter was to use it to slay Ryokoutsei, a monstrous dragon-demon that InuYasha's father had sealed away at the cost of his own life. Naraku had found out about the dragon, and had released him to kill InuYasha. After an intense battle, not only was the Tetsusaiga far lighter and easier to wield than it had ever been before, but it was also much more powerful. InuYasha had stricken down Ryokoutsei with the power of the Backlash Wave, and everything was pretty much back to normal. Except for what happened right after the dragon-demon's defeat...

Dammit, Kagome! InuYasha mentally snarled as he looked at the girl, who was helping set out the food. With Ryokoutsei dead and the Tetsusaiga lighter, InuYasha had started celebrating by showing off the Tetsusaiga's new power to generate a Wind Scar at anytime. Okay, maybe I did go a little crazy back there, InuYasha grumped, recalling how he'd fired off Wind Scar after Wind Scar until Kagome planted him face-first into the dirt with a sit command. But would it have really killed you to just tell me to stop?

Giving a few more grumbles, InuYasha fumed for a little while longer until he noticed Kagome approaching him. Half-wondering if she wanted to shove him into the dirt some more, InuYasha gave her a look that was half-anger, half-wariness.

"InuYasha, come on! Lunch is ready!" Kagome announced cheerfully. When InuYasha just sat there, lightly glaring at her, some of her cheerfulness vanished. "Hey, you're not still sulking about all those…"

"Don't say it!" InuYasha cut her off.

Kagome's eyes went wide for a moment before she smiled again. Only this time, her face was tinged with sadness. "Come on, what's wrong?" she asked.

Several seconds passed before InuYasha replied. During which time he considered exactly what to say, whether to just ignore her or give her a full load of bull and bluster. When he finally spoke, it was neither. Only the truth made its way past his lips. "It's still there, Kagome."

Though she was momentarily confused, Kagome soon realized what InuYasha meant. "I see," she replied, a world of sympathy in those two, simple words.

InuYasha looked caught between annoyance with himself and a hint of fear. "Yeah, I know, the Tetsusaiga will keep the demon locked away. But that's all it does," InuYasha muttered. "That thing…that monster…it's still in me…"

"So what?" Kagome responded. As InuYasha's eyes shot open at the near-carelessness in Kagome's words, he was readying to shout his outrage at her when Kagome's tender smile defused him. "InuYasha, we all have monsters inside of us. We all have things we have to deal with. That's just part of what makes you…you."

"Huh? Really?" InuYasha somehow managed to get out.

Kagome giggled somewhat at this. "To be honest, if you hadn't gone ballistic with the Tetsusaiga, I would have sworn something was wrong with you!" As a touch of color appeared in InuYasha's cheeks, Kagome smiled even more. "Besides, as long as you have all of us, you don't have to worry about the demon." When InuYasha shot Kagome a look of surprise, she leaned in closer to him, to lock gazes with his golden eyes. "Because, no matter what happens, we'll never let the demon take you away from us. Because we're all your friends, InuYasha. We won't let you be alone again."

InuYasha had never been good with words. Words were so full of potential confusions and deceptions; actions always spoke so much louder, and much more truthfully. But as the half-demon looked and saw all the caring and compassion Kagome's face radiated upon him, he wished that he were good with words. He wished he could tell Kagome…just how much she meant to him.

"Kagome…" was all he said. All he could say.

And yet, in the end, it was enough.

"Let's go. You don't want lunch to get cold, do you?" Kagome asked teasingly, and with that, the half-demon smiled and got to his feet. As he followed closely behind Kagome, the two of them came close to the lake's edge. The half-demon took a moment to look at the water, looking for the monster whose sins still haunted him.

All InuYasha saw was his own reflection, as he had before the day the demon he had seen in the water slaughtered those bandits. The monster was subdued, howling away silently, helplessly, within the walls of InuYasha's soul.

Get used to it, you bastard, InuYasha smirked as he left the demon in the water behind. As long I have the others, you're never going to be free again. Continuing onwards, InuYasha felt hope glowing inside of him for what felt like the first time in forever. He had faced the monster within, and triumphed. And as long as he had the others, he knew he would always triumph over the demon…and be free of the agony of being alone.

Author's Notes: I hope everybody enjoyed this story. I know I had fun writing it! So please, read and review.

Please, feel free to check out my other stories as well.