I wanted to have this posted by Saturday, but I kept adding and tweaking things. So now my original 4,000 word chapter is up to 7,112 words.

…Yeah. I added a lot.

But anyways, go forth. Read. Enjoy. And leave a review!

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha


Chapter 41: The Crystal Cave

-Start-

It was about an 8-foot drop, and I landed with a quiet thud, crouched on the balls of my feet. My eyes immediately darted to the left and right, searching for any sign of the guys.

Nothing but darkness greeted me from either direction.

Jerks. They could've waited for a couple of minutes.

I targeted their aura somewhere to my left and took off at a quick pace, hoping that they hadn't gone too far. I really didn't like the idea of navigating a dark, unknown maze by myself. I hadn't gotten a clear look at the map, but for Shippo to need one, that meant that this place had to be massive.

Not long after I'd started to run, my foot crunched on something that nearly sent me sprawling. I paused long enough to see what it was, lowering my hand to the ground in order to better illuminate the area.

The moment my brain registered what I was looking at, I gasped and shot forward, away from the pile of bones I was standing in. I turned to stare, fascinated despite myself, and felt my heart rate kick up a notch when I spotted two human skulls among the mess.

Please tell me these were victims of Mistress Centipede and not a couple of unlucky explorers who got lost down here. Not that either option was good. I just hated to think that getting lost meant dying alone in the dark. I didn't have any food, or water, or first aid—

But you have a cell phone, my mind intoned helpfully.

My shoulders slumped in relief as I traced the familiar outline in my pocket. Right, I sighed. Should I get hopelessly lost or separated from the others, I'll simply call someone and tell them to come save me. Pronto.

I straightened and continued down the dark passage, being more wary of where I placed my feet. The tunnel began to curve, and as I rounded the corner, the faint glow of Shippo's foxfire came into view.

The small band of youkai and hanyou turned at the sound of my approach and I slowed to a walk as I neared them. "Thanks a lot for waiting. I appreciate it," I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

"No problem." Koga answered smartly. I threw him a dirty look, and he shrugged. "It probably would have helped if we'd known you were coming."

I directed my heated stare at Yash this time.

"What?" he said defensively. "I thought you were right behind me."

"Liar," I muttered as I stepped past him, drawing even with Shippo and Inuyasha. "How much farther?" I questioned.

Shippo answered without glancing up from his map. "Three more miles."

I arched a brow. Three more miles? "Just how far do these tunnels go?"

"The outermost tunnels form a twenty mile circuit from end to end."

Woah. Definitely don't want to get lost down here.

We'd reached a fork in the road and Shippo immediately headed toward the left entrance. Inuyasha prowled after him impatiently, a scowl on his face. I fell back behind him, studying his rigid shoulders and clenched fists. Considering all that had happened tonight, I'd say he was handling this whole situation pretty well. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to wake up 550 years in the future. It probably would be too much for my mind to handle.

I was abruptly struck with a pressing question, one I'd been keen to ask from the moment Inuyasha mentioned his sword.

"Inuyasha?" I queried tentatively.

His ear flicked toward me. "Yeah?"

"Um…how exactly are you planning to kill Naraku?"

I was suddenly under the impression that everyone in the group had their ears perked, waiting for his response. Inuyasha continued forward in silence for a while and I wondered if maybe he didn't know the answer himself. We'd reached a small clearing that had four different tunnels branching off of it, and it was several moments after we'd started down the third one from the left that he spoke.

"Has the Jewel been tainted?"

"Yes," I answered, picking my way over another suspicious pile that contained a miscellany of god knew what. "It has."

"The entire thing?"

"Well…" I took the time to explain the current situation regarding the Shikon no Tama, and how Naraku was probably searching for me right that moment in an effort to gain that last shard. Inuyasha traded a look with Shippo, and I tilted my head in question. "Do you have any idea what we're supposed to do at this point?"

"First, we have to find a way to purify the Jewel," Inuyasha elaborated.

Shippo's eyes darted down to his map, and then back up, searching the darkness as he spoke. "The best way to do that is probably to purify the shard we have and then fuse it with the rest of the Jewel."

Inuyasha nodded and I chewed my bottom lip in thought. Of course. Purifying the Jewel makes sense. "But what happens after that?" I said aloud.

Inuyasha's face grew dark and a growl started low in his chest. "I'm not sure. Knowing how the bastard survived the first time would probably help a lot though."

Koga cleared his throat and I turned to stare back at him. That was his story to tell. The wolf demon opened his mouth to say something, and then froze mid-step, eyes wide. I cocked my head, and then stiffened, noticing it too.

Something was down here with us.

We'd all stopped walking now, everybody aware of the strange presence. Without even realizing what we were doing, we backed ourselves into a tight circle, so that our backs were guarded and every direction of the tunnel had somebody watching it.

I let my powers out, attempting to pinpoint the exact location of the unfriendly aura. Something about it was strangely familiar. "It's heading straight toward us from that direction," I said, pointing to our left, the way we had just come.

We waited expectantly, poised for whatever it was that was about to come into our view. Several long minutes passed and nothing appeared, though the faint sound of skittering became apparent even to my human ears. I whipped my head side to side, searching for the source of the noise. Had I been wrong about its location? Was it coming from the opposite direction?

I checked again and frowned. "It's … the aura is right here," I said in confusion. "Right where we're standing."

The males shifted uneasily, no doubt sensing the pressure of the aura too. We all froze for a moment, listening.

The skittering sound had stopped completely.

It was Yash who thought to glance up first. I felt his body tense beside mine and then he was moving.

Correction.

We were moving.

He'd wrapped an arm around my waist and yanked me forward, letting out a strangled yell at the same time. "Move!"

The last part of the word was drowned under the sound of a small explosion and then falling rocks. He and I landed hard, rolling so that my stomach was pressed to the ground and his body was layered on top of mine. I curled in on myself as pieces of rock continued to rain down from the ceiling, thinking about nothing but protecting my head.

Yash grunted as a particularly large chunk of stone crashed down next to us, scraping his arm. I flinched as something nicked my ankle, and tried to curl up further. I was suddenly hit with the terrifying notion that we were being buried alive beneath all of this rubble, and I began to tremble. I did not like the idea of that.

The rock fall lasted for several long minutes, and it wasn't until it had become completely silent that I opened my squinched closed eyes and raised my head. It was too dark to see anything, and Yash was a heavy weight on my back, pinning me down.

For a moment I was sure that he'd been knocked unconscious, but then he coughed and shifted in an effort to get off of me.

"Are you okay?" he rasped. The sound of stirring rocks accompanied his movements, and I felt a sudden weight roll off of my ankle.

"I'm not sure," I answered, swallowing a mouthful of the dust that still floated in the air. My ankle was starting to throb as well as a few spots on my arms where I'd scraped the ground in an effort to shield my head. I raised myself up and lit my hands so that we could see the extent of the damage. I stared down at my swollen ankle for half a second before glancing up at Yash, who was sitting back on his knees, studying me.

I jolted forward, forgetting all about my own injury. "Oh my God! Are you okay?!"

His white hair was streaked with red, due to a large gash on his forehead that was leaking copious amounts of blood. He looked slightly dazed and I could tell from the vacant look in his eyes that he was probably fighting to stay conscious. My first instinct was to staunch the bleeding, and having no bandages, I grabbed the hem of my shirt and ripped a portion of it off before leaning forward to press it against his brow.

He hissed at the contact and immediately raised a hand to touch the wound. I slapped it down and then worked to tie the strip of fabric around his head so that the blood would quit dripping into his eyes.

"I'm okay," he grumbled.

"You are not okay," I said sternly, hands shaking as I attempted to secure the makeshift bandage. The blood was already soaking through the thin fabric and dripping down his face again. Underneath the streaks of red and smudges of dirt, his skin was deathly white. Too much blood! Without another thought I reached down and pulled the rest of my shirt over my head.

"What are you doing?" he questioned frantically, as though my movement was what jolted him back to reality.

"You're losing too much blood," I stated breathlessly, as I balled up my t-shirt and began dabbing at the gash. "God, aren't you supposed to heal fast? Why aren't your healing abilities kicking in yet?"

"They would if you'd give them a chance! Calm down, Kagome. And stop stripping! I'm fine." He reached up and grabbed my wrists, pulling my hands, as well as the bloody remnants of my shirt, away from his forehead.

My gaze flicked from the wound to his eyes, and already I could tell they looked clearer, more aware. The panicky rhythm of my heart began to slow and I sagged in his grip, leaning forward to press my forehead against his shoulder.

"Okay. I'll stop," I mumbled against the dirty cloth of his shirt. "Just…give me a sec. I think I'm freaking out enough for the both of us."

After a couple moments during which I gathered my wits, I heaved in a breath and leaned back, this time studying his wound without attacking it. I smoothed his bangs out of his eyes and tilted his head back, so that I could judge how badly he'd been cut. A large lump was already forming around the laceration from where the rock had struck, and I knew, even with his hanyou healing, he'd probably be sporting a nice size bruise tomorrow.

"Does it hurt?" I asked him gently.

He sucked in a breath as I probed his bloody skin with my fingers, testing for any telltale cracks in the bone. "Hell yes, it hurts. Quit poking at it!"

I released his head and sat back on my haunches, still worried. "I just feel like it's taking too long to stop bleeding."

He shifted and swiped at a trail of blood that was dripping over his eyebrow. "New moon is tomorrow. I'm not at my best at the moment."

At the mention of the new moon my thoughts strayed to another hanyou. "What happened to everybody else?" I began to look around, shining my light as far as it would go. From what I could see, the tunnel roof had collapsed behind us. Farther ahead, the passage continued on, unaffected. We were trapped on the opposite side of the way we'd come earlier…which meant we were also trapped on the opposite side of the exit.

Before I could further process this thought, I sensed movement from somewhere to my right. I allowed my power to expand, and sagged in relief when I sensed that it wasn't a malicious being attempting to attack us.

"Koga?"

More rubble fell and then I could make out his familiar features as he crawled from under a ledge.

"Kagome? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I answered. "What about you?"

He began to pick his way towards us, obviously favoring one leg. "I've been better."

"Do you have any idea what just happened?"

He shook his head and settled on a rock next to Yash and I, unfurling one of his legs to study a nasty scrape. "No clue. I do know that the explosion was caused by that…thing that was above us, though. I got lucky and managed to dive under that ledge at the last second." He glanced up, meeting my eyes. "Any sign of the other two?"

I shook my head and closed my eyes for a moment. "They're on the other side. Both alive." I frowned and pressed my powers further, searching. "I can't sense that aura from before though. It's gone."

"It's dead," Yash's voice informed me. I opened my eyes and stared at him, wondering if he'd managed to catch a glimpse of whatever 'it' was. He'd scooted so that he was resting against a large slab of stone, his head lolling back in an expression of weariness. I faintly wondered how long it'd been since he'd gone to sleep. "I guess technically it was never alive though," he continued.

"Huh?" I questioned. "What do you mean?"

"Whatever that thing was, it wasn't a demon. It was some kind of machine. Shaped like a spider." He closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "It looked similar to a box with little legs coming off of it." Yash shook his head in frustration and then opened his eyes only to stare at the ground. "I don't know…whatever the hell it was, it was obviously made to reach us and then self destruct."

Koga was nodding thoughtfully.

"But… I was able to sense it," I said. "How could it be a machine, yet have an aura?"

"It must have been animated."

Yash and I raised our brows in unison, silently asking the wolf demon to continue.

"Naraku has always been able to project pieces of his soul into objects. Back in the day, his favorite way to torment people was by using things he called "puppets." These puppets allowed him to attack demons without actually being near the battle."

Koga bowed his head and continued to muse aloud. "He was only experimenting with the art of soul projection again when I was freed from him, but he must have found a method he liked." The wolf youkai raised his eyes and met our gazes. "I fear with the technology of this age, he's going to be able to cause quite a bit of damage."

"You're positive Naraku sent that… bug?" Yash asked, pinning him with an intense stare.

"It was Naraku," I answered for him. "The aura was familiar; I just couldn't place it." I slid back against a rock, mirroring the dog hanyou across from me. "I guess wasn't expecting Naraku to find me down here."

"He's moving quicker than we expected," Yash murmured. "He must have been able to locate you, Kagome."

"But how? I've got—" I froze, grasping at my torso, searching for my lock necklace. "Shit." I slammed my head back against the rock as realization hit me. "I forgot to put it back on after we went to the museum." I fished the object out of my pocket and held it up. This was the longest amount of time I'd gone without wearing it since the Shikon had been removed from my body. Obviously it was exactly what Naraku had been waiting for. He must have had even his people in Japan on the lookout for my aura.

"If I put it on, we won't have any light. I can't use my powers while wearing it or it'll break the concealment spell," I said aloud.

Koga shrugged. "No point in trying to hide your aura now. He knows we're trapped down here."

"Then we have to try and get in touch with Shippo and Inuyasha," I said. "We've got to get out of here before Naraku shows up." I wasn't stupid. Yes, I was ready to kill him, but we were in no condition to take him on right now. With an almost fully formed, tainted Shikon no Tama in his possession, we stood no chance against Naraku.

At least not without that last shard.

I stood, ready to start moving rocks so we could get to the other side of this barrier, but instantly collapsed back to the ground with a loud whimper. Both of the boys moved toward me in alarm.

"What's wrong?"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," I said with a wave of my hand, hoping to calm the suddenly anxious males. "A rock landed on my ankle during the explosion, so it's a little sore." I moved my hands from where I was cupping my joint. The light revealed that my ankle was swollen to nearly three times its original size. Great. How come it's only when you notice a wound that it starts hurting? I was very aware of how badly my ankle was throbbing now.

Yash shifted closer so he could examine my injury as well. "Can you heal it?" he asked softly.

"Yeah," I murmured. "But I'd rather not use that much energy if Naraku is on his way." I rotated my ankle, gently testing its limits. "I'll be fine. I just need to be careful about how much weight I put on it when I stand up."

Yash was frowning, but he didn't argue. I stood again, using a nearby rock for leverage, and began to study the solid wall of rubble that was blocking our way. I limped forward a few steps and placed my hands on a rock, pushing against it with all my might.

I could tell the rock wasn't very impressed with my efforts, because it didn't so much as budge.

If we were planning on digging our way out, it was going to take a while.

"Um…Not trying to make this awkward or anything," Koga said from his perch nearby, "but why are you half naked, Kagome?"

Huh? I glanced down at myself and felt my face flame. I was shirtless, covered only by my black pushup bra, and suddenly very, very aware of the gazes from the two men behind me. The light emanating from my hands immediately blinked out and I squatted to the ground, covering myself.

"Here," Koga said, sliding from his seat and padding toward me through the darkness. He dropped a warm piece of clothing on my head. "It's dirty, but it isn't as bloody as his."

I murmured a 'thank you', and then quickly slipped the shirt over my head, breathing in his scent, despite myself.

With a thought, my hands were reignited once again, and I stood up, this time decently clad in Koga's black t-shirt. Now the only problem was the fact that Koga was gloriously unclad from the waist up.

I settled my hands on my hips, covering my embarrassment with bossiness. Now was not the time to be drooling over the way my ex-boyfriend's abdominal muscles rippled as he moved. "Any ideas about how we're getting out of here?"

Koga already had his cell phone out, his brow creased in annoyance. "No service down here."

I pulled mine out and grimaced at the cracks that had spread across the surface. "Crap. I can't even get mine to the call screen." The touchscreen was beyond help and not responding to my touches at all. "Yash?"

He held up his phone. "Dead."

I turned back to the rocks, searching for a hole, anything. "Inuyasha! Shippo!" I yelled. "Can you hear me?" We stood in silence, listening, but no sound was made save for the echo of my own voice.

I yelled some more, and Koga joined me, but after a while, it was obvious that nobody from the other side was going to respond.

I hobbled over to a rock and sat down, bracing my forehead in my hands. "What are we going to do?"

"Didn't Shippo say that all of these tunnels connect?" Yash queried. "Maybe we can find a different way to get to the exit."

I shifted uncomfortably and realized that my stomach was starting to growl. It'd been hours since I'd had anything to eat. "He also said that these tunnels go on for miles. It's going to take us forever to find a way out."

"Yeah, well. It beats sitting here and doing nothing. Especially if Naraku is coming."

"But what if the others went to get help and manage to get through all of this, only to find we left?" I said waving toward the fallen wall of rock.

"Knowing the mutt, they're going to try and find that sword before they find help. No doubt he'll try to use it to blast his way through," Koga growled. "But who knows how long that search will take, even with Shippo guiding him. We've got to move and find a decent spot to defend ourselves. If Naraku is really on his way here, we'll need every advantage we can get."

I sighed and raised my head, knowing that I was being outvoted on the matter. "Okay. Let's go. But I won't be able to walk very fast."

Yash pushed himself off the ground and stretched, testing his muscles. Other than the horrible slash on his forehead and a few cuts and scrapes on his arms, he didn't look the worse for wear. "Here," he said gruffly, striding toward me. "Get on."

He turned and crouched just below where I was sitting on the rock, offering his back to me. I hesitated only a moment and then gave in to that tiny, selfish voice in the back of my mind that was urging me to milk this situation for all that it was worth.

Without a word of complaint I leaned forward and pressed my torso into his back. He stood and reached behind, hooking his arms around my thighs. I draped my arms around his neck, got myself comfortable, and then turned to glance at Koga.

His gaze was dark.

"Ready?" I asked.

He nodded and took a limping step forward. Yash hunched over and started after him.


I don't know how long we walked. All of these tunnels looked exactly the same if you asked me. But, of course, nobody did. In fact, none of us spoke for a long while. I spent most of the time turning the recent events over and over in my mind, wondering how exactly that thing even got down here.

Did it sneak past Kikyo and the others? What if they've been injured?

There were two other possibilities floating through my mind regarding how that machine had gotten into the tunnels.

One: There might be another entrance or either it created another entrance.

Two: Kikyo let it in.

Option Two was one I didn't want to think about. I mean, there's no possible way Kikyo is secretly on Naraku's side, right? But as I studied the toned back of the wolf youkai walking just in front of Yash, I knew that I couldn't entirely throw that theory out.

My stomach growled again, and I curled further against Yash's back in an attempt to stifle the sound. Which was pointless, considering the company I was in at the moment.

A couple of minutes later, my stomach let out another yowl, and I groaned along with it. "How long do you think we'll be stuck down here?"

"Why?" Yash asked. "Hungry?"

I thumped him across the head, knowing from his tone of voice that he was smirking. "Yes, actually. I am. And I'd rather not starve to death in some God forsaken tunnel, thank you."

I could feel the rumble of Yash's laughter through his sides, and I clamped my legs around him.

"Oi!"

"Stop laughing! I'm serious!" But despite my words, I was trying really hard not to smile.

Koga was looking over his shoulder, watching us out of the corner of his eye, a strange expression on his face. I couldn't tell if he was amused or annoyed.

"But seriously," I said, loosening my hold on Inuyasha's waist. "How long do you think we've been down here?"

"I'd say about two hours," the wolf demon answered.

"And how long do you think it will be before Naraku makes an appearance?" I'd gone still, completely serious now.

Koga turned and stared back into the darkness in front of him. "Soon."

I nodded and let my forehead settle against Yash's shoulder.

"Keh," he scoffed softly. "Naraku won't touch you, Kagome."

I lolled my head to the side, secretly studying his face. I'm stuck in a labyrinth, on the verge of starvation, thirsty as hell, and yet this is the happiest I've been in a long time. I tightened my arms around Yash's neck and brought my mouth to the side of his cheek.

"Thank you, Inuyasha," I breathed.

I could feel his muscles tense in surprise, and I pulled back so that I could see his face. He caught my gaze for half a second and then quickly turned his head away, trying to hide the red that was spreading across his cheeks.

"It's whatever," he mumbled.

I laughed and snuggled closer to the heat of his body, trying to keep thoughts of Naraku from entering my mind.

Because I was certain, if it came down to surrendering myself to Naraku or watching him hurt these two guys, I'd give myself up in a heartbeat.


I didn't think I could possibly do it, but at some point, I must have dozed off. The next thing I knew, I was being shifted off of Yash's back and laid down on the floor.

"Are we out?" I asked groggily.

It was a stupid thing to say, because it was pitch black and cold. We were definitely still underground.

I focused inward for a second and called my powers forth, shedding some light in the area around us. I nearly yelped at the sight before me.

Yash was no longer Yash.

I mean, he was, but he wasn't.

He'd reverted to his human form. I'd seen him as a human before, of course, due to the fact that he, along with every other demon, had been forced to wear a Human Ring while we were in school. But dark hair and dark eyes were not what I'd been expecting, and so, suffice to say, I was a little startled.

"Can't see in the dark anymore," he complained. "Human eyes are so damned weak."

Koga was standing a few feet away, hands on his hips, eyes probing a dark tunnel that branched to the left of us. "You guys hear that?" he asked, tilting his head and holding very still.

I tensed immediately, expecting to hear the same sort of skittering sound we'd encountered earlier. That or something heralding Naraku's approach.

But the sound I heard fit neither of these categories. "Water?" I said questionably.

Koga sniffed and strode forward. "Water," he confirmed.

Yash helped me stand and I leaned against him for support as we hobbled after the wolf youkai. My hands illuminated the way and suddenly the shadows pulled back as we entered a rather large room.

"What—What is this place?" It was huge. Roughly the size of a football field. The ceiling was so high it disappeared into darkness, and just a few yards away a waterfall was beating its way down a cliff side. The water appeared to be flowing straight out of the wall, falling about 100 feet, and then pooling brightly at the bottom.

That was pretty mesmerizing, but it was the green jewels that left me speechless. The entire room was lined with what looked to be huge slabs of crystal, each glowing an eerie green light. My hand fell to my side, the faint pink of my powers disappearing, unneeded.

"This is a natural cave," Koga said as he walked toward the waterfall. "It was probably here before Mistress Centipede came along." He squatted next to the pool of water and leaned forward sniffing. "Fresh water," he told us. "It's safe to drink."

Say no more.

In an instant I was tugging Yash forward, making my way toward the glowing green pool. I knelt next to Koga, eager to soothe my parched throat, but waited until he'd taken the first sip. After a moment, when there seemed to be no ill side effects afflicting Koga, I leaned forward and cupped my hands in the water, drinking as much of the liquid as I could.

I decided in that instant that it was the best tasting water I'd ever had. Cold, clear, refreshing; I leaned down for more.

Yash watched me splash around a bit before reluctantly scooping his hands into the water and following suit.

"What's with the glowing crystals?" he asked a second later.

"No idea," Koga replied, wiping his chin. I retreated from the edge of the pool and studied the wolf demon as he stood and approached a cluster of crystals. Already his limp had diminished, and the terrible scrape on his shin had healed. I spared a glance down at my own injury and was quite surprised to see that the swelling had gone down greatly. Could I have unconsciously used my powers to help nurse my ankle while I was asleep?

My thoughts shifted as I watched Koga place a cautious hand on one of the huge quartzes. We were all waiting for some sort of reaction, I think, but nothing happened. "I guess these things are just some sort of stalagmite that glows in the dark," Koga ventured, rubbing his hand against the surface.

My stomach growled. "Are they edible?"

The guys snorted.

"Don't think so."

"Doubt it."

"How are you guys not hungry?" I complained.

Yash was lying flat on his back, black hair pinned beneath him, arms behind his head, looking for all the world like he was casually reclining and completely comfortable. "You've just got to keep your mind off of it, Kagome." I leaned over him, inspecting his head wound. It looked much better than it had a couple of hours ago, but it had yet to heal completely.

"And how do you suggest I do that?"

"I could think of a few things," Koga said from behind me. His sudden proximity and tone of voice sent shivers up my spine. He was so close I could feel the heat radiating off his bare skin. Yash sent him a dark glare over my shoulder.

I turned so that I was lying flat on my back next to Yash, staring up at the shadowy ceiling, and changed the subject. "Why do you think Naraku hasn't shown up yet? It's been hours. I mean, it's at least sunrise since you're human, right?" I questioned turning my head toward Yash.

"Maybe he's got to travel a long way to get here," the dog hanyou responded.

Koga settled himself near us, his back against a green crystal, and the door within eyesight. "In any case, it's probably best if we stay here and rest. We'll be able to defend ourselves well enough with only one entrance," he stated. "Plus there's water."

I trembled and turned onto my side, pulling my legs close to my body. My stomach was full of liquid now, but underneath that feeling, a biting hunger was still gnawing at me. That and I was starting to get freezing cold.

I had on a t-shirt and shorts. I'd dressed with summer in mind, not freezing cold underground caves.

My body shuddered again and I groaned in misery, realizing that I was shaking hard enough for my teeth to be chattering. Yash turned his head to stare at me, lifting one dark brow in question.

"Cold?"

"Wh-what makes you th-think that?"

He rolled his eyes and turned his entire body toward me so that we were facing each other. "Well, I can't do anything about it, unless, I mean… Do you want to spoon or something?"

I stared at him a moment, trying to judge whether or not he was joking, but the moment he saw me seriously considering his offer, a wicked gleam appeared in his eye. He held his arms out, beckoning.

"You know you want to…," he smirked.

God help me. How did I end up in these kinds of situations?

I had the one guy I'd been in love with for most of my life offering to spoon with me, while my ex sat nearby watching. Shirtless. Which was making it very hard for me not to ogle him.

To top it all off, we were trapped in a damn cave with sparkly rocks, waiting for an evil bastard to launch an attack on us.

Yash must have grown impatient, or seen my eyes flash over to Koga, because the next thing I knew, he was rolling me over and pulling me tightly against his chest, banding his arms across my stomach.

The heat from his body immediately transferred through to my back and I couldn't help but sigh in contentment.

Mmmm….

I closed my eyes and felt my body relax into his.

Much better.

My eyelids snapped open at the sudden sensation of somebody touching my arm. Koga was squatting in front of me, his hands gently moving mine from where I'd draped them over Yash's.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Yash growled from behind me. I could feel his chest thrum with his words.

Koga smirked. "I'm cold too."

He laid himself on the ground and turned over, pressing the expanse of his bare back against my chest and moving my hands so that they were wrapped around his waist.

And, dear Lord, now I was spooning with both of them.

Also, Koga was not cold in the slightest. In fact, he was hot as a furnace. "How are we supposed to watch for Naraku if we're all on the ground like this?" I asked weakly.

"Got it covered," Koga answered. He was facing the doorway. "Just close your eyes, and go to sleep. Humans need to rest."

Yash grumbled behind me, knowing the wolf youkai's words had been a slight aimed at him.

How am I supposed to rest like this? I'd tensed the moment Koga had joined us; my fingers were still against the hard muscles of his abs, and I was trying not to inhale and exhale too deeply because every time I did, my breasts pressed against him in a way that made me uncomfortably aware of how close we were.

I guess I could have said something at any point, but…Koga was really warm. And, though I hated to admit it because I so often had to remind them that I could protect myself, I felt safe between these two guys.

I had also conveniently managed to forget how hungry I was.

So really, this was a win-win-win situation I was in.

Yash twined is legs through mine and pulled me even closer into his body. In response, Koga meshed our fingers together.

This was also quickly getting ridiculous.

And besides that, my face was absolutely burning from the force of my blush.

I was definitely going to say something if either one of them decided to do anything outrageous just to piss the other off, but they both seemed to relax, and suddenly it was quiet in the cave, besides the rhythmic pounding of the waterfall.

After several minutes of this newfound peacefulness, I decided I'd better sleep while I could, despite my slightly awkward situation. With Naraku on the way and no sign of the others coming to our rescue, I was going to need all the strength I could get.


I was jarred awake by the sudden urge to pee.

I stared at the back of Koga's head for a minute, trying to gain my bearings, and then slowly realized that I was the only one conscious.

Ha. I listened to Koga's even breathing. Even demons need to rest.

I carefully extricated myself from between the two guys, being rather proud that I managed to accomplish such a feat without waking either of them, and made my way to a nearby cropping of large crystals.

Desperate times, called for desperate measures.

I squatted behind the glowing stones to relieve myself, but immediately tensed the moment I felt the pressure of an approaching aura.

Damn your timing, Naraku.

I quickly finished up, not wanting to be caught in such an awkward position when Naraku finally made his appearance, and sprinted back to the still sleeping boys.

"We've got company," I informed them, nudging them in the ribs to wake them up. "It's another one of those machines, I think." I focused on the aura as it continued to approach and decided that yeah, it was definitely another one of Naraku's creations.

Koga was up in a flash, his blue eyes trained on the doorway. "Get back, Kagome." Before I could even protest, Yash grabbed my arm and hauled me toward the left side of the cave so that we weren't in view of the entrance.

We crouched behind some crystals and waited.

After a moment Koga cocked his head and began to walk toward the tunnel. "It stopped moving."

"Do you think it's a good idea to go out there?" I called after him. "What if it explodes again?"

He held his hand up in dismissal and continued to walk, quickly dropping out of sight.

Idiot, I fumed.

Several minutes passed and everything remained quiet in the direction of the shadowy tunnel. Though I knew that Koga was still out there, I could also detect the presence of the machine still hovering around.

What is he doing?

Right as I was bout to start down the passageway myself, Koga came sprinting back into view.

"Gas!" he choked out.

"What?" Yash questioned.

"We're trapped in here and it's releasing some sort of-," he paused to cough, "gas."

I stared in horror as Koga sank to his knees, another cough wracking his body.

"What are we going to do?" I questioned anxiously. I could make out a sickly purple vapor slowly easing its way into our safe haven.

Yash was looking around, his dark eyes taking stock of everything in the cave. "The waterfall," he finally decided. "If we can get behind it, maybe the stream of water will the diffuse the gas enough to protect us."

I nodded and lunged toward Koga, putting my shoulder under his armpit and hoisting him to his feet. The purple mist was starting to fill the room at an alarming rate, decreasing our safe zone, and increasing the rate of my pulse. A panicky sort of awareness was taking over, and my instincts were urging me to drop the deadweight of Koga's body and sprint for the water in order to save myself.

But Yash grunted and helped me tote Koga toward the pool of liquid before I could make that awful decision.

I studied the waterfall almost frantically, my eyes darting in search of a ledge or indention behind it, but could find nothing. "We're going to have to swim behind it," I realized.

Yash was already wading in, dragging the wolf demon with him. I glanced over my shoulder to check the progress of the gas, and then quickly followed suit, splashing into the frigid water after the boys.

The fumes were about 20 yards away from the lip of the pool.

Koga's head was lolling forward, and I felt dread clench in my stomach. I could still tell that he was breathing, but I knew that whatever this stuff was, it was enough to knock out a full blown youkai.

Suddenly Yash and I seemed frail and very, very vulnerable.

We were human, and though I was a miko, my powers were useless against mere fumes. This wasn't something I could touch and purify.

It had taken less than 5 minutes for Koga to go down.

I was willing to bet it'd take half that time with Yash and me.

It was a tight fit behind the waterfall, but maybe that was a good thing. Yash was holding on to a small, rocky shelf jutting out of the cliff side, trying to keep Koga afloat at the same time.

"If this stuff knocks us out, we might drown," I said over the roar of the waterfall.

"We'll be fine," Yash retorted gruffly. "Just stay close to the running water."

I did as he ordered, but even as I stared at the oncoming wave of gas through the pouring stream, I knew our efforts were futile.

"You know," I said through chattering teeth and numb lips, "if we're about to drown, I should probably let you know tha-," I coughed on the word, lost the rhythm of my stroke and sank below the surface of the water. A strong arm pulled me up.

"Let me know what? Come on, Kagome, stay with me."

I wanted to. I really did. But my vision was starting to blur and my throat was growing tight as the gas eased its way across the water. I paddled weakly, knowing willpower alone was probably the only thing keeping me conscious.

I stared into Yash's dark eyes, studied the wet hair that was plastered to his head in curved, black lines.

His dark gaze drew me in, kept me steady, and I could feel my willpower flare up in one last desperate attempt to keep me functioning.

"I love you," I mumbled, using the last of that energy to form those words. I was vacantly aware that I couldn't feel my body anymore.

It was so cold, and I was so tired.

My eyes crossed, my vision blurred. Yash may have said something, but I wasn't sure.

And then the darkness came, and I was no longer aware of anything.

-End—


I have to admit, my Crystal Cave is based off of the Crystal Catacombs from Avatar: The Last Airbender. If any of you watched that series then you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. For those of you who have no clue, but want to see a picture, just go to Google images and type in 'Crystal Catacombs Ba Sing Se'. You'll get lots of pictures. )

Anyways, next chapter is outlined and in the works. Keep an eye out for an update.

Happy New Year!

-RedThread