Author's Note: Set early in the series, during the Illusory Vines story whilst Inuyasha, Kikyou and Kagome are triangulating. See manga chapter 123 or anime episode 33 for reference. Because filling in the holes is fun.
The fear is still ripe in him.
It lingers at the edge of his consciousness, hiding behind every corner, reaching out with black fingers that whisper and hiss like the wind. Miroku does his best to cast it aside and stumbles forward on legs that have forgotten their true strength. The aftereffects of adrenaline tear through him, but his tattered resolve does not sway.
'Where is she?'
Shippou murmurs and stirs in his arms, but does not waken. Miroku spares the little one a glance and wonders, briefly, what nightmares had him in their clutch.
It was just like Naraku, wasn't it, to try and ruin them in despair?
His right arm still aches and bleeds from the vice grip of the vines that had caught and all but strangled him, and Miroku shudders at the false memory of the Kazaana's breach, how it whistled and howled and tried to consume him.
He tries to remind himself it was just a dream, a fabrication of his deepest fears.
It seemed so real.
'I need to find her.'
Miroku runs as best he can, evading the tendrils that try to reclaim him, slicing them away when they get too close to their goal. He sees them now, at least, and knows them for what they are.
He calls her name and searches, to no avail.
He would have missed her entirely had he not heard the soft groan of pain as he passed a copse of trees. Miroku stopped abruptly and pursued the source of sound.
The vines have practically consumed her, twisted around her and squeezing and writhing. Miroku lays Shippou aside and sets to freeing her, and the creepers fall away easily at the strike of his staff. Sango falls free and he does his best to break her landing.
"Stop!" she gasps, but it isn't him she's talking to.
She fights against him, eyes open but unseeing, and cuffs him across the cheek before he manages to catch her by the shoulders. Miroku shakes her roughly and calls her name again, hoping its enough to reach through the dregs of her dream. He feels it when she starts. Clarity returns to her swiftly, and she recognizes him.
There are shadows in her eyes, beyond fear. Sango stares at him with something akin to disbelief, and he wonders what dark dreams she's woken from.
"What did you see?" he asks, gently.
She reaches to him, and Miroku is surprised. Sango's fingers trace his cheek and fall to his neck, tracing a horizontal line across the skin. There is nothing romantic in the touch−her distress is palpable in every movement. Then her hands are on his chest, and she's gripping his robes, bracing herself. He feels it as she begins to tremble, hard, and he does his best to support her as she quakes.
"Sango?" he presses, growing more concerned.
"So much blood," she rasps out, her breathing unsteady and voice harsh. Her tone is devoid of its usual polite cadence, and the words come out splintered and rough. "Everyone was dead−I−Kohaku…" Her voice breaks with a sob at that, but she doesn't cry. Instead, she clings to him at arm's length and shudders, and he waits, giving her time. Miroku watches, and his own anxiety is forgotten in the face of this woman, so broken and burdened yet still fighting. Even in tragedy, Sango was still strong.
The thought is irrational, not even fully formed, but Miroku wishes, just for a moment, that he was strong enough to protect her from any more hurt.
Slowly, her shaking quells and her breathing evens and then she's pulling away.
"The others?" she inquires, in control now.
"Shippou's here," Miroku says. "Inuyasha went to find Kagome-sama." He gives her a careful look. "Can you stand?"
Sango nods and rises, but she's only on her feet for a moment before her balance falters. He catches her shoulders again, steadying her. "I'm sorry, my…"
"You're still recovering from your last injuries," he reminds her gently. "Let me help you."
Her gaze skitters away, and he can see she's embarrassed, whether by his offer or her own frailty he's not entirely sure. Maybe both.
"Hiraikotsu," Sango murmurs, and he looks to see the weapon on the ground a short distance away.
"I can manage," he tells her. Finally, she relents.
Miroku takes her and Shippou and Hiraikotsu and gathers them all on his back. There is none of the usual suspicion or sidelong glances, only a cautious trust borne of fatigue, too precious to break. So he bears Sango up on weary legs and pays the weight no mind; it's easier to do this than to focus on the bleak thoughts in his own heart.
"Houshi-sama?" Sango murmurs, her words drowsy. He can tell she's falling asleep.
Her grip on his shoulder tightens briefly, then relaxes again. A reassurance.
Miroku considers responding, but lets it lie.
Sometimes words can say too much.
Written for LJ community iy-themes, prompt: dark. Won 1st Place.
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