"Sango bandaged your wounds while you were unconscious." Inuyasha told Kagome, still looking worriedly into her eyes. 

            Kagome struggled to sit up; both Inuyasha and Kouga tried to lay her back down, but when she refused to stay there, Inuyasha reluctantly helped her lie back against him.  "How is she?  What about Miroku, and Shippo and Kirara?"

            "She's… she'll be all right."  Inuyasha didn't sound entirely convinced.  

            Kagome craned her head back and shot him a look. 

            "Her other wounds reopened, but she'll be fine.  She always is." Inuyasha reminded her.

            Kagome didn't remove her gaze from his face, and Inuyasha felt it heating.  You're still not telling me something…

            He huffed.  "She tended to you, Shippo and Kirara before she'd let Miroku patch her up, so she lost a lot of blood and fainted… but she'll be fine." he elaborated.

            "Are you sure?"

            "Yes!" he insisted.

            "What about Miroku?  Didn't he draw in the poison insects?"

            "Yeah, but Sango used some of the medicines you keep in your pack, and he's okay for now."

            "For now?" she demanded.

            "We'll have to get some more herbs later- even before we get to Kaede- but he's fine for now."

            "Shippo?"

            The half- demon snorted derisively.  "Perfectly fine."

            "Kirara?"

            "I fixed her up myself." he said, and she heard a thread of pride in his voice. 

            She smiled and leaned back against him.  "Thank you, Inuyasha."  Her gaze met that of the momentarily quiet wolf- demon.  "And thank you, Kouga.  You really helped us."

            "The demons ran away when he got here!  He didn't do anything!" Inuyasha protested, outraged.

            "They ran when they saw me coming.  That ought to tell you something, Dog- Turd." Kouga sneered.

            Kagome could sense Inuyasha seething behind her.  "The demons knew that they couldn't take on both of you.  You both did it.  Please, don't fight?" she pleaded wearily.

            Kouga looked as though he'd like to say something outlandishly rude, but his affection for Kagome checked his tongue.  "You'll really be all right?"

            She smiled gently at him, and Inuyasha's heart swelled with jealousy.  "I will.  Thank you, Kouga."

            He took her hand carefully in his own.  "I'll always be there for you, Kagome." he pledged, and stood to leave.  "Dog- Turd, I'll let you off this once, but if it happens again…" he let his words trail off ominously and was gone before Inuyasha could do more than sputter in indignation. 

*

            "What are you doing up?" Inuyasha demanded, jumping out of the tree he'd slept in and putting an arm around Kagome's shoulder; the girl was trembling from the exertion of her walk in the woods.

            "I had to gather some herbs." she replied, gesturing to the small bag she carried.

            "You should have let someone else do that." Inuyasha chided.

            They both turned at a shuffling noise at the door.  Miroku was half- carrying Sango outside.  "Did we hear your voices?" he asked, looking from one to the other.  "Is something wrong?"

            "No, nothing's wrong." Kagome replied, smiling reassuringly at them.

            "Look, the sun's rising." Sango observed.  She and Miroku moved to stand beside the other couple. 

            Shippo stumbled sleepily out of the hut with Kilala in his arms.  "What's going on?"

            "Look, Shippo." Kagome told him.  "The sunrise."

            Shippo moved to lean against Kagome and Inuyasha's legs, and Kilala, ignoring her wounds, leapt to Sango's shoulder.  They stood quietly together, looking at the gorgeous scene before them, each immersed in their own thoughts.

            Inuyasha's arm tightened the slightest bit around Kagome.  She had looked so like Kikyo, bloody and white, those large, beautiful eyes closed…  But she's not Kikyo.  She's Kagome.  And I won't lose Kagome as I lost Kikyo; I refuse to let it happen again.

            I don't think I could take it.  She was his source of strength, his refuge.  I want the best things for her. he admitted to himself.  I want her to be happy; I want her to laugh; I want her to live.  And I want to be there for it, I want to see it all.  Kikyo's face rose again in his mind's eye.  I only wish I were allowed to be there with her… but we have the here and now. he reminded himself, and, for the moment, that's enough. 

            Sango was relishing having Miroku's arm around her in a proper position, for once.  I just wish, she thought painfully fervently, that he was able to keep his hands to himself.  You would think he'd be able to; he can be so wonderfully sweet, and thoughtful, and perceptive… and then he goes and gropes someone.  But the knowing didn't stop the wishing, or the stubborn little flame of hope in her heart that maybe, someday…

            We'll defeat Naraku. Shippo thought, his optimistic confidence rising with the sun.  And we'll all do it together.  He nuzzled back into Kagome and Inuyasha's legs, content merely to be with them. 

            She's so strong. Miroku thought, sneaking an admiring glance at the top of Sango's shining head.  She shouldn't be able to move with those injuries.  He heaved a mental sigh.  And so lovely, too… but she's wounded, he sternly reminded himself, so I can't touch her. 

            But he was touching her; he was half- holding her up. 

            And it felt so right to have her there…

            The sun shone down upon the group.  They stood, together, looking forward, as they always would.

            "Kagome?" Shippo asked quietly, hesitantly.

            "Yes, Shippo?" she replied, letting the top of her free hand stroke his head.

            "We'll always be together, won't we?"

            She was silent for a moment.  "We'll be together until the end." she finally, cryptically answered, sneaking a half- glance at the boy at her side.  He met her gaze squarely. 

            Shippo knew enough to be too afraid to ask her when the end would be. 

            Besides, it was enough to be with them just for now. 

A/N: Sango passed out while tending to Kirara, so Inuyasha had to finish.  Sucky ending, I know, but I couldn't come up with anything better.  Umm, this is the end of the story…  Cookies to Trillium, StarFlare, and Battlewhore, and thank you to everyone who read and reviewed.  Or just read.  ^_^