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Chapter Twelve: Epilogue

Kouga was talking animatedly with Ginta and Hakkaku as he sped down the highway. He was still stewed over the fact that he had been roped into picking up the Southern Co Propriety Packets. It was a job no one wanted since it required one to drive practically halfway down Japan to get the damned papers that were too valuable to be faxed, but had to be picked up personally. So, he ended up dragging Ginta and Hakkaku with him as misery loved company.

It had been four years since he had to retrieve the packet last, Naraku picking on someone else for the delivery for the past few years.

He had turned his head to scowl at Hakkaku for his bad humor when Ginta let out a surprised shriek. Kouga's head whipped around, cobalt eyes widening, he slammed on the brakes. There was a body on the road!

"Shit!" Kouga cursed. This was just like four freaking years ago. He prayed that this time, the girl wasn't pregnant or something. He pulled over onto the side of the road, Ginta and Hakkaku following as he made his way out of the car.

The woman was curled on her side, passed out on the shoulder of the road. Gingerly, he flipped her over and brushed the hair from her face to get a better look at her. "Kami…" It was her! "Get a bottle of water!" He roared, picking her up and cradling her in his arms bridal style.

Hakkaku scrambled for the water while Ginta ran ahead of Kouga, opening up the car doors and lowering the seats back so that the girl could be lain down for examination. She wasn't looking too good at the moment.

Kouga couldn't believe his eyes. It was really her! Kagome…

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Her eyes opened slowly, blinking often to adjust to the sudden brightness of the room. Kagome found herself staring upwards at an unfamiliar ceiling. The disembodied sensation of distance washed over her. She had made it far. She had no idea where she was, but, perhaps this time, she was far enough to not be found again.

Soft brown eyes stared down at her. She followed the expression to look upon a concerned face. He looked somewhat familiar, but Kagome couldn't recall from where she had seen him before.

"Higurashi-san?" He asked, his voice soft and gentle. "How are you feeling?"

Kagome's lips parted, a choking gasp being emitted.

"Oh! How thoughtless of me!" The man grinned sheepishly, flushing. "You're dehydrated." He moved across the room toward a pitcher of water. Once he was far enough, Kagome noted that he wore a white coat. She assumed he was a doctor, meaning, she was back in the hospital.

Fear shot through her. If she was in the hospital then that meant that she could be found again! The people at the hospital would have tried to contact her family. They would find her! No! She couldn't let that happen! They deserved better than for her to be burdening them with her presence. She began to struggle upwards, hoping to make it out of the hospital before they came. She didn't want to see their disappointed faces. Their faces would be filled with disgust at her. She wouldn't be able to bear it.

"Higurashi-san!" The surprised voice startled her from her struggles. The doctor rushed over, all but spilling the pitcher onto her in his haste. "What are you doing? You must rest!"

She looked up into his earnest face. Something about him was familiar. He was bent over her, a concerned expression spread across his features. "Higurashi-san?"

Her brows furrowed. She had seen that face before, that expression…"Hou…jo-kun?"

The man's face brightened immediately. "You remembered!" He beamed, then scribbled something down on his clipboard, muttering something about trauma. "I'm so glad to see you again, Higurashi-san. It's been so long!" He exclaimed, grinning, returning his attention back to her. "I'm surprised you remembered me, it's been over ten years. Well, actually, a little over four years, but you were unconscious that last time." He babbled, while carefully mopping up the spilled water on her with a soft towel.

Kagome could barely understand him in her haze. "What?"

He started. "Oops." He remarked, blushing. He quickly poured her a glass of water, setting a straw in it and placing it on the tray before her. "Drink and rest, Higurashi-san. I'll be back in a few hours. We can talk then. Bye!" He waved, leaving with a sort of dreamy, absent-minded, expression on his face.

Kagome sighed, leaning back into her bed. She was exhausted. She could barely move. Her eyes closed of her own accord. Silently and unnoticed, tears slid down her cheeks. Why did she have to be found?

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Houjo had barely closed the door fully before Kouga was on him and questioning. "Is she alright? How is she? What happened to her? Is she sick? Injured? Pregnant!"

His clipboard being the only defense in between himself and Kouga, Houjo held it up shield-like, his eyes wide and startled. "Ah, yeah. She's just weak right now. Malnutrition and dehydration are her largest problems. I'm worried about her mental condition though. Her body will heal with care and time, but…she seems unstable." He silently checked some notes on his clipboard. "I'm worried." He frowned thoughtfully.

Kouga growled. "I am too! It doesn't seem right for her to be like this…I wonder what happened. Where ever she came from, she shouldn't be allowed back. It doesn't look like she's been treated right."

Houjo flushed a little. He agreed with his friend. It didn't seem right at all. The Kagome he remembered had been a bright and loving child, whom he had a not-so-secret crush on…He blushed darker. Coughing slightly, he caught Kouga's attention, which had previously been focused on glaring at the innocent and unsuspecting hospital floor tiles angrily. "I…I don't think I'm going to report it to administration." He began quietly.

Kouga's cobalt eyes widened. Mr. Always-By-the-Book wasn't going to play by the rules? It was surprising to say the least. But he held his silence to allow the doctor to continue.

"She recognized me. I don't know how much she remembers though. I think that we can transfer her into our custody until she's well enough. She should remember you too. So, I was thinking, once she's dismissed from the hospital, she'll stay with you and we can keep watch over her until she's better. Her condition seems to only have deteriorated from before. She's not any better." He stated grimly.

The two men frowned. They both remembered last time. Four years ago, Kagome had fallen under their care. In the strangest twist of déjà vu, Kouga had found Kagome's limp body on the side of the road. Luckily enough, the nearest hospital wasn't too far, and Houjo had been stationed there, though neither of the men knew it at the time. Both had been childhood friends of Kagome, along with Miroku, so many years ago, but they both had to move away from that neighborhood due to family or job-related issues.

Ah, the shock and horror of seeing her again after so many years. Not even six years later, and they run into Kagome again, and it was in one of the worst situations ever. She had been badly injured, looking as if she had been beat. At some points, she had received treatment, but not from a hospital. Bandages hung old, loose, and limp around her injuries, doing more harm than good at that point. She was dirty, exhausted, and completely dispirited. It had taken her a few weeks before she regained consciousness, and the first thing she tried to do was to cut herself with her own IV needle. Kouga and Houjo had been mortified.

In their panic, Kagome had been restrained. They quickly tracked down her relatives, and Akatsune Shippou had been contacted. The boy rushed to her aid. He had looked so earnest and horrified at the same time. He cared for her, they were certain of it. When Houjo had revealed to him of her pregnancy, the young man nodded in understanding, his lips sealed in a tight, grim line. He quickly paid all of her medical expenses and asked that the matter be kept private. Houjo agreed and set about to take care of the paperwork with help from Kouga. It was a well known fact to both men that Houjo was a terrible liar.

Months of recovery and setbacks passed. Kagome tried several more times to kill herself, coming dreadfully close to succeeding many times. It seemed that she had gotten better, learning that cutting along the veins caused blood to flow faster and stronger. Shippou had allowed for her to be restrained, but refused the allow her to be sedated in fear of the baby's dwindling health. She went into labor two months premature.

The whole time, Shippou had kept silent about what lead her to this condition. When questioned, his face would flush a dark red, furious at the memories, but he remained silent. Somehow, he had avoided police involvement, and Houjo, trusting the young man's judgment, decided not to press the issue with the authorities. Once the infant's condition was stabilized, and the mother somewhat under control, the three vanished from the hospital.

In hindsight, Kouga knew he should have tried to track them down, tried to find them, but he also knew that the Akatsune had taken them into hiding. He was probably trying to hide Kagome from the man who had hurt Kagome. He sighed. Kouga understood, he really did, but seeing Kagome hurt again didn't make him feel any better. This time around, he and Houjo would be the ones to watch over her. They wouldn't contact her relatives. They had already been unable to protect her twice. Kouga would make sure it wouldn't happen a third time.

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Touga sat in his car in silence. It had only been a few days since Kagome's initial disappearance. However, Myouga had done a good job in keeping track of her. Something was definitely manipulating Kagome's movements. For a while, she even vanished from Myouga's skillful tracking. She had been found again, in the same hospital as before. It made him edgy. Too much of it was coincidental, and he didn't like it. As much as he wanted to rush the hospital and demand Kagome's release back to her family, he was sure that it would be the wrong thing to do.

He had researched the background of the two men who seemed specific in watching over her. They had been childhood friends of Kagome. She had been close to a group of three boys and her sister. Houjo and Kouga had moved away about ten years back, leaving her with Miroku and Kikyou as companions. A few months after that, Sango had moved in with her family. A year later, Kagome's father had died and through their own manipulations, Kagome somewhat befriended Inuyasha, but Sesshoumaru had still been an estranged factor to her.

Reviewing her life, Kagome never had much choice in the matters before her. It seemed that everything had already been decided for her, whether it was fate, or her mother's, or his own doing. He sighed heavily. It wasn't right, and it wasn't fair.

He looked over the files he held in the passenger seat. They were Kagome's medical records. She had suffered more than he had anticipated, her mental state as fragile as a sheet of sugared glass. Her body had been repeatedly broken. It was a miracle in itself that she had been able to move as though uninjured. He assumed that she had simply masked the pain. He knew she wasn't taking any painkillers or medication. She never visited the hospital unless forced. Even then, she behaved only in front of the doctors. Once she was released home, she immediately reverted into a state of passive self-infliction. She wouldn't treat her injuries, nor would she hinder them. She let them heal completely on their own, hoping that perhaps one day, her body would quit, and she would not longer be able to heal.

It made Touga sick. It was his son's fault for forcing her into this state. It was his own fault for believing that Sesshoumaru would not be so stubborn or stupid. He had not watched over Kagome enough, thinking that it was Sesshoumaru who needed help more. He had not taken into account that Kagome, who had suffered much loss already, would be looking for someone to love her back as she loved.

His jaw set, Touga started the ignition. He carefully shifted the car into gear. He wouldn't interfere with her life anymore. He only seemed to be harming her, and that was the last thing he wanted for the poor girl. The Houjo and Kouga seemed to be good men who would take care of her and aid her in healing. They would watch over her, help her, heal her. He already saw that they cared deeply for her. They loved her, and they were what she needed. He would have Myouga keep and eye on Kagome, but he would do no more. If Sesshoumaru were truly intent on finding her, he would do so on his own. Touga would not help him. With a heavy heart, but a strong resolve, Touga drove away from the hospital.

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SM: There is a sequel to this. The Pain of Losing Again. The link for it can be found in my profile page.