Once again I have to thank you, thank you, Thank You for all the reviews you guys have been sending my way!! I can't tell you how much they brighten up my days!! And, since you all were just so kind, I shall return the favor with Gasp!! Another chapter!! Enjoy my friends!!

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Protection

Chapter 9 – Of Tears and Teasing

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"Breakfast time!" Dr. Kudo proclaims cheerfully as he nudges the door to the room open with his shoulder. As soon he steps inside he spies Mrs. Higurashi smiling happily at him, with an extremely interested hanyou seated once more in front of the bed. Pleased by the teen's obvious appetite, the kind doctor flashes them both a slightly cheesy grin. "Eggs and bacon, anyone?"

Inuyasha sniffs the air gingerly, sampling at the warm foods' scent, his golden gaze locked onto the large tray as the doctor sets it down on the table next to the chair. Mrs. Higurashi gives a slightly shy smile as she nods her thanks and takes a plate and fork in hand. With the deft movements of one who is constantly preparing meals, she piles the plate with a hearty portion; satisfied by the amount, she walks over to the bed and offers the meal to the hanyou seated on the floor. Inuyasha instantly takes the flat disk with the still steaming edibles and grins, his golden eyes lighting up; as usual, when it comes to food he reverts back into a child.

"Hmmmm…" He growls softly, poking at the strange yellow stuff with the metal eating utensil. His nose wrinkles slightly in distaste. "…Looks different then Kagome's…color's wrong…" At this the doctor exchanges a look with Mrs. Higurashi; a second later both adults find themselves unable to hold back their laughter. Inuyasha blinks at the sound of their mirth and looks up with a slightly perplexed expression.

"Sorry, dear…" Mrs. Higurashi apologizes, finally calming down from her fit of giggles. The stress of the previous night's events has had her on edge – it feels wonderful to simply laugh over such an adorable reaction. "It's just that Hospital food is known for being rather…well…"

"It's not the best, that's for sure." Dr. Kudo finishes with a smile as he hands over a plate to the beautiful young mother seated next to him. Still slightly confused, Inuyasha tilts his head slightly to the left, watching the doctor fix his own plate, before he shakes his head and resumes eating. The meal is definitely not as tasty as Kagome's…nowhere near really, but at least it is food. Take what you can get, a lesson learned early on by the hanyou.

For quite a while all is silent, save for the soft clicking of forks against plates and the annoying hum of the hospital equipment. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Inuyasha jerks his head up suddenly, his ears giving a faint twitch. He nearly drops his plate when he turns around to almost frantically look behind him. Wincing as his shoulder burns and his ribs ache, he shoves the now empty platter onto the floor with a clatter and turns around completely to face Kagome's bed.

Knowing precisely why the Hanyou is reacting in such a manner, Mrs. Higurashi hurriedly sets her own breakfast onto the table and instantly joins his side, her hand already on her daughter's. At the soft brush of her mother's gentle touch Kagome stirs, releasing a low grown as her confused brown eyes flutter open slowly.

"…M-mama…?" Her breath comes in a sharp soft gasp, her battered ribs making it difficult to inhale. Mrs. Higurashi smiles softly, her concerned gaze pained, and grazes her daughter's cheek with trembling fingertips.

"Hey, sweetie…" At the mere sound of her mother's voice, Kagome instantly bursts into tears. Inuyasha, still unnoticed by the weeping miko, presses his ears flat against his head at the sound of her heart-wrenching sobs. He crosses his arms on the bed, slipping his chin in between them as his shoulders slump in distress in the classic 'sad-puppy pose'. Dr. Kudo watches on with a sorrowful understanding, and silently steps back to lean against the back wall, as if to give the small 'family' some space.

"…M-mama…I…" The words get caught in her throat, and she only begins to cry harder, the pain from her own sobs only increasing the desire to weep. A moment later Inuyasha peeks over her mother's shoulder and peers down at the miko with regretful eyes of gold.

"Hey…n-no cryin'!" He demands softly, his ears still pressed flat against his head in distraught uneasiness. Kagome turns her head slowly to gaze up at him, her brown eyes still rimming with tears. Noting the fresh bandages showing from underneath his shirt, she simply starts sobbing all over again. Mrs. Higurashi offers the hanyou a faint smile as she moves over, allowing Inuyasha to kneel besides her daughter. The moment he does, Kagome reaches out with shaking fingers.

"…Inu…Inuyasha…s-sit…" She whispers tearfully with the softest voice she can muster; a moment later the strange necklace around Inuyasha's neck glows lightly. The hanyou releases a faint gasp as his upper body is pulled down onto the bed with a surprisingly soft force.

"Hey! W-whaddah do!?" His demanded question holds only a weak attempt at anger as he lifts his face off the blankets. Her only reply is a sob as she grabs him with her good arm, pulling him close, before burying her face into his shoulder. He tenses up at first, but as she begins to weep into his shirt, holding him tight, he finds himself wrapping his arms around her, his movements unbelievably gentle considering his normal attitude.

Mrs. Higurashi watches the two embrace, her daughter sobbing uncontrollably into the hanyou's shoulder as he buries his face in her tangled hair, his ears still drooping in distress at the entire situation, and she finds herself smiling softly. In perfect honesty…is she is rather pleased that Kagome has found such a wonderful 'friend' as Inuyasha. Even though their relationship is a troubled one, they would still do anything for one each other.

"So…how are you feeling?" Dr. Kudo comes to stand next to Mrs. Higurashi, granting the two teenagers a kind understanding smile. Kagome only gives a faint sniff and just clings harder to Inuyasha, who tightens his grip slightly on her shirt and nestles his face into her neck, his ears still lowered in grief at her current condition.

"…Sore…" She finally admits softly as she avoids locking eyes with the kind doctor. "…An' tired…" The hanyou's grip on her gown tightens a bit more and she is startled into blinking back a few tears when she notices that he is…trembling…but only slightly…much like he tends to do after a desperate battle…

"Well then, dear, we'll leave you two alone." Mrs. Higurashi proclaims gently with a motherly grin; getting to her feet with much grace, she slips her hand into Dr. Kudo's. Kagome shifts a bit, her brown eyes faintly pained as her mother flashes another smile, and leads a rather confused, as well as a faintly blushing, Dr. Kudo out of the room, the door shutting behind them. Finding herself alone with Inuyasha, the miko's brave façade falls instantly. Bursting into fresh sobs, the tears returning to stream in torrents down her cheeks, she wraps her arms around Inuyasha's neck, only wincing slightly when her left arm jolts in pain, and weeps into his shoulder once more.

"…No cryin'…" He mumbles with a faint sigh as he nuzzles his face in her hair again, desperate for her usual happy, caring, and rather feisty self to return.

"S-shut up! I'll cry if I w-want to!" She protests with a hint of her natural fiery nature, though her tears do not falter in the least. With another sigh Inuyasha pulls back, his cheek brushing against hers.

"Well stop. It's annoyin'." Kagome grasps almost frantically for him, desperate for his warmth, and needing his very presence to remain calm. With a soft growl he takes her hand and grazes the I.V. gracing the skin just below her wrist; wrinkling his nose childishly he pokes at the strange device with a claw. "Stupid things, aren't they?" Kagome manages a weak smile, her eyes still glittering with tears.

"…Inuyasha…" The hanyou blinks and looks back up at her, slightly hunched forward and appearing almost guilty in his actions. "…Thank you…" Those fascinating ears of his press back against his head once more.

"…Uhh…what for?" Kagome smiles again, softer this time, and pulls his hand against her cheek, holding it there as she closes her eyes, tears spilling upon his fingers.

"…You came for me…" This time his ears twitch in farce annoyance, however he does not yank his hand back.

"Keh. You really are stupid, aren't you?" Kagome looks up at him, her eyes holding a gleam of hurt. Yet Inuyasha only smirks and pulls back his hand, taking hers with it in order to nuzzle her fingers against his own cheek, his golden eyes half-way closing in contentment. "…I said I'd always protect you…"

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"…Houshi-sama?" From his position besides the fire, the young monk stifles a yawn as he busies himself with his sleeping bag, struggling in vain to fold it up properly.

"Yes, Lady Sango?" He mumbles, still not completely awake; just as he is about to fold the thick fabric in half Kirara shuffles over and plops right down in the middle of his previous bed with a soft squeak of pleasure. Caught between smiling and frowning, he simply sighs instead. A moment later Sango leans over to pull her mischievous little furry friend into her arms, getting her out of his way.

"…They haven't come back yet…do you think something terrible has happened?" There is no answer at first, and Sango is caught between believing that the monk is trying to think of a way to say what he believes without worrying her…or that he is considering itching his hand to a certain area where it should not be. Luckily for Miroku, he chooses the former.

"To be honest, Lady Sango…I think something may indeed have happened. We have yet to come upon a situation where one of Inuyasha's hunches was false. Let us hope that he got to Kagome in time to prevent whatever it was that caused that sense of uneasiness." Miroku releases another sigh, this one more worried then annoyed as before, and finishes folding up his sleeping bag; since they do not plan on going anywhere until Inuyasha and Kagome return, he simply tucks it away against the wall of the small cabin. Besides, he has been awfully worn down lately, and taking a nap later on may not be such a horrid idea.

"You know, Houshi…for someone as big a Hentai as you…" Getting to her feet Sango moves towards the door, just pausing long enough to pat the monk lightly on the shoulder. "…You're awfully considerate."

The young priest merely blinks as she leaves the room without another word, and, after a moment of denial, he discovers his cheeks are burning.

"Oohhh…Miroku likes Sango!!!" The impish muffled taunt floats out from underneath a spare blanket with a hint of relish; an instant later the monk's staff comes down to land on a hard little lump hidden under the fabric. The said 'lump' releases a squeal of pain, followed by a sobbing cry of "S-sango!!! Miroku's being mean to me!!"

"Houshi-sama!" Comes the warning call, which in turn earns a wince from the priest and a rather impish grin from Shippo as he scampers out from underneath the blanket.

"Thanks a lot, twerp." Miroku sighs, preparing himself for another painful lesson gladly taught by Sango. So much for being considerate…

"You've been spending too much time with Inuyasha!" Shippo informs him with his little arms crossed and his tail swishing side to side. "You're starting to act like him!" The monk only grumbles and raises his staff to whack the little kitsune once again. He never gets the chance, however for Shippo opens his mouth and cries out louder than before, "Sango!!!"

"HOUSHI!!!!!"

"…Uh oh…"

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Wow, that one was a tad difficult to write (all things considering!!) But I hope it satisfied!! Look forward to more! I plan on updating at LEAST once a week, though my true aim is for twice, and perhaps even three times – it all depends how my Godfather's health is, how much homework I have, and what my work schedule is! Hee hee!! Well, until next time - je ne, my friends!!