Like Time, This River Never Stops Flowing

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Recap: While protecting Ayame from a much larger demon, Kouga was badly injured and may have suffered some memory loss...

Ayame's cheeks were stained with blush, but she had to wonder if something was terribly wrong. Before their not-so-pleasant walk in the woods, Kouga had treated her like he always had; like some nuissance that he had just allowed to tag along for the sake of having company. But when he said what he did, well, it made her insides melt, and for the first time, she didn't care about anything he did or said to her in the past.

"Kouga," Kagome said, kneeling down beside them. "Do you remember what happened?"

"Not really," Kouga said, sitting up. "I remember we were walking in the woods when some demon attacked. After that, everything's sort of hazy."

"Well, at least you got that part right," Ayame sighed. "We were attacked..."

"What are you talking about? I was with Kagome, not you."

The silence that surrounded them was horrible. Kouga felt as confused as everyone looked. What he had said had been what had happened; it wasn't like he was making it up. He did feel like he was missing something, but he figured that was just from his injuries.

He looked at Ayame and smiled. "I'm glad you weren't there." Ayame tensed, feeling hurt. "I might not have been able to protect you, like I wasn't able to fully protect Kagome. What's this?"

Ayame watched as Kouga reached out to touch the side of her calf. She had a huge gash there, but she had completely forgotten about it while worrying over her packmate. When he ran his fingers over it, she winced, and pulled his hand away.

"It's nothing," she said, smiling some. "Nothing at all."

"Good. I was afraid you had gotten hurt."

Ayame smiled at him, weakly, thinking how his injuries could have possibly caused him to lose his memory like that. And was it really a fact of memory loss, or just a case of mistaken identity? Kouga did remember a little of what happened to him, it was just that he had gotten her and Kagome mixed up.

Then, did that mean that Kouga thought he was in love with Ayame?

- - -

"Honestly, I think he's faking it. You can't really believe that he's lost his memory, right?"

That's what he, Inuyasha said earlier, but if that were the case, then Kouga would have had to have been a fabulous actor to pull off something like that. Ayame shook her head, ridding herself of the thought. Kouga was injured, and suffered a serious blow to the head; anyone would have lost their memory with an accident like that.

She looked down at her injured leg, slowly running her fingers over the bandages Kagome had helped her to put on. Kouga had been so worried and concerned when he'd seen it, even though Ayame knew he couldn't begin to fathom the measure of worry she felt towards him and his own injuries.

It was night now, but Kagome, with some reassurance from Ayame, had suggested that Kouga go to bed early and get some rest. Kagome said that they didn't teach much about concussions at school, but she figured that since rest cured a lot of other ailments, then perhaps it would help some.

"Psst, Ayame!"

Ayame turned around, meeting the soft-brown eyes of Kagome. She was in her night clothes--a combination of light blue pants and shirt, along with the socks she had been weaing earlier in the day.She looked wide awake, and seemed to want to talk about something.

"How's your leg?" she asked, looking down at the dressings.

"All right, I guess," Ayame said. "It still hurts, but it's better." Then after a while, she added, "Thanks for helping me Kagome. With Kouga the way he is, I don't know what I would have done without you."

"Sure thing. I care for him too, and when you told us what happened, well...I was worried."

Ayame's face fell. She cared for him? This whole time, Kagome acted as if she had no interest in Kouga whatsoever, but now she wasn't so sure. Before, Ayame had always considered her a rival in love, even though Kouga usually ignored her, while he waited hand and foot on Kagome.

"Wait, I'm not saying I like Kouga, not like that or anything," Kagome added, seeing the look on the wolf's face. "I care for him as a friend...like I do for Miroku, Sango, Shippo, and even you, Ayame." Ayame noted that Inuyasha's name was not spoken amongst the list of people Kagome cared for in the friendship way.

"Then, you'll stay out of my way? With Kouga the way he is now...it's the only way I'll get to experience what you feel when he acts the way he does with you."

"Stay out of your way? Ayame, I'll help you get together with him."

She was a little taken aback by that response. In truth, she had expected Kagome to agree with the terms, but to lengthen the playing field, was something completely unforseen.

"How are you going to do that?" She was grateful, but she just had to know what Kagome had up her sleeve.

"It's easy, really. With Kouga's feeling for you and his feelings for me totally mixed up, all you'll have to do is--"

"Ayame?"

Both girls stiffened, not recognizing the voice at first. So, the intruder called out again.

Ayame heard Kagome gasp, quite loudly, and when she turned to face her, she realized that she had scrambled off somewhere in the darkened cave, probably to pretend that she was sleeping. And that left Ayame alone with this unknown someone.

"Ayame...?" They were now beginning to sound desperate, and she could no longer listen to their suffering. She called out to them, guiding them closer to her with the sound of her voice. As they got closer, she was finally able to see.

"Kouga!" she cried, sounding surprised. She had realized it was him the third time he called out to her, but she was secretly hoping his wouldn't find her. Kagome had said she wanted to see the two of them together and that she had some sort of plan, but now seemed too early, and in truth, Ayame was a little nervous. "Why aren't you asleep?"

"I couldn't," Kouga said, kneeling down beside her.

"What? Are you all right?"

Even at this distance, the light was still poor, but she was able to make out the shaking movement of Kouga's head.

"I feel sick. My head's pounding, I'm dizzy, and I feel like I could throw up any minute."

Ayame smiled sympathetically. She didn't really know what to say to that; she knew these new sufferings were brought on by Kouga's head injury, and that there was practically nothing she could do to help him.

"I'm sorry," was all she said.

"There's nothing you have to be sorry about; I'm the one who got hurt."

"I know," Ayame said, tears threatening to fall. "But it's because I wasn't strong enough."

Kouga looked at her skeptically, before saying, "What did I tell you earlier? It's not your fault. You weren't even there, I was with Kagome." He reached out, brushing away a tear that had silently slipped past Ayame's defenses.

Ayame, now feeling slightly braver, spread herself out, lying her head on Kouga's lap. At first, she noticed that he stiffened, but in less than a minute, he had calmed down and was brushing her hair with his fingertips.

"I love you," she whispered to him. Then, she realized.

"What did you say?" Kouga asked, looking down at her.

Ayame cursed herself for forgetting. Kouga was used to Kagome brushing him off whenever he declared his love to her, and during their small moment of peacefulness, Ayame had forgotten how her own declaration would effecet him.

"I'm sorry. I-I didn't mean--"

"I never knew how you felt about me, not until now," Kouga said, returning to weaving his fingers in and out of her hair.

"But I've always felt this way," Ayame said, closing her eyes.

- - -

She yawned, opening her eyes and stretching. It was so bright this morning, and she was glad she had gone outside the den. Being up all night with Kouga wasn't something she'd ever dreamed of doing before, and once being able to experience it, she wasn't sure she'd want to do it again.

First, he began stroking her hair, but after a while, he began to grow weary and tired, so Ayame suggested that they switched places for a while. Little did she know that a while meant the entire night to Kouga. He'd fallen asleep in her lap, and while she didn't want to disturb him, she left him there the whole night. And sleeping in an upright position and with a male wolf on your lap, was not something she was crazy about.

Unfortunately, she wasn't able to stay awake the whole time, and dozed off sometime in the early morning.

If that weren't bad enough, when she woke up, Kouga was nowhere in the den. She was pretty sure he hadn't wandered off somewhere dangerous, and frankly, she was just too tired to care. She figured that sooner or later he'd find his way back to them. More sooner than later, she hoped. When she found him gone, she went out to the river that bordered the cave.

The ground around her began to shake, but she had shut her eyes again, embracing morning warmth and gentle breeze. Her sense of smell had decreased due to her lack of concentration from no sleep, but she was sure she still regocnized--

Ayame felt her body being lifted into someone's arms; she was being carried like a little girl, like a princess. She feared opening her eyes because she was afraid to see her captor, but in the back of her mind, she knew he wouldn't harm her. Not like this.

Eyes still closed, she leaned over and wrapped her arms around his head, roughly running her fingers through his hair.

"Kouga," she murmered into his chest.

He answered her in quite the unexpected way, and her eyes snapped open out of reflex. For one fleeting second, while her eyes were open, she saw him, his eyes closed, his lips pressed to hers, and a bright shade of pink coloring his cheeks.

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Sorry, I went italic-happy in this chapter. I guess that just means I'm an emphasis-kinda person...either that or I'm just weird (I'll vote on the latter). Oh, and did you notice that every few lines, I started the sentence with "Ayame"? I need to work on that...

Well, tell me what you thought about this chapter. I personally, think Kouga's a bit OOC, but then once I thought about, he's supposed to act a little different.

Review! Please...?