Disclaimer: All characters from Inuyasha are owned by Rumiko Takahashi, but this story belongs to me.

A Moments Hesitation

Chapter One: Feelings of Shame

"INUYASHA!"

White hot pain seared through her chest. Kagome looked down in horror to see the blade piercing her flesh, bright red blood staining the front of her white sailors shirt. It had only been a moment's hesitation, but that's all it took. The decision of if she should fight or run had been a moment too long, and it cost her.

"Where is your great protector now, little girl?" the demon hissed.

Wow, talk about adding a little salt to the wound. For a moment, that hurt just about as much as the sword sticking out of her chest. He had gone to Kikyo. And she had yelled at him for it and stormed away. Her last moments with him were of yelling, and she regretted it. She wished she had told him that she appreciated everything that he did for her, that she treasured their time together. That she loved him.

The demon changed his grip on the blade, digging it in further. Just before she closed her eyes she saw a flash of red and silver in the distance.

"Time to die."

She didn't even have the breath to scream.

"Kagome!"

Her body jerked as the pain shot through her body. Mouth open in a silent scream as the sword continued to rip through her flesh.

"Kagome!"

A hand grabbed her shoulder and she jerked away. Or tried to at least. The hand was made of steel, and her body was too tired and weak to fight any longer. She failed him. She failed Inuyasha with her weakness. And it shamed her to realize that she left him with the last memory of her was her 'sitting' him. Twice.

"Kagome! Wake up NOW!"

The miko blinked, aware that her eyes were closed. Looking up she saw a pair of golden eyes full of worry. And full of sorrow and guilt, and shame. He looked down where his hand was and drew it back like he had been burned. The scar. The strap of her night shirt had slipped, revealing the now healed scar. It repulsed him. It must. Every time he looked at it he cringed and shuddered, and could barely bring himself to look at her for the rest of the day.

"I'm sorry, Inuyasha," she said as she sat up.

Sorry for waking him up with her thrashing around. Sorry to be the cause of the guilt and shame when he looked at her. Sorry for being the weakest member of their group. Sorry for being a coward and still not telling him how she felt, even though she promised herself that she would if she ever got another chance. Sorry for failing him.

"It wasn't your fault, Inuyasha."

With a pained expression he looked over her shoulder, but he didn't speak. For a moment it looked like he might reach for her, but he clenched his hands into fists. She reached up to touch his face gently.

"Inuyasha... Inuyasha... I lov…"

"Don't. Please don't, Kagome."

She dropped her hand turned her head to the side so he wouldn't see the tears waiting to fall. It hurt him to have her around, and she couldn't stand hurting him anymore. Quickly she gathered up her belongings and stuffed everything into the bag.

"I think I should go home."

He didn't argue. He didn't fight. He simply nodded his head, even though it was still the middle of the night and she hadn't even bothered changing out of her pajamas. They didn't touch as they walked silently to the well.

It's all my fault, she mourned.

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It's all my fault, he mourned.

If I hadn't gone off and left her… and I promised to never leave her… She must hate me. What have I done? He kept his hands firmly tucked in his sleeves, gripping his arms in an effort not to reach out to her. To touch her. Just to make sure she was really alive.

What could he say to make this better? I'm sorry I left you to fend for yourself against a demon four times your size while I go just to see if Kikyo is okay? I'm sorry you almost died and are scarred for life because I felt guilty about a death that wasn't even really my fault? I'm sorry you almost had your heart and lungs sliced beyond repair because I'm selfish? I'm sorry you spent over a month in bed while your body tried to repair itself because I just HAD to have things my way? I'm sorry you have nightmares and are killed over again every night, reminding you just how badly I failed you? Yeah, those apologies would go over really well.

The well.

Inuyasha's ears drooped as he saw the well. She was leaving him. And she was never going to come back. Why should she? The jewel wasn't really her responsibility. And he certainly wouldn't expect her to keep her promise to stay by his side. Not after the attack. He couldn't ask that of her.

She was marked.

Each time he saw the scar over her heart he was reminded of what he had done. Rather, what he hadn't done. When she needed him most he wasn't there.

Everything. He had ruined everything with his selfishness. Kagome was his life, and now she was leaving him forever. He wasn't sure he would survive it. Already his chest hurt so bad he actually staggered.

If he asked her, she would stay. She loved him. Or she used to… before he let some nameless demon rip through her chest. He couldn't be forgiven for that even if he had torn it into shreds. And he couldn't ask her to. Her heart was too kind, and one day she would forgive him. But he lost the one thing that he treasured above all else in life, Kagome's heart. He was unworthy, and he knew it.

But he wouldn't be selfish this time. He would let her walk away. He'd let her have her life back. Her freedom.

"I'm going," she said to him in that gentle way she had.

His claws dug into his arms. He wouldn't touch her. He'd let her go. He wouldn't beg her to stay with him. If he touched her… he didn't think he'd have the strength to let her go. And he just couldn't bear to do that to her.

She sat the bag on the edge of the well and turned to face him. Her eyes were so sad. He put that sadness there. Maybe… maybe one day she would find happiness again. It would break him that she wouldn't find the happiness with him, but he had to do what was best for her.

He didn't mean to do it.

But he did.

He reached out and pulled her into his arms, holding her as tightly as he dared. Bending his head down, he breathed deeply, though unsteadily. Oh, how he would miss her scent. Her warmth. Her voice. How could he not have her with him anymore? How could he survive the torment his life had been before she came along? She was his home. She was where he belonged.

But he had ruined that.

Slowly he loosened his embrace and stepped back. He had to let her go. He took another step back and waited as she pulled herself over the wall of the well. Her smile was weak, but at least he got one last smile.

"Bye, Inuyasha."

And then she was gone.

The light faded and Inuyasha was alone. He walked over to the well and looked down into the yawning darkness. He felt hollow. Lost. What had he done?

"She's never coming back… is she, Inuyasha?"

"Go away, Shippo."

But the kit crawled up onto the well and looked down. "This is all your fault, idiot," the kit scolded. There was no anger in his voice. Only sorrow.

I know, Inuyasha agreed.

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Author's Note: This is part one of a three part story. Constructive criticism is appreciated, reviews are treasured, and flames are disregarded.