Disclaimer: Don't own Inuyasha or the song "The First Cut Is The Deepest" By Sheryl Crow

All That Matters

She watched, tears streaming from her big eyes, as he walked away, and never looked back. She watched, until she could no longer see him, until she could no longer stand still. Flight filled her blood, her being, urging her forward, telling her to run away from the pain.

The sun shone brightly above her, a dazzling façade, tormenting her, teasing her…Her eyes were wide with panic, panic to be free from him, from the pain. But it chased her ruthlessly, pushing her down once more. She stumbled to her knees, but was up again quickly, her feet sinking into the soft soil.

Stupid, stupid. How many times do I have to go through this before I finally get the hint? How many times will I come crawling back like a kicked puppy, waiting for the next blow?

Her hair whipped behind her, a beautifully long curtain of black, branches and thorns pulled relentlessly. Distantly, she knew she should turn toward home, the well, as she had so many other times, but her feet carried her farther and farther away from salvation, and closer and closer towards unfamiliar ground.

Her legs trembled and finally collapsed beneath her, bringing her down harshly, tearing at her skin and flimsy clothes. She sank to her knees bonelessly, leaning against a big pine, her breathing labored.

Her eyes slid closed as she tried to block the memories, the truth…

His eyes, so saddened, yet relieved that she finally understood.

His handsome face, blank, detached as if he were flicking away a fly from his shirt. She was nothing more than a fly…

Tears fell unchecked from her tormented eyes as she battled the words that kept circling in her head, over and over again…

I would have given you all of my heart
But there's someone who's torn it apart
And he's taken just all that I have
But if you want I'll try to love again
Baby, I'll try to love again, but I know...

Her scent, so enticing…seducing him…begging him to chase. His eyes narrowed as he pin pointed the location that her scent was coming from, so alluring. His feet had a mind of their own as they turned him toward her direction.

His handsome face was set in a cocky smirk, small fangs glinting in the sunlight, adding a boyish look to his roguish features. His heart pounded, almost nervously, as he thought about seeing her again, touching her again. His eyes lost their coldness and gained the warmth that was always with him when he was near her, his love, his life…

She was slipping…slipping into her mind, away from the pain. Oh, the betrayal. He didn't love her, never had. She had been too dense, too star-struck to see it for what it really was, necessity. He only protected her because he needed her abilities, he only put up with her because he needed her to point him in the right direction.

How many times had she told herself that his cold, rough ways was only a way to protect himself from others, that he really did care for her? How stupid she had been. The others had looked at her with pity and pleading, pleading her to see him for the stoic, heartless man he was, to escape while she could with her heart whole. But she had ignored them, and paid the price for it.

The first cut is the deepest
Baby I know
The first cut is the deepest

But when it comes to bein' lucky, he's cursed
When it comes to lovin' me, he's worst...

The wind whipped around her prone body, her hair kissed her pale, wet cheeks as she opened her eyes weakly, hoping beyond hope it was only a breeze and not what she thought it was. But there he was, standing tall and proud, until he saw her. Then his smirk fell from his face to be replaced by concern. He reached her in quick strides, kneeling next to her to look her over.

"Kagome, are you okay? Did something happen?"

No, she wasn't okay, wouldn't be for a while, but she offered him a small smile for his efforts.

I still want you by my side
Just to help me dry the tears that I've cried
And I'm sure gonna give you a try
If you want I'll try to love again, (try)
Baby, I'll try to love again, but I know...

She shook her head at him, making his eyes harden.

"Did that mutt do this to you? Where is he anyway?" he growled, but his hand was gentle as it traced her cheek, wiping the tears from them.

She only stared at the ground, her eyes distant, ancient. His growl of anger had her looking up as he glared past her to the other side of the clearing. Her power crackled as she felt him there. The man that had walked away. Her eyes lost their pain, lost any emotion to become dull and almost lifeless. She was dead to him, just as he was to her.

She turned her head slowly, praying that it was someone else, anyone else, but Kouga's next words broke her illusions.

"What have you done to Kagome, dog breath? Why was she alone?"

Finally her eyes landed on his red form, standing stiffly, his eyes on her. But she refused to yield to the regret she saw in them, the plea. He hadn't listened to her pleas as he'd walked away, hadn't looked back as she begged him not to leave her.

The first cut is the deepest
Baby I know
The first cut is the deepest
But when it comes to bein' lucky, he's cursed
But when it comes to lovin' me, he's worst...

"Kagome," his deep voice whispered to her, making her flinch. Kouga saw her cringe away from the sound and his growl deepened, even as the hand holding her cheek gentled, stroking soothingly.

"Did he hurt you?" Kouga asked in a quiet tone only Kagome could hear. She turned to look at him, relieved she didn't have to look at his face anymore and the false sincerity in them. He saw the weariness in her chocolate eyes as she looked at him, and knew. He made a move to stand, but stopped when he felt her small, soft hand cup his wrist, holding him to her. Her eyes pleaded with him.

"Please," her voice shook. "Don't go. I can't…" she chocked on her words, tears filling her eyes once more. "Don't leave me with him…Please, Kouga."

I still want you by my side
Just to help me dry the tears that I've cried
But I'm sure gonna give you a try
Cuz if you want I'll try to love again
(Try to love again, try to love again)
Baby, I'll try to love again but I know, Oh...

His eyes softened as he placed his forehead against hers. Kagome closed her eyes as she savored the warmth under her fingertips, and the warmth in his eyes, warmth she would never see in golden eyes.

"Please," she whispered again, her voice stronger. She opened her eyes. "I need you."

Those words, those three words, had more effect on him than any threat ever issued, were more powerful than any attack ever thrown at him.

"Kagome. I'll always be here for you." He looked up at the man across from them, his muscles tensing. Then he looked down at her. "All you have to do is say the words, and you'll never see him again."

Kagome's eyes widened as she thought about never seeing Inuyasha again. Never hearing his voice again; never seeing the disappointment in his eyes when she missed a shot; never having to put on a bright face for her friends when he threw insults at her and broke her heart once more.

Kouga held his breath, hoping for the best, but expecting her quick refusal. Why would she want to be with him when she didn't love him; when she loved the man that now stood across from them, asking for her once more?

Suddenly, her face brightened with a smile, making Kouga's heart stop. He grinned in reaction. So much relief and joy was in that one smile, it lifted his heart to the heavens. She turned to him and threw her arms around his muscular neck. Just as suddenly as the smile had appeared, tears quickly replaced it.

She sobbed against his shoulder as he wrapped his strong arms around her shaking form, glaring a promise of death at the shattered expression on Inuyasha's face.

"Thank you. Oh, God, thank you, Kouga."

The first cut is the deepest
Baby I know
The first cut is the deepest
When it comes to bein' lucky, he's cursed
When it comes to lovin' me, he's worst

"All you have to do is say the words, Kagome. Just say the words."

Kagome paused sniffling, and pulled back to looked at him and frame his face.

"Take me away Kouga. Take me away from here, far, far away."

He grinned and crushed his lips against hers. A small laugh bubbled up in her throat as she tightened her arms around his neck and returned the kiss with all she was, all she had left. On the other side of the clearing, Inuyasha made a wounded sound as he watched Kagome kiss Kouga back and laugh. She had never laugh like that with him, with so much joy, so much relief.

Kouga swept her up in his arms, his mouth still against hers until he pulled back to grin down at her, then wink at Inuyasha. Then he was gone, Kagome in his arms.

As she was carried away from everything she knew towards the future, she turned her face up at the sunlight and let out a full-hearted laugh. She reached up with her arms toward the sky and laughed again. She felt free, finally free…

Oh, the first cut is the deepest
Baby I know (baby I know)
The first cut is the deepest
Try to love again...

She looked up at the man who had taken it all away, her savior, her heart, and framed his face, making his eyes meet hers. Hers solemn, his full of a future of love.

"You'll never regret this," she whispered, looking at him closely. "You'll never wish you hadn't. I'll make you happy."

He grinned. "Too late. I already am happy. You're with me. That's all that matters."

"Kouga! Kouga, wake up!"

With a start, he shot to his feet, eyes wide. Ginta and Hakkaku looked at each other in confused concern.

He felt his heart drop to his feet as he realized it had all been a dream. His lips still tingled from the press of Kagome's, his arms still felt the weight of her body.

His hands fisted as his eyes fell to the stone at his feet, his bangs shading his eyes.

It had all been a dream. Kagome isn't mine. She will never be mine.

"Kouga?" Ginta asked timidly. They had never seen Kouga this shaken before and it scared them more then they could say.

With a rough shake of his head, he pushed the dream aside, along with the grief.

"What?" his voice was rough and harsh. Taking a slight step back, Ginta looked to Hakkaku for assistance.

"Inuyasha and Kagome are here. Kagome says it's urgent."

At the mention of her name, his eyes flashed with an unnamed emotion and before either of them could speak, he was gone, a cloud of dust in his wake.

Kagome frowned at Inuyasha as he grumbled something about the 'stench of wolf' in the cave and chose to ignore him. She heard the sound of running feet headed toward her and her face brightened as a figure skidded to a stop in front of her. But instead of grabbing her hands and giving her his trade mark grin, Kouga stood a foot from her. Her eyes widened and her smile fell with concern. His eyes were dark and haunted.

She took a step forward and it was she who took hold of his hands. He started at the feel of her soft skin and closed his eyes on a wave of longing.

"Kouga? Are you okay?"

Surprisingly for once, Inuyasha didn't utter a sound and simply looked away from the couple, a frown pinching at his lips.

"I…" his voice trailed off as his eyes opened. Her eyes were bright with concern and her thumbs were subconsciously rubbing circles on his hands. A wry smile twisted his lips at their reversed roles. "I'll be fine." A wave of determination had him straightening and a smile finding its way onto his face. "Yeah, I'll be just fine."

Her answer smile was beautiful and full of something he couldn't quite place.

"Good…I'm glad." A small blush covered her cheeks as she pulled her hands from his and looked away from his sparkling eyes.

Maybe I do have a chance…maybe…

For those of you have have read my story before, then I hope you liked the alternate ending, I decided to make it a little open, so who knows, I just might keep it going... Anyway thanks for reading!