Disclaimer: This chapter is largely based on Rumiko Takahashi's Affections touching across Time! Also, there is a quote from Breaking Dawn embedded in the chapter- I shall admit that when I wrote that scene, the first thing that popped into my head was that- I felt that I just had to add it. But the judges are still out for whether that was a good decision... ^^

Hi all, thanks for sticking with Protected Pain til the very end. Millions of thank yous to all who have reviewed, added the story to alerts or favourites, etc. (*bows*)
This will be the final chapter of Protected Pain, no epilogue or anything. I hope everyone is satisfied with my work in this chapter (largely based on the first movie, but I have changed several parts, especially the end)- if you are not, do tell me, and perhaps I could do some touchup or edit it in the future. Thank you all. Now, chapter 20!

Chapter 20: Affections Touching Across Time


When Inuyasha found Kagome by Goshinkobu, it was not after Kikyo he chased, but Kagome. After getting pissed off with Inuyasha, Kagome had set off in disgruntlement towards the well, but strayed towards the sacred tree instead.

The tree seemed to hold much importance. Memories.

But not all were happy.

She pricked her finger against something embedded in the trunk as she trailed her fingers around the tree, trying to remember what was sorrowful about this place.

But she hadn't much time to wonder. Menomaru appeared a moment later, and both she and Inuyasha were in danger. Soon after, she passed out.

There was little time to ponder anything; first, she had to fight her captors. Next, she had to escape for her life when Menomaru went after Inuyasha's neck- when Menomaru began the inheritance process and no one in the area was safe. Least of whom, the gang. They were thrown in all directions by the force of the attack directed at Inuyasha, there was no point in trying to find the others.

Weakened and terribly battered, Kagome had barely hidden from the onslaught of moths heading to Kaede's village. With the last of her strength, Kagome carried the unconscious Shippo back to the village for help.

As the blackness of her eyes closed in on her, Kagome was overcome by a sense of worry. It clutched at her heart and twisted her stomach.

Worry… for Inuyasha.


Inuyasha's eyes opened to sunlight. Myoga was still hanging from a string to his beads of subjugation, and was nagging for him to flee. He barely heard it though. His eyes swept his surroundings carefully.

No Kagome.

As Inuyasha cringed at the jolt of pain from his wounds- sharper than he'd felt it in a long while- Menomaru's words drifted into his mind.

"I've planned an exciting way to end your life."

Inuyasha swallowed. If anything happened to Kagome…

"We will need to leave for the west and train for 200 years like he did, before we have a chance of beating him!"

That he registered, and his body reacted with a growl. Was it his youkai blood or human heart that rebelled against the idea of flight? He was no coward- he would never back away. He could fight, even if he couldn't win.

A burst of rage coursed through him, as he thought of how Tessaiga had been manipulated to work for Menomaru. That he'd never take standing down. No way the bastard was going to wreck havoc in the world even indirectly caused by himself.

But the thought that was harder to stand was 200 years. Kagome would be dead by then.

He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.

Inuyasha flung Myoga from him, his mind made up.


Kagome twisted uncomfortably on the mat, her head drenched in perspiration. A high shrill rang in her ears, and her forehead was splitting. Her stomach turned as she threatened to throw up.

It hurt so much she couldn't think. Why couldn't she just fall asleep? No. If she slept, she would succumb…

A fire began burning across her temples and she groaned.

"Water…"

As Kaede went to fetch water, Kagome's eyes burned in their sockets. Kagome tried to lift her hand to clutch at her forehead- but her hands were immobile. Summoning all her energy, Kagome attempted to push the crushing force away from her head.

It failed. An invisible weight crashed through her, stunning her.

Suddenly, the pain muted.

It was an eerie feeling, as Kagome felt her body move. The limbs that refused to obey her seconds before moved by themselves. Queer- she could barely feel the rest of her body. As if it had been numbed for too long. In fact, the only place she was was in her head; a tiny corner in her head, one that had no voice of itself.

Her body moved towards Kaede, and Kagome registered in horror Kaede's panicked eyes, and the scent of blood as Kaede fell. She screamed in her head, screamed for Kaede to run, screamed for her body to stop, but her body didn't yield.

She felt her body continue floating, as her heart clenched in fear. It brought her some place foreign to her, and Kagome briefly wondered while battling for control whether she was heading for Menomaru.

But it wasn't to be.

Someone very familiar stood on the other side of the hanging bridge.

Inuyasha.

Dread rose like bile to her throat, suffocating her. An image of what happened to Kaede forced itself to her eyes. Suddenly, she realized what had been staring at her for a long while.

Inuyasha was going to die by her hand.

Kagome battered for control as a sob stuck in her throat. Inuyasha was walking towards her, concern etching in every line of his face. His demeanour spelt relief, as he spoke words that she couldn't clearly hear. She screamed for him to run, to go.

He couldn't hear.

An icy cold compressed tightly onto her heart, and Kagome was suddenly aware of the locket by her chest. It was almost pulsating at the same time as her heart. The pain that was so numbed by the body which she had no control of screamed out from the locket.

From plain dread and worry, it exploded into a full-scale physical pain- the locket awakened her heart, keening together, where none could hear but herself.

Her heart came back. The one which had shattered many times over, the one which belonged wholly to Inuyasha.

Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

Her body pressed against Inuyasha's gently, earning a surprised expression from the hanyou. Then his face changed to that of peace, of affection, deaf to Kagome's pleas.

The locket pulsed again, hard, as a surge of memories returned.

She saw it now, memories that were sealed within the locket. The love which overflowed from the small golden heart- her love for Inuyasha, their love… It engulfed her.

The places she was touching Inuyasha began to burn.

She loved the hanyou before her. So much, so much.

But her body would kill him.

"Run… Inuyasha…"

Iron claw-like extensions protruded from her fingers and cut through Inuyasha's flesh. Blood spurted- Kagome's body screamed as Inuyasha crumbled. It felt as if her body was torn too, watching as the one true love of her life fall under her hands.

But her body continued the onslaught, unwavering, flawless as polished armour.

Inuyasha backed away over and over again, barely ducking quickly enough to escape her attacks.

Why didn't he run-!

Another memory floated back to her.

Hadn't she done the same?

In Kaguya's castle, while Inuyasha was being controlled. Under the risk of being torn into pieces, hadn't she run up to him? Hadn't she stayed beside him? Hadn't she endured the pain he unknowingly inflicted, in a bid to rewaken the human in him?

Kagome's eyes moistened as Inuyasha ducked over and over again.

Memories continued attacking her mind.

Barely suppressed jealousy when Inuyasha chose Kikyo over and over again- how she wished she could either be free of her love for him, or that Inuyasha would choose once and for all- let the pain come, once and for all. She just had to know if he cared in the least…

The twisting pain when Inuyasha left for Kikyo.

Hadn't he felt her kiss? Hadn't he felt her overflowing emotions? Or had she made it all up in her mind? All along, Inuyasha only saw her as Kikyo's… substitute?

And when Kikyo died, all Inuyasha could think of over and over again was Kikyo. She had tried to respect his grief, to give him his space, but that agonizing pain when her heart had overflowed with affection. Inuyasha had flung her from him… When all she needed was to know he was safe…

She cried.

But it was meaningless now. So what if Inuyasha had been safe from Goshinki then?

The threat was her now.


The bridge fell, and before Inuyasha decided whether he could reach Kagome to save her, he was pulled towards the river below. With a grimace, he watched Kagome's body hang in mid-air. If there was one thing he needed to thank Menomaru, it'd be keeping Kagome safe as he used her as his puppet.

The situation wasn't that gloomy yet- if Menomaru had killed Kagome to get to him…

Inuyasha hopped onto a rock, but the impact made his numerous wounds hurt. Wincing, he leapt away nimbly as Kagome soared towards him, continuing the onslaught.

Perhaps this was some form of punishment for him, Inuyasha decided. He was getting what he deserved for hurting Kagome so deeply before. Inuyasha grimaced again as he felt his healing wounds split open again. It was okay, if that was the case. Anyway, he shouldn't be allowed the prize so early. It wouldn't be fair if he'd hurt Kagome so many times before, yet she simply forgives him…

He ducked as Kagome attacked him again.

He was bleeding too quickly to heal himself- the youkai attacks through Kagome's body were taking their toll on him. Of course he'd had worse- but this time, he couldn't fight back. This time, all he could do was hope to get Kagome out of the trance, all he could do was run. His hands were pinned.

That slimy bastard Menomaru didn't even bother to fight him face to face. Underhanded worm!

He was near Goshinkobu again, and this time, he took the attack full on.

With a soft "ugh!" he fell against the sacred tree, his head spinning, his breath short.

Someone in red approached.

His eyes were blurry, and his mind supplied an image of Kikyo with her bow, sealing him here fifty years past.

He blinked.

No, this was Kagome.

He exhaled a small sigh.

A bow materialized in mid-air, and Kagome's arrow was drawn.

… There was nowhere to run, was there?

Inuyasha stared at the girl before him. Perhaps this was his retribution for making her cry those countless of times. She'd never complained once, had she? Never before had she retaliated; over and over again, she'd been there when he needed her, but when had he ever comforted her when she needed it?

Yet, even now, she was trying to protect him.

Inuyasha watched as Kagome's bow fell to the ground. She spasmed and shuddered, as her body haltingly reached for her weapons. He heard her as she asked him to run. She could not control her body.

But run? Was there a point in drawing this out?

He thought he'd had a chance, but he was wrong. Just like he couldn't raise a finger to hurt Kikyo, he couldn't hurt Kagome to save his own life. The pain that he would voluntarily inflict on himself many times over, he couldn't use a thousandth to hurt Kagome.

You could run from someone you feared, you could rty to fight someone you hated. When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it?

If it was someone you truly loved?

"Stop asking me to run! I'm not leaving without you."

Kagome's shivers ceased, and she wielded the weapons in her practiced fingers once again. But her chocolate brown eyes swam in tears, and pain etched in every muscle.

Being manipulated must hurt greatly. But she shouldn't have to feel pain because of him again… Not after he'd broken her heart so many times.

If the only way to free her was his death… why not? At least he'd know that Kagome still lived.

I love you, Kagome.

The arrow soared towards him, and Kagome cried his name. As the arrow embedded within his heart, Inuyasha saw a bright pink glow burst from Kagome- and simultaneously, something chipped off from her forehead. Was the light Kagome's purifying energy? It felt warm…

Darkness.


Koga's tears began to fall uncontrollably. Turning hastily from Ginta and Hakkaku, he slunk away into the woods, away from the prying eyes of other wolves.

His breath shuddered, and his heart spasmed. The tears trailed down his cheeks in a shiny line, but Koga made no attempt to brush it off.

So this was the feeling of rejection, losing everything…

He knew that the seal was broken. Of course it was. He got the same sensation when the seal was created, and now that the seal was broken, it returned full blast at him.

All his love for Kagome assaulted his heart like razors. It hurt him even to think of Kagome… Her beautiful smiles, her eyes… all…

The tears flowed even more mercilessly, but Koga didn't stem their flood.

He knew that this was the last time he'd shed tears over Kagome again.

From now, Kagome would be happy. He'd wish her joy.

The love would never truly fade, that he was sure. But the next time he was her, he'd be smiling. Who cares, eventually, what his heart wanted? He didn't.

As long as Kagome was in a better place.


Kagome slowly opened the door to the well house. It was snowing, the entire scene before her white with snow. Her heart was heavy, her footsteps were slow. Her mind was weighed down with newly recovered memories.

She was home. Somewhere… without Inuyasha.

Kaede had found her on her knees before Inuyasha's limp body, her eyes frozen in horror and her face ashen pale. She couldn't raise her hand to heal Inuyasha, nor could she speak a single word. Her head buzzed, and her vision went blurry at times. She saw, but nothing registered. She supposed Kaede must have led her to the well. Now, the suffocating blanket on her mind began to lift. The memories suffused her mind. Her heart keened and tore into pieces.

Her feet led the way to the sacred tree.

Kagome pulled the locket from her neck and stared at it. It was finally open.

It was this locket that protected Inuyasha at Kaguya's castle. It was the locket which Koga used to shield her from pain… It was here that Inuyasha threw it onto the ground.

Kagome's heart ached thinking about it.

It was as if a great jolt of lightning coursed through her body when she looked up.

Inuyasha…?

No, that was just her imagination.

She'd never see Inuyasha again. She'd never hold Inuyasha again.

Never again feel his hand on her, his arms around her, his lips against hers… She'll never lose herself in his eyes again.

She shuddered as a great wave of grief overwhelmed her. She fell into the snow gathering on the ground, weak…


It was a strange sensation in his chest, as Inuyasha's mind cleared. His body didn't seem to hurt anymore.

His ears twitched a little as he sensed a familiar body nearby.

Kagome's.

Her presence was so close, so imposing on his heart… Though he couldn't sniff her out, he realized that.

"Inuyasha…"

His eyes snapped open to see Kagome curled into a ball nearby. She was shaking.

Kagome.

He got up slowly, edging forward until he was on his knees before her. His foot came into something golden. The locket. Inuyasha stared at Kagome, as his body filled with adrenaline.

"Hey."

Kagome looked up and her eyes widened.

"Inuyasha?"

"Of course," he murmured, leaning in to look into her eyes. Kagome blushed and leaned a little backwards. His ears fell.

"Ka-"

"I'm sorry for firing at you," Kagome said. "Does it still hurt?"

Inuyasha shook his head as he sat beside Kagome. For a moment, silence reigned. Kagome fidgeted uneasily.

"You don't have to stay here against your will, Inuyasha-"

"Haven't you regained your memories?"

"Precisely because of that. Stop staying because Kikyo wanted you to-"

Inuyasha's heart soared, and in a swift action, he cupped Kagome's face in his hands and tilted her face to his. He could feel his heart racing as he watched Kagome's cheeks flush crimson.

"What if I'm staying for you? Kagome, and no one else?" he asked, his voice rough. Kagome's eyes widened, but before she could say anything, Inuyasha pressed his lips against hers.

He could feel his blood burning up, his heart threatening to pound right through his chest.

"I need you here with me, Kagome. Haven't you realized that yet?"

Kagome trembled beneath his touch, and clung tightly to him. Inuyasha wrapped his arms gently around her until she stopped shaking.

"I get to stay with you forever?"

"Forever."

Kagome broke into a weak smile, and kissed him back.

Inuyasha could see the shadow of pain beneath her brown eyes still, when he helped her out of the well. There was so much hurt he brought to her, she'd never be the same again. He could still see a bit of hesitation in her as she accepted the hand he extended.

Of course she would- having convinced herself and been convinced that the woman he loved was Kikyo.

He squeezed her hand affectionately.

But with all his heart, he loved her. He'll prove it to her. Starting now… ending when his last breath was taken.

"I love you, Kagome."


The end! Thanks for reading, and please review!... Love you all. ^^