Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha, nor do I make any profit from writing these stories.

A/N: This does contain spoilers for manga episode 474, Wounded Heart. It diverges from the manga a little bit at the end, and it is also in Inuyasha's POV. This is also edited, as this was my second story on this site, published Feb. 7th, 2009. It flows better now.



"I hadn't realized, that girl's soul... that girl's soul is even more wounded than yours, what a wonderful flavor!"

That was what that horrid youkai, Kaou, claimed, looking at Kagome with a sick, twisted sort of hunger in his face. That statement took something inside me and damaged it... nothing should have ever been allowed to wound her that way, she didn't deserve it.

But fate was not kind, to any of us, it seemed, and now here was that bastard looking at Kagome with a hideous sort of want in his expression. Rage flared inside me - I could not, could not handle him looking at her that way.

"And the cause of that girl's pain is..."

He was searching her soul! He had his filthy thoughts, his dirty hands on her soul... while I held her fragile body, he was touching what he had no business, no right to touch! But before I could say anything, fight this bastard, stop him, Kagome awoke.

"He went silent... so he knows, what I'm thinking right now. Then prepare yourself, Kaou!" she said, determination and anger running through her voice.

She pulled herself from my arms, and stood, pulling an arrow, she drew a bead on the beast, and looking like the warrior priestess she was, she released, the arrow lighting up the whole area. Her soul may have been wounded beyond all bearing, but even so, it still remained pure. Had anyone like Kagome ever existed?

And then, she pulled another arrow, and took her stance again, waiting to fire.

"You think its funny to peep into a person's heart and announce what they're thinking? Whatever it is that's wounding me, there's no unhappiness there for you to devour!"

And she released again, another arrow filled with the purity of her soul. I could only stare in wonder at her strength - where did it come from? I would have said once that she was merely human, but I have learned that there is no such thing as merely anything when it comes to Kagome.

As the arrow landed in a burst of light, I could see that Kaou was gone - but where? Had she hit him, or had he escaped? I had to know, I would never let that fucker hurt her, I needed to protect her from the unholy lust of such an unclean thing.

And suddenly, I knew. That bastard was going to come from behind her, and desperately, I drew Tessaiga, leaping towards her screaming... "Kagome, don't move!"

I jumped over her, unleashing all my hatred towards this demon that was daring to want her, that wanted to soil something so precious. Tessaiga gleamed as it cut through the body of Kaou, leaving Kagome safe, untouched by anything that could harm her.

"Kagome, are you all right?"I asked, needing to be sure, even though I could tell by scent that she wasn't injured physically, there was something in her scent, something, dark? and I was afraid of what that leech might have done to her...

"I'm fine, Inuyasha, but you, your injured," she brushed my concern away, more worried about me than herself... as always.

"Yeah. I was... unprepared - I saw a vision of Kikyou. She wanted me to go with her." I sounded tired, and I knew it, and I could see the effect it had on her... fear, sadness, and pain reflected in her gaze, and it was almost more than I could bear.

"Inuyasha... did you want to go?"

I couldn't answer this. Part of me did... but most of me didn't. I was still... conflicted. After all, it had only been a week since her death. It was difficult to know how I felt with any certainty. But I could not say these things - not to her.

So, I just side-stepped the question, answering her obliquely.

"Your voice brought me to my senses. I wasn't able to save Kikyou, and that pained me. But I wasn't able to say that it did. I thought it was something I had to bear on my own." I let my shoulders slump, then, too tired to worry about looking weak. "I was thinking only of myself, and your feelings were... I didn't realize that you were hurting as well. I'm sorry."

I could see that she knew that what I said was no kind of answer. And yet, in a round-about funny way, it was an answer... because it had always been her voice. It called me back from Kikyou, from illusions, even from my own uncontrollable youkai side. It was always Kagome's voice.

"It's okay. You've come back, after all. Kikyou is a subject that causes all of us pain. However, the one hurt most by it really was you. That's why it's okay."

How? How could she, after all that I've put her through, still be so strong? I did not, could not, understand her! Who is this woman, still so young, and yet so wise? Just how old is her soul, anyway? What had it seen, what had it been through, that she could say this to me? And then, when I asked her that, she started yelling at me, and even though what she said wasn't kind, as soon as she said it, I heard her say what she really meant to say, under her breath, and she probably didn't realize that I heard her.

"This isn't being strong, stupid! How can I be so kind, right?"

That part she knew I heard, but the next part, she muttered under her breath - she didn't want me to hear it.

"My heart has no strength left - how can you break something that's already broken? Since it's shattered, it can't get any worse, that's all."

At that, I stopped breathing. What have I done to her? I knew what she meant by that statement. Kikyou had held a piece of her soul for so long, that even though it had returned to her, it was still, in a way, separate - which left her literally broken.

How do I fix that?

The need to protect her is so strong within me, that I literally cannot control it - but how could I protect her from her heart? Or my own? The claim Kaou had made earlier - that I wanted to die so I could follow Kikyou... it wasn't so much that I wanted to die to be with her. I just wanted some peace. I wanted to stop hurting.

But that made me think. If Kagome is hurting even worse, then did that mean she too might crave death as a release from the pain? That thought shot agony through me; I could never allow that, not ever. And so I couldn't die either, not only would it be hypocritical, but if I died, then I couldn't protect her.

After all, nothing in my life had ever had any meaning. But this did - and I would never stop protecting her. I just wasn't capable of it. Everything would be all right now...

I would make sure of it... for her. For Kagome.