Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi. Not me.

Author's Notes: So, yes I am completely aware that the manga is done but this story is something that has been fermenting in my head since the days I have been writing Draco/Hermione smut. I figured I would just go ahead with it. This is, I suppose, my way of writing more about Kagome's growth (and subsequently the growth of her relationship with Inuyasha). I hope it would interest you as well.

Chapter One

He shouldn't have to feel so guilty about wanting to protect her. She just wasn't sure if by 'her' she meant herself or Kikyo.

Kagome wrinkled her eyebrows and her hands reached up to massage her temples. She had given up all pretense of wanting to study for her Math test for the next day. She stood up and grabbed the mug of hot cocoa that had grown lukewarm from her inattention. The fifteen year old walked towards the window to check on the hanyou who had been resting on top of the Goshinboku all afternoon.

Inuyasha had not left her side ever since the incident a week ago with Naraku's baby. She supposed she should be happy; any girl should be happy that the one they loved wanted to be with them all the time. But was that really it? She could still remember the look on his face after they had found her inside that abandoned hut. He was worried about her; she could feel that in her bones. But there was also the look of absolute punishing guilt that haunted her still. She didn't want that, she didn't want him to blame himself for whatever happened, and what may still happen, because it wasn't and would never be his fault.

Kagome unclasped the locks and slid up the bottom of her double hung windows.

"Inuyasha," she said softly, knowing that his demonic ears would catch her voice easily. "You hungry? I'm feeling rather peckish myself, I thought maybe we could have a snack together."

The hanyou immediately perked up at her offer. Nimble feet leaped from the tree to the window's ledged and he slipped inside her room. "You sure I'm not bothering you? I thought you needed to study."

Kagome crossed her arms over her chest, an impish smile forming on her lips. "Oh, so now you're worried about my study time?" she joshed. "I needed a break anyway, all those numbers were starting to look like gibberish."

Kagome grabbed him by the sleeve of his haori and dragged him downstairs. She told him to sit on the couch in front of the telly while she prepared two bowls of ramen for them. She carried the steaming bowls on a tray out to the living room after a couple of minutes. Inuyasha was sitting quietly on the sofa, his full attention on the television screening what appeared to be an infomercial for a magic mop that absorbs anything. Apparently it didn't matter what era you came from, Kagome was convinced infomercials were the work of the devil.

"I bet Kaede-baba could use a mop like that!" he said excitedly. "Sometimes I can hear her bones crack when she bends down to clean her floors."

Kagome sat down on the couch beside him and set the tray on the glass top of the coffee table. She handed him a spoon and bowl of ramen along with a gentle reminder not to make a mess. "I don't think it really works as well as they say it does."

He slurped up a string of noodles before speaking. "Of course it does! You can see it right there!"

She gave him an incredulous look. She wasn't really in the mood to explain the intricacies of dirty commerce and fraudulent advertising to him so she decided to talk about something else instead. "I'm going back tomorrow after school," she paused thoughtfully, "so if you want you can head back first, there really isn't anything much to do here."

Inuyasha lowered the bowl of ramen on his lap. "You don't want me here?" he said lowly. He always acted so tough in front of everyone else, but sometimes when it was just the two of them talking, his insecurities would seep out of his words. In the end, he was still just the boy who got repeatedly rejected by the world.

Kagome sighed and placed her bowl on the table in front of them. "That's not what I mean. I always want you around," she said sincerely as she reached out to squeeze his arm affectionately. "It's just that they might you need there."

She thought she was being subtle but he had always been more intuitive than he let on. "I promised I'd never leave your side again," he said resolutely.

"You will have to eventually. There are things that are far beyond our control," she answered.

"I'm staying here and that's that," he said with a tone that brooked no argument. He grabbed his bowl once more and began eating as if to tell her that was the end of that discussion.

Kagome followed suit. Sometimes he was too stubborn for his own good.

Inuyasha helped her up from the well, her yellow backpack already in his hand. Kagome had been in a pretty foul mood all day, she was quite certain she had bombed her Math test and then her history teacher decided it would be fun to whip out a pop quiz. She would probably have to repeat the year at this point.

Kagome dusted off the dirt on her green school skirt with her small hands. She was feeling a little scruffy since Inuyasha didn't even give her the time to lament about wanting a hot bath and just wordlessly dragged her towards the well. She hoped Sango would be feeling up to a trip to the hot springs.

"Hey, Inuyasha, I'm going to ask Sango to go for a dip before we start dinner. Is that alright with you?" she asked.

She had expected him to launch into his diatribe about her obsessive attention to her personal hygiene but he said nothing. She frowned and looked up at the hanyou only to discover that he was not paying any attention to her at all, his eyes fixed intently on a spot on the sky. She didn't have to look up to know of the presence of Kikyo's soul collectors, beckoning the hanyou to come to her. The wind swished around Kagome in all directions, as if it was trying to make her understand the confusion in Inuyasha's mind.

"You should go to her, it might be important," she said kindly, a wan smile on her face.

Her words seemed to have jolted him out of his trance. He shook his head vigorously as what she said sunk in. "I meant it when I said I'd never leave you unprotected."

Kagome rolled her eyes playfully. There were times when his single-minded determination can be so troublesome. "We're twenty feet away from the village. Sango and Miroku are here, I'm safe here." She didn't miss the fact that she couldn't even name herself as someone to count on to protect, well, herself.

Inuyasha's face twisted into this pained and desperate expression as if she had just bludgeoned him with a blunt axe. "Kagome, come on, I'm trying to do the right thing here."

She looked down at her feet, focusing on the ink stain on one of her penny loafers. "So am I," she said without much conviction. "You don't know when you're going to see her again. It could be weeks, it could be months. It would make you feel better if you at least know that she's fine."

Inuyasha began to protest but she impulsively clamped her hand over his mouth.

"How about this, you take me to Kaede's place. I'm sure everyone else is there. We're not going anywhere and I promise not to leave the hut, at all. That way you can be assured that I'll stay safe," she proposed quickly.

His thick eyebrows furrowed as he gently pried away her hand from his mouth so he could talk. "You're not going to be mad?" he asked worriedly.

A lump started on her throat when she heard his innocent question. She couldn't believe what she'd been doing all this time with her childish temper tantrums whenever he went off to see Kikyo. She made him feel bad for having compassion for someone else when she should've been proud of him.

Kagome shook her head and gave him a bright smile. "Of course not." He shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to protect her. Perhaps, she had meant both herself and Kikyo all this time.

Inuyasha finally let her convince him of that which he had guiltily desired. He held her softy, tiny hand in his large, rough ones and didn't let go until he had to.

Kagome was quietly sitting with Sango on a low bench just outside Kaede's hut. They were talking about the most mundane things like her secret penchant for cherry chapstick and her dilemma about investing in more appropriate shoes. She had been thinking about getting some sneakers since penny loafers start to hurt like a bitch after a mile or so of walking. She just kept forgetting about it. The discussion took longer than expected since she had to explain to Sango what cherry chapsticks and sneakers were.

They were interrupted by a commotion in one of the neighboring huts. It wasn't anything huge or worrisome; a young husband and wife appeared to be having some sort of domestic dispute regarding dinner. Kagome and Sango paid no heed to it until the wife ran out of the hut screaming and her husband soon followed her with what appeared to be a hunting knife in his hand.

Sango immediately sprung into action to aid the woman and Kagome followed her. The demon slayer, in her constrictive kimono intercepted the husband immediately. She grabbed him by his knife wielding hand and applied pressure on his wrist and used her other hand to push him to the ground. His fist flicked open and the knife went careening in the air.

Kagome was either the luckiest or the unluckiest girl in the world. The knife just had fly in her direction. Fortunately (or not, she couldn't make up her mind yet), it just grazed the outside of her left thigh leaving her with a shallow, bloodletting cut. Shallow or not, it still stung.

"Are you okay?" Sango asked immediately after she had subdued the murderous husband. She punched him twice more in the face because, well, he deserved it.

Kagome bent down to pick up the offending weapon that had landed at her feet. It looked awfully rusty and she wondered for a second if she'd have to get a tetanus shot. "It's just a scratch, no biggie."

At this time most of the village men had been roused from their sleep and had come out of their own homes. They had taken the man from Sango's hands after his wife had told them of what happened. She profusely thanked Sango for her help and offered her the family's month long supply of rice. Sango gracefully declined.

"That doesn't look too good, Kagome-chan," Sango said after inspecting the wound. At this point the blood had flowed out and stained down to her knees.

"It just looks messy right now but it isn't so bad," Kagome assured her.

"Let's get you inside and have that cleaned," the demon slayer suggested.

Inuyasha leapt from tree to tree, his heart pounding against his chest. Kikyo had informed him that there appeared to be some strange movement in the South where unidentified graves seemed to have been unearthed and she suspected that it was Naraku's doing. But that was the last thing on his mind right now. He wasn't sure if it was lingering paranoia and guilt or if he had really developed some Kagome-in-danger detector because his gut told him something bad had happened to her. His face steeled into a grim scowl, hating himself for leaving her alone again and resenting Kikyo just a bit for setting up meeting places in the middle of nowhere. Kaede's village wasn't that out of the way, why couldn't she just go there?

He finally sighted the rows of straw roofs and landed deftly on top of the one hut he had somewhat considered a home. He bit the inside of his cheeks as the unmistakable scent of Kagome's blood reached his nose. He leapt inside through the window only to find Kagome sitting against the back wall of the hut. He didn't notice that she appeared to be in good spirits and was chuckling softly at something Miroku had said. All he saw was the thick, white bandage wrapped around her left thigh.

"Kagome, you're hurt," he blurted out.

Kagome looked to the returning hanyou and her face lit up with a smile. "Inuyasha," she greeted happily but then noticed the frown on his face as his eyes focused on her legs. She looked down and was suddenly reminded of her slight injury. "You know there's a really funny story behind this," she joshed.

He paid no heed to her words as he knelt down before her, his eyes downcast. "Tell me who hurt you."

Miroku, who had more sense than he let on, knew that a private moment was coming soon and immediately said, "Sango, my beloved, why don't we accompany Kaede-sama. She might need assistance in calming that poor, distraught woman, my sweet."

Sango slapped him.

"I've come to take your slaps as passionate yeses," he said, unfettered.

Sango rolled her eyes but got up anyway. Miroku followed her outside the hut. They decided to leave Shippo, who was curled up like a little fur ball in one corner of the hut. The kit was dead to the world anyhow.

Kagome looked back at Inuyasha after their two friends made their leave. "No one hurt me. Well, not intentionally, anyway," she said. She proceeded to tell him what happened with the feuding husband and wife and the subsequent knife chase.

Inuyasha listened with rapt attention but seemed to have completely lost the point she was trying to make. He caressed the bandage on her thigh, a move that was not in any way perverted. "I should've been here."

She didn't want him to feel bad, really, she didn't but it warmed her heart seeing how much he worried about her. "It's not your fault, Inuyasha. If anything, it was that man's fault because one, he shouldn't be treating his wife like that and two he really shouldn't be running around with a sharp object, that's just dangerous." Two sounded a bit silly in hindsight but she refused to admit it.

"It's my fault, if I hadn't left you, you wouldn't be hurt," he insisted.

Kagome blew her fringe out of her eyes and threw her hands up in slight frustration. "It's just a scratch, I'm not going to drop dead."

That seemed to be the wrong thing to say as the hanyou turned positively green and Kagome was half worried he was going to throw up on her. "I won't ever let that happen!"

Her lips quirked into a soft moue at hearing the fervor of his words. She couldn't stop herself from throwing her arms around her best friend and encasing him in a tight embrace. The hanyou balked a bit at the unexpected affection before finally giving in to her welcome warmth and wrapping his arms tentatively around her, a hand around her waist and another stroking her hair.

"I'm not going to die on you, okay?" she whispered.

"You better not," he answered.

The truth of the matter was, Kagome felt wretched. But not one bit at Inuyasha. She felt wretched about herself. Here she was, fighting demons on a daily basis with her friends and yet she still couldn't defend herself from a stray flying knife. How pathetic was that? All this time spent in the feudal era and she was still as weak and helpless as when she had first come here.

'It's because I always depend on Inuyasha to protect me,' she thought to herself. 'I don't want him to feel responsible every time I get hurt.'

Kagome knew that he had promised to protect her always, but also knew of his other promise to keep Naraku from getting to Kikyo. It was impossible to keep one without failing the other, it seemed. And she knew whichever happened that it would hurt the hanyou gravely. The world had always been unkind to him and all she wanted was to help him carry his burdens. Because she loved him, and even in her tender age she still understood that that's what love meant. And so she hugged the hanyou tightly as he lulled her to sleep. Before her eyes fluttered close to a tender sleep, she promised to herself that she would do everything to keep him from hurting.

To be continued…

Next chapter: Kagome plots, Sesshomaru loses part of his pelt and becomes my stand-in for Draco (kidding, maybe), Inuyasha gapes, Kikyo is not a bitch.

Thank you for your time and please tell me what you think :)