Kouga had hunted for a bit before finding a rather large snake which he quickly dispatched by neatly slicing through its' neck and proceeded to skin it with his sword. It's about time I used this thing for something… he grumbled to himself. Walking to the river, he filled the kettle with water and washed the serpent of any offending liquids. He knew Kagome - despite her many battles with demons, ogres, and specters - had a weak stomach when it came to things she would eventually have to put in her mouth. His signature wolfish grin spread across his face as he allowed his mind to play on his own words. Shaking it off, he gathered his things and headed back to camp.

Kagome had no trouble starting the fire tonight. The remnants of firewood from their previous stay in the makeshift fort were still there, providing the base for the fire. After the flames began to consume the wood, Kagome set about to find more fodder for the small fire that was their kitchen and hearth. She gathered branches that had fallen, and tossed a few into the hungry, lapping, orange licks that reached for their meal. She set the rest aside, and began to prepare her bed - their bed - even though she still had to eat and bathe. She had barely straightened herself when she saw Kouga over the boulders, walking towards her.

"I know it's not your favorite, but I thought you might like something different," Kouga said sheepishly.

Kagome smiled at his attempt to be sweet. "It's ok. I'm glad you got something different. I don't mind snake. I've had to eat it before. Do you know how to prepare it?"

"It's really like anything else. Fish, rabbit, boar… only the poisonous ones are prepared differently. But this one wasn't dangerous," he said, examining the serpent as he spoke.

They set into their routine, Kouga cooking the snake as Kagome prepared for her bath, collecting the items she needed.

"Can I watch?" she heard behind her.

She turned to face him, a scowl on her face. "I don't think so," she told him menacingly, her features lightening when he pouted at her dismissal.

He could tell she was exhausted. Not only had she become a woman today, but there had been so much drama, as well as action. The wolf-demon felt as if he were a character in a book. Heh… what a lousy story. A Yourouzoku and miko, along with a dog hanyou, taijiya, houshi, kitsune, and firecat, all fighting a sinister force, and searching for pieces of a jewel. What a lousy novel that would make! he thought amusingly. He chuckled out loud, surprising himself.

"What's so funny?" the priestess asked.

"Oh, it's nothing. I was just thinking of something stupid. You wouldn't believe me if I told you…"

Kagome just shrugged, climbed over the rocks, and proceeded to strip. Despite her strong warning, Kouga sat atop the boulders, watching as she removed her clothing to bathe in the river. He studied her as she lathered herself, then applied some of that sweet-smelling stuff to her hair he loved. What had she called it? Champloo? Shamu? Sham… poo? Yes, I think that was it. I think she called it shampoo. He liked the way his own hair felt with it, and decided to join her in the river. He removed his armor and stepped in behind Kagome. She blushed, but not as badly as she used to. Although she had sternly warned him not to watch, she hadn't told him he couldn't join. Stupid loopholes. She stepped backwards, resting against his bare chest. She could tell that he had not been expecting that, and she closed her eyes, smiled, and sighed. Once he regained himself, Kouga wrapped his arms around her stomach, holding her tightly, as if she were going to fly away if let go.

"Oof!" she said, squinting.

"Sorry," he chuckled. "I just wish we could…" He paused, and Kagome looked up at him. "...tada kono mama.*"

"Mmm… yes. It would be nice. But then, who would save your tribe?"

He looked into her eyes, and they looked so soft yet so determined at the same time. Kouga nodded, loosening his grip slightly. Suddenly, Kagome broke from his grip and dove into the water. Alarmed at first, Kouga stood where he was. After a few moments, he dove after her, seeking her bare body. Kagome broke the surface, gasping for air. She barely caught her breath before Kouga popped up behind her, playfully grabbing her and swishing her around. They laughed and splashed, and finally went back to the bank where she showed the wolf prince how to shampoo his hair, at his request. After he rinsed, Kagome touched his hair; she liked it so much better down, and he looked damn sexy when it was all wet, draped over his shoulders. She continued to admire him, and she could have sworn she saw him blush slightly. She found it silly, because it was she who was exposed.

Kouga, with his sharp sense of smell, could instantly tell that he needed to get their food off the fire or it would burn, so he jumped out of the river and over the rocks. Kagome used this time to finish her bath, rinsing and drying off. Now that she was clean, she could enjoy the rest of the night. Back in her favorite pajamas, Kagome settled next to the demon. He served, and they ate quietly.

With their hungers satisfied, they cleaned the area. Kagome yawned, and Kouga watched her with interest. He had wanted to be with her again, but if she was tired, he wanted her to sleep. When they were finished with all their tasks, the wolf demon scooped Kagome up, carrying her to the sleeping bag. He laid her down gently, letting her slip inside. Once settled, she patted the area next to her, and Kouga sat. They both stared at the sky for a while, until Kagome placed her head on Kouga's still-bare shoulder. He kissed the top of her head, her hair still wet. Then she suddenly lifted her head and lay down, snuggling within the heavy folds of her sleeping bag. It only took Kouga one swift movement to be in the same position, and he held her. She reached to kiss him, and they held each others' lips for some time, tongues seeking the home of the other, before Kagome broke the kiss, tucking her head into Kouga's chest and closing her eyes. Kouga looked down at the miko and, mentally shrugging his shoulders, closed his eyes as well.

It was so early that only the first pinks of daylight were peeking above the horizon. Yet Kouga had awoken, feeling refreshed and anxious to get on the road. He looked down at the innocent, sleeping face of Kagome. It quelled his anxiousness, for it would pain him to have to wake up the slumbering miko. He watched as she breathed in and out, and he loved how peaceful she looked. It wasn't long, however, before the warmth of the sun's rising rays tickled Kagome's face until she slowly awoke. Kouga made an observation as to how she slept a little longer when she was in the wolf caves. It seemed that it was the light itself that awoke her, he noted, so obviously she slept until her body woke her when she stayed in his home. He didn't mind sleeping outdoors at all, but there was nothing compared to how it felt to wake up to the woman he loved in his cave. Kagome's eyes fluttered, and as she focused, she noticed Kouga watching her, and she smiled. She yawned, and Kouga spoke to her as she attempted to pull herself from her groggy state.

"So, we should be back by mid-afternoon, if I carry you," he told her.

Kagome just nodded slowly. "Mm-hmm," she agreed.

"So… you don't care if I carry you anymore?" he asked her cautiously.

"Well, I never really cared in the first place. I just like to be asked. It wasn't always the right time," she answered sleepily, eyes half-closed.

Kouga smirked, eliciting a laugh from the priestess. Kagome sat up on her elbows, breathing deeply as she bent her body. Kouga traced a finger along the curve of her body, and Kagome shivered under his touch. She giggled, and suddenly he was on top of her, kissing her passionately. She submitted to his whims, finding the early morning tryst to her liking. Their hands explored each others' body, and their mouths hungrily devoured.

Kouga held the miko's face with one hand, the other working its' way down her body, finding the spot that could make her quiver with a single touch. Kagome moaned, arching her back as Kouga traced small, firm circles. He slid his lips along her neck, making her gasp for air. She grasped for something - anything - but couldn't decide where her hands should be. Finally, her arms looped themselves under his arms and around his shoulders, her hands resting on his back. As she felt the pressure build and the heat burn intensely, she clawed at his back. He reacted by biting down on her neck, perhaps a bit too hard, for he drew blood with his fangs. He was afraid of what she was going to do to him, but he found that it just drove her more mad with passion. She was thrashing about wildly, groaning and whispering his name. Every time she said his name in the throes of passion, his own flames burned brighter, fueling him further. He noticed how worked up they were, and wanted to slow down, fearing he wouldn't be able to hold back much longer. He slowed his hand, and only placed light kisses on her skin. She slowed as well, the only sounds escaping her mouth now… her heavy panting.

"Mm… more," she gasped, rocking her hips into his hand.

Kouga was more than happy to give in. He decided that whatever happened with himself, he would make sure she was pleased as well. Applying more pressure and speeding up again, the demon nibbled on her ear, claiming her soul with his voice. He whispered to her, making sure she knew how beautiful and wanted she was. Kagome blossomed under his throaty growls, and she felt the fire in her burn so hot that she felt like she was going to explode. And then, she did. She cried out his name, and she bucked with the waves of pleasure that hit her. He kissed her gently as she began to calm, but Kagome realized that Kouga had not gotten anything in return, and she voiced her concern. He reassured her that watching her had been more than enough, but Kagome was not satisfied with his response, and took matters into her own hands.

A while later, the two lay on top of the sleeping bag; their own as well as each others' hair sticking to all flesh, like dew on a cobweb. They panted, attempting to calm their hearts to a more acceptable beat. The sun was getting warmer and higher, and Kouga was again anxious to get back to the caves. Kagome drew herself unto her elbow, propping her head up with her hand. Her other hand played with a few strands of Kouga's hair, still down from last night. She was watching his face, trying to interpret any reactions or emotions she might see, but none appeared. He was thinking about something, but what? Finally feeling her stare, the wolf prince turned slowly to her and smiled softly.

"You want to go, don't you?" she asked.

He hadn't said anything, but his actions betrayed him. Kouga looked to his feet, avoiding locking eyes with the priestess.

Kagome giggled. "It's okay. I understand. Anyways, we have plenty of time to cuddle after we take care of the sick wolves," she said, smiling.

Kouga didn't reply, he just grabbed her and kissed her deeply.

Pulling away after a few moments, Kagome giggled again. "If you keep that up, we'll never leave!"

They cleaned, dressed, packed, and before too long, Kouga was scooping Kagome up into his arms and running off with her, the precious pink flower resting in a pocket of Kagome's pack. It had only been a little over an hour when Kagome began to feel a chillier air, and thought that her dress was no longer warm enough. But Kouga was running hard, trying to get home by the afternoon. A little while later, when they seemed to be about halfway there, Kouga noticed that not only did Kagome feel a little cold to the touch, but she seemed asleep as well. Which was unusual for her. He stopped, which had gotten her attention, but she seemed sluggish, almost lethargic. Kouga shook her a little and asked her if something was wrong.

"I-I'm… just a little cold…" she said as she shivered.

"Why didn't you say something?" the wolf demon asked angrily.

"I didn't want to stop…"

Kouga sighed. "There's no point in trying so hard to save my pack if you don't survive," he said, half-growling and setting her on her feet. He searched through her bag until he found the jeans she had worn before, handing them to her.

Kagome attempted to pull them on, but almost fell a few times, Kouga catching her before she lost her balance too badly. He helped her put them on, remembering only how she took them off, and trying to do the opposite. The movement was warming her, and she was becoming more active, zipping the jeans herself. When they finally became aware of where they were, it was too late. Kouga growled, looking in the direction of a patch of trees. Kagome noticed his behavior, knowing that only enemies - and herself - made Kouga growl. She didn't sense anything ominous herself, so she wondered what it could be that was making him react this way. Soon enough, she got her answer.

"Hey! Kagome! You're back!" she heard.

Kagome saw the kitsune bound from the clump of trees, followed by Kirara. Soon after, Miroku and Sango appeared.

"Hey, everyone! How did you know I was here?" she asked, smiling happily as she greeted her friends.

Miroku tried to avert his gaze, not wanting the miko to catch his lie. "When you travel with someone long enough, you know their aura."

Kagome accepted his answer, opting to hug her best friend and the fox demon. Kouga greeted them as well, but he and Miroku exchanged knowing glances.

They made small talk, and Kagome showed them the rare star-shaped flower, telling her friends about their journey. When she was finished, Sango invited them back to the village for lunch.

"Well, actually, we have to get back to…" she started, sadly.

Kouga, knowing full well how much Kagome needed her friends, began to hurt, seeing how much it pained her to decline the offer. "We'd love to!"

Kagome whirled, finding Kouga grinning. She opened her mouth to protest, but Kouga beat her to it.

"We would have had to stop for lunch anyways. And at least we're somewhere we know…"

Kagome smiled, nodding. They all walked back to Kaede's home, villagers and children greeting Kagome as they met. The food had already been half-prepared, so after a proper greeting to Kaede, the men sat outside as the women talked inside, busily chopping, cutting and scooping as they chatted. Finally, when Kagome laughed at something that Sango said, her hair moved, and Kaede said something that made her heart stop.

"You… have been made a woman by the wolf?"

Kagome froze, unable to think. Sango, also shocked, stood, mouth agape, but recovered quickly.

"Wh-wha? How do you know that? How did you…" Sango asked in a hushed voice.

"Don't be foolish, child! Look at the bite marks on her neck! When did this happen?" Kaede asked, more curiously than angrily.

Sango eyed the scabs that had formed on Kagome's lower neck wondrously. She grabbed Kagome by the shoulders.

"How did it happen? Was it by force? Because if it was, I'll…" Sango began angrily.

Kagome blushed, answering Kaede's very first question. Then she shook her head. "No, Sango. Calm down, it wasn't by force. I… I love him."

"You loved InuYasha too, but you didn't…"

"Sango! Of all people, I didn't think you would be upset! And yes, I did love InuYasha, but by the time he realized he felt the same way, it was too late. It's different with Kouga. He wants to take care of me. He likes doing things for me. With InuYasha, it was all about him. And what did I get in return? I got to see him sneak off to Kikyou. I have no problems devoting myself to someone. I just ask the same in return…" Kagome said sadly.

Sango, feeling ashamed for her tone, embraced the priestess. "I'm sorry, Kagome. I know. I guess I'm too overprotective of you. I don't want to see you get hurt. By anyone. Hanyou, youkai or otherwise," she said, as she started to cry into Kagome's hair.

Kagome held her friend, and also started to cry. Kaede simply rolled her eyes at the display, returning to the lunch at hand. Suddenly, Sango snapped up, wiping the tears from her face with her sleeve.

"So, that's what he was talking about!" she said aloud.

Kagome, a confused look on her face, looked at Sango, and then to Kaede, who only gave the taijiya a rugged look, making Sango a little embarrassed. Now, Kagome was convinced there was a conspiracy of sorts going on. She did not like being out of the loop.

"Spill," she said to the demon-slayer.

Sango tried to avert her gaze, attempting to go back to the mushrooms she had been cleaning. But Kagome's unrelenting, harsh, solar gaze bore down onto her, and she gave in.

"We knew you had come back because InuYasha had gone into the woods to find some meat, and came upon you two. We couldn't understand him. He was furious - and I think crying, too - but he was yelling about you and Kouga, and something about dressing, and marks, and not supposed to happen. We couldn't put it together since he ran off, but we came to find you. What were you two doing then?" Sango explained.

Kaede's look burned a hole between Sango's eyes, but the exterminator tried to ignore it.

Kagome's eyes were wide with shock, knowing full well the wrath of that particular hanyou. She couldn't believe what she had heard. Basically, InuYasha knew that she had had sex with Kouga, and then saw him dressing her. Could it get any worse?

Knowing the answer to that question, Kagome ran outside, dropping the apron she kept at Kaede's house.

"We have to leave… now!" she cried to Kouga.

He jumped up in alarm, seeing the worry in Kagome's face. Without a word, Kouga put full trust in Kagome, picking her and her bag up and running off with them.

Sango and Kaede rushed outside, to find only a stunned monk sitting against the hut. He looked up at Sango, and after a few moments, she explained to him. He nodded his head, knowingly.

"Yes, I had noticed the marks, but was hoping that she hadn't fully matured. How is it that she can get some action, but I can't?" he quirked.

The ensuing smack left a red mark that would last for many hours.

"Seriously, though. Kagome's heart became very fragile over the years. All those times InuYasha abandoned her for Kikyou; all the times she sacrificed herself for him, with hardly any response? He had only kissed her the one time, when we fought the moon princess. After that, he still didn't open up. It had to be heartbreaking. So of course, with someone who shares his feelings as easily as Kouga, she can be herself, and love openly. It's simple, really," he explained.

Kaede had already went back into the hut, adjusting the meal for less people. Sango had listened intently, and was crying again. Miroku rubbed her back, trying to comfort her.

"Y-you're right," she said. "I… I just don't want to lose her…"

Miroku held his fiancé, letting her release her emotions.

Kouga wasn't running too fast, as he wanted Kagome to be able to talk to him. He had asked if there was a reason they had to leave so abruptly.

Kagome nodded. "InuYasha knows," she said.

"What about his nose?" Kouga asked, befuddled.

"No… He knows. About us. And what we did yesterday," she explained.

"Yeah, I figured he would figure it out. He can probably smell how your scent has changed," Kouga told her, a little too nonchalantly.

The wolf prince chuckled at the sight of her shocked glare. "Okay, so there's the bite marks too, but I was hoping your hair would have covered it…"

"Yeah, apparently it was, until I moved or something. Now everyone knows," she said, rubbing the area where the fang marks resided.

Kouga stopped dead in his tracks, frowning.

"Wait. So, why are we running? You still think I can't take that half-demon?" he said angrily.

"It's not that, Kouga," she explained. "It's just that… he's hurt right now. And I know what he's capable of. I just… don't want to have to deal with him. Please, Kouga."

Kouga closed his eyes, submitting to her whims. He began to run again, and Kagome held on to him tighter.

They had only stopped one more time, so that Kagome could retrieve the turtleneck sweater from her backpack. Now, close to home and only a few hours of daylight left, Kouga picked up speed. He had been getting a feeling for some time that was drawing him to the caves, and the knowledge that he was close was making it stronger by the minute. Kagome had picked up on his eagerness, and she began to become nervous as well. They knew nothing about the state of the tribe, or if anyone else may have become ill, or, if any had died. She had hoped that the few days had not been too much for any of the wolves, but the illness was affecting children and the elderly. A few days could easily defeat some pups and the weaker, older wolves. Kagome furrowed her brow in worry, but said nothing. They pressed on in silence.

A few hours later, they reached the bottom of the mountain where the wolf dens were. Kagome looked up at Kouga, who was looking up the mountain, smiling. She had a feeling that he was thinking, `Home'. Without a word, Kouga suddenly sprang, rushing up the mountain so fast Kagome could hardly breathe. Within a few minutes, he was howling, letting his pack know that he had returned. Luckily for Kagome, he had slowed down in order to do that, and she breathed normally again. Seconds later, a chorus of howls reassured him that they had heard. Kagome recognized the area, and knew they would be standing amidst wolf youkai shortly.

Minutes later, Kouga stopped, and they were greeting the rest of his tribe. They whimpered, growled, and barked to each other, assuring all that Kouga and Kagome were back and well. Not only that, but Kagome felt that many eyes were on her. At first, she thought that perhaps she was being paranoid, but she thought of what Kouga had said - InuYasha had probably smelled how she had changed - so perhaps the wolves could, too. Kagome decided that she could either be embarrassed, or proud. She decided that it was easier to be proud. She stood a little taller, smiling to every set of eyes she saw. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kouga lunge at one of the human-form wolves. She didn't know what he was saying, but he seemed very angry, and had the other wolf by the neck. He was speaking in his native tongue, but he was also talking very low. Kagome decided she wanted to get started making the medicine, using the instructions Jinenji had given her. She began to walk towards Kouga's cave, dragging her backpack on the floor, when she heard footsteps flying towards her back. Given the fact that Kouga had just acted violently towards one of his own, and that they seemed wary of her now that they knew she intended to be Kouga's mate, she whirled around, ready to attack with her bow and arrow.

"Nee-chan!" Ginta and Hakkaku yelled in unison.

Kagome lowered her weapons, sighing.

"Nee-chan, why are you so jumpy?" Hakkaku asked her.

"Yeah, you're totally safe here, Kagome onee-chan," Ginta added.

Kagome drooped her shoulders a bit, and resumed walking to the cave. "I think some of the wolves don't like me, and I'm worried. I know you guys are watching out for me, and of course Kouga won't let anything happen to me, but if no one is around, I have to watch out for myself," she explained tiredly.

The two wolves looked at each other with sympathetic eyes. "Yeah, a couple of the girl wolves are jealous. Some of the others were hoping that Kouga would get over you, but now that everyone knows that you guys have… well, you know…" Ginta started.

"They're getting kinda… catty about it, excuse the pun," Hakkaku finished. The two giggled, and Kagome looked surprised.

"I never thought any of Kouga's pack ever had a problem with me. I figured they all would go along with whatever he said…" Kagome said quietly.

"Well, some of them still think that youkai should be with youkai, and humans with humans," Hakkaku said.

"And don't forget that some are still mad because Kouga won't let them eat humans anymore, ever since he met you…" Ginta told her.

Kagome was shocked. She had never thought of these things. All this time, she could have been in danger. And now, it would be worse, because they could all tell that she and Kouga had mated. It was almost enough to make one wish they had never had sex. Almost, Kagome thought, smiling to herself.

As she reached the cave, she set down her bag, bow, and quiver. She immediately reached for the flower, making sure it hadn't gotten squashed. She removed it from the bag, letting it get some fresh air. The two wolf youkai watched her, and awaited instructions. As she removed the small pot from her backpack, she asked Hakkaku to find firewood, and Ginta find a few ingredients that were easily found around the area. They happily set off to their tasks, and Kagome walked, kettle in hand, outside the cave, to look for Kouga. She saw him entering the area where the sick, elderly wolves were being kept, and thought she should leave him be. But someone had to fetch the water, so she would have to do it… alone.

Kagome turned in the direction of the small river where they had gone to bring down the fever of the wolf cub. She knew the way by now, and wove her trail through certain trees, taking note of rocks or flower patches that she remembered. She arrived at the stream in a few minutes, taking the time to wash the kettle, and then fill it. She stood, stretching her legs. Suddenly, she heard what she could only describe as a roar. She looked up in the direction of the sound, but just as she recognized the face flying at her, she felt herself falling - no, being pushed - towards the cold water. As she splashing in the freezing water, she didn't really think about how cold it was. Instead, she found herself wishing she could see all of her friends, in this time and in hers. Kagome was too good of a swimmer to let this river get the best of her, and although the frigid water was paralyzing her, she managed to get to water that was shallow enough to allow her to lie in the water without drowning. She looked up for a moment before drifting into unconsciousness, and saw the face of the man she used to love.

InuYasha had followed Kagome from the wolves' den to this river. He knew what she was doing - he had seen her do it many times before. As a matter of fact, she had sent him to do it many times. He watched her collect water for what could be medicine or food, worried that she might catch on to his presence. He stayed in the treetops, knowing she wouldn't be looking there. When she had been traveling with him, he had ignored her when she did stuff like this. It was boring, and he would rather look disinterested in the branches of a maple tree. But now, he felt compelled to go to her, to touch her, to hold her. And that made him feel worse. If I had taken advantage before… if I hadn't been so stubborn… if I had just realized… Now, the hanyou felt dirty watching her like this. But he wanted to talk to her, and had to be sure she was alone. He hadn't smelled Kouga or the two sidekicks of his. He was still trying to convince himself that this type of stalking was okay when he smelled a wolf demon. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled as he tried to distinguish the identity of the youkai. But he had never smelled this one before. It sure as hell wasn't Kouga, and it wasn't the two goons, either. A few moments later, as Kagome was standing to leave, InuYasha saw the demon appear silently behind Kagome. All too quickly, he saw the malicious intent of the wolf, and even though he hadn't wanted Kagome to see him again this way, he wasn't going to let her get hurt. As the claws of the wolf youkai reached for Kagome's tender flesh, InuYasha leaped from above with a feral roar, threatening to kill he who attempted to harm Kagome. But the wolf was much faster, and reached the priestess first. But to InuYasha's surprise, the demon did not rip Kagome to shreds. Instead, she pushed Kagome - hard - so that she would be thrown into the river. InuYasha was also surprised to see that it was a female demon - not male - that was after her. Either way, this wasn't a friendly family visit, and InuYasha was not going to let the wolf-girl kill Kagome. As he was leaping in her direction, he locked eyes with Kagome for a moment, right before she was thrown into the water. He lunged at the she-wolf, sending her flying with a punch to the stomach. As she landed, he could see the surprise as he unsheathed Tessaiga, and drew it up to her throat. Knowing she was going to be overpowered, she began to run back to the wolf dens. InuYasha began to follow, but heard Kagome splashing in the river, and it sounded like she was slowing down, so he abandoned his chase to remove Kagome from the river. He would go after the she-wolf later. He jumped to Kagome, landing in the water. The chill of it sent shivers even up his spine, and he realized it had to be much worse for the miko. He saw Kagome stir and look up at him. It broke his heart to see her like that, and he went to her, holding her dripping, sleeping body in his arms. He lay her down on the bank so that he could remove his haori, wrapping Kagome in the Robe of the Fire Rat. He held her tightly, pushing some of her wet strands away from her face. He rubbed her arms, hoping it would warm her enough to wake her. But she wasn't waking up. Even though she was sopping wet, he could still smell how she had changed, and this caused InuYasha's blood to boil in a way it had never done. His eyes began to turn red as they did when he turned into a full demon. His fangs and claws began to lengthen, and he closed his eyes, embracing the strength flowing through his veins. He began to dig his nails into her drenched sweater, but when they met with her flesh, his eyes flashed open, and looking into the serene, sweet face of the woman he loved - whose face was turning blue - he started to calm. He could still smell her, but he tried to maintain himself. He knew that if he turned, he would possibly kill her, only regretting it if he became a hanyou once again. But what was the point of being hanyou - or human - now? He had lost what was most important to him, and the fact that she had given herself to that damned wolf just made it final. He wasn't getting her back. He leaned down, and gently kissed her cold lips.

"Kagome…" he whispered. "Kagome… please… wake up. Open your eyes, Kagome," he said louder. But there was no response.

Admitting defeat, he knew what he would have to do. He stood, held Kagome close to his body, and started off in the direction of the wolf caves. He had thought about bringing her to Kaede's, but there would be no explanation when she woke up. And that puny wolf would be pissed too. So instead, he would put her back in the care of that damn wolf. If he knew Kagome, she probably came out here alone, which means Kouga doesn't know she's gone. Maybe he would be able to leave her without them noticing. Unfortunately, as he approached the area of the caves, he smelled Kouga coming towards him. It was too late to avoid him, as Kouga seemed to be traveling at a very high rate of speed. InuYasha stood where he was, waiting for the wolf demon to appear. When he did, he looked worried, but when he saw InuYasha holding Kagome, his expression changed to anger.

"What are you doing holding Kagome, muttface? And why is she wet and unconscious?" he said, growling.

"One of yours pushed her into the river. She was cold, so she blacked out. I was bringing her to you, baka," InuYasha said coldly.

A little taken aback by the hanyou's statement, Kouga paused. "Well, I'm here now, so you can hand her over," he said menacingly.

InuYasha looked at the wolf demon, his eye twitching with the need to cut off Kouga's head with his sword. Slowly, Kouga approached InuYasha, and reached for Kagome's body. As he touched her, he felt how cold her skin was, and his features fell with worry. InuYasha noticed the look on Kouga's face, and knew it was time to hand her over. He placed the limp girl - woman, he corrected himself - into Kouga's arms. He watched as Kouga held her tightly, whispering in her ear. The youkai turned to leave. Just as InuYasha was also about to leave, Kouga turned.

"Hey. Thanks. For saving her. Be careful. She's gonna want to know why you were here in the first place," Kouga said blankly before turning to leave again.

"Keh," was all he could reply. In a few moments, Kouga was gone. InuYasha, feeling like his hopes and dreams ran away with the youkai, turned as well, and left.

Kouga ran for his life. Because what was his life without Kagome? If she died, he would have nothing left. In a few minutes, he was back at his own cave. He would deal with she who caused this later. For now, he had to warm her up. How had Kagome done it when he had been in this very position? Ah, that's right. He had woken up almost naked, and she had been holding on to him for warmth. There had been a fire, and some furs. But that had been by the river. Now, in the comfort of his cave, it would be easier. Luckily, thanks to Kagome, Hakkaku had already collected firewood and built a fire. Check one. He quickly took the sweater off of Kagome, and fumbled with her jeans, peeling them off. Her shoes, socks, bra and underwear went as well. He took off his own armor, and laid Kagome on the bed of furs, covering her. Check two and three. He was the final step. He climbed in, shivering as he felt her cold, damp skin. He held her tightly, but felt no change. He could hear her shallow breathing, which, he presumed, was a good thing. But he wanted to see her open her big brown eyes so much it hurt. He ached to see her smile again. He thought of how she had assumed it was safe and went to the river by herself. Well, obviously not by herself, he thought. But he was grateful that InuYasha had been there. Had he not saved her, the wolf-girl may have killed her, or she may have been in the water too long. She hadn't even brought her bow and arrows with her. He should have warned her. He should have gone with her. He should have…

A tear rolled down his cheek as he felt no change in the warmth of her body. Sobbing into her neck, he gripped onto her body with his. Kouga ran a hand through the priestess' hair, when he thought he heard something. For him to almost not be able to hear it, it must have been very low. Or maybe he was hearing things. He ran his hand through her hair again, this time leaning in to kiss her, noticing that her lips looked a bit pinker then they had before. A few moments into the kiss, she began to respond, kissing him back. Giving him hope, Kouga kissed her fiercely. He pried her mouth open, caressing her tongue with his own. She moaned as she began to wake and respond to his touches. She tried to say his name, but with his tongue in her mouth, it was muffled. But he knew what she had tried to say, and suddenly he became aroused. His hands began to wander around her body, caressing her hair, running along her body, holding her close. She responded by taking his hair down, although she was slowed down from her fingers still being as stiff as icicles. But she was warm now, though she still felt cool to Kouga, since he was hot from his arousal. But Kagome noticed that although it was great, she wasn't up to par. She was still sleepy and sluggish. So she pulled away and looked into Kouga's eyes. He stared back at her, and understood. She looked sad, and he asked what was on her mind.

"I… think I was dreaming of InuYasha," she said, averting her gaze. She waited for a response, but as he remained silent, she continued. "It doesn't mean anything. I just remember seeing him coming at me. It wasn't like, romantic or anything…"

Kouga smiled gently, twirling a few strands of her ebony strands around a clawed finger. "Thanks for being worried, but you weren't dreaming. I should be the one saying I'm sorry. I wasn't going to tell you. InuYasha had followed you to the river. One of my clan had followed you as well, with intent to get rid of you," he said, scowling. Kagome looked surprised, as she had never actually known how she got in the river. Kouga continued. "InuYasha had seen her approach you, and warded her off. I wouldn't have blamed him for killing her, but he went to your side instead. He pulled you out of the river and kept you warm until I got there. Luckily, you hadn't been in the water for long. I got there, and took you," he said, now averting her gaze.

"How did you know I was in danger?" she asked, a puzzled look on her face.

"She was the same girl I had talked to earlier. When I noticed you were gone, and didn't see her anywhere, I ran right to the river. And just so you know, the water is boiling in the pot," he added.

Kagome jumped up, remembering the task at hand. She wrapped a fur around her, just in case one of the others came in and started towards the fire when she was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"Uh-uh…" Kouga said. "You're not going anywhere. You can tell me what to do and I'll do it. You are going to stay in bed. You need to get better," he told her.

Kagome smiled sweetly and shook her head. "Sorry, babe, but I feel good. I'm tired, but I won't be able to sleep. I need to do this. But you can still help if you want…" she told him.

Kouga scowled for a moment, but he knew he was not going to win that argument. So he slumped his shoulders in defeat, stood behind her and held her close to his body.

"Okay," he whispered in her ear, "but later on tonight… you're mine."

She turned her head to look at him, but she knew beforehand that he had one of his signature grins on his face. She reached up to hold his face and kissed him. They stayed like that for a while, Kouga holding her from behind, when Kagome broke away, running to her backpack. Unfortunately, the location of her bag near the entrance of the cave was far from the fire, making it quite cold. She rummaged through the yellow pack for her pajamas, putting on a new pair of underwear and now wishing her pj's were still long.

Kagome kept the fur around her as she huddled around the fire, adding the ingredients for the medication. She asked Kouga for some items occasionally, but she kept going, stirring and adding. Eventually, she stood, and looked at Kouga.

"It's ready," she told him.

"Okay, this is how it's gonna go," Kouga told the miko. "I'm gonna carry you, and bring you around to the patients. You won't get down, you're not gonna walk, and you're not gonna do any more work. You're gonna let us know how much each of them needs and you're gonna let me carry you. That's it."

Kagome was kind of stunned, but didn't mind. She was beginning to like his manhandling. She nodded her head, and he wrapped her in a few more furs. She held onto the kettle, and they met outside with Ginta and Hakkaku. They had just come back from throwing more wood onto the fires in the caves of the sick wolves, and were now ready to receive instructions. They asked about her health, and if there was anything they could do for her.

"Don't worry about me," she said. "Kouga is taking good care of me. I just need help getting this medicine to everyone. Thanks, you guys."

The two wolves blushed, and Kouga nuzzled her neck. They quickly went to work. Kagome taught them that the elderly had a slower absorption time, so they should be first. She had been happy when Kouga told her that no one had gotten much worse, and there were no deaths. So now, they went to each elder wolf, giving them a dose of the medicine created by the priestess. They finished quickly, moving on to the children. She let her companions know that a few of the worse-off wolves would need a second dose in a few days, but only time would tell. When all the wolves had been medicated, they left the kettle in the commonplace, and instructed the rest of the pack to at least drink a minimal amount, just in case. Kagome had a spare water bottle in her pack, and they placed a second-dose amount into it for later.

By the time the sun was setting, they had finished, and everyone was waiting for the hunting pack to go out. Kouga told them he would be hunting on his own, and Ginta and Hakkaku would lead the normal hunt. They all left, and Kagome was alone in the cave. She didn't know what Kouga was up to, but perhaps he was in the mood for something in particular. She cuddled in the bed of furs, wishing she could fall asleep. But the memory of InuYasha's angry look and roar haunted her. She knew that it hadn't been meant for her, but she couldn't help but feel guilty.

Suddenly, Kagome remembered the wolf-girl that had tried to harm her. Kouga had told her that she would be dealt with later, but he had been with her, and now he was hunting. Would the she-wolf try to harm her again? Kagome retrieved her bow and quiver. She held onto them, closing her eyes. She thought of how worried Kouga had been that first time, when she had been hurt by the bear. The scabs were still there, but they hadn't hurt her for some time now. Then, InuYasha himself had hurt her, but he had been just as hurt. Kouga had been physically hurt as well. Then there was the time he had almost drowned. And GOD had he scared her when she thought he had fallen from the waterfall. But, he had been scared as well, when she went over that same fall. So much has happened in the past week…

Kagome's powers tingled with danger. She wanted to crack an eye, but didn't want whomever it was to know she was awake. She gripped the bow, holding on to an arrow she had readied before. She could feel her powers flaring within them, and she jumped up, scaring herself more than anything. As her eyes adjusted, she saw who she was pointing her purifying arrow at. Crap, she thought. I didn't expect there to be more than one. Now I'll never have enough time to grab a second arrow. The arrow she had presently nocked was aching to be let go, but she had to choose carefully. There was the she-wolf, and two other males with her, one in wolf form, and the other in human form. She knew they were all deadly fast, and at least that one of them intended to kill her. But there was no InuYasha this time. No Kouga, Ginta, or Hakkaku. She was on her own. She didn't dare take her eyes off them, even though she wanted to judge the distance between her hand and the quiver badly. Kagome waited for them to make the first move.

"So," she heard in a female voice, "you are more prepared this time. But that half-demon isn't here this time. What will you do with three of us, and only one arrow, wench?"

Kagome didn't reply. She simply held her ground, even when the demon in wolf form took a few steps towards her. He growled at her, and all she could think was, If this one jumps at me, I'll never hit him. He's too small

"Well, well, the strong, silent type. Either way, you're human. And that makes you not good enough. What, will we have a bunch of hanyous running around in our tribe? No, we'll do Kouga a favor and be rid of you. Then he'll get over it and choose me to be his bride," she told the priestess.

Kagome held back a giggle as she thought of what Kouga would do if he heard this conversation. Kagome felt bad that she would have to take one of his pack members' lives, but she knew he would approve, if it meant her life or theirs. Kagome furrowed her brow and pulled the arrow back a little more. The female wolf chuckled.

"Please, girl. We are too fast for you. Put that silly thing down and we'll make it quick and painless for you," she said smoothly.

Normally, Kagome was used to this type of talk and let it brush over her. But the thought of this she-wolf, who wanted Kouga for herself, calling her a girl, and mocking her abilities, was too much. She was about to let the arrow go straight into the girls' chest when the human-form male wolf sprung for her, claws ready.

Kagome's arrow flared with power, and it flew true, into the chest of the wolf.

The two remaining wolves were shocked, not expecting what they had just witnessed. They continued to stare at his body as it disappeared, being purified by Kagome's powers. The sole male wolf started to back away. He looks scared, she thought. He was probably forced to help them. Kagome thought it would be a great time to get another arrow, and she deliberately knelt slowly, finding the quiver and reaching for another arrow. The arrow came to life with power as she grasped it. Kagome held it at her side as she watched the she-wolf for any signs that she would attack.

"So, you can use that thing. No matter. Haru was slow. You will not be able to shoot me," she growled.

Kagome remained speechless.

The she-wolf took this as a sign that she thought she was more powerful than herself, and this infuriated her.

"You are not better than me!" she cried, lunging at Kagome.

With a single motion, Kagome raised, nocked, and shot the arrow. This time, she shot the girls' shoulder, and it kept her from being purified instantly.

"You bitch!" she hissed through the pain.

Kagome lowered her bow, knowing her powers would soon finish the girl. She saw something move near the entrance, and caught a glimpse of Kouga quickly dropping something and racing to her side. The lone male wolf began to escape, but Kouga caught him, pinning him to the floor. The wolf whimpered, but Kouga just growled.

"My… my lord…" the she-wolf said as she began to purify.

Kouga snarled at her as well.

"Good riddance," he said as she vanished. He turned back to the wolf under him, a menacing look in his eye. The wolf braced for a blow, but Kagome had walked to them, placing a hand on Kouga's arm.

"Kouga," she said gently, "I think he was forced to come here. He didn't want to harm me."

Kouga stopped his growling for a moment, and the wolf opened a wary eye. He didn't seem so tough with his leader looming over him. Anyways, she believed her own words, and didn't want anyone else to die.

Kouga thought for a minute, then released the wolf, who lost no time scampering off to its' own den.

"I'm so sorry, Kagome…" Kouga began.

Kagome just leapt into his arms, and they embraced for a while.

"I'm okay. I'm just glad I had my bow and arrow this time," she told him.

Later, Kagome learned that Kouga had gone to get fish for her, knowing she wasn't fond of red meat. He had known that the others would probably get some form of it, which they had. Luckily, their time together had made him a better fisherman, and he procured his catch quickly, allowing him to get back to the cave just as fast. He had smelled Kagome's purifying powers from outside, and knew there was trouble. Luckily, no one else had heard the commotion, otherwise more of the wolves may have joined in, seeing that one of their comrades had been killed. Kouga would explain to the tribe what had happened later. Now, they ate, and when everyone was done, Hakkaku made an announcement that some of the children were healthy enough to go back to their families. The wolves howled, and praised Kagome for making the medicine that cured their loved ones. She blushed, and Kouga picked her up, carrying her to his cave.

Inside, she struggled to be let down, and he obliged. She yawned, stretched, and lay on the furs. Kouga joined her, telling her that he was more amazed with her everyday. She smiled, and threw her arms around him. She squeezed him, and he kissed her softly. He held her for a while, and soon he heard her breathing slow down. He looked down to find her asleep, and he smiled, closing his own eyes.