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All That Matters

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'Stupid. Stupid. Stupid,' Inuyasha cursed silent as he breathed heavily and tried to plaster himself against an especially thick tree. Kagome told him to come back. She told him not to chase after the demon. That they could wait until morning to get the jewel shard back but did he listen? No. Of course not. This was him they were talking about. By the time the sun set he was too far away to go back and pretty much at this jewel toting bastard's mercy.

In short, he had royally fucked up.

One of the first things he'd done was tried to mask his scent with mud. That had worked in the past when he was in a bind. Emphasis on 'in the past' because it sure as hell wasn't helping now. The bitch was toying with him. Letting him know she was there by being extra obnoxiously loud so his human ears would catch it and then silent. Just when Inuyasha started to relax this asshole would snap a twig or shake a tree just to mess with him. It was seriously starting to make him crazy. Paranoid even.

"I know you're there half-demon," the demoness laughed softly from way too close for comfort, "Come out. Come out. Wherever you are."

'Fucckk,' Inuyasha breathed nervously in his mind as he tried to control his breathing. The bitch was getting bored with her game. Glancing up into the moonless sky, he could tell dawn was some ways away. There would be no miraculous moment this time. No twist of fate that would let him live until his Youkai returned. A part of him wondered whether Kagome would cry for him. That same part that hoped for so much more than he would ever receive.

A twig snapped on the other side of the tree and he flinched instinctively. His breathing shaky as he waited for the attack and anticipated pain. It would be drawn out, he was sure. After all, he'd managed to land a pretty gruesome blow before the sun set. She'd want to make him pay for that. Closing his eyes, he swallowed thickly and pressed himself even more tightly to the tree.

His thoughts focused on a face he would never get to see again. That special smile of hers reserved only for him. There were so many things he should have told her. So many...

Something pierced his side and he had to bite his lip to keep from screaming. Human he may be but he still had his pride. Another deeper puncture and he crumpled to his knees.

It was becoming harder to breathe as his lungs filled with fluid. Vision blurry as he stared up at the turquoise haired woman with crimson eyes.

"Oh no, don't pass out on me now," she laughed as she flexed her claws, "We're just getting started."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Consciousness rolled over him in waves. His body radiating heat like a brick right out of an oven. Letting out a shuddering breath, he tried to make sense of what was going on around him and where he was. It was strange. Everything sounded muted and he couldn't feel his right hand. Groaning, he shifted and instantly, he felt a cold hand on his face.

"Don't move so much," Kagome shushed him and soon a cold rag replaced her hand, "You lost a lot of...of blood so you just need to stay still."

The slight hesitation bothered him and a memory suddenly rushed to the forefront of his still hazy mind. Amber eyes blinked at the thatch roof of Kaede's hut before slowly drifting down to verify that it hadn't been a dream. His stomach dropped.

Nope. He was definitely missing the better part of his right arm and...if he had to guess, probably an ear. Maybe even both.

"You're alive. That's what matters," Kagome blurted out, "Besides Sesshomaru is missing an arm and he is just fine. If he can still wield his sword so can you."

"It's a bigger sword Kagome," Inuyasha chuckled darkly as he let his head fall back - his voice thick from disuse. Kagome huffed and pressed the cloth to the side of his neck.

"Both ears or just one," he asked hoarsely and he felt Kagome's hand tense as she whispered shakily, "Just one."

"Anything else?" he asked - feeling strangely numb and disassociated from the whole thing. Kagome didn't reply but he felt her shaking.

"Kago..."

"A few toes," she finally whispered, "And your back I think was broken."

Inuyasha experimentally tried to wiggle said toes that remained and while they did in fact move, the feeling wasn't as strong as it should have been. He wasn't paralyzed but there was lasting damage. A part of him was loathing seeing whether he could still walk.

"How'd you find me?" he asked - trying desperately to change the subject.

"Shippo," Kagome murmured as she dipped the cloth in water and rung it out, "Kilala had trouble tracking you but Shippo...Shippo ran ahead. He was the one who found you. Who saved you."

Inuyasha furrowed his brow in confusion. How the hell did Shippo save him? The brat didn't even have any attacks that packed a punch.

"By the time we caught up the demon was burned to a crisp," Kagome sniffled  before finishing hoarsely, "And then we brought you back here. That was three days ago."

Well he'd be damned. The kid had been holding back. Foxfire could burn and maim if he wanted it to. Who knew?

"Didn't know he had it in him," Inuyasha chuckled hoarsely. Kagome didn't comment.

"So where is he anyway? Probably should thank him," Inuyasha commented and grief spiked in Kagome's scent. His nostrils flared as his mind raced. Surely the kit didn't die trying to save him, right? Oh fuck no.

"He...Miroku had to seal him in a cave," Kagome managed after a few moments, "I didn't know demons could...I mean I knew you sometimes...but..."

Inuyasha inhaled deeply and frowned. So the kid succumbed to blood lust, huh? That...that explained it then. That's how Shippo bested that demon. All because he didn't listen to Kagome when she said the jewel shard could wait.

"Has anyone tried to talk him down?" Inuyasha asked quietly and Kagome didn't reply, "Or..."

"I tried," she finally whispered in a small voice and Inuyasha tried to prop himself up to look at her. His heart dropped as he finally saw several bright red burn marks across her chest and face. Giving her a once over, there were others too. A particularly nasty one on her leg had his stomach churning.

"I'm fine," she cleared her throat, "They're just a little sore."

"Did you...did you go home? To have a healer look at them?" Inuyasha asked in a tight voice and she shook her head.

"Why?"

"I wasn't sure you'd make it," she admitted as a dry shuddering sob escaped her, "And I couldn't leave Shippo. He...he's just a baby. It's not his fault that..."

Inuyasha agreed with that for sure. It wasn't Shippos fault. It was his.

"I'll go see him," Inuyasha offered as he shakily got to his feet and staggered. His left leg definitely felt numb. He could barely put any weight on it without it wanting to crumple.

"You aren't..." Kagome started to argue but his slightly anguished glare stopped her short. Swallowing thickly, she shook her head and sighed, "At least let me help you."

Nodding, he allowed her to support him and together they made their way to the cave where an exhausted looking Miroku was keeping guard. The monk looked both heartbroken and relieved when they approached and quickly began preparing a wider barrier around them before removing the sutra and moving outside it. Dragging Kagome with him making Inuyasha crumple to one knee.

Casting a glance at Kagome, Inuyasha swallowed his pride and yipped a few times. A series of other dog like noises followed and each one was like a dagger in his heart. Inuyasha avoided giving her reminders about how much of an animal he really was. He wanted her to see him as a person. As a potential...

Not that it mattered anymore.

Slowly but surely, a crimson eyed feral looking Shippo began prowling out of the cave. His hair and fur standing on end. One heartbeat later he lunged and Inuyasha managed to catch him by the throat and pin him down.

The growl that escaped Inuyasha then sent chills down Kagome's spine and her heart lurched. He was being so rough with the little boy who, yes, had lost his marbles but was still a child.

Shippo continued to struggle and snarl but Inuyasha held firm and growled again. Louder. Harsher. It could've been seconds or hours later but eventually Shippo went limp. Whimpering and sniffling.

"You can lower the barrier monk," Inuyasha muttered tiredly, "He won't hurt you."

"How can you be sure?" Miroku asked hoarsely and the hanyou sighed.

"He submitted," Inuyasha explained thickly, "He...he recognized me as his alpha. He won't do anything with my permission."

Kagome's heart ached. She could read between the lines. Shippo, as they knew him, might not come back.

The Fox kit continued to whimper and whine when Inuyasha let him up. And Inuyasha made a sound in the back of his throat as he pointed to Kagome. For a moment, the little boy looked confused and then he sniffed a few times. Giving her a once over, he smiled - somewhat eerily - before scampering to her feet and lifting his arms in a clear plea to be held.

"I told him you were his mother," Inuyasha explained miserably as he kept his gaze averted, "And the alpha female. He shouldn't hurt you again."

Kagome let out a shuddering breath but did nod to Miroku to let down the barrier which he did and she knelt down to pick up the little feral boy.

"How long will this last?" Kagome asked tightly and Inuyasha shrugged.

"Days. Weeks. Forever," he replied as he remained kneeling, "I'll...I'll stay with him. While you guys hunt shards, I'll stay with him."

"Inuyasha..." Kagome huffed and Inuyasha finally looked at her with unshed tears in his eyes.

"I can barely walk Kagome," he informed her as a tear broke free and he lifted what was left of his right arm, "I'm literally missing a limb. You can't expect me to be useful anymore."

"You're still you," Kagome whispered as she stroked Shippo's hair and the kit buried his face into her chest, "The rest doesn't matter."

Inuyasha wanted to correct her but stopped himself. There was something else in her gaze and tone being said. Something that had nothing to do with his fighting ability. Trying to get up he crumpled onto his side and Miroku quickly came to assist. Inuyasha didn't even bother saying he didn't need it. He knew he did and just had to accept that bitter pill.

"Kagome-sama is right," Miroku muttered as he hoisted the hanyou to his feet, "You are one of us. We will put the quest on hold as long as it takes. We will not leave you and Shippo behind."

"Aren't you like actively dying? Hows that gunna work?" Inuyasha snorted and Miroku rolled his eyes. Kagome had turned and began walking towards the village. The monk held back until he was sure she was far enough away before speaking again.

"She loves you," Miroku sighed and Inuyasha tensed, "There are worse things than being the recipient of unconditional love. If that is any comfort."

"You don't know that," Inuyasha finally replied despondently and the monk chuckled.

"You may not have heard her but I assure you she did utter such a sentiment many times over the past few days," Miroku informed him as they began the slow journey back towards the village, "It will take time but you will overcome this latest setback my friend."

Inuyasha couldn't find his voice to respond but did feel the world was not as bleak. Maybe...maybe...

Later that evening, Inuyasha sat against the wall watching as Kagome prepared dinner. For the longest time, he had thought about doing something but always lacked the courage to make the first move. It wasn't like he knew how anyway. Kikyo had been the one to make all the advances and no other women had ever even been interested. Plus Kikyo was...well still around for lack of a better way to put it and there'd definitely been some moments that made him hesitant to try to court Kagome at all. It was clear she thought - and he didn't blame her for thinking that way - that he love loved Kikyo or that maybe she'd be the other woman if he did come forward with what he wanted. It wasn't true but he could see it. They were friends now was all. Well not friend friends but friendly? Anyway point was he wasn't spoken for...but he wanted to be. If what the monk said was true, maybe now was the time to do something.

He just wished he had done something when he had two arms.

"You feeling okay?" Kagome asked quietly as she settled down beside him and he shrugged before glancing at her injuries.

"What about you?" he asked with a despondent sigh, "The river water is cold. I could stand..."

He paused and cleared his throat.

"Sango could stand guard," he amended as his heart sank, "It might help take the heat out."

"I'm okay I think," Kagome sighed shakily as she scooted closer and rested her head on his shoulder, "I took some aspirin and used some burn cream."

"I'd still try something cold," he argued as he rested his cheek atop her head, "I've been burned like that before ya know. Just saying it'd help."

He heard her hum but she didn't move.

"Maybe in the morning," she sighed, "Right now I just want to be with you if...if that's okay."

His lips twitched upwards as he nodded against her hair.

"I'm really glad you're alright," she whispered tiredly.

"Should've listened to you," he admitted with a dejected sigh, "I'm sorry I didn't."

He heard her sigh as she snuggled a little closer.

"You know..." he began hesitantly as he glanced around to make sure no one was listening, "I..."

Biting his lip, he actually tried to figure out how to phrase what he wanted to say without sounding weird or sappy or...like himself. Usually anything he said sounded like an insult even when he didn't mean it to be.

"I thought of you," he tried lamely, "When she attacked me I mean."

He felt Kagome tense.

"I...I wanted to see you again," he continued, "Because..."

He took a deep breath and decided to take the plunge.

"You know I love you, right?" he asked in a small voice and Kagome's head popped right up as she stared at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. For a moment he forgot how to breathe as he mentally kicked himself. He hadn't even had the courage to look at himself for fear of how he'd looked. Maybe he was even more hideous now than he had been. His remaining ear flattened against his skull as he awaited her verdict.

Her sapphire eyes searched his face for a moment before she relaxed and smiled that special smile reserved only for him.

"I do actually," she laughed as though this was news even to herself, "You know I love you too, huh?"

He nodded slowly and chewed on his cheek.

"Good."

When she leaned in to kiss him, everything around them went quiet. The crackling of the fire and the wind outside the only sound. And then she pulled back before dipping down again. And again. It stole his breath away. It brought it back. It showed him that every other kiss he'd ever received had been wrong and the stunned silence no longer mattered. A soft whimper escaped him but he honestly didn't care. All that mattered was her.

That was all that mattered.