Title: Climbing Up the WallsClimbing Up the Walls
Gift for: Numisma
Summary: Insanity can be a quiet curse.
Warnings: Kohaku is quite underage, approximately 13 or so. Also, marital infidelity.
Author's Notes: Written for Numisma. If you're sharp, you can tell I've been reading too much Thurber, Vonnegut, and Rushdie, and also I've been listening to too much Radiohead. ;) I didn't really mean to make Kohaku so young, but... well... it just turned out that way. Enjoy!
After the first year passes, Kagome doesn't walk down to the well any longer, doesn't gaze into its emptiness with her barren wishes shriveled in her mouth. It is enough that she can go back in her dreams, and she knew the price of the wish she'd made, the selfless wish for her hated enemy.
No more jewel to plague the world, and no more path to the future.
Kagome remains with Inuyasha, content with him, content within the walls of her hut, content to work hard and sleep soundly at night. She is content to watch Shippou sprout, to watch Kohaku journey back to himself, content to watch Sango grow heavy and round and give birth, to watch Miroku stumble into the surprised revelation of fatherhood.
With practiced and practical fingers, she brushes aside her maybe ifs and remember whens and her floating regrets, and makes a life for herself.
After the first year passes, Kohaku doesn't wake up screaming so much.
It is winter, Kagome is almost seventeen, and she begins to see the things that do not exist.
They are little at first, just shadows slipsliding against the edge of her vision, darkness seen in flashes and in flutters, and then they grow bigger.
Faces fold in and out of fabrics, and the world changes. Animal-shaped rocks, and then rock-shaped animals, and then snatches of sadsongs and whisperedwords and things that never were.
There were never demons, were there? she asks herself. What is true?
And then across her threshold creeps a green cat, slinking against the doorframe, patterpat, over the wood and into the world behind the wall. Over her skin, Inuyasha dances hands stripped of flesh, bony deaths-hands like the snap of a coffin. One day she takes a step in her hut and sinks into the floor, as though on a rubber sheet, while everything around her stays still. She cries out, afraid she is falling through the world.
("Something wrong?" Sango asked, baby on her hip, at the edge of Kagome's crater.
"Nothing," she replied, but softly, in case Sango wasn't really there, before gently bouncing her way to the door.)
Voices brush against her brain, apparitions peer from over windowsills, and Inuyasha decays before her eyes, though his corpse still speaks, still kisses her, still trails its dying flesh and cold, sluggish blood against her skin, and she knows it can't be real, can't be real at all.
She doesn't dare ask anyone if they see the same things – she doesn't want to be any trouble.
Kagome is very quiet this winter.
It is winter, Kohaku is nearly thirteen, and the season is a harsh one.
He is hungry and tired, and remembers things that make him want to die, things that make him wish he had never been born.
This winter, Kohaku envies his dead family. He envies animals, and lizards, and insects.
Kohaku envies stones.
Two years gone, and Kagome begins to go down to the well again.
Somewhere on the other side of the centuries there is a family that loves her, and medicines that could make her better.
"Make me better," she says, and then she jumps into the darkness of the earth.
Always at the bottom, she stumblecurls and falls in on herself, slashstab of fear in her gut, as around her rise screaming demon voices, demons now only bones in limbo. She hears them clawing and carving, taptapping against the false minutes and imaginary years, taptapping on the neverknown forever, taptapping to find their way back into the world, and Kagome knows their anguish.
She always climbs out of the chill of the well that lets nothing through (no, not any more) and leaves them behind to taptap for eternity. She envies them, together in their torment, while she stands alone where the world meets the end.
"Where do you go in the evenings?" Inuyasha asks, twisted and grotesque, and far, far away.
"Nowhere," she says, before walking into their blue rubber hut and making pretty with the world outside her traitorous head.
Two years gone, and Kohaku spends a lot of time alone.
He wanders, drifting aimless, from one spot to the next, and that is how he finds her, twisted foot and mournful moan, at the bottom of the old well.
Gentle hands, and she's sitting up again. "Ah," she whispers, chokes. "Sorry."
"Kagome-sama!" he is saying, voice trickling down through the howling of the beasts around them. "Do you think you can stand? Kagome-sama?"
She's so tired, and the demons are climbing over and around the cage of her skull, though whether they are trying to get in or trying to let her out, she cannot say.
It's too much. "Do you... do you hear them?" she wonders out loud.
The young boy man looks at her, startled. "Hear who?" he asks.
Kagome shakes her head, as though she could dislodge the voices and the visions, as though she could pluck the blue from the sky. "Nothing," she says. "For a minute there I lost myself."
Freckled shadowed skin creases, and Kohaku smiles faintly. "You too?" he says, sardonic razors bristling from his throat, and when she looks at him, paperblank, he spreads his hunter's hands, clothed in skin and meat. "I'm lost myself."
Whipwire muscles lift her onto his shoulder, and he carries her into the sunset, out of the hell below.
He visits her as she sits quietly, afraid to move through the treacherous world, betrayed by her own mind. He takes her hand when she shivers, and tries to believe her when she tells him that she would be all right, if only she could go home.
"If..." she says, silksoft and sorrowsapped. "Only then..."
She asks him what it was like, and he remembers the trembling time, adrift and aborted, no memory and no will, no world to make his own. She believes him utterly when he tells her that he would be all right, if only he could atone somehow.
"If only..." he murmurs. "Then - "
Why doesn't anyone notice? Why doesn't anyone know I'm sick?
They don't want to notice. They don't want to know.
Inuyasha, away, away fighting, and Kohaku left behind, looks after his madsick wife, his drowning wife who cannot surface, his timeshattered wife who looks to the future and prays for a cure.
(Inuyasha looked pensive. "She seems a little depressed," said the hanyou. "Take care of her while I'm gone."
"Yes, sir," Kohaku replied, knowing he was a little madsick, himself.
He watched the hanyou disappear into the distance before turning back to the hut, and going inside to see her.)
She sits with frenzied calm, and he takes her hand in his guiltchilled own, and thinks of all the demons he could have slain, had he but lived.
What a pretty pair they make.
You don't want them to know, anyway. It's better this way.
...and why is that? ...
Because when they know, they will be kind.
He helps her clean, and cook. Helps her scrub the clothes, despite the teeth that swirl beneath the surface of the water, that rear up, cause her to jump, and then sink down once more.
She bathes, and he stands guard, keeping the roaming illusory animals at bay.
At night, he sinks into sleep, and at dawn he wakes to find her curled next to him, terrortears on her fear-filled face.
One by one, he wipes them all away, like no one did for him, and she smiles.
Like waking up...
His hand, his hand, his hunter's hand in hers.
"You aren't just being kind to me, are you?" she asks.
He feels as though he is falling off the universe, twice a traitor, needy, needy.
"Never, Kagome-sama," he replies. "Never."
She looks at him hard, in his emptyfilled eyes. He is real, and all around is false.
Kagome kisses him to prove it.
Slickdamp roughtumble tongue on tongue, needburned skin beneath slipfumble fingers, he falls into her, between her thighs, back into the madsick, guiltchilled void he'd tried so hard to flee from.
With bone-deep, moan-deep movements, he makes her real, and she unmakes him once again.