And as we enter this last chapter, I would simply like to say . . .
I hope no one's forgotten this is a horror story.
Kagome drifted to consciousness slowly, her eyes blinking open in slow, lazy flickers. The last thing she recalled was falling asleep in Sesshomaru's arms in that horrible little room. Now her own bedroom came into focus around her.
As did the faces of her family, hovering over her with equal looks of joy and concern.
Aiko sat beside her, wiping a cool, damp cloth over her daughter's face. "Finally, you're awake," the woman said, smiling.
Kagome flinched at the sweetness in Aiko's tone. Frowning, she tried to pull away, but the exertion from such a simple act drained her. She had to force her eyes to stay open.
"No, no, don't," Aiko whispered softly. "You're still weak. It's natural while your body adjusts to carrying one of Fortune's Children."
The girl bit back a horrified gasp. She really had been impregnated by Sesshomaru that night. That night?
"How long has it been?" she asked, sudden tears clogging her throat. "How long have I been asleep?"
"A few days." Aiko shrugged, setting down the cloth and lifting a glass of water. "Your body needs the rest."
Kagome felt an arm under her, pulling her to sit up just a bit. Her gaze darted to the glass, and then to the person holding her up. Aunt Kaede was there, an approving grin on her chubby, wrinkled face.
Clenching her teeth, Kagome returned her attention to her mother. "You've already sent him away, haven't you?"
"Don't trouble yourself with such a thing. Come now, you have to drink, and try to eat something."
Kagome knew what that reply meant. Don't ask, because you're not going to like the answer. Which meant yes, Sesshomaru was gone.
She mustered what little strength she had, knocking the glass from her mother's hands.
"Kagome—" Aunt Kaede started.
"I want nothing from any of you," Kagome said in a lethal whisper, a tear trickling down her cheek.
"She's simply still tired," Grandpa's kindly, aged voice called from the back of the room. "She'll be more reasonable after a bit more rest, I'm sure. Let's leave her be for the moment."
Nodding, though her expression was still quite displeased, Aunt Kaede lay Kagome back down against the pillows. She pressed an very much unwanted kiss to the girl's forehead and then scurried off.
Aiko smiled, sad and serene as she swept some of Kagome's long, dark hair back from her face. "You'll be fine, just rest, as your grandfather says."
Once more, Kagome flinched away from her mother's touch.
Her mother's smile faded, as though she didn't understand why Kagome was upset. Kagome realized with a painful thudding in the center of her chest that the woman didn't understand—couldn't understand.
None of them did.
Sesshomaru was nothing more than a glorified good luck charm to them. But to her . . . .
Alone in the room at last, Kagome curled in on herself, weeping. She could feel it—the emptiness of the house. She could feel that he was no longer here. And the hollowness of that sensation tore great, wracking sobs from her.
Yet she did not have the strength to sustain the emotional turmoil, eventually drifting back to sleep, her cheeks still damp with her tears.
She wasn't certain how much time had passed when she next opened her eyes. The house was dark, silent. No one hovered in the room, waiting for her.
Not even her mother had returned?
Frowning, Kagome winced as she forced herself to sit up. She still hadn't gained back much of her strength, but she felt a tiny bit sturdier than before, which begged a question.
How long had she slept, this time?
Carefully shifting on the bed, she set her feet on the floor and stood. For a moment, the world rocked and swam around her. Shaking her head, she braced a palm against the wall, waiting for the spinning to subside.
When her head cleared, she gave herself another little shake and pushed away from the wall. The air of the house felt . . . strange. Somehow more hollow than before.
Swallowing hard, she took a few, wobbling steps, moving delicately until she was certain she could walk without falling down. Kagome drew a deep breath, forcing an entirely false sense of calm over herself as she made it to her bedroom door.
As she opened it and stepped into the corridor, a terrible sense of unease settled, cold and prickling, in the pit of her stomach. There was nothing. The house was perfectly still and silent.
Her heart pounded so hard she thought it might break her ribs as she inched along toward the staircase to the first floor. She drew steadily nearer, and still no sound came from below.
Biting hard into her bottom lip, she clung to the railing as she made her way down the stairs and looked out into the parlor. No one. And yet . . . .
The door to the cellar stood open.
Kagome felt the breath tear out of her lungs. They never left that door open.
Inhaling deeply, she forced herself to hold her head high. Blinking back a wash of frightened tears, she walked in ginger movements across the floor, stopping as she was almost at the door.
"Mom? Aunt Kaede?" Her voice shook as the syllables tumbled from her lips.
Then why was the door open?
She didn't want to go down there. Kagome knew that with a weighted certainty that screamed in the back of her mind. Yet, she had to. The source of the not-rightness in the house was there.
And she had to know.
She balled her hands into fists so tight her nails bit into the flesh of her palms. The stinging snapped her to attention, allowed her to will her weak legs into motion.
When she reached the cellar door, a rich, coppery scent stung her nose. Something about that scent was familiar . . . and terribly wrong.
Covering her mouth and nose with one hand, she reached through the door with the other, bracing her palm against the rough stone wall. Kagome squinted, trying to make out shapes in the darkness as she eased herself down the steps, her eyes adjusting far too slowly for her liking.
As blurry, dark shapes took form before her, she couldn't seem to stop herself from continuing downward. Her mind refused to believe what she saw for a few stretched and painful heartbeats.
But then she stepped onto the floor, a thick, cold liquid coating the soles of her bare feet. Forcing a breath, she blinked hard, her gaze roving about the bodies strewn about.
Her brow furrowed, uncertainty as to what she should feel gnawing at her. Had Sesshomaru somehow caused this?
A gasp tore out of her as a terrible thought struck. She counted the bodies, as terrible and morbid an act as it was. She allowed her gaze to register the features of each person. They were all here, her whole family.
All except one.
"Oh, gods," she said in a breathless whisper, turning and hurrying back up the stair as fast as her weakened body would allow. "Kikyou, please be okay!"
Kagome wasn't quite certain how—probably sheer adrenaline, she'd wager—but she managed to make it back through the house and up to the attic.
A sick jolt of panic rocked through her as she saw the door to Kikyou's room wide open.
Wincing at the exhaustion and soreness in her limbs, Kagome forced herself a bit further. Forced her legs to carry her across the attic and straight through that long-forbidden door.
The room was empty! Books and loose paper scattered everywhere, but no blood. No Kikyou! Whatever had happened, her sister managed to escape!
Relief swept through Kagome so great that her legs gave out from under her and she sank to the floor. The sudden, swift motion sent some of the papers swirling and shifting.
Swirling, and shifting, and revealing a smear of crimson on the floor.
She stared at the mark for a moment, fearful of moving more pages; fearful of learning what lay hidden beneath them.
Swallowing hard, she reached with trembling fingers to slide a paper away. Markings?
Kagome shook her head, confused as she swept her hands over the floor, displacing several sheets at once. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest as she found herself staring down strange, bloody symbols on the floor.
A horrible, twisted thought dawned on her. "Oh, Kikyou, what have you done?"
"Protected you," Kikyou said, her soft, lilting voice drifting inside as she stepped into the room.
Kagome turned, and—despite every dreadful thing she'd just found—a happy sigh escaped her as she laid eyes upon her twin for the first time. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry, somehow ending up doing both at once.
Kikyou knelt down before her sister, smiling. They really were identical. She ran shaky, tentative fingertips over Kagome's tear-stained cheeks.
"They can't hurt you anymore."
Kagome felt her bottom lip tremble. All this time, Kikyou was the one they'd been harming, and yet . . . . "Kikyou, please, I don't understand. What did you do?"
Shrugging, Kikyou dropped her gaze to her sister's currently-flat belly. "I heard you. I heard you crying. I know they took the silver-haired man from you, and how much that hurt. I could feel it."
"So you killed them?"
"Yes," Kikyou said brightly, as though the matter was a simple thing. She dropped a hand from Kagome to brush her fingers along the symbols. "My blood fed him for so long that it created a bond. After they took him, I reached out, borrowed some of his strength."
Forcing a gulp down her throat, Kagome willed herself to speak. "Borrowed or stole?"
Once more offering a shrug, Kikyou smiled. "He'll recover. As long as you're safe, that's what matters. I'm going to take care of you, and no one's ever going to hurt you again."
Kikyou rose, and turned away, walking to the door. Walking without her cane; walking without her limp.
"Kikyou, your leg . . . ."
"Borrowed strength, remember?"
Too late Kagome saw Kikyou's hand on the doorknob. She tried to struggle to her feet, but her body was still too weak. She was far too warn out from her ordeal.
The sound of the door closing seemed to echo through the room. The lock clicking into place rang in Kagome's ears.
A shuddering gasp escaped Kagome as she forced herself to crawl to the door. "Kikyou? Kikyou, please, what are you doing?"
"I told you, protecting you. I promise no one will ever hurt you again. Now, it's best for you and the baby that you get some rest. I'll bring you something to eat in a little while."
Kagome didn't know what was more terrifying—the sweet, chipper tone of her sister's voice, or the dull thud of her footfalls as she started across the attic.
"No, no! Kikyou, please don't leave me in here! Kikyou!" Kagome banged on the door again, and again. Each motion sapped what precious little was left of her strength, until she wanted nothing more than to curl up where she was, and fall asleep.
Kikyou shook her head, humming under her breath as she started down the stairs to the second floor. Her sister's pleas fell upon deaf ears.
After all, eventually Kagome would understand. She was only doing what was best for her.
And This is Where I Leave You . . . .
Happy Halloween ;)