Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Chapter 28 "No Time Like the Present"
His voice seemed to echo in the suddenly small room and she couldn't help herself. Moving slowly towards the window, she saw the plain car. Nothing fancy, but he climbed out and shut his door normally. Mother and Souta also climbed out of the car and followed him towards the front door.
She waited until she heard the front door open and close behind them and the familiar soft voices speaking from downstairs; strangely enough, it was not comforting.
Turning, she leaned against the window, pressing her shoulder blades against the cool glass and tried to contain herself, which felt nearly impossible. Suddenly, all her internal organs turned to ice or became volcanic. She felt like the inside of a Hot Pocket.
She glanced up at Inuyasha and then back at her shoes that she'd brought up here. Maybe she should leave; they'd never be the wiser. But that nagging, insistent little voice told her that if she did leave, she'd never have the courage to come back. Not to mention that she shouldn't be denied her family just because of her father's presence. He shouldn't keep her afraid of being at home just because he was here. Of course, she had hoped that she'd arrive when he was gone to work or whatever. But she was sorely mistaken and still afraid.
She took a step away from the window and paused, trying to think through her next actions. Her mother wouldn't just let her appearance go unnoticed. Not after the way she left last time. Just disappearing without leaving a trace, except her absence and the missing supplies that she'd taken with her.
Frustrated, she crossed her arms over her chest, an action noticed by Inuyasha. Maybe it would be best if she just disappeared, but she couldn't just leave again. She really wanted to see her mother, but she'd really hoped to arrive when no one else was home. Just her luck to arrive on a Saturday or was it Sunday? She couldn't really remember just what day it really was. Since when had everything gotten so screwed up?
Even though jumping through time-traveling wells had never been the basis for normal, she'd always been able to cope with it and with school. But even now there was no semblance of normalcy, not with her father present.
No, she couldn't let her father destroy everything that she'd worked so hard to attain and she couldn't allow him to destroy her life on both sides of the well; he couldn't be allowed that much control over her. No, he wouldn't get the chance to control her again. He couldn't keep her from being with her family; she deserved at least that much.
"I'm going downstairs," she announced and pushed off from her position leaning against the window. Uncrossing, she started towards her door as Inuyasha began to follow her. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going with you."
"No, you're not!"
"Like hell if I'm going to just sit up here while he beats on you!"
"Keep your voice down!" She hushed him. "There's already going to be enough yelling when I go down there, I don't need you adding to it."
"Fine, I'll just break his jaw."
"You will do no such thing, Inuyasha! I intend to at least talk to my mother before anyone winds up bloody," she stated and then tried to think up some reasonable compromise that he might consider. "I'll tell you what, you can stay at the top of the stairs and listen, alright."
"No! I'm coming with you!"
"Inuyasha, you'll stand at the top of the stairs and I'll stay within hearing distance. You'll be able to hear everything that I'm saying and you can come down if you think that I'm in danger. But at least let me prepare them for you."
Consider it, she pleaded internally and after crossing his arms and staring at her, harshly, he relented.
Turning, she headed for the stairs with Inuyasha close behind her and true to his word, he leaned against the banister.
"Within hearing distance," he reminded her and she nodded and continued downstairs. She stepped off the bottom step just as the rest of her family rounded the corner.
"Kagome!" Her mother startled and then turned to her father in a glance. "When did you get home?"
"A little while ago, while you were gone."
"I'm going outside," her father stated and started to walk away.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm sealing up the well."
"You can't!" Kagome shouted.
"And what are you going to do about it?" He stated and before she could signal him to stop, she heard Inuyasha land behind her without so much as a grunt when he landed.
"She's not going to do anything," Inuyasha said simply, but the threat was plain. Her father wasn't going to trap her here; Inuyasha would see to that. Her father stared at Inuyasha; the same look that would make her flinch and cringe, didn't faze Inuyasha at all.
"Go upstairs Souta," Kagome whispered and Souta took her glance and left.
"You are not welcome in this house," her father said with malice.
"I'm not welcome in a lot of places, but that doesn't seem to stop me. Should we take this outside, old man?" Inuyasha said, cracking his knuckles.
"Both of you stop this instant!" Her mother shouted and both of them turned to look at her. Kagome rested her hand against Inuyasha's chest to try and keep him at bay. "Now, Kagome is back home, safe and sound and we," she made a gesture referring to Kagome and herself, "are going to have a talk, alone," a pointed look at Inuyasha, "and we are not going to be interrupted. Is that understood?" A growl went through Inuyasha's chest, but he seemed to accept the terms her mother gave.
"Fine, but then we are all going to have a talk, minus him," her father stated.
"Let's talk in your room, Kagome. Inuyasha, there's food in the kitchen," her mother said and then ushered her upstairs. She'd turned to say something, but her mother shook her head and pointed upstairs. She didn't stop until they were in her room and her mother had shut the door behind them.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, whatever words she'd wanted to say, whatever she wanted to get off her chest vanished into wisps of thought and fog. Suddenly, being here didn't seem that important.
"Kagome, we have to talk about your leaving like you did. You can't just up and leave in the middle of the night like you did. We were very worried about you!"
"Inuyasha needed me to go back to the Feudal Era."
"I don't care Kagome; you could have waited until the morning or at least let us know that you were leaving in the first place. There is no excuse for your behavior."
"Mom, I'm sorry. We couldn't wait to go back. It was an emergency."
"Whether it was an emergency or not, you could have taken the ten seconds to wake me up and let me know that you were leaving! I was worried sick about you and honestly I don't know what's gotten into you lately!"
"What's gotten into me? How can you even ask that?"
"You've been acting terrible since your father came back. We've all been working very hard to make him feel welcome after being gone so long."
"He was in jail!"
"He made some mistakes and we should be accepting that he has learned his lesson and is willing to start over. He's your father, Kagome, you are lucky to have him back! There are many people who don't have fathers or don't even know who they are! You should be counting your blessings."
"We were doing fine without him!"
"Souta needs a father figure, Kagome. It's been hard on him and it'll be nice having the extra money around the house."
"What if Dad goes back to his old ways?"
"He won't, Kagome. He's learned his lesson; he's got a normal job and he'll be with us for the foreseeable future. You'll just have to learn to adjust and let bygones be bygones."
"But you can't let him seal up the well! You can't be serious about that!"
"It wouldn't be a bad idea at all. Your grades are slipping and your uniforms are always coming back torn and sometimes bloody. I worry about you. This isn't a normal life for a girl your age."
"The work that I do over there is important. I just can't quit now right in the middle of things! They need me!"
"We need you here Kagome! You're a part of this family and we all worry about you. It wouldn't be so bad, but you're gone for days on end and sometimes for weeks. How are we supposed to keep tabs on you? One day you may not come back out that well and how are we supposed know? Are we supposed to just keep waiting, never knowing what's happened to you?"
"Inuyasha would never let anything happen to me."
"He's not always going to be there. Can you defend yourself from thieves? And when this jewel quest is over, what are your plans then?"
"I don't know."
"These are things that you have to think about, Kagome. You can't keep going on living in a fairy tale. You'll have to come back to real life sooner or later."
"You never used to be this against my trips down the well. Why are you doing this now?"
"To be honest, I'd never really given it much thought until your father started questioning me about it and I realized that I didn't really know what went on down the well."
"I have Inuyasha to protect me and Miroku and Sango. Nothing is going to happen to me."
"There's no such guarantee. I hate to say it Kagome, but we're going to have to limit your trips down the well," Kagome opened her mouth to protest. "It's either that or we seal the well."
"You can't seal it up and you can't limit my trips! We can't just be gone on weekends or whatever. That's impossible and unfair. Suddenly, just because he comes back you're going to freak out about the well?"
"I should have done this the moment your grades started to slip. You'll never make it into a good college and you were always good in school. Inuyasha isn't going to be around forever and you need to make plans for the future."
"My plans for the future mean nothing if we don't win. If we can't get all the pieces of the jewel back together, plans mean nothing."
"Kagome, you're not saving the world on the other side of the well."
"How do you know? How do you know what I do on the other side of the well?"
"Kagome, it can't be that important. I've let you carry on in this fairy tale of yours long enough."
"Fairy tale? Mom, this isn't a fairy tale. This is anything but a fairy tale!" Kagome said, standing and throwing her arms up into the air. "I don't know why I even wanted to come back here," she muttered to herself. "You know, I expected an argument, but I didn't expect—this. I didn't expect a witch hunt and I didn't expect you to threaten me with sealing up the well."
"What do you want us to do? You can't parade around like this forever. Your high school exams will be here soon and what will you do once this all finished? We're only looking out for you and your future. And if sealing up the well is what it takes to make sure that you end up happy, then that's what we'll have to do."
Kagome had already paced the room back to her door.
"Let's just be clear about one thing, Mom. For as long as he's back, I'd much rather be 500 years in the past than spend any more time here." She opened the door and slammed it before her mother could stop her, but she heard her shouting as Kagome descended the stairs.
She rushed downstairs and scanned the rooms trying to find Inuyasha and found him in the kitchen.
"Come on, we're leaving," she said and he threw her yellow pack over his shoulder. "When did you get that?"
"Kagome! Don't you dare leave!" Her mother shouted.
"Shit, my shoes. I'll have to come back and get them later."
"Kagome!" Her mother shouted and Kagome pulled on Inuyasha's arm as she rushed them out the door. They weren't going to get stopped; she wasn't going to spend one more minute on this side of the well.
They made it to the well house in record time and Kagome was already over the side of well before Inuyasha.
Once on the other side, she waited for Inuyasha to appear, which he did a few moments later and he lifted the both of them out of the well.
"Care to explain that?" He asked.
"We had a fight," Kagome said, leaning against the side of the well. "I can't believe that she would side with him over my life here. She said that it wasn't important, what we did here; they want to limit the time I spend here and the trips that I make," she was fuming and she couldn't help herself. "I can't believe that she doesn't believe me! She's never done this before and it's all his fault!"
"So when are you going to get your shoes?" He asked, staring at her bare feet and she sighed and looked down.
"I don't know, probably late tonight. When they're all asleep, I guess. If I went back now, they really would seal up the well. I guess I can't really go back for a while now. In case, they decide to make good on their threat." Tears were already starting to prick her eyes and she grew frustrated. "I can't believe that she would even consider what he said! It was all his idea to seal up the well!"
"That's not surprising," he said and then his look turned pensive. "Do they really think all that?"
"That what we do here is unimportant? I don't know, maybe. I never told them what happened here because I was afraid that they'd think I was bonkers. Fighting demons and mythical creatures that don't exist in our time, it's all kinda—well, strange. Definitely not normal. But that still doesn't make it right for them to try and control my trips here. I have a hard enough time with you, no offense, and I don't need them pressuring me anymore than I already am." She leaned her head back and groaned. "Inuyasha, when did my life become so messed up?"
"Since you decided to get that mangy cat out of the well house?" He stated and she smiled briefly.
"Best thing I ever did. I guess we should get back to Kaede's and see about getting me some shoes later?"
"Sure, you okay to walk?"
"For a little bit," she shrugged and walked beside him avoiding small pebbles and sticks that threatened her poor, dainty feet.
Continuing on mostly in silence worked for the first five minutes or so and then it became awkward. There was so much that she wanted to say, but she didn't know how to say it exactly. Or that she would spill it all out and it would sound like mindless gibberish.
But mostly she just wanted to scream in frustration, but that probably wasn't going to be the best idea.
Not to mention that the forest floor was starting to irritate her poor feet, which take so much abuse as it is. It seems rather unfair that they should be forced to suffer so.
"Sure you don't want to talk?" Inuyasha asked suddenly and she looked at him in surprise.
"Yeah," she said. She wanted to, but se just didn't know what to say.
"You don't sound sure."
"It's all confusing in my head; one part of me is so angry that she won't believe a word I say, but there's another part that's scared that they really will seal up the well. I don't want that, but I don't want to abandon my family either," the inner turmoil that she'd gone home to deal with came bubbling up to the surface.
"What is it?" Inuyasha said, slowly and carefully. He'd learned his lesson plenty of times before.
"It was really scary, you know," she said, crossing her arms as she walked. "Even though I wasn't quite coherent for most of it, I still had some inkling of what was going on." She shook her head. "All I could hear were voices as they talked about selling me like I was some piece of meat; I wasn't even human to them. And then they agreed that they would share me. Share me!" And the tears started and they couldn't be stopped.
"This was why you wanted to go home, wasn't it?"
"I just wanted to go home for a bit and try to feel safe and normal again, but then all of that happened."
"I'm sorry," he said and oofed at Kagome suddenly crying into his haori. She cried for a while and he stood there with her as she did.
"I was afraid that you wouldn't get there in time, before they moved us."
"Feh, I still tracked them, even without my sense of smell. I would've found you in no time," he said, still furious at the men who had fooled them and captured her. At least she didn't smell like them anymore. "Come on, let's go back to the village. Sango should be up by now."
"Alright," she nodded against his chest, taking a step backwards from him. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and Inuyasha caught her chin with his fingers. Forcing her to look at him, he locked their eyes.
"Hey," he said as she stared at him. "Things will get better."
"Of course they will," she answered with a weak smile, gently pushing his hand away from her chin. She turned towards the village and glanced over her shoulder as she did so. Inuyasha took her hand and pulled her back a pace as he kneeled down beside her.
"Get on," he said and she hesitated. "Otherwise your feet are going to be torn bloody by the time we get to the village." Without a further word, she took her yellow pack and climbed onto his back as he started walking towards the village.
There was a lot more to be said between them, but that could all wait until they returned to the village. And maybe there was nothing more that could be said between them over the subject. Maybe they'd used them all up. But then again, that sounded almost too easy and anything over these past few months had been anything but.
Once they arrived at Kaede's hut, Sango came walking out, holding her hand up to the bright sunlight. Even Kagome thought that she looked pale and briefly wondered if that was how she looked. She remembered the strike against her face and felt the tenderness of it, but tried to pay it no mind. Her mother hadn't even asked about it, come to think of it.
Inuyasha stopped and allowed her to get off his back, but took her pack from her the moment she slid off.
"I can carry that you know," she said as he walked towards the hut.
"Yeah, but what's the point?" He muttered and she could only follow in frustration.
"You can be so rude sometimes, you know that?"
"Kagome! You're back!" Sango shouted and Kagome ran to give her a hug in relief and sisterly love.
"Sango! I'm so glad to see you're okay! You are okay, aren't you?" Kagome said, holding her at arms length and searching her face for any trace of harm.
"I'm fine, Kagome. And you?" Sango said, returning the stare equally.
"Good!" She said and returned the hug.
"May I join you ladies?" Miroku asked and was promptly smacked upside the head by a certain half-demon. "What was that for?"
"Lecher," Sango muttered and headed back inside the hut with some minor wobbles.
"Seriously," Kagome said, following and leaving Miroku outside. "Where's Kaede? And Shippo?"
"They're both out in the fields. I think Kaede is collecting herbs with Shippo's help," Sango answered.
"I thought it seemed a little quiet," Kagome mused as she watched Sango slowly lower herself back to the mat that she'd been sleeping on. "Are you still tired, Sango?"
"Some, but I'm sure it will pass. Kaede's tea is helping. I'm sure I'll be back to normal in no time."
"You should get some rest. We'll go outside."
"Don't trouble yourself."
Kagome smiled, "Don't worry about it Sango. You'll need your strength back as soon as possible. There are only so many days that Inuyasha can sit still, you know." She stepped outside the mat as Inuyasha followed. She glanced over her shoulder as Miroku went inside and she smiled to herself. "Come on, let's walk for a little bit," she grabbed his hand to get him to start walking.
"Uh, aren't you forgetting something?" He asked and she furrowed her brow at him.
"Shoes?" He said, pointing down at her feet.
"A little bit more walking isn't going to hurt them. And besides, this ground is fairly soft; it won't hurt me that badly."
"Whatever, just don't expect me to carry you." He said, crossing his arms at the statement, as if emphasizing his point.
He says the words, she thought, knowing full well, he'd carry her anyway, even if she protested. She hoped that Sango felt better soon, even Kagome could feel herself starting to drag, but she didn't want to go to sleep yet. She wanted to be awake and feel the freedom that came from not being around her father. She was astonished at how little energy it took to really hate someone, but even she wondered if deep down she really hated her father. She didn't even really hate Kikyo anymore. All she hated was the idea of everyone thinking that she was just some barely able almost carbon copy of her. She wanted to be measured up to her own skills, not Kikyo's. She'd never grown up around priestesses and sacred jewels and demons. The first time she'd even fired a bow was when she first came to this place and come on, she'd made pretty remarkable headway in that department.
They walked on the outskirts of the village and along the rice fields before her feet really started to ache. The rocks and dirt were digging into the soft flesh of her instep. They hadn't run into Kaede or Shippo at all while they were walking and she was starting to get really tired. She wanted to take a nap, of all things.
"You tired yet?"
"Maybe a little," she muttered, leaning against him ever so slightly. "My feet hurt."
"I told you they would," he muttered. The sun was already setting and to be honest, he was starting to get the munchies. "Kaede and Shippo are probably already back at the hut. Let's go back before you fall asleep on your feet again."
"I'm not going to fall asleep on my feet. I'm far from it."
"Feh, whatever. Come on." He said and turned them back towards the hut that they'd walked from. Kagome limped around the rocks on the ground that she could see in the fading light and in an instant, she was off the ground and supported in the air.
She didn't really remember falling asleep, but she must have, since she awoke in the hut with a blanket draped over her.
She sat up and saw Inuyasha sitting up in the corner, presumably asleep, but you could never really tell.
She stared at the fire thinking up her course of action. She couldn't stay in this time forever; not when she didn't know how things would end up. What would Inuyasha choose in the end? And what if the final battle with Naraku didn't come until years from now? She didn't want to stay away from Mama and Souta for that long. She had every right to be there, at home, safely, unafraid. That was her right. Home should be safe.
Yes, she was going to go back after all. In the night, in the dark, perhaps with help, as she glanced over at Inuyasha. But only if he wanted to come, she wouldn't oppose the notion, but she wasn't about to encourage it either.
Nestling back down into her blankets she stared into the fire as it licked up the wood and glowing embers lit up beside, curling into themselves.
Should she sneak off tonight? Probably not, no telling if Inuyasha was really awake and there was no point in getting into another fight with him. Not when things were going along peaceably at the moment. Well, peaceably for them.
Besides, her father was probably expecting her at least to come sneaking back inside her room to get things and then sneak back out. At least this way, he'd be thrown off slightly and maybe he'd think that she wasn't coming back for a while. There's no telling for sure. All she knew was that there wasn't a chance in hell that she was going to run away and never come back.
She would go back and get what was rightfully hers and she'd ruin his life and hers to get it. She smiled to her sudden burst of will, closing her eyes and pulling the blanket around her shoulders, snuggling deeper into it.
And besides she needed to get her shoes back. A girl can't go walking about barefoot all the day long, can she?