Author's Note: Maybe I'm extra-sensitive because my dad is sick, but I thought I'd give you fair warning, you might need some tissues.
Shippo jumped over to her side, attaching himself to her arm, bursting into tears, "You're finally awake! I was so scared! I thought you were dead when I found you!"
"How long have I been asleep?" she asked, gritting her teeth for a second, "What day is it?"
"You've been sleeping for two days," Sango answered as she kneeled beside her.
Miroku came over to her other side, smiling gently at the girl, "You gave us quite the scare Kagome-sama, we were all worried sick."
"I'm sorry," Kagome whispered, "I was so scared and hurt, I just needed help and the well wouldn't let me through the first time."
"We sealed it against you," Kaede explained, "It was only to let you pass under serious circumstances."
"You sealed it?" Kagome gasped, eyes widening in surprise, "Why?"
"Because I told them to," Inuyasha finally spoke, "Because of what I saw you doing, on that table."
(- A table? -)
The silent question flashed in everyone's eyes as they pulled back and let him take a place beside her.
Kagome's chin trembled and her eyes filled with tears, "I didn't know you were there."
"You looked right at me."
Shaking her head, she winced and closed her eyes, "I might have seen you but I didn't recognize you, I'm... I'm still not even sure of what happened that night."
"How can you not know what you did?" Inuyasha snapped, annoyed by her denouncing what he'd seen with his own eyes. He'd been there, he knew she'd seen him damnit!
"It's called being drugged Inuyasha," Kagome's voice cracked, "Not that it matters anymore, everything they did, everything I did. None of it matters, I still failed, I couldn't do what they needed me to and my family will have to pay. It's all my fault, mine and uncle Dai's."
Immediately filled with remorse for his stupid temper, Inuyasha took hold of her hand and lowered his voice, "No Kagome, it's not..."
But she wasn't to be interrupted, "He owed them money you see, a lot of money, so they wanted him to find out some information about another company and help get a certain man in control of it. They sent Mama and Grandpa to California for her treatments, and Souta was packed off to camp, but I had to stay. I was the one who did all the dirty work, me and a girl named Miwa who was the one who slept with them at first."
"Slept with..." Sango paled, shaking her head at the words. (- At first? -)
"It started out easily, I went to a party, tempted the specified man into another room, drugged him and left him with Miwa to sleep with and bribe the information out of him. There were parties at the house and at hotels, I even went to a business lunch with my main customer. During the ride home afterwards Miwa couldn't take my place so I had to... service him in a way."
(- No -)
Inuyasha froze, feeling as if he'd just been rammed through the stomach with Tetsusaiga. Kagome couldn't have been... anything but that.
Tears leaked from her closed eyelids while she bit her lip for a moment before continuing, "He didn't take me but his hands and his mouth..."
Shuddering, she blinked back more tears and forced herself to continue, "Shinji made sure I was trained for it, he was the one in charge at home. He also tied me down to pierce my belly button, and threw me into the bathtub and..."
The desperate shout made everyone jump, staring wide-eyed at the shaken hanyou. They were all horrified of course, how could their sweet, naive Kagome have been forced to do such horrible things. But he was visibly pale and shaking his head. "Don't..."
"That's what I said," Kagome continued, "Don't and please and no, but they never listened. The night you saw me I was drugged and unaware of what happened. It wasn't until the next day when I found out that I'd finally been taken and by then it was too late. The company chose a different man and Uncle Dai was given twenty four hours to come up with the money before they took drastic measures."
"Shinji had a debt too, I don't know how much be he owed them and he couldn't pay," Kagome began trembling again, "He knocked uncle Dai unconscious and turned up the radio so my screams wouldn't be heard."
"I'll kill him" Inuyasha growled, fists clenched in anger.
Her voice dropped to a whisper then, "Too late."
Closing her eyes, she felt bile rise in her throat and shook with the memories of the attack. "I never meant to kill him but I couldn't let him touch me. He hit me... so many times, but finally I managed to get far enough to pull up my pants... I found a large needle under the sofa and I picked it up and jammed it forward when he lunged at me. I wasn't thinking about killing him, I just... couldn't take another blow."
A sob interrupted her then, coming from Sango who was leaning against Miroku's side. The monk held the taijiya close, equally upset by the tale. Shippo sat solemnly curled up beside Kagome, clinging to her side and crying quietly too. Kaede sat shaking her head, wondering how the kami could put a child in such horrible circumstances.
"The blood wasn't yours," Inuyasha mumbled, "Only a little of it was yours but Shippo was right, you looked dead when we found you."
To their surprise, she shrugged and turned her head away, "I almost wish I had been."
Too stunned to give a reply, they stared while her breathing evened and she fell back into a deep sleep, having exhausted what energy she had while explaining.
(- I have to find out what happened to her family. -)
Climbing out of the well, Inuyasha listened carefully for anyone moving outside and was relieved to see the yellow tape was gone. It had been a week and a half since Kagome had explained everything, and while she was physically better, she was reserved and depressed. She hardly spoke or ate, always asking to be left alone in the dark recovery room. Her hands were healed and her arm, the bruised ribs were better and her knee seemed to be healing well.
What killed him were her soft sobs though, after two weeks of hearing them he just wanted to crawl into a hole and die too. He almost wished she hadn't explained and left him thinking the worst, it was cowardly he knew, but this guilt was tearing him apart. How could he have left her there? Why hadn't she told him?
Stepping out into the yard, he listened carefully when he heard movement inside the house and was relieved to hear her grandfather's voice again. "Thank kami they're back."
Hurrying inside, he stopped short when he reached the kitchen door, the smell of sickness was just overwhelming. Turning and sucking in a gulp of clean air, he stepped inside and followed the voices up to her mother's room, tapping the door gently with his claws before coming in.
Freezing in the doorway, he let out the breath he'd been holding and inwardly cursed, surprised to see her mom smile at him from the bed.
"Hello Inuyasha, we've been wondering where you were. Is she all right?" Mrs. Higurashi asked, looking like she would break at any minute.
Her face was pale and sallow, her body thin and gaunt. This was not the same woman who always smiled and welcomed him into her home, he tried to tell himself, but it was, and he knew the smell that had woven into hers and was slowly taking over.
(- So soon? -)
Snapping from his thoughts when she called his name again, he said the first thing to come to mind. The truth.
"She's recovering, her ribs aren't so bruised and her knee's getting better." Inuyasha blurted out, regretting it immediately when her expression became troubled.
Her father and son spoke before she could, "Kagome was hurt? By whom?"
Inuyasha shrugged, "She killed the man in that room."
Souta gasped, "Kagome? I thought uncle Dai did it?"
"According to the police he was the only one who could have," Grandpa motioned for Inuyasha to take a seat. "Sit down and explain young man."
Glancing at Souta, Inuyasha hesitated while doing as told, "I don't know if a kid..."
"I have the right to know what happened to my sister!" Souta argued.
"She was attacked," Inuyasha's shoulders slumped, eyes focusing on the floor while he went on to explain all that had happened. "So she's recovering now, in a small room in Kaede's hut. She's physically healed but she... she won't stop crying."
Standing and pacing across the foot of the bed, he was clenching and unclenching his fists as he spoke, "It's been two weeks. Two weeks! Of hearing her constantly trying to hide her crying, seeing her lie there blankly, staring out into space, hearing her beg in her dreams."
"Can we be left alone?" Asami waved her father and son out of the room, patting the bed next to her for Inuyasha to sit.
Feeling confined as it was in the closed room, he none-the-less sat beside her as indicated, feeling his tightly controlled emotions about to snap. He wanted to tear something apart and fall to his knees beside her and soothe it all away. A knot was lodged in his throat and a prickling suspiciously like tears threatened at the corners of his eyes, not that he'd let them out or anything like that. The three of them had cried enough already for him to be adding more to the lot, so had everyone else in the past.
Taking a seat, he was surprised when she reached out and gently tugged him close enough for a hug, "You might not need it, but I just heard every mother's nightmare and a hug would be nice."
"Umm..." hesitantly leaning forward, he left his hands at her sides and was surprised to find she was silently offering him comfort, not taking it.
"I'm sorry to put this on your shoulders, but you need to stop focusing on your feelings of guilt and help her Inuyasha." Asami kissed his cheek, "You need to bring her back so I can talk to her, you can smell it can't you? I've always heard that animals can sense death, not to offend you, but you have..."
"Yeah I smell it," he admitted, taking no offense from her referring to his youkai side. "I can smell your illness and even the tears you've shed into the pillows, just like I can smell hers in that hut."
"I know you feel guilty, but there is not much you could have done unless she'd told you and asked for your help." Asami tightened her hold on him, "I'm sure she doesn't blame you for anything, you shouldn't either, none of it was your fault or hers."
"I should have paid more attention, I knew she was afraid, I saw one of the bruises once and I thought it was just a shadow. I should have checked." Inuyasha mumbled, "What kind of protector am I?"
"One who has saved her life countless times," Asami reminded him, "You can't doubt yourself now, she needs you."
"She can't even stand to look at me," Inuyasha pulled back and sighed, "She closes her eyes or turns away each time I enter the room. She won't meet my gaze when I try to talk to her and she always asks to be left alone."
"Kagome's always kept her troubles to herself, she's great at giving comfort, but terrible at asking for it. I can't even imagine how she feels, my poor little girl." Asmai's eyes filled with tears again but she sniffled and held them back. "Is her knee well enough for her to come home? I'd like to give her the good news, Taikisha's executives sent a letter clearing us of Daisuke's debt."
"I'll bring her," Inuyasha watched her yawn and inwardly winced. He'd felt the slight trembling of her arms when she'd hugged him, and this sign of fatigue was not a good one either. Not to mention the feverish flush that was coming onto her cheeks. Maybe she had less time than he'd originally thought.
"Thank you," Asmai lay back against her pillows and smiled when he pulled up her covers, "You're very kind Inuyasha, did anyone ever tell you that?"
Blushing, he shrugged, "Just Kagome."
"She's right, and I'm glad she has you to take care of her," yawning, she gave him another smile before falling asleep.
Standing and slipping out of the room, Inuyasha was surprised to find Souta and Grandpa downstairs in the kitchen, quietly making tea.
"She doesn't have much time left does she?" Souta's voice was strained and wavering, his face already tear-stained from the earlier account.
Knowing it would be useless to lie, Inuyasha shook his head, "No."
"Kagome needs to come see her," Grandpa sighed.
Nodding, Inuyasha headed for the door, "I'm going to bring her home, we should be here in a short while."
Making his way back to his time, he walked slowly through the forest towards the hut, feelings of doubt and guilt still plaguing him. When he reached the small structure, he was welcomed with faint smiles and nods from the others, who silently picked up and went off into the village, leaving him alone with Kagome to talk. Even Shippo went with Kaede without arguing, knowing things needed to be cleared up between the two.
Feeling rather awkward, Inuyasha knocked on the wall before entering the back room, stopping just inside the doorway. Kagome wasn't asleep, she'd been staring out the window again, propped up with a few folded blankets between her back and the wall.
Focusing her attention on him, she quickly lowered her eyes, "Hey."
"I went through the well," he came forward and knelt by her side, but not too close, "Your family's home."
"What did they say?" Kagome's head snapped up, "You didn't tell them about what happened, did you?"
Nodding, he was about to explain when she gave a strangled cry, "You told them?! How could you?! They weren't supposed to know!"
"Why not? They have as much of a right as anyone..." Inuyasha began to argue only to be cut off again.
"No they don't! No one has a right to invade a person's privacy! That was my nightmare, you had no right to share it with them!" Kagome turned her head away, pulling up her good knee and curling up. "I didn't want them to know... they didn't need to know."
"Of course they need to know, they're your family, they love you," Inuyasha came forward and touched her shoulder. "They want to see you."
"No..." Kagome sniffled and shook her head, "I can't face them now, I don't want to face anyone, I wish I'd died."
Kagome barely managed to gasp before she found herself pinned to the wall, Inuyasha straddling her legs and his hands gripping her shoulders tightly, forcing her to look at him. There was an odd, almost desperate gleam in his eyes when he spoke, "Don't you ever wish for that."
"No it's not!"
"Yes it is!" she insisted, "If I'd died I wouldn't have to suffer this pain, I wouldn't feel so dirty or worthless, I wouldn't feel this horrible guilt or fear!"
Inuyasha shook his head, "You're wrong! Damnit Kagome you're so wrong!"
Feeling suddenly furious, Kagome hit his chest, "What do you know? You... you've never been through this! You've never been drugged and groped and humiliated by leering old men! You're nothing like me! You're strong and brave and... and..."
Inuyasha let her beat at his chest, her fists slowing as her sobbing intensified. "And?"
The strange word, sounding more like a wail, was the last she said for a little while as she broke down and buried her face in her hands. When he tried to hold her, she struggled against him at first, but in the end he won out and she found herself clinging and crying into his chest.
"I keep dreaming about them... Shinji, Enishi, and others... they won't stop touching me..."
Gulping down his own tears, Inuyasha tightened his hold on her as she explained between sobs.
"They're everywhere... touching and scratching and licking... everywhere... its like they'll never stop and I'll never wash them off... I can't even dream without them there."
"You're not dirty," Inuyasha rocked her carefully and kissed her temple, "You're not."
Kagome shook her head, "Yes I am."
"No you're not"
"Why didn't you tell me? The night I was there, why didn't you say anything?" Inuyasha changed the subject, seeing they were getting nowhere.
Kagome hiccuped and lowered her head, "I... I was ashamed, I had gone to a party earlier and had one of the worst times, and you were being so nice."
"You stayed in the shower for hours," Inuyasha remembered, "You said you'd felt dirty."
"You should have told me Kagome," he sighed and rested his forehead against her hair, "I wish you'd let me help."
She shook her head, "There was nothing you could do. You would have made things worse if you lost your temper and attacked someone. I had to do what they wanted for my family, they would have suffered, they probably are suffering because of my failure."
"Your mother got a letter saying the debt was gone," Inuyasha informed her, "Your uncle was blamed for the man's death."
"Uncle Dai?" Kagome gasped, "He's in jail because of me?"
"He's lucky he's not anywhere I can see him," he snapped, "And don't you dare feel bad about that. Damnit Kagome! It's all his fault! Everything you went through was because of his debt! Let the bastard pay for it!"
"I guess," she whispered uncertainly, "But he didn't do it."
Inuyasha growled, "He did a lot worse! He's the reason you were in so much crap in the first place! I can't believe you're actually..."
"I'm not defending him, he deserves some punishment," Kagome sighed and finally pulled back enough to look up at him. "But Shinji's death is still on my conscience, I killed him, I was the one covered in his blood. I still see him in my dreams, gurgling and coughing it up as he kneels over me."
Shaking his head, Inuyasha cupped her cheeks and wiped the twin drops that fell from her eyes, "You had to defend yourself, he was attacking you and you had to stop him. No one would blame you even if they found out the truth, the man was a bastard, he earned it."
"But I'm still guilty, how can I go see my family knowing..."
"They love you and they want to help you," he cut her off, "Kagome they had no idea, they're shocked and horrified yes, but not by you. They love you."
Tears filled her eyes again, "But they shouldn't."
"Don't be stupid!" Giving her a shake, Inuyasha cupped her chin and forced her gaze to meet his, "You were abused, beaten, pierced, and degraded, all for the sake of your family, and you don't think they should love you? How could anyone not? Can't you understand how- how amazed everyone is?"
"Yeah, amazed and... and shocked, and in awe."
"You're exaggerating," she said, fighting down a smile.
"No I'm not, we've all been wondering how you could do such things." Seeing the light in her eyes dim, he quickly explained. "Not because we think any less of you, no one in their right mind would do that, we're just shocked by how you... how anyone could be so selfless, so... so strong. You're such a happy, care-free girl, we knew you were tougher than you looked, but none of us imagined how much."
Kagome blinked back tears again and sniffled, "Stop Inuyasha, you..."
"No, I'm not done yet," Wiping the tears from her cheeks, he continued, trying to make her understand. "You say you feel dirty but you're not, you're not dirty, or worthless, or anything like that. You're..."
Biting his lip suddenly, struggling against the urge to say too much, he closed his eyes for a moment until she spoke again. "I'm... ?"
"You're beautiful," he whispered, opening his eyes to meet hers again, unable to stop himself now that he'd said it. "You might have a few bruises and cuts and scrapes, but each one only adds to that. After all, how many women would do what you did? How many women would have stayed on this quest? How many would have adopted a baby kitsune the way you did, or put up with a grouchy hanyou like me, or risked her life for someone else as much as you have?"
"I don't know," she whispered.
"Well I do, and the answer is not many, if any at all. That's what makes you so unique and special, and gorgeous, and its not only your looks, its much more than that... its... your heart."
With her chin wobbling, Kagome sniffled and stared into his eyes, seeing he truly meant it. With a shake of her head she tried to explain, "I don't feel beautiful, or strong, or any of that. I feel used and tired and scared."
"Scared of what?"
"I don't know, that my mom will die, that Souta and grandpa will leave, that everyone will see me and know everything that I did." Shuddering, she whimpered when he wrapped his arms around her and sat back, pulling her onto his lap carefully. "I'm afraid the nightmares won't stop, that I'll always feel them."
"Feh, they will," Inuyasha turned to lean against the wall and held her tight, "The nightmares will stop, you won't feel them forever, and your family will always be there for you."
"I thought you hated me," Kagome whispered, completely throwing him off balance, "I was sure you'd hate me when you found out, and then they said you had me sealed away..."
Just the thought of it sent a chill through his body, making him instinctively pull her closer and bury his head in her hair. Feeling her tense, he lifted his lips to her ear, whispering hoarsely, "I could never hate you."
Kagome held her breath and closed her eyes, "But you..."
"I had you sealed away for your own protection, I was so furious when I came back that... I knew I would lose it if I saw you any time soon. I was angry, I felt betrayed and hurt and... well damnit, I was jealous too."
Her eyes snapped open and she pulled back to see his, "Jealous?"
Shrugging, he kept his left arm around her waist while lifting the other to trace her cheek. "Here I was forcing myself to keep away from you, to keep you from defiling yourself with a worthless hanyou like me, and then I walk in to find you moaning beneath some total stranger on a table."
Quivering at the image, she leaned against him, burying her face into his neck, "I wish you hadn't been so thoughtful, that you'd been like this before."
"Not more than I do," he sighed, gently rubbing her back.
Kagome lifted her head again, "At least your first kiss was with someone you loved."
Remembering the kiss Kikyo had given him that time she'd tried to take him to hell, Inuyasha asked himself how true that statement was. He'd loved Kikyo years before, but now he felt more like he owed her peace, more than anything.
"An old man with a large belly took mine," Kagome nearly gagged, "He was drinking too."
(- "A girl's first kiss should be special, you know, held in the arms of the guy she loves. All sweet and romantic, out under the stars and moonlight." -)
When had she said that?
Oh right, about a few days before the whole ordeal began, while she was talking to Sango before going to sleep one night.
"I'm so sorry," Inuyasha whispered, hearing her take a deep breath and feeling her body relax into his. They sat quietly for a few minutes before he broke the peace, "Kagome, about going home..."
"I will," she agreed, "When my knee's better."
"I don't think we can wait." When her head lifted, he met her worried gaze and hesitated, "Your mom's worse."
"How much?" Kagome moved back a little, trying to read into his averted gaze, "Inuyasha how sick?"
"She's not going to last much longer," he answered "I don't know when, but I have the feeling it will be soon, very soon."
After a brief moment, biting her lip and registering that fact, she licked her lips and leaned into him again. "Come with me?"
"Of course, but are you ready for that? Do you think?" Waiting for her response, he gave her arm a squeeze when she nodded. "That's my Kagome."
Shifting his arms to support her knees and back, he was surprised when she lifted her arms around his neck and raised troubled yes to his, "I'm scared."
"I know, but they're your family Kagome," Inuyasha reminded her again, "They want to see you and make sure you're ok, your mother needs to see you again."
"I know, I need to see her too," resting her head on his shoulder, she yawned and tightened her hold on him. They were at the edge of the well when she spoke again, "Inuyasha?"
"Will you stay... with me?"
"It's ok, you can open your eyes now," Inuyasha whispered, entering her mother's room.
Asami woke from her feverish state and gave them a weak smile. Luckily Kagome's gasp was soft, but Inuyasha heard it and gave her back a comforting squeeze as he carried her over and set her on the bed next to her mother.
"My baby," Asami slipped her arms out of the blanket and held them out for her daughter, who quickly lay her head down and started crying again. "My precious Kagome."
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry your treatments had to stop!" Kagome sobbed, neither of them noticing him slip out of the room to wait with the other guys outside.
Asami hugged her tight and rubbed her back in slow circles, "Don't fret over that, they weren't working."
"What?" Lifting her head, Kagome scanned her mother's features, inwardly wincing at how thin and flushed she was. "You said..."
"I didn't want to worry you," Asami wiped her daughter's cheek with a soft hand, "I knew I'd be coming home soon. I would have been here sooner but Dai kept making up excuses for not sending us the tickets."
"I'm sorry about him too," Kagome sniffled. "He didn't kill Shinji."
"I know, Inuyasha told me, and I can't imagine it. My little girl, you're not so little anymore, I realized it before but not fully until I'd heard the story... I'm so sorry." Pulling her down, Asami held tight. "You're such a brave child Kagome, even after your father died you were so mature."
"You've always taught me to look at the bright side, that's all I've ever tried to do... until recently." Kagome sniffled.
"Don't let this ruin your life, don't give them that victory." Asami kissed her forehead, "You have a boy who's been tearing himself apart from the guilt of not saving you, and who also loves you very much. Hold on to that, to him, and you'll be all right."
"Inuyasha loves you Kagome, he's just too frightened to tell you, maybe even to tell himself, but he'll figure it out soon." Yawning, Asami nuzzled her hair, "And your family loves you, grandpa and Souta will always be there and we've found a way for you to keep up your trips to the past."
"How?" Kagome raised her eyes to her mom's.
"Mayumi-san's daughter is marrying so she needs a place to stay, she'll be renting our guest room and helping out around the house. I've already explained that you often go to your fiancee's house and stay for a few nights. She's very kind and sweet, and she's a hopeless romantic so she finds it romantic that he'll wait for you to be of age to be married."
Giggling, Kagome lay her head on her mother's chest, "I love you mom."
Fighting down tears, Asami sighed, "I love you too sweetheart."
A knock sounded on the door, Souta sticking his head in when they called enter, "Can I come in?"
"There's plenty of room," Asami patted the bed on her other side.
Climbing onto the covers, he lay his head next to Kagome's and silently set his hand over hers. Giving it a squeeze, she smiled and held it tight. They lay there in companionable silence for a while, Souta's eyes were drooping and Grandpa had joined them, sitting behind the boy, holding his daughter's hand when Inuyasha heard his name called. Asami waved him over and he hesitantly came around the bed, taking up a place behind Kagome, who pulled his arm around her and had him hold her close.
"That's better, now its all of us," Asami whispered, sniffing back tears and feeling her kids curl up closer to her, and even Inuyasha slowly slipped his hand over her arm and held tight. "Kagome?"
"Do you remember the lullaby your father wrote you? At the beach house?"
Fighting back tears, Kagome nodded, dreading the question she knew would come next.
"Could you sing it for me? It's been a while since I heard it," Asami felt her daughter hold her breath for a second before agreeing.
"Okay," biting her lip and clearing her throat, Kagome slowly began to sing the sad melody.
- Good night my angel time to close your eyes
- And save these questions for another day
- I think I know what you've been asking me
- I think you know what I've been trying to say
- I promised I would never leave you
- And you should always know
- Wherever you may go
- No matter where you are
- I never will be far away
Souta held back sobs, his tears falling on his mother's blanket while his grandpa rubbed his back. Inuyasha tightened his hold on Kagome, who's voice cracked the tiniest bit when she started the next verse.
- Good night my angel now it's time to sleep
- And still so many things I want to say
- Remember all the songs you sang for me
- When we went sailing on an emerald bay
- And like a boat out on the ocean
- I'm rocking you to sleep
- The water's dark and deep
- Inside this ancient heart
- You'll always be a part of me
Kagome took a moment to catch her breath and blink back a few tears, smiling when her mom kissed the top of her head. The most difficult lines were coming up and she needed a moment to collect herself.
- Good night my angel now it's time to dream
- And dream how wonderful your life will be
- Someday your child may cry
- And if you sing this lullaby
- Then in your heart
- There will always be a part of me
Feeling her strength near its end, Asami sighed and gave a soft whisper that was heard throughout the room before falling asleep.
"I love you all"
Kagome heard Souta let out a sob and choked on her own. But she finished the song with a shaky voice, knowing her mother was probably not going to hear it, finishing anyways, the final lines speaking more for the rest of them now.
- Someday we'll all be gone
- But lullabies go on and on
- They never die
- That's how you and I
- Will be...