Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters are Takahashi's, not mine. Though Naraku cheats on her with me.
Special. Kagome/Naraku. Seven pages. 359 minutes to write, over two days. Free, but to me, priceless.
"I was young, then, and you were a child. One girl among all the other dull little village children, I remember you had blue flowers in your hair, your namesakes. All the others looked at me, but you looked through me, saw me as I was, and was not afraid. I knew in that moment that you were special."
It has been a disaster. They are in the heart of Naraku's castle; Sango lies bleeding somewhere, with Miroku watching over her. And Inuyasha....
"I was rather disappointed with you when you died. You were just too special to die like everything else, it seemed, a goddess that would rise above even the pain of death."
She doesn't know who's talking. Watches Naraku's cruel red eyes between the bars of Juuroumaru's cage, and reads into his words.
"But then you did. Died an extraordinary death, and came back to live an extraordinary life. Found me, though you didn't know my name anymore, you didn't even know your own."
"Kagome," she says at last. "My name is Kagome."
She can still see it, freshly burned into her retinas. Inuyasha, making a foolish mistake. A lapse of judgement. Darkness closing in on him, until all she sees is a wisp of silver hair, and the toes of his left foot, sticking out, and then even that is gone, and she has nothing.
"You found your balance quickly, difficult for one who walks so high. And there was always something about you, something that went deeper than a miko's power, or physical beauty, or whatever anyone else saw when they looked at you. Every now and then, I saw a glimpse of the real you, and it was so beautiful it hurt to look at, but I couldn't turn away."
The arrow was too slow, she was too slow—but she doesn't believe he's gone yet.
"Osuwari." She waits. Nothing.
Naraku opens his hand slowly, revealing a broken string of beads in his palm.
"I hate you."
"And I hate everything," he drawls. "I hate every object, every living thing, I even hate you, my dear, but most of all, I hate my own heart, for telling me that you're special. Yet I cannot deny it."
He is only Naraku, now. She gets up and leaves. He's not going anywhere.
Miroku is crying, for the first time since she's known him. The source of his pain lies before him, bent and bloodied beyond all reason, yet smiling sweetly.
Kagome wonders who will have the strength to dig her grave.
She falls asleep wet and tangled in Miroku's arms, and dreams of peaceful things for the last time.
They wake in the twilight before dawn, and see the vanishing stars through a hole torn in the ceiling, a scar of their last battle. Shippou and Kilala are sleeping, and though their sleep is tense and feverish, there is almost a kind of harmony in the moment.
"Ah, you're awake, Kagome-sama," Miroku says, forcing a smile.
"Mi-ro-ku," she says dreamily, "tell me a story."
So he sits down and holds her damp little hands, and tells her something he learned at the temple.
"Once there was a princess, a beautiful princess."
"Is this going to be a perverted story?"
"Not at all, Kagome-sama. See now, this princess, she was told to marry by her father. But she didn't love the man, so she refused. Her father, infuriated by her strong will, had her executed."
"That's so cruel!"
"It is. Crueler yet, the princess went to hell. But her heart was so pure, she began to purify hell itself. The lord of hell sent her back to earth, through a lotus flower, and she became the goddess of mercy, Kannon."
"That's a sad story."
"I don't think so, she became a goddess, didn't she?"
"Maybe she was happy just being a princess."
She never strays far. Off to school every day, and back to the castle, to do her homework under his crimson gaze. Every other fight has been won or lost, now she has only this. Steady bantering, varying from witty to insane, searching for any fingerhold to pry him apart, and find her love again.
But it is a stalemate. He has most of the Shikon. He has Inuyasha. And if she approaches him, he will have her, too. Only the cage of his own making keeps him from wreaking chaos again.
Miroku has put wards on the cage, to strengthen it, and so Naraku cannot slip out in pieces during his period of weakness. Sometimes, bleary-eyed from chemistry homework and sore from biking constantly, she thinks she sees something through the rustling papers and steel bars. She looks suddenly, and it is only Naraku, trying not to laugh at her hope.
Today she is angry. In her world, Houjou is there, constantly, wanting to hold her hand, or massage her feet, when she does not want to be touched.
"Hello again," he says in that timeless way of his, that she has come to know so well, and she hates him so much.
"This is the last time," she says.
"You wouldn't leave me. Can't. That's the thing about love, child, we don't get a choice."
"There'll be nothing for me to come back for after I kill you." She nocks an arrow, very, very slowly. She has all the time in the world, and no reason to rush.
"You can't do that."
"I've already done it once, have you forgotten?"
"Fine then, show me how special you are."
Kagome narrows her eyes and takes aim. Lets the string slip away from her, along with her last hope. Perhaps it was a reckless thing to do. An act born of her rage and frustration, not her true desires.
It pierces him just as she knew it would, and explodes beautifully, splattering blood on Miroku's perfect wards.
But he remains.
I held back, she thinks. I must have. That's the only way—
"Ah, now that's pain," he says, a look of deep satisfaction on his face. "Nothing to me, of course, there's no pain like burning. Imagine your skin on fire, every nerve exploding, stripping you of your skin, face, eye... Yes, but even something like this, is exquisite agony to one such as Inuyasha."
"I'm sorry," she says, not to Naraku, but to Inuyasha. "I... I meant to kill you. I meant to end it, what have I done!"
"What you haven't done is your homework. Chop chop, or sensei will be displeased," Naraku points out coldly.
Trembling, she looks at her arrow, wedged firmly in his chest, the wound still bleeding.
She tries to do her homework, but her hand is shaking badly. She sleeps instead, and has bad dreams. But she expected no better.
Naraku, sleepless, draws her likeness in his blood on the bottom of the cage.
She visits less and less, now. Every day turned into every week, then a few times a month. She is eighteen, and tomorrow she will graduate. It is an empty victory, but marks the end of a long, pointless battle nonetheless.
She celebrates by bringing flowers to Sango's grave.
She goes to see Naraku afterwards, more out of habit than desire.
Naraku hears her footsteps, and knows them. By the time she reaches him, he has taken Inuyasha's form, and lies eyes closed with his back to the bars, her arrow still jutting from his chest, though all the blood is ancient by now.
Having no homework for once, she pulls out a novel and reads it. Naraku has tried this before, of course, being Inuyasha, or Sango, or even herself. She has made the rule that she will not speak to him while he is like that, so craving attention, he always changes back.
Still, she finds herself peeking over the spine of her book. Did he really look like that? It's familiar, in a way that shocks enough to hurt, like a hard slap. And here she'd forgotten things, the way he slumped, his long dark lashes, the way the fur ran over his ears.
She wants to... touch them.
Crawling closer, her book forgotten, she catches him peeking at her, a glimpse of amber eyes that she has missed so much.
Her hand hesitates in midair. "If you're going to play games, Naraku, I'm leaving."
He slips back into himself. Same spidery locks and cruel red eyes, and with a pang she realizes she knows his face far better than Inuyasha's, now. It feels like he was a dream, something she had loved when she was fifteen and innocent, though she still cries sometimes, from a pain too deep to feel.
She is wise, now, and worldly, she passes her tests, holds back her screams when Houjou's trembling hands are on her, and laughs about it the next day with her friends.
But she's no one. She's no better than any other foolish, weak girl in her world, barely keeping up with her friend's expectations.
Here, however, she is special. With Naraku looking at her, reeking of power, from the cage she trapped him in. He sees parts of herself she can only glimpse with his help.
"You're a bit like me, aren't you, Miko." He, in all this time, has never said her name. Not Kikyou, or Kagome. He tried once, got as far as "Ka...gooo" and that was the end of that. So she is Miko to him.
"Preposterous. I could never be like you." I'm special, remember? Right?
"Yes, but like me, you dislike ending things. You drag them out, going for the hurt, the tease, anything but the kill." He traced his fingers along the shaft of her arrow. "This is not the first time. You couldn't shoot to kill then, either. Always capturing, waiting. For what, I wonder?"
"I'm graduating high school tomorrow," she says, twirling her hair around her fingers.
"Should I care?"
"I guess not."
"How's the monk?"
"What's it to you?" she asks, jumping a little.
"Well, I did curse him. Seeing as I'm alive, the curse should still be active. Did he die yet? Does he have children?"
"I thought you could see these things."
Naraku taps some of the wards on his cage, very lightly, hiding how much it hurts to do even that. "Not anymore. It's very boring here, you know."
"He's alive. But he's sad a lot."
"I tried to kill you that time... part of it was for him, to lift the curse. But it didn't work. I told him, I told him I couldn't kill you, that I'd tried... he said it was all right!" She is crying, now, and feeling so childish. It doesn't help to remember that she is a woman now, graduating tomorrow. She is always a child, here.
"I killed the taijiya, didn't I."
Kagome is unwilling to talk about this, but her expression is answer enough.
He sighs. "I thought as much. You'll be the only one left, soon. The boy, he'll grow up, you know. And he's a demon. He won't remember you. The monk is already on borrowed time. You'll be the only one, remembering a time of strength and happiness, that you can never have again, and no one in your world will believe you. I don't envy you. You have your whole life ahead of you."
"That's what everyone says." But you're the only one who understands what it means.
The world is not what it seemed at fifteen. She is twenty-five, and a botanist. She visits Shippou occasionally, watches him grow up somber and powerful, and nothing like the ball of sunshine she bounced on her knee. Maybe it's her fault. Maybe it's even better this way.
Usually she is too distracted, between work, and Houjou. Houjou is nice, and completely clueless. He hasn't the faintest idea who she is, or what she is thinking, the part that annoys her is that he assumes. He dreams things into her that she doesn't feel, and expects her to act accordingly. He has fallen madly in love with her, so he thinks she loves him too, without bothering to ask. He likes touching her, so he assumes she likes to be touched. He never once looks beyond his own little world, or considers that things might not be the way he pictured them.
Even more infuriating, is that he means well, and he really thinks she likes all these things, which makes it harder to tell him no, or even be mad at him.
Still, he's all she has in this world, now. Sometimes she just needs comfort, so she comes to him.
Sometimes, she needs to hurt, and she goes to Naraku.
Naraku understands these things. He validates her, lets her feel the pain she needs to feel, that is so suppressed in her world. It isn't masochism, (which is a pity, because Naraku is a sadist) rather the lesser of two evils, letting it out before it destroys her inside, makes her numb and ordinary.
It's something she could never tell Houjou about, even if she did tell him about the well, and everything else.
Today is watering her ferns, and tracing over her memories, which have become little more than a blade to cut herself on.
Houjou is there. He barely notices how distracted she is anymore. He used to try to cure it, now he sees it more as an inexplicable quirk in her personality that he forgives her for.
"Kagome," he says, softly, but in that tone that means he has something important to say.
Kagome over-waters her fern, carelessly, and turns to Houjou, bottle dripping. It's going to be that talk, isn't it.
"Kagome, we've been together for ten years now, haven't we? I've been faithful to you all this time, and I know you've been faithful to me... don't you think maybe it's time we took the next step, together?"
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Kagome says cautiously. Coward, she thinks. Tell him already. Tell him you think he's a nice guy, but you've never loved him. Tell him that you'll never marry him. He's given you ten years of his life already, as a second class boyfriend, good for when you're bored or lonely, but getting no love in return. Are you ever going to stop being selfish and let him go?
"Why not? Is it something about me? Snoring, bad breath, you can tell me!"
"No," she says, her voice cracking, "it's me, I'm a bad person. I'm selfish, I couldn't save anyone, and I couldn't stop him, and I'll be an awful mother!" It isn't the same to her as the pain of something that just happened. This is more final, something she thought she left behind, but that will always catch up to her, and always hurt.
"Kagome... did someone—"
She runs out the door, even though it's her apartment. Inuyasha would have followed her. He would have been able to see she was in pain, and possibly in danger. But Houjou just sits on her bed, and waits for her to return. So certain she'll work whatever it is out of her system, and come back to him when she's ready to talk.
She doesn't choose a direction, like when she goes to the supermarket or the laundromat. Her feet know the way, like homing pigeons, back to the place where she grew up.
Her family is still together, after a sort. Grandpa is ancient and senile, Mama is a bit more wrinkled and reminiscent, but other than that unchanged, Souta is tall and nerdy, and about to be valedictorian or something. But she doesn't want to see any of them. They might talk her out of what she intends to do, and she feels ashamed. She sneaks around to the well house.
She feels like her old life could grab her and drag her in, the way Mistress Centipede did that first time. But then, she was a lost little rabbit, ready to learn and fall in love. Now she is wiser, and finally understands. It's not about escape, anymore. Her life, her world, has become the escape.
She wants to see Shippou again, too, and does, though he does not see her. He's finally grown into his tail. He's beautiful and quiet and angry, and she would comfort him, but she has no right to, anymore.
Slipping away, she plucks flowers for Sango and Miroku. Every other time she visited these places, she had felt so angry, and could think of nothing but Naraku. Now, as she kneels, first at Miroku's grassy bowl, and then at Sango's simple grave, with Hiraikotsu half buried as a marker, she feels only sad. She kisses Hiraikotsu, and continues.
Naraku's castle, once so ominous and terrifying, seems broken and conquered. Great holes are torn in it from their final battle, and it is overgrown with vines and trees. She had always thought nothing could grow here again after it had been defiled by such evil, but the passages turned to strange wild jungles prove her wrong.
Down, and into the center of the castle she goes, past the place where Miroku had told her a story over Sango's body, a story of a girl who could purify hell, and come back from it.
With everything else fallen into decay, Naraku alone is perfect. His hair is longer, his clothes are tattered and rotting, even her arrow is rotting, but he himself seems to be outside time. He says nothing to her, in ten years, everything has already been said. A look of mild surprise crosses his face when she fiddles with the lock on his cage and undoes it.
"You're getting faster, Miko. Took you fifty years, last time, what's this, fifteen?"
She shakes her head. "Only ten." She opened the door wider, just enough for her to enter.
Naraku tilted his head and smiled, and is beautiful for one, last, long moment, before exploding into a thousand demons. The pieces hiss and writhe at her, and creep closer.
"You make it easier for me," Kagome says calmly, and walks into the seething hell.
Naraku's head sneers. "I thought you were special, girl."
Her eyes scanning the mess of demon, she catches a glimpse of silver hair, three clawed fingers. "You can't tell me who I am anymore, Naraku." She walks over Naraku's bloated bodies, and he goes for her, sending tendrils up her legs, wrapping around her ankles, but she pays them no heed, and they break with every step.
Bigger tentacles draw her towards him, these she does not resist, his head draws up before her, and he kisses her, miasma seeping between their lips. She kisses him back, and his expression changes, he tries to get away from her, or claw her off him.
Pulling away, he glares at her, and she thrills to see the surprise and hurt in that face she knows so well, that had always been gloating at her.
She knows that he is happy, too. This is why he was so fascinated with her, why he obsessed over her. He longed for someone with the power to stop him in his tracks, to put him out of his misery, to dominate him, and show him he wasn't the end of the world after all.
In his own, twisted way, he loves her, and her alone.
She sinks into his embrace, snuggles up to his vile little heart. "How's this?" she asks sweetly.
He kisses the top of her head, not using miasma, simply as a gesture of respect and affection. "You always burned the best, Ka-go-me."
She looks up, surprised to hear him use her name, but it is getting hard to see, he is smoldering, the rising smoke and fumes hiding his expression.
Slipping in further, tearing him, nullifying him, she finds something of hers, a sleeping boy with long dark lashes, and flawless silver hair. She draws him to her bosom, sinking into Naraku under his weight, and wraps her arms around him. "I love you," she whispers.
"I know," Naraku answers. It is the last thing he says.
Kagome closes her eyes and smiles, exhausted, but satisfied for the first time in her life. "And I am, you know," she murmurs into Inuyasha's hair. "Special."