Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha
A/N: this is a gift to Resmiranda. Also, thanks go out to Lady Penguin, Reiku Toukijin and Midoriko-sama.
-Kneeling at her brother's altar with numbed toes, Sango lights incense. It has been one year. She remembers.
His body lies with her family, buried in the village. His kusarigama sits posed in the altar's far corner, unmoved, undisturbed, its chain coiled up delicately like a serpent at rest. His taijiya armor is folded, presentable, in another corner.
Sango leans forward, spreads her fingers across the black fabric. Memories sneak up on her, ready for an ambush.
She remembers the last time he filled it. She remembers the squeeze of her heart, when Tenseiga's owner stood poised above Kohaku's form, sword drawn. She remembers his cool words.
She forgets what he said.
She remembers, however, that Tenseiga would not, could not, save the boy.
A hand is upon her shoulder, Sango turning at the unnoticed till now approach. She locks gazes with her husband. Miroku gives a solemn, comforting smile, nods. Miroku remembers, she knows. Sometimes she asks him to replenish her faulty, accursed memory.
Sometimes she forgets.
Never, she thinks as she draws her dark hands back to her chest. Never.
She looks over Miroku's shoulder, sees a form standing in the doorway.
Kohaku smiles, hides most of himself behind the shouji soon.
She smiles back, unsure why.
-Sango refuses to bathe alone.
She remembers the last time she sank into the heat of a hot spring companionless. She remembers the glimmershimmer of Kohaku's face in the surface of the water, watching her with boyish eyes. She remembers his mouth opening as if to speak, she herself unable to look away.
She remembers the water draining down his throat in a beckoning whirlpool, and her scream as she scrambled to the grassy bank on the other side of the rocks. She remembers the chill upon her skin and the flutter in her heart. She remembers her almost unescape from being swallowed up, the frenzied vortex pleading her to be the coral below its surface.
She turns in the water, looks away from Miroku, her cheeks burning with unnatural modesty.
(Miroku once asked what had sparked her change in bathing rituals. "I just don't want to be alone," she replied, not speaking of feeling followed everywhere, seeing her brother's face in mudpuddles and inside imperfect tea cups. She never spoke of things she knew were not real but still felt could not be false. She saw them with her own eyes, didn't she- so she reasoned.)
Sweeping the kudzu of her hair to the side, Miroku's lips meet her neck, and Sango shivers, despite the steam from the bath, his once cursed hand burning hot upon her scar.
Miroku remembers what Sango forgets, never speaks of them. He remembers seeing her in a hot spring once, the water calm and placid with occasional bubbling. He remembers seeing Sango suddenly scream, and secretly wondering why as he watched from the bushes.
Miroku remembers everything.
Sometimes Sango forgets. Sometimes, some things, all things but the freckles that spread across her brother's face.
Sango is quiet, thankful Kohaku's face won't show unless she is alone, won't show if her houshi is there.
Sango begins to forget the sound of Kagome-chan's voice.
Kagome left long ago, using the Shikon no Tama and giving it a reason to disappear forever, disappearing forever in turn. Inuyasha made the well shaft his home, no one able to persuade him elsewise.
Sango remembers those dull, glassy eyes staring back up at her from within the depths of the well, strange growls floating up like steam as he helplessly, impatiently clawed at the impenetrable barrier of dirt and time.
She remembers Miroku pulling her away from the well's lip. "Nothing will make him budge, Sango."
She forgets when she last saw Inuyasha. It wasn't at the well.
-It is winter again.
Sango no longer needs lessons in women's work from her fellow villagers. She sits by the fire in the floor and prepares the evening meal. She avoids looking into the cooking pot, unwanting to risk Kohaku's eyes meeting hers from the surface of the murkymud-colored soup.
That night, she nestles into the houshi's worrysick arms.
-It is Kohaku's birthday. Sango cannot help but remember. She feels hollow. She blinks, and the shadowlines creep in slipslide fragments to late afternoon, as if suddenly four hours have been swallowed up in the timespace of a sigh.
Her eyes track down the missing daylight with futility.
Her husband steps in and squeezes her kimono-clad shoulder, startling her. He asks, "When can we try again? It has been a year." Sango shakes her head, her strange and unwanted thoughts clattering about inside.
She whispers, her voice strained, "Maybe next year, if I don't feel so broken, like I don't work how I should." She is quiet, doesn't turn around. She remembers her sadness, and his. She forgets what it felt like. She remembers her promise and her failure at it. She forgets she failed at it a second time.
Suddenly Miroku is gone, and it is late evening. Sango's breath catches as she scans the room for his presence, finding him nowhere, and something cold yet warm clinging to her face. Her frail, jointnumb hands find Kohaku's poison sealing mask, its ribbons lashed tightly behind her head.
Along the outside edge of her vision, something skirts by, pulling her mind along with it before her voice goes shrill.
Before she can peel away Kohaku's facial carapace with nimbleclaws, all her senses on alert, it is night.
She squints in the lowlight, and his mask still sits, propped up as usual, upon his black garb, as if never moved. Her slippery fingers wipe at the tearslick. Her thoughts are caught in an anxious flux, her lungs agasp and her chest tight. She doesn't remember crying.
-Sango no longer sleeps with her back bared. Miroku thinks nothing of it, as he is content to drape his arm around her front from behind, as they curl together.
(Sango's scar from the deep sicklesink always throbbed if her houshi did not hide it from all's view.)
Sango hears voices scitterscramble while she sleeps. She wonders if they are trying to get in, or trying to break free... running from her, or seeking her out.
She sighs in her sleep, Miroku's arms tightening about her waist.
There is the sound of crickets and wrongwhispers.
-It is weeks later. Sango no longer trusts her eyes. She feels dragged and scattered like bleachbones, heavy with the curdling of veinfluid. She sits crumpled upon the floor, unmindful of dirtying her skirt.
It's gone. She cannot find it. His black garb upon his altar, the faceshield and the thinskin and the greengrime sash and the bonelimb protectors... missing. Sango searches with worry for two hours, then nearly faints.
She finds them laid out, everything in place, as if Kohaku had lain upon the floorboard and disappeared into nothingness, sunken to the core of the earth. The crowslines by her eyes crease as things and unthings seep into her thoughts. She worries of disrespect to her brother, and who had done this, she wonders with a tight throat.
Miroku finds her huddled, when he returns from the village temple hours later, huddled and hunched over staring at the floor, her frame atremble.
-Two weeks later, she finds Kohaku's things elsewhere, again. The sun seems to play tricks on her, shadows and suntime always working on a schedule unlinked to what she thinks, knows it should be. As she quickly and reverently folds his taijiya garb back up, fabric smooth and armor propped up for display, Sango blinks, and her hands are empty.
An overshoulder glance shows a youngteen figure astance behind her, cataracts of lackloss dropping upon her face like an anchor, all clothed in Kohaku's things.
The slash mark upon her back throbs, and Sango screams as she turns toward the altar to see the kusarigama missing.
Miroku comes at her voice, sees nothing but Sango with a heaving chest and a frantifrenetic look. Everything is in place.
Then he notices the frecklescars burned upon her face.
-Miroku keeps an eye on her while not neglecting his religious duties. At night he soothes her aching, paranoid nerves, wipes the sweat from her brow and smooths her bangs and the sidetufts from her clammy skin.
Miroku remembers seeing her take Kohaku's things every few days and placing them, arranging them, as if her little brother was there.
He remembers seeing her serve tea and bowls of soup to Kohaku's empty skins.
Sango is never told these things.
-As Sango's world collapses, she dresses in her taijiya garb, not worn since Naraku's pulse still beat, securing the masklashes behind her ears.
The sun crashes into the horizon, and she watches as birds shrink and explode like moths to a bonfire.
She strangles her nutbrown hair into a high, choking bind.
The frecklescars on her face are as red and raw as if something had clawed her face only yesterday. She forgets how they got there.
She remembers pressing herself upon young Kohaku, her sword ready to take away what the shard had given him. She forgets slicing at apparitions of Kohaku at night with her unclaws, ready to rip out his heart and breathe life into it once again.
She forgets Miroku's constant worrying and increased frets. Sometimes she forgets everything but that Kohaku is dead.
The kusarigama in her hand, its chain wrapped around her neck in seduction, Sango severs the long shock of hair that sprouts from her bind, her arms controlled by strings. It falls to the ground, and Sango shakes her head. Sango wishwonders, again.
She curls in, and the crickets return.