By Lady of the Ink
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, but you knew that . . . I hope. But I do own this plot and all the twists that it takes.
For six long days, Kagome stayed at the village. As the hours crawled by she watched and waited, worried and wished. Her eyes rarely ceased their methodical scanning of the surrounding area as they strained for some glimpse through the trees. Even sleep brought her no rest as the tears she refused to shed during the day slipped out and her broken heart whispered his name.
The wounds of her body began the slow process of healing but the one on her soul continued to grow. She wouldn't eat and dark circles showed up beneath her eyes. The smallest noise grated across her nerves and she grew quiet and jumpy. Her eyes, usually bright and full of laughter, turned dim and empty. The happy, helpful girl that everyone had known disappeared, replaced with a faded copy. It was as though she were a candle that had been snuffed out and all that remained was the last wisp of smoke from its passing.
Miroku, Sango, and Shippo all put aside their own joys and sorrows to try and cheer her up but nothing helped. All they could do was watch as her condition worsened as time passed and there was no word or sign of Inuyasha.
On the sixth day, Kagome rose before sunrise and left the hut. Traveling along the familiar path more by memory than sight, she slowly made her way to the clearing where it had all begun. Her journey ended at the well where she sat and waited for the sun to rise.
By the earliest light of dawn, she wrote her farewells. She included no explanations because none were needed. They all knew exactly why she was leaving and had even encouraged the trip to help get her through it. With tears streaming down her cheeks and dripping onto the paper to smear the ink, she wrote about how much they all meant to her. The experiences that they'd shared would stay with her for the rest of her life and in that way at least, a part of them would always be together. While she wasn't sure when or if she would return, she would always hold her memories of them in her heart.
With a final silent goodbye, she slipped off the edge of the well with only the birds to watch her departure.
Mrs. Higurashi was getting worried. Night had fallen an hour earlier and Kagome still hadn't returned home. She'd said that she planned to keep her talk with Hojo short and be back before it got dark.
She moved to the window and parted the curtains to scan the courtyard for the fiftieth time. Seeing that it was just as empty as the last time that she'd checked, she sighed heavily. Normally she wouldn't be so quick to worry, knowing full well that Kagome could more than take care of herself. Lately, however, she'd noticed some things that had concerned her. Kagome wasn't eating or sleeping as well as she had been and there was a distracted air about her. There'd obviously been something on her mind but she hadn't seemed to want to talk about it.
Mrs. Higurashi moved to the kitchen, absently drumming her fingers against the countertop. She berated herself for not talking to Kagome the moment that she'd noticed something was off. She'd just been afraid of doing something that would make things worse instead of better. While there was a part of her that thought Kagome was being cheated out of a lot of good experiences due to her missing memories, she wasn't willing to risk her daughter's wellbeing to get them back. If it had ever come down to Kagome's health or happiness versus her remembering her time in the past, the former would have won hands down.
She sighed again before moving away from the counter. Worry had filled her with a restless sort of energy and she couldn't bear to just stand still. She found herself walking slowly through the house to find pointless tasks like straightening already straight pillows and moving coats from one hook to another.
It wasn't too long before she found herself where she'd been subconsciously headed all along. The door to Kagome's room was ajar and so Mrs. Higurashi paused for only a moment before walking in. She'd done the same thing often enough when Kagome was in the past that it was a sort of habit. There was a kind of comfort in being surrounded by her daughter's things that helped to lessen the ache of missing her.
Or at least there usually was. It was different now; Kagome wasn't in the Feudal Era, she was somewhere in the modern city. She wasn't surrounded by people who would keep her safe; she was either alone or with a boy who was as practically defenseless as she was. And to top it off, she no longer had the benefit of the survival lessons that she had been forced to learn during the course of her quest.
Noticing that her hands were trembling, Mrs. Higurashi took a seat at Kagome's desk. Although she couldn't say exactly how she knew, she was certain that something was wrong. Kagome's strange mood and her sudden determination to see Hojo made her current absence that much more ominous. It also made it all the more imperative that she be found.
Deciding that she couldn't wait any longer, Mrs. Higurashi placed her palms flat on the desk and started to rise. It was then that her eyes landed on the notebook lying open in front of her. She didn't mean to pry but a hastily scrawled sentence caught her attention.
Are these dreams, memories, or hallucinations?
Skimming over the page gave her enough information to know that what was in front of her was something that she needed to look at more closely. With only the smallest qualm about privacy that was quickly overpowered by her need to see her daughter safe, she flipped to the beginning and started to read.
Kagome felt weightless, suspended between slumber and waking. It was like she was resting lightly atop an ocean, just barely feeling the gentle, rhythmic sway as the waves moved beneath her. The motion was so calming that she sighed and eagerly relaxed into it, feeling safe and completely at ease. She was so comfortable that when the rocking movement stopped, she groaned and forced her eyes open in protest.
At first she could see nothing but darkness and a frown pulled at her mouth. Slowly the shadows retreated and she was able to make out the lines of a face above her. Small bits of information filtered through her mind before solidifying into the realization that Inuyasha was carrying her. The motion she felt was the shifting of her body being held in his arms as he ran.
As though he felt her attention on him he glanced down. When he saw that she was awake, she felt his steps slow. She watched as the set lines of his face softened slightly.
"Kagome . . ."
Her name was the smallest of sounds on an outgoing breath but she heard it all the same. She also heard the emotion that it carried- the strong sound of relief over something darker and harder to decipher.
"We'll be at Kaede's soon. Try not to move too much."
A frown pulled at her brow as she caught the worry in his tone and tried to figure out why it was there. Sure, she felt a little weak and dizzy but that was no reason for him to warn her to be still. It wasn't like he was going to drop her, even if he wasn't carrying her in the usual way, on his back.
That thought caught and held, causing her frown to deepen as she focused on it. Why wasn't she riding on his back like usual? And why was he even carrying her in the first place?
Kagome forced herself to concentrate. She thought back to the last thing she could remember clearly and followed it forward. There was the walk through the tunnel-like cave entrance that led to the fight in the cavern. Then Inuyasha had helped her to the perfect vantage point before he'd returned to the battle. She'd waited and waited until an opening had made itself known. Pulling back the arrow and letting it fly toward Naraku was the last memory that she could call up . . .
Realizing the full importance of what had happened, she felt her whole body jerk with shock. Before she could ask any of the million questions shooting through her mind, she suddenly found out why Inuyasha's tone had been so concerned. Burning pain streaked through her body, making her aware of the injuries that her earlier numbness had hidden.
A strangled gasp tore from her throat as the edges of her vision turned black. The last thing she saw was Inuyasha's almost frightened expression before her eyes fluttered closed. She felt like she was being pulled away from the sound of his voice calling her name. Kagome struggled with all of her might to hold onto the feel of his arms around her and the ghostly impression of a gentle pressure against her lips.
But then she was gone.
If Mrs. Higurashi had been worried before reading Kagome's makeshift journal, she was almost frantic afterward. It wasn't just because another chunk of time had passed without Kagome's return; a good bit of her concern came from what she had just finished reading. While it had not answered all of her questions – she still had no solid conclusion about what had caused her daughter's memory loss – it did fill in a few blanks. She knew that her assumption that Kagome's mission had come to end was most likely right. She was also proven right in her knowledge that something was bothering Kagome. It was no wonder she had seemed so distracted; she was remembering bits and pieces of her time in the past and had no way to make sense of them.
Mrs. Higurashi stood, unable to remain still with all the worry zinging through her veins. She'd been upset thinking about Kagome out and alone without her newly acquired instincts. Now knowing that Kagome remembered some things but not everything made it worse. There was no telling what effect such random information could have on her or her actions.
It took only as long as her journey from Kagome's room back to the kitchen for her to decide on her next course of action. Certain that Souta was safe with his grandpa, she pulled on her coat and headed for the door. She couldn't wait any longer; she would go looking for Kagome herself.
Her first step outside brought a wave of dismay. Full night had fallen during her time in Kagome's room and the air held a noticeable chill. She thought back to when Kagome had left, getting only a small bit of relief at the memory of the sweater she'd seen over her daughter's arm. Drawing her jacket more tightly against herself, she set off with determined strides.
She only made it a few feet before a strange feeling came over her. Her eyes came to rest on the wellhouse and didn't seem to want to leave it. If Kagome was starting to remember the details of her quest, it was possible that she'd realized the importance of the little building. Maybe she had stopped to look at it upon returning home and had lost track of time.
Fighting the surging hope she felt just in case it turned out to be wrong, Mrs. Higurashi jogged towards the wellhouse. With only a small pause to take a deep breath at the door, she slid it open and stepped inside. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the darkness enough to see but when they did, she froze with shock.
"Oh my goodness!"
Kagome groaned as she opened her eyes to find brilliant sunlight streaming through her windows. She considered going back to sleep but decided against it when her stomach gave a quiet growl. The thought of the hot breakfast that should be waiting for her spurred her into action and she was washed up and dressed in less than five minutes. By the time she made her way down the stairs, she was singing quietly to herself.
She was surprised to see the empty table until she looked at the clock and realized how late it was in the day. Souta would have long since left for school and Grandpa would be out doing his usual routine about the shrine. She felt a moment of guilt about missing class herself but it was quickly forgotten as she spotted the covered plate resting on the counter. Pouncing on it like someone who hadn't eaten in a week, she settled at the table with a happy laugh.
She was about halfway through her meal when her mother stepped into the room. Offering her a small wave, she quickly turned back to her food. Kagome didn't notice the way her mother hovered in the doorway, carefully studying her from head to toe.
"Good morning, Kagome," she offered carefully.
"How are you feeling?"
Kagome finally noticed the odd tone in her mother's voice and looked up. Even though Mrs. Higurashi tried to hide it, she caught the almost worried look on her mom's face. Dropping her last bite back onto the plate, Kagome crossed the room.
"Is something the matter, Mama? You're acting a little weird."
Mrs. Higurashi smiled a bit at her daughter's tone, which was that of a typical teenager forced to deal with the oddness of an adult. As good as it was to hear Kagome sounding so normal, it wasn't helping her figure out if she was really okay. The distracted air was gone but she couldn't tell if that was the result of Kagome regaining more memories or losing them all again.
The older woman fought back a sigh as she smiled at her daughter. She chose her words carefully in the hopes of getting answers without saying something so out of the ordinary that Kagome would find it strange. "Nothing's the matter. I was just wondering how you were doing after last night. You were outside for quite a while; I hope you won't get sick."
The question was leading for a reason; she'd wanted to incite a reaction. However, the one that she got was enough to make her wish that she hadn't said anything at all.
At first Kagome merely looked confused and her brow furrowed as she thought back. Realization, when it dawned, was obvious. Her expression cleared and she started to speak. But before she could get a single word out, she suddenly pales and swayed on her feet. In the next moment, her legs folded and she sank to the floor. Mrs. Higurashi knelt next to her just in time to see Kagome's stricken face crumple into tears. "Oh, Mama!" she cried before throwing herself into her mother's arms.
Her story spilled out slowly, punctuated heavily by sobs and moments of pain induced speechlessness. Kagome spoke of the fight in the cavern, the end of the quest and the injuries that she had sustained. Her voice started to catch as she told of Inuyasha carrying her back to Kaede's and his obvious concern about her. By the time that she got to her conversation with Sango, her words were barely a whisper and her entire body was shaking.
"He went with Kikyo, Mama. He's…he's gone forever!" The last word was a quiet wail that dissolved into fresh tears.
Mrs. Higurashi held her daughter close and slowly rocked her as she cried. As much as she wanted to end her pain, she knew it was something that Kagome needed to get out of her system. Burying her feelings about Inuyasha's departure from her life was most likely the cause of her memory loss and Mrs. Higurashi didn't want to risk it being repeated. The obliviousness might have seemed like a blessing at first but it had increased her suffering in the end. It would be much better for Kagome to deal with the trauma once and for all so that she could be freed from it.
When she felt Kagome draw a deep, shuddering breath, Mrs. Higurashi gently set her slightly away from her. She wiped her daughter's tears with the edge of her apron before framing Kagome's face with her palms.
"There are some things that I need to say to you that I should have said a long time ago." She took a deep breath and smiled softly. "You amaze me, Kagome. You're so strong and true to yourself and what you think is right. I couldn't be more proud of the path that you've taken and the things that you've accomplished so early in life. Even though I worried about you, I knew that you would come out okay in the end. You're resourceful and courageous and there's not a life that you've been a part of that you haven't touched in one way or another. I dreamed of such good things for you when you were little and you've achieved even more than I'd hoped for.
"You deserve so much to be happy. I want you to know that no matter where you have to go or who you have to be to find that happiness, I will always love. I'll always be here for you. No matter how far away from your family that you physically are, you'll always be in our hearts. So when the time comes for you to choose your path, I don't want you to worry about what we'll think or say or do. That will be your decision and yours alone and we'll support you no matter what the outcome is. Do you understand?"
Kagome nodded slowly but looked slightly confused. Mrs. Higurashi smiled with just the smallest bit of sadness before urging her to her feet. "Now that that's been said, there's someone outside that's been waiting to talk to you. You go on out and I'll clean up."
Accompanying her words with actions, she moved to the table to retrieve Kagome's breakfast plate. Even as she took it to the sink, she was listening closely to her daughter's footsteps as they headed out of the kitchen. It was only after the door closed softly that she allowed herself to slump and offer up a fervent prayer that everything really would turn out all right in the end.
Kagome walked slowly away from her house feeling more drained than she could ever remember being before. It was as though she'd been completely wrung out, going through every possible emotion in a short span of time. There'd been shock as the previous night's revelations came back to her followed by the disbelief that she had forgotten them for even a short time that morning. Then the bigger issues had reawakened in her mind and she'd once again felt the emptiness inside her that had come with Sango's words.
Even worse than that was full realization of what she had done so rashly. She might not have known why her mother made her go down in the well before but she did now. It had sent home the awful knowledge that in running away from the situation with Inuyasha, she had apparently forfeited any chance of returning to the past. That she had given up her other friends without a second thought caused her more pain than she thought she could stand.
And then her mother had opened up to her and made her feel both proud of herself and ashamed of the times when she hadn't lived up to such high praise. To know that her mom was pleased with her made so many things worth the sadness and trouble they had brought with them. It also made her realize not for the first time just how lucky she was in the woman who had raised her. Her final comments had been a little cryptic but then Mrs. Higurashi had always had a way of saying the things you needed to hear before you knew you needed to hear them. Kagome could only assume that they would come in handy at some point and for that reason, she would keep them in mind until their time came.
Wiping at the tears that were still running down her cheeks, Kagome took a deep breath before seeking out her guest. She wasn't sure who it could be since all of her friends and Hojo would still be in school. If it was a relative, her mother would have brought them into the house with her.
Her eyes scanned the open space of the shrine but she didn't see anyone except her grandpa sweeping in the distance. Just as she had assumed they had left, a bit of movement caught her attention. She turned toward it and received the shock of her life when she saw an achingly familiar red-clad figure leaning against the wellhouse door.
Kagome felt lightheaded for a moment and closed her eyes against the urge to collapse. Her mind was racing, fighting to find some logical explanation for seeing someone who couldn't possibly be standing there. There was a tightness in her chest that had followed her heart's hopeful jump and then rapid sinking as reality had intruded. Sango had told her about Inuyasha's decision to go with Kikyo; she herself had waited fruitlessly for his return. Inuyasha was gone; the image of him in front of her wasn't real.
Kagome began to feel calmer as she remembered the vision of Miroku, Sango, and Shippo that she's seen the night before. It had come as she'd remembered them, a visual acknowledgment of their return to her conscious memories. This was probably something almost the same, the result of her pouring the whole story out to her mother. When she opened her eyes again, there would be no half demon by the wellhouse.
She was half right. When she opened her eyes, Inuyasha was no longer standing by the wellhouse; he was right in front of her. One of his hands was outstretched as though he'd been about to touch her arm.
When he realized that she was looking at him, he quickly withdrew the limb, awkwardly crossing his arms in front of his chest. His eyes stayed locked on the ground except for the few, quick glances that he snuck at her face. It was several long moments before he finally spoke.
"Keh, thought you were gonna faint again," he muttered, apparently feeling the need to explain why he'd been reaching for her.
Kagome's eyes widened in shock as she realized what his words meant. When she'd gone to the well after leaving Hojo, it hadn't been just an illusion of him that she'd seen. He really had been standing right in front of her, close enough to touch.
"But you…you went to Hell with Kikyo!" she managed, amazed that her tongue was working at all. She felt numb, suspended in the moment of shock when she's accepted that he wasn't just a figment of her subconscious.
Inuyasha sighed heavily. "I…I meant to, tried to, but I…I just couldn't. I couldn't go." He raked a hand through his long hair and started pacing in front of her like a caged animal. "Kikyo was the first person to care for me after my mother. That she died for me or because of me made me feel like I owed her what she wanted. It was like I was stuck…if I went with her, I was giving up what I really wanted, what I'd missed out on for my whole life. But if I stayed…if I didn't go with her…did I really deserve all that? Wouldn't it just prove that I didn't belong there?" He stopped and growled, apparently not finding the words that he wanted to explain.
Kagome had no such problem. As she listened to him, her confusion and surprise had quickly turned to other, stronger emotions. There was joy, yes, that he was alive and well. There was a kind of understanding for what he was talking about, the problem that he had had reconciling all his wants. But there was also anger for all the suffering that he had put all his friends through.
"I can't believe you," she yelled, clenching her fists at her sides. "Going off with Kikyo was one thing; you told us you were going to, we all knew that it was coming. But the fact that you snuck off without even saying goodbye to me… And then…then you decide to stay and you don't bother to think that maybe that was something that I wanted to know! You let me think that you were dead, that I would never see you again…" Her voice trailed off as tears welled in her eyes again. She fought to keep them at bay but it was a losing battle and she knew it. Dashing them away with a quick motion of her hand, she started to turn to try and regain her composure.
Inuyasha's hands latched onto her upper arms and pulled her close. There was no anger in either the action of his expression, just a lingering echo of pain and sadness. With his nose a mere inch from hers, he spoke in the quietest, calmest voice she had ever heard from him. "You almost died. During the fight with Naraku, you almost died. And I realized that no matter how I try, I won't always be there to protect you. I thought that if I went with Kikyo, it would be best for everyone. You would come back here and be safe in this time, without demons after you day and night.
"Even after I stayed, I didn't want you to know. That's why I waited so long to go back to the village. I wanted to be sure you'd gone through the well. Then I would just keep out of the way whenever you came back so that you could have the normal life that hunting for the shards kept you from.
"But you didn't take the jewel with you and so there was no way for you to return. Everybody was worried about you and pissed at me and they wouldn't leave me alone until I promised to come and check on you."
His hands dropped to his sides and he turned away. When he spoke again, his voice was just above a whisper. "You were happy, Kagome. I didn't want to take that away from you. I though that it just proved how much better off you were without me in your life. That's why I didn't tell you."
Kagome was at a loss for words. There was no doubt in her mind that he was being completely sincere. Her anger evaporated as she thought about what he had gone through. At least she had had the comfort of not remembering what she had lost. He had looked her right in the face and thought that she had moved on quickly and with no apparent regrets.
Suddenly it was very important for her to make sure he understood. She grabbed his sleeve and made him turn back to face her. "Inuyasha, I didn't remember. I forgot everything the morning after I came home. I didn't miss you guys because I didn't even know that I knew you."
"I know," he said, startling her. "Your mother told me it all last night. Or as much of it as she knew, anyway." Realizing she wouldn't know, he explained more clearly. "She came looking for you last night and saw me right after you passed out. You were out cold so she filled me in on what happened to you when you came back this last time. She wasn't sure how you'd react after last night and that's why she talked to you alone while I waited out here."
Kagome nodded her understanding but the gesture meant more than Inuyasha could possibly guess. Her mother's out of place comments in the kitchen were suddenly making perfect sense. Mrs. Higurashi had talked to Inuyasha and had undoubtedly heard then everything that Inuyasha was telling her now. She'd known how Kagome would feel when she learned it all and had made her position clear beforehand. Kagome was supposed to do what her heart told her to do without worrying what anyone else might say.
There would be difficult questions to answer later about schools and jobs and kids, but Kagome knew solutions would be found to those problems. Only one thing mattered in that moment and on that subject her heart and mind were in perfect agreement. She loved Inuyasha, loved him so much that even losing her memories hadn't totally erased his effect on her. Being with Hojo had felt wrong because the deepest part of her knew that she wanted to be with, was meant to be with, someone else.
A smile curved her lips as a sense of contentment filled her. Raising her eyes to Inuyasha's, she looked at him with everything that was in her heart written on her face. His own expression brightened and he started to reach for her but checked his movement.
"Are you sure that this is what you really want?" he asked, a hint of vulnerability appearing in the golden eyes she loved so much. "Because once you say yes, I'm not letting you go again."
The quiet but sincere words made Kagome's heart thud in her chest. It might not have been the warm and fuzzy admission that most girls dreamed of and some might even consider it to be a bit arrogant and possessive. But to Kagome, they were the most perfectly wonderful words that she had ever heard.
Closing the distance between them as quickly as she could, she threw herself into Inuyasha's waiting arms. She couldn't speak but the quick kisses she pressed to his chin, cheeks, and lips seemed to be answer enough for him. His arms closed around her tightly and Kagome gave a sigh as she felt him rest his cheek against her hair. No matter what had happened between them before, they were forging their own destiny now. No longer were they held together by a quest or mission, no more would they be burdened by past mistakes or debts.
This was their new beginning, the start of their happy ending, and they would make the most of it…together.