Summary: And he does not exist.
Pairings: Sango/Kohaku, Sango/Inuyasha, implied Inuyasha/Kagome, implied Kagome/Miroku, implied Inuyasha/Miroku, implied Kagome/Kohaku
Disclaimer: Crack kills.
Dedication: For chiiaroscuro (on lj), my shiny wife.
"As I was going up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd stay away."
Hughes Mearns, The Psychoed
She was trembling.
She had watched it slowly playing out before her, the vicious clash of swords, the harsh battles of the wind, the cruel sounds of arrows cutting through flesh, screams of pain, yells of anger. She had seen it all. The corruption, the purification, the gentleness and the evil. The cool, black pressure that was pushing against her mind, attempting to drown her in the hate, the sorrow, the destruction.
And then, as quickly as it had happened, it had ended and -
The blood was pooling at her feet, causing her to tremble.
She could feel them close by, both of them, wondering what was going through her mind. Wondering what it was that she was going to do next, whether or not she was going to scream and cry and grieve or -
Her fingers tightened on the hilt of her katana, the tears streaming down her face.
They had been victorious.
It had been painful, destructive, but in the end, they had been victorious. But now - now that victory was slowly fading away into nothingness, causing a harsh numbing pain to sweep upon her body, reminding her of what was. Of what had to be.
It had all been for nothing, that, she knew.
She could tell, quite clearly, by the way that they both pressed closer, attempting to pull her from the deep crater in the earth, that they, too, knew it had been all for nothing. That they had won, but... but they had lost, too.
Angrily, she stepped farther into the pool of blood, kneeling down next to his body.
She could feel herself going through the motions. Sheathing her katana. Dropping her boomerang to the ground. Her knees buckling under her as she connected with the hard soil, the blood splashing all around her.
She reached out, her fingers numb, shaky, and they curled around the thick string of beads, pulling them roughly from his body.
She could hear the choked sobs of her friend behind her, and she tried her hardest to be angry with them.
"Kagome-chan," Sango started quietly, feeling the sharp tooth of the prayer beads digging into her hand," Ka-go-me-chan."
The girl came towards her, kneeling down carefully in the blood, trying her best to ignore the tears that were running down Sango's face. Trying her best to ignore her own tears.
The taijiya turned, pressing the beads into Kagome's hand, not bothering to try to comfort her.
"I'm sorry, Kagome-chan," Sango answered, coming to her feet. The other girl frowned, rubbing at the tears in her eyes fiercely as she held the beads close to her body, attempting to feel the warmth that they once exuded. The broken, shattered connection.
"Sango-chan," Kagome whispered quietly, "It isn't-"
"Shouldn't you hate me, Kagome-chan?" Sango asked, strapping her boomerang to her back precariously, attempting to focus, attempting to block out that soft gentle voice. The forgiveness.
Kagome's blue eyes widened slightly, her eyes filling with tears once again at the cold, derisive accusation. She knew what the girl meant, knew what she was talking about, but even still... still, it didn't matter. Not now. Not anymore.
"He was trying to protect you, Sango-chan," Kagome answered guiltily, "He wanted to protect you."
"I didn't ask for his protection," Sango answered, walking slowly towards the edge of the crater, kneeling down to pick up a long strand of blue prayer beads. "But... but then again, you didn't ask for Houshi-sama to protect you, either, right?"
Sango turned towards the other girl, feeling that same cool blackness pressing against her mind, reminding her that she was supposed to be angry. Reminding her that she was supposed to feel sorrow, regret, despair but instead, all she could feel was a cold, detached disappointment.
Because they had left her.
Because they had no right to leave her.
"You are very pretty Kagome-chan," Sango murmured, placing the long string of blue beads aronud her neck, lifting the necklace from the other girl's hands and clenching them in her own. "If I were them, I would want to protect you too."
"I have what I came for, Kohaku has been returned to me, Kagome-chan, so what else matters?"
Kagome remained completely still, her hands clenching the string of beads around her neck, trembling, unsure of what to say.
"I thought the same thing, Kagome-chan," Sango responded, her voice wavering slightly, "It'll be awfully quiet without him around, I think, but we'll make it."
Kagome watched, slightly terrified as Sango turned, the prayer beads still clenched tightly in her hand, and slowly, she climbed out of the crater, leaving Kagome in the thick pool of blood, staring after her tearfully.
She could feel the pain in her chest increase, could feel it building and building until it threatened to overcome her senses, but Sango was determined not to break down. She had Kohaku; she had defeated her enemy. What else mattered?
Nothing else would matter.
And, even if Inuyasha and Miroku were dead -
A harsh sob broke through her defenses, and soon, she was on the ground, her face pressed roughly into the earth.
They had no right, absolutely no right to leave her. They had no right to allow Naraku to get the best of their weakness, they had no right to leave Kagome, Shippou, Kohaku, her all alone. Because she needed them. She needed to hear Inuyasha's rude annoyed voice, needed to hear Miroku's calm, vague yet so deathly obvious innuendos. She needed to feel them near her, needed them to rely on her, to want her, the way that no one else was allowed to want her.
She could feel her throat tighten as she struggled to breath, and distantly, she could feel Kagome kneeling down next to her, Miroku's prayer beads hanging heavily from around her neck.
They had left both of them alone.
That was unforgiveable.
Because now - now the pain was fierce and harsh and it burned within her, causing her tears to blind her, her fists to clench, and she tried her hardest to push it back, to ignore the maddening pressure that was continually being applied to her heart. Her body felt like it was being crushed, and she wanted so much to be angry. To feel the anger and the despair. The hatred.
Because they had left her and now she was cold and dark and alone and oh so very frightened.
"Sango-chan," Kagome whispered, pressing herself against the other girl's back, trying to warm her, "It'll be all right, Sango-chan, please don't... don't cry."
Sango could hear the way Kagome's voice trembled as she tried her hardest to be strong, as she tried her hardest to comfort the other girl, knowing, deep down, that there was no way that she could comfort her.
"They - they're gone, Kagome-chan," Sango whispered, her throat feeling completely raw, "Inuyasha-kun is gone."
Kagome nodded, threading her fingers in Sango's.
"But - but he's still with you, Sango-chan. He'll always be with you."
Sango trembled, pushing away from the other girl.
"But he'll never be mine, Kagome-chan."
Bitterly, Sango pushed the prayer beads into Kagome's hand and turned to leave.
She always returned.
He didn't know why she did, couldn't understand it, but he knew, almost certainly, that she needed to be there. He had thought, at first, that it helped to ease the pain, that it would cause the sorrow and the hatred to lessen into nothingness. That the cold dark pressure on her mind would suddenly disperse if she was able to accept the fact that they were dead.
But as she knelt there, her fingers curling in the dirt, wishing to bring herself closer, he realized that he was wrong.
Because whenever she was there, the tears would stream down her face, and she would whisper his name over and over and over again, wanting nothing more than to be with him. To want him. Because no matter what, she was alive and he was dead and -
I am not enough.
Pain lanced through him, causing his heart to clench, painfully, but still, he stood by her, wishing that he could reach out. Wishing that he could comfort her. It was something that should have been easy. Something that he should have been able to deal with without hesitation, but as he stood there, watching as dirt caught beneath her fingernails, as tears slid down her face, he wished, more than anything, that he didn't know her.
That she wasn't his sister.
Because, then, he wouldn't have to deal with her pain. He wouldn't have to stand by her, blindly, pretending that her sorrow was all right. That he didn't have to pretend that it was okay to hurt and cry and bleed and -
Her hands clenched into fists, and she stood shakily.
"I think... I think I'm going to go visit Houshi-sama now," Sango said quietly, ignoring the dark look in Kohaku's eyes.
The little taijiya nodded once, turning away from his sister, and looking out into the distance.
Yes, it would have been easier if they hadn't shared the same blood. Shared the same beautiful and haunting memories and yet -
And yet, they had, and there was nothing that could be done about it. He wanted to ignore his blind faith, the way his heart clenched whenever he saw her cry, whenever he saw him give herself to his memory completely but... but the thought shamed him, almost as much as it angered him.
She was his sister. He was supposed to love her, and care for her, and want her. He was supposed to love her and care for her the way that she had loved and cared for him. He was supposed to want her the way that she, had once, wanted him.
He watched, bitterly, as she disappeared into the crater, wishing that it was him she had loved. Not a sliver of memory that could no longer serve a purpose.
His fingers tightened, almost angrily, around the blade of his kusarigama, and he tried his hardest to ignore the way it dug into his flesh, causing his fingers to sting as it tore through the skin, drawing blood.
She had cared once. Had wanted him once. But - but now once was not enough
He wanted forever.
Something inside of him clenched painfully, and his listened for the sobs, the harsh shuddering breaths, but when none came, he could feel the anger spiking dangerously within him, making him wish that she had remained Inuyasha's enemy, that she had never stumbled upon Naraku's manipulation.
Because, at least that way, Sango would be capable of hating the hanyou.
But no one hated the hanyou. No one could.
But I can, Kohaku thought wickedly as Sango emerged from the gravesite, her eyes heavy.
It was always simple, hating the half-demon.
He had made his sister cry.
"I think she has something," Kagome said quietly, watching as Sango disappeared into the forest, headed towards the Goshinboku.
Kohaku looked at the girl, pity flaring into his being. He wanted to believe her, desperately, but he knew, better than anything, that there was nothing, aboslutely nothing that his sister had that could ease the pain that was coursing through her heart. He knew that there was nothing that the miko could say that would change anything. He felt his chest clench heavily, and he turned away from the older girl, trying to wash away all the agonizing emotions that were currently spreading throughout his body, that were making him weak.
He tried, desperately, to ignore the way the prayer beads hung around the other girl's neck. Tried his hardest to ignore the way that she clung to them greedily, the way that Sango had clung to the earth, and it made him sick.
"Kagome-sama," the young taijiya started quietly, turning towards the girl, "I think you're lying."
The girl blinked, her fingers tightening around the beads and her shoulders tensed, proving how truly offended she was. Kohaku wanted to disregard it, tried to, but he could see the greedy desperation in her as well, and it caused a wave of nausea to pass over him.
"Well I'm not sorry," Kagome responded, turning away from him, "But she does have something, whether she wants to believe it or not."
Kohaku smiled at her, bitterly, and his fingers gripped her tightly, forcing her towards him.
"Have you ever felt that limitless desire?" Kohaku asked, watching as the older girl's eyes widened in slight shock. "Naraku has shown it to me. He has shown it to Sango-sama. I am almost positive that he has shown it to your monk. Once - once someone has tasted that desire, it's hard to get rid of it."
Kagome shook her head, pulling away roughly.
"Yes, but - but I think you're lying, too."
Kohaku watched her, mildly amused, and Kagome realized then, that he was more than just a boy.
"Why haven't you told her?" Kagome asked guiltily, her fingers gripping Miroku's prayer beads tightly.
Kohaku turned away, his fingers dancing along the chain.
"She doesn't want to know."
Kagome licked her lips nervously, not wanting to offend him. "But surely if - if she knew she might -"
"I can not compete with Inuyasha-sama."
Kagome smiled serenely, tears stinging her eyes. "I know what you mean," Kagome said quietly, gripping Miroku's prayer beads meaningfully, "No one could."
Kohaku sat with her, reveling in her warmth.
The prayer beads around her neck clacked together noisily, but he ignored it, opting for resting his head against her shoulder.
It was always soothing, sitting with her under the shining sun, knowing that, at least, someone wanted him near. Needed him there. They had both needed it, the companionship, and both of them were willing to give it, not bothering to worry about the slightly accusing stares that were sent their way, not bothering to worry about the way that their presence was ignored by the only person that they ever wanted to notice them.
They had gone through the motions, trying to get her to talk to them, trying to get her to realize that she didn't need to hang onto a memory anymore because they were right there and -
And they always failed miserably.
Sighing loudly, Kohaku buried his face into Kagome's shoulder, feeling her fingers curl around his hand, knowing that she was smiling fondly, glad to be in his presence. Glad to be holding him. And he was glad, more than anything, that he could be there, in her arms, being held by her.
He didn't try to delude himself into thinking that, yes, she could love him the way that his sister did. The way that his sister used to. He knew that it was different, that she was different, but at the same time, he wished that she could be his sister, that way, he would know that she wasn't allowing it to hurt her anymore. That way, he could know that she missed him but didn't need him. That she didn't need the memory.
But the pain was still evident, and he was still standing in the background, fading into the shadow.
He didn't like it, didn't want it, but he knew that there was nothing that could change it, no matter how hard he tried, and now, he was finding that he didn't want to. Because even though Kagome wasn't Sango, Sango wasn't Kagome and that made him happy. Shifting slightly, his fingers curled tightly around hers, and he could hear Kagome sigh.
The miko looked at him, her blue eyes slightly misty. "Yes, Kohaku-kun?"
"What - what made Inuyasha-sama so special?"
Kagome blinked, oddly surprised. "Uhm well... nothing, really, except for his fierce loyalty."
Kohaku moved away, the revealation too painful to handle.
"She... she shouldn't be obligated to repay him," Kohaku whispered, hating himself for breaking the silence. Kagome bit her lip, noticing the way his shoulders tensed, the way his hands clenched into fists against his thighs and she was wishing, more than anything, that she could take the statement back.
"He died protecting her, Kohaku-kun," Kagome responded, looking for some way to console the taijiya.
"Is that supposed to make him deserving of her? Is that supposed to justify the pain in her voice whenever she calls out for him in her dreams? The way he makes her hurt? The way he makes her hate herself for not being strong enough? Why does he even deserve her?"
Kagome's eyes softened, and she came to her feet, clenching the prayer beads around her neck.
"Kohaku-kun," Kagome started gently, "You're allowed to be angry. But you have no right to hate him."
"Aneue cried because of him," she could see the tears in his eyes, could see the anger and the hatred and the longing dancing in her eyes, and it terrified her. "He made Aneue cry."
Kagome bit her lip, unsure of what to say, unsure of whether or not she should approach him.
"But... but you made her cry, too, Kohaku-kun."
The statement was quiet, absolute, and the silence that passed between the burned the air fiercely. She could see him struggling to stay in control, struggling not to let the tears stream down his face or the anger to explode, hurting both of them.
"I didn't make her cry," Kohaku whispered quietly, "Belonging to Naraku did."
Something cut into Kagome's chest viciously, and unconsciously, she had stood next to him, her hands on his shoulders, the tears streaming down her face.
He should have been just a boy. He shouldn't have been filled with the anger or the bitterness but - but he had changed, and he had tasted the corruption, and there was nothing that could be done to change that.
Slowly, Kagome dragged him closer, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, and held him tight.
"I love you, Kohaku-kun," she said quietly, "I want you here."
Kohaku's fingers fisted in her shirt, and he pressed his head against her soft chest, holding back tears.
"But you'll never be Aneue, Kagome-sama. You can never replace her."
"Yes," Kagome said gently, running her fingers through his hair, "but I can never hurt her the way that she has hurt you, either."
Kohaku shuddered, and he released his tears.
Her grief faded in the forest.
When she was there, she felt calmer, happier, and the sorrow slowly faded into nothingness, reminding her of the people she had, of the people she needed. Whenever she was in the forest, encased in its dark anger, she was able to escape the shadows, ignore the way they brushed against her tantalizingly, and she reveled in it.
It was cold, and it was dark, but Sango needed it, more than anything.
Her breath caught in her throat painfully, and she pressed herself against the bark of a tree, attempting to escape.
I've been needing a lot of things lately, she lied, feeling the bark crack underneath her fingers tips. Why did you leave me, Inuyasha? Why did you need to die for me?
She could feel his presence on her skin, and refused to apologize.
She needed the solitude, basked in it, and she would not allow him to take it away from her.
She could feel his claws, raking heatedly across her bare skin, and the wood cut through her fingers, reminding her that she was still alive.
"I can't hate you," Sango whispered to no one, pressing her face into the tree, "No matter how much I try I can't seem to hate you."
Her laugh was bitter, causing her to choke, but still, she continued, afraid of what would happen if she stopped.
"Kohaku hates you, with everything in his being. He wants to spill your blood, Inuyasha-kun. Like a true taijiya, he wishes for those who have harmed a worthless human dead," Sango paushed, pushing away from the tree, and looked up into the branches, watching as the wind blew calmly through the trees, "I have never seen such hate in him, Inuyasha-kun. But unlike yours, his hate is quiet and reserved. He shows it only to Kagome-chan."
Anger flared in the pit of her stomach, and quickly, she pushed it away, pretending that it never happened.
"He is not Kagome-chan's responibility, you know, so I don't really understand why she feels that she needs to take care of him. But..." she paused again, uncertainty filling her voice, and she unhooked her boomerang from her back, propping it lazily against a tree. "But I think she may love him. I think that she may want him."
A small, bitter smile danced across her features, reminding her of better times.
"His eyes are dark, like Houshi-sama's but... but his anger is bright like yours, and it makes me want him."
The wind blew gently, caressing her body, and she closed her eyes, happy to have escaped the shadows.
"But he is nothing like you, Inuyasha-kun. He is my brother. He is mine."
The smile returned, bitter, and she untangled a leaf from her hair, ignoring the way the wind had gone deathly silent. Sango resisted the urge to laugh, knowing that it would offend the forest spirit, more than anything.
"The bond hasn't been broken, not yet."
The trees remained silent, and defeated, Sango hefted her boomerang, ready to fall prey to the madness.
I won't let it break, she lied, walking away from the quiet forest, I love this darkness, too, Kohaku.
Kagome turned, sliding off the lip of the well, and onto the ground, watching the other girl warily, as though afraid that the taijiya might suddenly attack her.
When Sango merely stood there, her eyes dark as she gripped the strap of her boomerang, Kagome let out an internal sigh, and forced herself to smile.
Kagome wanted to believe that she was questioning her, that she was asking why she was leaving, as though she were asking why she had decided to leave suddenly. She had known that her stay there had been unwarranted, because she, too, was holding onto memories. Because, she, too, was causing the sharp stab of pain lace throughout the taijiya's heart, reminding her, repeatedly, that Inuyasha never really belonged to her and -
And Sango was disappointed.
Something within Kagome shivered, and she nodded, feeling her throat clench painfully.
"I promised Kohaku-kun that I would give him some chocolate. He's never had it before, you see, so I thought that -"
"If you leave, the well might seal itself."
Kagome bit her lip, desperately wishing that the confrontation could have been avoided.
"And you still want to run the risk of leaving everything behind?"
Kagome flinched, wishing she could ignore the way Sango's words stung, wishing that she could ignore the accusation and the blind hatred that was suddenly seeping into her voice. She had wished that the taijiya hadn't seen her leave; she had wished that the taijiya would have gone to the Goshinboku, that she would have tried her hardest to imagine what it was like to see the hanyou pinned to the tree. But instead, the taijiya had followed her and now - now she was forced to deal with her. Forced to deal with the bitter, agonizing memories.
"Kohaku-kun is not my responsibility," Kagome answered guiltily, knowing why.
Sango's jaw clenched, and her eyes narrowed, making the other girl take a step back.
"I never said he was."
"But - but you make him out to be," Kagome retorted, feeling the anger spiking within her. Sango jerked back, as though she had been hit, and suddenly, her boomerang was falling to the ground, hitting it with a loud resounding 'crack'. Kagome flinched, her heart thrumming in her chest, and she tried her hardest to feel sorry.
"Then stop feeling responsible for him." The words were low and deadly, and Kagome knew, almost at once, that she had touched upon something that was forbidden. She knew, almost at once, that she had ventured into territory that she had no right to be in, and, almost at once, she was wishing that she hadn't.
"I - I'm sorry, Sango-chan, I didn't mean-"
Sango sighed, deflating slightly. "Kagome-chan," she said weakly, "Please forgive me, I don't know what came over me."
Kagome didn't want to smile.
"You're frightened, aren't you, Sango-chan?"
Kagome smiled, against her wishes, and she grabbed the taijiya's hand, threading her fingers through hers.
"I think that... that it'll be all right, soon, you know? You just have to wait for a bit and you'll see, everything will be fine."
The other girl looked away, towards the Goshinboku.
"Kohaku is my brother."
Kagome giggled nervously, looking at the other girl strangely. "Miroku-sama said the same thing."
Sango blinked, confused, and looked at Kagome, her brows furrowing.
"Oh... that is to say, he didn't say that exactly. It was more along the lines of 'But he's my friend' you know? But... but that doesn't matter because people have the right to want who they want to want and -"
"Kagome-chan, what are you talking about?"
Kagome paused, her fingers curling around the prayer beads hanging from her neck, and she wished, more than anything that she could take that back, but her mouth was running away from her, and the sorrow was slowly catching up to her, too, and she didn't want it to.
Sango wrinkled her nose in confusion, attempting to make the connection.
"But just now you were talking about Houshi-sama and... oh."
Sango stared, her eyes wide, and unconsciously, her fingers curled around the thick string of prayer beads hanging from Kagome's neck, dragging the other girl closer. Her fingers were trembling, her lips moving soundlessly to form some coherant thought but... Kagome touched the taijiya's fingers gently, prying them loose.
"Inuyasha wanted to protect me, Kikyou-sama, and he wanted to protect you, too, Sango-chan."
The girl nodded, gripping Kagome's fingers tightly.
"But... I thought that you and - and Houshi-sama-"
"It's okay to want him, Sango-chan," Kagome said quietly, pulling a small string of beads from her pocket, and pressing them into Sango's hands, "But memories are just that. Memories. And in the end, they're completely useless."
But I don't want the shadows, Sango lied, pressing her face into Kagome's shoulder, I don't want the memory to fade.
Calmly, Kagome pulled away, moving towards the well, her fingers clenching the string of beads around her neck.
But I like this darkness, too, Kagome-chan, and it hurts.
"He wants you, Sango-chan," Kagome whispered as she lifted herself onto the rim of the well, "So it's okay for you to want him, as well."
Sango nodded and looked away.
"He said - he said that it hurts, the desire, and it made him black and tainted, but he needs you, too, just as much as he wants you. Please don't forget, Sango-chan. Please don't let him hurt anymore."
Sango's fingers glided over the smooth round beads in her hand, and said nothing.
The regret retaliated, making her bleed.
In the forest, her grief remained.
Quietly, she slid to her knees, pressing her face into the rough bark, listening to the silent wind, wishing that she could feel his touch once again.
"I don't know what to do, Inuyasha-kun."
The wind remained silent, and her resolve shattered.
She had returned.
He didn't know what she had planned to do, what she had wanted to do, but she was there, again, and she was kneeling next to his grave, her fingers digging into earth, and immediately, he could feel the bitterness rising within him, making him sick.
He still didn't understand it, still didn't want to understand it, but he stood by her. Blindly. Faithfully.
He was watching her, carefully, waiting for her to cry, waiting to hear the harsh sobs as she whispered his name, wishing that he was with her, alive once again, that way she could touch him and love him completely. The thought made him sick to his stomach, and instantly, he was turning away from her, towards the horizon.
He hated coming to his grave, hated having to watch his sister cry. Because whenever they were there, he had to see her at her weakest, had to see himself stand above her shadow as she faded quickly into his, and that - that wasn't why he wanted to be with her. It wasn't why he wanted to be near her.
He had given her flowers once, and they had caused her to smile.
But she never smiled anymore, and he hated it, more than anything.
He hated Inuyasha for making her hurt. For making her drown in her own pain, her own limitless desires.
He hated Inuyasha for dying.
Because Sango - Sango couldn't.
He could feel his fingers wrapping around the blade of his kusarigama, he could feel it sinking into his flesh, grounding him, making the anger fade as the pain stung his hand, reminding him that he was there and that he wasn't supposed to be hurting.
But he wasn't supposed to be jealous, either.
Kohaku tried his hardest not to be angry.
The younger taijiya turned at the sound of his sisters voice, slightly surprised that she was actually talking to him and -
"You should be more careful, Kohaku," she said quietly, standing carefully.
Sango remained silent, pulling a piece of cloth from her kimono, and quietly wrapped it around her brother's wound, ignoring the way his eyes widened in surprise. In shock.
Pain and regret swept throughout her body, making her wish that she had come to him sooner. That she hadn't been grieving or hurting but she knew, more than anything, that she couldn't change what had happened, and, surprisingly, she didn't want to.
Kohaku hated her, she knew that.
But he hated Inuyasha even more and...
"You would still be here," Sango said quietly, knotting the strip of cloth around his hand. His fingers flexed instinctively, and he watched her, his eyes narrowing slightly. "I didn't think that it could make you hate me."
"You have no right to hate Inuyasha-kun, Kohaku," Sango continued, ignoring the way he took a step back, his hands clenching into fists. "And I won't let you think such ugly thoughts about him."
Kohaku could feel something inside of him breaking, and he tried his hardest to hold back the tears.
"He was making you cry," Kohaku whispered, feeling something dark and heavy weigh down his heart, and Sango nodded in agreement.
"But so did you, Kohaku, so maybe, you don't deserve me either."
Kohaku jerked involuntarily, his eyes widening in betrayal, tears sliding unwillingly down his face. His fists slowly uncurled, and he could feel the cloth tight around his hand, causing his wound to burn.
He couldn't believe that she had said that. Couldn't believe that she had told him, calmly, that he didn't deserve her. That she didn't want him.
He didn't want to be sad. He didn't want to fall slave to the sorrow that had made her so weak; he didn't want to fade back into her shadow, just because she felt that she was stronger now. Just because the pain wasn't as strong or as prominent as it had once been... he didn't want to be second to her grief and he wouldn't allow himself to be.
Slowly, he reigned his emotions in, feeling his fingers tremble, watching her as she watched him, and his back straightened, his eyes going cold.
Sango felt the corners of her lips lift in anger.
"Naraku has taught you more than just anger, it seems."
Kohaku tried to ignore the venomous sting to her words, and remained oddly still, his eyes dark as he stared into hers.
Sango sighed, turning away from her brother.
"You used to be so naive and innocent," Sango whispered, clutching the strap of her boomerang, "It was so much easier to get a response out of you back then. But now... you gave me flowers once."
Kohaku turned away, the shame coursing through his body.
"They were still in my room, the day we left to go kill that youkai. I had saved them, because they were from you. They made me happy, and they were so pretty, too. I remember, after I saw the village for the first time after it had been destroyed, I actually remembered that you had given me flowers, and that they were dead. It made me sad."
"You're very pretty, Aneue," Kohaku murmured, staring blindly at the ground.
"Inuyasha-kun wanted to protect me, Kohaku," Sango replied, stepping towards her brother, "the same way that you want to protect me."
Kohaku nodded, wishing he could leave.
"But I wasn't the only one he wanted to protect. There was Kikyou, and Kagome-chan, Shippou and... and Houshi-sama, too."
Kohaku blinked, not truly understanding what she was trying to say.
"And Kagome-chan said... she said that it was all right to want whoever I chose, and even though I wanted Inuyasha-kun... I wanted you more, Kohaku."
Kohaku trembled, frightened, and he could feel Sango's arms wrap around his shoulders, dragging him closer to her. He could feel himself shaking, was frightened by it, but she was warm, in a way that Kagome was not. She was calming and gentle, but fierce and brutal at the same time. He could feel his tears streaming down his face, and he pressed back into his sister, his fingers curling around her arms, not wanting her to leave.
"You're my brother, and I knew that you would still be there."
Kohaku turned in her embrace, wanting to see her face. "Aneue?"
"Kagome-chan said it would be all right," Sango answered, gently kissing the corner of his mouth, "And she is my friend and I trust her."
Sango was not Kagome.
Kagome was not Sango.
And he loved them for it.
Her grief faded, before the forest.
She stepped into it, waiting for the gentle breeze, hoping for it, but when it remained silent, she smiled slightly, her fingers curling around the strap of her boomerang.
"I still don't know what to do, Inuyasha-kun, but it's easier without the shadows."
A leave rustled pitifully, and Sango crushed it beneath her foot.
I still want the darkness, Kohaku, but I need you, more.
A breeze tickled her neck, and Sango sighed, leaving the forest.
And like everything else, it will break.
"I am not ashamed."
Good, the wind seemed to whisper in her ear, you have no right to be.
He visited his grave alone.
He had wondered what to do, whether he should pray, but instead, he knelt, his fingers curling into the dirt, attempting to find what she was continually searching for, attempting to find what it was that she so desperately needed to touch.
His fingers curled, deeper and deeper, until suddenly, he felt the cool round surface brushing teasingly against the pads of his fingers. Pausing, his brow furrowed, and silently, he lifted it out of the dirt, staring at them in morbid fascination.
Inuyasha's prayer beads.
Kagome's and Inuyasha's bond.
Sango's ultimate resentment.
But... but at the same time, it was her only memory.
Something strange coiled in his stomach, and he clutched the prayer beads in his hands tightly, before dropping them back into the dirt, and burying them into the earth once more. He could feel his stomach turning, his insides twisting painfully, but still he sat there, staring at the gravestone in wonder, in enlightenment.
"Thank you for protecting her, Inuyasha-sama," Kohaku whispered, bowing his head in respect.
The wind blew gently around him in response, and he stood, looking down at the grave in contemplation before turning around to leave.
And thank you, Kagome-sama, for loving me enough to make her forget.