AN: Warning for Yaoi. If you do not like malexmale pairings, I suggest you move along. If you got past that, feel free to move forward and enjoy!
Beta by Numisma (thanks, girl hugs)
Sunshine peeked through rotting old boards of the wall. A random ray of light shot through and hit the gold of Inuyasha's left eye with a glint. It was strong enough to make him squint, and with the warm spring air settling over him, he cursed being alive another day. His small rotting house creaked from a momentary push of wind.
While rousing, he looked around the disheveled house through sleepy eyes. Dirty pots and pans huddled in the dark corners, clanging with a constant beat. He sighed.
He was awake and now SHE knew it as well. He started to monitor his own breathing as he leaned against the brittle wall. He felt the air get colder, robbing the warm room of its only heat. After seeing his own frosty breath hanging in the air, he closed his eyes in desperation as he tried to feel her.
But she was dead, and she remained no longer solid. For almost six winters her spirit had been tied to the home that they had wanted to share with children and friends. This house was now her grave, and maybe someday his as well. She had chosen it that way.
I promise to always stay by your side.
Yet his every living day was spent in misery as she stayed with him. At first people urged him to mourn her, but he'd rather fight with the knowledge that she was even gone than give in. Thus, her spirit became tied to him, refusing to leave until she knew that he was able to live without her.
He always woke knowing she was there but unable to touch her. He often heard her voice, a sweet yet languid wind that caressed gently at his ears and skin, stirring images from his past. Everyday he would lie on the floor, oblivious to the present time while living within memories ascending by her voice and usurping his vision. That was when the madness began to overwhelm him.
She knew he was awake, and she became mad when he ignored her. And when she was mad, he could hear the baby cry.
He had never heard his baby cry. She had been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her throat, stealing away her breath and sound. He wondered if the crying he heard was even real. Then, his head whipped around as he heard her smack shut the sliding door.
"How the hell am I supposed to live if you keep me inside all the time?" he said in an exasperated voice that ebbed toward the melancholy. The silence of the room surged through him. Suddenly, the door whipped open and then shut with a mighty invisible force.
Inuyasha swallowed. Sometimes she wouldn't ever let him leave. She was too lonely and hungry, and she needed him more now, and as much as he needed her. He couldn't forget her touch, and he would continually deny the tragedy. Replaying the events in his mind would only make him numb. Losing your wife and baby in childbirth was common in the feudal era, wasn't it?
He snorted, laying his head back on the moldy, dank floor. He stared intensely at the ceiling. Spring light pierced through there as well. He thought he saw a haze float over his vision, lightly blurring the sharp edges of reality.
Silence had whined of an intrusion as he heard a hollow rapping sound from outside his door.
Inuyasha squeezed his eyes shut in annoyance. Every day he would come, in purple robes dark enough to be black, holding that staff that could easily be replaced by a scythe.
'You want me to free them, don't you?' Inuyasha heard him ask on the morning of every new day. Freeing himself of his OWN wife had been hard, but once Miroku did that, he was freer to release someone else's pain.
It was his duty as Buddha's servant. Sango was much happier in the afterworld with their two sons, and it was only fair to let Kagome and her daughter go join them.
Inuyasha shook his head. Everyday he gave his answer, "No, monk. Go away. I can't give up Kagome."
A large rusted pot smashed against the door. Kagome was mirroring his feelings as well. He only wished that the force that had thrown that pot were tangible. How he longed to run his fingers through her dark hair again.
"Inuyasha, you can't keep doing this to yourself, my friend." His voice was always the same, velvety and anxious for resolve. Even after the void in his hand disappeared his voice had become smoother. Miroku was actually "living."
He thought he had lived once too, but to love two women in one lifetime and then to lose them both had cracked open his own Pandora's box. Maybe he really was an undeserving hanyou when the curse of his life took his lovers, took his friends, and drove away the only son he would ever really know.
'Shippo…' He snorted again. 'The runt wasn't strong enough to stay with me when his adopted mother had died. He just… left.'
All that was left for him in life was right outside his door, knocking again. Yet this person wanted to take away all that he had left of her.
'Don't take her away, Miroku,' he had sobbed tearlessly, once, after seeing Miroku's determined face. 'Please, I beg you.'
After that, he had stopped opening the door. Miroku's face, so determined and holy, would feed him doubts and strip him of his strength. He couldn't give up Kagome for the sake of the greater good. Miroku's eyes would almost laugh at him, making him feel selfish.
No, the door would have to remain between them. He was half glad that the monk still came around to visit him, even if he had given him the same answer every day.
"No, Miroku, I can't," he pleaded in breathy tones, feeling the guilt begin to set in.
"Just open the door, Inuyasha," Miroku said, his smooth, compassionate voice laced with force.
He was his friend, his only friend, and the last outside tie he had to Kagome's solid presence. The senile old miko of the village could barely remember his name, let alone Kagome's. All those people he met on their journeys had never resurfaced for him, and they faded into obscurity. Kirara wouldn't even come near the village. Her pain was too great for the death of her two closest friends. There were times when he had wanted to pet the little cat's head, but he felt selfish, thinking that maybe another little brother and sister was enjoying her company.
Miroku was the only person he had left.
Inuyasha sniffled, and he heard the monk sigh heavily through the front door. He was not leaving. The notion had slightly warmed him in the chilled, hollow room. Miroku never left right away. He would stay for hours, only leaving when he was hungry or listening to the call of nature.
It was his way of comforting his friend, even if he did not open the door for him. Just standing there, being there, could be enough for anyone that had trouble letting go. Miroku had once told him that he was denying that Kagome was really gone, and instead believing that she was actually back in her own time raising their daughter in a less primitive and dangerous place. His response had left him guilty. 'Who would think that? I'm not crazy, you know.'
Still, it had been a nice dream.
Sometimes, Miroku wouldn't say anything, just stand there with sutras in tow, waiting for his friend to finally give up and see the truth. At other times he would say things, things that only tugged at his knowing soul even more.
"You know, the denial is more pain than you can bear any longer," he heard the monk sigh. Silence came between them for a pause, and Inuyasha missed his comforting voice, even for that second. "My friend, I know what you're going through. I just wish we could deal with this together. You're not the only one suffering."
Inuyasha's breath hitched. Then, the walls in the house creaked. Then the baby's wailing had begun again.
"Kagome, you know I'm right too," Miroku said. Inuyasha felt his heart beat quicken. "Don't do this to him. The Kagome I know wouldn't make the ones she loves suffer like this."
"No, don't talk to her!" Inuyasha cried desperately, jumping to his feet. He knew what Miroku was trying to do. There was no way he would let him appeal to Kagome's ghost. He knew what Miroku said was true, but he didn't want Kagome to realize it too. He wasn't prepared for her leaving him yet. There was still time…time to talk to her, time to feel her presence every waking minute, and time to find a way to die quickly and soundly, never to open his eyes on another mortal day. She would be waiting here in this house, with her hand outstretched to take him with her. The daughter he never knew would be in her arms, waiting for him.
He refused to let Miroku rob him of that vision. "Just go away now, Miroku!" he shouted, pounding his fists on the walls. The walls shook, feeling the onslaught of his screams. Kagome and the baby had joined him in a chorus of pain. Their screams together had burned him the worst.
Miroku knew that things were getting bad inside the hut. He had been wary of appealing to Kagome, already knowing his friend's reaction. Something was very wrong with Kagome's true essence, and she remained tied to their home and her lover with uncanny vigor. She'd had it set up in her base framework to always stay with him, whether in this living world or in between death. Miroku furrowed his brow as the screams and noises inside the house continued. He heard Inuyasha repeatedly apologizing to her, saying he would not let the monk inside or say another word. However, mother and child were less than convinced, and Miroku could hear their woeful shrieks inside among clamoring objects.
Miroku knocked again, only to fuel the audible unrest. Gritting his teeth, he kicked at the rickety door. It flung open after two well-placed hits. In an instant, he sidestepped the force of Kagome's apparent anger as she unsuccessfully tried to fling the door back into his face. She did not want him inside. This was THEIR house, and even though he had been her friend, she wanted Inuyasha to herself.
Miroku was the sort of person who'd be up for bargaining, and Kagome knew this. He dodged tools and dishes, even small wooden furniture that her angry spirit thrust at him. He even felt his own body heat deplete as Kagome drew from him, taking energy to fuel her fury.
Miroku choked on the shallow air in the frigid room, running over to his friend, who laid half naked, shaking and sweating on the floor. Inuyasha was curled up in a ball, breathing erratically and clutching his bloody knees with his own claws.
"Inuyasha…" His voice was sad yet somewhat comforting. Inuyasha closed his eyes. The air in the room continued to spin around him and his vision was weakening, making Miroku appear like a violet blob.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. His lungs were screaming for warm breath. Miroku placed his hand on Inuyasha's sweaty shoulder. The half-demon shivered, almost frightened of tangible touch. Suddenly Miroku felt a light thwack on the back of his head, and his posture faltered. He lost his balance, and his head dipped against Inuyasha's arm. Behind him, Kagome had thrown a jagged board at him, and he could already feel the blood trickling down his back.
"Miroku…" Inuyasha looked at him with worry on so many levels. "You need to go. She doesn't want you here. She loves you like she always did, but something's not right with her anymore. She only wants to be with me."
Miroku's breath was shaky and his hot breath fell against Inuyasha's cold, moist skin, making him shiver. He let out a breathy response, sucking in the snot that had formed in his nostrils. "I know." The air was getting danker by the minute, and it smelled of blood.
It had never smelled of blood before.
Tears gathered at the edges of Miroku's eyes. A putrid smell began to make him gag as a murky ectoplasm covered the room. Inuyasha continued shivering underneath Miroku's hand.
As more of Kagome's spite clanged and banged against the room, producing the most horrid sounds and smells, Miroku knew that today something had to be done. He couldn't fathom why such a sweet girl who had gotten so much out of life had turned to such vengeance in her afterlife.
Although, he would admit, fate did rob her of the life that she had wanted, her dream of being with Inuyasha. Seeing his friend's control breaking and his slow loss of life, Miroku knew that Kagome's pain in the afterlife was surfacing through Inuyasha.
With that, Miroku was beside himself with grief. He rubbed his hand soothingly against Inuyasha's shoulder as his friend continued to sweat, shiver, and breathe erratically.
"You know this has to stop, Inuyasha. You can't allow yourself to live like this. You can't allow Kagome's soul to be trapped here anymore." Inuyasha hiccupped; his tearless, choking sobs increased. He almost knew the next thing to come out of the monk's mouth. "You can't let her suffer like Kikyo did."
At the mere mention of the woman's name, the chaos in the room increased. He felt slivers of wood whirl around the room with heavy and sharp objects, nipping at his exposed skin. The house was becoming less stable. Miroku hoped Kagome's energy would wane soon.
His eyes whipped around, watching the fury of objects blast around the unstable little shack. The smell was dying down, but the wailing had increased. He knew he had hit a nerve, and feeling the remorse, he apologized, "I'm sorry I had to do that, Kagome-sama. But you know, I did not want Inuyasha to suffer."
There was a sudden stop. Objects clanged to the floor.
Tears that had crept out onto Miroku's face had begun to dry. His voice still rang with agony. "You see, I can't just sit by everyday and watch him live like this. He loves you very much and wants to abide by your wishes, even if your madness kills him. He is a good man, one who should not waste his life in here."
His eyes darted around knowingly. She was listening.
"I beg you to release him. Let him live again. He'll never be able to replace you, I'm sure, but tying yourself and your baby to his life force will only make him suffer, not happy to be with you."
The muscles in his face contorted in pain. "Kagome, be thankful for the life that you had with him during your short time living. Be thankful you were able to carry his child, and experience the joy and pain of creating something with the one you love. Be thankful for your living days because you know now that it's over and you can't go back."
"Stop…" Inuyasha pleaded weakly, fisting his hands in Miroku's robe. "Stop before she leaves me forever. I have nothing left. Stop, please."
Miroku grabbed his shoulders and looked into his heavy eyes with compassion and perseverance. Miroku's lips quivered. "That's not true, Inuyasha. We have each other. We are all that is left of that group, and we know each other."
His grip on Inuyasha's slippery shoulders tightened. "We're the only people that will remember Kagome and Sango. Please let her leave. If she stays, her soul will only suffer further. Show some dignity, man! Do you want to die and leave me all alone?" Miroku's choked sobs were desperate now, his hands smoothing over Inuyasha's shoulders and chest with need.
Unconsciously, the monk just needed reassurance that his friend was still there, solid and able for him to touch. He was the last person, body and soul, who could remember his past. He would not give him up to Kagome's ghost.
Inuyasha looked at him, his mouth weakly opening in surprise. He had been wrong. Miroku was living, but only because HE was still alive. Miroku's only desire was to share that pain with him. His emotions were high, and he grabbed the shaking monk into an embrace of despair. He could feel Miroku's shoulders vibrate against his skin as the man shivered. He heard him whisper, "Don't leave me."
Inuyasha smoothed his hair in needy strokes. He felt dried blood cake under his claws as he grazed the back of Miroku's neck. Miroku was in physical and emotional pain, but he still sat here, leaning against him for strength. Inuyasha let the man fall into his chest and cry. He looked at the blood on his hands and sighed.
'Kagome did this,' he thought to himself, looking mournfully around the room. She was still there, watching them with inaudible interest. 'Kagome would have never done this in life. Never. Her heart was too big.'
He closed his eyes, feeling the truth wash over him like a cold spring. 'Maybe Miroku is right. She needs to be put to rest.' Tears began to form, and although he rarely shed tears, he knew that acceptance of her final departure would bring them.
"Kagome, look what you've done," he said piteously. "I never wanted our lives to be like this, in life or death. You wanted me to live. You wanted me to be happy. Well, honestly…" he paused, feeling the air thin and turn warm again, "I'm not."
Miroku lifted his head from the groove of Inuyasha's stomach. He looked around the room. His sixth sense kicked in, and he was filled with energy of peace and acceptance. He could almost imagine Kagome's face. He remembered her smiling big smiles among sunny days like this one. He looked up, and Inuyasha's eyes were clear and hopeful, but he still held him, afraid of any loss of warmth.
"Kagome, you can go now. I think…" He looked down at Miroku with a serene face. "I think we'll be okay now."
Miroku nodded, making a motion and saying a silent prayer. 'Be strong, Kagome-sama, and say hello to Sango and the children for me.' Remorse tugged at him momentarily when he thought of his late wife and premature twin boys, but then it faded.
The room was quiet, though he could hear birds chirping outside. The warmth of the day soaked into the hut. Harsh sunlight was no longer an annoyance for either of them.
Miroku made a movement to leave, but Inuyasha held onto him tightly. He fell back onto the floor, taking the monk with him and letting him settle into the crook of his arm. "Stay," was all he said with an ethereal glow over his face.
Miroku complied, but did not reply. It actually felt good to be held by someone, especially someone he knew and treasured dearly. It had been so long since he'd felt skin against skin.
The afternoon day would trade hands with dusk, and they would not feel a sense of time locked in a symbiotic union.
"She's really gone, isn't she?" Inuyasha said, reliving the loss and rousing Miroku from a content trance. He felt Miroku nod against him.
"Are you sad?" Miroku asked, surprised at the smallness of his voice.
"Keh, of course I'm sad! Stupid monk!" Inuyasha said, his voice ringing with the confidence he always had in the past. Miroku grinned at this. It told him he was alive again. It was different now, though, because Inuyasha had said that while wrapping Miroku in his arms. Miroku unconsciously fluttered his hands over Inuyasha's chest. His flesh was real. His hands closed over his. He heard Inuyasha sigh contently, and then Miroku's fingers began to search for his claws, only to find his nails dulling.
"You're going to be human tonight, aren't you?" Miroku asked. Inuyasha grunted.
"Yeah. I guess that's why Kagome was particularly protective today. She didn't want to leave me alone," he replied, his other hand reaching up and smoothing the dark tendrils of Miroku's hair that had fallen out of his ponytail.
His hair had grown quite long, dark and flowing past his shoulders in sweaty masses. His hair began to remind him of hers. He reveled in the strokes his fingers made through Miroku's locks.
"Do you want me to stay then?" Miroku asked after quite some length of silence had passed. Even though Inuyasha was transforming, he still had some of the strength of his claws, and feeling them scratch through his hair produced a numbing sensation over his body. Inuyasha watched with interest as Miroku's neck became lined with goose bumps.
"Of course," Inuyasha replied. Then he frowned. "I don't want to force you, but I don't think I can let go of you at this point."
"Hn," Miroku complied. A small carnal sensation rippled in his body. He had never felt like this for another man before, but Inuyasha was a special case. He was the only one important to him now. He knew, given the circumstances, that he would do just about anything he asked of him at this point.
Inuyasha closed his eyes. He buried his face in Miroku's hair. Miroku continued to draw circles over Inuyasha's chest, relishing in the pulsing heat beneath his fingers. His finger pads were addicted to the sensations of Inuyasha's life, and he couldn't help but notice that as they kept touching, they were pulling each other into a closer embrace. Miroku snaked his arms around Inuyasha's torso as the other wrapped his arm around Miroku's shoulders, still streaming his fingers through his hair. Soon, they became even more dependent on each other, fueling the notion that they both still existed.
Miroku had missed the strong demon aura that Inuyasha always had, and he moved up slightly to look up into a human face with vulnerable violet eyes. In his human form, Inuyasha was more sensitive, and his face showed fear that Miroku would detach himself from him and leave. He cupped his face and smiled. "I'm staying."
While his words held little weight by themselves, Miroku found himself in a focused desire to please him, soothe him on this day of loss. He leaned in, kissing him lightly on the lips. Inuyasha's eyes opened in mild surprise, and then dulled over in a culminating need for comfort, accepting Miroku's treatments slowly. Through hazed eyes he pretended to see Kagome, even if he knew well enough those soft lips had belonged to someone else who was close to him.
Inuyasha did not react aversely; that had been Miroku's greatest fear. At first the hanyou did not move, soaking in the experience of such a new sensation. Then he responded curiously, sucking on Miroku's bottom lip, gently forcing his mouth to open and invite him in. An enigmatic quaver rang through Inuyasha's body with cautious virgin touches on another man. His body hesitated at first, searching out heat that was supposed to fulfill him, only to find the wrong parts. With each desperate thirst for flesh, his barriers faded and sensations overrode constructive thought.
Then, they fell into each other, tongues searching for warmth that had been as cold as their wives' graves. Fingers molded around each other, through hair, around sweaty skin, within layers of clothing. Limbs maneuvered through obstructions, searching out naked heat. They soon lay on the floor over a mass of red and violet material, moist from both pain and need.
Chests slid together in a rampant rhythm, creating warmth through growing desire. Their suffocating breaths challenged their tongues to stay together, fusing never to produce solitary wetness again. Their own exposed flesh kneaded together, and similar sensitive parts rocked against each other, creating a strange friction that caught them unawares. They broke away softly, their spittle still connecting them through a small trail that sparkled in the reflected moonlight.
Their eyes looked at each other, not to ask permission or wonder if what they were doing was right. Instead, they studied each other, remembering who was who and that living breath stirred within both of them.
Inuyasha caressed a clump of hair that fell over Miroku's eyes, breaking it way from his face. He had to see all of that face, discouraging any interruptions. His face was familiar, a beacon from his past he didn't want to lose. He leaned in hesitantly to kiss him, and he felt Miroku's gracious smile accept him again. Their kissing and rubbing were the only motions reminding them that they would live tomorrow.
"I'm never going to go," Miroku said softly, stealing a pause between kisses. Inuyasha stopped, giving him an intense look. Miroku's face was determined. "Even if I have to come over everyday and bang on your door, I'll never go away."
The uncertainty on Inuyasha's face vanished quickly. He drew the monk into his arms, closing his eyes and soaking in his scent. Miroku couldn't move as Inuyasha held him tightly flush against him. Miroku's ears concentrated on the calm rhythm of Inuyasha's heartbeat, purring softly within his chest. Before he could drift soundly into sleep, he heard Inuyasha whisper, "Don't worry. I'm not going to let you go. Not ever."
Even in a rickety house, the two of them were protected from the outside chill. Hands unconsciously twined as two mortal bodies relaxed, slipping together into a nocturnal peace. And when people slept, it was proof of being alive.