Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha

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Living what seemed a borrowed life with borrowed -empty- memories for what seemed like little more than borrowed time - in retrospect, that's all it seems to him as he looks back on the past events from before a year and a half ago, when he finally became Thirteen But Only Eleven And A Half.

He's still not certain which he is now; he's Fourteen And A Half But Only Thirteen. Even having existed all that time, it still doesn't seem rightaccuratecorrect to say he is fourteen and a half.

His life's been given back, now, and all seems fine, except he keeps falling back upon That Time When He Stayed Eleven And A Half For A Year And A Half. It's ripe for thinking and pondering. It's a tough subject, and Kohaku doesn't share these thoughts with others anymore. Not with the nods and strange looks they give him. And most especially not with Sango, who is simply happy enough that he's finally alive again - and enough time has finally passed to make up for the time when he was Dead But Not Dead. She doesn't want to even think about That Time ever again. She has enough worries on her mind already. To Sango, That Time never existed.

It's truly an untouchable subject.

And as the two watch the glowing sunset together, Kohaku once more leans close. Perhaps it's enough that Sango is all he needs right now, because she is family -and the only family he has now- and he lets out a sigh as the sky darkens and a familiar firestorm rumbles as it rushes across the horizon.

The only thing he wishes for these days is knowing why his sister can't see this beautiful display of nature. Even though every evening they watch the sunset together, she never sees the storm. He's given up on asking about it.

Kohaku winces slightly; his right shoulder hurts just a bit, in the strangest little pinpricks. But he's an old -young- soldier; he can grin and bear it, and it'll go away soon. It always goes away when he sleeps.

Kohaku is quiet this evening.

-

Another year down the road, and the firestorms have lightning now, brilliant white-hot lightning that snakes across the sky in dazzling, fierce displays, accompanied by nearly soundless thunder. But it doesn't matter - Sango can't hear the thunder anyway. It might as well be so soundless to him that he ought to stop acknowledging it. If he ignores it, it won't exist. If he doesn't hear it, it won't exist. Right? So he feels.

Anyway, that's not the real problem these days. Kohaku's dreams are becoming far too colorful. More colorful than real life. Real life now seems like a constant sunset in comparison.

He's gone off on a small journey now, and he's promised Sango he would be back in a few days. It took surprisingly less than he'd expected to convince her to let him out of her sight, but he'll take whatever he can. Walking to his destination, Kohaku wonders if the place still exists, or if it ever did. Well, he tells himself, he would find out when he got there.

Even after two and a half years his memory is still not at what it ought to be. There still don't seem to be any major side effects from when Naraku erased his memories - which haven't, unfortunately, fully returned, because Naraku liked to erase them on a regular basis, and he's only begun to remember so much that he knows even this - and he's not really certain what he doesn't remember.

Besides, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of not being able to remember in the first place? Who could possibly know what they don't remember and still not remember that which they don't remember, anyway?

But what he does know, among other things, is that there are things Sango talks about that bring up nothing but a blank for him. Things about her, about him, about Father and Mother and Kirara and the other Taijiya, a multitude of things.

Things he ought to know, because Sango speaks of them like common knowledge, like something so natural as their own names and that they are Taijiya.

He's not certain, but he almost thinks that sometimes Sango continues speaking of these things he doesn't remember because she might believe it could possibly jog his memory, could make him, force him to remember. It's not that he minds, because he doesn't, but that all this learning is still a bit too much. Learning about himself and about her is… strange.

And it isn't at all like taking a shovel and digging wherever one thought something might be buried. It is more like having missing memories replaced than resurfaced and reacknowledged. But replacements, can they still be as good - or right - as the original? It's no mind - it's all he can work with.

Kohaku pauses on the road, listening keenly. It's just like old times, and this time, instead of Naraku's garbled whispers, throated in that slowly hissing dagger of a voice, he hears what sounds like small chimes. They're coming from the direction off to his right.

The muscles in his shoulder tighten and bunch up as he walks off toward the chimes that sound something like the call of a bird, yet not. Through the forest, across expansive meadows, he wanders semi-aimlessly until he reaches a large field of lilies.

Upon seeing this, the recognition kicks in. In his head a scene plays, of him and his sister as children. They're running and skipping through the field of flowers, and there is a bright sun in the sky, brighter than in real life. Sango has a flower in her hair. Childish laughter crinkles and echoes in his ears as the scene fades, then shatters and breaks apart through the middle. It is as if someone has slashed the images in his head in half. The colors are bleeding toward the wound in the middle, toward jagged edges, into darkness. The visual is gone, and the entire right half of Kohaku's back is throbbing quietly.

Kohaku shakes his head vigorously, then bends to pick a small bundle of flowers. Standing there, surrounded by these lilies and twirling the stem of one between two fingers, he's remembered. It was nine years earlier when he gave her one just like this.

The walk back home is long but less grueling than it was coming the other way. Pleasant memories do that to him. He will have vivid dreams tonight.

-

Each time a new memory, a new recollection of a Time That Did Exist, surfaces for him, it's a strange matter. It's six years since he stopped being eleven and a half, and he never realised just how many lost memories there could be.

He's out of pain relievers, though. Herbal remedies can only do so much.

Each sunset he watches the storm with increasing interest and intensity, wondering why he's the only one who can see the sky turn such malicious, vibrant, bruising colors. It's the only time the world ever seems colorful now. His dreams have become increasingly brilliant sights, and sometimes he has difficulty telling if they are just dreams or something real, something lost that's yearning to be 'found' again.

This time Rin has come to visit the Taijiya.

"You hear that?"

Arms encircling her knees, she turns and looks at him. "Hear what?"

That distant rumbling, he wants to say. But he doesn't. Instead he offers, "The wind sounds fierce tonight." Rin nods, smiling, but Kohaku knows she doesn't, can't possibly understand why the wind does sound fierce. It's because it's being swallowed up by the firestorm that is blazing upon the horizon, engulfing the trees. The wind itself is trying to escape, even though it 'escaped' long ago.

Together they quietly remember the wind they once knew, reminiscing, and some of the things Rin talks about suddenly seem oh so right yet oh so foreign - even though she talks of him. But still, each of her anecdotes fills what feels like dull aches inside his soul, as if he's regained something he's lost. As it grows further dark they go inside, and it's not until late in the wee hours of the morning that he comes back outside while the others sleep.

Taking a step onto the grass, he notices the winds haven't died down, and though the sky is the shade of ink he can still see the storm as its fury continues to unravel.

This storm has never appeared anytime other than sunset. The black sky is tinged red.

He's fallen onto his knees, curling forward and breathing heavily from the intense fire lancing through his veins as the familiar pain spreads across his back, and several stab wounds surface. The last thing Kohaku remembers before he blacks out -and wakes up screaming in his own bed, covered in a cold sweat and completely unharmed- is that group of huddled women cowering beneath a rain of blood and flames coming down from the heavens, moments before a familiar kusarigama slices through them one by one.

Just like his little massacre many years ago.

After a quick -quiet- and unsuccessful rummage through his stash - and goodness can he hardly breathe, it's as if he's inhaled the storm's flames themselves, and goodness do his shoulder blades ache, it's as if he's sprouting wings - there is one thing that is certain. It would be a good idea to ask Kaede, the next time he goes to stock up on pain relievers, if she has a cure for nightmares.

The good memories only make him smile to reclaim; the bad ones make him wish Sesshoumaru had let him stay dead.

-

Nine years, and Kohaku is Twenty And A Half But Only Nineteen. He's so frustrated with which age he really is - he did lose that time of growth, after all, and the only thing keeping him alive then was that goddamn shard, but still lived -somewhat- through it all - that he no longer tries to argue over which one he is.

He is both. He is neither one nor the other, for they are both interconnected. He is still pocked with holes when it comes to his memories, and he is still searching, endlessly, fruitful/lessly, for any aspect of himself that he can steal back. And since he doesn't know how much he's lost, he never knows how much more he's got left to gain. All that will matter is the hope that he will finally feel complete someday.

But even with all this searching for what was lost, he knows he might -probably- will never be the same again, be what he could have been.

That Time, that year and a half that was semi-stolen from him, can never be fully reclaimed. Borrowed time is something of a gift, in a way, and only now - over these past seven and a half years - does his mind seem to no longer be so far away. It's almost within his grasp. But since he can't possibly know if it's complete yet, since he doesn't know what he's missing, he wonders if he will eternally be in search of that which has been lost.

Sometimes they come at random - or if something or someone triggers them - and sometimes it's only when he's told of them... but little by little, over the years, he's managed to accumulate quite a collection of memories.

He only hopes they are real.

Yet another night is fast approaching when the firestorm remains past sunset. Sango's already leaving to go back inside. Kohaku's hunched over, feeling as if his back has been riddled with arrows.

The thunder tonight is exceptionally loud.

The winds are picking up, and as he rises he sees the storm rush toward him, soon engulfing him and the house behind him where he stands. He's hit with full force, but all he feels is the heat warming his skin and the wind threading its fingers through his hair.

The storm may be ready to swallow him whole, but Kohaku is ready to rise above upon wings of semi-translucent skin stretched taut upon bony, sturdy frames, wings with an expanse that would have struck fear into his own self when he was but a boy.

He's glad not to be caught in the undertow and dragged along to a death by drowning.

Sailing overhead, he lands on the other side of the storm, watching numbly as it continues on past his home, disappearing into the night.

When he wakes up in bed again, he'll feel the blades of his shoulders mindlessly, massaging the strange bruises whose tenderness seems inexplicable. This past night has been a blur, if the visions dancing in his head are any indication.

It's been exactly nine years, he recalls with a tightened throat, since he slaughtered all the Taijiya. He glances over at where his dear elder sister sleeps with the nekomata Kirara nestled in her arms, and Kohaku, twenty and a half years old and yet only nineteen and just about ready to cry, feels that keeping the family alive is enough for now. She must have forgiven him for That Time, even if she doesn't want to think it ever existed.