Author's Note: this was written for the iyflashfic community on LJ, August 2005.
Frozen in Amber
They managed to wrest Kohaku away from Naraku, but the spider himself never quite got completely defeated. Instead, he slunk away to hibernate, to bide his time until such a day when all those who might defeat him were gone.
By the time it was all over, and everyone returned to the lives they'd put on hold to battle against the darkness, there wasn't much of Kohaku's memory left. Naraku's repeated manipulations had bleached his mind of all but the most basic of information. Kohaku could vaguely recall who Sango was, and that he was from a family of demon exterminators, but of the last decade, he knew nothing.
Everyone thought it was a blessing, until they realized that something else had gone wrong. His body was that of a young man, strong and able, but his mind was of the same twelve year old he'd been on that last fateful day before Naraku had poisoned their lives.
Cheerful, eager to please, he loped around Edo helping Sango and anyone else, not understanding the looks and whispers that followed in his wake. Sometimes he would beg his sister to explain it all, to tell him why people were afraid of him, and sometimes she would indulge his pleas.
He would be horrified, and run to the woods as if there were a place he could hide from himself. But within days he would return, and not remember a thing. All the pain, all the anguish and terror, would have fallen from him like an old, outgrown garment, and Kohaku would be his usual cheery self.
Over and over, the cycle repeated. Years passed. Everyone involved in the old Naraku troubles died. And was reborn…
Kentaro was, as his name suggested, a big boy, unusually tall and well-built. But that was all he was, it became clear, as he aged—well, physically, at least—and yet retained all those quirks and idiosyncrasies that swiftly grew less charming in an adult than they were in a child.
He addressed no one correctly, instead calling them by names he seemed to have picked at random, and to him, his mother was a flower, and his father was eternity.
His parents despaired; they had planned to bear but the one child, and had been overjoyed when it had been a boy, but this was unacceptable. They had another child, a girl, and named her Takara, but that name would never pass Kentaro's lips.
"Aneue," he would say to her, "let's go to the park and practice."
You see, Kentaro had fashioned a sort of game for himself where he tied a bit of wood to a string and threw it away from him, then snapped it back to catch it in his hand, and could play it for hours. He loved nothing more than playing this game while Takara watched.
But Takara grew up eventually, even if Kentaro didn't, and tired of the game.
To doctors, Kentaro was an enigma. There was nothing actually physically wrong with him; every test came back negative. It was suggested that psychotherapy be tried, but no matter the procedure, the medication or the theory applied to him, Kentaro's outlook on life remained the same.
In desperation as he neared his thirtieth year, Takara and their parents sought out a different type of therapist. This one, across the city, worked from her family's shrine, and had a more holistic and metaphysical view of psychology. But she was in great demand, and she treated only a very few patients.
The moment Kentaro stepped into her office, his face lit up. "Look, Aneue," he urged Takara. "It's Kagome-chan."
Higurashi-sensei had gone still, very still, and stared at him a long moment before meeting Takara's eyes. Then she whispered, "Kohaku?"
His smile, if possible, grew wider. "That's me!" he confirmed. It was the first time he'd ever identified himself by a name, any name, and Takara was visibly shaken by it.
"I'll take him," Higurashi-sensei said, her voice nothing like the smoothly modulated tone it had been when she greeted them. "We'll start right now."
It happened quickly after that. Kentaro was to see Higurashi-sensei five times a week, and after just a month, seemed far more age-appropriate in his manner. He was calmer, less excitable, more sober and mature, and his use of his wood/string toy had all but vanished.
By the end of two months of therapy with Higurashi-sensei, Kentaro was a composed, normal-seeming adult. During the day, that is.
Nighttime was a far different matter. It seemed that with an increase of maturity also came an increase of nightmares, and Kentaro would awaken, thrashing and weeping and begging for forgiveness. Only when Takara held him, rocked him back to sleep and sang, could he get any rest. He clung to her, called her Aneue again, and cried like the child he'd so recently been.
None of the herbal remedies Higurashi-sensei prescribed worked, but the sadness in her eyes said she hadn't really expected them to.
"You know what's wrong with me," Kentaro said one day, during their session. "All the hypnosis, all the laying on of hands you do—you're the only one who's been able to give me my mind back."
It wasn't a compliment, just a flat statement. Higurashi-sensei knew this, and nodded. She had changed over these past months, as well, grown sadder and felt immeasurably older.
"Please, tell me." Kentaro's voice was rough, was pleading, was desperate. "All I have are these nightmares, where I see the most—" He broke off there, passing his hand over his eyes. "The most bizarre, horrible things," he continued in a whisper. "Monstrous beings, and so much blood…"
The last came out on a moan. Kentaro slid from his chair, to his knees, and dug his fingers into the floor with head hanging.
"Please, tell me what's happening." It was mumbled to the tatami, but Higurashi-sensei still heard it. Her hand touched Kentaro's head, and he looked up to find her kneeling beside him on the floor.
Her face looked old, suddenly, old and weary and resigned. "Some wounds cut so deeply, they last beyond death," she told him. "Beyond birth, too."
Kentaro worked hard to decipher her meaning. When he did, he let out a long, low wail. "Otou-san," he groaned. "Aneue." Then his head snapped up, and he stared at her, stricken. "You, too, Kagome-chan," he said. "I tried to kill you, too."
"It wasn't your fault, Kohaku," she told him, a thread of desperation in her voice. "It wasn't. But you're not who you were. You have to move on, and leave this buried where it belongs."
"I don't think I can." The pain was a living thing within him, roiling and writhing. His brain felt consumed by it, pushing any other thought, any other emotion, to the mere fringes of his consciousness. "Those things… those things I did… I can't let go. I can never let go."
Kentaro curled in on himself, forehead touching the floor as he gasped against the pain. "They've got to be dreams," he said. His voice sounded scraped, skinned. "Because if they're… if they're memories, then that means I really did those things. Killed those people. All those people… Otou-san…"
He was quiet a long time, and they sat there, silent, on the floor, each lost in their own misery.
"Sometimes I fly," he said suddenly. "I fly, on a giant feather." His grin was a little wild. "But that's not possible, is it? It's all just dreams, right?"
Higurashi-sensei stared at him, searching his face for some sort of answer. Then she cupped her hands together, creating a glowing ball of warm pink light. In its eerie glow, Kentaro's face looked—just for a moment—like that of the original Kohaku, incongruously fresh with youth and devastated from knowledge of what havoc he'd wrought.
She pushed the ball of light into Kentaro's forehead, then caught him as he slumped forward, cradling him against her body and watching as the lines of tension and despair left his features.
"Yes, Kohaku," Kagome told his deaf ears. "It's all just dreams."