When Rin was younger, she didn't think about being dead in the same way she didn't think about being older. Of course, she knew both would happen, that both were inevitable, but they were both so far removed from her current state of being that any thought spared on these certainties seemed frivolous.
And then it just sort of happened.
When Rin came back, it was not as though she came back.
Tenseiga did not return life; it gave life where there was none. Tenseiga was not a prop of the afterlife, nor some tool of the dead. Once someone was dead, they could never be undead. Tenseiga did not bring back. It brought again.
When Rin woke up in those then-stranger's arms, she was an adult. True, there was no alteration in her face or mind, but her base nature had gone through nothing less than a complete revolution. Suddenly, Rin had to be responsible. She had to do what she said she would and be where she said she would. She had to learn obedience and discipline. She had to suffer through independence.
When Sesshoumaru took her to the village, Rin did not cry. She did not scream, nor rage, nor cling to him. She did not sulk and she did not plead to stay with him. She did not put her selfish wishes over what needed to be done, because no matter how childish people thought her, Rin was an adult.
And adulthood is all about letting go.
Kohaku's mother used to tell him life was a gift.
But if that's true, he thinks, why does it cost so much? Sanity and memory and a whole fucking village - who decided his life was worth that much?
But his mother must be right, he decides, because he can't refuse it. Because that would be rude, because everyone wants him to have it so badly. Because you can't return it. You can't trade it in for a shinier model.
At least, you shouldn't.
Kohaku watches the girl who is all smiles, who helps even though she doesn't have to do and carries the kitsune's load when he whines. He wonders if she was always like that or if she came back brand new, unmarked and remarkable.
Sango-sama says The Ordeal changed Kohaku. She says he used to be sweet, and caring, and naive. She says he used to be a child, her baby brother, and she mourns his death every time she looks at the adult that came and took his place.
But Rin disagrees. Because no matter how she looks at Kohaku, all she sees is a child.
He is irresponsible. He is reckless. He throws temper tantrums. Though he did not scream and beat his feet against the earth, his long brooding silences by the riverside are temper tantrums nonetheless. He obsesses. He does not think about other people, or he undervalues their abilities to understand, to reason, to relate to him.
He can't let go. Of anything. Of any of it.
One day in spring Rin is out in the fields picking flowers and herbs for Kaede-sama, and Kohaku stands where the forest meets the open air and stares at her.
"Why," he says, "don't you hate me anymore?"
"I never did," she says, but he doesn't believe her. To his recollection she did; in his mind everybody hated everybody during The Ordeal. The concept of hating nobody is foreign to him. It does not compute; he can not process it; children can not think outside of their own experience.
"Why," he says, "don't you hate him?"
Rin straightens and looks at him, holding her basket to her hip and wiping her hand against her thigh.
"I never could."
"But why?" he asks, and runs a frustrated hand through his bangs. "He left you," he said, with the sort of tactlessness only children can muster.
"We left each other," she clarifies. "That part of my life is over."
"How can you cast him off so easily?" he demands. "Was he just some great, comforting toy, that you could put up on a shelf when you were done playing?"
Rin frowns at him, because he is picking a fight. Kohaku has done that since he got back from The Ordeal. He bites at his sister and his brother-in-law and their friends, but not like a dog, where the puncture is open and obvious and easily mended. He strikes lower, digs deeper.
It is because he wants someone to get angry, she thinks. He wants someone to be angry at him, because he is so angry at him that it hurts his throat when he thinks about it.
"No," she says. "He was like a mother to me."
And she knows it. Rin knows it sounds absurd, when spoken aloud. But it isn't, that base emotion in the back of her head, on the underside of her heart, in her guts. The simple feel of it is true, is an absolute, and it's only when twisted and confined to spoken language that it comes out wrong.
Sesshoumaru was Rin's mother. It was true in the truest, simplest sense of the word. When he left her to the village it was like emerging from the womb; she was no longer an extension of his body. She was not like a kidney nor a limb, and when she hurt he wouldn't, and when she was gone he would not stop continuing.
"I think you hate him," Kohaku mutters. "In small ways."
Rin has a bad dream.
Or rather, she has a dream, and when she wakes she curls into herself, and hugs her legs to her chest and buries her face in her knees and cries. After a time she gets up and goes outside, and the cool night air is refreshing, and she wipes her eyes on the back of her wrist.
She both expected and did not expect Kohaku.
"Can't sleep?" he asks, and it is the sort of question a child would ask, because if she could sleep she would and he only wants her to admit. To say it out loud.
"You need to grow up," she breathes.
"No, he says, and walks up to her and takes her hand. "You need to grow down."
She shakes him off and grasps her arms and envelopes herself. She shakes her head. "Adults," she said, gesturing to herself, "they don't rely on other people."
Kohaku shakes his head and pulls her into a hug. "Adults don't rely on themselves."
Later, they will still be angry. Later, they will still refuse to mourn. Later, they will hate each other, and love each other, and be afraid and brave and incredibly stupid and selfish and selfless in the same breath.
But for the moment Rin lets Kohaku envelope her and stops doing it herself, and for the moment Kohaku is there for himself and no one else, and for the moment Rin stops thinking about what makes someone an adult and makes someone a child and starts thinking about what makes someone alive, because that is the only common ground they need.