Chapter Two

Grief

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Kahlil Gibran

"Kagome, on your way home from school today could you run a few errands for me?" She turned to her mother and nodded, taking the list of chores and a few bills from the woman before placing them neatly within her little purse that she carried during school. "I really need all of those items. Sota's class is having a presentation and I'm the host for the dinner beforehand so please try to bring everything home tonight if you could?"

"Don't worry about it mama, I'll take care of it." Kagome said with a smile and her mother hugged her, giving her a kiss on the forehead before the girl turned to leave for school. It wasn't really unusual for her mother to ask her to run errands for her. Grandpa was starting to be too old to go out frequently and Kagome had grown into a responsible young woman. And therefore that afternoon after a rather average day at school Kagome wandered down the street, waving to her friends as they went the other direction, and went to the local fabric store, it was the closest and would be the easiest thing to carry around. Walking into the musty store a bell chimed and she looked up at the old grandma that ran the business with a smile. "Hello there! My mother sent me here for some items." Kagome fished through her pocket for the list as she walked up to the counter and began naming off what she needed.

•••••••

Ichigo glared at the boys that were now running from him and chased after, following with a growl of irritation. Why did they always insist on doing this? If they couldn't be polite why would they bother saying anything? His days were typically filled with this, chasing after some rude idiots, attempting to earn justice for the weak. It was something he just couldn't just drop after the loss of his mother. Today the victim happened to be the innocent Orihime, a young girl from his class whom he had known some time now. She was quiet and usually bubbly but after the nagging of the boys under his attack her usual happy exterior had faded causing Ichigo to feel protective. He wasn't really sure why, but he never questioned the feeling. Unfortunately all this thinking was causing him to slow and the boys were gaining distance. He stopped and turned a 180, looking around carefully to assess what he might be able to use. Reaching out to a nearby trashcan he lifted the lid and tested its weight in his hands before giving a smirk and thrusting it out towards the boys. It flew beautifully, like a large Frisbee going towards its target with good precision.

Just as the boys were running across the next street Ichigo's eyes widened as the trash can lid continued towards the boys who seemed to be pushing someone with rather full arms between them and screaming out as a squealing of rubber emitted from the area. His heart stopped for a few moments, watching without being able to stop the inevitable. Just as the boys he had been chasing released their newest victim from the vacuum they created and darted out of the way the wind picked up slightly and brought the lid away from the center, towards the windshield of a car. The driver apparently lost control and in the span of a few short seconds the front end of the sedan crashed into the body of the poor girl just as Ichigo recognized her shocked face between the piles of boxes she was carrying. "No!" Suddenly the world sped up.

Boxes flew into the air as the sick thud of a body against the front of the car mixed with the slow cry of the squealing tires. Small cakes flew out of the boxes and a few plastic bags with strips of brightly colored materials seemed to jump through the air before floating down onto the now crumpled body of the schoolgirl. He ran towards her, arriving next to her just as the driver of the now slightly battered car got out, eyes wide and shocked from the fact that they had just hit another person. "My, my breaks didn't react fast enough! I must need to get them checked! Is… is she okay!" The woman cried out, tears welling in her eyes and Ichigo felt a lump form in his throat as he knelt next to the girl. Her body was contorted rather painfully and a small pool of blood was forming near her left arm which also looked to be broken and swelling rather badly. Reaching down with shaking fingers he tested her pulse. It seemed all right but he wasn't that knowledgeable despite his father's practice. Standing he turned to the woman who was near hysterics.

"I think she's going to be okay. Do you have a cell phone?" The woman nodded hastily, reaching into her car to grasp her purse and fumbling through it before bringing out a small flip phone. She held it out to him and he took it with a nod, turning to glare at the boys who were now standing among the forming crowd. He punched the numbers carefully, making sure not to get them wrong as it was an important call and waited patiently for the other end to pick up. "It's Ichigo. There's been an accident. Could you get down here with an ambulance please? It's partially my fault." He paused and then sighed, closing his eyes. "Yes, I know her. Pretty bad – oh, okay, I'll be waiting here." Glancing around, he checked the street address before naming off the intersection. "Thanks." After hanging up he then proceeded to call the police, informing them of the accident so that the driver could be handled. The woman was now on the asphalt, sobbing loudly into her hands. He closed the phone and held it out to her. "Here you go. Don't feel bad about this, it wasn't your fault." Once more his eyes turned towards the boys but this time they were nowhere to be seen. He frowned and turned back towards Kagome who was still unconscious. As he moved towards her the familiar sirens of an ambulance came down the street, stopping in the middle of the intersection and Ichigo's father scrambled out of the vehicle, rushing over to Kagome's side.

He motioned for a pair of medics to come to his aid and they carefully lifted Kagome onto a backboard before placing her on a stretcher and securing her tightly to it. As the medics pushed her into the rear of the ambulance he turned towards his son with a rather frightful look. "Ichigo, gather her things and wait here until the police arrive. When this woman has been safely taken care of you are to come home with the girl's items and hopefully then we will have a long talk that won't involve unexpected results." The message was cryptic but the boy knew what his father was saying. Kagome was not in very good health right now and it could be possible that she might die. There just wasn't enough information on her condition to know for sure. Watching the ambulance drive off towards his home Ichigo let out a sigh and began picking up all the scattered belongings that were still any good.

•••••••

Kagome woke with a groan and looked over to see a rather scruffy but nice looking man wrapping her arm in gauze. "Ah so you're awake now, are you?" He said as his lips moved around a lollipop that was in his mouth. "I'm just about to put a cast on your arm now. You were in a rather bad accident but it looks like aside from some cuts and bruising and a couple broken bones you'll be all right with a little bed rest." She listened to his soothing voice and took in all the information in a slightly dazed state, unsure what she should say in the situation. "Don't worry about thanking me," He said as if he knew exactly what she was going to say. "It's partially Ichigo's fault that this happened anyway. I'll have a long discussion with him about what are good plans of attack and what are not. Innocent people should never be involved. We also called your mother but couldn't reach her directly so we left a message with your grandfather, she should be here soon."

She lay there silently and watched him complete his task, placing the plaster covered strips of gauze over her arm carefully with the deft hands of a practiced healer. Her mind considered over everything. She had been walking across the street to her last errand and then would have been going home, balancing boxes full of baked goods and bags of material, when a group of rowdy boys surrounded her, pulling her back slightly and sending her off balance from their motions. That was bad enough, lucky she hadn't fallen at that moment but instead as she went to go forward some more she saw the most peculiar thing. A trash can lid flying right for her face. She would never have the time to react as the car collided with her body. All she remembered after that was pain and darkness. She hoped her mother would be here soon.

Just as her eyes were closing in a painful way a familiar face entered the room with a concerned look and Kagome forced herself to smile. "Are you much better now? Is there anything you would like to eat? My father said that I should make you as comfortable as possible." It was the young girl from the restaurant. Kagome tried very hard to remember her name… Yuzu – that was it. She smiled reassuringly to the girl but it seemed that she was far too intuitive to buy the act and merely shook her head in disapproval. "I'll warm some broth for you for now and bring you some fresh tea. Father said you're probably not ready to eat solid foods yet as your throat is probably rather sore, if that's not the case let me know!" Yuzu said this with a smile as she reached over, fluffing the pillows behind Kagome and bringing the blankets closer around her with a gentle touch. Kagome felt a small blush cross her face out of embarrassment as the girl then walked off, leaving her there in her stupor.

"Don't let Yuzu get to you, she's always like that. It's kind of creepy but ever since… well, for a while now she's taken to being like a little housewife and taking care of everyone. It's just her nature. She doesn't mean to make you feel badly." Kagome turned to see another girl, a little older than the other who looked a great deal more like the old doctor than Yuzu and Ichigo did. The girl was sitting on a metal stool and dressed in what looked to be a soccer uniform, a baseball cap adorning her head. "I'm Karin." She said with a small smile and then glanced over towards the empty doorway before looking back at Kagome. "And you are Kagome… that girl that Ichigo met at the pizza parlor."

Kagome nodded. "Nice to meet you Karin, you must be Ichigo's other little sister then?" The girl made a sound of approval and stretched, nearly toppling off the stool before looking back at Kagome. She had a good firm gaze and it make Kagome feel a little more uncomfortable but she refused to look away for some reason. Really, she was too stubborn sometimes, even in the silliest of situations.

"Yeah, I'm the middle child." She hopped off the stool and turned towards Kagome again. "So… do you like Ichigo?" Kagome blinked in confusion and her brow furrowed at this thought. What was there to like? She barely knew him and the first time she had knocked his drink into his face and the second time he had inadvertently caused her to get hit by a car. Sure, why not? She liked him loads. Unfortunately she was far too nice and polite to admit this to his little sister, that would have just made her feel more terrible and so she merely smiled and gave a little nod. Karin reacted very unexpectedly, giving a little laugh and shaking her head in disbelief. "I see, well that's too bad then. You're a nice enough girl from what Yuzu has said and you're pretty. I probably wouldn't have minded if you and Ichigo became more familiar. Oh well, I've got things to do so I'll just be leaving you now, sorry!" She ran off at this without looking back at Kagome, as if dismissing her and the girl had to wonder at the curious things that the child had said. What did she mean? It wasn't as if Kagome had even really considered the possibility of getting to know Ichigo better. He was still just a vague figure in her world still, someone unformed and yet unknown. Did the girl see some sort of hidden potential there? Probably not from what she had said and Kagome had to wonder if there was something inadequate about her.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sudden arrival of her mother, whom Yuzu brought into the small room that Kagome occupied. She ran up to the girl with wide eyes and let out a sob. "Oh Kagome I'm so sorry!" Kagome smiled up at her mother and shook her head at her. "If only I had known that it was too much for you. You should have said something!" The woman began to cry then, tears streaming down her face as she sat on the now unoccupied stool and Kagome let out a little sigh.

"It isn't your fault Mama. I'm okay, really! Sure I got a little banged up but I'm a fighter! I can take it!" She grinned and gave a little frown when her mother didn't look up at her in better spirits. "I'm sorry that I lost all those things. I don't even know where my school bag is." As she said this, the front door burst open and in pounded Ichigo – face sour and mood quite bad. He had spent a good two hours with that woman in the intersection, explaining to the police what had happened. One of those hours was spent gathering items from the ground and collecting Kagome's belongings. After discovering the several cakes which were now melting under the afternoon sun he had fished out his wallet and gone to a little bakery, making a visual guess at how many would need to be replaced. That had only added another 35 minutes to his delay and so it was some time later that he arrived home, hands full of boxes and bags along with Kagome's school things and his own. So by the time he finally made it home he was exhausted and really not in the mood for polite conversation. He entered the room where Kagome was laying, not looking at her and moving to place her things in the nearby corner. Kagome's eyes widened at the bakery boxes but she said nothing, a small blush coming to her face once more. That was very polite of him to do that for her. Her mother drew her attention back to her.

"Kagome I really don't like your being so far from home. Maybe we should move you somewhere closer? I can't come out here all the time because of Sota, your grandfather and the shrine. There's no way I can drive all the way out here, especially with the cost of fuel. I believe one of our neighbors is a nurse, she might know where we can place you." The woman said as an afterthought, reaching into her purse to rummage for the nurse's number. Kagome looked around at the warm setting of the Kurosaki home/clinic and shook her head.

"I don't want to go anywhere."

The room went silent as everyone stopped moving and her mother's face melted into one of further concern and apprehension. "Honey, wouldn't you rather be closer to me?" She prompted, hoping her daughter would see things her way. Unfortunately the girl obtained some of the stubbornness from her grandfather's lineage and a slow glare formed on her face as she shook her head. It was obvious that her mind was made up.

"Kagome is more than welcome to stay here Mrs. Higurashi." It was Ichigo's father, walking in with a small dishcloth in his hands and drying them. His sleeves were pulled back and Kagome faintly smelled the scent of vegetables frying. Apparently he had been helping Yuzu with the cooking. Her mouth began to water at the thought of food and she fought not to groan. Ichigo was giving his father a look of complete disbelief on the other hand, he knew what was coming next. A scowl then replaced the disbelief and he let out a sigh, exiting the area to go to his own room. "I understand your concerns Mrs. Higurashi, about the money?" Kagome's mother blushed and looked away out of embarrassment. She had been concerned about that, it was true. While Kagome's condition was both shocking and terrible it could also be very costly. "Don't worry about it. Because the accident was partially my son's fault, Ichigo will pay for the costs that we suffer from the care of Kagome. You will not have to pay anything to us; it is our privilege and our duty to see to it that she will be comfortable. Also, Ichigo will go to her school every day after his own classes to retrieve her homework and make sure that it is returned the following day so that she does not get behind while healing. It would be far too much to expect her to go anywhere during the six weeks it will take for her bones to heal and she still has some cuts which will take a good eight days more to completely close. The bruising will probably last more than three months, unfortunately as some of it is to the bone marrow itself and not the tissue but I believe she will be able to endure that. Kagome will be fine here."

Her mother stood there listening and then looked up at the man with a grateful expression, giving a nod and turning to Kagome to kiss her on the forehead. "I'll be going home now. Be sure to call me if anything comes up." She went to gather the things that Ichigo had brought and left, escorted to the door by Mr. Kurosaki. When he returned to check on her Kagome looked up at him with a smile and he gave her a wink as if to say he had already known what the problem was long before it had happened.

"Does Ichigo know he's going to be doing all this?" Kagome asked with curiosity. He laughed and shook his head.

"If he didn't he does now."

•••••••

Ichigo sat on his bed, staring down in his wallet at the meager amount of money he had left from his weekly allowance. This was going to be an extremely costly lesson. As he was thinking this the door to his room opened without a knock and he looked up, ready to berate whoever had invaded his personal space without permission but quickly became silent as he saw his father enter the room, closing the door behind him. The blood rushed from Ichigo's face and he swallowed hard, unsure if he had ever seen his father look so serious before in his life. "Ichigo… it's time we had a little talk."