Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha

-

Sometimes it's all she can do to force herself to believe. It doesn't seem real. To think it would turn out like this, would play out this way… makes her shudder with regret.

She remembers cradling his broken body, the promise of life fresh on her lips like the tears sullying her cheeks, and shivering as she dared to beg those cold golden eyes to comply.

"I'll save you," she'd whispered. "I'll bring you back," she'd coughed.

She remembers removing the shard from him just as he made to speak, and how his body went limp in her arms. Then the vividness in his eyes faded, leaving them open and unseeing, his source of animation gone. But it had to be done, for the sake of completing the jewel.

Their quest was in dire need of an ending.

But as she stands to stretch out her legs, numb from weeding the villagers' graves, she glances back toward their house with a streak of pain upon her visage.

Of all the things she might have expected him to say the moment Tenseiga blessed him with life again, it hadn't been the word 'why'.

It's still amazing how such a simple, basic word, when uttered in such a despairing, cracked whisper, can become so crippling, its effect magnified exponentially when its intended recipient - target - is a heart covered in wounds and housed in a body covered with scars.

She found it more painful than the sink of his blade into her back that all but started everything.

It was the last time she heard his voice. He's never spoken again since then. He never smiles either. He barely responds to anything.

That was years ago, though, and by now she's grown used to the silence. It becomes easy after the first few months. Sango's proud of herself.

-

She cooks food just for the two of them, three times a day - when he's there, that is - and when she wakes in the morning she always sits and watches him in his sleep, reminded of his once-death, before she readies for the day.

The wood is rotted in some parts, but she hasn't the strength or skills to repair the house and theirs is the only one still standing, the only one whose roof won't leak, so it's pretty much pointless to do anything about it.

Then again, most of what she does are things others - outsiders, people who wouldn't understand - might consider pointless as well. Not that she understands much either, but she does them all the same.

Why keep all the weapons in the sheds clean and free from rust when no one will ever use them again? Why air out all the bedding every week even though only two futons - his and hers - will ever be used again? Why clean the other houses when no one lives there and no one will ever see the dust and dirt and grime she wipes away? Why talk to herself aloud every chance she gets when no one but him will hear and no one will respond back?

But she needs something to do when the only person left in her life is all but alive to her, and it's easy to fall into routine. It becomes as natural as breathing.

Finished with her motions for the day, she sits back to admire the illusion that only she can see. It's quite pretty. Just a little more hard work and maybe she'll see the houses occupied soon.

It'd be nice to see some life within the village, fallen into disrepair, before it completely disappears.

-

It is spring again, and time to make her annual trek from her graveyard village, little brother silently, indignantly in tow, in visitation. Along the way she wonders if any new flowers are blooming around the depression. When she gets there, she sees it's much the same as last year. Still, it makes her happy that there are flowers there at all, and at least the grass cover seems thicker now.

Seated near the edge, she reaches a hand down and runs her fingers through the green blades sprouting along the top of the concave. Talking aloud again, she speaks to the monk as if he could hear. There's nothing left of him with which to listen, but that doesn't mean she can't pretend. She talks and talks for minutes on end, as if to fill her head with the sound of voices, and when she is sated and reminded of everyone's fate once more, it becomes time to go.

Just before she leaves and they return, she forgives him for breaking his promise to marry her. He didn't mean to. No one ever means to.

-

It is night when they finally return, and he disappears for three days. Her worry only worsens when she sees him return, for he always looks lively for just a moment, before it shrivels and dies again and he truly returns.

Part of her wonders where he always goes. Part of her is dying inside because after all she's done for him, he has the nerve to leave in the first place. Part of her doesn't care anymore, as long as he returns.

Part of her just wishes he would leave his kusarigama at home where she can see it.

-

At the times when he is gone, she always hates the silence, so she shatters it with the blade of her voice, same as always.

-

When he is there, she hates the silence even more.

-

A few years down the road and the village is still a ruin beneath the pretty illusion she creates with her daily motions. There is no laughter from children, no crackle of bonfires blazing in the night, no clatter and clang of the smith forging weapons - no sound to help illuminate the images and make it seem more real.

Sometimes she feels the only reason their house doesn't rot away completely and the roof doesn't collapse on them when they sleep is because she keeps on talking.

Just a little something to break the silence, and all will be well.

As she watches her little brother pass by, he stops and turns. His darkened gaze burns her for a moment, and then he continues on his way toward the village gates, hand firmly gripping the handle of his weapon.

She's given up on stopping him from leaving, because he always - forever always? - comes back.

And as much as she hates that he leaves all the time, she'll always be there to greet him.

-

She meets him at the gates by accident one day at his return, and he can barely keep his eyes forward, unseeing, as he rushes past her.

Their village grows just a little darker than it should at this time in the evening. Then, for a moment, it flickers and the decay beneath shines through.

But even as she cringes inwardly - he must be trying so, so hard to steal himself away from her - she savors the clamor he makes in his avoidance. She needs to.

-

No matter how bad the picture gets, it can pull off the illusion of reality if the accompanying sound is convincing enough.

-

"How many years has it been," she asks, "since it's been just the two of us?

"Six," she says in answer. He stares back at her, and the faint glimmer of recognition flickering in his eyes makes her squirm beneath his hardened, empty eyes.

"It's been two months since we cleaned the last house on the left. It must be dirty. Time to sweep, time to air out the futons and sheets-"

A bird squawks loudly as if in pain, interrupting her soliloquy, and she glances toward the trees beyond the skeleton fence.

"Am I just hearing things?"

His eyes narrow, and she forces a smile.

"Of course I am. I'm always hearing things."

With a glare and a grunt of effort he hefts himself off the ground and wanders off.

And then she lowers her voice to a whisper. "Mostly myself."

-

As she cleans each house in succession she makes them all proper for living in again, as proper as can be when they're all half broken down and unfit for survival. The rainstorms make the clothing moldy, the floors become flooded and covered with leaves and mud, and rust soon becomes unavoidable for the weapons in the storage sheds, the workshop, and every shattersplintered structure she can see.

But upkeep of the scenery is necessary, even for the most modest of plays, in order to pull off looking like the real thing.

Maybe, if she tries too hard, she'll make it perfect for putting on a tragedy.

-

She is out gathering food one day, singing to herself and deaf to the world, when in the corner of her eye she sees a dark spot in the distance. Silencing herself, she stops and turns to look, but it has disappeared. She never has the chance to glance the other way because she's too busy screaming, frozen and gasping from the pain lancing through the slash on her shoulder, laying it open to the bone.

Something else screams amidst the din - the sweet, sweet sounds of something being slaughtered.

Slumping onto her good side, she passes out, staring up at the sky. All she can see is the blood splattered across his face and the blade of his kusarigama as he towers over her, black feathers floating down from the heavens.

-

When she finally wakes, there's no telling how much time has passed. Even at high noon the inside of their house is heavy with shadow. It has to be their house. No other building has such an intact roof, and the rafters look familiar from all those years of lying awake when she couldn't sleep.

She lets out a groan as she tries to move. A strong hand presses heavily against her chest, effectively stopping her.

"Shhhhhhhh."

Throat tightening, she turns her gaze to her left, the side the hand is applying pressure against. At first she's not sure if she really wants to look, but when her eyes meet his, she is surprised. There are tears running down his cheeks, mixing with the dried blood.

He hasn't had a chance to wash his face.

She tries to move her shoulder, then winces in regret.

"Stupid!"

The shock she feels from hearing his voice - at long, long last - makes her practically limp. Even though he's crying, that familiar glare is still leveled toward her.

"Go back to sleep. I need to sew up your shoulder."

She's so happy she could cry.

-

When she regains consciousness again, her shoulder still aches but he helps her sit up anyway.

Glancing down, she sees her entire chest is wrapped in white. For a moment it reminds her of long ago. Fresh from escaping the grave, she'd been then.

A few dark spots appear.

"What's this?" This time there is only the taint of curiosity in his voice. The harsh, scolding tone has gone away.

Sango looks at the once-white, bloodstained garment dangling from his fingers, and she suppresses the need to laugh for fear it will give her pain. While he's seen it many times, she doesn't doubt his cluelessness. He barely knows about Kagome's world- Kagome's time. Then the realisation clicks of how it got into his hand, and she can't hide the mad blush. Her throat is dry as she tries to speak.

"That was a gift from Kagome, many years ago. Where she's from, women wear them… for support."

Embarrassed, he quickly tosses it aside.

Silence permeates through the house. His tongue, with words that could be sharp as blades, eventually shatters it.

"Rest."

Sango gladly complies.

-

As she slowly recovers from the crow youkai attack, she makes every attempt she can to lure his voice out.

Slowly but surely, he begins to comply.

-

"You never told me why," he says one day, totally out of the blue.

"Why what?"

"Why…" and he turns to her with such pain in his eyes, as if she had been the one to riddle him with arrows back at the castle. "Why… did I have to live?"

It takes her forever to answer. "Because… if you died, then Naraku would have won, and I would have nothing."

His eyes turn dark. "You never asked me if I wanted to live."

-

"Then why did you never kill yourself?"

"Because it would kill you."

-

And so with words filled with hate and hearts filled with regret, they suffer together, morning, noon and night.

-

"Stop this madness. There is nothing left but us here. They're not coming back."

-

At least they no longer suffer separately.

-

Sango lets the illusions dissolve, and the false meat of the village rots away to leave only the bones towering around them.

-

"I had hated you for making me live."

"I hated you for making us alone."

"It wasn't my fault."

"I know. It was mine."

He doesn't understand, and so she cries and kisses him.

"Then hate me all you need."

-

And at night she kisses his forehead before crawling beneath the covers to melt into his warmth.

The curtain closes and the stage decays, and soon there is only their futon afloat in a sea of nothingness. But as long as there is no silence, they curl together and think they'll be all right.

It becomes easy pretty quickly.