A/N: Just a shorty-short I did for iyficcontest on livejournal. I'm embarrassed to say how fast I wrote this, so if you see any spelling errors, well, my apologies, folks!
She was washing dishes when she felt that someone was standing behind her. No matter how many times she'd asked him to announce himself, it seemed that old habits died hard. Mrs. Higurashi wiped her hands on a dishtowel and turned around. Hopefully this time he'd remembered to wipe his feet before coming in.
"Kagome is still at school, Inuyasha," she said with a smile. Her smile faded at his downcast expression and the way his shoulders were slumped. Since the first time she'd met him, he'd always seemed full of energy and bluster, impatient and annoyed when he'd come to the house and Kagome wasn't ready to leave. Now he just shrugged and nodded with his hands hidden up his sleeves.
"Okay," Inuyasha muttered, turning towards the door. "Just tell her I was here." She waited for a moment as he paused and added as an afterthought, "I mean, please tell her, Higurashi-san."
"Inuyasha?" He stopped to look back at her. "You're welcome to wait here," Mrs. Higurashi said gently. "She won't be long."
The boy shrugged again like nothing mattered and sat down at the kitchen table. "Thank you," he said, his voice so low that she could have missed it.
Mrs. Higurashi frowned, he sounded so desolate, as if nothing would ever make him happy again. Well, she could at least keep him company. She reached for the kettle and filled it with water. They could have a cup of tea while waiting for her daughter. Or perhaps…
"Would you like me to make some ramen for you?" she offered. He certainly seemed to love ramen; a good portion of her grocery bill was spent supplying it. Kagome complained that while her cooking had never impressed Inuyasha, he always still wanted ramen.
"I'm not hungry."
Eyebrows raised, Mrs. Higurashi busied herself with preparing the tea. Inuyasha not hungry? That had to be a first. He sat silently at the table, head bowed and staring at his clawed fingertips. Idly, she wondered what was bothering him; he didn't seem to be himself today. It was almost as if he were depressed…
Then it hit her and she winced inwardly. When Kagome had returned a few days earlier, she'd told her what had happened. The priestess Kikyou had died in his arms. And from what Kagome had told her, and what Mrs. Higurashi had already guessed, Inuyasha was taking it very hard.
He had loved her, Kagome said, loved her and done his best to protect her, but in the end…she'd died anyway and there was nothing that could be done.
Quietly, she prepared the tea and brought cups to the table. She filled her own cup first, then one for him and placed it next to his hands. Inuyasha stared at the cup without seeing it and she sighed softly.
"Kagome told me about Kikyou," she said, her voice very gentle. "I'm so sorry, Inuyasha."
Now that wouldn't do, she could see that he was hurting and like her daughter, Mrs. Higurashi had a kindly heart. Gently, she reached out and laid her hand over his. "Sometimes when people are in pain, it helps to talk about it."
Inuyasha glanced up at her face and then flushed. "Nothing to say. She's dead. Talking won't bring her back, so what's the point?"
"I never said it would bring her back," Mrs. Higurashi answered. "But talking might make you feel better and…"
He pushed her away and shoved his hands back up his sleeves. "I don't want to feel better," his voice sounded choked, "why should I feel better when she's gone? I…I got nothing to say."
But she'd seen the glimmer of pain in his eyes, a desperate sadness that tore at her heart. Poor boy, she thought sadly, he's probably never had anyone to talk to about such things, of course he doesn't know how.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Mrs. Higurashi sipping her tea and watching as Inuyasha tried to pull deeper inside of himself. "I know it hurts," she said, seeing the way he flinched from her words. "But if you ever feel like you need someone to talk to, if you can't talk to Kagome about it…I'm a mother and I will listen."
"You're not my mother," he snapped, his voice suddenly angry. "She's dead too, just like Kikyou. So spare me your pity, Higurashi-san. Everybody dies, they die and then they're gone forever. And I'm left alone."
She frowned, setting her cup down so she could give him her full attention. "You are not alone, Inuyasha. Kagome cares about you and you have friends now." He snorted and looked at her from under a veil of heavy white hair.
"What the hell do you know?" he said sullenly. She just looked at him until he flushed, embarrassed by his harsh words. "Sorry."
Mrs. Higurashi smiled and reached out to pat his arm. "It's fine, Inuyasha. When people are in pain, they sometimes lash out. I understand if you aren't comfortable talking to me. Kagome mentioned that your mother died when you were very young, it must be very hard for you to trust anyone when you're hurting now."
He flinched and she knew she'd gotten to the heart of the matter. Like his mother, Kikyou had died and left him. And he probably had never had anyone else to talk to, not the way a boy could confide in his mother. She waited long seconds as Inuyasha turned her words over in his head, staring at the tabletop with his shoulders hunched around the pain in his heart.
"I don't remember it," he said at last. "My…mother, I was just a little brat when she died, I don't remember it."
"I find that hard to believe," Mrs. Higurashi said as she kept her hand on his arm. He hadn't pulled away from her this time and she thought that might just be progress. "Tell me about her."
Inuyasha looked up, his expression bleak. "She was pretty, very quiet and calm. Kind of like you are."
She had to smile at that. Such a proud boy, he didn't want to show any weakness or grief, she could understand why. If he'd been alone for so long, the words would be difficult to speak. She shouldn't press him, Inuyasha would talk, or not, when he was ready.
"She drowned," he said suddenly.
Mrs. Higurashi glanced up, surprised. Inuyasha met her eyes with a fierce look, almost as if he were daring her to ask questions. "She liked to take walks with me in the forest when I was little." His voice was harsh, bitter. "There had been a storm, we liked to follow this little stream in forest, but it wasn't so little after all that rain. I guess…I guess the bank was slippery...because of that rain. I ran ahead of her and she called out to me to slow down, but when I turned around…she was gone."
She stayed very quiet, watching his eyes as he wrestled with the memories. Inuyasha's jaw was clenched, his eyes darkened by remembered grief. She knew suddenly, that he'd never told anyone about his mother's death. Maybe because no one would listen or because the words were just to painful to speak.
"What happened then?" she asked, her voice as neutral as she could manage. She didn't want him to think that she might pity him. But she was, in so many ways, her heart was breaking for a young hanyou boy meeting death for the first time.
"I found her," he said, his voice filled with unreachable guilt. "Her body…it was caught between some rocks. I couldn't move her so I went back to her uncle's house and…told them."
Again Mrs. Higurashi reached for him and again he pulled away. "They acted like it was nothing," he said, old anger replacing the pain in his voice. "They just dragged her out of the water, said she should have been more careful. They hated us for being there, they were ashamed that she'd been with my father and had a hanyou brat like me."
"Inuyasha," she murmured, grief-struck for the callous treatment those long dead humans had given a mere child.
He snorted angrily, but it sounded suspiciously to her like a muffled sob. "So what? After she was gone, I had no reason to stay…I left that night…before they buried her."
Mrs. Higurashi could see him clearly in her mind…a frightened child, sobbing and grieving for his dead mother. All alone in a cold forest, with no one to comfort him, no one to hear his cries, no one to hold him and whisper that everything would be all right.
Inuyasha rubbed his nose with the back of his fist; his eyes were red, but no tears. With no one to wipe them away, what use were tears to him? Mrs. Higurashi felt her own eyes burn with Inuyasha's unshed tears and slowly got to her feet. No one had tried to comfort him back then, but she couldn't let it happen again.
"Please stand up, Inuyasha."
He looked confused, staring up at her with that numb hurt in his eyes. When he finally stood, she went to him, cupping his face in her hands for a moment before pulling him into her arms.
"I'm so sorry about your mother," she whispered, holding him as his back stiffened and he tried to pull away. "I'm sorry about Kikyou as well."
"What are you…" His protests faded to nothing as she held him and Inuyasha started to tremble. His arms slowly closed over hers, his head bowed until it rested on her shoulder. She held him even tighter when his breathing stumbled and jerked, as all the pain he'd held inside finally found a way out.
"Shhh," she said, swaying gently as if he were a baby she could soothe. "It's okay to cry, Inuyasha." Tears that were denied, tears that were hidden, all could cleanse away pain and heal the oldest of wounds.
"I'm not crying," he said, his voice muffled against her shoulder. She stroked his hair, feeling something hot and wet against the skin of her neck. "I don't cry."
"I know," she whispered, the tremble of his silent sobs inside her arms. "I know you don't cry."