This is a piece I've wanted to write for some time. It delves into the darker side of Kagome's personality in terms of her reaction to Kikyou's death and the fact that the confrontation with Naraku is fast approaching. Be warned that there are a lot of spoilers for the manga since I keep fairly up to date with it. If you don't want to know, don't read, or at least consider yourself warned.
Hopefully I'll have another chapter up from my story soon. I've just been very busy. I'm hoping this will get the writing juices flowing again! Blessings, everyone!
Rating: PG-13 (just to be safe)
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha…unfortunately.
The weight of the scissors was heavy in her hand as the ebony-haired woman snipped several flowers and placed them gently in her lap. They were large white blossoms, and she knew without even looking that she needed three more and then she would have enough. Sighing, Kagome bent to her task, selecting the most beautiful, unmarred flowers she could.
Standing up, she slipped the scissors into a side pocket of her large yellow bag, leaving it behind as she turned and walked back toward the ruins of the village behind her.
How many times had they come here in the past three years? Far too many to count. How many times had Kagome watched her best friend's stoic expression during the day and then held Sango at night as the brunette cried herself to sleep, nearly sick with grief?
Feeling a heavy weight on her own heart, Kagome swallowed and moved with purpose to stand before the rows of unmarked graves. They looked a little older now, the passing of time lightening the dirt so that it no longer seemed so fresh or raw…but the mounds were still clear, and that was reminder enough of what had befallen such a proud people.
Resisting the urge to count the mounds, knowing it would just bring pain, Kagome instead slowly placed a single white blossom on each grave until she was done, hoping she had done it the way Sango would like.
The demon exterminator was currently sitting with Miroku in one of the few huts still standing, finding comfort in his arms as she wept, raged, and, more than anything, remembered. Kagome had been the one to offer to tend the graves this time, having done it with the brunette several times before, and for the first time Sango had actually agreed. It meant one of two things was happening: either the passing of time had eased the pain and now she could allow others to help, or the pain had only intensified and she was no longer able to face the realities of her past.
Kagome hoped for her friend's sake that it was the former, not the latter, which had helped Sango decide.
Her job done, Kagome felt strangely useless.
Stepping back several paces, she looked around to see if Inuyasha and Shippou were back yet from their mission to find dinner, but knew they weren't. She would have heard the two bickering long before now if they had returned.
Unable to stand the silence of the dead any longer, Kagome spun on her heel and returned to the outskirts of the village where she'd left her bag. Scooping it up, she slipped it over one shoulder and moved even further away, as though the more distance she put between herself and death the happier she would become. Unfortunately the theory proved false, because while heading away from the exterminator village did ease the pain she felt on Sango's behalf, it only strengthened the pain in her own heart.
Kagome squeezed her eyes shut as she saw images of people…so many people…flash through her mind. Some of them were dead, some were alive, but they all carried so much pain.
The years of fighting Naraku and all that he sent their way were finally starting to take their toll. Kagome could feel it, subtle but there, in the way their little band of friends interacted with one another. There wasn't as much joking or laughing, or nearly the same amount of light-hearted banter as there had been before. These days everyone seemed to keep to themselves, and when they did talk Kagome felt like the conversations were always about the villagers they'd buried the day before.
It had to end soon, or Kagome feared their ability to achieve victory.
Such a thought had never before even entered her mind, but now, as it did, she felt the weight of the truth pressing down on her from all sides, and it forced her to her knees as her body trembled.
Miroku's curse was growing worse by the day, and Inuyasha had all but forbidden the monk from using it in battle as a result. The fear that he had always been so good at hiding was now written into every line of strain and worry on his face. Miroku was looking his death in the eye, and there was nothing the rest of them could do to help him except defeat Naraku soon…before it was too late.
Not an easy task, if over three years of battles, blood, death, and trickery offered any kind of proof. It was like telling someone to stay positive in spite of the fact that they had cancer and unless the experimental chemotherapy worked they stood no chance.
Even she, with her positive nature and kind spirit, was growing weary of it all. Her double life hardly existed any more. She didn't have the energy to return home as much as she once had, and even when she did, she was so exhausted her mother couldn't bear to force her out of bed in the morning to go to school. Poor grades were glaring her in the face, letters of concern were being sent to her home, and even though her family was supportive Kagome felt something in her heart breaking as a result.
When she'd agreed to stay with Inuyasha, she'd had no idea what she was signing herself up for. She'd been young, naïve, and from an era that forbade killing anyone no matter the circumstances.
Now she was forced to watch killing almost every day, and on the days when there were no bodies to bury or weeping family members to console Kagome had to deal with the grief on the faces of her own companions.
When would it end?
Sighing heavily, Kagome stood back up and moved toward a grassy knoll that provided a beautiful view of the surrounding valley. The day was perfect, with puffy white clouds floating lazily by on the southern winds, the sun shining and casting dainty little shadows. Closing her eyes, Kagome desperately tried to take some of the peace and tranquility for herself.
But the moment her lids shut an image flared up in her mind; one of a beautiful woman with tragic brown eyes and long, flowing raven hair.
"No!" She snapped her eyes open again, not wanting to think about Kikyou at a time like this. Not wanting to think about the dead miko at all, as a matter of fact.
The woman's death is where Kagome marked the greatest change in the dynamics of the group. It was only after Kikyou had died and the souls in her body disbanded that suddenly everyone seemed to retreat into themselves, Inuyasha most of all.
No more laughing. No more joking. No more anything, save for melancholy eyes and glistening tears. Even Shippou, in his youthful innocence, seemed affected by everyone.
Kagome shook her head and lay back on the soft, sweet smelling grass around her, spreading her arms and legs wide and taking several deep breaths of fresh air.
Slowly her chest rose and fell as the air rushed in and out of her lungs, and Kagome followed the pattern religiously, hoping to find that calm center that had kept her going all this time. She'd lost it somehow, and without that sense of self that made her so confident and sure in her beliefs, she felt as flimsy and fragile as an autumn leaf. Slowly, cautiously, she closed her eyes again.
This time she saw other faces. Kouga, with his incredible blue eyes and confident smirk, but behind him stood the bodies of his fallen comrades, dancing slowly with hollow faces and soulless eyes. The image faded and was replaced by Kagura, the tragic woman who had been both enemy and ally…who, in truth, had wanted nothing more than sweet, precious freedom. She'd died for it, but Kagome hoped the woman had at least found peace.
The woman's sharp, penetrating stare transformed into the lifeless eyes of Kohaku, the brother Sango had lost, and gained, and lost again so many times no one could keep track any more. Whether he lived or died, he would never be the same again, and Sango knew that the little brother she'd loved so much was gone forever.
Behind Kohaku stood Kanna with her lifeless eyes and her alabaster skin, clutching that mirror of hers much like a child clutches a teddy bear for comfort. No one had taken her seriously. But in the end she had given Kagome and the others a precious gift even as her little body was ripped apart by Naraku for failing to kill them all.
So many dead…so many hurt or affected by the monster they continued to hunt…
Kagome opened her eyes, but this time the images kept coming, flooding her mind until she feared her sanity would break under the strain.
The demon exterminators whose graves she had just seen, their faces blank and their eyes wide open in shock…the hundreds of other nameless souls she and the group had found dead along the way…Sango without her family…Miroku with his cursed hand…Shippou without his parents…Kikyou and her tortured existence…Inuyasha without…
Kagome swallowed back the lump in her throat. There had been so much pain and loss in the last three years it was amazing their group had lasted this long without showing signs of strain.
And in that moment Kagome felt some wall she'd erected around her heart fall, forcing her to see Kikyou in her last precious seconds on earth. Kikyou staring up at Kagome and telling her she was their only hope now, that the magical bow was her inheritence. Kikyou looking at Inuyasha with love and adoration. Inuyasha kissing the miko and holding her as though she were a precious jewel he didn't want to lose.
Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes, but Kagome forced them away, too busy searching her heart for answers to cry at the moment.
Why did that kiss bother her so? Why did the fact that Inuyasha had held Kikyou like that torture her mind and haunt her dreams? What kind of horrible person had Kagome become to begrudge a dying woman one last moment of comfort?
"It's not that simple," she said aloud just to hear herself speak. And it wasn't. There was much more to that kiss and those final token words and looks of love than even Kagome wanted to admit to.
She was afraid, plain and simple. Afraid of what Kikyou's death now meant for herself and Inuyasha.
It was strange; how after over three years of rivalry, pain, love, and forgiveness, Kagome felt no relief now that her rival for Inuyasha's love was gone. In fact, Kagome almost felt more insecure now than ever before.
Perhaps she was selfish, but Kagome had wanted Inuyasha to make his decision with both women still alive. She'd been willing to risk his choosing Kikyou, because at least that way if he had in fact chosen herself Kagome would have been sure of his feelings for her and her place in his heart.
Now…well…everything had changed.
Kikyou had died before Inuyasha could make that choice, and now Kagome would never know. If Inuyasha stayed with her…if they married and lived happily ever after…would she still only be his second choice? Would he still at times see her face and in his mind be seeing Kikyou instead? Would he regret everything? Would he ever be able to let go and just love Kagome for who she was, and nothing else?
Kagome felt sick with shame for such thoughts. Kikyou had been Inuyasha's first love…the first woman to show him any form of kindness in his otherwise cold and harsh life. Of course he would always remember her.
She jumped slightly and sat up to see Inuyasha standing in front of her, his red-clad figure obscuring the sun. Strange how she hadn't noticed that when he first arrived.
He was looking at her intently, clearly trying to figure out what she had been thinking about, but Kagome refused to give him the answer to that silent question. Instead she just smiled and tried to perk up her expression. "You're back."
"Yeah. I hope you don't mind rabbit again." He looked away with a blush. "I was going for a deer, but Shippou scared the thing away before I could reach it and I wasn't in the mood for a chase."
His words provided a certain amount of balm, which Kagome hastily spread over the inner wounds of her heart and soul, but it still wasn't enough. She still felt empty. Drained. Burdened.
How could she make it better?
"Rabbit's just fine," she finally replied when she realized he was waiting for a response, much like a child desperate for a parent's approval. Seeing the more innocent side to his personality always brought a smile to Kagome's face. "I'll go fix it."
"You don't have to do that. Sango offered."
Kagome frowned. "She isn't really in any state to be fixing the rest of us dinner."
Inuyasha put a hand on Kagome's shoulder and forced her back down onto the grass before sitting beside her and crossing his arms. "She wanted to. Said something about needing to occupy her mind for a time. I think she really meant it."
"Okay. If you're sure." Inuyasha was a lot more perceptive than most people gave him credit for, so Kagome decided to trust him. If he felt Sango was all right, then she'd stay. She wasn't really ready to deal with the rest of them at the moment anyway.
There was a long silence between them, and for once it wasn't a comfortable one. Inuyasha turned and looked at her. "Kagome, are you okay?"
The sincerity in his voice nearly broke the damn blocking her tears, but Kagome valiantly fought to keep it in place. "Fine. Why do you ask?"
He frowned. "Because you don't look okay."
"Don't worry about it, Inuyasha. It's nothing."
The hanyou clearly didn't believe her as he looked away. "You always tell me to talk about my feelings…that it will make me feel better. Maybe you should do the same."
Normally Kagome would have, but this was not the time or the place, and Inuyasha was the last person she would ever share these particular feelings with. He didn't deserve to be burdened by her doubts or her insecurities or her selfish needs; not now, with Kikyou's death so fresh on their minds, Miroku's curse quickly eating away at his life, and Naraku still out there waiting for their final battle.
"Kagome?" His voice was soft and full of questions, but she just shook her head firmly.
"Why the hell not? If you can't tell me, then who can you tell?" It was a testament to how close they'd become when the hanyou didn't immediately retract the personal claim he'd made to her heart. Instead he just continued piercing her with those incredibly sharp amber eyes.
It broke her heart, and Kagome looked over at him so that he knew she was serious. "If it were anything else on my mind, Inuyasha, I would tell you. You have to know that."
"But…" He trailed off into silence as understanding dawned, and Kagome was relieved when he looked away and didn't continue to press her further.
Feeling like she should still try to give him something, she sighed and hugged her knees. "It's not just about…her…Inuyasha. It's about everything. Everyone. I guess I'm just feeling like right now even if we do defeat Naraku, how will we ever go back to the way things were? How will I ever…go back to the way I was?"
Inuyasha looked at her again, and the wisdom in his eyes gave her some comfort. For all of his blustering and stupidity and short temper, deep down Kagome had always known the hanyou was a lot smarter than most people realized. "Do you want to go back to the way you were before, Kagome?"
"I…don't know. Maybe."
"Why? Were you happier then?"
No, because then she hadn't known Inuyasha. But at the same time, things had been so much simpler before she was pulled down that well. "Not happier, exactly…" She sighed. "But a lot more comfortable."
He nodded as though he understood perfectly. Kagome wouldn't have been surprised if he did. So much had happened in his life he undoubtedly had a point of reference for almost every situation that came along.
"Someone told me once that comfort doesn't necessarily equal complete happiness," Inuyasha finally offered, and Kagome chuckled in spite of herself. He looked at her. "What?"
She laughed softly again. "I think I was the one who told you that, because my mom was the one who told it to me."
They looked at one another as a rare smile softened the lines of his face, and Inuyasha chuckled too. "Well then, there's your proof that I do listen to you every once in a while." The tension between them eased ever so slightly, and Kagome felt Inuyasha's hand come to rest on her arm. "We'll never go back to the way we were before, Kagome. It's not possible. Sango can't bring her family back, Miroku can't erase what the curse has done to his own life, and you can't go back to your time and pretend this all never happened." A sudden fear came to his eyes. "Unless you want to, and I suppose then you could at least return home and seal the well."
The idea terrified her as much as it obviously frightened him, and without thinking Kagome placed her hand over his own and squeezed tightly. "Never. I said I always wanted to be with you, and I meant it."
Inuyasha relaxed and returned to comforting her. "Then just know that there is no going back, Kagome."
She felt somewhat depressed by his reply. "That doesn't really make me feel any better."
He shrugged. "I know. But also know that we all have to grow and change at some point in our lives. We can't live in shelters forever."
Kagome smiled. "Now that's something I didn't tell you."
"I know. That came from my mother." He blushed and looked at his hands. "She used to tell me that everyone goes through a time in their lives when they are sad, uncertain, angry, and alone. She said I was lucky in a way because I was passing through my hard times early, and that I would get to enjoy a happy adulthood while everyone else struggled." A great sadness came over his features. "Of course, some people struggle a lot longer than others."
Looking at him, Kagome wasn't sure if he was referring to Kikyou or himself, and selfishly hoped it was himself. Ghosts and memories were far more difficult to compete with, she was discovering, than the real thing. The dead had a way of becoming a lot more perfect than they ever were in life.
Shaking her head, ashamed again at her thoughts, Kagome smiled and tried to offer a little of his comfort back. "You know, Inuyasha…I don't regret anything. I hope you know that." He met her gaze, and her smile brightened into a genuine ray of hope for the first time in weeks. "I mean, of course a part of me grieves for what I'll never be again…but I can't bring myself to regret anything we've done together. I'm glad to be here with you. I can't imagine anyone else I'd rather have at my side when I deal with my own time of struggle."
A moment passed between them, gentle and sweet, before Inuyasha rose to his feet and offered her his hand. She took it and stood up beside him, their fingers laced together for a few extra seconds before he let go and moved away.
"I smell cooked rabbit. We should probably go before Sango and the others get worried."
"Yeah." Kagome bent to retrieve her bag, but the moment he turned away from her all the insecurities returned as Kikyou's face flared up in her mind. Whirling around, she called after him. "Inuyasha?" He stopped, hearing the desperation in her voice, and turned to look back, his hair flowing behind him in a long cape of silver. The sight of him took her breath away.
"What is it, Kagome?"
"I…" She knew what she wanted to ask. The words were on the tip of her tongue, begging to be said. What was their future together? Could he love her without grieving for Kikyou? Would his first love forever haunt their footsteps? Did he still love her? But most of all, had Kikyou not died, who would he have chosen in the end?
All these questions flew through her mind, but in the end Kagome couldn't quite bring herself to ask them aloud. Perhaps some day she would, but not now.
Closing her mouth, she looked away in shame. "Never mind." Bending over, she reached for her bag, but stopped short in surprise when she felt a pair of strong arms suddenly encircle her from behind. Inuyasha's scent surrounded her, his hair falling over her shoulders as he leaned over her curved back, and Kagome dared not move…dared not breathe for fear of ruining the precious moment between them. Her heart slowed to match the rhythm of his, and all her anxiety melted away under the warmth of his body.
"What's comfortable doesn't equal ultimate happiness, Kagome," he finally whispered, his lips so close to her ear she could feel them move. "I could have been happy enough with comfortable, it's true…I was content with comfortable, in fact. But then I learned that there is a lot more to life, and that's the end of it."
Blinking, stunned, Kagome allowed him to pull her upright, his arms still around her waist, and as she turned in his embrace she felt the tears begin to pool in the corners of her eyes. This time she did nothing to hold back.
Pressing her cheek to his chest, she wrapped her arms around his waist and held on tight as the sobs tore through her body. He held her tight in return, and Kagome felt closer to Inuyasha in that moment than she had ever felt before. In that moment they were tied together through the grief they both felt over Kikyou's death, the tears they both shed for her tragic life and ultimate fate, and also through the undying love they had come to feel for each other.
Slowly the tears stopped, and Kagome found peace at last in the silence that followed. It was as though everything else had faded, leaving behind nothing but the two of them. Inuyasha loved her. She could feel it in every shared breath, every place where their bodies touched. And that was enough.
"Thank you," she finally whispered as she pulled back.
"I will defeat Naraku, Kagome. I promise. You won't always have to live like this."
Kagome felt something warm and fuzzy in the area of her heart at the implication behind Inuyasha's words. But she chose not to go there at the moment, instead just smiling and tweaking one of his ears. "You mean we'll defeat Naraku, right? I've come this far with you…highly unlikely that I'll let you finish it all by yourself."
He laughed and turned back towards the village, and this time Kagome followed after grabbing her bag. At one point she started to reach for his hand, and was surprised when he reacted by lacing his fingers with hers when she hesitated. Smiling, she saw Sango, Miroku, and Shippou outside preparing their dinner and waved. "That smells good enough to eat!"
All three turned to look at her, and Kagome could have sworn their expressions lightened when they saw Inuyasha continue to hold her hand.
Everyone insisted she was the one holding all of them together as a group, but in that moment Kagome realized that Inuyasha's presence mattered just as much. Everyone felt his moods as much as they felt hers, and they all relied on Inuyasha above anyone else to protect them.
So maybe they were both essential. It was a nice thought…another thing that tied them together. And in truth, why wasn't it possible? After all, the journey had started with them. Before anyone else, there had always been Inuyasha and Kagome.
Looking at him now, and seeing the warmth in his eyes as the hanyou gazed at all of them, Kagome took comfort in that. There had always been Inuyasha and Kagome, and she knew that there always would be. No matter what.
The rest would just work itself out.
Perhaps the innocent girl she'd been on her fifteenth birthday was gone forever, but in her place was a young woman who knew what she was and what she wanted out of life. And what she wanted was Inuyasha…that had never changed. She would stay by his side no matter what, and she hoped that some day, when everything was done and the pain not so raw, she would be able to ask him the questions she dared not ask now. Kikyou would always haunt them so long as those questions went unasked.
But now was not the time.
Some day. Yes…some day soon, when they defeated Naraku.
Kagome smiled, happy that her positive attitude was returning.
Inuyasha gave her a strange look and released her hand. "What are you smiling about?"
"Nothing, really." She looked at her friends, who were smiling back almost as though they couldn't help themselves. "I just know everything will be okay." And for the first time in a long while, she really believed it.