Tadaima - I'm Home
An Inuyasha Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
Falling through time felt not a little unlike sinking slowly in quicksand while waking from a particularly lucid dream. Inuyasha did his best to burn this sensation into his mind. This would be the last time he would ever feel it. His feet touched the earthen floor of the dry well. His toes gripped the soil. Slowly, he opened his eyes and let them adjust to the darkness.
"Okaeri nasai … Welcome home," she said, her own human eyes not able to see enough to focus on him.
"Home…" he whispered and took a deep breath of the air. The faint perfume of distant wisteria was tainted only a little by carbon monoxide. Smoothly, Inuyasha lifted Kagome onto his back and leapt out of the well. He set her down slowly. A nearby light pole dimly lighted the well shrine. She took off her backpack and sat down on the floor. A soft, violet glow filled the room as she took the jewel out from its hiding place.
He folded his arms, sat down beside her and looked out at the starry sky. "It's over," he sighed.
After a few quiet moments, Kagome rubbed her hands. "Ready?"
"I guess…" He silently thanked the night for hiding the slight shudder he could not repress. "You sure this is gonna work?"
"I believe it will."
"Right…" Inuyasha sweat a little. She handed him the jewel and with both hands gave his ears a farewell rub. "So long, Shikon no Tama."
"So long, Hanyou Inuyasha," Kagome whispered as he took it in his hand. He paused for a moment to look on it and then quickly popped it in his mouth. Three strong swallows and it moved down his esophagus. He coughed and sputtered from the effort. Kagome clutched her hands into tight fists and waited. He narrowed his eyes.
"I don't feel…" his words were cut short as he doubled over.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome cried and caught him in her lap. He twitched and coughed violently. She could feel each muscle spasm rack his body. He hissed through his clenched teeth. He curled into a tight fetal position with his head and shoulders still in her lap. Just as suddenly, the twitching stopped. Kagome stroked his snow-white hair and it followed her hand, revealing the black underneath.
He took a breath and opened his eyes. Inuyasha could feel her taking care of his hair. When he sat up she had laid it on the floor beside them. He shivered, not from of fear, but from the chill in the air. He squinted and just made out her outline against the dim artificial light.
"Are you all right?" she asked, only a hint of worry in her voice.
"Think so…" Slowly, carefully, he got to his feet. Kagome stood and looked over her shoulder at the bright yellow glow from the house's windows. Spontaneously, she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. Inuyasha smiled and put his arms around her. They stood like that for a few minutes, still not quite able to grasp the reality: it was over and Naraku was dead. Inuyasha was human.
It wasn't his first time entering the house, but to Inuyasha, it might just as well have been. He had never paid much attention to it, finding it foreign, other, and a bit too confining for his hanyou soul. Coming in out of the cool of the evening, his bare feet touching the radiant-heated tile floor, he felt much more at ease physically than he ever had in the house before. Mentally, his being shook with near-nauseating anticipation. Kagome squeezed his sweaty hand in her own. They exchanged a quick glance. Her eyes sparkled with excitement.
"Tadaima!" Kagome called. "I'm home!"
From around a corner, Inuyasha could hear a commotion and within moments, Kagome's grandfather, mother and younger brother were rushing out to greet them. They stopped short and stared at the stranger.
"You remember Inuyasha," Kagome grinned wide and motioned to the young human man with the steadily reddening cheeks.
"Of course, but…" her mother wondered at his lack of ears and remembered what Kagome had said. She glanced out the window. The crescent moon hung in the sky, grinning almost as wide as her daughter was. "I thought you said he was human on the new moon?"
Kagome giggled, growing unable to contain her surprise.
"Kagome, does this mean…?" Grandfather Higurashi stepped forward.
Inuyasha groaned. "Oh fer cryin' out loud, we did it. We won. It's over. There!"
There was a small pause before the family cheered and congratulated them.
Mrs. Higurashi heated left-overs for the new arrivals and busied herself making a nice desert to celebrate their achievement as Kagome re-told the last few weeks' adventures to them. When her grandfather wondered why she had been gone so long this time, Inuyasha surprised Kagome by quickly, but artfully changed the subject. They talked into the late evening, finally breaking to send Souta to bed. Mrs. Higurashi ordered Kagome and Inuyasha to sleep as well, citing that they would have plenty of time for more stories in the morning. She took the guest futon out of the closet and moved it into Souta's room.
"Oh, wow! Inuyasha-oniisan gets to stay with me?!" he cheered.
Inuyasha sighed and gave Kagome a disappointed look.
"I should have told you," she whispered. "You can't stay in my room."
"Shimatta…" he hissed.
While no one was looking she stole a kiss from him. "Oyasumi, Inuyasha."
"Oyasumi… Fat chance. I won't be able to sleep a wink."
Kagome stuck her tongue out at him. "Try."
"Come on in here Inuyasha," her mother called from down the hall.
Souta's room was smaller than his sister's and the walls were decorated with scrolls from his favorite mecha anime.
"What the heck is that?" Inuyasha asked, pointing to an image of a huge robot with metal wings and a sword almost as tall as it was.
"That's a Gundam!"
"…." Inuasha stared at him. "That's not an answer."
Souta laughed. "It's a robot."
"Neither is that."
Mrs. Higurashi handed Inuyasha a pillow. "Now, now. Time for bed, Souta. Don't keep him up talking about your mecha. You boys need your rest."
"Umm…" Inuyasha tried to find the right thing to say. "Oka... er… Onee… Higurashi-san?"
The woman laughed. "Yes?"
She smiled. "No, Inuyasha. Thank you." She turned out the light.
Kagome made sure to hug her mother before she went to bed. Mrs. Higurashi paused in the doorway and watched her daughter get in. "You were gone so long this time. We were so worried."
"I know. I'm sorry Mama." Kagome could smell the flowery scent of dryer sheets and knew that her mother had just washed her comforter. She wrapped herself tightly in the covers. "I'll never leave home again," she said, smiling.
"I'm glad." The woman turned out the light and made sure her tears didn't fall till she had turned the corner.
She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and got ready for bed herself. Her father-in-law snored lightly from across the way, his door left open as always so he could find the bathroom easily in the night. She closed her own door and sat on the edge of her bed. A photograph of a young man in Shinto clerical robes smiled up at her. His eyes sparkled with life, although he was almost 10 years gone.
"Ginjirou," she whispered and touched the frame. "Kagome came home." She put the light out and went to bed.
Twenty years ago, Higurashi Ginjirou brought his young bride home to his family shrine. His father, Shojiro was kannushi, but one day his son would take over. Shojiro was more than pleased that his son had found a nice girl with whom he would give him a grandson to carry on the family's responsibility to the shrine.
On a warm summers' day, Ginjirou and his wife sat on the stone steps and ate Popsicles. They planned their future, talking about names for children and all the things they would do and see together. Someone coming up the steps interrupted them.
"Maeko!" the woman shouted, waving enthusiastically. "Is that you up there, Neesan?"
"Machiko?" she asked and stood up, the sun at her back.
The other woman caught her breath as she finally made it up the steps. "Neesan, I can't believe I found this place! You'd think they'd build these things on level ground!" Her tone of voice was playful, but she meant every word. Her sister laughed.
"What brings you all the way out here? I'm coming home to visit soon. Ginjirou, you remember my sister, Machiko?"
"Of course," Ginjirou bowed politely. "It's good to see you, sister."
Machiko laughed. "The way you say it sounds like I'm of the cloth! Couldn't be farther from the truth, ne Maeko-chan?"
"Machiko…" Maeko rolled her eyes.
"Anyway. I'm here because I wanted to tell you in person. I'm getting married!"
"Machiko, really!? I'm so happy! Who is he?"
When her sister said 'well', Maeko knew that whatever followed it, she wouldn't like. They two sisters, although they loved each other, were as different as day and night. Maeko had been an A student, community activist and kept bonsai when she was younger. Machiko struggled with her grades, but had a very active social life. She had kept a reputation as girl who got what she wanted no matter what. Machiko had wanted to get married as soon as her older sister announced her engagement to the handsome young shrine keeper.
"I'm keeping my name."
Maeko and Ginjirou exchanged strange looks.
"He's… He's a very well to do businessman. I'll have more money that god! Oh, sorry Ginji."
Maeko lowered her lids. "What kind of business does he do?"
"Well, you know. Finacial business."
"Ok ok! He's in a syndicate, but it's not like he kills people like that guy on TV!"
"YOU'RE MARRYING YAKUZA?!" Maeko shouted.
"SHHHHHHHHHHHH! No! no no no… Well, yes. " Machiko grinned. "I'm serious though. He doesn't kill people."
After the initial shock, Maeko invited her sister inside for tea. Still, Machiko would not tell her husband's name and said that although she wanted her sister to be in her wedding, it would not be possible. She was however allowed to come see her at the shrine whenever she wanted.
"I'll wont for nothing! Aren't you happy for me, Neechan?"
"Yes Machiko. I'm just wary. Be careful."
"I will, you'll see. You know your imoto, nothing comes between me and happiness!"
Inuyasha pulled the covers up to his chin and stared at the ceiling. Faint light bled in through the curtains. He would have been able to make out everything in the room clear as day with his old eyes. He shuddered and closed them.
"Mmmm?" the boy answered, on the edge of sleep.
"What's that sound?"
"…" Inuyasha struggled to explain what he was hearing. "That… hum… over there by the window."
"That's my PC."
"…" Inuyasha tried to picture this piishii and what it could possibly be doing humming like that. "Oh," he finally sighed and gave sleep a go.
What was true for Hibari Machiko twenty years ago, was still true that morning when she showed up unexpectedly on her sister's doorstep. Only Maeko's husband's death had been a blow to her generally worry-free life, but she didn't let it bother her long. Giving her sister a pension of sorts (which she claimed was entirely clean) satisfied her. Little did Machiko know, Maeko gave every last yen of her mafia money away, preferring it to clean itself in the eyes of her ancestors by being put to holy use.
Hibari Machiko came, as usual, bearing gifts. Maeko stacked the boxes and bags on the coffee table and begged her sister's forgiveness: the children were not yet awake.
"Saturday morning and they're not down here watching anime?!" Machiko laughed.
"Kagome is almost 18 years old, Imoto," Maeko laughed.
"My my, has it been that long?"
Jiichan ogled the finely made-up woman. "You seem to have been keeping yourself healthy, Hibari-san…"
Struggling with the desire to keep her father-in-law from offending Machiko and needing to wake the children, Maeko ran up the stairs. "Minna! Me o samashite! Wake up, Everyone! We have company!"
Kagome poked her head out of her door. "What's going on?" She smiled uncontrollably wide as she saw Inuyasha emerge from her brother's room.
"Auntie Hibari is here!"
"Wai!" Souta cheered from his room as he changed quickly. "I wonder what she brought me!"
Maeko shook her head. "Her love, Souta. Remember that." She looked their houseguest up and down. His red ensemble could be construed as sleepwear. "Well, I suppose you can wear that for now, Inuyasha."
When her mother had gone back downstairs, Kagome came out into the hallway dressed in a pair of jeans and a cute sweater. She threw her arms around Inuyasha and hugged him tightly.
"Good morning!" she piped.
"Mmm," he hummed and kissed her neck.
"How did you sleep?"
"Who's this Hibari person?"
"She's my aunt…" before she could ask him again how he slept, he was headed down the stairs.
"And who is this?" Machiko cooed as she took in the tall, handsome young man in his strange clothes.
"This is… our houseguest. Inuyasha, this is my sister, Hibari Machiko-san."
"Douzo yoroshiku, Hibari-san. Inuyasha desu." Inuyasha said and bowed slightly. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Hibari. I'm Inuyasha."
Kagome's jaw hung slack. 'Since when is he so well-mannered!?' she wondered.
"You're not from around here, are you? Inuyasha… what kind of a name is that?"
"Well it's…" Inuyasha began.
The family panicked. "It's an old name!" Kagome shouted.
"Very, very old," her mother added.
The rest of the morning went well, though Auntie Hibari kept one eye on Inuyasha at all times. She had brought gifts for everyone. Jiichan received a large gift certificate to a well-known exotic grocery. Maeko got a nice handmade hapi jacket and kimono. Kagome got a fancy and stylish dress by a big designer for her prom, Machiko said and Souta got the latest game system and a pile of the hottest titles.
The boy was allowed to run up to his room to install the system. Maeko served tea. Machiko asked about Kagome's health. Immediately, her grandfather began the spiel he had played out for the last few years. The disease he picked this time sounded especially bad. Kagome and her mother exchanged nauseous glances.
"What's parvo?" Inuyasha asked.
Machiko leaned forward. "Yes, Shojiro-san. What IS parvo?"
"Well it affects the... uh…"
"The intestines?" Machiko asked.
"Yes! That's it…"
She folded her arms. "Of puppies. Parvo is a dog disease. We had a puppy die of it last spring. Just what are you trying to cover up?"
Everyone went white. Inuyasha looked around. "What? What?! Kagome has that?!"
"No! Baka!" She swatted his arm. "I'm sorry, Auntie Hibari. You're right. I haven't been sick at all."
A sad, pleading look fell over Machiko's face. "What's been going on that you can't tell your Auntie? You know I'm the queen of keeping secrets!"
This was very true. All these years, no one at the shrine had any idea where Auntie Hibari lived, what her husband's name was or what exactly he did for a living. At her mother's insistence that it was all right, Kagome told Machiko the short version of the story. When she had finished, not a few cups of tea had gone cold and all eyes were on Machiko. Machiko, however, stared at Inuyasha. "You mean to tell me, this boy…"
He nodded, not sure if he could talk without getting smacked again.
"That means…" Machiko stood up. "You saved our Kagome's life!" She threw her arms open. Several gold bangles clanged down her arms as she did so. "Come give Auntie a hug!"
Reluctantly, Inuyasha did as she instructed.
"There's got to be something I can do to say thank you…" She puzzled.
"Machiko, that's not necessary…" Maeko began to protest.
"Shhhhh!" she waved, clanking the bangles some more. She dug in her purse for her checkbook. "You'll need clothes, and shoes and… How old are you, son?"
"Uh…" he thought for a second. "519 or so…"
They almost fell over.
"Subtract the years asleep and the years between now and the Sengoku Jidai!" Kagome shouted.
"Oh! I'll be 19 this spring, I guess."
"Then you don't need to go to school. Hmmm…" Auntie Hibari ripped a check out and handed it to him. "You hold on to that. Since you don't have school, we don't need to worry about that, but you will need papers." She took out a Palm Pilot. "When's your birthday, what month?"
"I dunno." Inuyasha looked at the piece of paper.
"How about… April 15th?" She entered the data into the device.
"You're about six foot, right? What's your family name?"
"Kawano. Ano…?" he tried to ask a question again, but Kagome cut him off this time.
"Kawano? You have a family name?!"
"Yeah, sorta. I mean, I never used it. Didn't have to. 'Sides, it's my mother's."
'Wow,' Kagome thought. 'Is there really still a lot I don't know about him… after all this time?'
Machiko slapped her Palm shut. "Ok! Just you let your Auntie Hibari take care of it. Till then, make sure you lay low. If you get arrested or end up in the hospital or something they won't be able to identify you."
"Machiko!" Maeko gasped.
"I wouldn't want my niece's hero to have any trouble." She stood and put her pocket book over her shoulder. "I really should be going. Let's do this again sometime, Neesan!"
And just like that Auntie Hibari left them speechless. Inuyasha scratched his head.
"Ano, Kagome, what is this?" he asked, frustrated, and handed over the piece of paper Machiko had given him.
"It's a check for…" Kagome went pale. "Oh my god…"
Maeko sighed. "What ridiculous amount is it filled out for this time?"
"It's not…" Kagome handed the check to her mother. "It's carte blanche."
Sure enough, the fields for the amount were left blank. Only Machiko's loopy signature and a memo graced the check, which read 'sky's the limit - not for charity '.
Later that day, Maeko decided that since tomorrow was a Sunday, she would take Souta and Inuyasha shopping. Kagome would stay home and try to begin to catch up with her schoolwork. She couldn't help but notice that her houseguest was looking a little weary that morning before they were to leave for the mall.
"Inuyasha, daijoubu? Are you ok?" Kagome touched his arm. He was a little slow to react.
"Fine," he muttered and sipped his tea.
"Ready kids?" Mrs. Higurashi asked. Inuyasha turned without making eye contact and followed her out the door.
"Inuyasha…" Kagome whispered as the door closed behind them.
The mall was five stories tall and packed with more people than Inuyasha had ever seen in one place before. His ears rang with the din of conversation and ever-changing music emanating from the multitude of stores. He was still a little green from the drive over his first in an automobile and this noise didn't help. As Mrs. Higurashi paused to look into a shop window Inuyasha leaned on a railing and covered his nose. It was as if all of his senses were ganging up on him at once. She turned around and saw him take his hand down quickly.
"Are you all right, Inuyasha?"
"What is that smell?" he asked, putting his sleeve back up to this face.
She sniffed the air. "Oh! It's this candle store. Pretty potent, ne?"
"It's awful. Worse than whale oil! No, Whale oil is pleasant compared to this!"
Maeko laughed, thinking he was just being stubborn. When they caught up with Souta the air cleared enough that Inuyasha could breathe again.
"Here we are!" Maeko chimed. The entrance to the department store gaped before them. "I'll help you find some pants and shirts and, what do you think Souta, two jackets? Then Souta will help you with… other things."
Inuyasha shrugged. "Ok."
Four hours later, shopping complete, they headed home.
Maeko showed Kagome all the things they had bought for Inuyasha: several t-shirts, dress shirts, polo shirts, slacks, jeans, shoes, sneakers and a pair of trendy 'big-pants' that he had insisted on getting because other fashions were far too tight. She didn't show Kagome the cute plaid boxers Souta had helped him pick out.
As Kagome turned to say something to him, Inuyasha's head fell against her shoulder. He sat up with a jerk.
"Are you feeling ok, Inuyasha?"
"Yeah, just… long day… Thank you, Higurashi-san," he said as took the bags upstairs.
Kagome folded the clothes and put them in the Rubbermaid containers that would serve as his dresser for the meantime.
"So, you're going to your school tomorrow?" he asked, his bangs obscuring his eyes.
"Yes. I'll be back in the afternoon." Kagome closed the lid and sat, staring at him. "What's wrong?"
"I said nothing!"
Kagome stood and rather than hit him or shout back, she left him there. They didn't speak for the rest of the evening.
Inuyasha did a convincing job pretending to still be asleep when Kagome and Souta left for school that morning. He arose sometime around eight and got some breakfast. Artfully avoiding Jiichan and Maeko, Inuyasha went outside. Not surprisingly he found he had wandered to the well shrine. The opening had not yet been re-sealed. Its darkness seemed to call to him. Instead, Inuyasha turned his back and walked away from the shrine complex.
Kagome ran up the stairs at three that afternoon and called to Inuyasha as she entered the house.
"Mama, have you seen Inuyasha?"
Maeko looked up. "Why no, not since this morning…"
"Something's not right. I've been thinking about it all day. He's been so sullen and quiet. Last night, we almost had a fight. He wouldn't tell me what's wrong. I know there's something…" Kagome's eyes started to tear.
"We'll find him. Maybe he just went for a walk?"
Jiichan hummed to himself, pondering where a former hanyou could stroll off to.
At about seven, Inuyasha stumbled into a passerby and was knocked down.
"Whachit, buster!" an angry Tokyojin growled.
"S-sorry…" he whispered.
Inuyasha lifted his head and saw the outline of a large, square shouldered man against a bright shop window.
"You ok?" He offered him a hand, which the boy took. Inuyasha looked up at him through bleary eyes. "Aw, man are you on the smack, kid?"
"Drugs, son. Are ya on drugs?"
"No. I'm just tired…" Inuyasha grimaced, angry at himself. He paused and hung his head. "And I'm lost."
"Where ya headed?"
"Ho…" he began. "My friend Kagome's house."
"What's the address, maybe I can give ya directions?"
"I don't know…"
"Well, what's her name?"
"There's a few of those in Tokyo… You sure you don't know what street the house is on?"
"It's a shrine."
"Oh! Higurashi Shrine? It's just about a mile or so from here. Go up till you see that orange sign up there? Make a right at the corner there and go 10 blocks or so. Then you'll be on 13. Make a left on 13 and you should be able to see it from there, up on the hill." The man smiled, glad that he could help.
Inuyasha was astounded. All day people had pushed him aside and told him to go away and here this perfect stranger was lending him a hand.
"No prob, kid. Good luck."
After dinner, Kagome went outside to pace. She trained her eyes on the steps, hoping beyond hope that he would come bounding up them any second.
"I should have gotten him a cell phone. At least then he could come and go as he pleases… That is… if he ever managed to learn to use the damn thing." She chuckled sadly. "Gah, Inuyasha with a cell phone…" she thought aloud. "Poor Inuyasha. Everything must be so different. But, how could he have just wandered off like that?" She pouted and wandered her own way to the well shrine. She walked down the steps and leaned against the wooden lip. "Oh, Inuyasha. Where could you have gone?"
"Achoo!" came a sneeze from the bottom of the well.
Kagome's eyes widened and she jumped back out of reflex. "Who goes there!?" she cried, wishing she had left a bow and arrow in the shrine just in case. She could hear him climbing out.
"Inuyasha! Have you been down there all day!?"
He jumped out and kept his head low, his bangs covering his reddened eyes. "No…"
As he made to leave, Kagome grabbed his t-shirt. "You're scaring me." He stopped, but didn't turn. "I love you, remember? Help me help you. Talk to me."
He turned, and in the pale light of the distant street lamp, the two stood just as they had three nights ago. His eyes were red and circled in black. His mouth was screwed up in a pout and he twitched slightly. Finally, the dam broke. Inuyasha fell heavily against her shoulder and wept like a small child. She brought him down the dirt floor and held him in her lap, stroking his hair and doing her best to shush him.
"I got lost and the shopping place was so loud and it stank and I haven't slept more than a handful of hours since I've been here and I've never needed to sleep like this before…" he went on and on about things that he had kept to himself for the last three days. "And I never get to see you and I can't sleep, Kagome. I just want to sleep."
His sobs slowed and his breathing evened out. Kagome kissed the top of his head. "You can't sleep here. Come on. Let's go inside."
They quickly came in the back door and went up to her room. Kagome pulled the covers back on her bed. Inuyasha gave her a strange look. "But you said…"
He climbed in, fully dressed. "Kagome…"
"I'm sorry, Inuyasha. This has been too much for you, too fast." She stroked his bangs back out of his face. "But you've got to tell me when it gets to be too much, or when you don't understand something. You know I won't think less of you for it."
He held the hand that cradled his face and kissed her palm. "I'm sorry, too. I will, promise."
"I'm going to do my homework right over here. You get some rest."
"Oyasumi," she said semi-scolding. "Goodnight."
"Mm?" she said, bent and kissed him gently on the lips.
"Tadaima," said with a soft, sleepy smile. "I'm home."
To be continued…