Haunted by Death
Note - I would like to thank everyone for reading and reviewing, and, as usual, let you know that I love getting ideas from you! [:
I do not own Inuyasha, or any of its characters. Any made up characters in this story, and this series, are fictional, and any likeness to real people, or any other work of fiction, is merely coincidental. All I own is the plot. Thank you.
Summary (Full) - Kagome is finally free of her psychotic cousins, their friends, and the murders. Her life has, basically, returned to normal. Despite some lingering nightmares, she's shopping and having fun with her friends. Her relationship with Inuyasha is going perfectly fine. Things couldn't be more perfect. But then, when she signs on one day, Death sends her an Instant Message, threatening her once again. Is it really possible to Escape Death a fourth time?
Haunted by Death
"Oh, my, God!" Sango squealed as Kagome showed her the shimmering ring on her finger.
"Shh!" Kagome hissed, her finger pressed against her lips, as she glanced around their store nervously. With it only being Wednesday, there weren't many people shopping. Only a handful flitted about the store, browsing through cds and music posters. Even as Kagome urged her friend to be a little more unobtrusive, she couldn't help but beam at her.
"Kagome, it's gorgeous!" Sango whispered excitedly. "First, plans for a baby, and now a wedding? When is the date? We need to go dress shopping! What color would you like for your bridesmaids?"
"Sango," Kagome said calmly.
"I was thinking a wedding in the spring!" Sango began counting, checking off months with her fingers. "That will give us about five months to plan everything out."
"Sango," Kagome repeated, her voice flat.
"I was thinking we could go with pastel colors! Maybe pink, or blue-"
"Sango!" Kagome took hold of Sango's wrist to snap her out of her wedding planner fantasy land. "It just happened last night. We don't have a date, yet, so relax, okay?"
Sango smiled sheepishly. "You're right," she said at length. "It's just so exciting."
"I can't tell who is more excited about all of this," Kagome began, lifting a box from the back and bringing it to the front counter to stock its contents on the shelves, "me, or you."
Sango chuckled, grabbing a box and bringing it to the front to put with Kagome's. "Truthfully, I can't, either."
Kagome smiled, heading to the back and grabbing a particularly large box. Sango, having walked through the door, noticed, and before she could protest, Kagome lifted it with ease. Gracefully, she placed it with the others.
"Whoa," her friend commented, having followed behind her in case she had needed help. "Look at you."
"Yeah," Kagome replied with a faint laugh.
"You've started working out again." A statement, not a question. "It's what you said on the phone last night."
Kagome, who had been slicing the box open with a razor blade, paused, regarding Sango with caution, but keeping a straight face. Even the best poker player would have been jealous of her lack of expression. "And?"
"I don't know," Sango began, getting the vibe that she was wading in dangerous waters. She hadn't really talked to Kagome about what had happened to her in Kyoto and Osaka. Neither had Miroku. She wasn't sure how much Inuyasha knew, but she had a feeling it was more than she did. "It worries me."
Kagome let out a hoarse laugh. "My exercising in my own den on my own equipment worries you?"
Feeling nervous and fidgety, Sango began opening one of the boxes just to be able to occupy her hands. "Not so much the action itself," she explained hastily, "but what the action means."
Kagome regarded Sango calmly, her left eyebrow quirking. "And what, exactly, does it mean?"
"Kagome," Sango looked around. The only two customers were toward the back of the store, way out of earshot. "While you were gone, you changed. You became someone totally different."
"That wasn't my fault. It wasn't me." Kagome growled, her voice low and menacing.
"I didn't say it was," Sango said defensively.
"You implied it," Kagome countered.
"No, what I meant was that…" Sango heaved a sigh and brushed a hand through her hair before gathering it into a ponytail. "Working out became apart of your life, and your daily routine. You did it in order to survive-"
With unexpected ferocity, Kagome got into Sango's face. "You have no idea why I did the things I did. You have no idea what happened to me."
Her eyes had a glow about them, smoldering a pale blue. It was unlike anything Sango had ever witnessed. Was this the 'power' that she had heard Inuyasha mention to Miroku? Sango backed down slowly, her hands were up, her palms pointed out defensively. "I'm sorry, Kagome. You started doing it again after last night. I just…I get the vibe that something is wrong, and you won't talk about it. I feel like you're beginning this routine again because something is happening and you feel the need to survive."
Kagome, having stepped away from Sango to stock shelves and get her anger under control, hesitated, her mind dwelling on her friend's words. She had to admit - it was a nice observation. What was so upsetting was that it was all true. She did feel the need to get stronger, to fight, to survive. Not that she would admit it; not fully, anyway. How could she, and keep Sango and Ichiro safe?
"Does it have to do with the murders?" Sango asked, causing Kagome's blood to freeze.
She knew. Kagome swallowed - hard - and forced herself to nonchalantly continue stocking shelves, though her fingers were numb.
"Kagome, it's okay to be afraid, especially after what you went through," Sango assured her. Kagome let out a small sigh of relief. "And after last night, I can understand feeling afraid. I can understand feeling helpless. I understand wanting to be able to do something, but not being able to. Miroku can especially relate."
So, she didn't know. She had just summed it up as fear about the homicides. She hadn't made a connection, yet. And how could she? The only suspects Kagome had were in prison. No one would even think twice about them.
"I'm sorry," Kagome said, turning toward Sango, "about my angry outburst."
Sango smiled sadly. "It's okay. Kagome, you have skeletons in your closet and ghosts at your back. This is going to sound bad, but you're damaged. You really need to talk to someone about it, and get it off your chest."
Kagome hated to admit her friend was right. She knew she was damaged. She would even go so far as to say she was crazy. She knew she needed to talk about it with someone. She was just scared to.
At this point, it seemed like fear was a constant thing in her life.
Kagome sat on Sango's living room couch, admiring her ring as she swirled it around and around on her finger. She heard her friend clambering around upstairs, hurriedly applying makeup and doing her hair for her night out with Miroku. Kagome rolled her eyes and stifled a laugh, imagining her friend tripping over her shoes as she left her bedroom to go into the bathroom, then tripping over them again as she reentered her bedroom.
Ichiro smiled up at Kagome from where he sat in the middle of the floor, his plastic building blocks scattered about the carpet. He spoke some baby gibberish she couldn't comprehend, and giggled, waving his hands in the air. He lost his balance and fell onto his back. Kagome jumped to her feet, ready to come to the aid of the tiny boy, only to stop when he giggled again.
"Babies are resilient," Miroku explained, noticing Kagome's wary expression. With a relieved sigh, she fell back onto the couch and turned to look at him. He was leaning against the doorframe of the kitchen. "You don't have to be so uptight. Unless he cries, he should be okay."
Kagome smiled meekly at him, embarrassed that he had witnessed the entire thing. "I'll keep that in mind." Her expression turned serious as she regarded her friend with concern. "Miroku, about last night…"
"Which part?" He asked, a trace of disgust evident in his voice. "You running off after the killer, or me failing to save Nina?"
So, he knew it had been Nina. She suddenly felt guilty for not having recognized her. He also knew she ran after Nina's killer. At length, Kagome shrugged. "Both."
Miroku stared at her for a long time. So long, in fact, that Kagome felt her palms sweat. "As far as you deciding to become some vigilante and chase down her killer, it was reckless, and stupid, and I'm so mad at you for it. I'm sure Inuyasha is, too."
Kagome shifted uncomfortably.
Miroku's violet eyes widened. "He doesn't know, does he?"
Kagome shook her head slowly. "Please don't tell him."
"Why? Are you afraid he'll take that ring back?" He nodded toward her hand, which she promptly tucked into her jacket pocket. He sighed in frustration. "I know you went through a lot. I know it's affected you dramatically, and shaped you into this person you are now. I don't know what drove you to do it. Whatever got into you last night…don't let it happen again."
Kagome nodded once, showing she understood.
"As far as Nina goes," he began, his face becoming forlorn as his mind traveled to some distant place. "I failed."
"No," Kagome said, standing up. "You did all you could, Miroku."
He shrugged, remaining silent. She crossed the room and hugged him gently. "You did everything right. You were the only one brave enough to try. You did all you could do. Please believe that."
She felt him nod, and she smiled. She pulled away from him and went to scoop Ichiro up into her arms. He giggled, reaching out to grab tiny fistfuls of her jacket. Sango came bounding down the stairs then, looking both elegant and flustered. "I'm sorry," she said. "I just wanted to hurry and get ready. I want us to make it to the movie on time."
Miroku laughed at her before going over to kiss his son on the head. "I'll start the car," he said, heading out the front door.
"Okay, Kagome, give him a bottle around seven and get him to sleep around eight. We will be back around ten, hopefully." Sango explained hurriedly, gathering up a sweater, her purse, and keys.
Kagome laughed. "Sango, I can handle it. Go have fun, and be careful."
Sango kissed Ichiro, ruffling the light dusting of hair on his head, before rushing out the door.
"Okay, little man, what are we going to do?" She asked playfully, placing him back down on the floor so he could poke at blocks. She would pick one up and hand it to him, only to have him toss it back down into another block. He would laugh at the clinking sound it made. Kagome smiled at him fondly, handing him another block, and watched as he repeated his previous actions.
For a moment, Kagome was lost in that moment. 'Maybe,' she thought, 'I can handle this whole mother thing.'
It was about ten after seven, and Kagome paced the length of the living room, cradling Ichiro in her left arm, while clutching a bottle with her right hand. He suckled hungrily, drool streaming down his chin as he looked up at her with large, violet eyes. "You look like your dad, that's for sure," she said.
She sat down on the couch, still feeding the baby in her arms. Some kind of talk show was on TV, but she hadn't been paying much attention to it. Ichiro finished the bottle, and she placed it down on the coffee table. Draping a cloth on her shoulder, Kagome placed him against her and began patting his back gently. At length, she heard the faint sound of a gentle burp and she smiled, laying him down in her arm again to wipe his mouth and face with the cloth. "There we go," she said. "All clean."
After giving him a warm bath and putting him in a clean diaper, she dressed him in soft pajamas before placing him in his crib. She turned on a small lamp on the table across the room that oscillated, the scenery of the deep ocean coming to life, reflecting on the ceiling and walls. She clicked on the small, two-way baby monitor before heading downstairs and clicking on the receiving monitor. With a sigh, she plopped back down on to the couch and flipped through stations on the TV.
"-while the details are still coming in, we do know that Nina Markova was attacked at the candlelight vigil being held for Naoto Tomagichi."
Kagome had her hand hovering over the button to change the channel, but stopped.
"No one caught a good look at her attacker, but we have confirmed it to be a male, who is about six feet tall with an athletic build."
Kagome was amazed that even she hadn't caught a better look at him while they had been fighting in the alley.
"While witnesses attempted to save Nina, she was pronounced dead when medical personnel arrived to the scene."
Miroku's despondent face flashed through her mind. She felt sorry for him. He had tried so hard to save Nina, and he felt as if he had failed. Kagome couldn't help but blame herself; not only had she been the reason the killer struck, but she had just stood there like an idiot, completely lost in her mind.
A sound came over the monitor, and Kagome snapped to attention. It had been faint, but she was sure she'd heard something. Turning the television off, she held her breath and stared at the monitor. A few moments passed, then a few minutes, until Kagome began to wonder if she was losing her mind. She was about to relax into the soft cushions of the couch when the monitor crackled.
Jumping up, Kagome snatched up the small device and shook it. 'Maybe the batteries are dying,' she thought, examining it.
"Hello, Kagome," a deep voice rasped through the speaker.
"Aahh!" Kagome couldn't stop herself from dropping the monitor on the floor. It made a dull 'thud.' The sound of the scratchy, distorted voice caused her heart to take refuge in her throat, making it hard to breathe. Her stomach churned uncomfortably, making her nauseas. "No," she whispered. "This isn't real."
"Oh, it's real," the voice sneered, coming out muffled since the monitor had fallen with the speaker facing the thick carpet. "Don't worry, you're not crazy."
"What do you want?" Kagome screamed.
Kagome swallowed, unsure of how to respond. She was uncertain of what he meant by that, and wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"Ichiro looks so much like Miroku."
Kagome let out an involuntary gasp. "No!" She shrieked, her safety no longer a concern. She raced up the stairs, taking them two at a time. She lost her footing, but recovered quickly, half running, half crawling up the steps. Her hands were slick with moisture as she gripped the wooden banister. She reached the top, using her grip on the banister to swing herself around to the right. She raced down the wooden hallway, her sneakers slapping against the wood noisily.
She burst through the door to Ichiro's room, her eyes darting straight for the crib, which was, to her dismay, empty. "No," she whispered, all of the hair on her neck standing to attention, her palms and forehead sweaty. She examined each and every corner carefully, the fear welling up in her chest, making it tight. The ocean lamp was still on, fish swimming lazily around and around, the shapes casting eerie shadows on the walls, ceiling, and her face. "Ichiro!" She stumbled over to the closet and opened it. All that greeted her were stuffed animals and several pairs of tiny shoes and small outfits.
"What is it, Kagome?" She heard the voice rasp over the monitor that was sitting on the table next to the crib, where she had left it. "You can't find the baby?"
"If you hurt him," she bellowed, "you will regret it."
A malicious laugh answered her. "Oh, that sounds like quite a threat, Kagome."
"It's a promise," she growled, rushing out of Ichiro's room. She clicked the light in the adjacent bathroom on, checking in the tub and behind the shower curtain. Nothing. She left the light on and moved to the spare bedroom, repeating her previous actions with the bathroom. She checked beneath the bed and in the closet. Still, nothing. She wandered down the hallway, a lump in her throat, anger and fear bubbling up inside of her. Adrenaline was pounding in her veins, her heart pulsing in her ears. She checked the master bedroom, and the adjoining bathroom, her search resulting in absolutely nothing. She felt as if she were on the brink of tears. Where was he? What had he done with Ichiro?
"You're a coward!" She yelled. "You have to prey on a baby to get what you want! That's pretty pathetic. If you want me so bad, well, damn it, here I am!"
She wandered down the stairs, beginning to wonder if he had left and taken Ichiro with him. If he had, she was left with no other choice but to contact Inuyasha and the police, and Sango and Miroku. She had no choice but to tell them everything.
"Coward," she muttered, heading straight for the phone. She lifted it from its cradle, her finger poised to dial 911, when she heard someone clear their throat.
Looking up, she saw him. He was hovering in the doorway to the kitchen where Miroku had been only a few hours earlier. He wore the signature ski mask Death had worn, with a ball cap pulled on his head. "You bastard," she cursed, placing the phone back down. "Where is he? Give him back to me.'
"Now, now," he chided. "All in due time."
"No," she said, her voice stern. "Now."
He had moved with such lightning speed, she didn't see it coming. He lunged for her, his shoulder colliding with her stomach and knocking her to the floor. The air rushed from her lungs, her head colliding with the floor. Grunting, she rolled over onto her stomach and pushed herself up to her feet. Whirling around, she saw that he was already standing. "Don't ever," he commanded, "threaten me, Higurashi."
Kagome couldn't help the small smirk that played across her lips. "I didn't threaten you," she explained. "I promised you."
She saw his hand gripping the handle of a knife that was strapped to his thigh. He was grazing his gloved fingers along it gingerly. "You forget, girl, I'm in charge here, not you."
Kagome resisted to urge to scoff at him. "Where is he?"
He feigned ignorance. "Who?"
Kagome took an angry, threatening step toward him, her eyes beginning to glow. "You know who!" This time, it was she who lunged. And while she wasn't large enough, or physically fit enough, to tackle him, she did push him back into the wall. She was able to punch him in the face, then the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. As she was about to bring her knee up to his face, he reached out and caught her leg. In one swift, fluid motion, he swept her other leg out from beneath her, throwing her onto her back on the floor. He unsheathed his knife and pressed it to her throat.
He lifted a finger and wagged it back and forth. "Tisk, tisk," he taunted. "You will never get the boy back at this rate."
Kagome paused, her fists clenched with suppressed rage and fear. She felt her body grow warm. He regarded her calmly, even as her entire body was enveloped with light, gleaming pale blue. "Ah," he retorted, standing up and backing away. He sheathed the knife. "It's been a long time since I've seen your powers."
It had been a long time since she had experimented with her powers. Even when she had been with Naraku, her powers had only been in their infancy, and she had done much more physical training than magical, her preference for hand to hand combat and guns playing a major role in that decision. All she knew about these strange powers were that they tended to appear in time of great distress, usually when she was at risk of being harmed, defending her and warding off danger.
"Please," she said at long last, the light dying away. She rose to her feet. "Just give me the baby. Don't hurt him."
"The child," he said, "is safe. He has been the entire time. He's in the kitchen."
Kagome felt relief wash through her entire body, her heart dropping back to its rightful place - her chest. She let out a huge sigh, her shoulders slumping. "Why are you here?"
"Why not?" She knew he was smirking. His tone suggested it. "I heard you had resumed in your training. I wanted to test you. You failed."
He didn't have to tell her twice. She knew it all too well. He had easily been able to sneak in, take Ichiro out of his crib whilst he slept, and move him - all without her knowing. She couldn't help but drop her gaze to the floor in disappointment.
"Don't worry," he assured her, crowding up to her and placing a hand on her shoulder. She didn't pull away. "It will all work out."
She looked up at him, her expression incredulous. "What do you mean?"
"You'll find out," he said, waving a hand nonchalantly as he headed for the door. Before he stepped outside, he turned, "And Kagome? That's a promise." The door closed gently behind him.
And Kagome tore off as fast as she could to the kitchen.
Sure enough, Ichiro sat in his high chair, a few toys in front of him on his dinner platform. He smiled when he saw her, his hands going into the air, dropping the toys into the floor. She rushed to him, gathering him in her arms, and hugging him tightly. She was so afraid to let him go, she cleaned up the kitchen, his room, and the living room with one hand, cradling him with the other. She turned off all the lights upstairs that she had left on, and sat in the living room, Ichiro sleeping in her arms.
Kagome was watching the news when Sango and Miroku came home. When they saw the two of them, Kagome place a finger to her lips, indicating that they needed to proceed with caution.
Sango smiled fondly at her friend before scooping her up son to take him to bed. "Everything go well?" Miroku asked.
"Yep," Kagome lied, almost gritting her teeth to force out the lie. "He was a good young man."
Miroku smiled jubilantly. "That's my boy!"
Kagome giggled, never feeling so relieved in her life.
"-This just in, there has been an explosion downtown." The newscast pulled Kagome's attention away from Miroku. She found herself wandering back to the couch, sitting on the edge of the cushion, listening intently. "We are being told that prison in the middle of downtown was targeted."
Kagome's lips went numb. Her body felt cold, as if someone had hooked her up to an IV filled with liquid nitrogen. She had drowned out everything, and hadn't noticed that Sango had descended down the stairs, and was now standing next to Miroku.
"-There have been several casualties, but we are unsure if they were cops or cons, as no bodies have been identified. There is an ongoing investigation, as well as a massive manhunt for the escaped convicts-"
Despite tuning out the world, Kagome felt Miroku and Sango turn to look at her in unison, disbelief and sympathy thick in the air. "Kagome-" Sango began, but Kagome stood, cutting her off.
"I'm going," she said, matter-of-factly. "Stay here. I'm going to find Inuyasha."
Before they could stop her, to rationalize with her, Kagome had bolted down the sidewalk, leaving the front door open behind her.