Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi. Inspired by "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, but due to site rules, no lyrics are posted in this version. (Complete version at my LJ.)
Time After Time
"Why can't I go in there, Mom?"
"Sh, Souta. Best to leave her alone for now."
"But it's been three days…"
Kagome pretended she couldn't hear the hushed voices of her mother and little brother outside her room. On her desk, a bowl of soup that her mother had brought in grew cold, untouched. The curtains to her window were shut, and the lights were off. Kagome rolled over in bed, pulled the covers over her head, and tried to bury herself in the darkness.
It had been three days since she'd returned from the Feudal Era—for good. Three days since Naraku's defeat and the well closed behind her. Three days since she and Inuyasha had jumped into the well and she had landed in her own time to discover that he had not made the journey with her. For reasons foreign to her, the well had not let him through like it had so many times before. She would never see Inuyasha again.
"Give it up, Inuyasha."
Miroku's voice echoed down through the well where it fell on deaf ears. Inuyasha only grunted and continued digging. The well was now several meters deeper than it had previously been.
"You're acting irrational."
Inuyasha paused, wiping the sweat out of his eyes and taking a gulp of air. He heard the monk sighing above him in his usual fashion, and climbed halfway out.
Miroku was greeted by the sight of a dirt-covered and scowling hanyou head sticking up over the well.
"You weren't there, monk, so stay out of it," Inuyasha growled, and his head disappeared back down into the earth. "Something went wrong… something happened…. One moment I was holding Kagome's hand, the next moment she was gone, and I was still here. I have to find out what happened to her."
The sound of digging resumed.
"You often told me," Miroku reasoned, "that Kagome was safe in her own time. That she had friends and family there and was well looked after."
"What are you getting at?" the hanyou's voice trailed back angrily.
"I do not think her safety is your primary concern right now." The monk sat down on the grass outside the well and passed his hand over his eyes. His voice was soft. "We all miss Kagome, Inuyasha. But did you ever stop to consider why the well didn't let you through?"
The sound of digging stopped. Several moments later, Inuyasha's head appeared above the well again.
"What do you mean?"
"What I'm trying to say is… perhaps the well has a purpose in keeping you from Kagome. Perhaps now that her business here is over, you two… aren't supposed to be together."
Inuyasha started to disappear back into the well, but felt a strong arm pulling him back up, out of the well and onto the grass, where it didn't relinquish its hold.
"Listen to me. I know you don't want to hear this, but I'm going to say it anyway."
Inuyasha bristled at the strength in Miroku's hand and voice.
"Kagome had a life before she met you. Maybe she's supposed to live that life now… on her own. I can't force you to stop digging, nor can I spare you the pain you are going through right now. All I can do is let you know that you still have friends here… and we'll be waiting for you when you decide to come back."
Miroku let go of Inuyasha's arm, and walked back toward the village. Inuyasha watched him go, wide-eyed, until he disappeared from sight.
The hanyou stayed next to the well with his face in his hands for a long time, but he did not venture back inside. When morning came, he stood up, whispered unheard words into the well, and walked away.
The hours passed, and Kagome hardly moved. As she lay in bed, her mind wandered back to all the times Inuyasha had come to get her when she was "taking too long". "You're late," he would always say and drag her back through the well. Sometimes his behavior had annoyed her. Didn't he realize she had a life here in the present, with school and homework and friends that didn't revolve around him?
But now, Kagome realized sadly, as the clock on her wall ticked the passing seconds away, her life had revolved around Inuyasha, for a very long time. Despite all those times she had snapped at him for coming to take her back, now she wished she could see that familiar red haori climbing through her window to usher her off once again.
"Go home, Inuyasha," Kagome had told him once, she recalled.
"Keh," he'd said. "You've wasted enough time as it is."
"Wasted?" she yelled at him. "I have two exams tomorrow and I have to study! I told you I'll come back the day after tomorrow."
"But I can't wait that long."
Kagome just shook her head and sighed. "You are the most impatient person I've ever known," she said, pushing him toward her window. "I'll see you in two days. Goodbye!"
And she watched as the hanyou exited in an over-exaggerated huff, the curtains flapping behind him. When he was gone, she slammed the window shut and pulled the curtains close, so that only a sliver of light came between them.
She sat back down at her desk and poured over her geometry book, where a stream of trapezoids, hexagons, and variables barraged her thoughts.
When enough time had passed that she felt like slamming the book shut on her beleaguered head, a funny feeling came over her, and her shoulders perked up. She felt the strange but unmistakable sensation that she was being watched.
Sighing, she closed her book and trudged over to the window, where she threw the curtains open. "I thought I told you to go home…" she said before realizing no one was there. "Huh." She could have sworn Inuyasha would be there.
Too much math had driven her loopy, she thought, and decided to head downstairs for a much-needed break and snack. But just as she was turning away from the window, something golden caught her eye. Something small had caught onto the windowsill outside. She opened the window and pulled it in. It was a thin chain, dark and unpolished, and the clasp had rusted through as though very old. In the middle of the chain was a heart-shaped locket.
Kagome's breath caught in her throat. For a second, she thought it was the locket she had once given Inuyasha, but that was impossible. This locket was much too old, and besides, Inuyasha always wore his locket and kept it safe. He wouldn't have let it fall on her windowsill. This was just a random, old locket some magpie must have left there.
Kagome had just convinced herself of this and was about to put the locket back where she'd found it when she hesitated. She had to make sure. If this locket were really the one she'd given Inuyasha, then it would have pictures of them inside it. Slowly and with trembling hands, she pried the edge of the heart open.
Inside the locket were two tiny photographs… but they were so worn and faded she could hardly make them out at all. Vaguely she thought one was of a boy and the other a girl, but surely this was normal for any heart-shaped locket to contain a picture of sweethearts. Still, instead of placing the locket back outside, Kagome merely shut her window and went downstairs.
Unknown to her, up on the roof, Inuyasha had sat, desperately feeling around his neck. The locket was gone. He scanned the ground with his sharp eyes but saw it nowhere. He cursed under his breath, and left, as he should have done long ago.
Now, Kagome lifted the covers off her head and rolled onto her side, her pillow cold and wet against her cheek. For the past three days, she couldn't stop reliving these old scenarios of Inuyasha coming to get her over and over in her head, knowing that she would never see him again.
With a glance at her clock, she realized it was past 3:00 A.M. She'd been lying in bed for hours, and still couldn't fall asleep. Vaguely she felt her stomach rumbling but didn't care.
Suddenly a dull thud issued from above her. Something was on the roof.
"Inuyasha?" Kagome whispered, and before she knew what she was doing, she had thrown the blankets off her and strode to the window. Nothing was there. She felt no fear as she climbed out onto the tiny ledge and hoisted herself up onto the roof, struggling. What was this to a woman who had faced the darkest demons of the past and come out triumphant?
The moon was nothing more than a sliver in the sky, and cast little light. Kagome could barely see in front of her. "Inuyasha?" she called, teetering on legs that trembled with excitement.
There was nothing, no sound or movement in the dark except the cold wind sweeping past her face.
"Inuyasha?" her voice sounded hollow against the blackness. She realized suddenly how foolish she was behaving, standing up on the roof in the middle of the night. The noise she'd heard was probably a bird or maybe even her cat Buyo, who liked to nap up there at times.
Brushing her hand against her cheeks, she turned to go, when her foot slipped out from under her on a loose shingle. Even as she collided with the roof and a spasm of pain struck her spine, she felt herself falling. Her fingers grabbed uselessly at the tiles and then she was over the edge.
She shrieked, squeezing her eyes shut in expectation of the impact. But instead of crashing into hard, cold earth, Kagome landed in a strangely warm, familiar grasp.
Suddenly aware that she was not hurt, Kagome opened her eyes, blinking rapidly.
"Inuyasha?" she murmured.
The hanyou was holding her in his arms, wearing a stern, unhappy expression on his face. "Keh, idiot," he merely said.
"Inuyasha," Kagome cried, too happy and overwhelmed to even process the how and why. She pulled him into a kiss, half-sobbing, and when it was over all he could do was hold her close and pat the back of her head awkwardly as she finally let her emotions out.
When she had finished crying, he set her down gently in front of the Goshinboku, and her words came out in a rush. "I thought I'd never see you again. When I got back, you weren't there with me. I didn't know what happened. I thought you were gone forever. And then I couldn't get back through the well either. And I gave up hope… and… How'd you do it? How'd you get through the well again? I thought it stopped working."
Inuyasha looked at her without betraying any emotion. "The well wouldn't work for me either," he said simply. "So I had to follow you the long way."
Several moments passed as Kagome processed his words. "You mean…?"
Inuyasha just nodded, and Kagome's throat felt suddenly tight. Her eyes welled with fresh tears. Inuyasha had followed her the only way he could… through the natural passage of time.
She looked at him over and over again, taking in the enormity of it all. She didn't think he looked much different for the added years… more solemn perhaps. But he was still her same Inuyasha.
"I didn't mean for you to see me," he suddenly mumbled, looking down. "But then I saw you fall, and…"
"Why not? Why shouldn't I see you?"
"Because I reconciled this with myself long ago. I was trapped in the past without you, and the only way I could live with myself and move on was to accept that you had your own life here. A good life, one that I couldn't be a part of."
Kagome took in his words silently, her heart racing yet feeling like it might stop at any moment.
"But when I got here, to this time," he went on, "I couldn't help it. I couldn't resist… I had to see you, just to make sure you were safe. I didn't want to interfere with our past, so I waited until now. Except once. Against my better judgment, I visited you once before. You didn't know. And I realized how stupid that was of me, so I didn't again. Until now. I just wanted to look at you one last time… and say goodbye."
Kagome was silent for a long time, her expression somber. Then she reached into her shirt and pulled something out, over her head, and placed it into Inuyasha's hand.
When he opened his fingers, he saw resting in his palm a small, dark, heart-shaped locket. There was a little intake of breath.
"It's yours, isn't it?" Kagome said.
"But how did you—? I lost this long ago."
"I found it, and kept it all this time. I didn't understand why, really, but I think a part of me knew."
Inuyasha's fist closed on the locket. "Kagome, I can't stay here."
"Being with you now, it's like no time has passed at all for me. But…the well closed. We're not supposed to be together. I have to let you live your own life."
Kagome was silent again, trying to read him, trying to gauge the effect the years had had on him.
"Is that what you really want?" she said softly, and when he wouldn't answer her, she went on. "Inuyasha, I know you only want what's best for me, but like it or not, you are a part of my life, before, now, and forever. This isn't the well's decision to make. It's ours."
Kagome was holding out her hand to him. He looked at it, and then at the locket still in his hand.
"You fixed the clasp," he said suddenly.
Kagome smiled. "Yeah."
And putting the chain back over his own neck, Inuyasha took Kagome's hand, and together the two of them walked back into the Sunset Shrine.