Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: SPOILERS for final manga chapter (you have been warned). After being separated from Kagome by the closing of the well, a despondent Inuyasha realizes that he's not as alone as he thought. One-Shot. Companion-piece to "Sorrow Shared".
As usual, A/N and translations are at the bottom.
"Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love." – Jareb Teague
If he had thought to ask himself a week ago whether he would ever forget what it was like to be lonely, he would have sworn the answer was no. A year of having friends surely wasn't enough to make up for a long childhood as an outcast. Surely he'd never forget what it was like to feel the solitude and terror and hunger that had dogged his heels for decades following his mother's death.
A week after losing Kagome, Inuyasha realized that he had been completely wrong. Apparently, he had already forgotten what loneliness really felt like, the scars soothed by Kagome's kindness in a way he had never thought possible. And now all those old wounds had been torn wide open again, the pain startling in its intensity. How could he ever have forgotten this ache?
He wasn't completely alone anymore. Sango and Miroku were in Kaede-babaa's hut, along with Shippou and Kohaku. He could go down to the village any time he felt like it, and sit with them, and let them try to console him, and let Kaede-babaa feed him. He just didn't want to. It didn't matter how many friends he had in that hut. The only thing that mattered was the one person who wasn't there.
He hadn't eaten since before the final battle with Naraku, and he hadn't been able to sleep, despite being so exhausted by his own grief that his eyes didn't want to stay open. He'd been wandering aimlessly in his forest and on the outskirts of the village for the past few days, like a stray dog. The days before that, he'd sat in Goshinboku, his only respite coming when he left to try the Bone-Eater's Well several times each day. Everyday, Sango and Miroku had tried to coax him to come down from the tree and join them in the village. Shippou had shown up once, but the kitsune had just started crying and then ran off. Kaede-babaa had offered him food several times. Even Sesshoumaru had wandered by at one point, stopping beneath the tree for a good ten minutes to stare up at him pensively, but he'd left without comment.
Kagome, Kagome… he realized he was whimpering under his breath and made himself stop. The loneliness was a tangible, physical pain — not even Kikyou's sealing arrow had hurt so much as this.
Kagome is safe, he recited to himself to try to stave off the pain. She's away from this dangerous world, back where she belongs. She's with the people who love her and need her.
(But I love her and need her. This is where she belongs.)
This was what he'd always secretly been afraid of. He'd always feared that the destruction of the Shikon no Tama would close the well, and take Kagome from him forever, but he'd dared to hope that he was finally worthy of some happiness. He should have known that fate would find a way to screw with his life yet again.
Inuyasha sat on the top step of the shrine, looking down the slope towards the quiet village. It was well after nightfall, and all of the huts were silent and dark. He'd been watching them for a while, trying not to think about the fact that if he turned around, he could pinpoint the spot where Kagome's house would stand 500 years from now. If he let himself do this, he'd be tempted to find the exact location where her bedroom would be, lie down on the ground, and never move from that spot again. He wondered briefly how long it would take for him to die of thirst or starvation.
Movement caught his eye, and he watched with vague attention as a small figure crept around the corner of Kaede-babaa's hut, presumably from inside. He could see well in the dark, so it took only a moment for him to identify Rin. He furrowed his brow. What was she still doing here? Sesshoumaru had left this morning, and Inuyasha had assumed that his brother had taken his little entourage with him.
A little more curious now in spite of himself, he watched as Rin walked away from the hut. She was almost as quiet as a youkai, even in the dark, which was mildly impressive. He expected her to walk a short distance away and crouch down, figuring that she must have woken up to pee, but to his consternation, she kept walking.
It had been days since anything had held his interest at all, and it wasn't long before he found himself following her in the dark. Where was she going? This was about the worst place she could choose to take a midnight walk by herself, since a lot of youkai probably hadn't heard yet that the Shikon no Tama had been destroyed. Most of them in the region, however, probably knew that Naraku had been here and had been killed, so they would be twice as likely to come nosing around in hopes of getting their hands on the jewel. In fact, for the past week, Inuyasha had heard his brother killing things in the distance just about every day. It occurred to him, to his disgust, that he should probably be grateful that his brother had defended the village and kept the vermin away while Inuyasha had been rendered all but useless by his own grief. This idea did not sit at all well.
Rin had stopped now, within sight of the hut but still quite a distance away. As Inuyasha watched, she sat down in the grass, drawing her knees up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around them, hid her face, and started to cry.
Inuyasha wanted to leave, but he was currently the only one around to keep the kid from getting killed, so he wasn't about to just abandon her.
Sesshoumaru's gone, kid's still here, kid's crying like her dog just died. Did Sesshoumaru actually ditch her? Never thought that would happen, since he hovers over her like she's his own pup. Didn't I see him letting her sleep right next to him out in the woods just last night? He even covered her with that pelt he wears.
The smell of her tears made him squirm uncomfortably. Maybe if he talked to her he could get her to go back inside so that he could be alone again.
Sighing quietly, Inuyasha moved forward out of the shadows, startling Rin. She had pretty good senses, for a human, to have heard him coming. He walked over to her and sat down beside her, rather heavily. He felt very tired, lately.
"Inuyasha-sama?" Rin said tremulously.
Inuyasha acknowledged her with a silent glance, and then stared straight ahead at the village, pretending not to notice Rin's half-hearted attempts to dry her face or the sniffling noises she was making. He gave her a minute to get a hold of herself before he spoke.
"I thought you left with my brother," he commented, watching her from the corner of his eye. His voice was raspy from lack of use.
Rin gnawed on her lip, ducking her head. After a moment, she answered. "Sesshoumaru-sama says that Rin needs to learn how to live like other humans in case Rin decides to live in a village some day. Kaede-sama is going to teach Rin to be a miko."
Two more fat tears welled up in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks before she scrubbed them away.
"You cryin' because you gotta stay here?" Inuyasha hazarded a guess.
"Rin's not crying!" the little girl denied vehemently. "Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't like Rin to cry. Sesshoumaru-sama left Rin here for a good reason. And Rin can't be lonely because Rin still has Kohaku-kun and Shippou-chan, and Kaede-sama, and everyone."
But Inuyasha knew. He knew all about that. It didn't matter how many people were still present. The fact that the most important one was missing left an irreparable wound, a gaping chasm that could not be filled.
"It ain't enough, though, is it?" Inuyasha asked quietly, mostly to himself.
Rin looked at him for a minute, two big, damp brown eyes staring up at him in the dark. "Inuyasha-sama stayed up in the tree for a long time," she commented, watching his expression. "Inuyasha-sama looks very sad."
Inuyasha stayed silent. He didn't trust himself to speak.
Rin wasn't done yet. "Inuyasha-sama cares for Kagome-chan very much?" she asked perceptively. She seemed to have some quality about her that tugged insistently for a reply, like little puppy teeth.
"Very much," he found himself answering in a hoarse whisper.
Rin shifted sideways, leaning against his side tentatively. He let her. "Was Inuyasha-sama going to marry Kagome-chan?"
The question should have alarmed him, or made him embarrassed or angry. Somehow, it didn't.
"I dunno… Maybe… I never asked her."
Emboldened perhaps by the fact that he hadn't pushed her away, Rin put her arms around his waist and hugged him. "Inuyasha-sama is lonely," she stated sympathetically. "Inuyasha-sama misses his Kagome-chan."
He was not going to cry in front of a little girl. He'd done enough of that already (not that he'd ever admit to it), high up in Goshinboku where no one could see him.
"Rin misses Sesshoumaru-sama," Rin admitted miserably, still hugging Inuyasha. He could smell the salt from her tears. "What if Sesshoumaru-sama gets lonesome? Sesshoumaru-sama looked so lonely when Rin first found him. And who will make Sesshoumaru-sama talk? Rin didn't used to talk after the bandits killed Rin's family, but Sesshoumaru-sama made Rin remember how to talk and then Rin felt better. And it's Rin's job to make sure Sesshoumaru-sama talks too, so he won't be lonely. What if Rin never sees Sesshoumaru-sama again?"
Rin started crying again, hard. Under any other circumstances, Inuyasha would have felt very uncomfortable. However, given the fact that he felt like doing the same himself, he could hardly fault her. Awkwardly, he put his arm around her shaking shoulders, trying to figure out what he was supposed to say.
And suddenly, he knew. He wasn't sure how he knew. There was no distinctive scent, no hint of youki, no sound or sight to detect, but somehow he could feel the weight of the eyes watching them, and knew who they belonged to.
"You'll see him again," he told Rin. "He'll miss you too much to stay away for long. He'll visit you all the time."
You hear me, you bastard? Don't you dare make a liar of me.
"You think so?" Rin asked tearfully.
"Yeah," Inuyasha answered. You're luckier than I am, kid.
Rin was not crying so hard now, but the tears were still falling, and she was still hugging Inuyasha.
"Rin still misses Sesshoumaru-sama very much," she said, pressing her face against the damp spot on his suikan.
He picked her up and pulled her into his lap. Just one more action he never would have done before, but which somehow seemed automatic right now. It felt strangely natural to hold his half-brother's adopted pup, to give and accept some small measure of comfort. Rin curled up against his chest, and he curled around her, turning them into a little fortress, hidden behind the defensive wall of his hair. For a while, they stayed like that, holding a cruel world at bay.
After a few minutes, though, Inuyasha felt the need to move. They were too vulnerable here, despite the guarding eyes, and Rin was shivering a little. He stood up, carrying her back towards Kaede-babaa's hut. The watching eyes followed them, but he had expected them to.
"Do you want to go back inside?" he asked her, feeling oddly forlorn at the idea.
Rin shook her head against his shoulder, and he nearly smiled. The impulse seemed foreign, after being in pain for so long.
"You need your blankets, then," he told her.
They snuck into the hut, silently whisking away Rin's abandoned bedding. The hut smelled like grief and exhaustion, and no one stirred. Inuyasha wasn't concerned about the others being worried in the morning. Shippou would be able to smell his scent, so between that and the missing blankets, they would probably figure out that Rin was safe. Maybe he'd feel like talking to them tomorrow, when he returned Rin. For now, he was glad that they didn't wake up.
They crept back out of the hut, and Inuyasha set off into the woods. The watching eyes followed them the whole way, and Inuyasha knew that at least for one night, they were safe out here. The owner of that gaze was far too protective to let any enemy near the human pup Inuyasha was carrying in his arms.
"What is it, kid?"
Rin yawned sleepily before answering. "Can Inuyasha-sama and Rin be friends?"
He glanced down at her hopeful face. "Only if you quit calling me 'Inuyasha-sama'," he replied.
Reaching Goshinboku, Inuyasha leapt up onto a sturdy bough, sitting down and getting comfortable. He busied himself with making sure Rin was well tucked into the blankets before he stilled.
It was hardly a minute later that Inuyasha heard a scrabbling noise at the base of the tree, as if something was trying and failing to climb up silently.
"It's alright, Shippou," he said softly. "You can come up."
The noises of little claws on bark stopped for a moment, and then grew louder and ascended more rapidly, until the kitsune's distinctive form appeared where the bough met the trunk. Shippou hesitated a moment, and then launched himself into Inuyasha's lap, wriggling his way into the blankets beside Rin, who made room for him. They were all quiet for a minute.
"I miss her," Shippou admitted in a small voice. He smelled of tears as well.
Inuyasha tightened his arms around them, gazing out into the night, trying to ignore the tightness in his chest and throat.
"Me too," he whispered finally.
It was quiet in the woods tonight. The branches swayed slightly in the breeze, rustling the leaves.
"Goshinboku-sama is rocking us to sleep," Rin whispered, rubbing away a few last tears before pulling her arm back into her cozy blanket nest. The leaves rustled a little more. "Hear him singing?"
She fell quiet, smiling a little despite the traces of moisture on her face. Shippou curled up next to her and closed his wet eyes, sniffling a little before going quiet too.
And if Inuyasha's face was a little damp as well, the two children asleep in his arms weren't about to tell anyone.
Watching eyes. No youkai would dare to come near tonight. They were safe.
Slowly, without realizing it, Inuyasha fell asleep too.
Babaa – rude term for grandmother, old woman
Goshinboku – the God Tree
Kitsune – fox demon
Shikon no Tama – the sacred jewel
Youkai – demon
Miko – Shinto priestess
Youki – demonic aura
Suikan – Inuyasha's jacket
A/N – The final manga chapter certainly left lots of room for fanfiction writers to play. Expect more from me in the near future as I process the information. As for this story, Inuyasha may be a little OOC, but that's intentional. Grief will do that to a person. I wanted to play with the idea that Inuyasha isn't the only one who would be feeling alone after the well closes. The "watching eyes" (and I'm sure my readers are clever enough to figure out who they belong to) weren't even part of the original idea, but they just sort of insisted that I write them in. That goes double for Shippou, who didn't write himself into the story until I thought I had finished. And if anyone tries to see some sort of creepy Inuyasha/Rin thing going on here, don't. She's just a little girl, and sometimes a hug is just a hug.
If you liked this, go read the companion-piece, "Sorrow Shared".