Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: SPOILERS for the final manga chapter. Kagome receives solace from an unexpected place after the well closes. A companion-piece to "Grief, Divided", on the other side of the well this time. The two stories can be read in any order. One Shot.
As usual, A/N and translations are at the bottom.
"Joy shared is joy doubled; a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved." – Proverb
Kagome felt like a piece of laundry that had been wrung out and hung up crookedly to dry. She knew her mother was hovering over her with concern as she hobbled past her into the house, but she kept her eyes trained on the floor on the pretence of watching her footing. She didn't want to deal with people right now. She just felt empty.
"Is there anything I can get you?" Mama asked quietly. Her cautious tone made Kagome feel like she was being treated as if she might shatter at any moment.
"No," Kagome replied in a subdued tone, putting away her shoes. "I just want to be alone."
"Alright," Mama said gently, after a brief hesitation. "I'll let you know when supper is ready."
Kagome ignored the feeling of her mother's worried gaze as she made her way awkwardly across the hall and up the stairs. It took some struggling; she wasn't used to using crutches. But finally she reached her bedroom, entered, and shut the door behind her.
Her room looked just as she had left it last time she had been home, which somehow seemed wrong. It seemed as though her surroundings were trying cheerfully to imply that nothing was amiss. But nothing would ever be the same. How could it be?
She leaned her crutches against the desk and sat down on her bed, propping her foot up and studying the new, white cast on her lower left leg. She'd felt it break the fourth time she'd tried to jump through the well this afternoon. It seemed strange that she'd stopped crying at that moment, and hadn't shed a tear since. It was as though the moment her ankle broke, so did something inside her, and she'd felt empty ever since. Instead of crying out against the pain, she'd just quietly let her family pull her out of the well and allowed Mama to drive her to the hospital.
Her ankle was throbbing. The doctor had said that it was a clean break and should heal well, and that Kagome could take regular pain-relievers if it was hurting her. Kagome found that she didn't much care. At least the ache was a distraction from the emptiness she felt inside.
Where was the pain she had felt earlier? Wasn't she supposed to feel sad? Shouldn't she be crying right now?
She looked over at her window, which Inuyasha had used as a door so many times. Never again would he come barging through it. Never again would he practically drag her through the well. Never again would she hear him complain about her heavy bag or her schoolwork, or hear him begging for ramen. She turned this over in her mind, probing her response as one might investigate the sore site of a missing tooth with one's tongue. Nothing. Just emptiness.
Maybe there was something wrong with her.
After about half an hour, feeling very lost, Kagome changed into her pajamas, even though it was still light out. She laid down on her bed facing the window and tried not to think.
Presently, she could hear her mother's footsteps on the stairs. She rolled over, facing the wall, and listened to her mother's quiet knock on her door. She didn't answer. After a moment, she heard the door open.
"Kagome?" her mother called. "Supper's ready."
Kagome pretended to be asleep.
After a moment, Mama let out a sad sigh and left, closing the door behind her. When her footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs, Kagome rolled over again and resumed looking at the window. She listened to the supper noises downstairs as she watched the sky start to darken. The meal sounded so quiet. There was no laughter, and hardly any talking. If she'd had any appetite, she'd have lost it again at the thought of facing that silence.
What was she supposed to do now? How could she function without Inuyasha by her side? She'd only known him a year, but it felt like a lifetime. She wasn't sure if she could even remember what it was like to not have him to rely on. How was she supposed to live without the knowledge that any time she turned around, she could see his face? How could she ever feel safe again without his constant gaze guarding her?
All the never-dids and could-have-beens swirled inside her head as dusk fell outside. She'd never told him how much she loved him. She'd never gotten the chance to find out if he really felt the same way. And she'd never see her friends again, either. Was everyone all right? Would Sango and Miroku get married? Would Sango and Kohaku finally be happy? Would Shippou be okay without her? Were they hurting without her?
Was Inuyasha hurting? He'd had people ripped from him so often in life that it was unbearable to think of it.
Kagome watched the darkness deepen, not bothering to turn on a light. At some point she crawled under the covers, but she knew she'd never be able to sleep. She listened to the clatter of dishes in the kitchen sink and the sound of the television. Neither noise lasted very long before they stopped. Then there was quiet for a while, followed by footsteps.
Jii-chan's footsteps, slow and shuffling, made their way down the hall on the ground floor from the living room to his bedroom. A door closed. Now Souta's steps, light but less energetic than usual, climbed the stairs and went into his room. The door closed and Souta rustled around restlessly for a while, before his room fell silent too. Shortly after, Mama's familiar tread ascended the stairs, quiet and weary. Instead of continuing down the hall, Mama stopped outside Kagome's room again.
Mama knocked softly, and then let herself in when she received no answer. Kagome closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep again as the shaft of light from the hall fell on her. She heard Mama cross the floor, and then felt the side of the bed dip as Mama sat on the edge. Mama sighed as her fingers trailed over Kagome's forehead, brushing her bangs away from her face. Kagome resisted the urge to open her eyes.
"He'd hate to think that you were unhappy," Mama said softly. Her voice sounded sad.
Kagome wanted to say something. She wanted to open her eyes and talk or cry or just hug Mama. But for some reason, she stayed perfectly still, continuing her charade, even though she knew Mama didn't believe it for a second. Mama sighed again and kissed Kagome's forehead, and just for a moment, Kagome thought she could almost cry again, but the feeling faded away into the emptiness of before.
"There's some food in the fridge if you get hungry," Mama said as she got up. "And you can wake me up if you want to talk." Her footsteps retreated towards the door. "Goodnight, Kagome. I love you."
Kagome struggled with herself for a long moment, listening to the whisper of the hinges as Mama started to close the door. But she couldn't not reply to that.
"I love you too, Mama."
The door paused, and then Mama said again, "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Kagome whispered back.
The door clicked shut, and Mama's footsteps went down the hall to her bedroom. The house was soon silent again.
Suddenly, Kagome didn't want her mother to leave. Come back, she wanted to call. Don't leave me alone. But Kagome couldn't seem to summon her voice, or make herself rise from the bed to go to her mother, and while Mama was uncanny in her ability to anticipate her children, she wasn't psychic.
Kagome just laid still on her bed, and resumed watching the window, trying not to feel the maddening ache in her ankle.
She didn't even like herself right now. What was wrong with her? This wasn't how she normally acted, so sullen and helpless. If she had the energy, she'd probably find herself quite annoying at the moment. She'd always hated stories and movies where the heroines acted like powerless and angst-filled victims of whatever fate threw their way. She spent a while trying to summon up the willpower to behave differently, but it didn't seem to be working, and she eventually gave up.
She didn't know what time it was, but it felt like she had laid there for a very long time before a quiet noise in the hall drew her notice. After a moment, the door latch made a soft snick. Her eyes flickered towards the door, and she watched passively as it slowly opened. No light shone through from the hall this time; the house was in darkness. She watched as the shadowy figure tiptoed across the room.
"Nee-chan?" hissed Souta. "Are you awake?"
Kagome stayed quiet, watching him. She suspected that he couldn't see whether her eyes were open or not.
"Kagome?" he whispered, shuffling closer, groping blindly for the edge of the bed in the dark.
"Go away," she said suddenly, and watched him jump slightly.
Instead of obeying, he came a little closer and crouched down near the head of her bed. "Are you okay, Nee-chan?"
Kagome rolled over and ignored him.
She could almost hear his uncertainty as he hesitated. Then, apparently gathering his courage, he climbed right into her bed behind her and hugged her around the waist.
Kagome froze. Suddenly, she felt like a child again. She remembered how it used to be when she was little, before they'd both started to consider themselves too old to cuddle. She was especially reminded of when their father had died, and they had shared the same room for weeks, seeking solace. Why had they ever grown out of that? Why had she stopped snuggling with her little brother? At nine years old, he still felt so much smaller than her, all cuddled up against her back, and she felt a sudden wave of protectiveness.
"Do you think we'll ever see Inuyasha again?" Souta asked, his voice muffled against the blankets and her back.
Kagome couldn't seem to answer, because she couldn't believe yes, and she couldn't bear to think no.
"He was so cool," Souta said. "It was just like I had a big brother, you know? He was always doing such cool stuff, and sometimes he'd tell me about battles, and youkai, and people in his era, and things he saw. And he listened to me when I talked, even if he didn't really understand or thought I was being stupid, he still listened. He never even told me not to call him Inu-no-nii-chan. You're pretty cool, as far as big sisters go, especially with all the youkai-fighting and stuff, but it was nice to have a big brother too."
Kagome, listening to Souta talk, finally rolled over again and faced him. She couldn't see much of his face in the dark, but she could hear the strain in his voice, the unspoken whimper. The pressure in her chest and the tightness in her throat was returning. She felt as though something that had been shut up inside her was pushing outwards, cracking through the walls.
"He taught me stuff, too," Souta continued, and she could hear that he was crying a little now. "He wasn't very patient or anything, but he taught me about being brave, and not to listen to cruel people, and about how important honour is. No one really seems to care much about honour anymore, but he did. He said that honour's the only thing you have left when everything else is taken from you."
Kagome's eyes were wet now. She felt a tear leave her eye, tickling her skin as it rolled across the bridge of her nose and fell off. She could even hear the sound it made when it struck the pillow.
"I miss him," Souta admitted. "But then I feel like I don't have the right to miss him, when you must miss him so much more. 'Cuz you loved him, didn't you Nee-chan? And he loved you too, right?"
Something inside her broke, like a dam bursting under the strain.
"Nee-chan? Don't cry, Nee-chan!"
Souta, telling her to stop crying, sounded so much like Inuyasha right then — panicked and worried and slightly horrified by her tears — that Kagome surprised herself by laughing in the midst of her sobs. She'd thought that she couldn't cry anymore, but apparently she'd been wrong. The fact that she could still laugh as well was nothing short of astounding.
Kagome reached out her hand and found Souta's shoulder. She fumbled her way along his arm until she located his hand. He returned her grip, holding on tight. This was no time to be gentle.
"I miss him so much," Kagome choked out in a whisper. She was crying so hard she felt like she might throw up.
"Me too," Souta answered.
They cried for a while, commiserating, trying to make sense of the grief. But crying was exhausting, and eventually the sobbing slowed to a halt. The room was quiet again. Kagome squeezed Souta's hand a little tighter, to reassure herself that he was still there. She didn't want to be alone. The silence unsettled her.
"Remember when…" Souta suddenly broke the stillness. "Remember when Inuyasha fell asleep at the table waiting for supper? And no one bothered to wake him up? And then…" Souta's voice, still raspy from crying, took on a mirthful tone, "…when we were having supper, he finally woke up, and the first thing he saw was that big fish's head on a plate about two inches from his face? And he jumped out of his chair and landed in the dish drainer!"
Souta laughed under his breath, and Kagome felt a smile tug at her lips. The look on Inuyasha's face had been priceless. He hadn't stopped blushing for nearly half an hour.
"And remember how weird he thought some of the stuff on TV was?" Souta continued. "Remember that time they were showing musicals, and he saw "Cats"? I think he thought humans are total nutbars!"
Kagome laughed too this time, and somehow, it eased the ache.
"I remember the time when Mama and Jii-chan were out, and I came home from the mall and found you and him trying to sumo wrestle in the living room," Kagome joined in, giggling. "I've never seen two people turn that shade of red before. I didn't even know you had a fundoshi."
"I didn't," Souta choked out. He sounded like he was crying again, but this time from laughing so hard. "I got him to cut up a bed sheet for me so we could match."
They were both laughing and crying at the same time now, the strange mixture of humour and sorrow filling up the small room as they clung together, clutching each other's hands. Slowly, they fell quiet again, but the silence was not so lonely this time as before. It was a comfortable, tired kind of silence, still sad but not depressing.
"Nee-chan?" Souta asked. "Can I stay in here tonight?"
"Yeah," she replied. She felt tired. It had been such a long day.
So they slowly drifted off to sleep, curled up together and holding hands as they hadn't done since they were very small.
That's how Mama would find them in the morning when she would come in to offer Kagome some breakfast. Instead of waking them, Mama would smile sadly, and close the door again, and take a moment to wipe away a few tears before regaining her composure by sheer force of will and returning downstairs to face the day. Her children were not the only ones who would miss the hanyou boy, but they would need her to be strong.
Fifteen minutes later, Jii-chan would do almost the exact same thing. He loved his grandchildren, and it pained him to see them hurting. And he might just miss Inuyasha a little as well. He might never have quite seen eye-to-eye with the boy, but there had been an amicable truce between them. He'd rather expected the hanyou to be his grandson-in-law someday.
Souta would open his eyes then, as soon as the door was closed, and study his sister's exhausted, still-sleeping face. Then, ignoring his growling stomach, he would stay right where he was and feign sleep for a while longer, because Kagome would need him now more than ever.
Breakfast could wait.
Jii-chan – Grandfather (affectionate)
Nee-chan – sister (affectionate)
Youkai – demon
Inu-no-nii-chan – Older dog brother
Fundoshi – traditional Japanese loincloth
Hanyou – half demon
A/N: This piece was written to take a look at the aftermath of the well's closing on Kagome's side of the well, and it is a companion piece to "Grief, Divided". If you haven't read that one yet, you ought to. Oh, and I don't own the musical "Cats" (please don't sue), but I think Inuyasha would find it terribly bizarre. And please, if you're going to try to read any weird incest stuff into this, don't.