This story takes place just before the final chapter of the manga. Kudos to Rumiko Takahashi and all her crew for giving us this fine story.
It was after the choir trip. The bus had broken down and they'd all been stuck there until four in the morning. Most of the others had snuck off to some mischief after the chaperones had started to snore, but Kagome, Yuka and Hojo had all stayed on the bus, keeping each other awake by telling jokes and texting Eri and Ayumi about the sound the crickets made beside the road.
Time had passed and the stories had slowed. Ayumi was called away. Eri's answers had grown shorter and stopped. Yuka had closed her eyes for "just a minute." Kagome had yawned wide as a goose's egg, stretching both fists out to the misted windows.
Hojo had fallen asleep with his head on her shoulder.
It wasn't at all like the time Inuyasha had rested with his head in her lap, young Shippo, still a stranger at her shoulder, moving nervously at the sound of the spiderheads outside. For all that she could still touch the resting head with affection, it wasn't at all the same.
It was more like when she, Kaede and Sango would share the miko's small bed in the village in winter. Or like feeling Shippo circle down at the foot of her sleeping bag while Inuyasha pretended he wasn't watching over them from a nearby branch. Or Miroku, especially Miroku, on those nights he was too tired to grope or even joke with Sango before leaning his head back against Kirara and closing his eyes.
Miroku whom she loved but didn't love, couldn't trust but could.
She couldn't see Hojo's face in the shadows, but she could hear him breathing like a child. Now that all the sillier parts of herself had gone to sleep, now, she could just love him. Hojo, Yuka, Eri, Ayumi and the life they all had in this age. They weren't saving the world, but a person could just live in it and give each day some quiet meaning. They took their ordinary lives seriously, allowing Kagome to take hers seriously. They'd thought she was theirs, but it was only half true. They'd welcomed her into their tiny tribe without ever knowing that she walked with foreign secrets and she could admit, awake in the dark, that she loved them for it.
Even if saying it out loud would never do. Especially with Hojo. A boy like that, who'd adored her once. Over the years since the well had closed, his gifts and invitations had fallen off, but he'd always had a smile for her. Telling him that she loved him would be cruel.
Yuka slept with her throat open, neck bared to anyone who might swing open the door and step inside. She slept as if any danger in the world was far away and not looking for her. She slept like a girl without enemies. And Kagome remembered. She remembered that she, too, had no enemies here. In all the yawing emptiness of the road, the lights and the sounds of Japan at night.
There had never been a peace like this in the other world. There had been sweet mornings and moments of calm, but permeating all the blazing daylight, there was the knowledge that any of creature could attack at any time, tricked, corrupted, or made whole from his own body.
Kagome had never rested with a set of strange fingers brushing against the skin of her hip, never lain down with his arms around her waist or his kiss on her lips. Never had more than the scent of him or the thought of him pressed against her mind as the world slipped away.
But Naraku hadn't been dead then.
She'd sent him back to a world she hadn't known. More than anything, that was what kept her up at night. The sengoku jidai without a jewel, without Naraku, without a mission. She'd drawn friends around herself, around the both of them, but he was more than strong enough to push them back. In his pride or in his anger, he could push them back.
She trusted Miroku like she trusted the boy resting gently against her shoulder. Trusted Sango, sure as Yuka was stretched out on the seat across the aisle. Trusted Kaede like Eri's steady voice on the line. They wouldn't let Inuyasha throw himself away, not any more than the five of them would let Ayumi give up on journalism school, Hojo trip over his own naïveté, or Kagome give in to the restlessness of a woman half-lost.
She trusted them to try, even if success could not be certain.
Kagome touched Hojo's head, lightly, and listened to Yuka breathe as the night sky tightened around the windows.
It would have to do.
This is a response to Patchcat's iy_blind community challenge for September 2008, "half-truth."
drf24 (at) columbia . edu