An Author's Note… Hello again! Whilst I HAVE been working on numerous multi-chapter fic ideas lately, I read a rather emotional story a short while ago, and it put me in the mood to write a bit of angst. Angst is NOT by any means my forte, but I dip into it occasionally, and I felt the need to pay homage to the life Inuyasha and Kagome would probably have after the end of the tale we all know and love. Unfortunately, no matter which way you look at it, Kagome is human, and Inuyasha a hanyou, and time is not always a friend. This is just what I felt like writing about. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I will never own Inuyasha. Now let me cry about it. T.T
'Time is the only thief we can't get justice against.' ~Astrid Alauda
And there was a great sensation of shuddering that ran down his spine, setting every nerve on fire and releasing his heart to pound against his ribs. His head swam with a familiar presence, a familiar scent, and he was racing for the equally familiar ancient well as though heaven waited for him there.
No, he would try to be realistic. Heaven was not what he ran towards now.
It was something different, something better and worse.
"Please, please…" he gasped, almost inaudible under his heavy breath, and he broke out and away from the trees, clearing the short distance to the wooden structure that waited, silent under the midday sun. But he knew – he knew she was there, was waiting for him, and he was so overwhelmed by it that he couldn't even feel happy. Or relieved. Or thankful. He just felt… better. Like something had clicked into place that had not done so for the past three years.
He reached down into the darkness of the wide, vertical shaft – and a warm hand wrapped around his, and he hauled her up, and she was smiling.
She always smiled like that.
"Sorry, Inuyasha. Were you waiting for me?"
Happiness - true, unbound, reckless happiness, was not something with which Inuyasha was well acquainted. He'd had tastes of it, of course, but the feeling was always fleeting. It was an emotion that seemed to evade him all too quickly, falling through his fingers like smoke.
But they had been married mere months, and Inuyasha had yet to feel the content, warm smile slip from his face that he had been wearing ever since. He covered it up around the Monk, male ego dictating he keep up his gruff exterior when with another male. He didn't want to appear soft, god forbid. Unfortunately, nothing much got past Sango's keen eyes, and he knew she saw the damned expression cross his face whenever his wife was near.
Kagome saw it all the time.
There were times when he had to stop being happy for a little while, too.
He heard her gasp in shock at being caught, hiding her face and hurriedly rubbing her eyes, trying to hide the truth from him. She needn't have bothered. The scent of salt permeated the air of their small hut – she knew very well he could detect the distress rolling off her in waves.
"Inu-Inuyasha! I didn't hear you come in! You shouldn't scare me like that!" Her nervous rambling confirmed his suspicions, and without word he crossed the small space between them faster than the eye could see, tucking her head under his chin.
She was very still for a moment, tense and unwilling to break down in front of him, but he didn't have to wait long before she succumbed to her own weakness, crying quietly into his scarlet haori.
"I miss th-them, a little bit." She hiccupped against his chest.
It had been a full year now since Kagome had chosen to come back to him, and whilst she was forever vehement that she never regretted her choice, there were still times when he caught her staring off into space, eyes suspiciously wet.
She missed her family a lot.
But the well was closed.
And Inuyasha was powerless to help.
Still, there were always the days that made it worthwhile.
"Uncle Inuyasha! Aunt Kagome! Watch us! Are you looking? Look!"
Sighing in good humour, Inuyasha gave the young twins his full attention; ears flicking towards the sound of their parents' amused laughter.
"You had better pay attention, Inuyasha," Miroku comment wryly through his chuckles. "Or you'll have to answer to those two." His youngest child, and the only boy at that, clapped happily from his father's arms.
"Got to watch, Uncle 'Asaha! Sissy and Sissy are playing!" It had been four years since the boy's birth, and he was certainly not a helpless newborn any more.
"Keh, I'm watchin', I'm watchin'…"
Once the two young girls were sure they had the full attention of the adults standing off to the side, they got into formation. One twin crouched, whilst the other took a running leap up onto her back, clinging on like a horseback rider as her sister carried her around at a swift pace.
"Weeee! Look at me! I'm Aunt Kagome! Die, evil demon!" She made clumsy yet distinguishable actions of releasing an arrow, whilst the sister below made tiny roaring noises.
"I'm Uncle Inuyasha! Get out of my way, evil spirit! Wind Scar! WIND SCAR!"
By this stage the adults were in stitches with laughter, and Inuyasha couldn't help but join them. "I'm pretty sure I don't sound like that."
Kagome giggled, clinging to his arm as she watched the pair, eyes bright. "Miroku and Sango are so lucky, though, aren't they?"
He found himself staring at her again, tracing the upward curve of her lips with sharp eyes. She eventually felt his gaze, and looked up at him only to flush hotly at his intense stare.
No, Kagome, he thought surely to himself.
…I'm the lucky one.
So he didn't notice it at first.
"My watch stopped."
From the warm nest of bedding he lay sprawled over, Inuyasha's ears flickered in his wife's direction, slightly put out. He had been quite enjoying her warmth as she had been curled around him, limbs entangled, but now she had moved to go investigate the wrist-clock device she had had since the day she came back to him. She must have finally noticed the lack of soft ticking it had produced for the last few years.
Inuyasha's sensitive ears had noted the change almost four months ago; but chose not to bring it up. It hadn't seemed important.
"Damn. And it's lasted for so long, too!" As she fiddled about with the small device in vain hopes of fixing it, Inuyasha frowned. How long had Kagome had that watch? 10 years? She said it had been new when she came through the well for the last time. How old did that make Kagome… 28? He hadn't been counting the days or the weeks or the years. He'd just been counting the number of times she smiled each day, the amount of times her laughter tickled his ears.
With a victorious cry, Kagome shoved the thing under his nose, grinning happily. "Look, I got it to work again! I knew it had some life left in it!" Content, she left the watch on their mattress and went to go change cloths.
Inuyasha watched her go, the soft tick, tick, ticking of the watch resounding through his head.
And soon, he began to notice far too much.
"Inuyasha, what's wrong?"
He blinked, mildly startled by her sudden query. He shot her one of his best annoyed glances. "What are you takin' about? I'm fine."
He wasn't, of course, and she knew it.
"You keep staring at me when you think I'm not looking." And then, as an afterthought, "In a different way than usual, I mean." She had the grace to blush lightly. After 15 years of marriage, Kagome still blushed so easily.
It was one of his favourite things about her.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you seem a bit...concerned about something. You can tell me if anything is wrong – you know that." She said quietly, sincerely.
He did know that. If it had been anything else, he would have told her straight away, because even though he was still as gruff and blunt as he had always been, his new, peaceful domestic life with Kagome had a way of making him feel…safer. He was safe with her. He would tell her anything. But as Inuyasha felt her hand slip into his, drier, more calloused than before, he knew he couldn't voice that which plagued his dreams.
He looked into her face – her soft, lovely, smiling face, and tried his hardest to ignore the telling differences the marked her as much older than her previous teenage self. The hint of a crease around her pretty mouth, the somewhat thinner mould of her lips, the softer, more pliable skin around her eyes.
But those eyes… they were just as they had always been. Wide and sparkling and true.
He squeezed her hand in his - an easy smile to reassure her.
"Nothing's wrong, K'gome. Promise."
And like a fool, she believed him.
"Happy birthday, Auntie!"
But it was funny, because he had always known it would happen eventually.
"Thank you, girls!" Kagome laughed as the two identical teenagers bestowed her with an abundance of brightly coloured flowers, petals loosening in the frantic motion and fluttering down around her accepting hands. She exclaimed, "Oh, they're beautiful! Where did you find them?"
"Shippo helped us!" At the sound of his name, the young Kitsune gave a sheepish grin, emerald eyes sparkling from his perch on the transformed Kirara, who lounged sleepily in the grass.
"Aw, it was nothin'. Anything for Kagome!" The woman in question laughed abashedly, holding the vivid blooms close to her chest.
"Well, they're wonderful. I'm so glad you came to visit, Shippo." No one got the chance to see much of the young fox-demon anymore, as he was more often than not away training at the distant Kitsune-school beyond the mountains. Despite more than two decades passing since Naraku's demise, Shippo, like most children of demonic heritage, had barely changed at all. True, he had gained a few inches, and his hard work away from the village had rid him of a great deal of his puppy fat. The kit was starting to look less like the post-toddler he used to be mistaken for and was now shaping up to be a strong young boy.
Shippo snorted. "I've never missed you're birthday, Kagome. I'm not gonna start now!" There was a general uprise of happy chatter as people exchanged pleasant conversation, offering their congratulations to the woman who kneeled in the grass, arms full of small, meaningful gifts. A large piece of parchment was one of the presents – covered in all the children's – and Shippo's – well-wishing messages. In the middle, the characters for the number '40' stood out in gleaming red ink.
And in the high branches of the tree above, Inuyasha couldn't tear his eyes from her face – his Kagome. A peppering of steely grey now christened the roots of her silky black hair, and the morning breeze tussled it about her shoulder's, stark ebony against the white of her Miko garb.
She had never looked so beautiful.
"I do miss her."
And he was growing to hate the sound of ticking.
"Yeah, me too. The old hag."
They stood over Keade-baba's grave – the place she had rested peacefully for many years now. At least, Kagome said it was many years. To him, it felt like a few weeks.
She sighed. "It's good, that we visit her like this. I know she's glad we do."
As usual, Inuyasha was silent.
He didn't like much to talk about the dead.
Kagome's hand was tucked away safely in his – as it always was – and he could feel the cool metal of the wrist-clock device brush the heel of his palm.
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick –
"I…I wonder if Mama's still alive. She was very young when she had me…"
"She definitly is, Kagome. Your mother is a strong lady."
He had always adored Kagome's mother like his own, after all.
He felt Kagome's smile rather than saw it, and she quickly placed a soft kiss on his cheek. He willed himself to turn to her and reciprocate, but his eyes were pinned to the silent gravestone that lay before him, mocking with hushed words only he could hear.
"Do you miss her, too?" She said it not bitterly or with spite – just simple curiosity and sympathy.
Of course, he knew whom she meant. The ghost of a woman he had never been able to quite forget.
He answered truthfully.
And then, "There's a lot of people I miss."
And a lot I'm going to, he added silently.
He knew that she could never understand.
Inuyasha held his breath as he stood under the stars. He rested his back against the wooden walls of the hut, palm brushing the frame of the doorway. He listened attentively to the voices of the two humans conversing within.
"Of losing you."
He curled his shaking fingers around the Tetsuaiga. During times when he was unsure, afraid of what was to come next, the sword had always steadied him, rooted him and gave him a sense of reassurance.
He waited for such a feeling.
"Kagome… you have to understand it as Inuyasha sees it. You're…leaving him behind. To him, it probably feels like you were the young teenage girl he always knew one moment, and in the blink of an eye you're… well, it's the same for both of us, isn't it? We wouldn't be much use in a battle now." Sango's voice trembled, old and rougher than before. He could hear the slight jingle of the late Monk's staff. The slayer hadn't put it down for the last year. It would only gain dust in a corner, otherwise.
"I know. I just…wished he understood. All I've wanted is to spend every day of my life with him. And I've had that. He doesn't need to…" at this point, her voice broke a little. "He doesn't need to feel like he's failed me."
There was a pause, and the crackle of a fire filled a little of the silence.
"I don't think that's it. I think…I think his feelings are purely selfish. But I would want the same thing if I was in his shoes."
Kagome whispered, "…The same thing?"
"To spend all of his days with you. For you to be the one who can live for centuries."
And he hated Sango in that moment, because it was the bare, absolute truth.
Inuyasha gnashed his teeth together, lips trembling.
Later that night, when Kagome left Sango's home and entered her own, she found her beloved wristwatch on the floor, smashed and silent.
But sometimes she understood enough, and that was OK.
"Let me teach you how to shoot."
He snorted at the idea, but she shook her head, greying locks fluttering around her cheeks. "Don't laugh – c'mon. You let me have a go with Tetsuaiga once."
"Yeah, and look how well that turned out. You could barely lift the thing off the ground."
She laughed, and he relished in the sound, because it was one of the few things that had never changed.
"Well, you helped me then, and I'll help you now. C'mon - please? For me?"
So with a certain amount of trepidation, for he had never attempted to shoot an arrow before (he was usually the one being shot at), he found himself in possession of Kagome's favoured bow, drawing back the feathered end of the projectile to his jaw and squinting slightly as he tried to line it up to the tree that lay innocently only 20 yards away. Kagome fussed over his hand positioning, his posture, guiding him until she was sure he was ready to shoot. She openly marvelled at the utter ease with which he held the arrow back – any human archer's arm would have grown tired already.
"Ok, and when you're ready…" She stood behind him, hot breath on his ear. It was terribly distracting. "…Release."
With a sharp twang, he let the arrow fly, and was supremely pleased with himself when it actually hit the tree with a satisfactory thud. He had been half expecting it to fly off into the woods beyond. Kagome was even more pleased than he was. "That was great!" She cried happily, sounding much more like her teenage self than she had in a long, long time. "That was really, really good, Inuyasha! How do you feel?"
He turned the large bow over in his hands – a very different weapon to what he was accustomed, but appreciated it more than most would. Not many were shot with one more than once and lived to tell about it, after all.
"Its…" he trailed off, looking at her.
She sighed, taking the bow back. "Sango and Miroku would have loved to see this." A forlorn expression crossed her face, and he could tell she was on the verge…
Don't cry, Kagome.
He had never been able to watch her cry.
"Its funny, isn't it? After all we went through together, after all the sacrifices we made… no one really remembers what they did. Barley anyone beyond this village even knows that they're gone."
He heard her unspoken question. Will they remember us?
"Its not fair." She whispered.
No, Kagome, he thought to himself, watching her withered hands play with the ends of his hair.
Its not fair at all.
Still, there is an end to every story.
"Kagome!" He'd seen her gasp, clutch her chest and sink to her knees, and was in front of her in moments, grasping her shoulders in sheer panic.
"Kagome, what's wrong? Kagome!"
Not now, he begged silently to anyone who would listen. Please not now, I'm not ready and its not her time and this is Kagome for Kami's sake she wouldn't die she wouldn't leave me she promised to stay with me forever she promised she-
"I'm…I'm OK. Just chest pains, I think."
He stared at her, light rain drizzling down around them gently, crating tiny diamond facets in her silver hair. And then a sudden rage overtook him, fierce and tangible, and without thinking he was shaking her violently, baring his teeth, eyes wild.
"You stupid, stupid girl! You think its funny, huh? You think scaring me like that is funny? Do you!"
She tried to prise his hands off her, slightly scared. "Inuyasha-!"
"IDOIT!" He snarled, pushing her away from him in anger. She barely caught herself, half lying on her back as she stared up at him, wide-eyed. He stood, towering above her and utterly fearsome, impossibly long hair plastered to his skull due to the suddenly heavy rain that pelted the ground around them. She could feel the vibrations under her muddy palms.
"You don't even care, do you? You don't even care that you're breaking you're promise! You promised me you'd stay by my side forever! Forever, Kagome! Keep your fucking promise!"
For a few moments, there was only the sound of the rain hammering the ground and the groan of thunder somewhere high in the thick grey clouds. The wind howled and nature battered at them from all angles, but Inuyasha was immobile, fiery eyes fixed on her bewildered face. His ears were set back against his head, sodden wet.
And Kagome did understand then. Despite everything that he had been through in his very long life, Inuyasha...Inuyasha was still just a boy.
His claws dug into his palms as he waited for something, anything-
"I'm dying, Inuyasha. I'm not a stupid girl anymore. I'm an old woman."
He reeled back at her blunt statement, horror freezing his aching heart.
"And you know it." She struggled to her feet, old bones aching in pain from her tumble and the bitter cold and damp. He moved to help her, but she shoved him away, successfully getting to her feet and regarding him with an emotion he could not place. Guilt wracked his bones as he saw the pain clearly etched on her face, knowing he was to blame.
"Kagome, I'm-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you-"
"Stop changing the subject," she spat, lips trembling and hot tears riding down her wrinkled cheeks, indistinguishable from the rainwater on her face. "I always kept my promise, and I always will. I keep promises to people I love. And do you know how long I've loved you?"
She had to near shout over the storm.
"Since I was 15 years old! And even though I hated you sometimes and wanted to leave you, I never did, because I wanted to keep my promise to you. And the day I came back to the Feudal Era, I chose to leave my family and friends behind, for you, knowing that I'd never see them again. And you dare accuse me of not keeping my promise!"
And then she slapped him.
It was a good, hard slap that stung like hell, and he knew that he utterly deserved it. The pain was almost refreshing compared to all the emotional torture he had been putting himself through for years.
Her lips trembled and she suddenly didn't look quite so old.
He stumbled towards her, and then pulled her into the tightest embrace he had ever given another living sole, burying his face into her neck as though to imprint her scent to memory once more. He expected her to struggle and fight him, but she instead melted against him and clung on just as tightly. There was so much he wanted to say to her – how he often missed her family just as much as she did, that he was sorry he hurt her so much, sorry she ever fell in love with him at all. But he also wanted to tell her how much he adored her – for understanding him when even his first love didn't, for giving him friends and the closest thing to a family he had ever known. For being... her.
But, like always, the words got stuck somewhere in his throat and went no further.
"I keep losing people," He whispered to her mournfully. "Everyone I love grows old and dies, and I stay the same."
"Because you have lots more to see and do in your life yet, Inuyasha. You're story has only just started. Promise me you'll find good, loving people along the way, like you found me and Sango and Miroku and Shippo – people who care about you like they did. Like I do."
He didn't say it out loud, because he was listening to the muted ticking in his head that lingered even though he had destroyed that wretched clock-device years ago.
He kissed her wrinkled brow softly.
He planned to keep it.
Inuyasha buried her next to the Bone Eater's Well.
He thought it was only appropriate, since she would no doubt be close to her family this way. He pondered idly how neither of them had ever known – that every time they were in the Well house on Kagome's side, they had in fact been standing on her grave.
He worked quickly, digging out a deep, large space for her to rest – more room than was necessary, really, but some small part of him wanted her to have plenty of room. Once the space was ready, he leapt down, Kagome's cold body in his arms, and he placed her there – on top of a soft blanket. He didn't like the thought of leaving her directly on the soil. He did not so much as glance at her face one last time – instead he hurriedly placed a second blanket on top of her, covering her from head to toe.
He would rather remember her the way she was – warm and smiling and full of life.
The sun was setting by the time he had finished, leaving only a large protrusion of soil in his wake. It was early spring – he knew that grass would soon cover the unearthed soil. Maybe flowers would grow, even. Kagome liked flowers.
He sat there for a long time, alone with the setting sun, thinking about every happy memory, every painful recollection and every time she had made him smile. He thought about Sango and Miroku, too, and every companionable moment they had shared on their journey together.
He also wondered on what Kagome had said to him mere days before she had passed on – if it was true that he would meet people in the future who would be just as kind and brave and good as his friends had been.
He hoped he would live long enough to see Kagome again. She had never mentioned seeing him in her time, however, so he wondered if he ever made it that far.
A quiet, comforting purr brought his attention to the small firecat that rubbed against his thigh, intelligent eyes peering up at him, subdued.
Inuyasha heaved himself to his feet, fiercely rubbing away the wetness on his cheeks, and smiled ruefully at the small creature as she padded ahead – towards places still unknown. She looked back at him as though to say, 'You coming or what?'
Perhaps he wasn't completely alone.
With a strange sense of contentment to go where fate took him, he followed, the reassuring weight of a powerless rosary against his chest.
And somewhere, in the fabric of time, a girl was falling down a well.