Chapter 36: To Get Back What My Heart Lacks
If I could show you the way that it really feels
To let go of everything that you've ever known
If I could touch you the way that I wanted to
Stars would fall in line, I would make you mine
Struggle + Sleep by Life On Repeat
The sun was an intrusive interloper in Kagome's childhood bedroom. The bright, burning light was the first thing to register in his mind, to rouse him from his uncharacteristically deep slumber. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept so long or so well, and he was annoyed to find himself awake. Inuyasha groaned softly as he rolled to one side, ears flattening to express his irritation. He had every intention of pulling his girl tight and going back to sleep, but his outstretched hands reached nothing but cold sheets.
A fluttering half-memory surfaced to his mind, a quick flash of déjà vu: the bright sun, his fingertips touching empty sheets, nothing but a crease on the pillowcase to prove anyone had warmed his bedside. Their mingled scents still surrounded him, but Kagome's scent was faint, suggesting she had been gone for some time.
When all the events that had transpired yesterday fully returned to him, he sat bolt right up, inadvertently throwing the Higurashi's house cat half-way across the room. He barely registered the cat's angry meow of protest, his heart hammering painfully in his chest. Something akin to fear gripped him, chilling his skin. He remembered why he had rushed to Kagome in the first place – to reach her before she went abroad; to explain everything to her. To find a way to make her stay – or find a way to follow her.
It occurred to him now, as his eyes desperately searched her bedroom that Kagome had never once brought up her trip to America. In fact, she had seemed determined not to talk about it. His mind had been too preoccupied with other things to realize she was avoiding hot topics. 'Right, I was too busy trying to get into her panties to talk about any of the real shit we needed to discuss.'
"No," he whispered out loud. She couldn't be gone. She wouldn't. Not without telling him goodbye, at least. He leapt out of bed, tearing the sheets back. He scrambled, looking for his clothes. 'No, no, please, no…'his mind repeated like a mantra. Not like this. Not after last night. It felt like they had made so much progress. He'd told her he loved her! 'This isn't happening,' he tried to convince himself. He would go downstairs and surely find her eating breakfast with her family.
'Damn it, Kagome…'
He paused as he slid his dress slacks up over his hips. Buyo was waiting by the door, glaring at him. Inuyasha frowned at the jaded feline. He knew that the cat hadn't been in Kagome's room last night. Had Kagome allowed him in as she left? Had she thrown one last glance over her shoulder before making the decision to leave him in the lurch? Buyo meowed morosely, pawing at the closed door.
"C'mon, let's go find her." Inuyasha unlatched the door, allowing Buyo to dart out the door. Inuyasha followed, taking the steps two at a time. His mind was so scattered, he nearly slammed into Kagome's kid brother.
"Whoa! Where's the fire?" Souta exclaimed, the piece of toast hanging out his mouth slipped and hit the floor. Buyo made a mad grab for the prize and promptly ran off with it. Souta spared a glance at his cat, resignedly watching it steal his breakfast, before taking in the half-dressed man standing in front of him.
Inuyasha ignored the absurdness of the situation, grabbing Souta by his shoulders. "Is Kagome still here?"
Souta took in the wild, golden eyes, the painfully hopeful expression, and groaned inwardly. "Kagome so owes me for this," he muttered sotto voce before pushing the desperate hanyou back up the stairs. In a firmer voice he said, "Get back up there before you give my grandfather an aneurysm. If he sees a half-naked man coming out of my sister's room we'll have to call an ambulance."
Inuyasha allowed the boy to lead him back into Kagome's room where he quickly shut the door. "Is she here?"
Souta sighed and lowered his head, unable to meet the taller man's intense gaze straight on. "No," Souta broke it gently. He had to catch Inuyasha around his middle to keep him from tearing the door off its hinges in his haste.
"Hold on there, Romeo." Souta bodily blocked the door, knowing it was only his status as Kagome's beloved little brother that protected him.
"Get dressed, for Pete's sake. Then we'll talk. I can't have a serious discussion with a dude when I can see his abs."
Inuyasha growled, fighting off a wave of panic, and angrily clad yesterday's somewhat rumpled outfit. "Fine. Better, now?"
"Much." The teen rolled his eyes.
"Good. Now get out of my way." He gave Souta a pointed look. Raising his hands in the universal gesture for peace, Souta slowly shook his head. "It won't do you any good. Kagome's already on a plane. She left at the crack of dawn."
Inuyasha grit his teeth, biting back a sound of disbelief and despair. He briefly closed his eyes as somewhere deep within him, something howled.
"Damn it," he choked out. Tousled silver bangs hid his eyes, but his voice was raw with emotion. "How could she…just leave like that?"
Souta tucked his hands deep into his hoodie pocket and raised an eyebrow. "You mean, kind of like you did? You can't blame sis for that. At least she left you a letter."
It took Inuyasha's frazzled mind a second to grasp the boy's words. He jerked his head up, taking a step towards the teenager. "A letter?" he echoed.
Wordlessly, Souta pulled a tightly folded letter from his pocket and deposited it into Inuyasha's upturned hand. Inuyasha only paused for an instant, knowing his fate was sealed, pressed into neat squares decorated with Kagome's familiar writing. Souta watched emotions chase themselves across Inuyasha's face as he read the note. Warmth, hope, tenderness; then anger, hurt, and bleak anguish. Finally, perhaps most worrisome of all: acceptance.
All the fight went out of Inuyasha at once. He stumbled a few steps backward, managing to land on the edge of Kagome's mattress. He read the letter again and then looked up at Souta, his gaze questioning and holding the last of his fragile, threadbare hope. There was so much misery in those amber depths, Souta couldn't even find it in himself to be angry with the man who had broken his sister's heart.
She'd clearly returned the favor.
"Look. I didn't read that letter, but Kagome pretty much told me the gist. All I'll say is this: when you left you took a piece of my sister with you."
Inuyasha blinked at the messy-haired teenager who met his gaze unerringly. "I think it's pretty clear that you two idiots love each other and you let a lot of crap get in the way of that. You both ran. And while that's a pretty normal thing to do, it's still the coward's way out. I think there's only one thing that's going to fix this mess."
Swallowing hard, Inuyasha asked, "What's that?"
Souta shrugged offhandedly. "Time."
Inuyasha glanced down at the letter still open in his lap. "But how much?"
"As much as she needs." Souta plopped onto the bed next to the shell-shocked hanyou and awkwardly patted his shoulder the way boys sometimes try to offer each other comfort.
Inuyasha took a deep breath. "Do you think I'll ever earn her trust back?"
"Guess that depends on you. I know my sister pretty well. She doesn't tend to hold grudges. And to be honest, living with her these last few months…it was like living with a ghost. A shell of Kagome. This morning, when she gave me this note to give to you..."
Souta trailed off, trying to find the right words. "I dunno'…she just looked alive, I guess, like really awake. For the first time in months, she looked like the real Kagome again."
Inuyasha glanced at Souta out of the corner of one eye. "Do you think that had anything to do with seeing me…or the fact that she was about to fly seven thousand miles away from me?"
Souta chuckled wryly, shooting Inuyasha a pitying glance. "I'm not sure. Maybe a little of both? Hopefully, for your sake, more of the former and less of the latter."
Inuyasha glanced at the letter again, as If by reading it once more he would discover some secret message between the lines. "Has anyone told you you're a pretty smart kid?"
Souta smiled. Inuyasha had one thing going for him: it was hard to stay mad at him. A week ago, he would've kicked the guy in the balls and run away laughing, yet here he was feeling sorry for the guy and wanting to help him. "Yeah, I clearly got all the brains in the family."
Inuyasha snorted, not looking up from Kagome's note. "So…" Souta asked, wondering how the story was going to play out. "What are you going to do? Are you going to talk to her?"
Inuyasha folded the note back into a small square and stuffed it into his jacket's inner pocket, close to his heart. He was quiet for a long time; long enough to prompt Souta to repeat his question.
"No," He finally answered. "I'm going to honor her request. I owe her that, at least."
Souta was surprised by the little stab of disappointment he felt. Maybe he'd been looking forward to a cool half-youkai brother in law one day. Maybe he was let down because he truly thought Inuyasha wouldn't really let anything keep him from Kagome, let alone a mere letter.
"Really?" Souta asked, perplexed. "You're not going after her? You're gonna' stay here in Japan?" There was a note of disbelief in his tone.
Inuyasha smirked at the wide-eyed teenager. "I never said that."
'Three weeks…' Kagome mused to herself.
She had been in New York City for three whole weeks and she still couldn't find her way around to save her life. She'd just left her tiny loft apartment, graciously provided by the art program, to find a good cup of coffee. Luckily, she'd found a great little café where she could comfortably people watch and sip coffee; unluckily, she'd been trying to find her way back to her apartment for the better half of an hour.
She knew she could call the student-adviser that had been assigned to her: a nice boy named Hojo who was overly helpful. Kagome suspected his eagerness was due to a small crush, so she was hesitant to call him unless there was an actual emergency, lest she get his hopes up. Kagome had tried to explain to Sango on the phone earlier.
"It's not that Hojo isn't a nice guy and all…" He was extremely smart and studious, unfailingly polite, and unceasingly kind. He was also very handsome. He was half Japanese and half English and his looks reflected the best of both worlds. He was the only person Kagome met so far that knew fluent Japanese. Her English wasn't half bad, but still, she missed talking in her native tongue. "There's just nothing about him that sparks my interest."
"Too dull after the whirlwind experience that was Inuyasha?" Sango joked.
"I'm trying not to compare any guys I meet to Inuyasha. I'm at least trying to keep my mind a little bit open. Besides, I don't even have the slightest urge to take a photo of Hojo."
"Seriously? That's a deciding factor?"
"Yes! If I'm not intrigued enough to snap a photo, there's no way I'm intrigued enough to let someone take me on a date."
"Kagome, you're an odd girl, but I love you for it."
Kagome found that she actually didn't mind being lost. You could lose yourself in a crowd in New York the same way you could fade away in Tokyo. There was something electric about New York; there was a vitality here and a vast diversity she was unaccustomed to, but enjoyed immensely. Kagome's camera had barely left her hands since her arrival.
She finally felt like herself again. Kagome meandered around the city, taking in everything with wide eyes, her mind soaking in all the sights and sounds like a sponge. She wandered in and out of shops at her leisure, taking note of a book store that looked promising and a little corner store that sold Japanese goods.
It was starting to grow darker and the city was starting to wake up. Kagome wasn't sure if she was heading in the right direction or not, though she was pretty sure she had passed that hot dog stand before, but she wasn't in any particular hurry. Somehow, she wasn't worried about the oncoming darkness. Even though she didn't have a single friend in America and she was only one young woman in a city of millions; Kagome had the curious sensation of not being alone.
"What's she doing now?" Miroku asked.
"She's just wandering around. It's getting dark and she's totally lost in her own little world. I think she's lost."
"Well, good thing she's got the friendly neighborhood stalker on her side."
Inuyasha groaned. "That's not funny. I really do feel like a stalker, but damn, the girl is a magnet for trouble."
"This is true," Miroku agreed cheerfully. "So, when are you going to let her know you're there?"
Inuyasha could hear Sango in the background, meaning he was on speaker phone. "What, he's just going to stalk Kagome like a gazelle for an entire year?"
"Oh, hey Sango. Dropped the kid yet?"
Sango moaned in answer. "No, apparently I have the gestation period of an elephant."
Inuyasha chuckled, pretending to look interested in a magazine stand so Kagome could get a little farther ahead of him. "I'm due literally any second. But, hey! Don't change the subject. When are you going to grow a pair and tell Kagome you followed her like a lovesick puppy?"
"Somehow I don't think she'll take it well. She needs more time to herself. Right now I'm content just being near her. At least I'm close by if she needs me."
"Just wait until she finds out that you took an apartment at the building across from her," Miroku said gleefully. "Your inner-stalker knows no bounds."
Inuyasha sighed. "Right. I'll just be going now. Call me if Sango pops the pup out."
It was nearly full dark now and Inuyasha dared to get closer to Kagome. He didn't dare get too close; as worryingly unobservant as Kagome was, she was bound to notice him eventually. He stuck relatively close until she eventually made her way back to her apartment. Inuyasha watched her until she was safely ensconced in her building.
He crossed the street to the parallel apartment building and went upstairs. Inuyasha wasn't used to having money, but he was starting to realize that when you had enough of it, you could do pretty much whatever you damn well pleased.
He'd managed to procure an exterior apartment in view of Kagome's tiny balcony. When he sat on his couch, her apartment was in his natural line of sight. Miroku was right about one thing: his inner-stalker truly had no boundaries.
Inuyasha tossed his shirt in the laundry basket, changed into sweatpants, and made himself a bowl of Ramen. As the noodles cooked, he glanced out his window to see that Kagome was on her balcony with her camera. His lips twitched into a fond smile. He wondered what had caught her interest. He had to admit, there was a certain lightness to Kagome's step that hadn't been there in a while. It was part of the reason why he had managed not to go to her. She seemed happy.
Inuyasha turned off the oven and sat down on his couch. He turned the TV on to cover the silence and watched Kagome until she went back inside. He ate his dinner quickly and then made himself comfortable on the couch, still in view of Kagome's balcony. He sighed. So close, yet so far.
Feeling restless he reached for Kagome's note. He must have read it a thousand times. Hell, he practically had the damn thing memorized, but it was like a nightly ritual. It was something tangible he could hold onto. He unfolded the well-worn letter and Kagome's hand-writing greeted him.
I'm sorry to leave you like this. I think it was the only way I could go. If I'm totally honest, there is also a small piece of me that wants you to know what it's like to be the one left behind. Maybe that's petty and immature, but there it is.
If I had the power to traverse time, I would be sorely tempted to go back and change so much. I don't know if there is anything I could have done or said to change things... It would be so tempting, but to be completely honest, even if I had a magic wish, I don't know if I would change a single thing. There is still this naive, hopeful part of me that believes everything happens for a reason, and that going through this will mean something one day. Wishes are too easy; I don't trust them. In any case, we've both made our choices. Some bad and some good, but we only have ourselves to blame.
Regardless, I wouldn't change last night. Well, maybe I wouldn't have smacked you. Actually, never mind, you did deserve that. It is part of our dynamic: I never know if I want to hit you or kiss you. I just wanted you to know that last night is a memory I will cherish forever. The way you looked at me…it almost made me stay. I wanted so badly to wake you up this morning and let you convince me to stay. I truly think if you had looked me in the eye and asked me to, I would have been unable to say no.
But that's exactly why I had to go. When you left me, I was devastated. You took an integral part of myself with you and I'm only just now getting it back. I can't be that girl who falls apart when the boy leaves her. I was stuck in perpetual winter. Pining. Miserable. I couldn't even find joy behind my camera. I know now that it was partly my fault, too. But I never want to be in that place again. I need to do this; I need to prove to myself that I am strong without you. If I know you like I think I do, you're probably trying to find a way to contact me right now. I'm asking you not to.
Please don't take this the wrong way. But if or when we meet again, I want to be a fully realized version of myself. If you come back into my life, and I realize there's a chance you may not, I want it to be because I want you. Not because I need you. I don't like being needy. It's very exhausting and not very healthy.
You are my first love. My first everything. Who knows, maybe you'll be my only love. But I'm still young and learning and searching. I'm going to leave my future open. And if we do come back together I know it will be for the right reasons. If there is anything you take away from this, please know that I'm not angry anymore. I think I understand you better now. And please know that you are the most amazing man I have ever met, even though you will probably disagree with me. You were always worthy. I hope one day you realize that. Inuyasha...you're my best friend, and I will always care about you. I hope you take care of yourself.
Ah, it's good to be back. Honestly, you guys are just the best. I really do appreciate the welcome back. I do read each review (every time my inbox dings, it is a bright spot in my day) and every single one nudges me forward. I apologize for the short chapter, but the next will be much longer and more action packed. I really needed to set the scene and I wanted to keep to the promised Sunday updates.