"If here are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
The Good Dog
The first thing she noticed was the smell.
The air was too sterile, too full of chemicals and deficient in anything natural. It was synthetic, it didn't smell or taste real. The second thing she noticed were the sounds - the steady, rhythmic beeping of monitors, the sound of rubber shoes squeaking on bleach soaked linoleum tiles. A part of her, that small part that was somehow managing to function without the rest of her, knew where she was before she even had the chance to summon up the willpower to open her eyes.
When she managed to summon the willpower to crack her eyes open, wincing at the light, she wasn't surprised to find herself staring up at white walls and white ceilings. Her fingers twitched and she felt thin cotton catch on her calloused palms. She rolled her head to the side. She was propped up on a stiff mattress. There was an IV in her arm and some of the beeping she heard was coming from an intimidating machine to her right.
She was in a hospital.
Why was she in a hospital?
She groaned, something was on the edge of her mind. A full, coherent, thought was trying to push it's way through but her head felt muddled and dazed. Drugged? Her eyes lazily traced the IV line. Yeah, drugged. That would make sense.
She recognized that voice - she had her name spring from those lips an infinate number of times since she was born. "Mom?" she mumbled. Her voice sounded hoarse, and moving her lips around the single word reminded her of how dry her mouth was. Like she had been sucking on cotton and the little white fibers still lined her mouth. Also, why did her throat hurt so bad? "What -?" she couldn't even finish her question. She was so, so tired and words weren't forming like she wanted them to.
Mama's hand brushed her bangs from her forehead and Kagome thought she felt something wet touch her hand but she wasn't sure. She tried to focus on her mother's face. Oh, she was crying. "Kagome, sweetie. How are you feeling? Are you in pain?"
Pain? No, she didn't feel pain - just a stiffness, a heaviness. "No," she rasped.
"Good," the older woman murmered, fingers tracing over her daughter's cheek. "Good."
They sat for a few moments, mere seconds according to Kagome's drug infused haze, her mother alternating between stroking her hair and letting her hands linger on her face. It was comforting, and Kagome's eyes soon shut and she let herself sink back into the peaceful darkness that she had emerged from only moments before.
The second time she woke up she felt both better and worse. The stiffness she had vaguely noticed before was making much more of an impact, but her head felt clear. Still drowsy, but it felt more like swimming in the ocean as opposed to swimming in Souta's favorite vanilla pudding. Mama was still there, asleep in one of the plastic hospital chairs that was set aside in the corner.
So were her memories.
She lifted the hospital sheet timidly, almost afraid to see the damage. It was almost a relief to see nothing but crisp white bandages. Maybe she could pretend the skin was completely unmarred underneath. Except, she knew it wasn't, and that almost made the fact that it was so heavily wrapped even more worrisome. How bad was it?
She was almost tempted to undo the bindings herself but she withheld the urge. She knew better - how many times had she chastised Inuyasha for messing with his dressings? Still, not being able to see the damage was a bit scary.
How close to death had she really been?
She remembered being terrified, blood soaking her hands and making the climb up the well ladder slippery. There was pain too, she knew, because her body hadn't moved the way she wanted it to. She knew, but it wasn't the pain she remembered the most. It was the fear she felt when she couldn't even reach the well house door, the horrified thought that she might die in there and no one would know until one of her family members opened it up to find a corpse - the guilt she felt when she heard her mother screaming her name.
There had been something else too though, another emotion that hadn't been so dark, so desperate.
The moment that door opened and she saw Dog standing over her ... she didn't think she had ever felt more relieved in her life. He had brought that small amount of hope that maybe, just maybe, he could save her.
And, even if he didn't, at least she wouldn't die alone.
Tears built up in the corner of her eyes and she brought the hand that wasn't tied down by IV lines up to wipe them away before they spilled down her face. She had been so close to giving up. If she hadn't had Dog ... if he hadn't dragged her out of the well house and into the snow and filled her heart with that little light of hope in her darkening vision - if she hadn't heard her family crying for her ... she wasn't sure she would have been able to hold on.
How weak of a person did that make her? She had already accepted that she would never be able to match her friend's skill in battle, but she had always thought that she at least made some of it up in spirit. But now ... now she wasn't sure she could even claim that.
She jumped in her skin when she felt warmth cover her cold hand gripping the scratchy hospital sheets, only to relax moments later when she saw her mother's face next to her bedside. Her hands were wrapped gently around her own, as if the wound in her stomach had made the rest of her equally fragile. Kagome hadn't even heard her get up. Swallowing thickly, Kagome prayed her voice wouldn't crack. Mama already looked so close to tears without her help. "Hi Momma."
Mrs. Higurashi smiled but it seemed forced, as if the corners of her mouth were being weighed down by worry. "Hi Baby."
Baby ... Momma hadn't called her that in so, so long. Her throat tightened uncomfortably and she blinked back tears. Be strong - she had to be strong. She owed her mother that much at wanted to ask so many things, but she was afraid the moment she opened her mouth to ask that the small amount of self control she had would unravel faster than she could reel it in.
Mama must have known though. She had always been able to read past the silence. "The surgeon said you should make a full recovery," she said lightly, looking down at her daughter with a heavy sadness weighing her expression. "He thinks you should even be able to come home by Christmas."
Christmas - God, she hadn't even thought about Christmas. The phantom image of her family sitting around the christmas tree without her - tears falling to the floor instead of colorful scraps of paper - haunted her vision until she forced it away. If she was home by Christmas, then that meant she wouldn't have to be in the hospital for more than two weeks. That was a plus right?
Her mother's finger tips kissed against her forehead as she brushed her bangs aside. "He said we're very lucky ... if they didn't do the surgery when they did ..." Mama's voice tapered off, closing her eyes as if refusing to see would mean she wouldn't have to face the end of that particular thought.
Kagome squeezed her hand. Maybe she had inherited some of her Mama's innate ability to read the words that remained unsaid, because she didn't need to hear the rest to know what the doctor had told her mother. If she had arrived a the hospital any later she would have died. The information should have frightened her, shocked her even, but it didn't. Somehow she had already known. When they had carted her off in the ambulance she had been ... well, not ready, because she didn't think she would ever be ready to die. But ... prepared. She had been prepared for the possibility that the vision of her mother crying over her might be the last thing she would see.
"Yeah," she muttered, watching her mother's shoulders begin to tremble as pressed their clasped hands up to her face. Kagome could feel her tears running down her wrist and it broke her heart. How much suffering had she put her family through? How long had they been held in limbo wondering if she would ever make it home? "We probably owe Dog a steak or something."
She didn't even know why she said it. Maybe it was the drugs. It was such an odd thing to even think about in such a heavy atmosphere. But, as Mama chuckled weakly, Kagome thought that maybe it was the perfect thing to say. The tears were still running down her mother's cheeks, but the wrinkles around her eyes were looking a little more like laugh lines and less like shadows. "Yes, I suppose we do. I'm sure he'll need it cooked as well."
Kagome smiled and, though it was sincere, it lacked her usual enthusiasm. She was beginning to feel tired again. Maybe she could convince the nurse to lay off some of the pain medications? She didn't like feeling so weak. "Of course. He strikes me as a medium rare kinda dog. Don't you think?"
Mama agreed with a smile, and Kagome's thoughts inadvertently changed to her other canine friend and the rest of their shard hunting group. They were always good with handling themselves, and it had only been a handful of weaker level demons. Surely Miroku would have had no trouble taking them out? Still, concern nibbled at her thoughts. "Has Inuyasha -?" There must be something about hospital rooms, because Kagome couldn't bring herself to finish that sentence either.
"He's come by," Mama answered, "He was very worried about you. I had to tell him several times that you were going to be alright but I'm not sure he really believes it." She averted her eyes, a guilty grimace crossing her features. "He wanted to see you, but ..."
Kagome instantly understood. Inuyasha in a hospital would spell all kinds of trouble. He'd probably think the machines keeping her alive were trying to eat her or something. "No, it's probably best that he didn't," she said, sighing. The image of Inuyasha unleashing his wind scar on the unsuspecting vitals machine wouldn't seem to leave her mind. That idiot would bring the whole hospital down. "Did he say if everyone was ok? Miroku was with me when I jumped through the well..."
Shaking her head, Mama gave her an apologetic look. "No, he didn't say. Honestly, I wasn't able to get very much information out of him. He was so focused on you." Her face darkened. "When he saw your coat - and with all the blood ..." She sighed sadly, leaning back into her plastic chair.
Letting loose a shaky breath, Kagome mumbled, "Idiot. Probably thinks it was his fault." That was no doubt what her beloved hanyou was thinking. He always seemed to blame himself whenever she was injured. Never mind the fact that she had been the one to drag Miroku through the dark just to ask his opinion on the whole Dog situation. If it was anyone's fault, it was hers.
She really hoped everyone was alright. It felt awful enough being responsible for everyone worrying so much about her.
Mama stayed eerily silent, her hands releasing her daughter's and laying limp in her lap. Unnerved, Kagome frowned. "Mama?"
"I was so angry with him." The confession came out as a guilty whisper. "I was so angry that he let you get hurt."
Something in her chest tightened uncomfortably. "Mama, it wasn't his fault. He wasn't even there," Kagome defended softly.
"I know. I do, I know." Her gaze turned to look out the window across the room. "I just needed someone to blame I guess. So when he came through the well and looked so guilty ... I guess I just decided if he could blame himself then I could blame him too."
No, oh no. Inuyasha was probably already on the verge of wringing his own neck. If he knew that Mama held him responsible it would be beyond disastrous. "Mama ... you didn't," Kagome swallowed thickly, there was a nervous buzz under her skin, "You didn't say anything to him, did you?"
Immediately, the older women shook her head. "No, no of course not." Her eyes met her daughter's again, guiltily. "But I didn't comfort him either. I should have, but I didn't. It's terrible of me, I know it is. He's brought you home safe so many times ... but I'm just so angry."
Not knowing what to say (because really, was there anything she could say to that?) Kagome laid a comforting, albeit cold hand over her mother's. Together they sat, both lost in their own regrets while the rhythmic beeping of the monitors insured that time continued to move around them.
AN: Yup. You read that correctly. I'm on a (as Yusuke would say) mother fuckin' roll. Trying to update/upload one of my stories once a week. Cheers to accomplishing week 4 (5? I can't remember now).
Thanks as always for all the amazing reviews! You guys really lifted my spirits for that last chapter. Apparently I was being too hard on myself. :) I'm also super excited to have been gifted with some fan art for this story! Thanks inuluvskags1!
Check it out! (Just remvove the spaces!)
the-fanart-girl. deviantart art/The-Good-Dog-Name-Savvy- 468911040
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!