InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Out of Time ❯ Home Again ( Chapter 15 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

~~Chapter 15~~
~Home Again~
Kagome dropped her bag with a heavy sigh, happy to be inside the warmth of the house on the shrine grounds once more. Mrs. Higurashi stuck her head out of the living room and smiled at the four who stomped inside. Shippou tore out of the living room with Kirara on his heels, launching himself at the group with an excited yelp. “Kagome!”
“Shippou! I missed you! Did you behave yourself while I was gone?”
The kit nodded enthusiastically then lunged, catching hold of InuYasha's sweatshirt. InuYasha jerked the kit loose and glowered at him. “Act like a youkai,” he admonished though Kagome didn't miss the slight flush, the pleased light behind the hanyou's eyes. InuYasha passed Shippou to Sango.
Kagome headed for the kitchen for some water. She heard her mother following but didn't comment till she sank down at the table. “Did you find him?”
Shaking her head, Kagome sighed. “He wasn't there. It's like he knew we were coming for him.”
Mrs. Higurashi sank down and stared at her daughter. “You look tired, dear. How about a nice, hot bath?”
Smiling despite her bleak thoughts, Kagome nodded. “That sounds great.”
Mrs. Higurashi patted her hand then got up to hurry off and start Kagome's bath. “Glad to be back?”
Kagome glanced up into Miroku's ever-watchful face. The monk got a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and slipped into the chair across from her. “Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?”
She forced a smile, wishing that Miroku wasn't quite so observant all the time. “What are you talking about? I'm fine!
“That might work on InuYasha, perhaps even Sango. Now why don't you tell me what's really bothering you.”
“It's not important,” she maintained but couldn't meet his gaze. “Anyway, I'm glad to be back. It'll be nice to sleep in a real bed again.”
She could feel the monk's gaze still probing her, as though he could see into her head. Kagome forced herself to act normal. She was saved, though, when Sango slipped into the room with Shippou on her shoulder. The kitsune leaped to the floor and hopped up beside Kagome. “Did you find Naraku?” Shippou asked as he reached for an orange off the table.
Kagome intercepted the fruit and carefully peeled back the skin. “Not yet. We will though.”
“Damn right we will, then we'll take him out for good.”
InuYasha stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame with a determined scowl as he stared at his friends.
“Do you know where to find him?” Shippou questioned as he shoved a couple of orange slices into his mouth.
InuYasha's look of resolve faltered just a little. “Not yet, but we will.”
Shippou swiped up the rest of his orange slices and ran off toward the living room to share the fruit with Souta and resume the video game he'd abandoned when they'd come through the door.
Kagome stood up, scooping the peel together, and threw it away before heading out of the room to take her bath. For reasons she dared not think about, it hurt to be so close to everyone.
With a weary sigh, she stripped off her clothes and settled back in the hot water. Her mother had added some of the soothing lavender essential oil that she loved, and Kagome's eyes closed as she breathed in the comforting scent. `How much longer do I have?' she asked herself. She scowled, pushing the thought to the back of her mind. `It doesn't matter, does it? I was meant to do this.'
Still, it was hard to swallow past the lump welling in her throat.
`The jewel cannot protect the one who purifies it . . . you know this, do you not?'
Kagome nodded. She knew it. She'd known it all along. She'd learned that long ago. She'd learned it when she'd been told the story of what had happened to Kikyou.
An unsettling aura, a whisper in the darkness . . . like a windstorm gathering at the eaves, the whistle of the raging tides, the ebb and flow of time . . . five hundred years ago or now, it didn't matter. The threat remained, and Kagome was the only one who could stop it—if she had the courage, if she had the heart. The faces of her friends flashed through her mind, each of them smiling, happy, and she could see them. Shippou would grow strong and healthy, versed in the ways of the youkai yet forever sympathetic to the plight of the humans. Miroku would be saved, his bloodline secured. The monk would live on to grow old with Sango. They'd be happy. They'd be blessed.
And InuYasha . . . Perhaps because she was too close, or because she didn't want to see. She couldn't tell what would become of him. Would he understand when the time came? Would he realize that it was the only way? `Don't be angry, InuYasha . . . and don't be sad . . .'
Kagome settled back in the water, willing her mind to relax, willing her body to calm. So many things she needed to say, and no real way to give voice to any of it. Maybe, though, if she could make each of them smile, if she heard their laughter, maybe it would be enough.
The darkness was coming. Naraku was close. She could feel him.
“Let him come.”
“She's hiding something.”
Miroku shot Sango a surprised look, dragging his eyes off the doorway where Kagome had disappeared. “You've sensed it, too? And you, InuYasha? Have you?”
Arms crossed over his chest and stubborn scowl in place, InuYasha didn't want to answer. Finally, though, he nodded once. “Yeah. I just wish I knew what it was.”
Miroku stared at InuYasha. “What do you know?”
InuYasha made a face. He hadn't wanted to tell them all, the warning Kagome had let slip. He didn't want to worry them. Staring into their faces, though, he wasn't so sure. They knew something was going on. If only Kagome had told him more. “She said that she `needed' to come back here, that there was something calling her home.”
“That's what she said the last time,” Miroku remarked.
“I know.”
“Sango? Kagome hasn't told you a thing, has she?”
Shaking her head slowly, Sango stared at the table. “I don't think she will,” she confessed. “Whatever it is, I don't think she has any intention of telling us.”
“What is she thinking? How am I supposed to protect her when she won't tell me what she's planning?” InuYasha growled, shoving away from the door to stomp around the table. He threw himself into a chair with a frustrated sigh.
Miroku cleared his throat, not wanting to say the thing that had occurred to him yet feeling as though he might have to. “You don't think she's going to try to fight Naraku alone . . . Do you?”
“Feh!” InuYasha scoffed. “That'd be stupid! Of course she wouldn't do something like that.” He tried to mask the concern in his expression. Sango made a stifled sound, almost like a sob. InuYasha flinched.
Miroku forced a hollow laugh. “What was I thinking? That would be foolish, and Kagome's not that . . .” He couldn't finish his statement, leaving the end of it hanging in the air, as though speaking the last word would make everything a little too real.
Sango shot Miroku a glance. “Let's just watch her,” she suggested. “Maybe she'll tell us something.”
InuYasha stood abruptly and stalked out of the house. Heading for Goshinboku, he leaped up into the tree. The air was calm—too calm, too still. Heavy with remnants of things best forgotten, InuYasha narrowed his eyes as he stared at the darkened landscape. `Kagome, what are you thinking? What aren't you telling me?'
Her eyes shined at him in the darkness, filled his mind with her scent, of her warmth. Kagome, the rare and mysterious girl, the freedom of her, the happiness that surrounded her . . . He'd told himself before that he would tell her how he felt, after they defeated Naraku. He hadn't done it. `I'll do it this time,' he vowed. `As soon as Naraku's gone . . . as soon as I know that she is safe . . . Kagome . . .'
He had tried to tell her before. The last time they'd defeated Naraku, he'd hugged her close, started to tell her. But his words had gotten stuck somewhere between his mind and his lips, and though he'd tried to dislodge them, to tell her, he hadn't been able to do it then. Half afraid that she'd reject him, half afraid she wouldn't, he'd put it off until it was something else left undone, something that he'd rather bury than admit.
The wind picked up, a malevolent force blowing forward then stepping back. Like a mysterious dance that made no sense but brought with it the images, the sepia-shaded memories, he knew instinctively what it was, what it would be. It had come down to this, but this time, there would be no ambivalent end. InuYasha's ears twitched, nose wrinkling, a scent, faint but sure . . . the lingering miasma, the stench of death . . . and beneath it all . . .
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Out of Time): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.