InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Five ( Chapter 5 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Ten Years Earlier
She didn't want to wake up. Kagome could feel the rough texture of a starched sheet rustle under her cheek and a dull, throbbing ache between her legs. She didn't want to remember what had happened, wishing again to return to the peaceful oblivion of sleep. The last thing she recalled was searing, agonizing pain shooting through her entire body and pooling like molten fire in the pit of her womb.
Please, she thought, scrunching her eyes shut even tighter. Let this be just another nightmare.
She heard the sound of someone clearing his throat and knew that she wasn't alone. Furthermore, whoever it was, they could tell that she was now awake. "Miss Higurashi?" a man's soft voice asked. "Can you hear me?"
She shifted slightly, turning over in the bed and managed to pry her eyes open. Her eyelashes were gummy and stiff with dried sleep; her mouth was so dry that she could barely force herself to speak. The kind voiced man was patiently standing at the end of her bed. He had gray hair and wore a white coat; a black stethoscope was looped casually over his shoulders.
A doctor, she thought, trying to force back the queasy feeling that wanted to overwhelm her. Swallowing thickly through the pain in her parched throat, her voice came out in a cracked and aching whisper. "Where am I?"
The doctor smiled reassuringly. "You're in the hospital, Miss Higurashi. I am Dr. Yamamoto. Do you remember what happened to you?"
The bathroom at school. Eri's voice screaming in panic as she pounded on the door of the stall. Blood staining her thighs and her skirt, running over the floor in a gory carmine path of shame. She closed her eyes, trying to breathe normally through the tremors that shook her slender body.
"I was bleeding," she said at last. "It hurt so badly I thought I was dying."
"You nearly did," the doctor told her solemnly. "You had lost a lot of blood and you were in shock when the ambulance brought you here." He paused, letting the gravity of her condition sink in. "Miss Higurashi, you are going to be fine now. We had to perform emergency surgery to stop the hemorrhaging."
He hesitated, and then gently laid his hand on her shoulder. "I'm very sorry, there was nothing we could do to save your baby."
Kagome's mouth worked soundlessly and her throat tightened, choking on the information. She wanted to crawl away, scream and hide from it. The doctor watched as shock and denial took hold of the girl's features, her pale lips going even whiter, the dark circles under her eyes standing out in stark contrast to her pasty cheeks. One shaking hand pressed against her stomach and she clutched at herself in helpless horrible realization.
"You didn't know that you were pregnant?" Dr. Yamamoto pulled a chart from the end of her bed and flipped it open, frowning slightly. "You were almost at fifteen weeks according to this."
"I didn't know," she whispered, feeling hot tears sliding down her face. "Oh god, why didn't I know?"
She'd been through so much; she'd never noticed that she'd missed her cycle. She'd felt sick too, for a few weeks now, but she'd attributed that to stress and the long hours of studying she'd been forcing herself to endure. After sealing the well, she'd thrown herself into school with a single-minded dedication, shunting all other concerns to the side. The nausea, the bloated feeling in her belly… The off and on cramping sensation that had nagged at her now and then, sometimes it had been sharp like a edged blade poking her, other times it had been dull, just an annoying heaviness riding the small of her back.
I was pregnant, she thought, watching as her tears splashed on the back of her hand. I was pregnant with Inuyasha's baby and I didn't even know it. She'd lost him to darkness and madness and cruel demon instinct. Now she'd lost his baby too.
The doctor shifted uncomfortably, realizing that the girl was overwhelmed with grief. He was a practical man and he'd seen too many unhappy and violent moments to recriminate a scared girl for getting pregnant and not knowing it. It happened more often than anyone liked to admit.
"Your mother is waiting outside," he said at last. "Would you like her to come in?"
Kagome nodded, her face felt numb. Shame flooded from her toes to her cheeks. What is Mama going to say? Her lips trembled and she looked up at the doctor through her tears. "Yes, please."
Mrs. Higurashi burst through the door almost as soon as the doctor exited, letting her daughter know that she'd been hovering anxiously outside while the man had been speaking. "My poor baby," she cried, rushing to her daughter's side. She wrapped both arms around Kagome's shoulders and held her so tight the girl squeaked.
"Oh Kagome," her mother said, her own face now wet with tears. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't know, Mama," she said, blubbering helplessly now. She started to sob, her body shaking and wracked from it. "I swear to god I didn't know, it's all my fault. Please don't be mad!"
Mrs. Higurashi settled on the bed next to her daughter, holding her tight and stroking the girl's matted hair. "I'm not mad, darling. How can I be mad when I almost lost you? I was scared to death when they called me at work; I thought my baby girl was going to die. Oh Kagome, I'm so very sorry this happened. I love you, I'm not angry."
It was what she needed to hear and Kagome found herself bawling helplessly on her mother's shoulder. She knew without question that she would have kept the baby. A puppy faced little boy or girl, white hair and golden eyes? Would the baby have looked like him? Would he or she have had fuzzy little triangles for ears and a temper that would scare hell itself?
Now that she'd lost it, she wanted the baby so badly she ached. She didn't care what the school would say or how difficult it might have made her life, being a single parent to a hanyou infant. She just wanted to hold the child in her arms, have that one living, breathing link to the person she'd loved so much and had to leave behind.
Her mother's fingers twined with hers as the sobbing slowly stopped, reduced to little whimpers and gasps of emotion. "Shhh." her mother said, soothing her, holding her tight. "It's all going to be all right, Kagome. The baby...it was Inuyasha's, wasn't it?"
She screwed her eyes shut, burying her nose in her mother's shirt. She wanted to die from shame, from grief, from the horrible wrenching feeling that was twisting her heart. Of course it was his, she thought. There hadn't been anyone else, but how could her mother know for sure? How could she know that when her daughter kept secrets from her? She forced herself to answer; her mother deserved that much at least.
"It…it was his," she said, stumbling over the words weakly. "There hasn't ever been anyone else."
Her mother stroked her hair. "I knew something was wrong when you sealed the well," she murmured, regret making her voice sound heavy and tired. Kagome felt her mother's hands still in her hair and didn't resist when Mrs. Higurashi lifted her chin so she could look into her daughter's eyes.
"Is there anything else you want to tell me? Ever since you came back, you've been walking around like you expected something terrible to happen."
"It's nothing," she muttered, closing her eyes. She doesn't need to know what a fool I was, Kagome thought miserably. She doesn't need to know how wrong I was about him.
Mrs. Higurashi persisted, compelled to draw out the reason for her daughter's pain. "I hear you crying in your sleep, Kagome. I hear you...begging him to stop. I haven't asked before because I thought you'd tell me what happened in your own time, but I need you to be honest with me. Did he force you?"
Kagome sighed and let her body go limp. His face, contorted in passion as he drove himself inside her like a madman. His hands leaving bruises on her arms because he wasn't careful, wasn't gentle. Her own voice, shrill and high, crying out shamelessly as she gave herself to him. Everything he wanted, every last lustful wanton desire he'd inflicted on her willing body.
She hadn't resisted even though she knew he didn't love her, even though he freely admitted he'd used her, said he owned her. She hadn't had the strength to run away until he'd threatened her family. She would have died for him and it broke her heart that she still loved him, wanted him, in spite of the monster he'd become.
How could she ever explain that? How could she live when she saw the disgust in her mother's eyes if she told her, disgust that Kagome felt so keenly in her own heart?
"Yes," she whispered, hating herself for lying, hating herself still more for the truth.
After Houjou left, Kagome wandered around the shrine, just thinking. It surprised her, no it astonished her that Houjou still felt that way. It made no sense to her. They'd dated steadily during her final year of high school and she'd dropped him as soon as they'd graduated. She'd hadn't planned on handling it like that, but when he'd asked her to marry him, breathless and eyes sparkling like he was offering her a gift, she'd run like a thousand demons were pursuing her.
Later she'd realized that it wasn't Houjou she was running from, it was the idea of marrying him and staying in Japan for the rest of her life. She couldn't stand the idea of settling down into some nice little house with her nice little husband and having children while the world passed her by. No, not Kagome Higurashi, she'd endured too much, survived too much and come out with her soul still intact for her to be satisfied with a life like that.
She'd dumped Houjou unceremoniously, stating that since she'd received a full scholarship to a university in the States, she wouldn't be interested in a long distance relationship.
Kagome squirmed a little at the memory, something she hadn't thought about or regretted for the better part of the last ten years. Poor Houjou, I must have really hurt him, she thought guiltily. And he'd been one of the few friends who'd been willing to be seen with her after her wretchedly public miscarriage. Houjou and Eri had stood by her, defended her from everyone who looked at her like she was tainted and dirty.
She'd just let herself go numb to it, ignored the whispers and the comments that were thrown at her behind her back. Now she felt an almost stifling anger at those people and their snide judgments. She smiled, a nasty little smile, at the consternation they and the school officials must have felt when she graduated valedictorian, carrying off more scholastic awards that any other student in her class.
She decided to go back inside and make herself a cup of tea since coffee was still out of the question. Actually she thought she'd like to go out and get a bottle of wine instead, something to soothe her shattered nerves after Houjou's advances. Vaguely, she wondered if he'd gotten any better in bed over the last ten years and hoped for Eri's sake it was true.
The Houjou she remembered had fumbled at her hesitantly, making her want to scream with frustration from his clumsy lovemaking. She'd locked herself in the bathroom and cried her eyes out after the first time with him, the act itself having brought back so many memories. Houjou didn't understand, thinking he'd done something wrong.
Kagome had listlessly assured him that no, he didn't do anything wrong and yes, he was a fine lover. Then she'd gone out to him and surrendered herself again. She'd endured it out of a need of her own, a need to have someone holding her skin to skin, comforting her when the darkness wanted to overwhelm her and made her feel like she was drowning.
This is depressing, Kagome thought as she slid back the door to the kitchen. She stopped short when she entered, the refrigerator door was wide open and there was a distinctly male backside poking out while someone rummaged around the lower shelves.
"Hey, who took my last coke?" he exclaimed, standing up and turning around to face her.
"Souta!" she shrieked happily and threw herself into her little brother's arms. He laughed and smothered her in a bear hug, swinging her around like she was a little doll. Her baby brother towered over her now, at least six feet. Their mother swore that she didn't know where he'd gotten that height as their father hadn't been a tall man. Souta grinned, the same helplessly happy smile that she remembered from childhood, although it looked a little out of place on a young man's handsome face.
"Sis," he said, setting her back down on her feet. "When did you get in? Last time I talked to Mama she said she wasn't able to reach you."
She slugged his arm playfully. "I got in last night, I was out on vacation and left instructions not to be bothered. Poor Grace probably went crazy trying to find me, but I took the first flight out when I got the news." She studied her brother's face and her jaw dropped a little. "When did you get your lip pierced?"
He grinned and ducked away. "At least you didn't start screaming like Mama did," he said, laughing at her as he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the living room so they could sit on the couch. "You two act like I'm still a little kid or something."
She raised an eyebrow at him. Souta had grown into an achingly handsome young man, she thought with approval. The jewelry did nothing to detract from that and she reached out to ruffle his spiky hair. "Mama said something about your girlfriend having purple hair."
He rolled his eyes. "Sari. We broke up last week, but the girl I'm seeing now has normal colored hair, thank you very much. As long as Mama doesn't catch sight of her tattoos, I should be safe."
Kagome shook her head, grinning at his sour expression. "Mama has a way of finding things out," she said dryly. "How's school going? Mama said you were studying hard this semester."
Souta flushed, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably. "That's another thing I wanted to talk to you about," he said, his eyes sliding away from hers. "I dropped out, I don't know how I'm going to tell Mama that."
"You dropped out?" she asked, her eyes wide. And after all the money she'd paid for his tuition. "Souta," she said, helplessly waving her hands. "Why? How? What were you thinking..."
"It wasn't right for me, Kagome," her brother said bluntly. He looked down at his hands. "I'm not you, okay? I've never been great in school, I was always better at sports remember?"
Her brother wasn't stupid, she thought, angry at him for wasting his chances at higher education. "Souta, that's not the point," she said angrily. "So you didn't have perfect grades, they were always good enough to get into university. Why are you so sure it wasn't right for you?"
He sighed. "I'm just not cut out for it, I didn't want the pressure," he said simply.
"So what are you going to do then?" she demanded, going into older sister overdrive. "You quit playing baseball, don't tell me you still want to screw around with that stupid band of yours."
"No," he snapped, looking annoyed. "I gave that up too, it was just for fun in the first place. I never took it seriously."
"You don't take anything seriously," she scolded. "Souta, what do you want to do?"
Her brother looked sullenly at the floor. "I'd rather do something I'm good at than just skate by in university," he grumbled. "I didn't feel right about wasting your money."
"It wasn't wasted to me," she said softly, taking his hand. "Come on, I'm your sister. I was proud to be able to help you, just like I'm proud to be able to help out Mama. Tell me, Souta, what do you want to do with your life?"
He smiled shyly, his fingers curling around hers. "I'm good at fixing motorcycles," he said at last. "Some mates of mine and I want to start our own shop someday when we have the cash. Until then, I'm working for a dealership over on the north side of Tokyo. They called me last week to give me the job and I dropped everything to move back and take it."
Kagome closed her eyes and sighed as she leaned back against the couch. At least he has some goals, she thought ruefully. "If it's really what you want," she murmured. "I guess I have no objections."
"Really?" he asked excitedly. She had to smile at the enthusiasm in his tone, he was so obviously happy she wasn't going to nag him more about school. "I just can't figure out how to tell Mama, I hate telling her stuff like this. I don't want her to be disappointed in me."
"Me too," she said, sighing and resting her hand on her fist. "I've got something to tell her myself and I have no idea how."
He looked curious. "What?"
"I divorced Scott," she said in a low voice, looking down.
Souta was silent for a moment, then he clapped his hands together so loud it made her jump. "Good," her brother said harshly. "I never liked that dumb son of a bitch."
She stared at him. "And in the last six years you never found time to mention this?"
He shrugged, grinning again and put his arm around her shoulders. "I just thought he wasn't good enough for my sister," Souta said. "I'm glad you finally woke up and figured that out too. I think Mama will understand, I know she liked him, but damn."
Kagome giggled and reached over tickle her little brother's ribs. "At least he didn't have purple hair," she teased as he squirmed away from her. "Or tattoos."
"At least you two didn't have kids or anything," he countered, grabbing her bare foot and tickling her back. Kagome squealed and yanked her foot out of his grip.
"No," she shot back. "I was real careful about that, I hope you're careful too."
Souta snickered. "Now you sound like Mama. She lectured me so many times about not getting some poor girl pregnant that I lost count."
She felt the happy feelings drain out of her again and sighed heavily. "Yeah, I bet she did.”
Souta looked abashed. "God," he said. "I'm sorry, Kagome. I didn't mean to bring it up, I wasn't thinking."
"No," she said, squeezing his hand. "It's okay, not your fault." Not his fault his sister had given him such a glaring example of why an unplanned pregnancy could be a nightmare, how a teenage relationship could go so badly. Souta looked uncomfortable, sitting up and reaching for her hand again.
"Kagome," he asked hesitantly. "Do you ever still think about...him?"
She stiffened, pulled her hand away and folded her arms over her chest. "Of course not," she snapped. "It was so long ago, why would I even think about it? The past is just that, Souta. The past."
Souta leaned forward and rested his chin on his fist, his elbow on his knees. "I wanted to kill him for what he did to you," her brother confessed quietly. "I even asked jii-chan how to unseal the well."
Her eyes went wide. "Souta, that's crazy," she whispered. "He would have killed you without a second thought. I hope jiichan told you that."
Her brother shrugged. "He said he wanted to do it himself, he'd even tried once but he couldn't break your seals."
Kagome went cold and felt sick, sick at the idea of her then adolescent brother and her aged grandfather going through that well to hunt down Inuyasha. The demon he had become would have torn them apart and brought her the pieces. She said a silent prayer of thanks to Kaede for making those sutras so strong they couldn't be removed by any ordinary shrine priest or vengeful little brother.
Not that the well would have opened for them anyway, no more than it would ever open again for her. There was no sacred jewel, but if they'd managed to disturb those spells enough...she shivered.
"You two were insane," she said bitterly.
"No, we loved you," Souta answered, looking over his shoulder. "I trusted him too, Kagome. I thought he'd protect you, I never dreamed he'd hurt you."
Tears in her eyes, she leaned forward and hugged her brother. "Me neither," she whispered.
Souta left before her mother came home, after extracting a promise from his sister to not reveal his defection from the halls of higher education. She in her turn extracted his promise to make no mention of her divorce until after jii-chan's funeral. As that was tomorrow, she knew that both of them would be able to keep their secrets.
She and her mother had shared a quiet dinner, Mrs. Higurashi insisting on cooking even when her daughter offered to order out. "Nonsense," her mother said, smiling. "How often do I get to cook for my baby girl these days?"
She silently wondered at her mother's calm composure, the air of grace and gentleness she projected. Kagome wondered if she'd ever be able to be half as kind or accepting as her mother and doubted it. Like a meek little girl, she ate what her mother presented to her and politely asked if she could do the dishes afterwards. Mrs. Higurashi laughed at Kagome's mild expression and agreed that it was only fair.
If it were up to Kagome, her mother would live in a nice condo and have a maid to look after her. Maybe she could talk her into it now that jii-chan had passed away. The shrine was too much for one lone woman to look after; they would have to hire more caretakers anyway. Jii-chan had kept up with it as best he could over the years, but in the end he'd had to agree that one old man couldn't give the grounds the care they so deserved.
Kagome made a mental note to look into it, thinking about hiring both groundskeepers and staff to run the old shop. There might even be government subsidies available as this was an ancient and historical shrine. She'd have her Japanese lawyers look into the matter for her and make the necessary applications.
She took a long hot shower before going to bed, reveling in the way the hot water soothed her tired body. Kagome worked her favorite shampoo into her hair, thinking for once that it felt good to home. She wished she'd made the trip earlier; she would have liked to have seen jiichan once more before he passed away.
No, it was her own fears and trepidations that had kept her away, as well as her own selfishness. She had to accept that and silently vowed to make an effort to keep her mother and Souta in her life more. She hadn't let the past keep her from making a life and a career for herself, there was no reason to let it keep her from her family.
After her shower, she wrapped a fluffy towel around her and dashed to her room like a teenager. As she toweled her hair, she sat on her bed and thought about things. Houjou, her mother, her grandfather, her little brother. Her life in Hawaii now seemed like a dream, her marriage a passing fantasy.
That's dumb, she thought, shaking her head to let the last bit of moisture dry. Her life was in Honolulu now, just because she was surviving a visit home didn't mean that she was ready to pull up and move back. It made her a little sad, realizing that this part of her life was forever sealed to her, sealed like an ancient well. But she wasn't that teenager anymore; she wasn't that dreamy little girl who thought that she could change the world.
Kagome smiled and went to her old dresser and opened it. In the top drawer she saw many of her old high school mementos. Her mother hadn't disarranged her room over the years, but she supposed she should be grateful that she kept it dusted and clean.
She picked up a picture of her friends and smiled, her fingertip tracing Eri's smiling face. She was glad she hadn't given in to Houjou; it was going to be hard enough to face him at the funeral tomorrow. But she could face Eri at least and ask after the children like their father hadn't just groped her that afternoon.
Thinking of that, she started to root around in the dresser, looking for more happy memories. She suddenly wanted to read her old yearbook, look at the pictures and wonder where all these people had gone. Did they know that Kagome Higurashi had made a success of herself?
She snorted; did she even care if they knew?
Her questing fingers found a wrapped package and she frowned, not recognizing the soft tissue paper parcel. Slowly, she pulled it out and carefully unwrapped it, wondering. When she saw the rose colored silk, she very nearly dropped it like it would scald her. Shaking, she discarded the paper covering and looked at the delicate lingerie. It was a long, exquisite nightgown, trimmed in lace and flowing like water over her palms. Kagome swallowed hard and remembered when she'd purchased it.
She'd been sixteen and in love, thinking that one day he'd turn to her. She knew how she felt about Inuyasha and that was all that mattered. When she'd seen the nightgown hanging in the window of that overpriced boutique, she'd stopped in her tracks and stared. Eri and Yumi had been with her and teased her mercilessly when she'd gone inside to look at the rose colored silk and sigh dreamily.
"Do you think your boyfriend would like to see you in that, Kagome?" Yumi asked, poking her in the ribs.
Kagome had glared at her. "We aren't intimate," she answered stiffly. Her face was absolutely flaming, she was blushing so hard at the idea of Inuyasha seeing her wear something like this that she was sure the temperature in the room was raised several degrees.
"But you'd like to be intimate like that, right?" Eri had said, with a sly look in her eyes. "Go on, buy it, Kagome. Once he sees you wearing that I bet he forgets all about that ex-girlfriend he's so hung up on."
"Absolutely not," she said firmly and marched them out of the store. "I will do no such thing."
She'd gone back later and bought the gown anyway, paying out several months' worth of saved allowance. The saleswoman had looked down her nose at a young girl buying such a provocative item but said nothing, just accepted her yen and wrapped the silk in soft tissue paper. At home, Kagome had been too embarrassed to even put the thing on and shoved it to the back of her drawer.
Later, she'd promised herself.
Later had come and gone, Kagome thought, sitting on her bed and holding evidence of her folly. Not more than a few months later, they'd completed their grim quest and defeated the monster.
She'd stood screaming and crying as Sango had sacrificed herself in a hopeless attempt to rescue her little brother, then been struck silent in horror when Miroku had died in a vain, heroic effort to save her. She shook her head hard, denying the horrible memories. She still remembered Inuyasha's grim face as he stood in front of her, defending her from Naraku.
I'll always protect you.
Liar, she wanted to rage. Did you protect me from yourself? Why did you have to lie to me, Inuyasha? Why didn't you just admit that you were only after the jewel and didn't care what happened to the rest of us? You bastard, you heartless demon bastard!
Her fingers were twisting the silk angrily and Kagome forced herself to stop before she damaged the delicate fabric. She'd never even worn it, not even once. Defiantly, she stood up and stripped off the t-shirt and shorts she usually wore to bed. The soft silk whispered over her skin, making her feel sensuous in spite of her anger.
She stared at herself in the mirror, watching as the material clung to her now mature curves. Her breasts looked full and ripe under the rose silk, she could see her nipples peeking through the tissue thin fabric and slowly raised her hands to herself. Her palms ran over her body, bringing hints of pleasure to her skin.
If Inuyasha had ever seen me in this...she refused to let herself finish the thought, ignoring the hard pang of want that suddenly shot through the pit of her belly.
"Bastard," her lips whispered to her in the mirror. "Monster."
It was almost surreal, standing here in the nightgown she'd bought for him to see her in, cursing him and watching as her soft mouth formed the obscenities. Kagome reached behind her neck and pulled her hair over her shoulder, looking at the shining ebony waves as they fell over her breast, sliding over the silk. She met her own eyes, her face and body revealing a perfection that covered the corroded remains over her soul.
She leaned close to her mirror, her breath fogging its surface as she cursed him again. "I hate you, Inuyasha. Wherever you are, I hope you can feel how much I hate you."
She flipped off the lights and headed for her bed, her thoughts dark and tangled. If she hadn't been standing in darkness, so caught and thoughtful, she might not have looked outside. Her gaze was pulled to the window and Kagome went to stand there, pushing open the glass so the light breeze could stir her hair.
Nothing more than the peaceful night, she decided, her palms pressing against the sill as she inhaled the gently scented air. She was just about to shut the window when a flash of light caught her attention. Was something was moving down there?
Kagome pulled back, her eyes wide. Someone was running around the shrine at night? Why would anyone do that? She reached for the phone, ready to call for the police. Kagome was well acquainted with criminal activity and knew that an intruder had to be dealt with by someone other than herself. It would be stupid to go down there and look for herself.
Only...her heart hammered hard at the thought. What if the intruder had come from inside the shrine itself?
No, that's stupid, her scared brain yammered at her. You're imaging things; you're making up things to scare yourself into going down there. It's not him, it couldn't be him, and not after ten years it wouldn't be him. The well was sealed; nothing was going in or out of it. Nothing more than nightmares and dreams anyway. Her hand slowly drifted away from the phone, floating up to her mouth. She had to know, she had to make sure.
Grabbing a light robe to throw over her indecently thin nightgown, Kagome went silently down the stairs. She just had to know for herself, she had to look, damn it, that was all. What else could she do, call the police and tell them that she was afraid a youkai was running around in her garden? She couldn't wake her mother and have her come with her, which would be even worse.
It was just that she'd been thinking of him, that was why she was scared. It was probably nothing, just her overactive imagination dealing with the stress of being home.
Cursing again, Kagome went to the kitchen and found her mother's flashlight. Ten years later and the woman still kept everything in the same place, she thought with a wry grin. She'd just check, make sure the well was sealed and then she'd be able to sleep.
The pavement was cool under her bare toes as she made her way across the grounds, sure in her steps even though it had been years since she'd gone to the well house. She hadn't gone in there since before she graduated high school, before she dumped Houjou, before she flew across the ocean and made a new life for herself.
Kagome took a deep breath and told her heart to stop pounding like that. It was just an old building with an even older well stashed away inside. She just wanted to see for herself that the seals were still there. It had kind of frightened her that Souta and jiichan had even thought of removing them. There was no reason to believe that they could have gotten to the other side anyway. There were no longer jewel shards; Kagome herself couldn't make that trip if she tried. Inuyasha was the only one who'd ever passed though the well from this side without the shards.
She just needed to see the seals to make sure they weren't damaged or worn. Removing them wouldn't have let Souta or grandfather use the well, but they might have weakened the spell enough that a very determined and insane youkai could punch his way though.
The door slid back at her touch and Kagome swallowed hard, fighting the ghosts with everything she had even as her hand holding the flashlight shook compulsively. There it was, right down those steps. She hadn't needed to cover the well with anything to seal it; just Kaede's sutras stuck around its edge were enough to invoke the energy to keep it dormant.
At least that's what she hoped. Kagome told herself firmly that once she'd taken care of this crazy impulse she was going to make sure that well was filled in, to hell with historical significance. She'd have it filled with blocks of cement; she'd have a steel plate welded over the top. If anything ever did come from the other side, they'd have one hell of a time getting out of the shaft, which was for damn sure.
Everything was quiet; Kagome went down the steps carefully, not wanting to trip over the hem of her gown. This was no time to fall and break an ankle; she admonished herself in a stern mental voice. Dust coated the steps and the rim of the well; she almost couldn't see the paper seals in the dim light of her flashlight. She frowned and slapped the light with her palm.
Mama must not have changed the batteries in a while, she thought grimly. Well, she didn't need to see clearly to do this; she could already feel a slight whisper of power coming from the well, evidence of a spiritual seal still in place. Sighing with relief, she passed her hand over the well to be sure.
Yes, that was it. She felt it strong, she felt her fingertips tingle at the energy holding the seal in place. Just like it had when she'd placed the sutras, whispering the incantations while her grandfather watched. Nothing had disturbed it, there was no ghost of a youkai to jump out and attack her or make her whimper with want. It was all in her head. As usual.
Shaking her head at her own foolish ideas, Kagome turned to leave.
She almost ran into him, he was standing so close behind her. And she'd been so damn distracted by her fears about the well to even notice. His hands caught her arms, she would have stumbled and fallen if he hadn't. "Kagome?" he said, breathing her name like blessing over her head.
She turned the flashlight up to shine in his face, watching in absolute shock and surprise as he flinched away from the beam.