InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Twelve ( Chapter 12 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Possession 12
Present Day
Shippou was beginning to be more than a little concerned for Kagome. She walked slowly at his side, occasionally shaking her head and laughing darkly under her breath. When he looked into her eyes he thought he saw a glimmer of madness there. Under the streaks of dirt and blood, her face seemed flushed and her eyes were over bright. Still, she kept moving, weaving now and then and stumbling over her own feet.
It was the low chuckles she kept making that made his skin want to crawl. It didn't sound like Kagome, it sounded like the mirth of a desperate woman, someone who had lost faith in everything and was determined to laugh back at the cruel fates that had destroyed her life.
He didn't like it.
The kitsune kept his expression neutral as Kagome stumbled again and this time fell, her hands planted in the dirt and laughing with eerie enjoyment as she dug her fingers into the soft earth.
"I'm such a fool," she muttered as she sat back and started to get to her feet. He moved to help her but Inuyasha was swifter, reaching down to grab Kagome's arm and haul her up with a rough yank.
"Can't you move any faster?" the demon asked with a wrathful irritation in his voice.
Shippou moved to stand between them, taking Kagome protectively under his arm. "She's exhausted, can't you understand that?" he demanded. "You have to let her rest, she's not used to traveling like this."
"Fuck," Inuyasha muttered, turning his eyes to the sky. It was already dark, he was way behind schedule and his brother was going to be pissed about it.
"I haven't got time to let a weak human rest," he snapped. Shiou and Haru were both still avoiding his gaze, knowing as well as he did that Sesshomaru was going to question them about this. Rin had certainly returned by now and was no doubt bending his brother's ear about this incident.
His eyes glowed golden in the darkness; the sky over them was overcast and the moon seethed sullenly behind the clouds. It was also getting colder as they made their way into the mountains. He eyed the woman critically; the kitsune was correct. She couldn't continue like this, she hadn't the strength. If he kept pushing her she would simply collapse from exhaustion.
"Come here," he said gruffly, reaching for Kagome to pull her away from Shippou's protective embrace. The kitsune growled angrily at him but Shiou stepped up and tapped the young fox on the back of his head.
"You're in no position to argue, kid," the guard said, no cruelty in his tone, just the simple statement of fact.
Kagome stared as Inuyasha turned away from her. "Get on my back," he ordered. "I'll carry you."
She might not be exactly lucid at the moment, but Kagome knew what he was asking. She shook her head. "No."
"It wasn't a request, bitch," he snapped. "I don't want you on my fucking back, but you're going to drop in your tracks if you keep going."
Inuyasha glared at her when she backed away from him, some kind of old fear in her eyes as she shook her head again. "No," she whispered. "I don't want you to touch me. I can walk, I'll be fine."
"The hell," he answered shortly. His hand shot out to grab hers, spinning her around and pulling her over his shoulder with a practiced yank. Kagome struggled as he tried to settle her on his back, but he growled menacingly and the struggles faded away.
She was really too tired to fight, he decided. Whatever pride had been keeping her on her feet, pride or stubborn madness, it seemed to have deserted her and she leaned weakly against him.
"That's better," he said, and reached behind him to take her knees and boost her into position. He heard her hiss angrily at him as his claws dug briefly in the back of her thighs. Hell, he was just trying to get her steady, not feel her body.
"Watch your claws," she hissed and he could hear her heart racing. It wasn't entirely fear; it was something more primitive and complex. She wasn't afraid of him, he could tell that, but she obviously didn't trust him any more than he trusted her. Why was she trembling so much? He wasn't going to hurt her, even if she did deserve it.
"You wish," he muttered. He heard Haru snigger and turned to glare at the guard.
"You got something to say?" he barked.
"No, Inuyasha-sama," the guard said respectfully. So it amused them to see him carry a human like he was a pack animal. He would have ordered one of them to do it, but right now he didn't feel like he could trust either of them to do that much. And Haru was a known lech when it came to females. He'd even stoop to groping a human in such a vulnerable position.
"Then shut your holes," he said pleasantly, flicking a meaningful claw in their direction. Most of the men that served his brother were good, excellent fighters and tough as hell in a crunch, but inuyoukai tended to have a sense of humor about such things. Except for Sesshomaru, of course. He didn't have much of a sense of humor about anything.
He could expect a lecture about letting a human ride him like this. As soon as his brother caught the woman's scent on him he'd get an earful about not disgracing the bloodline. Not that he'd ever look twice at a human female, not after the way he'd been treated as a hanyou. It sickened him to even think of crossing his blood with a mortal and putting a child of his own through that kind of hell.
And not after Kikyou. He'd learned, damn it.
Inuyasha was glad to be a real demon at last, glad enough that he didn't question the circumstances that much. He knew he must have somehow freed himself from Kikyou's seal and attained the Shikon no Tama to become as he was now. Sometimes it bothered him that he couldn't remember everything, but when he tried to recall what exactly had happened, he had terrible headaches.
His brother had offered the theory that it was their father's blood that kept him from remembering. He had been in such a terrible state when Sesshomaru had found him, very sick with a fever, that it might have been a residual effect of Tenseiga's healing. It had annoyed his brother that nothing could be done to restore his memory. Inuyasha wasn't sure if it was because he perceived it as a failure on Tenseiga's part or just that Sesshomaru didn't like the unanswered mystery under his roof.
Perhaps this woman could fill in some of the blank spaces for him. Inuyasha scowled, remembering the vicious kick that still had his balls aching. Yeah, he was sure of one thing, the human hated him enough that she had to know something.
As they were able to move quicker now, he knew they were nearing the mountain pass that would take them to his brother's hidden fortress. It was an ancient stone structure, carved out of a small, rocky mountain situated in a lushly beautiful valley. Even in the summer, the temperature remained cool and in the morning mist surrounded the fortress like a blanket of protection.
Who exactly had done the original work of carving out the massive stone structure, so unlike any human habitations he'd ever seen, even Sesshomaru couldn't answer.
And she'd kissed him. That baffled Inuyasha.
He could smell the fox youkai seething behind him, furious that he was carrying 'his' human woman. Yeah, he could tell exactly how Shippou felt about this female; you didn't have to be a genius to detect the overtones of desire. He wanted the woman, but from her comments it was clear that she didn't return his feelings.
Too fucking bad for Shippou, he thought with a sneer. His ears twitched when he heard a soft snore over his shoulder. The woman was asleep, her arms gone limp over his shoulders and her face buried in his hair. It wasn't an altogether bad feeling either, something felt right and familiar about the way he was carrying her. And under the light reek of that lower demon's blood, her scent was pleasant for a human's.
And what the hell had Shippou meant when he'd sneered out that she'd fucked him even though he'd treated her like shit? And that she'd stayed with him even when he became a demon? Perhaps she did know him; he wished he could remember why. Was it possible, that somewhere in his dark and tormented unknown past, they had been friends?
He snorted, the taste of her hatred still in back of his throat.
No, it was not even remotely possible.
Ten Years Earlier
"Good, you're awake."
Inuyasha turned from the window and didn't smile at the woman. Her name was Makiko, she'd already told him that several times. Over the past few weeks, he'd been barely strong enough to move, let alone get out of bed. This was the woman who had been taking care of him, bringing him meals and, he blushed with a bit of embarrassment, bathing him like a baby pup when he'd been too weak to take care of himself.
"How are you feeling today, Inuyasha-sama?" she asked. Makiko went to a small table in the corner of his room and started to set out his morning meal. His nose twitched hopefully at the smell of the rich broth and plain rice. He was actually feeling hungry this morning. Makiko had declared him ready for solid food at this point, but he understood that even rice could overwhelm his abused body.
"Thanks," he said, his voice sounding rough and disused. "You don't have to call me that, I'm just Inuyasha. I'm nobody's lord anything."
Makiko smiled gently at the white haired young demon. She was kindly by nature, although few of her staff would ever describe her that way. Makiko's brisk temperament made her a strict mistress to work for, but at the moment, she couldn't help but feel pity for her patient.
"I call you Inuyasha-sama because you are Sesshomaru-sama's brother," she said simply. "It would be disrespectful to him for me to call you by your name so familiarly."
"Keh," he said, a noncommittal grunt. Inuyasha sat down and started to slurp up the tasty soup. He felt the woman's hand brush over his hair and glanced up.
"Not so fast," she admonished. "I really don't want to have to clean up after you if your stomach can't handle the soup."
He blushed again, remembering the humiliation of having his first meal fed to him slowly only to vomit hard all over the floor. Makiko had only sighed and called for a pair of maids to bring her cleaning supplies. She'd mopped up the mess on her own, as Sesshomaru had decreed that no one was to have admittance to his brother's room but herself.
"If you're feeling strong enough," she said quietly, "Sesshomaru-sama will be coming to speak to you this morning."
Inuyasha flinched, he'd been here for weeks and they hadn't actually spoken. He could just barely recall his brother standing over his bedside from time to time, staring down at him with a cool, evaluating gaze before sweeping away wordlessly. At least once, maybe twice, he'd seen his brother draw a sword. In a blind panic, he'd struggled, thinking that he was about to be killed. But instead his brother had only rested the tip of the blade against his chest.
An eerie feeling made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, remembering. There was a gentle pulse of power that came from that sword, filling him with light and making him feel calm and sleepy. It was peaceful and unsettling at the same time. Makiko had explained that the blade was actually a sword of healing and made from the fang of his father. Such power confused him, as did the fact that his estranged brother had used it to rescue him.
Why would his human hating brother Sesshomaru want to save him, a miserable hanyou? He could barely remember the only time he'd seen him before, right after his mother's death. He'd been six and his brother had struck him across the face, called him a filthy abomination to their bloodline, and left him in the care of the human relatives that despised him for his youkai heritage.
Was it because he was now a full demon, had he suddenly become acceptable?
After successfully finishing his breakfast, even the bland rice, Makiko let him bathe himself and dress without her assistance. He might be weak, but he still had his pride and it was humiliating to let a woman tend him like he was a child.
So, once clean and dressed, Makiko brushed out his long hair. That he didn't mind at all, it was soothing to be cared for in such a way. No one had ever touched him willingly since his mother had died so long ago. Even Kikyou had been restrained; allowing him to touch her hand gently now and again, save for one long heartfelt embrace. Makiko didn't seem to be revolted by his half breed past and he closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of the brush sliding through his hair.
"What does my brother want to talk to me about?" he asked.
"I don't have the slightest idea, Inuyasha-sama," Makiko answered blandly. "Perhaps he only wishes to see that you are well."
"Why?" he blurted out. He turned around and stared at the woman. "My brother hates me," he said in hard tone. "I don't think that's changed."
Makiko didn't answer, but patted him on the head like he was a child. She reflected that it was probably so as Sesshomaru-sama was not a youkai renowned for his tolerance or his compassion. But in the past few years he had shown signs of mellowing on certain subjects. The child Rin was proof of that.
"I will tell him that you are ready to be seen by him," she said quietly. Her lord had an unpredictable nature and she wasn't about to tell her confused young patient that his brother could very well kill him, even after going to such lengths to save his life. She honestly hoped that was not his intention, after all, she had worked very hard to keep this young demon alive.
After Makiko left, Inuyasha went to stand by the window again. The view was stunning. He could see a wide green valley, surrounded on all sides by tall mountains. He could feel that this was home, something in his blood stirred at the sight. He sighed, leaning heavily against the wall as the memories washed over him.
Get away from here, you dirty half-breed!
Youkai scum!
He'd been born and lived his entire life among humans that hated and feared him. When he was only a small child, they'd mocked and tormented him after his mother had died. When he'd finally left his mother's people, he'd wandered aimlessly only to find that neither humans nor demons wanted something like him around. He couldn't blame them, he was a half-breed. He had no place.
He turned at the sound of his brother's cold voice. Instinctively, Inuyasha kept his back against the wall. With the memories of his outcast status still fresh in his mind, he felt anger bubble up inside him at the sight of Sesshomaru. Wasn't this the same brother that had left him to the humans, not caring if he lived or died?
"Why did you bring me here?" he ground out.
Sesshomaru raised an elegant eyebrow. "Would you have preferred that I left you to die, little brother?"
"What does it matter?" Inuyasha said bitterly. "You never cared before."
Smiling faintly, Sesshomaru crossed the room until he was standing beside his brother at the window. "I wished to know how you became a full demon," he said, his voice light and unconcerned. "It was the sacred jewel, was it not?"
Inuyasha stiffened, remembering how he'd tried to steal the jewel after Kikyou betrayed him. He reached up to his chest, his fingers finding a small scar that would never fade. The pain of the arrow lingered in his mind.
"I suppose it was," he said dully. "I don't remember."
"What about the priestess?"
Inuyasha shook his head. "She tried to kill me."
To his surprise, his brother laughed lightly. "Humans are like that," he said, a sneer evident in his tone. "They have no honor, no loyalty. It does not surprise me that she betrayed you."
"Shut up," Inuyasha muttered. "I thought I loved her. You wouldn't understand that, would you?"
"A weak emotion," Sesshomaru answered. "One that does not serve a youkai's instincts. One would have thought that living among humans for so long, you would have learned better."
He didn't want to talk about Kikyou to his brother. He knew he'd been a fool, he didn't need Sesshomaru lording it over him. For that matter, what did his brother want anyway? Was he free to leave?
"You're wondering why you're here and if I intend to let you leave, are you not, little brother?"
Damn him, Inuyasha thought sullenly. How does he know what I'm thinking? "I don't care one way or another," he said coldly, matching his brother's tone.
"You are a miserable liar, Inuyasha."
He turned to glare at his brother. "So fucking what? I already know you don't want me here. Why did you do it?"
Sesshomaru didn't look at him. "I want answers, Inuyasha. I want to know how and why you became a full demon, why the priestess betrayed you. Why you lost your mind and attacked your friends."
Inuyasha was taken aback. "What friends?" he demanded. "I don't have any friends."
"Your traveling companions, fool." Sesshomaru was becoming annoyed, having to converse with his younger brother was like speaking to a child. Rin made more sense than Inuyasha. "The ones who sought the jewel with you."
He laughed harshly. "You're the one who's deluded, brother," he sneered. "I was after the jewel on my own, I didn't need any help."
Frowning, his brother glanced down at him. He could sense no deception in Inuyasha's tone. Was it possible that his brother really didn't recall them?
"Your mind was in disarray when I found you," Sesshomaru said softly, his eyes glinting in the sunlight. He reached out a long finger to touch Inuyasha's scarred face. "You didn't even recognize me."
Inuyasha snorted, leaning on the windowsill. "I've only seen you once before. But I recognize you now. And I remember everything you said to me after my mother died, you bastard."
"Your mother was human," Sesshomaru murmured. "Humans die easily, you should have learned that by now as well. I don't pretend to claim affection for lesser beings."
"Like me?" Inuyasha asked sarcastically.
"Like you." There was no apology in Sesshomaru's tone or the slightest hint of concern. Inuyasha didn't let it bother him, his brother was a cold, unfeeling bastard, he'd never give a damn about anyone but himself.
"So now that you've saved my worthless life, are you going to explain why?"
Sesshomaru didn't answer him, but continued to gaze out the window. "Inuyasha," he said at last. "What do you see when you look out this window?"
His brother shrugged. "A pretty valley."
"Nothing else?"
He hesitated, not understanding exactly what Sesshomaru was getting at. He felt something stir when he looked out over the valley. Something that spoke to him deep inside. The feelings were hard to put into words, especially to someone like his brother. What did he know about what he felt, what he saw?
Slowly, pulling the words out one by one and thinking hard on it, he managed to answer. "I see...I I know this place somehow. Like it knows me."
The youkai lord remained as pale and impassive as a ghost. "As these are our father's ancestral lands, it should not surprise you. All inuyoukai are bound to their home territories. Even with your filthy human heritage, little brother, you should still feel a connection."
Inuyasha scowled, looking almost as petulant as a child. "A connection, huh? Even for a worthless half breed like me? Don't bother lying to me, Sesshomaru. I know what I am."
"What you were," his brother answered softly. "There is no taint of human blood in your scent now."
"Oh and that makes me acceptable, huh?" he asked bitterly. Inuyasha leaned against the wall, gazing out at the valley distrustfully. "Spare me. I don't need your approval and I never did. Fuck off."
Instead of mocking him, his brother was silent. Inuyasha turned to look at him curiously when Sesshomaru abruptly swept away, heading for the door. Inuyasha assumed the interview was over and wondered if his brother had gotten what he wanted, whatever it was. He was surprised when Sesshomaru returned, carrying a well-wrapped bundle. He placed it carefully before Inuyasha.
"Open it."
Inuyasha regarded him suspiciously. "What's inside?" he demanded.
Sesshomaru offered him a faint, mysterious smile. "It is a sword. A very...special...sword."
Curious, Inuyasha unwrapped it, aware that Sesshomaru was watching him closely. Under the layers of fabric, he found a scabbarded blade and lifted it. "What is so special about it?" he wanted to know.
"It does not reject you," Sesshomaru said thoughtfully. He looked like he was disappointed, Inuyasha decided. He slid the blade from the scabbard and stared at it.
"What a piece of junk!"
Sesshomaru shook his head, his voice hardened with disapproval. "That blade was made from our father's fang, little brother. You should be more respectful."
Inuyasha deliberately tossed the blade on his bed and looked away from his brother. "Means nothing to me. I don't give a damn where it came from."
Sesshomaru turned away, heading for the door. Inuyasha watched him, scowling at his brother's enigmatic manner. "Aren't you forgetting something?" he called, waving his hand at the sword.
"Keep it," Sesshomaru answered, not looking back. "It's useless to me and it belongs to you. I have no desire for a weapon I cannot use."
Inuyasha sat down on the floor, pulling the blade to him and looking at it closely. Useless, rusty piece of crap, just like Sesshomaru to give it to him. Well, it didn't matter, as soon as he was strong enough, he was getting the hell out of here.
Present Day
Kagome opened her eyes and sat up with a gasp, terrified. Her heart was racing so fast that her pulse pounded in her ears. She had no idea where she was.
She found herself in a strange room, with unfamiliar, rich furnishings. Elegant hangings and screens lined the walls, simple but elegant woodwork surrounded her. She was lying on a soft, plump futon and covered by a thick blanket. She was also utterly naked. For a moment, she wondered if this was all part of a bad dream. Then she wondered if the dream was entirely bad since she'd been obviously cared for in her sleep.
Her last memory was a fuzzy recollection of being handed over to someone, the cold night air whisking over face and the light of torches blinding her eyes. After that, she remembered nothing at all. Her body ached, but the pain of her sore muscles was nothing compared to the throbbing in her head. Then, like a rush of doom, it all came back to her.
He'd been carrying her and her body flushed with uncomfortable recollection. She remembered him lifting her to his back, snarling at her as she tried to struggle and protest. Vaguely, she realized that tension and exhaustion must have made her pass out while he carried her.
It sickened her a bit, knowing that somehow that familiar feeling of him between her thighs as he ran may have made her relax enough to sleep. She could still recall the smell of his hair when she'd laid her head against his back, dark and woodsy, like the scent of deep forest.
"Oh God," she moaned, burying her face in the thick blanket. Despair started to overwhelm her and Kagome took deep breaths to steady herself. Don't you dare start crying, she told herself fiercely. You can handle it, whatever happens, you will survive.
The soft sound of footsteps caught her attention and she looked up as a door was slid back quietly. To her surprise, a young woman peeked inside, her face carefully neutral, yet somehow apprehensive. The girl looked at her soberly and Kagome couldn't make her voice work to say anything.
"Are you awake, miss?" the girl asked in a soft, timid voice. Shivering in spite of the warm blankets, Kagome nodded. The girl gave a small bow, dropping her eyes.
"I will inform Makiko-san."
"Who?" Kagome asked, forcing herself to speak. Who was Makiko-san and why was she to be informed? The girl didn't answer, but smiled gently and slid the door shut again.
"Damn," Kagome murmured, getting a hold of herself again. Whoever was coming, she didn't want to meet them in the buff, she was fairly certain of that. She made her legs work, sliding out into the relatively cool air of the room. A long, wide window was open and the morning breeze was brisk. The sunlight had the look of very early morning and Kagome wondered how long she'd been asleep.
Her clothes were gone. Kagome's skin crawled at the idea of putting on the filthy, stained garments but she had nothing else. She had just decided to search for something to wear, unless they expected her to stay naked, there had to be something. She was bending over a small chest when she heard the door open again and spun around in fear.
"I apologize for startling you." Kagome stared at her. The woman was lovely, with pale creamy smooth skin and dark hair tied up in an elaborate style. She wore a simple, yet elegant kimono of warm beige that was embroidered with flowers of a slightly paler color. Her dark eyes were very grave, her expression as neutral as the previous woman's, only without any hint of apprehension.
"Where am I?" Kagome demanded, her tone harsher than she'd intended. She forced herself to stand proudly, not make any modest attempt to cover herself. She had nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. The woman merely inclined her head in a smooth, slightly respectful bow.
"You are in the fortress of the inuyoukai, a guest of his lordship, Sesshomaru-sama." When Kagome's jaw dropped, the woman smiled faintly. "My name is Makiko, I am head of the household staff in this place."
"You're a demon," Kagome said, stating the obvious. The woman had slightly pointed ears, her fingertips were shining claws. And when she smiled, Kagome saw the faint gleam of fangs.
"And you are a human," Makiko said gently. She walked across the room, her steps an elegant glide. "You have nothing to fear from me. I apologize for your state of undress, but I couldn't bear to let you sleep in such filthy clothing."
"I…see," Kagome said, somehow put at ease by the woman's demeanor. Makiko approached her and went to the small chest that Kagome had been about to investigate. Opening it, she withdrew a plain white yukata and offered it to the human.
"Would you care for a bath?" Although it was phrased as a question, Kagome understood from the woman's tone that this was expected. She reached up to feel her filthy hair and grimaced. It stank of demon blood and sweat and seeing how the woman's sensitive nose twitched, Kagome knew she had to reek.
Well, if she had to face someone like Sesshomaru today, she thought it would be easier if she were clean.
"Thank you," Kagome said at last, remembering her manners. She might be angry and scared out of her mind, but there was nothing threatening in the way Makiko was looking at her.
Nodding in approval, Makiko led her to the outer rooms and Kagome realized her bedchamber was one of a small suite of rooms. They were all elegantly, sparsely furnished and Makiko led her down a short passage to a large stone room. In the middle of the room was a round wooden tub, beautifully carved on its outer panels, already filled with steaming, scented water.
"Do you require any assistance?" Makiko asked in a bland voice. Kagome blushed, realizing the woman was asking if she wanted her to bathe her.
"I prefer to bathe alone," she said, pretending to be dignified. Makiko bowed and left the room and Kagome reflected that the demon was probably relieved. No doubt she would consider it be beneath her to assist a human in her bath. Kagome was well aware of what demons thought of humans in general. If this was truly Sesshomaru's domain, it would be doubly so.
Still, she felt a little more charitable on the subject of Inuyasha's older brother when she slid into the steaming water. It was nearly scalding and Kagome shuddered, having gotten used to western ideas of hot baths. She reflected that she had lost some of her toughness regarding cultural differences like that, just as she knew her manner came across as brusque to other Japanese. It was amazing how only a few years had changed her character in such a way.
Stop it, she told herself, relaxing against the edge of the tub. You aren't really in Japan anymore; you're in a fucking nightmare with polite demons and bastard youkai lords. She knew that she was going to have to compose herself to deal with Sesshomaru.
And Inuyasha.
Kagome grit her teeth, her hands clenching into fists under the water. He didn't remember her, not a fucking thing. On the one hand, that was probably for the best. She probably would have been torn to pieces on his claws if he remembered her. The Inuyasha she remembered was sadistic, enraged by her escape. Hadn't he destroyed Kaede's village, torn people apart with his bare hands? She couldn't afford to forget that she was at the mercy of monsters.
It saddened her that Shippou hadn't told her the truth from the very beginning. The kitsune's betrayal hurt almost as much as the fact that Inuyasha had forgotten her. She trusted Shippou; she loved him dearly as if he were her own flesh and blood. And still his jealousy and resentment had never faded. She thought about the way he'd touched her, running his hands over her breasts, reaching between her thighs and felt a pain go through the pit of her stomach.
Deliberately, Kagome ducked her head under the water, scrubbing fiercely at her dirty hair. Coming back up for air, she stood and reached for cleanser, hoping it wasn't some strange youkai concoction that would eat her skin. Resolutely, she scrubbed every part of her body until her skin was raw and red from her efforts.
"Dirty," she muttered, almost tearing at her skin with a need to be clean. Sometimes this happened, not very often anymore, but she would be assailed by the feeling of utter filthiness. No amount of scalding water and harsh abrasive could ever erase it, just as she knew that nothing would ever be able to freshen her soul again.
She forced herself to stop with her aggressive scrubbing when she saw the first pinpricks of blood appeared on her arms and breasts. Kagome sank to her knees, her long hair dripping in her face. I will not cry, she thought. I will not cry for any of them. They don't deserve my tears. I'm the one who suffered; I'm the one he almost killed.
The water was still hot enough to make her skin sting, but Kagome rinsed her hair carefully and piled it on top of her head. Then she made herself lie back, wondering if she could just stay in the bath forever. Eventually her body would shrivel and peel, reflecting her inner despair. If she drowned herself in the bath, she wondered if they'd bury her. If Inuyasha would suddenly remember her name, know that she'd loved him with all of her young heart and soul. And remember that he had betrayed her so viciously.
Even then, would he regret her death?
"Inuyasha," she whispered as the steam cloaked her face. "Why don't you know me?"
"I believe the question would be, why does it bother you so much?"
Kagome's eyes shot open and she stared in horror at the young man lounging on the edge of the tub. He smiled at her, his eyes as kind as she remembered and she felt her heart thud hard in her chest.
"You're dead," she whispered, quivering.
The monk nodded, his easy smile still in place. "I know. I was there."
Kagome ground her fists against her eyes. "I'm losing my fucking mind," she muttered hoarsely. Miroku was dead; he was not sitting there and smiling at her. The monk had died, she remembered holding his battered, burned body and wailing in grief while Inuyasha wrapped his arms around her shoulders in an effort to comfort her.
"I don't believe in ghosts," she said, her voice low and desperate. "I can't handle this, I swear to God I can't handle this."
"Yes, you can handle this," he said softly and she looked up. Miroku regarded her seriously. "Please don't punish yourself, Kagome. You've been through enough."
Her voice hitching in her throat, Kagome shook her head. "Go away," she pleaded. "Please just leave me alone, I don't want to see you. You died, Miroku. I put flowers on your grave, along with flowers for Sango and Kohaku even though we didn't have their bodies. This is too much."
Miroku sighed, his eyes sad. "I am sorry," he said, his tone very gentle and quiet. "I know this is a shock for you..."
"You think?" she answered bitterly. "You think it's a shock to see my dead friend sitting on the edge of a bathtub and talking to me? No, that's hardly a shock at all, happens to me all the time!"
"At least you haven't lost your sense of humor," he commented, picking at his robes. She watched his hands, noticing that they were both bare and whole. He smiled at that, seeing where her gaze lingered and presented both palms for inspection.
"No wind tunnel," he said teasingly.
She groaned, leaning against the wall of the tub again. Kagome supposed that if she was to be subjected to hallucinations now, there were far worse things she could imagine than her long dead, but beloved friend.
"What do you want?" she asked weakly. Maybe there was something mind altering in the herbs they'd used to scent this bathwater. Maybe she'd just lost her mind completely and was actually safe in the modern era, only in a padded room.
"You are not insane," he said, folding his arms and grinning at her. She raised an eyebrow at his tone, he sounded so real, so very much like Miroku.
"Aren't you supposed to be reincarnated somewhere?" she asked, rubbing her face. She actually thought about it, wondering what kind of life would have been appropriate for Miroku's soul and smiled faintly at the idea. A bouncer at a strip club came to mind.
"That would be nice," he said fondly. "I'm pleased to know you think of me so well."
She snorted. "How do you know what I'm thinking?"
Miroku shrugged. "I'm your hallucination, remember?" He stood and walked over to her, kneeling down so he could look at her eye to eye. "I'm here to warn you."
She choked, a laugh rising from her throat that sounded hysterical even to her own ears. "Is that the best you can come up with, Miroku? You're here to warn me? Why didn't you warn me that Scott was going to try and kill me? How about warning me that I might want to be careful and not get my ass thrown down the damn well?"
"You are in danger," he said solemnly, no humor in his eyes. "There is a terrible evil presence in the land."
"I know," she snapped, "that evil presence is the one that carried me here!" Angrily, she splashed him and stared when the water splattered on the floor, but didn't wet his face.
“My God," she breathed. "You really are here."
"I'm not talking about Inuyasha," he said. "You are in danger because of your spiritual abilities, Kagome. Please listen to me. You must find a way home as soon as possible before that evil comes seeking you. It needs you."
Miroku bowed his head for a moment. "Something very terrible has happened, I wish to say it was not true, but it is. Please, out of friendship, just believe me."
She did. She felt her skin crawl, but she believed him. "I'm trying to go home," she whispered. "I can't get through the well. I'm...I'm going to see if I can somehow get Inuyasha to try to help me. He won't want to, I'm sure of that, but I don't have any other way. I'm stuck here, Miroku, I'm helpless..."
She trailed off when he put his hand on the side of the tub, very close to hers but not touching. "He will help you, you have to find a way to convince him."
Kagome closed her eyes. She would find a way; she always found a way to survive. She didn't want to stay here, in this land of demons and death. She never wanted to see another village slaughtered, didn't want to fight for her life against a demon again. If that wasn't reason enough, there was Inuyasha himself to consider. What if his memory returned, she knew she wouldn't live for very long once that happened.
And she knew that he would find the most painful, humiliating way possible to kill her. Rape her to death, torture her slowly. She could almost feel the claws slicing into her soft breasts, his hot breath on her throat as he fucked her relentlessly, ignoring her shrieks and wails of pain. She could almost hear her own voice begging him to stop.
Or worse, begging him to continue.
You're mine, bitch. I'm never going to stop.
I'll kill us both before I let you free.
Some minutes had passed in silence while her mind reeled. She was lost in memories of terror, of soul-destroying lust, of shame and bitter, bitter hatred. When she opened her eyes again, she was startled to see Miroku's face peering down at her.
"You're still here," she whispered.
A faint smile appeared on his face. "Well," he said, the smile widening considerably. "You're still naked. You can't blame me for looking, can you?"
His comment caught her by such surprise that she actually laughed. She ran her hands over her wet hair, glancing down at her bobbing breasts. "Miroku, even dead you haven't changed..."
She was talking to air, he was gone. Kagome shivered in spite of the warmth of the bath, a shiver that was from deep inside her where a chill lived and no warmth could erase. Had it just been a dream? A hallucination brought on by stress and pain? She considered that, thinking that the mind did strange things when it was overtaxed and she had certainly felt pushed to the breaking point by the last few days.
She stepped out of the tub, beginning to dry herself with the soft cloths that Makiko had left. So she was in danger, so she needed to get home. Yes. She would find a way, this wouldn't break her. She had already proved that she could endure the worst he had to offer. And then some.
She dropped her towel, searching around her with wide eyes at the sound of Miroku's voice. Her hands were shaking a bit and she curled them into fists. Straightening her spine, she spoke to the empty air in a voice hushed and brittle.
You should tell him about the baby.
Her knees gave way and she sank slowly to the floor, her face cupped in her palms. Although she'd promised herself she wouldn't cry, Kagome couldn't help but weep, pulling her legs to her chest and rocking back and forth on the bare floor in a desperate and lonely attempt to comfort herself.
It was more than she could bear.