The box had moved around her room several times in a futile bid to both forget it was there and keep it close. Kagome had a hard time looking at it, unable to get the picture of what it held out of her mind. It was final, that box. It felt like the end of everything and reminded her too easily of what could have been. Neatly folded, the fabric weighted with importance.
“Kagome, Ayumi is here to see you!” Kagome was able to push it aside for a little longer, forgotten for a time. The girls were able to go out and enjoy a sunny day, early spring bringing warmer weather after the bitterly cold winter they’d had.
Ayumi was kind enough not to ask what Kagome’s plans for “after” were. It had been a point of issue in conversation in the past. Eri and Yuka didn’t quite understand why Kagome was so hesitant to commit to any one path, especially when she had been able to so handily turn her grades around, now that she wasn’t “sick” anymore. Her friends had learned - some much more slowly than others - not to ask her about that time either. They knew that something had happened to her that kept her out of school frequently, then for a longer solid period. Then Kagome was back to school and never missed another day. But they noticed that their long time friend was different. She wasn’t as naturally bubbly as she used to be.
Ayumi was the only one Kagome felt truly comfortable hanging out with alone anymore. She was calmer than their other girlfriends, she listened without judgement, and she only offered gentle advice that Kagome felt was both helpful but careful of her feelings. Today… Today she needed someone to be more assertive with her. Today she needed to nail down a plan because she had nothing and, with the big day creeping up and most of the important deadlines passing her by, she would be up a creek with no paddle very shortly. “Ayumi? What should I do?”
“Huh? Do about what, Kagome?” She launched into her very limited options for schools, for a job. None of them sounded appealing to her, so she hoped that her dear friend, who knew her better than most people, would have some kind of reaction to point her in the right direction. “Hm… What feels right to you, Kagome?” she asked instead.
“I… Nothing. None of it feels right,” she confessed in a whisper, dropping onto a nearby bench and waiting for her friend to plop down beside her. “I feel like I’m just playing at this. Like I don’t belong here.” She let her hands hang between her knees. Kagome sighed heavily, then looked up at her friend watching her so earnestly. Ayumi wanted to help, and here she had been lying to her for years. “I… Can I tell you something?”
“Oh goodness… you were pregnant, weren’t you?” Ayumi burst out, then slapped a hand over her mouth in shock and fear, as though she couldn’t believe the words that had just come out of her own mouth. Kagome could only blink for a few moments as she fully processed what her friend had said. “I’m sorry, Kagome-chan, I never really believed it, but with all that time you were absent and…”
Kagome couldn’t help the bubble of laughter that rose out of her gut and up out of her. It was cleansing, in a way, to finally know what people had suspected of her in middle school. All the absences, all the “illnesses” that her grandfather had made up. Everyone knew they were lies. No wonder Hojo was always bringing her things for her back and feet! He thought she might be having pain or swelling… from pregnancy! “No! Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, Ayumi-chan, I just… I never asked what you thought was happening. I never even thought of that!”
“You… you weren’t?”
“No! C’mon Ayumi. If I had a secret lovechild running around somewhere, don’t you think you would have noticed by now?” She mumbled something about adoption. “I… There’s only one person I would ever even consider having a child with,” she confessed, “and if I had, I wouldn’t let them go for anything.”
Ayumi hesitated, placing her hand on her friend’s arm. “It’s that boy, Inuyasha, the yankii, isn’t it?” Kagome bit her lip to hold back a sob at hearing someone else say his name. She could only nod faintly. “You haven’t spoken of him for years. I assumed he was… gone.” She didn’t elaborate on what she meant by that, but Kagome wasn’t stupid. Her friends had gotten the idea that Inuyasha was a delinquent in their heads and so it was just as likely that he had abandoned her as it was that he was dead from a fight. Or perhaps he’d gone to jail. Or straightened up his act and couldn’t see her anymore… There were a multitude of options. None of which were close to the far more bizarre truth.
Kagome’s head fell back against the bench they were on with a deep sigh. “Let me tell you a story, Ayumi-chan. About a priestess and a hanyou.”
Her pert little nose wrinkled in confusion at the change in subject. “You mean that story about the jewel that your grandfather is always telling?”
Kagome let a mirthless smile twist her lips. “Kind of. This is the real story.”
She wove the tale of the past, before she arrived in it, then explained to her enrapt audience how on her fifteenth birthday she had been stolen away into the Sengoku Jidai. A world so different from theirs, if only because of the presence of youkai. Magical beings, herself included, ran rampant through a land that had danger and death waiting around every corner. A place where a surly inuhanyou was awoken by a silly teenage girl who just so happened to be the reincarnation of his dead girlfriend.
Kagome stared up at the sky, not bothering to see if her friend was believing anything she said. She told of a few of their more harrowing adventures, told of the slow but steady connection that grew between the small band of warriors. How she had contributed only so much until she grew in confidence and finally broke through the seal on her power. How they had defeated their enemy… only for her to be separated from the young man who would forever hold her heart. Kagome felt the tears trail down the sides of her face but was too entrenched in telling her story to wipe them away.
It took her a moment before she could convey the pain she had felt upon finding Inuyasha’s letters hidden in her room, then discovering that he had been leaving little trinkets and gifts for her family all along. She took great sobbing breaths when she retold finding the boxes in storage. The destructive power of seeing a visible connection between herself and her hanyou… only to have the well refuse her yet again.
“That’s why you missed that movie night…” was all Ayumi murmured. Her voice was soft, tears in her eyes as she watched her friend of many years break down. She had no doubt that Kagome was telling the truth, no matter how unbelievable it sounded. She cried along with Kagome when she whispered about the dream she'd had under the Goshinboku, finally able to communicate with her hanyou, only to be ripped away with the taste of him still on her lips when she woke. “You haven’t been able to…”
“No. I tried a few times, but there was nothing. He wasn’t there. I… I think that might have been just a dream after all.”
“Oh Kagome-chan,” Ayumi murmured, shifting on the bench to sit a bit closer to her long-time friend. She didn’t reach out to touch her, not wanting to invade her space, but let her physical presence be a shelter for her pain.
“Thanks for listening to my crazy story, Ayumi,” Kagome finally said, true gratitude in her tone. Curly hair shook as she denied any need for it. “If you didn’t tell anyone…”
“I wouldn’t. But I believe you, Kagome.” She bit her lip and scooted even closer, glancing around them to make sure no one was nearby. “The boy I’ve been spending time with…”
Kagome slowly sat up straighter, neck nearly creaking as she turned to stare at her adorably mousy best friend. “Ayumi… are you dating a youkai?” she hissed, hands suddenly gripping the shorter girl’s arm in a desperate gesture. Maybe if he had been around for a while or if there was a secret community…
“Well… he’s only part. His grandmother is a kitsune.”
Kagome frowned. There were plenty of people who claimed that a great great someone or other had been a kitsune. It was fairly common. But Ayumi assured her that he had been able to prove it by showing her his tail. “The poor boy is only a quarter and he has a tail?”
“He says she has seven.” Ah. Well that made more sense. A strong kitsune like that would pass down fairly strong youki. “Kagome… you want to go back to the past, don’t you?”
The tears were so swift they took her breath away. “Yes,” she sobbed out. “I want that more than anything.” But no matter how many times she tried, no matter how many ofuda for acceptance, opening, welcome - any iteration she could think of really - she placed on the well, it ignored her and remained stubbornly closed.
Ayumi gently patted her shoulder. She wasn’t sure she could help at all, and she wouldn’t dare suggest she could for fear of giving Kagome false hope, but Ayumi had started thinking of what she needed to ask Hiyoshi to see if his grandmother might know something that would be helpful. Or someone.
He hated this time of year. The weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to fry him or freeze his ass off still. Inuyasha snorted as the beginnings of what would likely prove to be an intense pollen season hit his nostrils. He didn’t have “allergies” as she called them, but he did notice that when the trees and grass all started doing their thing, he had a harder time scenting the area and he found himself sneezing far more often. “Plenty of flowers in the meadow though,” he muttered from on top of the Goshinboku, the wind ruffling his clothes.
He sighed, dropping to a crouch and scowling at the activity he could spy in the village from this distance. There were those preparing supplies for planting and some who would be taking textiles and pottery to the next towns for trading now that the wagon roads were clear. He and the monk had taken on a few jobs in the last few weeks, preparing for the arrival of their new pup. Sango had waved them off as though it didn’t bother her, but she had Rin and the old bat to help her with the twins. Shippou was due back from the kitsune village any time now and he would be a big help keeping the girls occupied. They adored him almost as much as they did their hanyou “uncle.” Inuyasha smirked to himself, shaking his head a bit.
He’d had a fair amount of time alone over the last several years, but he had also spent a good amount of time in the company of Sango, Miroku and their growing family. He had struggled with the fact that they were moving on before, but knew now that staying still… it didn’t work like that. Life kept moving on, pulling you with it, even if you didn’t want it to. Part of him still clung on to hope - to the thought Miroku had planted in his head years ago - that when the time was right, Kagome would return to him.
Three years had passed, and he felt like that part of him was shrinking.
After the dream a few months before that had left him broken, Inuyasha had tried several times to communicate with her through the tree of time. He was met with nothing. No reaction in waking or sleep. No sign that the dream had been real at all outside of those moments after waking where he had scented her on his clothes, felt her lips still on his. It was easy to think that he had imagined the whole thing, that it truly had been only a dream. At the same time, he never would have imagined the ridiculous hat she was wearing. He’d never seen anything so frumpy and silly looking in his life, and yet, it was endearing because it was on her.
Inuyasha shook his head with a wry smile. Leave it to Kagome to make him want to smile even in the midst of despairing. Here he was, losing the feeling of connectedness he had felt to her from the moment she popped up in the well. Even before he had been fully awakened, before he was even aware of her existence, he had been connected to her. But now… Now he felt afloat, adrift. Maybe… Maybe it was finally time for him to move on from this place?
The inuhanyou sighed, staring off toward the horizon. As tempting as sprinting off in whichever direction was, going until he encountered the ocean, he had his friends. Miroku, Sango, the twins, the runt… Even the old bat and Rin. They all counted on him in one way or another, even if it was just for his friendship. Which was a foreign but welcome feeling. Even if he felt like running away.
For now, at least, he would stay by the well that haunted him, in the forest that sheltered some of his sweetest memories as well as the most painful ones.
Kagome sighed, finally opening the box she had been avoiding for weeks now. She needed to face the music sometime. “The iron’s hot, Kagome!” her mother called from downstairs. She thanked her, gathering up the contents of the box and taking them down to smooth out the wrinkles and folds in her graduation attire. With only a few days left before the big day, her mother had made it a point to remind her that she needed to look her best and that included a longer list of things than Kagome had initially been prepared to deal with. But one thing at a time, she had made it through the list until this chore.
Leaving her graduation things hanging up in the laundry room, perfectly pressed and just waiting for her to put them on that weekend, Kagome returned to her room and sat on the floor to deal with the other box she had been avoiding. The carvings had a bit of dust in the corners, but a quick brush with a cloth removed it. She took a deep breath and let it out before finally opening it. They were all still nestled safely in their places in the padding within the case.
As part of her decision to accept her future was here in… the future, Kagome had decided she was finally going to put the carvings on display on the shelf above her desk. She didn’t have to give them up completely, and she couldn’t hide them away either. Her second family would always have a safe place in her heart, in her very soul, and hiding the beautiful figurines Inuyasha had made would be disrespectful to him. Kagome sighed as she put Shippou and Kirara at Sango and Miroku’s feet. Kaede stood beside the couple, her single eye looking just as kind but watchful as ever.
As always, Kagome was particularly careful when taking the figures of herself and Inuyasha out of the box. She made sure not to catch the thin line that connected them on anything as she placed them on the shelf a bit to the side, but closer together than they might usually stand. Kagome stood back and mused, biting her lip in thought. She wasn’t quite satisfied with the angles, adjusting here and there. When she moved Inuyasha a second time, something tickled the back of her finger. Kagome swallowed down the immediate panic that it was a spider, not wanting to overreact and accidentally knock one of the figures over. But it wasn’t a spider. Wasn’t an insect.
The tiny red thread caught against the slightly rougher skin from a callus on her finger.
She blinked in disbelief as the thread came away from the Inuyasha figure's hand but still clung to her tiny carved appendage as much as the real one. "No," she whispered. Kagome dared not move at first. The thread could be brittle enough that it would snap entirely if she moved too quickly. Treating the thread as though it might be a detonator, Kagome rolled her hand until the slightly frayed end was resting on the tip of her finger instead, gently keeping it in place with her thumb. She moved slowly as she lifted the small Inuyasha up and studied how best to reattach the thread. She ended up moving them to the bed.
It took several minutes of mental manipulation before she could situate both of the figures properly so she could reach the tiny wrist and not pull the thread too much. There was just enough slack that she could get it looped around and began to carefully thread the loose end through the circle she had made. Kagome was barely cognizant of her tongue poking out in concentration, the inaudible buzzing in her head from her hyperfocus. Nothing else mattered in that moment except reattaching that lost connection. Kagome had the loop completed and initiated a knot.
Until the thread twanged and snapped.
So did Kagome.
She felt something inside her chest break just as easily as that thread, now hanging from her tiny figurine with nowhere near enough slack to tie around his. That twist of fate that had bound them together, had she just destroyed it? Was it gone forever? She had to know. There had to be some kind of sign this time. Surely...
The wind bit her cheeks as she sprinted out of the house and across the yard. The evening air was brisk and highlighted the dampness on her cheeks. None of that mattered. Kagome just needed to get to the well house. She needed to get to the well. Before the connection was lost, gone forever, she needed to get to him . “Wait for me,” she huffed as she threw open the doors to the little shrine that housed the bone eaters well. The stairs were taken by twos and she nearly collided with the wall of the well frame when she hit the dirt at the bottom.
Please . She lifted herself up onto the lip, balancing in the fading light from the sun. Please . She heard her mother calling her name just as she stepped off the edge with her eyes closed.