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Muddling, Meddling, Mothering by naqaashi

Muddling, Meddling, Mothering

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.

A/N: This fic is an entry for Tangerine Dream's Annual Fanfiction Tournament. Please vote for me if you feel my fic is good enough to make it to the sixth round! Ladybattousai is my partner for this round, so please read her story also, and then decide whom you will vote for!

Our theme for this round was Valentine's Day and a game-show obsessed Mama Higurashi.

Here are the contest rules - 

http://www.dokuga.com/forum/29-challenges/64798-second-annual-fanfiction-tournament

Many, many thanks to MissKatt, for acting as emergency bouncer! 

 

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 A mother’s heart is a foolish, avaricious creature, often blinded by selfish love and selfless ambition.

Or vice versa. But such philosophical introspection was the farthest thing from Mrs. Higurashi’s maternal heartbeat one chill morning in January. Love – selfless and otherwise – had been long overtaken by a consuming fear. Inch by inch, it clogged her arteries and slithered towards the core of her being, chilling every other sense but itself.

Worry.

It was strange; she had grown so used to constantly fretting over her daughter’s doings that it had taken her the better part of a year to identify the difference between plain anxiety and this mad panic, this…loss of control.

It was funny, too. She hadn’t expected things to be this way. The end of her daughter’s sojourn into legend was to be marked with triumph and glory and glad tidings of peaceful days. An education, a husband, a renewal of the dreams her adolescent child had left on hold – Mrs. Higurashi had placed such possibilities in her sight. The constantly gnawing worry had never been a part of her Five-Step Rehabilitation Programme.

But it had been three years since her daughter had come through the well, heartsick and battle-sore and dragged herself to her room, gesturing that she was too weary for words.

She could hear her daughter now, speed-typing on her computer, browsing some manga site or the other, probably. In a while the sounds would cease in favour of a shower. ‘The same routine every day,’ Mrs. Higurashi sighed. ‘Perhaps she’ll go out for a walk afterwards…I should ask her to fetch milk from the grocery while she’s out.’ She waited a few moments, deliberating. Then she called her son and asked him to buy some milk for dinner on his way home from football practice.

Kagome wouldn’t be going anywhere. She hadn’t left the house for three years.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was probably for the best, Mrs. Higurashi ruminated, that her daughter had inherited her will-power. The child’s most dominant trait would certainly be amplified in the source, she maintained. Consequently, as she bid a crestfallen Hojou goodbye yet again, she refused to allow herself the luxury of matching his misery. Kagome would respond to the boy’s affections – she would ensure that the girl gave her suitor a fair chance.

She had to. He was the only suitor – only friend – her daughter had left. Forcing Kagome into an arranged match wasn’t an option she could keep open, not with the fantastic upbringing she had received. No…if Kagome was to ever marry and have a family, it would have to be with a man sweet and gentle – and infinitely peabrained. Hojou hadn’t two decent thoughts to rub together beyond his family’s apocethary and Kagome, but he had a propensity for ailing, weak creatures. ‘He’ll do. He’ll take care of her…because he can see she needs taking care of.’ A dutiful marriage was all it would ever be, but better an empty marriage than an empty life.

Thus fortified, she betook herself to the tiny study and began her daily routine of scouring through newspapers, television channels and radio frequencies in search of the latest promotional campaigns and contests. Something was bound to crop up – it always did in the weeks before a festival. The voice of experience thrummed optimistically within her as she searched. With Valentine’s Day but a few weeks away, she was certain to unearth an entire slew of the heavenly things! The fact that she hadn’t won a single one of these for the last two years – when it had finally begun to sink in that her daughter’s future would require some drastic measures towards a romantic folly – didn’t deter the woman in the slightest.

‘It’s the law of averages – you keep on losing long enough and the universe will allow you a victory.’

She might not win this time. But eventually she would, and that was all she needed. One all-expenses paid trip to some pseudo-exotic destination or other – and then let biology take its course.

Of course, there was the possibility – no, the probability that Kagome would be less than willing to engage in an enterprise as sordid as her mother was planning…

Ah, very well. Mrs. Higurashi knew her daughter would raise Cain over it, but her normally tender woman had hardened her heart to it. Like it or not, her daughter was going to be presented with a couple’s holiday abroad, and she was going to take it. With Hojou. And if she was still a virgin when she returned…Mrs. Higurashi didn’t think she needed to worry on that front. Hojou was a sufficiently attractive young man, and no doubt her virginal daughter would discover that she was, in fact, a mess of raging hormones that could do with a night on the town.

As for the future, she hadn’t raised her children to engage in casual affairs. For all that Kagome proclaimed she couldn’t stand the boy, Mrs. Higurashi recognised a similar caregiving instinct in her daughter. ‘A child or two will snap her back to life again,’ she decided.

‘Yes,’ she mused contentedly as she snipped out promising advertisements and made several calls to register for MTV’s Love Metre Valentine’s Special, ‘yes…if I win this one, it should all work out very nicely indeed…’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The crowded theatre echoed with whoops and cheers. The announcer’s excited screeching reached over the din, announcing details of the “luxurious, romantic holiday” that had been bagged by the petite middle-aged lady from a Tokyo shrine.  A pair of tall young models in identical lilac gowns sashayed out from the backstage, bearing bouquets of lilies and carnations, and the celebrity judge handed over the tickets with a convincingly enthusiastic grin on his face, though he privately wondered why the winner wasn’t leaping with joy like most game show winners usually did. Or even smiling, damn it.

The lack of pleasantry on her face was not an indicator of her lack of happiness, however. Mrs. Higurashi was in fact elated to have finally achieved step one of her dream. But now that reality had set in to crystallize her aspirations, practicalities were mobbing her thoughts, giving rise to a fresh new set of worries.

Namely, How-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-my-sullenly-reclusive-hermit-of-a-legendary-daughter-to-go-on-this-vacation-without-resorting-to-physically-dragging-her-there.

To say nothing of Hojou.

Dear heavens, Kagome was going to kill her. Right in her bedroom. And her corpse would rot there for weeks before her father-in-law or her son ventured to breach the doorway and investigate the stink.

‘Tch. Now you’re being extreme,’ she scolded herself. They would definitely discover her body by dinnertime, seeing as she was the only one in the family with culinary talent.

The matronly woman scowled. Let it happen. Hadn’t she vowed to get her daughter out of the house and into Hojou’s spindly arms even if it killed her?

Now if she had to deal with the literal implications of that promise, then she would. Steel jammed firmly in her spine, she waited patiently through the endless rounds of congratulations and promo pictures for the show, then requested to be limousined straight home so she could break the surprise to her daughter.

And that, in short, was how Mr. Higurashi ended up transporting a half-dead youkai halfway across the world for a half-hearted attempt to reconcile with her daughter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It began when Kagome refused, point-blank, to even consider taking the trip. Recriminations, emotional blackmail, tears, threats and old-fashioned scoldings simply rolled off her indifferent head. In vain, Mrs. Higurashi tried the last-ditch lure of tourism – “But it’s Vienna!” – to arouse some human sense of curiosity in the lethargic, numb eyes of her daughter.

It fell to Grandpa Higurashi to tear the helpless woman away from her daughter’s bedside and quit her attempts to force the girl into some semblance of normalcy. He wasn’t the type to interfere between his womenfolk, but when his formerly vibrant granddaughter had to be hauled off her bedding into a cold shower like dead weight just so that she’d say yes to a romantic getaway, he knew it was time to leave her to her own devices.

And so Mrs. Higurashi travelled to Vienna alone. One ticket wasted. A surprise change of accommodation waited for her when she disembarked at the airport. Not caring enough to protest, she allowed herself to be led to a comfortable old inn surrounded by picturesque gardens. The owner greeted her personally, checking her into the best room and making solicitous arrangements for her comfort.

Then, she had just wanted him gone, wanting to sink into the high bed and sleeping her cares and her failure away. But the tall, green-eyed young man had other ideas. Scarcely twenty minutes after being shown to her room, Mrs. Higurashi found herself in proud custody of her adopted grandson. Or adopted son, as the young man simply couldn’t make up his mind as to Kagome’s role in his life.  

“But it doesn’t matter so much, does it, Mama-san?” he inquired anxiously. “Your daughter practically raised me…if I hadn’t been technically older than her back then, I’d be calling her momma without thinking twice about it! But I’m a very old, old, old man now; it would just be silly,” he sighed, with an impish grin that belied the tragedy in his tone.

Before the night was out, the newly-minted relatives had exchanged mutual histories, though the point of interested remained similar. Though the young man remained noncommittal about past events, his face darkened perceptibly as Mrs. Higurashi bemoaned the havoc Feudal Japan had wreaked on her daughter’s personality.

For a long while, he said nothing. Finally, as though making a difficult decision, he asked, “So…Kagome never told you what happened that final day?”

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head in despair. “You…can help? You can at least tell me what is wrong with my child, can’t you?”

“…I might know someone…important.”

And he had whisked her away to London, to a tiny hole of an apartment, tenanted by a quiet, grim man and his gruff caretaker.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A blessed week of peace. No nagging, no screaming, no remonstrating – just blissful, awful silence. Higurashi Kagome had grown to hold silence very dear in the three years since her ignoble return from her adventures in the past. Once, years ago when she was young and inexperienced, it had grated on her nerves, prompting her to become skilled in the art of pleasant conversation. Fill up the silence – that had been her simple, cheerful approach to life.

But time had intervened and taught her the virtues of silence. The appeal and anticipation and camaraderie that lay thick and sure in the air, without the aid of a single noise to announce its presence or importance. Slowly, once the initial, alarmed attraction faded, she had fallen in love with it.

It had been her maddest, deepest love. And she clung to it still, even though it was more silent torture than silent pleasure these days.  

‘I deserve it.’ She wallowed in the confines of her blankets and her noise-canceling headphones, absorbing her last few minutes of privacy before her mother returned from that accursed trip to wherever.

Downstairs, a door slammed. She could hear voices coming up the stairs; earlier than expected. Sighing, she put away her laptop, mentally braced for an hour or so of forced conversation and photographs and hints and more hints about Hojou, bless his silly soul. Someone knocked on her door.

“Yeah?”

He entered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For long, long minutes, they stared at each other, drinking in each physical change that the years had wrought.

He was still tall, still beautiful, she noted. But he was fading…his light shone dim and flickering, his bright colouring muted almost to grayscale. Terror gripped her soul at the sight, like icy pythons suffocating every last breath out of her.

She was haggard and lackluster, he could see. The vibrancy she used to flaunt effortlessly had fallen comatose…or perhaps it had died. He waited for satisfaction to curl in his belly, but all he found was a bleak, leaden weight.

Somewhere, it registered in their minds that they were dying. It was like a swift, hard kick to the solar plexus – not entirely unexpected, but far more brutal than it should have been.

Kagome broke the silence. “You look deader than I do.”

The venom of his glare had not dimmed, even if the irises had gone dull brown. “I have had five hundred more years to practise it.”

She winced, but refused to back down. “We agreed to never meet. Ever.”

He gave a curt nod.

“Well good, at least your memory hasn’t gone yet. How dare you show your face here?!”

“Your mother pleaded with this Sesshoumaru.”

She snorted. “My mother. A week ago she couldn’t wait to throw me at the first man that came along. Now she wants you to-”

“You mother,” he interrupted sternly, “begged me to save your worthless life.”

“What I’d like to know is how the hell she found you,” Kagome muttered, ignoring the insult.

He shrugged, a graceful tic of his shoulder. “Shippou found her. He was babbling something about a game show prize. I deemed it unimportant in the light of her request.”

“You can take that request and shove it up your-”

“You will be respectful, wench-”

“Quit interrupting everything I-”

“Courtesy is for the courte-”

“Shut your mouth, you arrogant-”

The screaming continued late into the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Downstairs, a chaotic mix of gloom and excitement hovered in the kitchen. While the humans sat hunched over their teacups, muttering blackly about how this was a terrible idea and surely they would kill each other before morning and how could Kagome have kept such a huge matter secret, the lone youkai among them leaned on the windowsill, verdant eyes gleaming as he breathed in the scent of the Goshinboku after centuries.

“How can you bee so calm!” Souta’s newly broken voice piped up from the counter.

Shippou sent a reassuring glance his way. “It’s a good sign. That they’re fighting…it means they still care.”

The human teenager groaned and thunked his forehead on the Formica countertop. “I know you’re like, centuries old, but that has gotta be the oldest cliché in the book, man!”

The adult kitsune chuckled and patted the boy’s shoulder. “Clichés are usually true, you know. Like them – up there – they wouldn’t be bothering to scratch out each other’s eyes if they were indifferent to each other, now would they?”

“Like...how I fight with my best bud on the football team, but not my lab partner?”

Mrs. Higurashi emerged from her slump long enough to shoot a where-did-I-go-wrong look at Shippou, but the kitsune merely grinned. “Just like that, yes.”

Souta chewed over it for a while, and then found inspiration. “They should just beat each other up pretty good then. Fixes things easy!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kagome eventually succeeded in kicking the angry inuyoukai out of her room. Just to prove a point, she didn’t emerge for two days. During that time, Sesshoumaru prowled about the shrine, sniffing here, poking there and getting increasingly bad tempered.

Mrs. Higurashi was halfway through talking him down from his fifth threat to up and return to London, when her daughter peeked into the living room. The matriarch harrumphed, pulled the younger female into the room and made a hasty departure. ‘Let them tackle it themselves.’

Sesshoumaru waited for her scent to fade before he faced Kagome squarely. “Your life, in exchange for Tetsusaiga.”

She gaped at him. “Are you out of your mind? What would you do with that thing, anyway?”

His voice was deep and grave as he answered, “Use it.”

Something thrummed within her at that low, serious tone. She ignored it in favour of rehashing the past. “It’s been years since you cast me aside as your mate, Sesshoumaru. You knew what it would do to us…the separation. You’ve grown to nothing but a shadow of your former glory. So have I. Why the philanthropy now?"

He sighed, letting his shoulders slump. “This Sesshoumaru…assumed he knew what the separation would cause. I was mistaken. It was not my intention to visit death upon anyone.”

She snorted, the anger and pain of the past three years surfacing, white hot and vicious. “You mean – it was never your intention to die.”

He did not deny the allegation. “I knew it wouldn’t kill me. A taiyoukai’s power is not so easily erased as that. The loss of a mate is painful, but not fatal.”

Her breath hitched. “Pain…ful?

He looked away from her, out to the garden where her grandfather was manning the souvenir stall. “It is but a half-life, Kagome. I am not dead, but I may as well be.”

“You’ve grown weaker.” It was a statement, not a question. “We both have.”

“But you are human. I am not,” he said simply, quietly, allowing her to draw her own conclusions. She wouldn’t fail him, he knew. Apart from that one stupid act of betrayal so many years ago, she was a remarkably intelligent woman. He traced the changing emotions on her features as she connected the dots. When she finally looked up at him, pale and frightened, he asked again, gently, “Your life, in exchange for Tetsusaiga, Kagome.”

After what seemed like years, she nodded. It took all her strength to not cry.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For once heeding her father-in-law’s advice, Mrs. Higurashi waited a few weeks before approaching her daughter with questions. Absently, she took in the renewed blush in the girl’s skin, her glossy hair and returning vitality. An observer would have called her healthy, she supposed. Even beautiful.

To a mother’s knowing eyes, however, the girl appeared dead. Just a hank of flesh walking and talking and going through the motions that human beings did when they wanted to convey that they existed. She rather suspected that her daughter’s soul had gone with the youkai who used to be her mate, gone with him, to his little flat in London where he had once again taken up residence.

She decided it was safe to probe for answers now, refusing to believe that all her pains, her good luck in finding a son-in-law she hadn’t even known about and bringing him back to her daughter – ‘It can’t have been for nothing, could it?’

And so, on a mild April evening under the branches of the Goshinboku, Mrs. Higurashi finally managed to breach her daughter’s shell and draw out the truth of centuries past.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Kagome’s tears had dried to an occasional hiccup, Mrs. Higurashi asked carefully, “Why did you stop Sesshoumaru from fighting Inuyasha, Kagome? You knew the boy had grown dangerous.”

“I…I don’t know, mama…they were always trying to kill each other…I couldn’t be sure Sesshoumaru wouldn’t take the chance if Inuyasha gave it to him…”

“Hmm. But he was justified, don’t you think?”

“I mean,” Kagome continued between hiccups, “It happened before! Inuyasha would lose control and go berserk…but I could always bring him back! There was no need for Sesshoumaru to get so worked up over it!”

“Kagome.” – and the girl started at the sudden sharpness in her mother’s tone – “Inuyasha was planning to abuse the power of the Shikon jewel, wasn’t he.”

She flinched at the attack, unable to deny that it held a ring of truth, but unwilling to let it lie uncontested. “Mama, how do I say this? We all knew Inuyasha was unstable, that he would try to take the finished jewel once Naraku was dead. But…it was Inuyasha. My Inuyasha. I had faith in him…I could have stopped him before he went too far.”

“And did you?”

“I didn’t get the chance to! He just…barreled in and killed Inuyasha! Just like that! Like he was so much garbage,” the word ended on a bitter note.

“Was that such a bad thing?”

“….what?!

“Don’t you think…maybe, Inuyasha wanted to die?”

“I beg your pardon!”

Mrs. Higurashi sighed. She’d hoped it would not come to this, but a remembered conversation came to her tongue, unbidden. “He once told me how little he had to live for. Don’t look at me like that! You were away at school, and he was hanging about the house, looking so much like a kicked puppy…I don’t remember what got him started, but something sure did. He just…went off on a tangent, about how he had a promise to keep that might kill him. And that he perhaps wouldn’t mind dying for it, but also that the knowledge would hurt you irreparably. He didn’t know, he told me, how to die without letting you know what he wanted.”

She stopped then, at the look on her daughter’s face. Kagome’s eyes had gone wide, her skin blanched with denial and fury. Jarringly, as if there was a stone in her throat, she bit out, “Inuyasha…wanted…to…die? And he let. That. Happen? Knowing what it would do to my mating?! Knowing I would try to stop Sesshoumaru?! Knowing that if Sesshoumaru killed him, I would hate him forever?! And I let Sesshoumaru dissolve our mating bond for it! I left him! I left him to live alone for five hundred years and then I let him walk out of my life! I let him go! How could I let him go?!

Unable to deny or confirm, Mrs. Higurashi settled for putting her arms around her daughter and holding her close as she poured out her anger and grief in a torrent of abuses and tears. Silently she swore, that if she ever got to the afterlife and found Inuyasha there, she would wring his ill-brought-up hanyou neck.

But first, there was a little matter of getting her daughter back to her mate.

Well…ex-mate.

She sighed again.  At least this time she wouldn’t have to wait three years till she won another game-show-sponsored holiday. Which was a good thing, really, since she didn’t think any of them offered tour packages to London.

Perhaps a call to Shippou was in order.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three months later, a nervous young woman stood before a worn mahogany door in an ancient apartment building located in one of the swankier neighbourhoods of London.

‘What if he throws me out?’

She bit her lip, reminding herself of Shippou’s reassurances with regard to a certain inuyoukai’s temper levels, and decided to knock.

‘But what if he throws me out? What if he doesn’t love me anymore…oh god, what if he hates me…’

Her suitcase was growing heavy in her hand.

‘Ah screw it.’ And she raised her hand to knock just as the door flew open.

Her fist met an aquiline nose. Hard.

The glare he gave her was equal parts shock and anger and unmitigated hurt, until her eyes strayed to the suitcase at her feet. When she raised them back up to meet his gaze, the fury had mellowed to unadulterated hope.

She smiled tremulously. “May I come in?”

He stared at her for a long minute, a hint of golden sparkle returning to his dull eyes. “Forever?”

“And ever.”

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