All Kagome had wanted was to leave the hospital.
Hospitals were terrible things, at least to psychics. No matter what kind of power you had, the energy of the building was overwhelming. The sheer volume of thoughts and feelings, the hum of electricity, the wandering dead up and down the halls. It was hell to even the least powerful of psychics and while Kagome was no Sango when it came to strength, she wasn’t a lightweight in her category either.
Meditation typically helped. It was something that she had had to practice, over and over, for months and even years. Sometimes, Kagome still couldn’t get it right, couldn’t sink down into that headspace to simply be. It was easier now, over time, but the atmosphere of the hospital was oppressing and Kagome kept her eyes closed and her breathing even out of sheer, blinding willpower.
In hindsight, she should have kept her eyes open.
“Who the fuck are you?”
Startling out of her meditation, Kagome nearly leapt off the bed. Training had her instantly reaching for her holster where a taser or gun would be waiting, but neither were on her. It took a second to locate him, there on the chair that was closest to her bed, the one Sango had been sitting on for a while when the empath could stand it.
How had this guy snuck in?
“Who are you?” Kagome shot back, edging as much as she could towards the other side of her mattress. He was closest to the door so she would have to fight her way out. He was lean but his clothes hid most of body. Any muscle or bulk would be hidden.
“I asked first,” the man snapped, irritated.
“You’re in my room.”
Kagome bit her lower lip and considered. He seemed agitated but not violent. There didn’t appear to be any weapons on him, though his clothing was…odd. Very old looking, like he wasn’t—
“Hey, wench! I asked you a question.”
“You don’t get to talk to me that way,” Kagome stated, trying to keep her voice calm. If he was violent or armed, it wouldn’t do her any good to provoke him. “I’ll tell you but you need to calm down.”
The man shot her a disgruntled look, mouthing the words ‘calm down’ like they were foreign. He didn’t argue though, or say anything else. He looked at her expectantly and it gave Kagome a full second to finally take him in. Silver hair with ears that were canine in looks, golden eyes and clawed fingers; he clearly had demonic heritage, though his strengths weren’t overly visible.
Kagome let out a long breath before taking the plunge. “My name is Kagome. Who are you?”
The man narrowed his eyes, his scowl deepening before he shrugged sharply. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me.”
A snort. “Inuyasha.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“Uh-huh,” he grunted.
Before she could ask another question, a nurse bustled into the room with a pleasant smile plastered on his face. He held a clipboard in hand, which he checked for only a moment before asking, “Ms. Higurashi?”
“You’re all good to go,” the nurse told her kindly. “I just want to get your blood pressure once more before you’re on your way, if you don’t mind.”
Kagome wondered why they always took it but she simply nodded. The easiness of the moment was completely shattered seconds later, when the nurse came right to her bedside and lifted the chair out of the way.
The chair that Inuyasha was on.
Inuyasha didn’t move so much as he changed, the nurse passing through him as he went from supposedly sitting to standing.
Inuyasha was a ghost.
Kagome could feel her heart rate exploding, so she took a deep breath and tried to slow it. Not letting her mind think of all the possibilities, she glared at the bedsheets while the nurse came back and got ready.
The first reading came back a little high.
The second reading was still high, but better than before. It was enough to leave, anyways, so the nurse promised to give her a few minutes to change before coming back to bring her out. The moment he left, Kagome jumped off the bed and got right into Inuyasha’s face. “You’re dead.”
“Great observational skills,” Inuyasha snarked, crossing his arms. “I thought you were supposed to be better at this shit.”
“Better?” Kagome reeled at the implication. She felt compelled to demand clarification because there was absolutely no way he was referring to her abilities. “At what?”
The ghost scowled at her, but at this point it seemed more like a default expression. His eyes were golden and intense, something that only a real living human could show off. Ghosts weren’t supposed to be this real looking, this—this solid. It was almost like if Kagome reached out, she could touch him and her hand would be stopped rather than passing right through.
You didn’t touch ghosts, though. Unwritten rules, or at least, Kagome thought so. Other mediums all agreed and those few who had done it – accidentally or on purpose – all said the same thing: the energy fizzle was intense and the ghost rarely ever appeared to them again.
The guy seemed rude but he was a ghost with unfinished business, still roaming the earth. That meant Kagome could help him. Touching was a no-go, no matter how real he looked.
“You’re a medium, aren’t you? That’s the right word?”
The questions jarred Kagome from her thoughts, distracting her with their directness. “Yeah, yes. I am.”
“Then how the fuck come you didn’t realize I was a ghost?” Inuyasha scoffed again. “You didn’t even hear me in that fucking warehouse and now look at us.”
“That was you whispering in my ear,” Kagome realized, the knowledge creeping in. “You were trying to warn me about the bomb.”
“I was warning you. You ignored me.”
“I wasn’t ignoring you,” she corrected. “My powers were… Weak, for a bit. I had an accident. They seem to be—” Well, back wasn’t necessarily the right word. If Inuyasha was a ghost, then that meant Kagome’s powers had to have changed. She had never before seen ghosts in such a way, like they were just as solid as the living.
Her therapist was going to have a field day.
“Why are you here?” Kagome asked instead, trying to distract herself. There were too many questions that needed answers, and during the middle of a murder investigation was not the time.
“Can’t be answer else.” Inuyasha shrugged. “I try to leave, and I do, but eventually I end up back here again.”
That made Kagome frown. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Wench, I’m dead. I have no fucking clue.”
“How long?” Kagome pressed, gentling her voice. “Have you been dead, I mean.”
If the question took the ghost by surprise, he didn’t show it. His face remained a mask of displeasure and irritation, his scowl near permanent. “You think I can keep track?”
“Just—” She bit back her sigh. “I’m trying to understand.”
Inuyasha’s jaw clenched, but he answered. “A long fucking time. Centuries.”
“Did I stutter?”
He was annoying for a ghost. Kagome was used to dealing with spirits that were easily distracted, not all there or simply stubborn. This was a whole new level.
Through the closed door of her room, a commotion could be heard, dragging her gaze away from Inuyasha’s scowl. It was only then she realized that the nurse would be coming back shortly to take her to reception. She needed to get ready quickly. “Turn around or go away,” she demanded, rushing over to the bag Sango had dropped off for her.
“What? What for?” Inuyasha asked. His voice had become extra gravelly with his confusion.
“I need to change,” Kagome hissed.
“I’m a ghost.”
“You don’t look like one,” she shot back. “So turn or go. I don’t care. This is weird enough already.”
“You’re weird enough already,” Inuyasha muttered darkly.
Kagome rolled her eyes and changed as quickly as possible, throwing her hair up into a ponytail like it could hide the horror it had just gone through. She could feel the ends on the left side all singed, the hair fragile. There was no saving it.
“If you had just listened to me, you could have avoided the bomb altogether.”
Snarky. That was the ghost’s default state it seemed. Kagome tried not to groan. “I was attacked a month ago, hit to the head.” She tugged on the oversized cardigan until it felt like it was covering her enough, even though it wouldn’t do anything to chase out the cold. “I mostly lost my powers. I could still sense spirits but I couldn’t communicate with them.”
“You seemed to be trying hard enough.”
“I was.” Her insistence wasn’t necessary, but there was something about the way that Inuyasha goaded her that made her want to scream. Where the hell was the nurse? She was ready to go, to disappear from the hospital and never come back.
“You hear me now though,” Inuyasha stated, his golden eyes narrowing like he could see right through her if he tried hard enough.
“Well, if I knew all it would take to get my powers back was another big hit to the head, I might have done that a while ago.” Kagome glared at the doorway. “Although I wouldn’t have asked for this.”
Kagome spared a glance his way before focusing back to the exit. “You look real even though you’re a ghost. Normally, any spirits I talk to look…very much like you would expect a ghost to look like.”
Inuyasha grunted and she didn’t have the first clue on what that meant.
Maybe the nurse was side-tracked by something. Would she be able to go to reception and sign out herself? Tapping her fingers on the bed, she asked a question for the sake of distraction. “Why were you at the warehouse anyways?”
Kagome huffed. “At the warehouse, you were there and now you’re here. Ghosts only exist for unfinished business, good or bad, and they’re always bound. It could be a person, a place or an item. So which is it?”
Inuyasha frowned at her. “Bound?”
She nodded absently. “Until your business is resolved or you let go. Sometimes those things are one and the same.” Taking advantage of the momentary silence, Kagome debated if it was better to just leave and hope that they could pull up her paperwork without issue. She’d been in enough hospitals to know that that wasn’t always the case, and leaving a room when you weren’t supposed to could cause bigger issues than just staying and waiting.
Inuyasha’s sudden movement caught her eye and it was only then Kagome realized the ghost hadn’t answered her. Frowning, she thought back to her question. “Inuyasha?”
“What?” the ghost growled out.
“Why are you here?” The words were spoken softly, carefully. Little jagged puzzle pieces started to whirl in her mind, desperate to click together.
“I can’t leave,” he snapped. “Just like before.”
“The hospital?” she asked, even though she knew the answer. It couldn’t have been the hospital. He had been at the warehouse. He had been trying to warn her.
“No, to him.” Kagome could feel her chest pause mid-inhale, knowledge making the puzzle pieces slide into their final places. “It’s always been him.”
“The one who made the bomb,” Inuyasha answered, sneering at her stupidity. “He left a piece of himself, remember? It was the only reason I could get away, even for just a moment.”
The one who made the bomb. The one Kagome and Sango had been chasing for years.
“How do you know him?” Kagome asked. She knew her voice sounded weak, but there was nothing she could do about it. Shrieking alarms blared in her mind.
For a second, the scowl disappeared. It was replaced by something far, far worse: acceptance. “He killed me.”
He killed Inuyasha… And Inuyasha had died centuries ago—
“Are we all good?” called out the familiar nurse’s voice, the door opening just a crack.
Following him down the hallway was like walking through a fog.
The thing about Kagome’s power was that there was a method to it. She wasn’t always in the veil, for lack of a better phrase. She wasn’t always able to actively communicate with ghosts. Outside the veil, she would sense them, see shimmers. In the veil was like walking into an old-fashioned movie: muted colours, a sort of muffling of sound from the real world, and then the ghosts who were transparent but there. It took effort. Not only that, but there were signs. Her body reacted to the shift in energy, like the hairs on the back of her neck standing up, or goosebumps covering her arms. Kagome always knew. She knew when she was in the place between worlds, when there was a ghost nearby or if something was haunted.
But right in that moment?
She had no idea. Kagome had spoken to Inuyasha and assumed he was real—
Kagome gave a bitter laugh. Well, at least she had her powers back.
In a daze, she finished up what the nurse needed at reception before following his directions to go to the waiting room. The entire time, Inuyasha hovered near her, a looming presence that made her skin tingle. It wasn’t the same as the usual warning signs, but maybe this was a new adaptation of her powers.
Shit, Kagome needed to tell Sango before her partner figured it out on her own. They didn’t keep secrets from each other and this was a very big secret. The only problem was that Miroku was there, in the waiting room along with Sango when Kagome found them. Right away, she could tell her partner was able to sense something was wrong but Kagome pushed it down, reached out instead to help.
Kagome could hear Sango’s little sigh as their fingers intertwined, her shields wrapping around the empath like she knew they would. It was with that offering that Sango knew to wait, that Kagome would answer her questions as soon as the deputy was out of their way.
That brought them to now.
Now, she was sitting in the car, trying to swallow past the lump in her throat. Sango believed her – of course she would believe her – because they were partners, and this was what they did. But even Kagome knew that this case was strange, much stranger than the dozens before it. It was like the moment they got into Horaijima, everything flipped upside down.
She didn’t want to look at the rear-view mirror again, if only to ignore Inuyasha’s scowling face.
“So how does it…work then?” Sango asked tentatively. “How is he even in this car?”
The question made sense. A lot of people didn’t realize but even hauntings weren’t like the way they depicted in the movies. Ghosts weren’t able to actively interact with the world. They moved through it, untouched. It was like…a skipping of planes, almost. A flicker of them leaving one room and entering the other. There and then gone. They couldn’t sit on things like chairs. Only a ghost with extreme strength and energy could move objects, shake walls, and other things ghost hunters liked to rave about.
This. This wasn’t like that.
Inuyasha wasn’t leaving her side and it appeared that he couldn’t. He was also, apparently, sitting rather competently for a ghost.
“Are you gonna answer her?” Inuyasha barked from the backseat. “Because I’d really like to know myself.”
Kagome tried not to flinch. “He’s different than other ghosts. I see him differently,” she replied, trying to keep her voice level. “He’s solid, almost like he’s real. His voice is the same as if you’re speaking to me. I’m not—I’m not in any kind of trance, and the usual signs that I’m looking through the veil aren’t there.” No goosebumps. No hair standing on the back of her neck.
The coldness was there, but Kagome hadn’t ever remembered a time when she was warm.
“Are there other ghosts, too?” Sango asked. Perversely, Kagome wished she had a moment of the empath’s abilities, a moment to feel exactly what Sango felt. Was she justified? Was she over- or underreacting?
“I feel them but I can’t tell, really. Could have been because it was the hospital but—He’s different.”
“So I’m special, then,” Inuyasha growled out and Kagome couldn’t help but twist in her seat to look at him directly. It was almost as shocking as it had been in her hospital room: he was simply there. Real-looking, even though he wasn’t.
“In a matter of speaking, yes,” she told him. “I’ve been a medium almost my entire life and I’ve never experienced a connection with a ghost like you.” Kagome shifted back around to turn her attention to her partner. Sango was glaring into the rear-view mirror like it had personally offended her. Kagome was grateful for her beyond words. “He thinks he’s special.”
Sango snorted. “Uh-huh. That’s what all the boys say. So what do we do, now? We’ll have to call the boss. Sooner or later, he’ll find out and then we’ll both be in trouble.”
“Let’s work the case like we planned,” Kagome stated. She nodded firmly to herself once the words were out, like the affirmation could settle into each body movement. “My powers are back and even though they’re different, they’re not dangerous.”
“They could be,” Sango pointed out. “What if it’s not just him? What if he isn’t special and more ghosts come to you?”
“What if I’m not special?” Inuyasha repeated, horrified. Kagome didn’t have to turn around to know that the scowl was back in full force. “To hell with that. There are no other ghosts.”
“No other ghosts yet,” Kagome corrected him. “But I could feel that the hospital was full of them. Maybe I just didn’t notice because I assumed they were living, or maybe you are the only exception…” The possibilities started to spin out, more and more stressing, until Sango reached over the console to grab her arm.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the motel?” she asked.
Kagome considered it – really considered it, unlike at the hospital. A part of her thought it would be the smart thing to do. Being alone in the motel could allow her some time to feel out her powers, to assess the extent of the changes. But thinking about doing that was terrifying, and this case couldn’t wait. Sango and Kagome had already risked so much for it and this was the first time in a while they had found anything remotely useful.
No. She would see this through.
“I’m sure,” Kagome answered finally.
“Okay,” Sango said, “but at the first sign of trouble, you tell me and I’ll get you out.”
The conviction was enough to bring a smile to her face. She nodded and they drove the rest of the way to the police station in silence. Even Inuyasha was quiet, though he never left. While they ordered coffee in a drive-thru, the ghost remained studiously silent, scowling out the window. Kagome wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to be a ghost. To be trapped and to watch the world go by.
Unsurprisingly, when Kagome asked the question to them directly, they never really answered.
The police station sat in a beige building at the intersection of two busy walking streets. It was on the corner so Sango grumbled as she pulled around to the back of the building for parking. She chugged at her coffee and grimaced, probably at how hot it was. “How many people do you think are in there?” the empath asked, her magenta eyes focused on the building before them.
“A couple dozen, probably.” Honesty was the best policy and besides, Sango was asking because she needed to prepare herself and her shields. Knowing the number of people didn’t really help, but it was a way for the empath to brace against what may be coming. “If it gets too much, we can take the files back to our motel. I’m sure Miroku would come.”
Sango snorted, but whatever joke there was, Kagome didn’t understand. “Yeah, okay. Ready?”
“Ready,” Kagome affirmed, just as an errant thought caught her attention. She looked towards the back seat, but Inuyasha was gone. Where had he—?
Outside. Kagome could make out the red robes through the glass, as well as his bright hair that looked completely white in the sunshine. “Actually, I need a couple of minutes.”
Sango raised a brow, but Kagome simply pushed her feelings outwards and let her partner figure out the rest. “Want me to wait?” she asked eventually, taking a casual sip of her coffee. It was like she was trying very hard not to be overprotective, and doing a terrible job of it.
“No, I’m good. You get sorted inside, let them know I’m coming. I’ll meet you in five, ten minutes.”
“You know what to do if you need me.”
Kagome smiled and got out of the car. It took Sango only a couple minutes to climb the stairs and get around to the front of the building. Inuyasha was still standing beside the car, unmoving and unhappy. His scowl appeared to be a permanent feature. “You’re still here,” she opened with, going for light and easy. Ghosts had never really hung around this long, not unless Kagome was doing something important for them – like finding their body, for one.
That case still gave her nightmares.
Inuyasha blinked slowly at her, as if he had to remember what he was doing. Why did he feel the need to blink as a ghost, or was the action just so deeply engrained? The scowl, if anything, got deeper. “What?”
“You’re still here, following me.” Kagome waved her hand between them. “You’ve already saved my life and you know I’m fine. Why are you still here?”
“Maybe you should have stayed with the healer,” Inuyasha grumbled, arms crossing against his chest. If someone could describe the action as angry, then that was exactly how it looked. “You’ve lost your head.”
“I’m fine,” Kagome told him, just like she told her partner. It wasn’t even a lie, at this point. “And I’m going to catch our killer—your killer.”
“By all means.” He glared at her with those golden eyes.
Kagome was clearly missing something and while she didn’t feel bad, exactly, her headache still existed. It was a dull throb, like the way her head felt a day before a storm, right behind her eyes. “Why are you still here?”
“I told you, wench: I can’t leave.”
“Because you’re tied to your killer, I know.” Kagome rubbed at her temples. She should have accepted the ibuprofen they offered her at the hospital. “Were you planning on staying with me until it was done?”
“No, but I don’t get a fucking choice in the matter.” Inuyasha splayed his arms wide, face scrunched up in distaste. “I’m stuck.”
Of course he was stuck, he was a ghost caught in limbo. Kagome already knew this, already knew that he was tied to—
Groaning, Kagome turned towards the rental car and gently rested her face on the metal frame. This wasn’t happening. How could she be so dumb? It was so, so obvious. Blindingly obvious. No wonder the ghost thought she was an idiot.
“The explosion,” she murmured, mostly to herself but figured Inuyasha probably heard anyways. “It was you saving me, wasn’t it? I didn’t jump. You pushed me.”
“You didn’t hear my fucking warnings,” Inuyasha growled. “What else was I supposed to do? Let you blow up like the rest of them?”
“You touched me.”
“Yeah, well, when you’ve been dead long enough you’ve got time to focus on shit like that.”
“Like sitting down on real objects.”
At that, Kagome looked up to blearily find his face. There was no longer a scowl in his expression, though it seemed a little lost. “What?”
“Not that. I’ve never been able to do that.”
Kagome took a deep inhale. “When could you start sitting on things?”
The ghost shrugged. “When you were in bed, with the healers. You were unconscious and your partner was—” He waved a hand irritably. “I don’t know.”
Okay. Kagome could work through this. It was basic training and Kagome was good with working from the basics. “The energy of the explosion was significant. If you touched me just as my powers were trying to protect me, when the bomb was starting to explode—” The transfer could have been enough to connect them psychically. It wasn’t unheard of in their division, though usually it was between two psychics rather than a medium and a ghost. “You’re tied to me now, not your killer.”
Inuyasha grunted. Kagome couldn’t tell if that was good or bad news for him. For her, it was an inconvenience at worst. Inuyasha’s presence would be distracting, but she had the benefit of not suffering her usual symptoms while speaking with ghosts. It shouldn’t be too difficult to continue on with the case, and if Inuyasha had been killed by their target—
“You can help us,” Kagome stated, though it was more of a plea. “Help my partner and I track this monster down. We kill him and then you’re free. You could move on.”
“Even tied to you?”
Kagome nodded. “He’s the reason you’re still on this earth, not me.”
“Fine, whatever,” Inuyasha replied, arms crossing yet again. “But I don’t know what I can help you with. I died a long time ago.”
“Anything you can tell us would help,” Kagome pressed, as earnest as she could be. “I’ve only been able to connect with a handful of his victims but none of them were able to say much more than the—” She cut herself off. Inuyasha probably knew all about the pain inflicted.
“I wasn’t like the others,” Inuyasha growled.
The ghost huffed and turned away slightly, body tilted towards the sun. Whether he was intentionally seeking out the light or not, Kagome would never know. Each ghost had their own quirk, just like humans. “I don’t remember when I died. No dates or time or whatever. We didn’t—We didn’t count days like you do now.”
“That’s fine. How—”
“It’s not fine,” Inuyasha snapped, and there it was: the first trace of anger. Much like the other ghosts who were murdered by their target, the unjustness of it all made them vulnerable and volatile. “Nothing about this is fine. I want him dead. I want to watch as he’s dismantled piece-by-fucking-piece and then when he’s here, stuck with me, I’m going to destroy him.”
That wasn’t how it worked, but Kagome knew better than to argue. “I’ll help you.”
“No one has ever been able to help me,” Inuyasha growled. “Nothing has ever worked. Everyone who has tried against him has failed.”
Kagome shrugged and went for honesty. “You’ve met Sango. You felt her power, right, in the warehouse? She never fails. Her and I? We never fail, Inuyasha. We won’t fail on this either.”
The ghost pressed his lips together, jaw clenched. His gaze was intent, like he could assess her very soul from the veil. She held firm, reminding herself over and over that Inuyasha was dead. He wasn’t real and he couldn’t kill her, not unless she let down her shields.
“I was the first,” Inuyasha said slowly, each word like a dangerous knife digging into soft flesh. “The first person he killed. And all I remember is being betrayed.”
Miroku really wanted to go home.
His shift was long over, but that didn’t mean shit when there was a local murder and two feds on his doorstep. The sheriff was being—well, his usual self, which meant Miroku was doing the brunt of the work. Before this little murder, he wouldn’t have minded. The biggest issues their little town faced was disorderly conduct or the odd domestic dispute. It wasn’t gunshots, or major drug trades, or murder.
But Miroku didn’t sign on to do the easy work. He had gotten used to it, sure, but that wasn’t what made him want to be a cop. He wanted to help people. He wanted to do the right thing. With that in mind, he took a deep breath and waved the local M.E. away.
Sango entered just as he was exhaling. Of course.
“What have we got?” she asked, no nonsense and all business. Miroku wanted to appreciate that about her, but he couldn’t get his mind to think past she’s a psychic. That label didn’t necessarily lend itself well to ‘no nonsense.’
“This is all they could pull from the scene post-explosion,” Miroku answered automatically, pointing towards a tray of heavily damaged and burnt flesh. He pretended it was just badly cooked meat that didn’t once belong to either a human or demon. “They’ve run some preliminary tests but we’re limited on the data we have. As far as they can confirm, it’s organic matter.”
“Helpful,” Sango muttered under her breath, but a second later her shoulders dropped and she made an effort to look at him. “Can we at least confirm whether it was human or demonic?”
Miroku grimaced. “Well, that’s the problem. They’re running the tests again. Initial reports stated that the flesh was a mixture of both.”
“A half-demon,” Sango stated, but Miroku was already shaking his head.
“No, and that’s why it’s a problem. When they run the tests, they always pull in a batch – different sample sizes from an area, as long as the evidence is large enough. It’s to ensure the data is reported as conclusive. They ran three tests on the organic matter: two came back as demonic DNA, while the other one came back human. Not as a half-breed, but as completely separate DNAs.”
It didn’t make sense. Miroku was still boggling. He had never heard of anything like that before. It made him want to poke and prod at the matter on the table, but on the other hand the thought made him sick to his stomach. Had their killer pulled a Frankenstein and attached pieces of mismatched flesh to a bomb?
He expected Sango to look just as confused and horrified as he did, but if anything, her shoulders fell more. Miroku wasn’t an empath – he was pretty sure that’s what she called herself – but he knew what relief looked like on a person’s body. That was relief.
She had her phone out, fingers flying on the screen before pocketing it. “Alright, this is good. We’re here for the right guy.”
“This right—” Miroku was unable to finish that statement as the door opened once more, letting a tired-looking Kagome inside.
“Sorry,” the agent apologized. “What’s going on?”
“It’s him.” Sango spoke the words with a gravitas that Miroku didn’t expect. She looked at her partner and Kagome pressed her lips together, nodding. “We’re close.”
“You mean it’s not a lab mistake?” the deputy asked. “This is the evidence you were looking for?”
“Basically,” Sango answered. “We’ve been hunting down a killer for the last few years, connected to at least twenty murders that we know of.”
Miroku raised his eyebrows, surprised, but it was Kagome’s reaction that startled him even more. The girl turned sharply to the right, her face wincing hard before she repeated, “That we know of.”
“You think there are more?” he questioned.
Sango nudged her partner before answering for her. “Without a doubt.” She grabbed her phone again before waving it. “I’m going to make a few calls, get this properly on the books so your sheriff doesn’t have a fit. I’ll be right back.”
She left the room before Miroku even had time to suggest they head towards his office first. With a shrug, he turned to Kagome, wondering if he would ever be able to see the woman as something other than fragile. She was just so small, and her sweaters engulfed her to make it seem even worse. Special Crimes Unit or not, Kagome didn’t seem like an agent in any way.
“We can head to my office, if you’d like,” the deputy suggested, gesturing towards the door. “The M.E. is probably going to yell at me soon anyways.”
“Sure.” Kagome smiled at him but she quickly turned her face away, lips pursing.
Miroku didn’t know her well – didn’t know either of the federal agents well – but the woman before him seemed so much harder to understand than her partner. He led them out but couldn’t help but sneak glances Kagome’s way, taking in the way she constantly fidgeted, the way she opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again.
The moment they entered his office, Miroku closed the door and raised his eyebrows at her. “Are you okay?”
“What?” Kagome asked, confusion warring on her face. “Yeah, no, I’m fine.”
“You seem…” What was the right word? “Conflicted.”
Slowly, the woman’s lips curved upwards, more in a twitching motion like she didn’t mean to do it. A smile was inescapable though and it surprised Miroku when she laughed. “It’s been a long day.”
“No, obviously,” Miroku stated. A part of him wanted to retract his statement – she had almost been blown up, of course she was fidgeting – but the other part of him knew people. He knew how to talk to them, how to relate to them. Kagome was an enigma wrapped up in a black shroud, but he could get through to her too. “It seems like more than that though.”
She shot him an unimpressed look, strong enough that Miroku automatically raised his hands to placate, apologetic. “I’m fine, Deputy,” Kagome said then. “I know you want to be— Friends, I guess. Friendly. Sango said you were that kind of guy within the first minute we met you. But it’s better this way. You wouldn’t want to know the truth.”
Miroku crossed his arms and thought about it. He took in her battered face and the dark circles under her eyes. It was stupid, really, but the thought flashed into his mind unbidden before he could stop it. If she can handle it, I can too. “I promise you that I do,” was all he said instead, voice coaxing and gentle.
Her expression made him think that the tone was probably the wrong way to go about things, but the agent shook her head with something like exasperation. “Fine, but you don’t get to freak out.”
“I managed not to last time.”
Kagome’s lips twitched into a smile. “Barely.”
Miroku gestured for her to get on with it.
“There’s a ghost in here,” she said finally. Kagome didn’t put on any voice; there was nothing theatrical about the delivery. It was simple fact. “He’s been following me since the warehouse. Talking to me.” She made a face at some point to his left and rolled her eyes. “Mostly snarling at me.”
“A ghost?” Miroku looked in the direction she had been staring at but there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. No shimmering outline. No…ghostliness. What had he been expecting, really? He wasn’t a—a—
“He’s upset that you’re taller than him.” Within a second, Kagome went from faintly amused to full-on beaming, bright as anything.
That seemed, somehow, more impossible than the fact that she could see or talk to ghosts at all.
Kagome tried to ignore Sango’s worried looks the whole ride back to their motel, but it was hard to do so in such a small space. Cars weren’t really ideal for avoiding your psychic partner and with a ghost in the back, she felt almost claustrophobic.
“Is he still following you?” Sango asked finally, letting go of the steering wheel briefly to touch her arm. “The ghost.”
Kagome smiled wryly. “Yeah, so about that.”
“Nothing really,” Kagome assured her. “It was just our talk from earlier, before we went into the station. But I think we figured out some things, like why he’s still around.”
“I’m right here,” Inuyasha growled. Kagome didn’t need to look into the rear-view mirror to know that the ghost had his arms crossed with a scowl on his face. Default expression, indeed.
She chose to ignore him. “He’s the reason I’m still alive. He pushed me just before the blast, and the energy of it has somehow connected us.”
“Connected you?” Sango frowned, magenta eyes focused on the road as she indicated into a turn lane. “In what way?”
“He’s tied to me now, rather than his killer.”
“You mean our guy?”
Kagome nodded. “But here’s the thing: Inuyasha said he’s the first person our perp ever killed.”
“What?” The rental car was swung onto the side of the road.
Kagome clenched her jaw but forced her shoulders to relax. Behind her, Inuyasha was growling, pushing himself forward between their seats. “What the fuck is her problem?” he exclaimed, claws digging into the seat. Or, they would have been if he was alive.
“Kagome, why didn’t you say anything earlier?” Sango demanded, just as Inuyasha continued to yell, “Is she losing her mind?”
“I can’t answer both of you at the same time,” she tried calmly.
“Tell him to go away,” Sango said. “I need you here, focused on this. We have a real chance to take this guy down.”
“As if you’d even catch him,” Inuyasha snarled.
“This is what we do, I told you this,” Kagome sighed, but that just made the ghost turn to glare at her instead. “You agreed before.”
“No, I said nothing,” Inuyasha argued, “because no one has ever come close. He eliminates them, just like he almost eliminated you both a few hours ago.”
“What is he saying?” Sango asked. Kagome didn’t have to look at her partner to know she was upset, but there was nothing she could do about it. “Kagome, send him away.”
“There’s nothing I can do,” Kagome told her, shaking her head hard enough that her bangs swung into her eyes, stinging them. “We’re connected. It’s like a bond, tethering him to this world.”
“What?” Inuyasha snarled. “You said I was still tied with that—”
But Sango was talking too, louder if that could even be believed. “That’s not how your powers have ever worked before! He’s distracting you. Every five seconds you look at him or—or for him, I don’t know, I ca—”
“Enough,” Kagome begged. She pressed her hands to her eyes, trying to breathe. Beside her, Sango took a deep breath as well. Inuyasha didn’t make a sound. “Please, I can’t do this right now. I have a massive headache and it’s late and my powers are completely different than before. I have no idea what’s going on.”
When she opened her eyes again, Sango was staring at her and it was sad. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “That was shitty of me.”
“No, it’s fine.” Kagome sighed, tugging at the ends of her sweater. “I should have said something back at the station but it’s weird. I’m used to calling a spirit, or seeing them suddenly, and then once I have the information, they disappear on me. Or, they disappear before I have the details, it’s always—” She huffed out a breath. “Well, you know. But this is different. Inuyasha isn’t leaving and he looks real.”
“I am real.”
They were the first words out of his mouth that weren’t a little bit angry, edged with something vicious. Kagome twisted in her seat to stare into the back. Inuyasha was pressed on the far side, face nearly to the glass. He was gazing outside, but she couldn’t tell if he was hiding his emotions or simply tired of looking at her. “Sorry,” she breathed out. “I meant ‘alive.’”
Inuyasha grunted and still wouldn’t face her.
“You said he thinks he’s the first one our perp killed?” Sango asked, gentle where she hadn’t been before.
Kagome nodded. “And ghosts don’t lie. They omit, or give shitty riddles, but they never lie.”
“What’s he saying now?”
“He’s not talking at the moment.” Covering her face with her hands, she sighed once more. “If he’s the first person murdered at the hands of our killer, maybe we can get incite into motivation. Into why he’s been doing this. Somehow, Inuyasha has remained connected to him and ghosts don’t usually—” Last that long. Eventually, all ghosts ran out of energy though the stronger the ghost, the longer they existed for. Ultimately, ghosts disappeared, becoming little more than wisps of their former selves once the energy drained away. Unable to communicate. Unable to leave. Trapped. But Inuyasha was whole and solid and real, right there. His strength must have been extraordinary.
“Inuyasha can help.” Sango nodded, lips in a grim line. “We know our killer is like a weird version of a half-breed. Human DNA and demon DNA combined. We don’t know how, but maybe this holds the key as to why our killer has been able to survive for this long. Even demons can’t live for more than a few hundred years. Can Inuyasha tell us anything more?”
Kagome turned to look at him again but where he was once sitting was now empty. She frowned, startled, and twisted more until she could see outside the car windows. It wasn’t until she was almost in a panic that she realized he stood outside in her blind spot, several feet away. He was staring into the forest that ran alongside the road they were on. “I don’t think so,” she whispered eventually. “He’s… Away, for a bit.”
“Away?” Sango frowned. “I thought he couldn’t leave you, that was the point.”
“There will still be some rope,” Kagome answered, wondering just how far that distance extended to. “Like a ghost tied to a piece of jewelry could haunt an entire house, rather than just the room it was in.”
“You can ask him later then,” Sango sighed. “Did you want to call him into the car?”
“I probably should.” Kagome took off her seatbelt and climbed out of the sedan. Inuyasha didn’t even look at her. He was only a few feet away, but he seemed a little less solid than before. She blinked and narrowed her eyes, trying to get him into focus. Maybe she was more tired than she thought, or the headache was getting to her. Inuyasha normally looked far more…outlined. This was almost like he blurred at the edges, a watercolour painting. “Inuyasha?”
“What?” he snarled. There was the anger, again.
“We’re leaving for the motel. Did you want to…get back in?”
Inuyasha’s shoulders tensed. If Kagome didn’t know better, she could take the handful of steps needed to get close to him and touch them, feel the warmth under her fingers. It was a lie, but the thought was distracting.
“No,” the ghost answered eventually.
Kagome blinked. “No?”
“No.” He whirled around, golden eyes like a burning fire. “Or was that too hard to understand?”
There was a choice to make, and it was one Kagome didn’t feel she had the tools to decide with properly. She was too exhausted, too burnt out. Between the explosion, her headache, the change in her powers, Inuyasha’s distracting presence and Sango’s desperate draining of her shields…
Kagome was out. She had nothing left to give.
“Okay,” she said softly. Opening the car door, Kagome almost missed him muttering out, “It’s not like I won’t come back.” It wasn’t a placating comment to make her feel better. This was gritty and raw, hurting at the edges. It was an insult. It was her chaining him. Inuyasha was angry, like so many other ghosts in his position. Kagome understood that pain to an extent, but this seemed so, so much worse.
Sango raised a brow at her expression. “Is he in?”
“No, but you can go,” Kagome answered, taking another deep breath. She could get through this. A good night’s sleep would do her wonders. “It’s not like he won’t come back.”
The words hurt to say, but for some reason, it felt necessary for someone to hear them. Someone other than her.