Kagome sighed inwardly as she acknowledged, at least within the confines of her own mind, that invisible is exactly how she'd felt since Kikyou's death. It was as if, when the older miko had passed on, she had taken Kagome with her, and she was nothing now so much as a ghost drifting along unnoticed by the side of the one she'd cared for for so long.
The misadventure with Kaou had solidified that in her mind.
Oh, sure, Inuyasha had noticed her... but not until she'd been in danger. Would there ever come a time when he'd see her when she wasn't getting attacked or otherwise targeted? The only times besides dangerous situations that he would pay attention for certain was when Koga was on the make – and then as soon as the wolf was gone, she fell right back off the hanyou's radar. Sure, he took care of her physically – but it seemed he didn't care about her emotional needs... or didn't notice them, one or the other.
And those were just as important.
Oh, she knew that was an exaggeration. She knew that Inuyasha knew she was there, and that he cared – at least somewhat. But... it didn't seem to matter to him that she was there. It was like he knew, was aware of her presence, but the fact that she was there didn't make any difference to him.
And she hated that feeling.
It hurt more than anything else. Right at this point, it hurt enough, and had hurt for such a long time, that she wanted nothing more than to revel in it, to sulk, to feel sorry for herself, to exaggerate the situation, and be damned what anyone else thought.
Everyone always expected her to be the sweet, understanding, put-everyone-else-before-herself kind of person – and most of the time, she genuinely was. But that didn't mean that putting herself last didn't have any effect on her. Sometimes, it felt as though she was worth less than the others, because her needs and wants always came behind everyone elses.
No matter how sweet, caring, self-sacrificing, and loving a person was, they also could be selfish at times in their own needs, it was normal human nature. So she traipsed along behind her friends, and the love of her life, and felt invisible – because none of them, and she mostly meant Inuyasha, seemed to pay any attention to the fact that she also needed.
She recognized and understood that he was hurting – but he wasn't returning the favor. After all, she was also hurting, and had been for some time. It left her floundering, wondering if he would even notice if she actually were to disappear.
She felt like a second-hand citizen at this point – and allowed herself to feel that way. Because, dammit, she was just as deserving to be allowed to express her hurt and humanity as the next person.
Her feelings were just as valid as theirs... no one was perfect and sweetly understanding all the time – not even her.
She was, after all, just as human as everyone else, whether they realized it, or not.
Faced with the form of a once pure priestess by the name of Hitomiko, Kagome wanted nothing more than to cry.
Victim of another one of Naraku's incessant schemes, the young miko had been corrupted in death by the spider, and was now trying to force a choice upon Kagome that really was no kind of choice at all.
Be selfish, and put herself first for once, thus tarnishing her own purity and ability to purify the shards of the jewel – or die.
What the hell kind of choice was that?
It wasn't one. There was no choice there. As much as Kagome had been allowing herself to be human and revel in her pity-party over Inuyasha for the last couple of days since Kaou, there was no way she would put her own needs or desires to be recognized, to be seen and acknowledged by him, before the greater good.
Running from the dead miko in an effort to give herself a chance to think hadn't helped her situation, either, because instead, she now found herself getting up close and personal with hell.
For several moments after she'd fallen through the floor and landed in thick webs that kept her just above the flames burning below her, she'd let her eyes close, weary and heartsick inside, and unable to come up with a way out of the mess she'd found herself in.
All I want is a little peace, she sighed dejectedly. Wouldn't it just be easier to stop fighting? I won't try to kill Hitomiko, anyway... so how else could I get out of this mess?
For just one second, she allowed herself to consider letting go, considered letting Hitomiko kill her.
But then, when the corrupted priestess began trying to choke her, the desire for life kicked back in, and hurting heart or not, she started trying to fight back. Because whatever else Kagome Higurashi was, she wasn't a quitter.
Inuyasha wasn't here. Whether that was because he'd not noticed her absence, or because he wasn't able to get to her, didn't matter in the end scheme of things. She may be invisible to him, or she may not be, but she wasn't invisible to herself – and that was what counted. She could feel sorry for herself later – as long as she managed to find a way out of this situation.
With renewed determination, Kagome opened her eyes, and did what she had to do – and in the process, saved herself, and Hitomiko, without any help from anyone else.
“Oi, Kagome,” came a soft voice from behind, and she almost started, dragged out of her rather haunted thoughts by it.
She turned her head to glance at Inuyasha over her shoulder for a moment, then turned back to the path ahead. “Yeah?”
“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice subdued. “I was really worried... you know, when I couldn't get to you.”
“You were worried?” she echoed, a little surprised that he was saying such a thing.
“I always worry,” he muttered. “Whenever you aren't where I can feel your presence, scent you, or see you, I worry. I always know when you're around, and when your not, it feels... wrong,” he admitted.
Eyes wide, she stopped walking and looked at him, heart pounding. “Really?” she asked, surprise heavy in her voice.
“Keh! Of course, stupid! What - did you think I'd forget about you, or something?” He shook his head at her, then sighed as he nudged her forward after their friends, who were getting a bit ahead of them. “You... seem a little different... are you sure your okay?” he asked again.
A shy smile stealing over her face, Kagome nodded. “Aa... I'll be okay. Arigatou for noticing – and for asking,” she finished softly.
A muffled snort met that statement. “I notice everything about you, Kagome. Even when it doesn't seem like it. I don't think I could ever ignore you – it's instinctual,” he admitted quietly. “All my senses are always tuned on you without me even thinking about it.”
Just like that, Kagome's emotions turned from feeling sorry for herself, to feeling guilty for being such a horrible person because she'd been wallowing in her self-pity - and not thinking about Inuyasha and his hurt feelings.
Ah, the ups and downs of being Kagome Higurashi...
But she wouldn't really want to be anyone else – and she certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere else but by Inuyasha's side, either.
Whether she was invisible, or not, really didn't matter, because even if he hadn't known she was there...
… she had.