Kiss-Fist Means 'I Love You' by cakeiton

MUTE

I don't own anything Inuyasha.

A/N: Thank you for the warm welcome to this fic! I hope I do it justice

CHAPTER TWO: MUTE

The following weeks blurred together. He was not particularly busy, but the days melded into one inconsistent feeling of imbalance. Reaching out was extremely difficult for him, even after that first night he had invited Inuyasha over.

His younger half-brother had arrived quickly, but clearly still clearing the cobwebs of sleep. His round eyes were actively avoiding his missing arm, instead darting around the quiet home and the incomplete project on the living room floor.

“Hey,” Inuyasha greeted as he stepped in. “You okay? You sounded…”

“I called, “Sesshomaru interrupted, not comfortable with knowing how he sounded to others, “Because I am in need of some assistance.”

Inuyasha nodded warily. “Yeah, no, I know. Um…” The younger man stuttered and fidgeted with his hands. 

Sesshomaru had seen this quite a lot in the last couple months. Loss made people nervous. Some wanted to reach out without stepping over too far. Some wanted to talk but never knew what to say. Everyone wanted to fix the feeling of loss, subconsciously knowing one day it would be their turn to experience it and wanted to know that there was a way out. If they could help him, they could ease that fear within themselves. It was not as selfish as it sounded, but their anxious energy presented itself as pity. He hated pity. It did nothing but highlight how helpless he had been to stop any of this from happening in the first place.

They all said they wanted to help. Truth was, he did not know what they could do for him.

Except, maybe… “I need to build the crib,” Sesshomaru stated.

The fidgeting stopped. Inuyasha found the sleek clock on the wall and almost bristled. “It’s…  it’s 1:30 in the morning.”

The older brother’s brow furrowed. “I am aware.”

Inuyasha stared dumbly back at him for a couple moments more before resigning himself with a nod. “Okay, sure. Whatever you need.” His rough, linen jacket shrugged off his shoulders and he kicked his worn shoes haphazardly towards the neat line of Sesshomaru and his wife’s own. Then, he pointed to the half-unpacked box in the center of the small living room. “That the culprit there?”

Before he could answer, Inuyasha was already halfway towards the mess, tying back his long hair. Normally, Sesshomaru would lay out all the pieces as a manual instructed, ensuring each one was accounted for so as not to waste any extra frustration in only building a thing halfway should something be missing. Inuyasha, apparently, did not have that discipline. Picking up the instructions, he fitted the first pieces together without double-checking they were even the correct ones.

“Indeed,” Sesshomaru answered, suddenly feeling very tired.

It was not long before the frustration infected them both.

“Will you just shut up and let me help you?” Inuyasha half-screamed, watching him try to hold the end of one long wooden leg between his knees, then balancing an extremely uncooperative screw in its pre-drilled hole so he could secure it in. After the fourth time it had fallen, his half-brother tried to hold it for him.

“Focus on your side,” Sesshomaru scolded.

“I’m done, you idiot.”

“Then you can wait!” His anger came easily, and the screaming was cathartic, like it had been when he was younger.

He could see Inuyasha struggle against fighting back. As children, and well into their early adult years, there was hardly a meeting between them where they didn’t fight. It wasn’t that Sesshomaru could see so much of their father, another contenious relationship, in his younger brother, but the absence of his mother was so striking. Sesshomaru was the obvious son of his parents, and Inuyasha was so clearly not.

It wasn’t the boy’s fault, but he had taken it out on him anyways.

Inuyasha grumbled and looked away, his jaw clenching and bloodshot eyes angry. Harsher than necessary, he rustled about the remaining pieces intent on continuing without Sesshomaru’s section. Then, after a few moments, his brow furrowed. “Huh, that’s weird. Looks like there’s a couple things missing.”

A faded memory came to Sesshomaru and he felt a hint of shame. Carefully, he stood, his knees aching and remaining arm wobbly from bearing his whole weight, and approached the couch. The elder brother pushed his hips into the couch, moving it away from the wall. Bracing his knee against the cushioned arm, he reached down and retrieved an odd L-shaped bracket.

Inuyasha smiled. “Ha! That’s it!” Hitching up the waist of his baggy red sweatpants, he crawled around to look under the rest of the furniture, finding strewn about bolts and screws. “Oh man, I was wondering where all this had gone off to. What happened? Did you let a dog try to put this together first?”

Sesshomaru darkened, stealing a glance towards his aching shoulder. “I had some trouble unpacking everything.”

“Oh, fuck,” Inuyasha responded, still on all fours and now unable to look away from his missing arm. “Oh man, I’m sorry, I-”

“Do not feel sorry for me,” the older brother barked. “I need your hands, not your mouth or pity.”

He was baiting him again, and a heat rose in the younger’s eyes. “It’s not pity.”

His sharp eyes glared down, pouncing on his unease. “Or your lies.”

Finally, Inuyasha’s patience was beginning to give out. “This ‘Better Than Everyone’ bullshit got old a long time ago, bastard.”

“Interesting choice of insult,” he countered, raising a haughty eyebrow.

He could hear his brother’s teeth grind together. “You called me here! Why are you starting shit? I get that you’re mad, but can you give it a break? It is three in the morning.”

The older brother’s expression soured. “I am not angry.”

Inuyasha cackled. “Like hell you’re not. And I get it. You should be. But did you call me here to put things together, or to rip them apart?”

Sesshomaru felt the frustration rise, then recognized it was because his brother was not fighting back. Inuyasha was behaving like the grown up between the two. It was embarrassing. His scowl deepened and he did not respond as he tried to come to grips with the dejection he suddenly felt. Gritting his teeth, he fought against it and felt the stoic mask slipped over his features once again.

“Keh,” Inuyasha concluded. “You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?”

“Hn.” Sesshomaru folded himself back down to the floor over the pieces he had been trying to screw together and felt sullen. His sunken eyes and raspy, tired voice looked at Inuyasha, almost defeated. “Hold on to the screw for a moment.”

His brother scoffed, but did what was asked of him, and together they got the back of the crib assembled.

They worked in complete silence, besides the younger’s swears under his breath as they finagled with the bulky fittings, and Sesshomaru felt every quiet moment bore heavily on him. He had always enjoyed the silence, but with so many things left unsaid in his mind, it was now suffocatingly oppressive.

He did not know if he meant to say much at all, but felt that he had to say something or he would break. Something other than trying to pick a fight and avoid what was actually wrong. “I tried to assemble this my first night back home,” Sesshomaru confessed, feeling the pressure of his grief swell behind his eyes. “It was so… cold. Our home was empty and motionless. Everything here felt dead and I could not…” He paused for a breath that was strangely hard to take in, and realized this was the most he had spoken to anybody since the night of the accident.

It did not feel good. It felt like dragging claws over fresh wounds.

The words slipped from him anyways, reopening things so they would heal properly. “If I chose to remain still, I am unsure if I would ever move again. So, I attempted to build this myself and I could not even get it unpacked without trouble.” He had then kicked the pile a few times and roared, but his brother did not need to know that part.

Inuyasha did not respond. He did not avert his eyes, either, meeting the rare honesty from his normally reticent brother in shock. Sesshomaru could read the slight fear in those eyes as they recognized the elder was reaching out, letting someone close when he was at his most unguarded, and he did not want to fuck it up by saying the wrong thing.

So instead, he said nothing and just listened. And it was the perfect response.

Sesshomaru broke the eye contact first, looking over the finished product of their night, and felt ten times lighter. “I was able to visit the baby today, and I could not leave this unfinished any longer.”

Inuyasha’s stunned expression grew and his shoulders sagged. “Holy shit, I had no idea.”

Nodding quietly, he appraised their work and tried to imagine the impossibly tiny girl sleeping safely near him.

His younger brother yawned loudly, then whipped his head around the room a couple times. “Wait, is this the room you want it in? ‘Cause I don’t think it can fit through your doorways.”

Without request or question, Inuyasha showed up every Friday night following that first, and together they slowly put together the room to welcome his daughter home.

.

Sesshomaru tried attending a few support groups. Repeatedly, he was told that being surrounded by people who have gone through similar ordeals would benefit him. They were supposed to be a safe space where they could talk about their process. He expected it to be full of boastful survivors, selling those who would listen on how they were experts on pain and healing.

It was surprisingly raw. Everyone had genuine pain and were genuine about their pain; visible for all to see, and their vulnerability was so foreign to him he felt more inadequate than put off. Each let their words escape from within them like he had with Inuyasha that first night. When it was his turn, he would decline, feeling awkward and unaccustomed to expressing himself outright. Immediately afterwards, however, he would attend visiting hours at the NICU.

Then, the words came easily.

The staff knew him, but not much about him. He was never one to open up much about anything, even happiness. He would sit next to his child’s incubator, his eyes trailing along the wires and tubes that were slowly decreasing in number, and waited until most of the attendants were a good distance away before greeting her.

Today, Sesshomaru shrugged off his outer jacket in the too warm room and sat in the familiar, horrendous chair. He was really beginning to hate the hard plastic, the inhuman non-ergonomic design, and the tilting from its uneven legs. Resigned, he slipped his hand inside the designated hole in her plastic shell and tickled her palm until her delicate, lanky fingers wrapped around his own.

“Hello, little one.”

At his touch, she pulled on the tip of his finger with a demanding ire. Her eyelids fluttered, but still were taped shut, and her head tossed gently side to side as she stirred. Even her legs kicked out, which made Sesshomaru smile.

“You are getting stronger,” he stated, then gestured to her feeding tube, the PEG he remembered, sticking from her small stomach. “You will have to feed yourself here soon.”

She kicked again, her head tilting back and thin, soft arms quaking as she stretched. Glancing around, Sesshomaru leaned closer to slightly increase their menial amount of privacy and spoke low.

“Yesterday, I went to a group for people who have become what is called ‘permanently disabled.’ It means their injuries will never heal, like mine.”

Once he began talking, she would always quiet and calm her anxious movements. Her slight chest and round belly that he could cover with one hand rose and fell in a quick, comfortable rhythm, as if lulled by the sound of his voice.

Taking solace in the fact that they both seemed to find comfort in this, he continued. “There was a woman who is paralyzed from the neck down. And she smiled most of the time. I can not comprehend the strength to face such a fate and smile. I do not know where to start, and it felt foolish to complain about…” He shrugged his left side, an action more for himself than for her. She laid peacefully in the incubator and Sesshomaru forced himself to look away from the beeping metal and plastic tubing, focusing once again on the developing chubby curve of her cheek and the unruly dark brown hair that now almost covered her entire scalp. 

“Your mother was always the one who knew what to say. She would tease me, declaring herself as my Social Shield. I was never very talkative, but I am trying.”

Just then, a nurse walked by and he noticed her uncomfortable stare. Immediately, he snapped his mouth shut and narrowed his eyes. “Yes?” he asked harshly.

She started, embarrassed that she had been caught. “Oh, um, everything alright over here?”

Sesshomaru didn’t answer, just bobbed his finger the little girl was holding onto and waited for their interruption to go away. 

“Have you…” the nurse began to ask, turning her eyes away from the intense stare he was leveling at her. “Have you spoken with the doctor today?”

His finger stopped and an icy weight dropped in his stomach. Suddenly dizzy, his vision sharpened and blood froze. The almost sad look in the nurse’s eyes and tentative way she had asked assaulted him with the feeling that something was about to go very wrong.

He forced himself to unclench his jaw and keep breathing slowly. His shoulders would not loosen, but as the baby shifted again, weakly crying out, he steeled himself to control his voice. If he let on that he was suddenly terrified, then it would just welcome his worst fears. “No.”

The anxious nurse nodded. “I’ll go send for him, then.” Without any more explanation, she hurriedly left them alone.

The willowy grasp of his daughter tightened once again, and Sesshomaru was left floundering.

It wasn’t more than a couple minutes before the doctor called him out of the room for the nurses to attend his baby’s feeding and care. Reluctantly, Sesshomaru had followed them to a cluttered office, declining the offer to take a seat upon entering.

The doctor's smile grew into a practiced, customer service grin that was meant to deliver news while tempering emotions. Sesshomaru frowned back.

“Well, your daughter has become a bit of a favorite amongst our staff! Her progress has been very promising and we are projecting to transition her to breathing on her own within the week. If that goes well, we can remove the PEG and allow her time with her eyelids open.”

The doctor paused, waiting for some hopeful response from Sesshomaru. He only glared back.

Suddenly disquieted, the physician cleared their throat and continued. “She has grown enough to perform some basic newborn tests. A lot looks really good. Her heart murmur is fading, she is absorbing nutrients really well and starting to do things like defecate on her own.”

“And the bad news?” Sesshomaru interrupted. He was having a hard time keeping his hand and legs from shaking. The adrenaline coursing through him was becoming unbearable, causing the ache in his missing arm to increase. His remaining hand clenched so tightly his fingernails bit deeply into his palm. He wished he could do the same with his left, but the ghostly disconnected feeling of the lost limb he couldn’t control just heightened his frustration.

He just wanted to know already.

The placating smile dropped from the doctor’s face. “We haven't been able to get any response with her hearing. There are a couple procedures we perform, which I can go over with you, but we are getting zero response in both her AABR and OAE tests.”

Sesshomaru lungs burned with his held breath and waited for them to continue, to hear the worst part of the news. The silence stretched.

Confused, the doctor’s brow knitted together and they concluded. “We are unsure if she will ever be able to hear.”

His own hearing faded, replaced by a high-pitched buzzing as the implication set in. Then, the color returned to his face and the air in his lungs escaped him in a rush.

“But, she’s okay?” He could not stop the way relief softened his voice. “She is deaf, but she is okay?”

A genuine smile stretched across the physician’s face. “She is more than okay. Other than the hearing loss, we don’t expect anything to inhibit her long term.”

.

Two weeks later, Sesshomaru sat on his jacket in an attempt to make the damnable chair more comfortable as he sat next to the strengthening baby. She was no longer caged in the incubator. The bandage on her stomach covered what would eventually be a scar she would always carry, but one he would teach her to wear proudly. It was a battle scar, a sign of how hard she fought and how far she would go to survive. His hand rested on her swaddled chest, feeling the quick beats of her heart and the deep inhales of breath she took in on her own.

He spoke low to his daughter, telling her about the room he and Inuyasha had put together for her, when a nurse was suddenly in front of them. “You want to hold her today?”

Kaede was a no nonsense, older woman who, he was almost sure, had a glass eye. She was one of the more familiar nurses that normally scuttled about her business, efficient in a way that only came with much experience, and had never bothered them before.

Sesshomaru automatically sneered in response and raised his left shoulder. “I would imagine it might be difficult.”

She clicked her tongue then reached into his space, uninvited, and the audacity shocked him still. With the practiced lack of decorum that most veteran nurses seem to have, she grabbed at the nub of his left arm, exploring the severed limb through his pinned-up long sleeve. Kaede prodded the tender end with the gentle grace of a curious toddler before grunted a positive ‘Hmpfh’. He expected pain at the touch. Instead, he felt like a child himself.

“Hm,” she grumbled again, then stared him down even though they were almost eye level. Her eyes were hard, one glassy and artificial, the other experienced and wise, then said, “You’ve got a lot of good arm there. Don’t go wasting it.”

Sesshomaru thought she would leave him alone after that. He wanted her to.

She didn’t.

Finally, he nodded. Her thin lips were still plastered in her signature small scowl, but she relented her stare and turned towards the incredibly small bundle of blankets in the bassinet.

Sesshomaru’s heart pounded in his chest. After all that led up to this moment he expected fanfare or a moment to reflect. But, Kaede easily picked up the swaddled baby and unceremoniously placed her in his arm as if it were only the natural thing to do.

“Watch the head,” was the only bit of advice she deemed worthy to give him. The new father cradled her close against him with his good arm and, instinctually, used his half-arm to steady her in his grasp. For how important she was the bundle did not weigh much at all, and he felt an irrational fear that she would float out of his hold. Somehow, he still felt rooted to the ground at the same time.

“Hello, little one” he greeted with a shaky smile, then remembered she could not hear him and the hopeless feeling returned.

Her unfocused eyes searched around, unable to see anything more than a few inches from her. She struggled in the swaddling blanket and her little lip quivered. He wanted to comfort her, but his arm was keeping her secured. So, he lowered his head and gently pressed the tip of his nose against her own.

She quieted, rolling her head in clumsy circles. Sesshomaru chuckled, vibrating through them both, and she kicked happily in response. Then she opened her tiny, gummy mouth and cooed as it closed around his nose. She tried suckling a few times, only getting hints of salty tears as a few trailed down to his open smile. Her motion quickly became urgent and, finally frustrated, she bit her gums down hard and started to fuss.

“Looks like she is hungry,” Nurse Kaede stated and walked over with her arms out to take the baby away.

Sesshomaru almost growled, feeling a primitive need to keep the small girl at his side, and held her closer to his chest. “I will feed her.”

Kaede was obviously surprised. The old woman’s feet faltered and arms dropped to her side. Slowly, she smiled, a rare out-of-place expression, then commended, “Good job Dad. I will be right back.”

The approval of the cranky older nurse should not have mattered as much as it did, but for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, Sesshomaru felt pride.

As they waited for Kaede to return, his long fingers tapped a gentle pattern on her boney back while softly bouncing her within his hold. Even the stump of his arm fell into the easy rhythm of the soothing motion.

.

“It's terrible how something could be taken away so quickly when the healing takes so long. Some days it feels as if I never will. That I will always miss her, and that it will always ache, like this arm.” Sesshomaru's feet felt cold as he forced them to stay planted to the ground. The whole attendance of the disabled support group was staring at him and their scrutiny of his vulnerability almost shut him down. He closed his eyes and thought of his tiny girl trying to nibble the tip of his nose. He had to keep going, to fight like she was fighting, because they would have to struggle against so many other things together. They did not need to be fighting against themselves as well. 

“It is an impotent feeling,” he continued after a moment. “Like never being able to wake up. My wife was a part of me and she was cut out, and I still feel her there. I feel her in the room and I keep turning my head hoping to catch a glimpse.” He took another shuddering breath.

“I finished the birth certificate yesterday. She wanted to name our daughter Rin…” His eyes refocused. The vision of his wife’s smiling face faded as he was suddenly very aware of where he was and how very alone he felt. The fluorescent lights were too bright. Stale and bitter coffee flooded his senses and the faces of looking at him, listening intently, were crushing.

Speaking about his trauma was hard, but he made good progress today. He could tell because he felt like shit.

Sesshomaru quietly sat down, deciding not to finish the sentence, and stared at the floor. The muted, supportive clapping from the other members buffered against the protective bubble he hid back inside in. He could feel the pull of his grief and anxiety try to drag him to the ground. It had become a familiar feeling. There were so many uncertainties and variables, so many things he did not know how to beat, but there was also a light.

After four and a half months since the accident, he would finally be bringing his daughter, Rin, home.

...

A/N:  Fun story: The day after my first was born I was meeting with the pediatrician when my daughter started choking on embryotic fluid (very common). I freaked and looked at the doctor. She only asked, "What are you going to do, Mom?"

It shocked me, but then I reached for the nasal aspirator and sucked out the fluid she was struggling with.

The doctor smiled and told me, "Good job," before continuing on like nothing happened.

That has stuck with me for SO long cause that one moment of panic, problem solving, and handling the situation gave me so much confidence going forward.

Anyways, thank you for reading! I hope you are liking it.

 

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