Author: LuxKen27 PM
A chance encounter. An unforgettable attraction. Can new love be born from the fragments of shattered lives? AU; Mir/San.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Miroku & Sango - Chapters: 15 - Words: 33,980 - Reviews: 43 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 18 - Updated: 11-07-11 - Published: 07-22-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5239500
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Another Time, Another Place
Word Count: 1661
Summary: "A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love." – Henri B. Stendhal
Entry for: mirsan_fics Prompt #10, "Lie" (1st Place)
Disclaimer: The Inuyasha concept, story, and characters are copyright Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Media.
Miroku glanced down the length of his bar, quirking a brow as he polished the surface of the solid wood. A lone figure sat at the end, nursing a rum and Coke and looking helplessly glum. It was sometime after midnight; he wasn't sure how long she'd been sitting there, fending off wolfish advances from other patrons between drinks. It was obvious to him, at least, that the lady didn't want to be bothered – her arms were crossed in front of her as she hunched over the bar, her eyes downcast and her shoulders defensive – but some of his regulars, well, they weren't exactly the brightest bulbs in the box.
Business was beginning to wane a bit; weeknights just didn't bring in the dosh of a Friday or Saturday. He refilled a few beers and sent a waitress out with a tray of cocktails, but soon enough found himself polishing glasses and trying not to stare at the curious creature camped at the end of his bar. She was wearing a white, sleeveless dress, one that dipped and curved in all the right places to enhance her trim figure. Her hair was gathered at the nape, sweeping over her back in a long, dark, glossy curtain. Every once in awhile she'd lift a hand to her face, wiping her fingers under her eyes, and he couldn't help but notice the huge, glittering rock occupying the fourth finger of her left hand.
Not that it was any sort of deterrent.
But beyond the incredibly attractive visage she displayed, he could sense she was hurting inside. He'd seen all kinds during his time manning the bar, and he'd picked up on a sign or two, signaling hurt, betrayal, or desperate straits. Some people drank for the company it brought, some people drank to get drunk, and some people drank to drown their sorrows.
This woman was firmly in the last camp.
His heart skipped a beat when she signaled for him. He sat down the wet glasses and threw the towel over his shoulder as he sauntered down, debating which expression to plaster on his face, before finally settling on a small, understanding smile as his hands came to rest in front of hers.
"Another, please," she said, tipping her glass at him.
He lifted a brow, surprised by her request. "You want to talk about it?" he asked, reaching back for his bottle of rum.
"Why, so you can lie to me, too?" came the sarcastic response.
He looked up, startled, taking in her grim expression. Her eyes, rimmed with red, bored into his for a long moment, almost as if daring him to reply.
"I've been told I'm a good listener," he shrugged, looking down, continuing to mix her drink.
He felt her eyes on him, watching him with tacit disinterest. "I came here to be alone," she muttered in reply.
"Well, you kinda came to the wrong place for that," he joked, placing her drink in front of her with a flourish.
She brushed an errant tear away, sniffling slightly, and he inclined his head, trying to catch her gaze. "Look, if someone bothers you, let me know, okay? I'll have him thrown out."
She nodded, lifting the drink to her lips. He noted the slight tremor in her hand as she did so, and shook his head. That's the last one, he told himself. She's had enough. I'll personally put her in a cab home – no way she'd last two seconds in this meat market.
He was just about to move away when he heard a soft chuckle. "I feel like a failure," she said suddenly, swirling the straw around her glass.
"Oh?" he intoned, pulling the towel off his shoulder and wiping his hands.
She sniffled again, dabbing a napkin to the corners of her eyes. "Yeah."
Miroku furrowed his brow as he studied her, trying to puzzle out the meaning behind the statement. She was absolutely beautiful, and obviously well-taken care of, with her creamy skin, clear complexion, and perfectly manicured nails – not to mention, that diamond weighing down her left hand.
"Boyfriend problems?" he mused aloud.
She snorted, her mouth twisting into a bitter smile. "Yeah, you could say that," she muttered, lifting her hand to look at the glittering rock. "He wants us to get married."
"And what do you want?"
Her eyes turned to his, tears pooling in the corners. "I want to stop living this lie," she choked out. "He pretends everything is perfect…and I can't stop seeing every way that it's not."
Intrigued, Miroku leaned closer. "How do you mean?"
He could see the hesitation in her gaze, the war she fought within herself, over whether or not to divulge her secrets, and silently pleaded with her to continue. He knew all too well what it was like to hold so much inside, to bottle up emotions until the near-breaking point. He also knew that little good could come of it, if she held on and held on and held on until it exploded.
She took a long sip of her drink. "My brother is missing," she finally said. "I've spent the last five years of my life looking for him, and I feel like I've failed him because he's still gone." She bit her lips, even as her shoulders shook with unbroken sobs. "How can I even contemplate moving on with my life, when I know he's still out there?"
Miroku gripped the edge of the bar at this revelation; it was just about the last thing he'd ever expected to hear. Before he could formulate a response, she continued, as if the floodgates had been opened.
"It's utterly destroyed my family," she sighed. "My parents have faded away into shadows of themselves – they each blame themselves for his disappearance, even though it happened under my watch, not theirs." She glanced up at him, her gaze slightly unfocused. "So it was up to me, you see, to be the strong one, the brave one, the one who held the family together."
"That must've been tough," he murmured sympathetically.
"You have no idea." She shook her head, taking a deep breath in an attempt to control herself. "So when Kuranousuke walked into my life, it was…such a relief." Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes in spite of her self-control. "Until he decided that the best way to help me was to try to make my life perfect, and normal, and stodgy, and boring."
She downed the rest of her drink, slamming the glass onto the table. "Give me another one of these," she said.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," Miroku said, grabbing the glass and sweeping it away.
She scowled, raising her fist as if to slam it down as well – before covering her eyes with her free hand as she began to cry in earnest. "I'm so tired of this," she blubbered. "I'm tired of being the strong one – the brave one – 'good ol' Sango, who always has it together'!"
Miroku cast a glance down the bar, silently signaling one of his waitresses to come and take over for him before turning his attention back to the sobbing woman in front of him. "Sango?" he tried, reaching for her fisted hand. "Come on, I think it's time for you to go home."
"What home?" she mused as she looked at him. "I walked out on Kuranousuke. He wants me to forget I even had a brother, and how can I do that?"
"Okay," Miroku relented, walking around the side of bar and coming to stand at her side. "Your parents, maybe? Come on, let's go outside, I'll hail you a cab."
She slipped from her stool as he took her hand. "My parents live in Osaka," she mumbled, leaning against him heavily as he led the way outside.
They stood on the curb under the flood of a streetlight for a few silent moments. Miroku sighed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders as they waited. This wasn't the first time he'd had to escort a drunken patron outside, but something was different this time. He was drawn to her, for some inexplicable reason – sure, she was gorgeous, and that was usually enough to spark his interest; but there was also something more. He barely knew this woman, and yet, it was as if he'd known her his entire life. Sure, she was in a dark place right now, but he could sense her inner strength and resolve. It wasn't just anybody who could hold a family together after such a trauma.
He should know – he'd had to do it himself when his father died.
How strange, to find someone I have this in common with, under circumstances like these, he thought to himself.
A jolt of surprise bolted down his spine as he felt her arms encircle his waist. He knew he should pull away – the alarms were going off full-blast in his head – this was a dangerous situation, and she was drunk and remorseful. He was a better man than to take advantage of that, no matter how tempting the invitation.
He sighed, tightening the brace of his arm, allowing her to sink into him for the tiniest moment.
How sad, as well, he mused. Another time, another place – this feels just right.
A cab finally came into view, which he easily flagged down. "You have somewhere to go?" he prodded, easing Sango into the backseat.
She nodded, wiping her eyes, digging into her purse for a slip of paper, which she handed to the driver.
Miroku hesitated at the door, giving her one last look. "You're going to be fine," he reassured her, unable to resist giving her shoulder an impulsive squeeze.
"You really think so?" she murmured in a defeated tone. "You hardly know me."
"Indeed," he relented, straightening up and closing the car's door. "So what reason would I have to lie?"