Sango's Fairy Tale

by Sharlene

Sango sat by the fire, staring into the heart of the flames and remembering other fires. Things were peaceful, for the moment. Kagome had returned to her time to take tests, as usual, and, as usual, Inuyasha had chased after her. She and Miroku hadn't even had to speak to make plans to camp in a familiar clearing, where the moss softened the ground to make for comfortable sleeping, and there was a circle of rocks denoting the spot for the campfire. There was even a small shelter there, just the beginnings of a roof that kept the firewood they had gathered on previous visits dry. It was as close to home as they had these days, and the thought was depressing.

She was only vaguely aware when Shippo crawled into her lap, her arms automatically moving to curl around him. He snuggled close, his face nuzzling her neck as she rested her chin on his soft hair. After a few minutes of silence, he yawned and said, "Tell me a story, Sango."

"Mmmmm. What kind of story do you want tonight?" She was never quite sure, on nights like these, whether it comforted her or broke her heart to be holding another little boy the way she'd once held Kohaku.

Shippo yawned again and rearranged himself to look at the fire, his tail curled around to his front like a blanket. "A story about Kagome. It can be made up, though."

Sango smiled and thought for a minute. "Let's see. Once upon a time, there was a girl--"

"A beautiful and nice girl."

"Well, of course she was. In fact, she was so beautiful, and so nice, that everyone wanted to marry her." Sango cudgeled her brain for more details from the stories Kagome read to Shippo from her books. Surely there was a story like that in there somewhere? "Her most persistent suitors were three princes. One of them was a wolf prince, with blue eyes and tremendous speed."

Shippo nodded in agreement. "Yeah, he's definitely persistent. Stupid, too."

"The next suitor was a monk with pretty violet eyes and wandering hands. He wanted to take Princess Kagome back to his kingdom so she could bear his child, but he was a lech who flirted with all the pretty girls and got slapped a lot. He thought, since Kagome was a princess, she'd be used to the idea of a husband who wasn't to be hers alone." The clinking of rings indicated Miroku's return and she hoped that he hadn't heard the first part of the description.

"You think my eyes are pretty, Sango?" So much for that hope. She glared at him as he gave her a lazy grin, just one corner of his mouth turned up in that lopsided way that made her consider whether she wanted to kiss him or smash his face in. Turning her face away and studiously ignoring him, she continued.

"The third suitor, and the one Princess Kagome liked best, was a hanyou with white hair and gorgeous amber eyes. He was sometimes rude and uncouth, but everyone could see how much he and the princess loved each other." Sango tried to think about what the characters would do next. Maybe a quest, since it seemed Kagome's stories always had princes going off on quests to do silly things like climb glass mountains or find golden trees or some such.

"So did they have a fight?" Shippo frowned. "I can't picture Miroku fighting over a girl, though. He'd just move on to the next one."

"It would depend, Shippo, on whether the girl was worth fighting for and whether I felt worthy of her." Miroku had settled in his usual spot, just close enough to make Sango nervous, but far enough away she would feel silly telling him to move. His eyes sparkled with good humor as he continued, "Now, I'm sure Sango knows that the suitors didn't do anything as silly as fight over Princess Kagome."

Sango started talking, trying to work it out as she went. "Well, the princess was so beautiful and so nice that battles would have been fought for her if she hadn't been too tender hearted to allow any of her suitors to get hurt. Instead, she decided to run away from the palace and study how to become a miko, so that she wouldn't have to hurt anybody's feelings. She ran away late one night, taking with her only the special jewel that had been left to her by her mother and a bag of food."

"A drastic act, surely." Miroku's face was neutral, but there was a laugh in his voice as he fed the fire.

"But Kagome can't take care of herself all on her own! She'd get hurt." Shippo wasn't sure he liked where this story was going.

"That is precisely what her favorite page thought. He was a clever and brave kitsune boy who was completely loyal to the princess. When he saw her running away, he followed her out of the palace and into the woods." Sango tried to think of what happened next, but then Miroku took up the story.

"But the Princess and her small shadow had not gone far before they got lost in the deep, dark woods. The trees seemed to close in around them and grab at them with their thorny branches, and the princess was very frightened." Shippo's eyes had grown rounder and rounder, and Sango feared he would soon crawl into her clothes for reassurance. Before he could, the monk continued. "But, just as all seemed lost, they came to a clearing, where there was a small house, and in the doorway was the most beautiful woman either of them had ever seen, with long black hair and dark eyes that seemed to contain the mysteries of the universe."

The tone of his voice held the audience mesmerized as he continued. "The woman spoke, and her voice was the most wonderful music the world had ever heard. 'My name is Sango', she said, 'and I hate men, too.' And so the princess and her loyal page were invited in to live with the beautiful woman."

Sango bit her lip, seething. He sounded so poetic now, but earlier she had been overlooked like yesterday's salmon, all his attention devoted to the slightly plump daughter of the local village chief, with an embroidered kimono and her hair arranged prettily. Sango had noted the direction of his eyes and felt like crying. Instead, she had taken Shippo's hand and walked away. She had not spoken directly to the monk since then, not wanting to talk about it until she could do so calmly. She picked up the story again and continued, "Of course, Sango didn't really hate men. She had just grown tired of being hurt by a man who didn't know how to be sincere and faithful, and so she had decided to simply shut him out of her heart and wait to meet someone who would think that she was enough for him."

"So what happened? Did the suitors give up?" Shippo wasn't sure where the story was going, but he was intrigued and enjoying the journey.

"Most of them did, but not the three princes. They each had a special power that led him to the cottage where Princess Kagome was hiding." Sango checked her plot mentally and thought she was on the right track, so she continued. "All three arrived at the same time, and poor Kagome felt very bad that she was going to hurt their feelings, so she told them that she could never agree to marry without the consent of her friend, Sango."

Miroku interrupted, his voice slightly dreamy. "Then the three men looked up and saw the beautiful Sango approach. She seemed almost to glide towards them, her lithe body--"

Sango put her boomerang down, ignoring Miroku's pout and the ostentatious way he rubbed the new bump on his head. "Sango thought that her friend didn't want to marry at all, so she decided she would set the suitors an impossible task, one that would make them give up and go back to their kingdoms, leaving the girls and the brave little kitsune in peace."

"So what'd they have to do, gather all of the grains of rice in a field, or get an apple from the tree of life, or gather water from the fountain of beauty, or--" Shippo might have continued forever, but Sango laughed and hugged him and he subsided.

"Nothing so simple as that. Sango's challenge was that they each had to bring her something that ensured they were telling the truth, and then state truthfully why they wanted to marry Princess Kagome." Sango darted a look at Miroku, then looked away when her eyes met his. "They each had one year to search the world before coming back and telling the whole truth."

"But before they left, Sango looked at them with a terrible, cold beauty, and told them that if they failed to prove their truthfulness to her, they would die by her hand." Miroku had edged closer, and he wriggled his fingers at Shippo as he spoke in an ominous tone.

"The princes agreed, and gave their word of honor. The hanyou prince, in particular, looked at Kagome when he swore, on his honor and on his sword, that he would come back in one year and win her in truth. Such was the strength of that look that Sango began to doubt whether she had done the right thing in setting the task, for she did not want to kill any of the three... Except perhaps the hentai." Miroku's hand froze where it had been inching towards her knee, and he gave a small cough as he straightened.

"And so the hanyou and the wolf prince departed, but the third prince remained behind. He was a holy man, and he felt it was his duty to protect two lovely and helpless females alone in the deep dark wood." Miroku drew his face into pious lines, then looked reproachfully at Sango. "Why are you laughing?"

Sango rolled her eyes, but continued. "Sango wanted to throw the lecherous prince off of her land, but Princess Kagome insisted that he was her friend, and so Sango allowed him to stay, in spite of her better judgment."

"Don't worry, Sango, the brave little kitsune page will protect you!" Shippo turned his face away from Sango long enough to glare fiercely at Miroku.

"And the small kitsune did an admirable job of protecting the ladies, especially the Princess Kagome, who was often alone for long stretches of time while Sango tended to the vegetable garden and hunted for meat." She paused, trying to think of some reason for the third prince to leave so that she could skip to when the three came back.

This pause gave Miroku an opening, which he took. "The prince saw how hard Sango worked, and he determined to help. Every day, he would bid the Princess Kagome good morning, and they would all share breakfast, then he would go out to the field and work with Sango, or he would go to the river and catch fish to give variety to their food. He grew to greatly respect Sango's intelligence and determination, as well as her beauty."

Sango looked at him closely, but his eyes would not meet hers. Cautiously, she continued the thread of the story. "Sango grew to like the houshi- er, prince, and she worried that he would fail the quest and she would have to take his life. She would watch him, laughing with Princess Kagome and playing with little Shippo, and her heart would twist at the thought of his death. She told him to go, and when he wouldn't, she asked if he would."

"'Are you so anxious to be rid of me, then?', said the prince." Shippo looked between the two adults, his eyes wide as he saw their gazes connect and hold.

"No, I would not wish you harm for anything in the world, and I would protect you if I could." Snapping back to herself, Sango blushed and cleared her throat. "That was what the girl said, but she knew that she had no choice in a matter that involved sacred oaths. She wanted him with her always, but she wanted him to fulfill his quest and be happy."

"And so the year passed, and once again the three princes stood in the small clearing in front of Sango's cottage, awaiting the trial that would end their journeys. The first to speak was the wolf prince." Miroku sat back and gestured for Sango to continue, earning himself a dirty look as she floundered for what to say.

After a minute, she spoke. "The wolf prince held up a bone and said, 'This is the bone of a legendary hero who could not lie. It is said any man who tells an untruth while holding it will be struck down from above.' The wolf took a deep breath before continuing, 'On this sacred bone, I swear that I would be a good husband to Princess Kagome, remaining faithful always and giving her a position of high honor and power among my people.'"

"Then the kitsune asked, 'Do you love Kagome, really love her?'" Shippo wriggled slightly as he declared his part in the story.

Sango laughed and tickled him slightly before continuing. "The kitsune was very clever in asking the question, for the wolf was forced to answer honestly, 'No, I do not love her as much as I desire her, for the sake of the power she would bring to my clan and for the sake of her beauty."

"Next was Inuyasha!" Shippo looked expectantly at Miroku, who shook his head.

"The hanyou was next, and he held up a sword which looked rusted and old. 'This is the sword of my father, and it transforms when the wielder is speaking the truth.' As he spoke, the sword changed to look like a gigantic, gleaming fang." Sango paused for a moment to consider the wording, then continued. "He held up the shining sword and said, 'I am not worthy of Princess Kagome. I am a second son, and so I cannot offer her a kingdom, and I am a hanyou, so I do not have a rank as great as hers. All I can offer her is my eternal protection from any who would threaten her.'"

Shippo grinned as he chimed in with his part. "And again the kitsune asked, 'Do you love her?'"

"The hanyou looked down at the ground and cleared his throat before he said, 'Feh. Who could ever love a wench like her?'" Sango put on her best discomfited Inuyasha expression, and Shippo rolled with laughter. Even Miroku chuckled before she continued, "But, while the hanyou spoke, the sword started transforming back to the rusted and ancient looking katana, and so they all knew he wasn't telling the truth."

"BUSTED!" Shippo enjoyed using the slang that Kagome taught him, letting the strange syllables roll off his tongue with glee.

"Princess Kagome had been hurt by his thoughtless words, but as she saw the evidence of his lies, she walked towards him and placed a hand over his. 'Tell me the truth', she said, looking deeply into his eyes with the love she felt shining through. He blushed fiercely, but didn't look away from her intent gaze as he whispered, 'I didn't want to love you, and you'd be better off without me, but I... I do.'" Sango sighed as she pictured the romantic scene. Too bad it was as likely to happen as Naraku prancing through a field of flowers singing about feeling pretty. Still, she could just end the story now and put Shippo to bed, then rest herself and stop thinking about such things. "And they lived happily--"

"But what about the third prince?" Shippo looked up at Sango with eyes that were being held open by willpower alone. "What happened with him?"

Sango wasn't sure what she would've said if Miroku hadn't said, "Ah, the third prince. Well, Sango was worried, because she knew he hadn't searched for a way that would verify his truthfulness, but he stepped forward and kissed her hand, then took a step back and raised up the staff he always carried. 'This staff was my father's, and his father's, and I cannot lie while I hold it. I do not love Princess Kagome, this is true.'"

Sango found that she was holding her breath, and she let it out slowly as she waited for him to continue. His voice hypnotized her as he said, "The prince held the staff and looked gravely at Sango as he spoke. 'There is a woman that I love, and she is beautiful and resourceful and determined. I want her with me always, to be by my side and to bear my children.'"

"She looked at him and asked, 'Can you promise that you will be faithful? I know too well that it leads only to heartbreak when one lover is true and the other is not.'" Sango couldn't quite break her gaze away from Miroku's, couldn't quite pretend that this had nothing to do with her.

"I cannot promise never to look at another female and find her comely, but I can promise that my heart and soul and body will always be yours and yours alone." Miroku leaned forward and tucked a strand of Sango's hair back, his hand brushing gently along her cheek. "I cannot promise I will never make a mistake, or do something that will make you angry. I can only promise that I will always love you and strive to become the man you deserve."

Sango bit her lip, trying to hold back the tear that was threatening to sneak past her defenses and streak down her cheek. "And the woman from the forest looked into his eyes and she felt her fear melt away as she saw that he meant what he said. She knew he would hurt her, but that it would not be deliberate, any more than it would be deliberate when she hurt him. In a firm voice, she said, 'I cannot promise never to become angry or jealous, and I cannot become a lady like those of the court. I am what I am, and if you can accept that, what I am will be yours as what you are will be mine.'"

Shippo clapped his hands and then yawned hugely. "And then they kissed, and everybody lived happily ever after." The little boy gave the shaken demon hunter a hug, then crawled off her lap to curl up with Kirara, the two disappearing under their twined tails.

Sango found the ground in front of her fascinating as she refused categorically to look up at Miroku. At least, until she felt his hand on her chin, tilting her face upwards so that he could brush a simple, chaste kiss over her lips. "I cannot promise... Yet. But I will."

Sango watched him walk a few steps away to where his sleeping roll was set up, and then sat back to stare into the fire. Softly, after a few minutes, she whispered, "I will, too."

Author's Note: This waff brought to you courtesy of the Miroku/Sango high brought about by chapter 292 of the manga. If you haven't already read the translation, it's at courtesy of the continuing efforts of Chris Rijk, truly a hero to the IY fandom at large. Thanks also to Eli-chan and Urd-chan, from the sangomiroku and inuyasha-list yahoogroups, for providing scans even before a Chris's translation was up, and in Eli-chan's case for providing a translation to drool over several days before Chris had the time to get one up.

This fic is dedicated to Elf From Space, for being a wonderful person in general, and for providing the means for me to become an IY fangirl and a major Sango/Miroku shipper. Elf's one of the sweetest and coolest people I've met in my nine years online, and I'm glad to call her a friend.

Also, don't forget to visit to nominate and vote for the best IY fics out there, and if you want a voice in what I turn my brain to next.