DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I don't own Inuyasha. I just like to play with them.
By: Lara Winner
To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky
You better learn how to kneel
(on your knees boy)
She's the way
She'll turn the tide
She sees the man inside the child.
-U2 "Mysterious Ways"
In the dead of night the silence is deafening. The soft even breathing of my companions and the calm rhythmic pulsing of their auras tells me that they are all lost in the land of dreams. Even Inuyasha is drifting in the realm of peaceful sleep, a testament of how much he trusts each one of us. The hanyou has allowed his guard to come down completely.
It is a small showing of trust but it is a reminder of how we depend on one another, and now more so than ever. The Shikon no Tama is nearly complete. The influence of Naraku's sorcery is felt more every day. The final battle is coming. I can feel the disturbance deep inside, like a ripple in a calm lake. A tiny drop of doubt creates the ripple of restlessness that then causes the wave of fearful dread and in this chain reaction something even stronger compels me to weigh the odds of our victory. Unless we are aided with a miracle I doubt any of us will survive.
But what do I care about death? My days are numbered. Even now I'm living on borrowed time. The prayer beads that restrain the kazaana in my hand are the only thing extending my time on this earth. I can feel the cold breath of death breathing down my neck at every turn. I see the shadow of Shinigami haunting my every step and constantly prompting a voice from the depths of my mind to question if today will be my last.
So far I've cheated death but even my conniving abilities will soon fail me and he will come to collect the debt I owe. The only request I have is that I die with honor, preferably fighting along side these people for whom I would give my life. Whether by Naraku's hand or the curse that will consume me, I care not. With the first breath you take out of the womb you begin to die and I have prepared for my end for as long as I can remember.
Days, months and years have I spent in the temple meditating on the burden that I bear and what I must do to rid myself of it. Oyaji's death left me nothing but this unwanted inheritance. He spent his life wenching and drinking trying to distract himself instead of facing Naraku. Now it is my sole responsibility to see this curse broken. Despite the foreboding feeling in my gut hope still lingers in my heart. All is not lost yet. Inuyasha has grown stronger, more powerful than anyone ever thought possible. Lady Kagome's miko energy is pure and guided by her innocence it may prove to be the just the weapon we need. And Sango, her skill with hiraikotsu is impeccable, flawless and truly graceful.
I can think of no better allies I would rather join in battle with.
Yet I also know I offer little to their cause. Sometimes, in still of the night, I realize I should once again continue this journey on my own. The kazaana is making its presence known. With each day that passes the pain becomes worse. What will begin as sharp stabbing through my fingers will then intensify into a burning ache that travels up my forearm nearly reaching my elbow. At times I'm barely able to move my wrist. This is an impediment that could cost my companions their lives if they are forced to protect me. This curse impairs my ability to fight and in doing so I become a liability.
I absolutely refuse to become a burden. But for selfish reasons I can not force myself to leave. I tried that approach once and it was a heartening surprise to find that they valued my presence enough to come find me, insisting that I remain as part of their entourage. I have become attached to them. Not since I Mushin have I felt this bonding affection for others and it is bittersweet. Yet that therein lies the problem with emotions. Once they are born if you pay no attention they will take hold and become so deeply rooted they are virtually impossible to destroy.
It's funny how I do not really fear loosing them. For some reason I know they will overcome this challenge. Each of them was gifted with a sate of grace that allows them to rise above the confines of the ordinary and become something of unimaginable strength when put together. Fate had chosen them, and perhaps even myself, to fulfill this quest and at least they will succeed. It's not the pain they could cause me that I fear, but what the shadow of death that shrouds me could bring upon them.
Each, in their own way, has suffered much. Inuyasha's heart has been broken time and again and though he's has mastered the art of a solitary existence, I still sense the pain and guilt that is destroying him on the inside. And in turn, his inner disquiet is hurting Kagome as well. Their love for another is so blazingly obvious and yet I understand the many obstacles that lie between them. Until Inuyasha is free he will not give his heart to Kagome and I fear, when all is said and done, that time may be too late. Kagome's spirit will only endure so much rejection before it will break leaving her to mend the pieces without that foolish hanyou by her side. For both of their sakes I pray something will give.
And in my selfishness I also pray for myself. I ask… no beg kami that I have the strength to keep Sango at a distance. But when it comes to that girl I am weak. Her eyes do things to me. Her beauty distracts me and I know if given the choice to live forever or spend one night in her arms and die at dawn I would go to my death with a smile on my face. Yeah, she even has me seriously contemplating monogamy.
I never thought a woman would have that effect on me but Sango does. And what really confounds me is I don't remember this happening. I can not tell you when I started to care for her, nor can I tell you when simple friendship turned into something more. All I do know is that she arouses emotions that I've never felt for anyone and, more often than not, they terrify me.
What kind of a coward can look death in the eyes and take it with a smile and yet when he faces love he can do nothing but run like hell's devils are hot on his heals? I suppose I'm not much different than Inuyasha. We're both pretty dense and extremely stupid. Yet where the hanyou's problem lies with guilt and indecision, my problem lies with the fact that even if I could keep my hands to myself I can not promise Sango that I will be free of the kazaana. And to win her affections with anything less than the world to offer her in return would be a grave insult. Huh, offer her the world… hell I can't even promise I'll live through the end of the month.
Sango is no fool. She senses my imprisoned feelings for her and it confuses her to no end when I continue to flirt with nameless women. I hate running her in circles but this continuing state of confusion keeps her guard up and I can't allow anything else. I will loose her one day. She will tire of this game and look elsewhere to ease her loneliness. If I am still alive when that day comes then I will wish her well with a crushed heart but I will not regret my stance. Sango has been through far too much pain for one so young and undeserving. I will not corrupt nor break what is left of her spirit.
And all these aimless thoughts bring right back to the reason I lie awake now. In the night there are no distractions. My brave front disappears in the darkness and all my fears begin to take over. Usually I will exhaust myself and sleep is no problem but my shoulder took a bad hit days ago and my confinement to rest by Keade, Kagome and Sango has me awake and unnerved. There is tension in the air this night and I must be the only that feels it.
Or maybe not.
To my left Sango stirs. I feign sleep and watch as she slowly wakens. The blankets rustle and the soft swish of the fabric is as loud as a scream in the silence. Her movements are sluggish as she sits up and rubs her eyes, her sable hair pooling over her shoulders in dark waterfall of silky locks. The dying embers of the fire cast her face in a fading orange glow and dim light plays across her features giving her face the surreal look of a goddess.
Gods I love her.
For a long time I watch Sango as she stares sightlessly into the small flickering flames, her expression unreadable. She is unaware that she has such an avid audience and I wouldn't trade this moment for the world. Her nearness calms me.
Sango casts a quick glance around the room and seems to relax as she realizes we are all asleep…uh, supposed to be asleep, that is. When her eyes land on me I see her lips quirk in a faint smile, one that I'm so tempted to return. Quietly, with the grace and stealth of a true taiji-a, she stands and makes her way to the door and out into the chilled air of the night. She does not take her weapons so I shift on my back and stare up at the ceiling mentally chastising myself for wanting to follow her. I hold out for as long as I can but my longing wins out over common sense.
When I reach the door I find Sango sitting on the front steps, her face upturned to the starry sky. She is aware of my presence, I can tell by the stiff set of her shoulders and the rigid posture of her back. After a moment she turns and looks at me and the sadness in her eyes takes me by surprise.
"I'm sorry Houshi-sama. I didn't mean to wake you." She whispers softly, turning her gaze once again to the sky.
I smile and shake my head. "You didn't wake me. Sleep is eluding me tonight." The wood creaks as I take a few steps closer. Sango does not move so I ask, "May I join you?"
At my request she eyes me wearily, seeming to contemplate what she's in for if I sit so close to her. I give her my most innocent smile and I can see the corners of her mouth wanting to lift in return.
"Hai." She sighs.
I take my seat and the minutes pass as we sit in companionable silence. I know Sango is waiting for my hand to wander and I would be a lair if I said the thought wasn't on my mind, but on a deeper level I know now is not the time for my usual antics. Sango is strangely subdued tonight and I can feel the lack of vitality in her aura that has nothing to do with sleep or lack of. Her soul is weary and in turn my love of mischief has given away to honest concern. I want to be here for her, if she'll let me.
Sango's hand is resting almost directly next to mine. Though I know it is folly for me to pursue the course I am presented with I can't deny the weakness in me where she is concerned. Gently, as not to startle her, I close my hand over hers squeezing lightly. She does not look at me, only turns her hand palm up and entwines her fingers with mine.
Understanding my unspoken offer, she asks, "Are you afraid of what's going to happen?"
"Yes." I answer honestly.
Sango's eyes jerk to mine in surprise. "You are?"
I nod. "Fear is a part of not knowing what the future is going to hold. It's natural to be afraid."
She ponders my response, looking back up to the sky. Even her voice is flat as explains, "I'm loosing my will to do this Houshi-sama. I no longer know what I'm fighting for. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I can't keep fighting running on revenge alone, but the honor and pride I once had in what I do is no longer there. Every time I close my eyes I see Kohaku and I dread facing Naraku. I get so afraid…"
All I can do is hold her hand as her words trail off and her eyes close to stop the tears. She's hurting so much and I wish I could make everything alright but that's a foolish notion. There is nothing I can do to ease her pain. I'm forced to watch her suffer and it hurts me too.
Sango's shoulders shake but she refuses to cry. To let down her walls like this is costing her greatly. Her sense of pride is the same as my own. She would rather die than to ever burden another with her problems. I respect her mindset and I will never make light of her need for comfort, nor will I take advantage of it. Even as I think it she seems to realize I pose no threat and very slowly I see her body begin to relax.
The soft song of the crickets that hums in background is again broken by her soft words. This time however, I'm taken back by the self-directed venom in her tone. "How do you do it? How do you stay so…so.. damn composed?" She turns to me with envy in her eyes and the heat of frustration flushing her cheeks. "How do you keep going and not let it bother you?"
"I suppose I've never really been alive." I say, not realizing the truth of the statement until it resides in the air between us. There is more where that came from and the thoughts tumble out of me without conscious awareness. "I've always expected to die either ending the kazaana or because of it. With expectations like that I'm happy just to wake up in the morning. I'm not afraid for myself or what will happen to me but I do fear the outcome for you and everyone else. If slaying demons benefits the lives of others then I'm content with that. I don't need to know if I will live, die, fail, succeed… for me there is no grater purpose."
Sango opens her mouth to reply but I stop her, pressing my finger tips to her lips. She stares at me, her eyes widening and I shake my head, asking her to let me finish.
"You are not afraid to live Sango. That's why you struggle to find your way. You were meant for better things than this and in your heart you want peace. You can't walk away from Kohaku and right now he needs to be your purpose. Setting his soul free is your obligation. Nothing else matters. But you are taking everything to heart and in time that will break you." Her lips tremble beneath my light touch and I smile faintly. "You have to remember that no matter what the future brings, whether we defeat that bastard or not, at least you fought. You can never fail as long as you have put your heart and soul into your efforts."
Her watery brown eyes search mine as if she's searching for the honesty of what I say. I have nothing to hide so I meet her gaze with an intense one of my own hoping that by the seer force of my will I can make her see she's putting herself through hell needlessly. But I'm not getting through.
Finally Sango looks away, her gaze falling to our joined hands. "I'm alone." She sighs, then gives a rueful laugh, "We are all alone aren't we? Each of us has a something to loose or gain and in the end it all depends on what we do. I owe it to my father and to Kohaku see this through to the end. But sometimes I feel I like I'm being crushed by the responsibility. I'm not strong like all of you. I know Naraku will use Kohaku against me again and when he does he might get to me. And I try to tell my self that that boy is not my baby brother but-"
A tremor runs through her frame as her voice chokes on a sob, "…but I held him when he died and he was scared, Miroku. I didn't want him to die alone, like I will." Her eyes look up to mine then, pleading with me to understand why she's dying inside. The Gods know I understand better than she could ever imagine.
"You won't die alone."
I manage to get the words out but my voice is strained and I feel like I can't breathe. I can not let her feel this way so I push my good intentions aside hoping she doesn't live to regret my weakness later. My arms move of their own accord, gathering her against my chest. She doesn't resist, instead she falls against me burring her face against my neck as she helplessly vents everything she keeps confined inside. I hold her close feeling the need to protect her so deeply that I am shaken by it.
I don't know how long we stay like that, with her pressed against me as I stroke her hair comfortingly. For the first time in my nineteen years I'm actually leading with my heart instead of my desire. Ironically I'm not surprised. If she only knew I'd turn myself inside out for her if she but asked me to. If this is the only way I can show her my feelings then I will take it. I won't ask for more right now. But one day, if I live to be free of the kazaana and Naraku is destroyed then I will press my suit. But right now it's enough to have her near.
Sango's tears have stopped, diminishing to occasional sniffles. The shoulder of my robes is soaked but I don't mind in the least. Reluctantly, I begin to let her go knowing that I should not press my luck any further or give her reason to think I'm going to grope her. But to my surprise she doesn't release me. I nearly gasp as her arms slide around my waist, squeezing tightly.
"Don't, can't we stay like this for a little while longer." Her breath is soft against my throat and my heart begins pounding in my chest. But it's not desire, its something much more sweet and painful and it peaks as she says, "Maybe, just for tonight, couldn't we pretend that..."
"It's only you and me." I say completing her unfinished thought.
"Please?" She pleads desperately, "Don't push me away right now."
How can I say no to what we both want so badly?
Tenderly, I kiss her brow and grin. "I'd do anything for you Sango, you know that."
My little confession is the closest I've ever come to voicing my love for her out loud. Sango leans back to look at me, a soft smile playing on her lips. Then my heart stops and the breath freezes in my lungs as she leans closer, kissing my cheek ever so softly. "I'd do the same for you." She breathes.
I'm still stunned as she shifts closer, practically crawling in my lap. With her head resting on my shoulder, knowing she's secure in my arms and I feel like I can take on the world single handedly. A small sigh escaped her and it warms me through to my soul. I never said I deserved this moment but I'll be damned to the ninth level of hell before I let it go.
So we sit under the stars, wrapped up in only each other, the both of us not thinking of anything but the feeling of not being alone. Come tomorrow this will only be a memory and we'll resume our roles until this quest is over. But at least we know there is hope, in ourselves and in each other. Love works in mysterious ways. I'd gladly get on my knees and thank kami for bringing her into my life. And if I don't make it through this I still have no regrets. It is far better to have loved, even if only once. And here in this moment I am content.
A.N.- Just a little Sango/Miroku angsty fluff. I hope you enjoy and thanks for reading! *hugs* luv ya guys!