Rubbing his eyes in the quiet of the morning, Miroku sighed and looked up the long row of jinja steps once more. Assuming everything from last night's somewhat insane level of activity had actually worked, and everything was still going according to plan, Kagome-sama was soon going to get abruptly yanked from one time to another by a really ugly centipede youkai after chasing her cat Buyo into the wellhouse. Hopefully the whim of the cat would go according to plan, too. After all the fighting, that cat had to go into the wellhouse. If it didn't, everything was for nothing and risking their lives to ensure a particular past was pointless. Miroku would personally strangle the cat if it didn't go into the stupid wellhouse.
He felt like a mess too, and though Kohaku had lent him a spare, clean shirt, he was still in the same pants he'd been wearing when the huge arm of an oversized kugutsu gone wrong sent him flying into the dirt last night. And he'd been up late last night too. Pretty much everyone was. But he and Sango had briefly discussed coming to the Higurashi Jinja that morning to wait. So that was where they were. Waiting to hear Kagome's scream, (assuming she screamed) or the sound of breaking wood when the centipede broke through the well (assuming it could be heard that far) or just the sounds of her frantic family running around and trying to figure out where Kagome had just disappeared to. They wanted confirmation that it was happening.
The sound of Sango yawning hugely distracted him for a moment. She was sitting on the bottom step of the stairs, a hand over her mouth, and in jeans instead of her school uniform. No school for her today. She could afford to skip once due to the seriousness of the situation, and her father even ended up offering to pull a Jii-chan on Sango's behalf. Sango and Kohaku's father had shown up about an hour into the very messy attempt at explaining things to Kohaku, and nobody, including Shippou, had been able to come up with a good reason why everyone would suddenly stop talking when he came into a room...as well as cover up the fact Shippou was back in kitsune form as evidence for Kohaku, and it was even more difficult to explain away a really realistic looking poofy tail.
Then of course, Rin was there too, and the girl seemed unable to either keep a secret or tell a lie. Rin had arrived barely ten minutes after Sango, Miroku and Shippou had, and had proved to know considerably more than any of the other incarnates to date. It had taken a bit of discussion, but they'd more or less come to the agreement that whoever Ryoushi-san had been in any previous lives, he hadn't actually been Sango and Kohaku's father in the sengoku jidai, despite the fact he was now. Getting stuck amid the explanations and the shock his son was going through, as well as a fairly natural state of disbelief, he'd pulled himself together fairly well, and though disconcerted, had attempted to understand youkai were actually real, there was one standing in his living room, his son and daughter were youkai taiji-ya in a past life, his son was once coerced into working for some evil entity, his daughter had recently gone into battle with a five hundred year old giant boomerang against said evil entity, survived, been victorious, and apparently seemed to be dating someone who used to ask every woman in sight to bear his children.
He ended up going to bed very late with quite the headache.
Shippou had gone home sometime around two in the morning, and though he had left only because he'd believed the revelations were finally coming to an end, the four reincarnates had stayed up another hour, simply catching up and repeating the events of the last week from various perspectives. Kohaku had been in shock most of the time they talked, and lack of sleep was beginning to numb the feeling, though he wasn't distracted enough to allow Miroku anywhere near Sango's room when the former houshi asked if he could just crash there for the night.
Rin looked sleepy herself, but refused Sango's offer of a couch and pillow. She claimed she didn't want a grumpy Sesshoumaru-sama being the first thing any of them saw in the morning, coming to collect his absent charge. So she had left, grudgingly, requesting that they try talking again the next afternoon. Kohaku's memory was far from clear, and as Shippou had once suggested, he seemed to be subconsciously resisting any memories. The events of the last few days had occupied much of their conversation, as well as convincing it was, indeed, real. Unearthing memories out of Kohaku's mind was something that would take time and care.
So they waited at the steps, with less than a handful of hours of sleep, waiting and wondering what to say to Kagome's family after she disappeared down the well. Of course, there were stories about the events about to unfold in the sengoku jidai. Kagome's family probably had heard about them, though they may not realize exactly how connected they were to those supposedly mythical events. Would her mother or grandfather even let her continue to go if they knew she wasn't going to actually be protected in that other time?
"What time is it?" Sango asked sleepily, looking up at him. Her hair was up in its usual ponytail, and her brown eyes looked a little bleary from lack of sleep. She placed her elbow on her knee, and her chin in her hand. Only one or two straggling students had gone by them, mostly ignoring the couple on the sidewalk.
Glancing down at his watch, Miroku sighed, noticing the position of the hands. This part of the morning was just dragging with exhausted anticipation. "She's still got plenty of time to want to leave for school," he replied with a sigh, then plopped down next to her on the bottom step. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"
She tilted her head to the side and looked at him with a little more alertness. "We made sure Kagome-chan was safe to go to the past. So long as her cat goes into the wellhouse, everything should be fine, unless her mom suddenly decides it's not safe for her there once she gets back for the first time. It was your idea to talk to them." She arched an eyebrow. "Having second thoughts?"
He shrugged and chuckled once, grinning at her. "Not really. Just checking. You realize how strange she'll think it is if we ever meet her in this time?"
"After everything is over then?" He nodded, and she sighed, hand coming down from her chin so she could use his more comfortable shoulder as a warm, temporary pillow. "She'd probably be shocked," Sango yawned again, closing her eyes, then forcing them open again. This wasn't really the best time or place to fall asleep, and she felt like she was ready to doze off any moment. "It would be fun, though, I guess," she mumbled, half to herself, half to Miroku. "Not seeing her shocked, I mean, but telling her we're here, and we're okay, even if a little different."
"I'm leaning against you and your hand is not on my rear end, Miroku."
"Ah. Case in point." He considered this for a moment. "You know, I could put it there if you want. I certainly wouldn't mind feeling you up if you miss it that much..."
She snorted and the punched him in the arm, half laughing. "Pervert."
For a moment, he laughed along with her, then looked down at the top of her head and the slight curve of her face he could see from above. She usually used to smack him for any inappropriate touching on his behalf. At least, that was what he remembered. And yet, at the same time, it was perfectly natural to sit there on the steps with her and joke about the old lechery problem. Perhaps it was just overlapping memories of different stages in their past life relationship. At one point in time, sitting there with her leaning comfortably against him was out of the question. At another, it was perfectly natural, as though they'd done this for years. He considered that, wondering and trying to remember, exactly, what he had said or done or asked to create that kind of shift.
It took a little thought, but after a moment, a tiny grin crept onto his face.
The sound of talking only barely registered in his mind until it got loud enough and close enough for him to recognize the speakers.
"I told you they'd be here."
"I never said they wouldn't be!"
He tapped Sango on the shoulder, in case she actually had managed to drift off for a nap. "The former youkai are approaching, for I sense an aura of arguing draw near..."
Sango muttered something unintelligible about it being too early for anyone normal to be arguing, but sat up straighter and looked towards the source of the respectively pointless sounding argument. Sure enough, Kouga and Kagura were quickly crossing the street, Kagura obviously having recently told Kouga that she was of the opinion Sango and Miroku would be waiting at the jinja that morning.
"So you decided to show up this morning as well?" Miroku asked by way of interruption, the two former youkai stopping and looking at the two of them without any indication of being suprised at their presence. "Come to wait?"
Kagura looked narrowly at Kouga and shrugged, while he nodded the affirmative, folding his arms as he spoke. "Yeah. Just making sure there are no more screw-ups about to happen. Last thing we need after all that crap last night."
"How's Kanna?" Sango asked, hand going back to her cheek as she returned her elbow to her knee, peering up towards Kagura. "I'm surprised you didn't stay home to keep an eye on her."
Kagura sniffed at that and rolled her eyes drolly. "Well, I was going to, but she woke up this morning and the first words out of her mouth were: 'Why aren't you dressed for school?'" She rolled her eyes again, then tucked the feather in her headband behind her ear to keep it from fluttering around her face in the breeze. "If she's healthy enough to start in on that, I'm sure she'll be fine."
Miroku shifted on the steps, stretching out a leg and trying not to pick at a new, lime colored grass stain. "Shippou said something about Tenseiga being a healing sword, and I get the impression Sesshoumaru knew what he was doing." That only earned him an indifferent shrug.
The words were followed by the high pitched, if faint, screaming from up the steps, and the four heads turned to find the source of the sound. It wasn't the mindless screaming of a panicking girl getting sucked down a well, but the sound of a panicking younger brother screaming for Mama and Jii-chan, because a big huge monster just jumped up and grabbed his big sister.
"Well, that's that, I guess," Kagura remarked dryly as everyone simply stood there, half listening to the distant shouting of Souta, which was growing punctuated by short bouts of silence.
"He's telling them what happened," Kouga added thoughtfully, head tilted to one side as though straining to hear from down the steps and across the upper courtyard. "They're probably asking questions. That's about all right now."
The four reincarnates looked between themselves for a moment before Sango spoke up. "Miroku and I are going to talk to them. Just to make sure they don't forbid Kagome from going to the past or anything. She always came back pretty freely, though I know my dad would never let me go into that kind of danger knowing how bad it could be."
"You're expecting to convince them?" Kagura asked skeptically.
Miroku shrugged and stood up, brushing off his pants and offering a hand to Sango, to help pull her up. "Reassure them, at least, that Inuyasha will be protecting her from the start."
Kouga snorted in distaste, and Kagura shot him a deathly glare that he failed to notice while he grumbled to himself about inukoro and their stupidity. Primly, Kagura returned, "Then if that Kagome friend of yours is on her way, it's time to get going to school. Good luck with it, anyway."
"We're meeting after school at the antique shop," Sango hastened to add, receiving an abrupt nod in understanding. With that, Kagura turned and began to walk up the street, towards the school. After a few steps, she realized she was walking alone, and hesitated, not looking back over her shoulder, knowing Kouga was standing still and watching the empty space visible between the red expanse of torii at the top of the steps. She sighed, at least attempting some patience, and with mock irritation, called back, "Oy, Kouga, are you coming or not?"
The words broke him out of his reverie, and he looked over to see her standing there, back to him, waiting. He sighed, casting a final glance up the steps, then grumbled back, "Yeah, yeah, I'm coming, keep your shirt on..."
Kagura, unseen to Kouga, grinned wickedly at that, and began to move forward again, loudly complaining, "What is it with you and wanting to see me with my shirt off? I had no idea you were such a pervert, Kouga."
Kouga stopped for a second in shock, spluttering, then turned red in the face, shouting, "Kagura, dammit, what the hell are you saying things like that for?"
The response was light, teasing laughter as she walked away, Kouga storming after, and from at the base of the steps leading up the Higurashi Jinja, Sango and Miroku watched, dumbfounded, as the other two walked away towards the school, Kouga complaining loudly over Kagura's laughter until they finally rounded the corner and disappeared.
"You know," Miroku began thoughtfully, "of all the bizarre things we've seen and learned over the last few days, I would have to say that seeing the two of them even attempting to get along has to be the strangest."
Sango nodded in mute agreement.
"Well then, shall we go?" Miroku offered, extending a hand dramatically to Sango, which she took with a smile and a flourish as they began to ascend the stairs. There were no further sounds coming from the jinja area, which hopefully meant they were checking out the well, and not doing something drastic like calling the police. Glancing out of the corner of his eye at Sango as they continued to climb the steps, Miroku said lightly, "You know, we never did quite reach a dozen."
Sango blinked and looked at him, face turned towards her with an eyebrow quirked expectantly. Her eyes widened and she felt a blush start rising to her face. Well, she did know he'd remember the same things she had begun to recall eventually, but he just had to bring them up now. Tactless idiot.
"No," she replied carefully, trying to keep her face from flushing bright red and keeping her voice even. It still came out garbled. "No, we didn't." What was she supposed to say?
"Would you be interested in finishing the number sometime? Perhaps once we're done with our modern day requirements, like college and a job?"
He still had that wicked little grin on his face, damn him. And her face was probably quite crimson. Of all the stupid times and places. Exasperated and embarrassed, she blustered, "I already said I would, didn't I? Sukebe houshi..."
Together, the two of them crested the top of the stairs to see the layout of the Higurashi Jinja lying before them, and the clustered figures of Kagome's mother, grandfather, and younger brother at the entrance to the wellhouse, talking rapidly amongst themselves.
Everything was just as it should be.
(of the fic, at least)