SHOCK! I'm not dead - the story isn't dead - and I updated! Surely the apocalypse is nigh! Or, you know, I finally got my butt in gear. Heh. Anyway - sorry (again) for the delay. This chapter was a bit of a tussle. And it's not even a lemon. Nor is it beta'd. I'm heading out of town and I promised myself I'd get this posted – so I'm gritting my teeth and throwing it out there. Please be gentle.

Chapter Ten: In which our hero becomes the subject of a debate and wounds are healed.

Miroku groaned with deep pleasure as he stretched, newly appreciative of his body's natural flexibility. After being bound for so long by the constraint of injured ribs, the ability to move freely was like a little taste of heaven.

"Feels good, huh?" Kagome knelt in front of him, a sympathetic smile flickering across her face, the bandages that had been around his chest an untidy pile by her knees.

Miroku met her smile with a wicked grin of his own. "Oh, yeah," he said throatily. "But I can think of a few things that would feel even better."

A deep flush flowed over Kagome's cheeks and she glanced over at the nearby campsite and those gathered around it. Miroku ignored her sudden fluster and pulled her onto his lap so that she sat with her legs straddling his and her hands braced against his bare chest. "Did you want me to demonstrate?" he murmured into her ear and thrust his hips suggestively.

Kagome gave a startled eep and turned an even deeper shade of red. "Miroku," she said breathlessly.

"Hey, I can hear you guys, you know." Inuyasha didn't turn around, but his ears were flickering back and forth like crazy.

Miroku chuckled. "Sorry," he said and allowed Kagome to wiggle off of his lap in a deliciously teasing way. The fact that she was doing it unconsciously only added to his delight.

Inuyasha snorted, apparently not too convinced of the sincerity of Miroku's apology. Which just went to show the dog demon was not as dense as he often acted.

Kagome, pretending that absolutely nothing had happened and her face was normally that color thank you very much, walked with quiet dignity towards Sango. "Is there anymore – ," she was saying as she sat down next to Sango, but Sango didn't let her finish.

"I'd better get some more firewood," Sango said abruptly, standing up quickly and refusing to look at Kagome. "We don't want to run out." Walking away from the campsite, Sango was soon swallowed up by the forest shadows, Kirara disappearing after her.

Miroku winced. Sango had been acting standoffish since the big scene with Kouga, but this was the most obvious she'd ever been. Kagome stared after her with a look of hurt bewilderment, and Miroku ached for her. He hastily pulled his robes back into place and started towards Kagome, all set to cover her in comfort. But then she glanced at something and stiffened, hurt suddenly replaced with indignation. Following the direction of her eyes, Miroku realized she was staring at the large pile of firewood that had been gathered when the campsite was first set up.

Kagome's hands clenched into fists. "Okay, that's it." Getting to her feet, Kagome marched into the forest after Sango.

"Kagome?" Shippou leapt up from where he'd been huddling next to Inuyasha, the both of them doing their best to be invisible while the scene between the two girls played out. "Wait, Kagome!" Shippou's mad dash was brought up short by Inuyasha's iron grip on the fox kit's fluffy tail. "Let go of me you big bully!"

Inuyasha still stared into his cup of instant raman like it held the mysteries of the universe in its depths, but his ears had perked up from their flattened position and were now flickering in the direction the two girls had taken. "Believe me, runt. This is one fight you do not want to get in the middle of," he said as Shippou pulled desperately at his tail.

"Fight? They're going to fight!?" If anything Shippou looked even more panicked. "We have to stop them!"

Miroku sighed. "No, Shippou. They've been dancing around each other for too long. Best to get the air cleared now, before another battle comes upon us." And though he knew that what he told the little fox demon was true, it didn't comfort Miroku at all. After all, there was no guarantee things would end well, and he hated the idea of a rift between the two girls. They'd been such good friends. Strangely enough, he felt more pity for Sango. He hated the way she'd been treating Kagome, but in the end, Sango had more to loose. He really hoped they'd come to some sort of understanding.

"Where do you think you're going, monk?"

Miroku looked up in surprise at Inuyasha's question. And then he smiled sheepishly as he realized that he'd been drifting into the forest himself. "Sorry. I'm just worried." He sat down across from Inuyasha and Shippou and stared into the wavering red coals of the fire pit. "But it's not like they'll kill each other," he said and hoped he sounded convincing.

"Heh. They'd have to find each other first."

Miroku looked up at Inuyasha. "What?"

Inuyasha grinned back at him. "Kagome is crashing around out there like a million man army. Girl couldn't be quiet crossing a meadow. It's no wonder she's always being grabbed by passing demons."

Shippou clutched at Inuyasha's sleeve. "Are there demons?" he squeaked worriedly.

Inuyasha snorted. "Nah. Think I'd let her or Sango go if there was –," Inuyasha started laughing suddenly. "And now she's hollering for Sango." His ears flickered and he twisted around a little towards what Miroku assumed was Kagome's current location. "If Sango's smart she'll reveal herself soon. Never let Kagome get a full anger going," he said wisely. "She'll just – Oh. They found each other."

Miroku waited breathlessly. Inuyasha started sucking up raman. "Well?" Miroku prompted.

Inuyasha looked up at him blankly. "Well what?"

Miroku resisted the urge to punch the half-demon, but only because he'd had years of Buddhist training.

Shippou, who lacked the discipline such training brought, whacked Inuyasha in the arm. "Are they killing each other, you big stupid head?"

Inuyasha's eyes gleamed with poorly hid amusement and Miroku rolled his eyes. "Come on Inuyasha, you know you want to tell us just as badly as we want to hear."

"Alright, alright," Inuyasha said with mock exasperation. He slurped up the last of his raman and turned back towards the forest. "So we're in the boring part right now. Sango's saying nothing's wrong, blah, blah, blah." He paused for a moment, his ears flickering. "Kagome is definitely not buying it. Damn!" Inuyasha's eye's widened in surprise.

"What? What?" Shippou danced up and down beside Inuyasha.

"Sango just called Kagome a sex-crazed maniac."

"She did not!" Miroku could not imagine a statement like that coming from Sango's mouth. Especially as it related to Kagome.

Inuyasha shrugged. "Not in those exact words," he allowed. "But she does think Kagome's too wrapped up in you to notice anyone else around her." Inuyasha listened for a moment. "Now she's saying Kagome's been staring at you all googoo eyed and it's disgusting." Inuyasha grinned at Miroku. "Hell, I just think it's funny." His ears flickered. "Damn, Sango's really letting it all out -- oh crap. She just called Kagome a slut."

Miroku's eyes widened.

"What's a slut?" Shippou asked.

"Erm... well..." Miroku racked his brain for a diplomatic definition.

"Girl who'll fuck anything," Inuyasha said succinctly but absently, concentrating on what was going on in the forest.

"That's not true!" Shippou said angrily. "Why would Sango say such a thing?"

"Is that really what Sango said?" Miroku asked Inuyasha.

"Eh, she implied it," Inuyasha waved his hand vaguely. "Now, shut-up, they're talking about me." Suddenly he stiffened indignantly. "That's a fucking lie," he muttered. "I never lead her – Oh." And then he was blushing and laughing embarrassedly. "Well, I guess that's okay then."

"Inuyasha," Miroku growled through clenched teeth, "it'd be helpful if you summarized."

Inuyasha blinked at Miroku, like he'd forgotten he had an audience. "Oh. Yeah. Sango said that Kagome had hopped from me to Kouga to you which was 'unseemly,' and Kagome said that Sango knew better than that, and that she, Sango that is, knew that Kagome had been in love with, um..." Inuyasha blushed some more, and coughed nervously. "Anyway, the short version is Kagome loves us both, but I'm like a brother and you're like a mate, and Kouga is a worthless piece of wolf-shit."

Miroku snorted in disbelief. "Kagome said that about Kouga?"

"It was implied," Inuyasha said easily. Then his face twisted with worry. "Oh shit, now Sango's crying."

"Did Kagome hit her?" Shippou asked worriedly.

"They haven't hit that stage yet, runt."

"Hopefully, they've skipped right over that stage," Miroku added quietly.

"Sango's saying she's feeling all left out, and Miroku was supposed to be hers."

Miroku started in surprise. "What?" Guilt twisted Miroku's stomach in knots. He had flirted with Sango a lot, but she'd known it was all in good fun, hadn't she?

Inuyasha, unaware of Miroku's distress, continued on. "I was supposed to marry Kagome, and Miroku was supposed to marry her and we were all going to live in her old village, and Kagome and I were going to have twelve children, and she and Miroku were going to have six, and..." Inuyasha stopped to catch his breath looking a little stunned. "Fuck, she had it all planned out. Right down to names and engagements." He glanced down at Shippou. "You were supposed to marry her first daughter, little Suzumi."

Shippou gaped up at Inuyasha, rendered speechless for probably the first time in his life.

Inuyasha laughed and looked at Miroku, his eyes wild around the edges. "Sango's a little crazy, huh."

"Well, uh, she's gone through some major trauma, and I guess she was looking for stability wherever she could find it. Actually," Miroku started to warm to his subject, "it makes sense that she would start searching for a way to rebuild her family. So of course she fell in love with the first handsome and obviously virile man she came across, and then –,"

"Now Kagome's crying," Inuyasha interrupted, clearly uninterested in Miroku's theories. He made a face. "Blech. We've entered the mucky stage."

"What happens in that stage?" Shippou asked curiously.

"It's where they cry and hug and get tears and snot all over themselves," Inuyasha said with obvious disapproval. "Damn, I was hoping for a little hair-pulling." He stared into the fire, his ears still twitching occasionally. Both Shippou and Miroku watched him anxiously. Inuyasha sighed. "Kagome's telling Sango that she's never left out, and Kagome loves her. Sango's saying the same back. Blah, blah, blah."

"What about Miroku?" Shippou asked, and Miroku silently thanked the little kit for asking the question he couldn't bring himself to raise.

"Nothing yet, runt. They're still just hugging."

A heavy silence settled over the campfire, broken only by the occasional crack and pop of the burning firewood. Miroku tried to lose himself in a little fantasy of Kagome and Sango hugging each other, only naked and not crying, but guilt refused to let him play.

Finally, Inuyasha shifted. "Sango's not in love with you."

"What?" Miroku felt strangely deflated. "I thought she wanted to marry –,"

"Don't ask me, monk. I'm just telling you what she's saying. And she says you're pretty enough, just too weird."


"Perverted, childish, detached," Inuyasha listed out quickly, a sly grin tickling the corners of his mouth.

"Thank you, Inuyasha," Miroku interrupted him dryly. He should have known not to ask.

"Kagome agrees with her."

"What?" Miroku's stomach knotted back up. Had Kagome just been playing with him? Or was she acting out of pity? All of his old fears, the tormenting doubts that Kagome had slain with a laughed confession, were resurrecting with a vengeance.

"At least about the perverted bit," Inuyasha continued on, blithely unaware of Miroku's anxiety. "Only she – oh fuck." Inuyasha's face flushed an alarming shade of red and his ears pressed flat to his head. "Fuck, fuck, FUCK!" Inuyasha slapped his hands over his ears and hunched down low, looking for all the world like someone about to be set upon by the worst demons in existence.

Miroku grabbed up his staff and leapt to his feet. "What's wrong? Inuyasha, are they being attacked?"

"I wish," Inuyasha moaned. He closed his eyes and shuddered. "I don't want to be hearing this," he muttered. "Why are women so damn shameless?"

"Kagome isn't shameless," Shippou said stoutly, plainly confused by what was going on, but unwilling to allow Kagome's good name to be besmirched.

Miroku, however, suddenly realized what was happening and it was with a great sense of relief that he settled back down by the fire. "If you pay attention, you could learn something," he said smoothly, very carefully not smiling when Inuyasha opened his eyes enough to glare at him. "Or you could try humming," he added helpfully. And then he couldn't help grinning when Inuyasha broke into desperate, out of key, humming.

Shippou shifted carefully away from Inuyasha, clearly afraid that the half-demon had gone slightly mad. He snuggled up against Miroku and blinked up at the amused monk. "What's wrong with Inuyasha?" he asked.

"Kagome and Sango are discussing a topic Inuyasha would rather know nothing about," Miroku said with an almost smug smile.

Shippou looked confused for a moment and then his face scrunched up into what Miroku recognized as his deep thinking expression. "Miroku...," the little fox-demon muttered, "...perverted..., ...don't want to know..." And his face cleared into understanding. "They're talking about you and Kagome and sex, right?"

Inuyasha's humming broke into a growl. "Shippou, if you don't shut up, I will kill you." Inuyasha glared so that they'd know he was serious, and then he settled back into his hunched and humming state.

"I'm right," Shippou said confidently. "Good. They're done fighting."

Miroku absently patted the little kit on the head as he stared into the fire. Kagome and Sango were friends again; he was completely healed from Inuyasha's little rite of initiation. An idea that had been a minor tickle was turning into a full fledge plan. Barring any unexpected activity from Naraku, the time was ripe for him to receive payment from a certain grateful innkeeper he'd helped out of a messy curse a few summers ago. After all, he had promised Kagome he'd be a good teacher. It was high time for her final lesson.