Disclaimer: Heh, Inuyasha's not even in this story, so who cares if I don't own him? (cackle)
…Unfortunately, I don't own Miroku or Sango either. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi, which is extremely troublesome. Meh…
Just a couple of spoiler notes: For those who read the manga, this takes place right before chapter 357, though I'm sure you can figure that out easily enough. And for those who only watch the anime, I believe this should technically take place just after the final episode. (Go catch up with the manga! :P)
Happily Ever After
It was late in the evening when he awoke, for which he was grateful. The hut was lit by firelight alone, and Miroku's eyes could lazily adjust to his surroundings at will without having to worry about any screaming headaches blasting their way through his skull. He kept them shut, letting awareness slowly seep back in, being in no particular hurry.
He remembered that they had been in a pretty bad situation, trapped in the belly of that huge ogre thanks to Naraku's trickery, with toxic vapors and acid dripping all around them that would have eaten them alive had Naraku gotten his way. And Miroku, brilliant Miroku, had gone and gotten himself poisoned in a rash course of action that was extremely unlike him. Even he had been surprised at the way he'd reacted when Naraku had started to float away. 'You can't get out,' the bastard had chuckled evilly, and Miroku's thoughts had flashed back to the last time they'd faced off against Naraku, in the boundary between this world and the afterlife, where the last shard had turned out to be hidden. Naraku had cackled in a very similar manner when he faded away to leave them trapped there, too, and all Miroku had been able to do in that battle was basically stand around and watch. Seeing history about to repeat itself, something inside his mind had screamed at him to do something. It was stupid, but he was just so tired of being useless in these fights.
So out came the kazaana, and of course he was poisoned like an idiot, while Naraku ended up escaping anyway. Miroku gave himself an ironic little inward pat on the back. Good job, monk. You sure showed him. And then afterward, when Inuyasha had then been counting on him to protect the others with his barrier, he hadn't even been able to keep it up. Oh yes, well done all around.
But… there was nothing he could do about it now. At least he knew they'd all made it out okay in the end. He faintly recalled waking up for a brief moment during what had presumably been the ride back to Kaede's; he had a dim memory of sitting on Kirara's back with Sango behind him, supporting him up. Ah, what a lovely moment that could have been if he hadn't been ill and mostly unconscious. What a shame, really…
The important thing about it, though, was that he definitely knew from that flash of memory that everyone was alive and, he assumed, well. And that was all he needed to know to more or less be able to relax.
So he waited patiently as his senses slowly returned to him. He still felt weak, tired, and exhausted as all hell, but at least it no longer felt like Jinenji was sitting on him every time he tried to draw in a breath. And he felt a good deal more comfortable than he had been the last time he was awake. He waited on, his perception slowly coming back into focus. At some point, he realized that he could hear the sound of a fire crackling in the background, which would make sense considering that as he'd previously noticed, the room seemed to be lit by firelight…
But at least it was a sign that he was starting to snap out of it for real, now. He took a deep breath, and let the various scents of the room sift through his senses. Wood and straw from the hut and tatami mats, a soothing sort of smoke coming from the fire, various herbs from all around the room—yes, he was definitely in Kaede's hut—and…
He breathed the last one in again slowly, delighting in the way it seemed to wash over him. Strawberries… the scent clung to her hair freshly; she must have come in from a bath only recently, and from the way things appeared, used one or two of Kagome's special soaps.
Smiling, he finally opened his eyes and looked around. His smile broadened as his eyes fell upon the nearby corner of the room; ah, there she was. His Sango. She was sitting near the fire, her back turned to him, her hands busying themselves with some work he could not see. He tried his best to shift around a little so that he could see her better, but it was difficult since he had still not fully recovered. Giving up on a vain attempt to prop himself up on one elbow, he instead tilted to the side a little ways and strained his neck as far as it would go—there! Ah, she was sewing. From the look of things, she was patching something up, though he still couldn't get a very clear look.
Satisfied, however, he lay back down again, content just to watch her. Her movements were so calm and precise; even while doing the work of a housewife, she still had the bearing of a taijiya. It made him smile once again.
He loved her. Oh, how he loved her.
For just a minute, he let himself indulge in a rare moment of fantasy. He imagined what it would be like once Naraku was defeated, and they could live together as husband and wife. There would be more quiet nights like these, maybe, when she would sit by the fireside and maybe stitch a new kimono, or polish one of her weapons, and he would sit in another corner and perhaps meditate or study one of his sutras. Only he would sneak peeks at her out of the corner of his eye when she wasn't looking, like he was now, and just watch her. And then eventually they would both finish what they were doing, and they would go to bed… and then… well, that part he was especially fond of…
A small meow startled him out of his fantasies, and he blinked in disappointment. Kirara had caught sight of him awake, and she was pawing over to him happily—oh no, Sango had seen and she was turning around; the fun was over. Damn you, Kirara!
Oblivious to his brief flash of un-houshi-like thoughts, the little cat demon reached his side and began licking his hand gleefully, purring. He had to smile despite himself; well, at least she was happy to see him. His hand moved to stroke her fur gently, and she purred some more. She was ridiculously cute, really. There was no way you could stay mad at her. Ah, well.
Sango was walking over; she reached his side and watched for a moment, a smile tugging on the corner of her lips as she kneeled down. "So, you're finally awake," she said as she reached over to check his temperature.
"So it would seem," he replied with a weak chuckle. "How long was I asleep?" he added, wondering.
"Almost three days," she answered as she removed her hand from his forehead with a slight frown.
Three days. Wow.
He really needed to stop getting poisoned…
"…Wait, what was that?" he started, realizing after a moment that she had said something else, as she stood up and went to go rummage through a jar that that sat against the nearby wall.
"I said you still have a slight fever," she replied as she returned with a clean cloth. She dipped it into the basin of water that lay near his futon, and squeezed it out until it was damp. "How are you feeling?" she asked as she spread the cloth across his forehead.
"I'm fine," he answered, not wanting her to worry.
"So you say," she said doubtfully.
"Shall I attempt to prove it to you?" he offered, lips quirking upward. One hand inched forward, ready to demonstrate his favorite way of letting her know that he was all right. But she caught it in one of her own, and looked at him with one eyebrow raised in both exasperation and—he noted with delight—amusement.
"That won't be necessary," she assured him.
"Very well then," he conceded with a small grin.
Sango just rolled her eyes as she got up again and retrieved a mortar and pestle from a shelf, and a jar of herbs from another. She set them aside, took an empty pot, then left the hut for a moment, and he waited patiently, still petting the purring Kirara. When Sango returned, the pot was full of water; she set it carefully atop the fire and then began to grind the herbs as she waited for the water to boil.
Miroku had a feeling that whatever she was cooking up was going to taste particularly nasty, and he would of course be required to drink it. He made a face at the thought, and decided once more for good measure that he was definitely not going to get himself poisoned any more. Nope, this was it; there was only so much downtime that he could stand. While it was certainly no bad thing to be tended to by such a beautiful nurse, he had never been especially fond of most of the other parts. And especially not the medicine part.
While he watched her as she calmly prepared to seal his doom, it finally occurred to him that the hut was strangely empty. "Where are all of the others?" he asked Sango curiously.
"Well, Kagome-chan went back to her time, and of course Inuyasha ended up following her," Sango answered. "That was yesterday. As for Kaede-sama, she left a little while ago to go tend to a sick villager. Shippou went along with her."
"I see…" Miroku mused thoughtfully. Which left him and Sango pleasantly alone, aside from Kirara, of course. Well, that was certainly nice.
"And don't you get any ideas," Sango continued, almost as if she could read his thoughts, which he sometimes suspected that she could. "They only left me alone with you because at the time you were unconscious. So don't you go trying anything," she cautioned him sternly.
"I wasn't going to try anything," he insisted innocently as she mixed together the herbs and the water and walked back toward him.
"Then just consider it a warning," she said as she knelt down and helped him sit up. "Drink," she said, holding up the cup to him.
"Do I have to…?" he asked, even though he knew the answer. He tried to charm her anyway, giving her what he hoped was one of his cutest pleading looks.
"Yes," she answered without skipping a beat. "Kaede-sama said this is what I should give you if your fever didn't go down. Drink."
"I think drinking that is more likely to make me more ill…" he muttered under his breath as he took the cup ever so reluctantly.
Sango sighed. "Houshi-sama, I'm in no mood for games tonight, okay? You're the idiot who got himself poisoned, so just drink already so that you can get yourself better, all right?"
His joking look faded as her words hit home. Feeling abashed, he averted his gaze and drank the herbal mixture with no more fuss. She was right, of course. He said nothing more as she took the cup from him and then tilted him back down onto the futon.
She placed the empty cup aside with another sigh, and just sat there. For a long moment, the hut was silent. Kirara had stopped purring and was looking back and forth at the two uncertainly.
Finally Miroku opened his mouth to apologize, but before he could get the words out, Sango beat him to the punch. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.
"…What?" he answered after spending another moment trying to think of a more intelligent response, and failing miserably.
"I shouldn't have snapped at you like that," she said. "I was just…"
"No, you had every right to snap at me," he said before she could finish. He considered adding more, but decided just to leave it at that.
They stayed there like that once again in silence. Finally, Miroku sighed, closing his eyes. He was beginning to feel drowsy once more; it must have been the medicine. After a moment, he felt a hand brushing his bangs aside, and he smiled. Opening his eyes again, he saw that Sango was smiling gently as she continued to slowly brush through his hair with her fingers, a blush tinting her cheeks ever so slightly. Kirara went and snuggled up against Sango's lap, mewing again.
"I know, Kirara," Sango said as if in reply. "Baka houshi…"
Miroku chuckled softly.
Her fingers kept smoothing his hair. Stroke, stroke, stroke… It had to be the most pleasant feeling in the entire world. He felt as if he could just drift away to the rhythm, it was so soothing. But something kept him from doing so completely. Maybe it was just the pleasure of having Sango's company all to himself. He so rarely got to be alone with her these days, let alone in quiet moments like this. He just wanted to stay here with her tonight.
"Go back to sleep, Houshi-sama," she said softly at length.
"I'm not tired," he argued back in what must have been the most tired-sounding voice ever. To his surprise—and again, delight—she laughed. It was a sound he didn't hear nearly as often as he would have liked, so he just lay there and listened contentedly as her chuckles died down.
"Sorry, you just…" She trailed off for a moment as her face took on a more wistful-looking expression. "For a moment there, you just reminded me so much of Kohaku…"
He frowned slightly, not quite sure what to make of that.
"No, it's all right," she assured him, seeing his concerned look. "It was in a good way," she elaborated. "You… heh, he used to say the same thing when he didn't want to go to bed."
He chuckled. "Are you saying that I sound childish?" he asked teasingly.
"Maybe a little," she giggled again, giving his forehead a small poke. He grinned at her.
"So," he said after a moment when she started playing with his hair again, "what did you do back then when Kohaku wouldn't listen?"
She smiled softly. "I used to tell him stories before bed."
"What kind of stories?" he asked.
She twirled a stand of dark hair around her finger shyly. "You know… the usual kinds of tales. Princes and princesses… heroes, demons… kami that granted wishes and protected children… that sort of thing."
He nodded as she trailed off. The idea formed in his head, and he almost didn't ask, thinking it was too foolish. But now that she had brought it up, he just couldn't resist… perhaps she was right, perhaps he was just feeling childish.
"So, are you going to?" he said casually at length.
She blinked. "Going to what?"
"Tell me a story."
"What?" she blushed with a startled laugh. "You're not serious."
"I haven't had a bedtime story since I was five years old," he grinned. "Please?"
She looked at him doubtfully. "You really want me to tell you a story?"
"Yeah," he said. "It would help me get to sleep," he added hopefully.
She poked him again to let him know she wasn't really buying it, but then looked thoughtful. "Well, all right," she said finally. "I guess I could…"
"Really?" he said.
"Yes. Don't push it," she said with another poke. "…What kind of story do you want?" she asked after a second's pause.
"The usual kind," he replied, mimicking her with a smile.
"Prince and princess?" she blushed slightly.
"Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of houshi and taijiya," he answered. "But," he added with a wink, "only if it has a happy ending."
Her blush deepened. "Houshi-sama…"
"I don't know…"
"Don't you think it has a happy ending?" he asked her.
She looked at him for a moment with her of her patented 'I can't believe you' looks. After a minute, though, she finally gave in. "All right," she said uncertainly. "But just a quick one, that's it."
"But it has a happy ending?"
She sighed… then smiled. "It has a happy ending," she said.
He smiled back. "Well?"
"Oh, be quiet." She crossed her arms and gave him the look again. "I'll only do this if you behave."
"I'll behave," he said quickly, giving her his sincerest look.
"All right." There was a pause.
"…Once upon a time…" he prompted.
She twapped him lightly on the head. "I was getting there," she insisted, clearing her throat. "Just let me think for a second. It's been a while since I've done this, you know. Usually Kagome-chan tells the stories when Shippou wants to hear one."
He waited patiently. Finally, she nodded, looking ready. "All right… once upon a time…"
"Once upon a time, there was a taijiya who lived in her village with her father and her younger brother. They loved each other very much, and although life was not always easy, they enjoyed their work and they were very happy." She smiled faintly, but it soon slipped away.
"However, one day the taijiya and her family and fellow villagers were tricked by an evil youkai called…" she gritted her teeth, "…Naraku. Everyone was killed except for her, and she was… she was very sad." She paused for a moment, swallowing. Miroku reached over and touched her hand gently, and she met his eyes. A moment of understanding passed between them, and she seemed to find her strength, continuing.
"The taijiya was tricked by Naraku into attacking a band of travelers led by a hanyou called Inuyasha. So, thinking that he had attacked and destroyed her village, she fought the hanyou, but then learned that Naraku had deceived her. So, wanting her revenge, she accepted the group's generous offer to let her join them. Aside from Inuyasha, there was a girl called Kagome who was a miko from a future era, a young kitsune named Shippou whose parents had been killed by other demons, and a houshi… who was the biggest pervert the taijiya had ever known."
"But he was handsome, though," Miroku grinned.
Sango gave a short laugh. "He certainly thought he was. He seemed to believe he was Kami-sama's gift to women."
"And he thought the taijiya was the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes upon."
Sango's cheeks went slightly pink again. "Well… she wasn't that pretty…" she muttered shyly.
"She definitely was. He thought she was."
She raised an eyebrow. "Then again, considering he groped her at every opportunity in sight, I suppose this wasn't exactly a secret."
"But anyway, please continue with the story," he said quickly, grinning nervously.
"Hai, hai. Well… the houshi had a curse in his right hand that Naraku had given his family. The curse would one day kill him if he didn't do anything, so he too was searching for Naraku. So, united in their purpose, the group set out to hunt him down. Along the way, they had many adventures, and came close to killing Naraku many times, but it seemed he would always escape them at the last minute, just when they thought they almost had him.
"However, frustrating as this was, as they continued along, they became closer to each other and formed bonds that would not easily break. The hanyou and the miko eventually formed a very close bond, and he protected her everywhere they went. In turn, she helped him to grow stronger, and to confront his inner demons."
"Quite literally, at times," Miroku added with a smirk.
"Yes, she saved him at least as many times as he saved her," she agreed, smiling. "And even though they rarely got along, and were always arguing with each other, everyone in the group could clearly see that there was love there. In the end, no matter how many times they argued, the hanyou was always by the miko's side, and they were always happy to be together."
Kirara mewed sleepily.
Miroku grinned, feeling rather sleepy himself. "But what of the taijiya and the houshi?" he asked. "This story is about them, after all."
"Yes, I was getting to that," Sango said, her face turning rather pink once more. "Well… even though he protected her many times while in battle, and she was very fond of him, the taijiya wasn't ever quite sure just what to make of the houshi," she continued. "It seemed at times that he might have feelings for her, and at times she almost felt the same way, but every time she thought the connection between them might be deepening… he would go and grab her butt or ask another woman to bear his child, which drove her crazy."
Miroku had the grace to at least try and look sheepish while Sango continued. "Each time it seemed like whatever feeling there was between them might finally get somewhere, he pushed her away by acting like he didn't care. So in return, she kept her distance, not wanting to give away her heart to someone who seemed like he was only playing with her.
"But then… those times when he wasn't acting like a perverted jerk… she found herself growing more and more close to him despite herself. There was something about him that just drew her in, in spite of everything. And then there were times when, just for a moment, sometimes only a mere second, she would catch a glimpse of the man he really was beneath all of his lechery and delinquency, and she saw that he was gentle, compassionate…" her voice softened, "…kind… vulnerable… and at the same time, so strong that it amazed her. And those times when she herself felt vulnerable, and felt like she was just about ready to break, he always seemed to be there when she needed him. And so, no matter how hard she tried not to fall for this man who would surely break her heart, gradually the taijiya did find herself… falling in love with him."
For a moment, all Miroku could do was stare at her, a part of him left feeling stunned. He briefly wondered at how forward Sango was being tonight; he could not recall ever before seeing her this open about her feelings. Perhaps it had something to do with their being alone, or the fact that he had been injured. Or perhaps it was simply easier to say things this way, through a story, than to say them more directly. Whatever it was, her words overwhelmed him.
He reached up and softly caressed her cheek, feeling suddenly overpowered by the need to let her know just how much this meant to him… just how much she meant to him. She placed her hand on top of his and brought it down to rest in her lap, where she continued to hold it, just smiling at him. After a moment, she seemed to remember that she had not yet finished her tale, so she continued.
"Then, one day, the group discovered a mountain where it seemed that Naraku must be hiding. So the houshi and the taijiya went together to investigate, leaving the others behind since Inuyasha could not cross the mountain's barrier. The two eventually discovered a cave where they were sure that Naraku must be. So they went inside, but too late, they discovered that Naraku had set a trap for them, and they were ambushed by a group of youkai. The taijiya was knocked unconscious, and the houshi used his cursed hand's kazaana to save her, getting poisoned in the process. When the taijiya woke up, she realized what the houshi had done, and it broke her heart like nothing ever had before. That was when she realized that…" She hesitated, then gently clasped Miroku's hand in both of hers.
"…That was when she realized that she did love him, and would never leave him, and would die for him," she whispered softly.
Miroku closed his eyes for a moment, and grasped his fingers around hers tightly. Then he looked at her once more and took a deep breath, running his fingers along hers. He was itching, longing, dying to kiss her, but he knew he couldn't. Still, the urge was almost unbearable.
"…Then what happened?" he whispered finally, managing to content himself for now with the knowledge that the time would come one day, and at that moment there would be nothing in the world that would hold him back.
"Well," Sango answered, one look in her eyes all he needed to know that she understood, "…the mountain's holy barrier purified the poison inside the houshi, and he regained his strength, for which the taijiya was relieved. So eventually they left the mountain, and unfortunately Naraku managed to escape once more. So, not too long afterward, the group found themselves in a strange village where it seemed all of the men had died in wars, so that only the women remained."
Miroku swallowed nervously.
"Now, considering the houshi's aforementioned weakness for women," she said, her fingers suddenly clamping onto Miroku's a good deal harder than before, "it wasn't surprising that he took off flirting with one of them later that night. However, considering the taijiya's feelings, she couldn't bear to watch him do it, so she went off alone to investigate the rest of the women, who were behaving suspiciously. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a trap, and the taijiya was captured by the women and forced to swallow an ayakashi egg that possessed her and made her attack the houshi when he came to rescue her.
"However… to his credit, the houshi managed to save her by forcing the egg back out of her body, even though he was badly wounded in the process. When it was all over, the two went to spend some time sitting by the river, reflecting over what had happened. They both apologized to each other, and then the houshi told S—the taijiya, that she was a special girl to him, but that he also couldn't be with her because he cared for her like that.
"This nearly broke the taijiya's heart, though she struggled not to show it. But just when she thought that was it for the two of them… he asked her if, after Naraku was defeated… she would bear his children."
Miroku smiled, wordlessly mouthing the question once more, and she giggled, again twapping him lightly on the head. Then she went on. "The taijiya was overjoyed, and she agreed." She smiled. "And… I guess that's the end."
"Wait, that's not the end," Miroku protested, blinking up at her with a frown.
She rolled her eyes. "I thought I told you, Houshi-sama; this was going to be a short story."
"But it didn't have a happy ending," Miroku argued. "You promised that part; you have to finish it."
She frowned at him. "What part of that ending wasn't happy?"
"Naraku is still alive. What about him? Aren't you going to finish that part?"
"I can't finish that part of the story," she answered. "I don't know how it will end yet."
"But then," he insisted, "it's not a happy ending."
Sango sighed. "Then how does it end?"
"You want me to tell you?"
"Sure, then. Go ahead."
Miroku grinned. "Well, they defeat Naraku, of course."
She raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"And… they get married. And live happily ever after."
Sango smiled at him. "Do they?"
"Of course they do." He paused, then added, "And… they have a lot of kids, too."
Sango's smile broadened. "Really? How many? Ten?"
"Ten, maybe," he said grinning, "…or maybe even twenty." She chuckled at the line, and he found himself joining her.
Presently, the laughter died down, and Miroku's face took on a look of peace as he closed his eyes. "The houshi's curse is destroyed forever, and none of their beautiful children ever have to worry about it themselves even for an instant. He and the taijiya live…" he smiled… "in a shrine, one that they build near the well that their miko friend uses to cross time. The children love it; they play all day from dawn until dusk, running around with Shippou and the children from the nearby village, without a care in the world. Of course, the taijiya passes down her demon-slaying skills to them, and they proudly learn to uphold the traditions of their ancestors' old village from her, and from her brother Kohaku…" he paused, opening his eyes and meeting her gaze, "…whom they have saved from Naraku's dark grasp." He then shut his eyes once more. "The houshi, of course, continues to perform his religious duties, and spends his days assisting the villagers with their needs. But he spends as much time as possible at home with his family, whom he loves…" he smiled, "very, very much."
He continued on, his voice growing softer. "In the evening, they always have dinner together, and then just sit with each other for a while, talking and playing games and enjoying each others' company. And then eventually, the children are sent to bed. And then," he began, his smile breaking into an all-out grin, "the houshi and the taijiya, alone at last, finally—"
"Okay, that's enough out of you," Sango said, cutting him off.
"But I wasn't finished," he protested playfully.
"The hell you weren't. This is supposed to be a bedtime story, Houshi-sama."
"Oh, they'd be in bed…"
She flung his hand back at him, just shaking her head and once again wearing that weary, amused look.
He just laughed. Eventually, he got her to smile again, which only made his own that much bigger.
"You," she said finally, "really need to be getting some sleep now."
"Fair enough," he accepted, giving her hand one last squeeze.
She removed the cloth from his forehead—he'd forgotten it was there—and placed her hand on it once more, her expression thoughtful. "It seems like the medicine is working, more or less," she said. "You should be more or less almost recovered by tomorrow, if you rest well."
"Then I'll be sure to," he promised.
"Kaede-sama said there might be a traveling medicine vendor in a nearby town with an antidote that might be able to help you," Sango added after a moment. "It's worth a shot to go and see if we can find him. We're going to leave tomorrow."
"I'll come with you, then," Miroku said.
Sango frowned. "Are you sure that's wise, in your condition…?"
"Well, you said I should be more or less recovered. I'd just as soon not be left behind, especially if you're all doing this for my sake."
"Fair enough," she echoed his earlier words. "Then I guess we'll all leave tomorrow." She got to her feet, picking up the cloth and the empty cup as well. "Go to sleep," she said, looking at him firmly.
He nodded, and closed his eyes, listening as her soft footsteps faded outside. He smiled.
"Happily ever after..." he said softly as he drifted off.
I stayed up till 5:00am writing this. XD My muses are not only evil, they're flat-out diabolical. They abandon me for months, then strike me out of nowhere suddenly at 11:00 at night, right when I'm planning to get ready for bed. Argh. Just know, Miroku, that I did this for you! For no one else would I write this whole thing in one sitting. Only you, you dear, sweet sexy monk.
Anyway—I'd just like to say a quick thank you to everyone who's reviewed and/or commented on my other fics. You guys seriously have no idea how much I appreciate it. A special thanks to Principessa and XPhial, for their kind words on this story and for helping me get this just right.
And… I guess that's it for now. Hope you liked it.