(A/N: this one-shot has been transformed into a three-part story. The story itself hasn't changed, it's just gotten longer. For those of you who have read Rekindling already, move onto Part II: Let You Go. Arigato!)
I just can't get you outta my head; boy, it's more than I dare to think about.
Sango raced down the office hallway, her briefcase bumping against her legs. The pearls against her neck were bouncing, and she was already regretting dressing up today. The pumps only clinched the matter. Classy pumps may look professional in an office, but they were by no means made for sprinting.
She crossed the glass walkway that connected the two high-rise towers situated in downtown Tokyo, trying to ignore the pounding of the rain and flash of lightning. What an absolute inconvenience. She maintained that her building must have been designed by a grad student. The parking garage for the set of high-rises was only accessible from the Tower B elevator. She worked in Tower A—and she had a business lunch in exactly fifteen minutes at a restaurant halfway across town that took at least half an hour to get to in the normal Tokyo business lunch hour—in a summer thunderstorm.
God bless it.
She was trying to cut down on her language ever since her boss told her that cursing wasn't lady-like. She was the youngest member of the company, and not to mention the newest. After her backbreaking years of high school, college, and graduate school, the last thing she needed was to lose this job.
The elevator was in sight now. And the doors were closing.
"Hold the doors!" she yelled at the occupants. The elevator was already packed, but tough. She could not afford to be late to this lunch meeting.
She squeezed through the doors, narrowly avoiding the gruesome fate of being squished. Believe it or not, she'd actually seen that happen to one of her co-workers. Numerous times.
Elevators were not for the rushed and impatient.
She gave a small smile of thanks to the man she'd just shoved against the wall in her haste to make the elevator. He gave her a fake smile back and immediately returned to his palm-pilot planner. The two women on the other side of her were carrying on a pretty heavy conversation about cheating, adultery, and whether Toshio should leave his wife for his little secretary Kimi… Sango tuned them out. Some people really had no concept of the word "tact." Or "private affairs."
She shifted uncomfortably. Being crunched inside a microscopic elevator wasn't anything new, but since she was cognizant of the gravity of her business lunch today, she'd taken extra care when dressing. Her normal work attire consisted of a khaki or navy skirt or pair of slacks, and a nice blouse. When she could get away with it, she wore a casual dress with her hair billowing down her back.
Today, she was stuck in a designer black skirt and blazer set that she'd found at a discount store. The suit looked as if it was tailored to fit her. The skirt was rather tight, with a slit in the back, the blazer accenting her figure nicely. With her sleeveless silk white blouse, pearls, and upswept hair-style, she looked more than professional.
Unfortunately, being professional has its drawbacks. The suit was 98% polyester and 2% cotton (why even bother putting the cotton on the label, she wondered) and she was—to use one of her co-workers expression's—sweating like a man in a baboon suit.
Inuyasha always did have an odd personality. She couldn't really understand what Kagome saw in him.
The elevator dinged to the seventh level and most of the occupants of the elevator flooded out. Sango smiled slightly at the sign posted on the wall so that no elevator riders could miss it: CAFÉ, COFFEE SHOP, SALAD BAR.
The sixth level dinged. More people exited. Sango could breathe a little easier now that she wasn't crammed between bodies. The gossipy women moved on to cutest co-worker couples. Sango listened for a minute, then tuned them out. Apparently they didn't know Kohaku and Rin.
The fifth floor dinged. Sango let out a sigh of relief as the rest of the occupants, save on, walked out. The doors closed and she allowed herself to rest against the wall of the elevator. She watched the numbers on the semi-circle above the doors illuminate with each floor. Four…three…two—
The lights suddenly flickered, and the elevator came to a jarring halt. Sango was thrown backwards, and banged her head on the wall. "Ack…God bless it."
"Interesting choice of words."
Sango started in surprise and turned to look at the man which the voice emanated—
Casually leaning against the wall was none other than Hamaguchi Miroku.
He looked ever the rogue with his longish hair and sunglasses. Paired with his impeccably tailored Armani suit, designer shoes, and Versace necktie, he looked like a savvy, irresistible businessman. He'd done well for himself.
She wouldn't admit it to anyone, even under the threat of death, but she'd followed his progress over the years. American Newsweek articles and Japanese business magazine raved about the brilliant young businessman that suddenly appeared in the Tokyo business market. She'd read all of his articles, even watched his interview on the local news channel. The city couldn't get enough of the newest business world celebrity.
He was getting along fine without her.
She refused to acknowledge the correlation between news about Miroku and her migraines. For some strange reason, she always ended up taking aspirin or a sedative after reading a new article or seeing his face plastered on a magazine sitting in a grocery store rack.
It shouldn't have hurt that much, but it did. He probably didn't even remember her, whereas she thought of him at least every other week.
Eight years, dammit, and she still couldn't get him out of her head.
She earned herself a nice living. Living in one of the wealthier middle-class apartment complexes attested to that fact. But despite her financial success, she was still single and lonely. Sure, she had friends. Best friends. Two of which who were already engaged. But that was different. She hadn't been involved in a serious relationship for a couple of years now. Come to think of it, she hadn't been on a date in almost six months
God, that was pitiful.
It wasn't as thought she hadn't tried to find someone else, hadn't tried to fall in love. She just couldn't. No one could measure up to Miroku.
And now what was she supposed to do? she thought, jerking out of her musings. How was she supposed to respond? What could one say to a person who hadn't shown his face to her in eight years, then suddenly appeared in an elevator in her office building?
Fate—or God—or whatever—certainly had an odd sense of humor.
"It's actually my friend's creation," Sango found herself saying. She hated how her voice shook. "She's from the States and has an overdose of creativity. When my boss told me to cut back on the cursing, she thought up this phrase for me." What was she doing, rambling like that? Shut up, you idiot!
"Interesting," Miroku said, his face inscrutable from behind his sunglasses. His jerked his head towards the closed doors. "Looks like we're stuck in here, ne?"
"Why so pessimistic? You're stuck in an elevator with a handsome, eligible bachelor. Most ladies would be thrilled."
She shot him a look and glowered. Yup, same old Miroku. He hadn't changed a bit.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Hamaguchi Miroku."
She started even more violently than when the elevator stopped. He was smiling in that familiar way, executing in that oh-so-suave stance: right knee bent, weight on his left hip, left arm on his hip, right hand in his pocket. Classic Miroku pose.
Her heart felt like it was tearing in half. He really doesn't remember me?
So she looked different—her hair was up; she'd grown a bit; her face had matured into that of an adult, not an adolescent girl; she was in a business suit, not her school uniform or typical weekend outfit: a tight spaghetti-strap top and a long, flowing skirt. Her mother, who had grown up in the States called her a Bohemian. Her father, who had grown up in Japan, but had friends who lived in the US, called her a hippie. She neither understood nor heeded either comment.
But really, she hadn't changed that much. The truth hit her hard. Her hopes and fantasies of the past years had just shattered—he didn't remember her.
Her breathing became more irregular. Now, what was she going to do about this? Give her name, she'd embarrass them both. Refuse to give her name, and raise suspicions.
She finally opted with a third choice: elusiveness. "What happened to the elevator? Did the storm hit a circuit?"
Miroku's stance stiffened slightly. She had to cover a smile. Retribution felt good. Miroku could never stand being rejected by a woman. Next would come the charm—laid on extra thick, because she had a nice body.
"Probably," he said, sauntering—he never merely walked—over to her side of the elevator. "This happens a lot, actually. Circuit was hit twice last week—I was stuck in this elevator both times. But never with a woman such as yourself before." He smiled charmingly.
"You didn't have to introduce yourself," she blurted. "I recognize you from the magazine articles." Oh, nice diversion tactic, Sango. Boost his ego more. Very smooth.
"You have?" he said, sounding rather uncomfortable. "Oh."
Something was up. Miroku was never uncomfortable—especially around women. What was his problem?
"What's the matter?"
"Why, nothing!" The charming smile was back. "What do you do, Miss…?"
She didn't fill in the blank. "I work for the Tokyo Shimbun."
His cool exterior faltered a bit. "You're a reporter?" He took a few steps backwards.
She laughed at his expense. She rather liked being invisible to him—in a way. It allowed her to see more of him than she would if she was just Sango again. "Not hardly. I'm a translator."
"Are you really?" He sounded both relieved and delighted. "What languages do you speak?"
"Just Japanese and Korean. Some Chinese. My English is pretty much stopped at a high school level." You should know that. Don't you remember the millions of hours you spent helping me with my English homework?
He laughed a bit. "I once knew a woman who wanted to be a translator."
Her heart felt like it momentarily stopped. Was he talking about her? "What happened to her?"
"Interesting that you should ask," he said, his voice revealing nothing. "I don't know. We lost touch after high school graduation."
A diplomatic way of putting it. Talk about downplaying. "Oh."
"But she's not important." He smiled again, showing off his perfect white teeth. "Tell me more about yourself."
Sango simmered, her gaze narrowing. Not important, huh? Well, I guess we both know where I stand. "There's not much to tell." She scooted farther away from him, retreating into a corner.
"Don't be so modest," he said, coming closer. "It doesn't look as if we're going to get out of here any time soon. May as well make the most of our time."
This is a scene worthy of Shakespeare. He would have had a field day with this situation.
"Why were you so disappointed when you found out I knew you?" she asked, desperate for anything to distract him. If he didn't have sunglasses on, she was sure he would have that mischievous glint in his eyes.
"Who said I was disappointed?" he answered glibly.
"I am fairly adept at reading people. Don't try to pull that innocent act over me."
He shrugged. "It's not a big deal."
"Of course it is." There he goes, downplaying again.
His eyebrows rose. "You sound pretty sure of yourself."
"I told you—"
"Yes, you're adept at reading people." He leaned against the wall of the elevator, crossing his arms. "Well, Miss Persistent, if you must know, it bothers me when I meet a person for the first time and they already know lots about me—and usually have an opinion of me—when I know nothing about them." He shrugged slightly. "I feel at a disadvantage."
Sango was quiet. So he had changed. The Miroku she knew didn't care what anyone thought about him. It looked as if his self-assured attitude was just a façade. She smiled slightly. Looks as if the mighty Hamaguchi Miroku had a weakness after all. Who would'a thunk it? she added humorously.
"Now, Miss, you have done an admirable job of not revealing your name," he said, coming closer to her. "Are you normally this shy?"
She gulped, shoving herself farther into the corner. "N-not usually." She prayed for the elevator to start working again.
"What's the matter? Do I scare you?"
"Scare me?" she barked, laughing. "That's a good one." He was too close to the truth.
He pushed his sunglasses up on top of his head, revealing those rare indigo eyes that she so well remembered. Her breath caught in her throat. She only hoped that her foundation was covering her blush. She normally didn't wear make-up, save for eyeliner, but today she thanked the gods that today she had.
A puzzled look came across his face. "You look…familiar. Have we met before?"
Anger bubbled up inside of her. Was she really such a dismissible part of his life? Something so easily forgotten? You bastard. Kagome was right about you. "No, I don't believe so," she said, her words clipped. She shoved him away from her and stalked to the other side of the elevator.
The expression on his face was almost comical. "Miss?" he said. "Is something that matter? Have I offended you somehow?"
"Nothing's the matter." She turned her back towards him, her arms crossed.
"That's a lie if I ever heard one." He started towards her, and she quickly turned away, determined to keep her back to him.
She didn't expect him to grab her by the shoulders and turn her around. Her hair, which was precariously held up by two chopsticks, suddenly fell, the chopsticks clattering to the ground and her hair cascading down her back.
"Look, if you don't tell me what's the matter, there's no way I'll be able to—help…you…" His eyes widened and his gaze riveted on her hair.
Oh no… She turned her face away, quite aware of the blush that tinged her cheeks.
When silence prevailed for over a minute, she gathered up her courage and stole a glance at Miroku. He was staring at her face, looking incredulous, stunned, confused…hurt?
His hand moved upwards and he gently laid his hand against her cheek. "Sango?" he breathed, as if afraid to utter her name aloud.
She sucked in a breath. She'd missed his touch—the feel of his hand against her skin. Their first kiss had started like this—him holding her face in his hands. Somewhere in the back of her head, her mother's voice echoed, "Men are more affected by sight; women, by touch."
Sango could more than attest to this fact.
Much as she would have loved to stay in that position, she couldn't dismiss the past. He'd made his decisions. She had to make hers. Sango pushed his hand away. "Took you long enough…Miroku."
"Took you long enough…Miroku."
He nearly stopped breathing. Sango! It was Sango! His first love, who he'd dated the last year of high school. And then…well, he'd made the stupidest decision of his life. But what could he say? He was young, idiotic, and a lecher. He wouldn't deny it. The day before their senior dance—their school's equivalent to an American prom—she'd caught him in the courtyard, kissing another girl.
The look on her face had nearly killed him. It ripped his heart in two ragged pieces. He'd all but shoved the girl he'd been dared to kiss away, and ran after Sango. Being the track star that she was, it had taken him a minute or two to catch up with her.
"Sango!" he shouted, a pit forming in his stomach. "Sango, wait!"
"Go away, Miroku!" she yelled back over her shoulder.
"Sango!" He caught up to her and tackled her to the ground, right there in art hallway. Luckily, it was lunch and the hallway was mainly deserted. She struggled, trying to get out from underneath him, but he kept her pinned down. "Sango. Listen to me."
"Why should I?" she said, her voice ragged. She wouldn't look at him. "Miroku, I can't do it anymore. I can't. I've tried to dismiss your habit for groping other women, and your tendency to flirt with pretty girls—but this—I just can't…forgive you."
He'd dug himself into a hole—a hundred-foot deep hole. "Why didn't you tell me those things bothered you? I would have stopped if you'd asked me!"
"You should have known not to!" she yelled, finally meeting his eyes. He winced, feeling like a heel. She was crying. "Did you ever stop to think how I felt watching you flirt with other girls? Or grope them? I wanted to believe that you were mine—only mine…but I guess that was too much to hope for."
"Stop it, Sango!" God, now he really felt awful. "I'm sorry. I am. I'm sorry. You know my personality. I just—I didn't think it would bother you. I love you, you know that. I've told you that so many times—"
"Yeah, well, talk is cheap," she said bitterly, shamelessly wiping away her tears. "Let me up, Miroku."
"Not until you listen to me."
"I can hear you just as well standing, hentai."
Hope soared up within him at her familiar nickname. Perhaps it wasn't all lost. He smiled at her and helped her to her feet. She smiled back, waveringly…but that smile soon disappeared. "Miroku. I can't trust you anymore."
"Sango, I'm sorry," he said earnestly. "It was a dare—a stupid dare. One of the guys told me I'd get twenty bucks if I got Suzu to kiss me—" He stopped short. Sango was crying again. "What—"
"Miroku, I don't understand you," she said, the tears flowing readily now. "Did you ever stop to consider how Suzu would feel if she realized you kissed her on a lark? How can you say you love me if you're willing to kiss another woman? Many other women?" She was crying harder now. "I knew it was too good to be true." He barely caught her last whisper.
"Sango, stop it! You know that's not true. I do love you—I just…just…"
"Don't love me enough to commit? It's a good thing we're not married. I don't think I could stand it if I caught you cheating on me after marriage vows."
"Hey, now," he said, frowning. "That's a little harsh."
"You," she gritted, "have no business saying that." She ripped her hand, which he'd never let go after he'd helped her up, out of his. "You can just go ask one of your many flings to go to prom with you. I'm not that good at acting."
"Sango, you're overreacting."
"No, I'm not." She just sounded tired now. "I'm saving myself from being even more hurt in the future."
Then she walked away.
Things had been extremely strained between them that last month of school. Miroku ended up going to the dance with a girl in his history class and ignoring her the entire time. Sango hadn't gone at all. Kagome had never forgiven him for what he'd done, although they had kept in touch over the years with an occasional call at major holidays. Sango, on the other hand, he hadn't heard from since they graduated. After the commencement ceremony, they had exchanged "congratulations" and hugged stiffly.
And now, eight years later…
He was staring into the same tear-filled eyes and hurt face. He hadn't recognized her. He knew that hurt her, but in truth, it didn't really surprise him. He'd done everything he could to forget her after they'd parted. He didn't even know what had happened to all those pictures of her he'd had on his bedroom wall. Maybe Kagome had them now.
It was her hair that had triggered the memory. That beautiful, long hair… and those eyes…
He hadn't forgotten her. Not really. Maybe he'd pushed her image out of his head… but he remembered everything about her. Everything. It seemed ridiculous to say such a thing—but he was still in love with her.
His dad had told him to get over her. "She's just one girl, Miroku. There are plenty of other girls out there. How many people do you know that actually marry their high school sweethearts?"
Miroku had tried to convince himself that he was over her, that he didn't care what happened to Sango. But he unconsciously had started comparing every date he'd ever had to that fiery—yet sweet—girl he'd dated back in high school.
She suddenly smiled and blinked away her tears. "Good to see you again, Miroku."
He blinked. What was this?
"It's been a long time…"
Stop the clichés already, he begged in his mind. He ached to touch her again, and he longed to tell her the truth…that he still loved her…
"You know, I've followed your progress over the years. You've done quite well."
"Sango," he said warningly. "Stop it. Whatever you're doing—stop it."
"Stop what, Miroku? Talking to you? Gladly." She stalked over to the other side of the elevator and stared resolutely at the wall.
He sighed. She always had been stubborn—and prone to ignore him when she got all in a huff.
A sly grin crept across his face as he recalled a memory from the past. What was the best way to get a mad Sango out of her funk?
Fluster her, of course.
"Sango," Miroku said in that "warning" voice of his, "stop it. Whatever you're doing—stop it."
Fat chance. Why was she getting all emotional in the first place? It wasn't as if she meant anything to him. He hadn't even remembered her. Time to wake up to reality, Sango. Face the facts. Now put on your business face and stop acting like a blubbering, lovesick fool. "Stop what, Miroku? Talking to you? Gladly."
She retreated to the far side of the elevator. Running away—something she was quite proficient at. She'd run away from Miroku the first time he'd flirted with her—a smile flitted across her face at the memory—she'd run away from him the first time she caught him groping another girl—and finally, she'd run away from him that last month of their senior year. For eight years, that time.
How long would this flight last?
She looked down and drew a design in the carpet of the elevator with the tip of her black pump. Stuck in an elevator with the man she's loved—and left—all those years ago. This was trashy-romance-novel-worthy.
Her face flamed at the thought. Bad thoughts, Sango, bad thoughts. You two are way past those days. Eight years past it, in fact.
She frowned, realizing her strong emphasis on time. It hadn't really made a difference. Two years, five years, eight years—at the end of each twelve-month period, she was still in love with Miroku. Would it take another eight years to get over him?
Sango recalled that old cliché: "absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Sango jumped when she suddenly felt warm hands entrench themselves in hair. "Miroku!" she shrieked. "What are you doing?!"
"Fixing your hair," came the reply. "It was done so nicely before, I thought it would be a shame to not reassemble it. And lord knows you can't do your hair on your own."
She pulled her hair out from his grasp and whirled around to face him, glaring daggers at the man who was currently twiddling her chopsticks between his fingers. "How would you know?" she snapped.
He raised a brow. "You've forgotten all those mornings you made me fix your hair in a certain style because you couldn't?"
"How do you know I'm still like that?" she challenged. "I could have changed. A lot can happen in eight years."
He winked. "I notice you used the phrase 'could have changed.' I'd bet my bank account that your neighbor did your hair this morning."
Sango glowered. She never could bring herself to lie to him.
"So," he said conversationally, spinning her around again. "Let's put your pretty hair back where it belongs, shall we?"
"No," she muttered mutinously, although his touch was disconcerting her. She always became drowsy when he played with her hair… Back in their senior Japanese History class, when the professor would drone on and on, Miroku, who sat behind Sango, would reach forward and play with her hair—be it braiding, brushing, or simply running hands through it—which inevitably caused her to fall into a dreamy, trance-like state… at which the professor would always, always ask her a question, startling Sango out of her reverie, with no earthly idea what was happening, much to the amusement of her troublemaking boyfriend.
She jerked out of her thoughts when he hit a snarl. "Ouch!"
"Sorry," he murmured, entirely focused on her hair.
Her cheeks were undoubtedly red by now. How was it that she hadn't seen hide nor hair of him for so long…and then out of the blue here he was, playing with her hair again, just like old times?
A frown slowly replaced her peaceful smile. What was she doing?! Was Miroku bent on seducing her—for memory's sake? She had to get out of this elevator before—before—
"There! All done!" Miroku announced proudly. "Looks as if I've still got it."
"Lots of practice on past girlfriends, huh?" she said bitingly.
"Girlfriend," said Miroku quietly.
"My mistake. They could all do their own hair and didn't require your assistance."
"Sango." His voice went a notch deeper. "Are you always so bitter?"
That stung. She was glad her back was still to him. "No," she mumbled truthfully. "Believe it or not, I was voted 'most mellow' in this year's Nutty New Year office awards."
"I believe it."
"You just seem to bring out the worst in me," she added with a little laugh. "…And the best," she said under her breath.
"What was that?"
Miroku leaned against the wall of the stopped elevator. "So do you always get this dressed up for work?"
"No," she answered, following his lead and using the wall to support herself, "it's just today I had a—" Her eyes grew wide and she shoved off against the wall as if it had burned her. "Oh, no!"
"Oh no oh no oh no…" She glanced at her watch. 12:45. She was already fifteen minutes late. "Oh no…" She slid down to the floor and dropped her head back against the wall, causing Miroku's fine work to come undone. "Oh, lord, could this day get any worse?"
Miroku slid down beside her. "What's the matter?" he asked in concern.
Her head still back and her eyes still closed, she answered in a monotone: "I had a lunch meeting with the editor and director of translators that was scheduled fifteen minutes ago. We were going to discuss the future of my career with the paper."
"I'm sorry," he murmured futilely. "I wish I had more words to comfort you…"
"It's okay. I just need someone who will put up with me while I wallow in pity."
"That I can do."
"Do you have much of a choice?"
The two of them laughed, although it wasn't really that funny of a statement.
"Sango, are you—" Miroku stopped, and shook his bangs out of his eyes. Sango raised a brow; that motion was a sure sign he was uncomfortable about something.
"Are you—dating anyone?"
I knew this would come up sometime. May as well tell him the truth—he'd find out anyway. "No. I haven't dated in almost six months now."
She understood his unspoken question. "Was it because of me?"
"No, it wasn't because of you. I was involved in a pretty series relationship a few years ago—a man I'd met at a convention. We were dating for about a year when he left me for another women." She was silent for a moment. "Actually…maybe it was because of you. And him. I've been abandoned twice now—I guess I just didn't want it to happen again." She looked up at his face. "Don't look so guilty, Miroku. It's all a part of life. I haven't dated because I'm paranoid now. But when I actually get up the courage to date someone else… I know it'll be because I have total faith in them."
She smiled softly. "I guess I have you to thank, then. I'm more cautious because of you."
He laughed humorlessly. "That's a great thing to be remembered for."
"What about you, Miroku? An eye for an eye—you owe me the summary of you love life." She paused then added, "Though make it the CliffNotes version."
He gave her a look. "Just what are you implying?"
"You know what I'm talking about, Houshi." The nickname slipped and her cheeks grew hot again. It had been the running joke in their high school class; sort of like a paradoxical joke: Miroku was so corrupt that he was called one by the title of a pure man.
"Actually, I don't," he said, cracking her a grin. "Are you insinuating that I have so many stories to tell, I'd better cut it short? Or are you saying that you want me to cut out all the X-rated content?"
She rolled her eyes. "We're both adults now, Miroku. You can tell me whatever you want. It was meant as a joke."
He kept a straight face, but his eyes were laughing. "Little Miss Innocent's grown up, hmm?"
She tried hard not to laugh, but didn't quite succeed. "You make it sound so dirty."
"Well, of course, if you want to fill in the blanks—"
"Miroku! Just tell your dang story!"
"Yes, Mommy." He shifted so his focus was on the elevator buttons. "After we…well, lost touch, I was really lost. I mean really lost, Sango. It was hard not having you constantly by my side, to laugh with, see boring movies with, or to camp out in a 24-hour Wal-Mart with—"
Sango burst into a fit of giggles. "I'd forgotten about that."
"We slept in the couch section, remember?"
"As if I could forget. That one mother reported us to the manager, claiming we were acting inappropriate."
"Stupid woman. We were just sleeping."
"In each other's arms."
"Hey, we were fully clothed. What more did she want?"
Sango playfully hit him on the arm. "Pervert."
"Excuse me? It was your idea. I was fine with staying up thirty hours and then going to school—but no, you had to get some sleep. And absolutely," he mimicked, "not on the floor."
"You—you—male," said Sango, not able to think of a more creative insult.
Miroku winked at her.
Then, as it usually happens, the past faded away and the present time caught up with them and they both looked away in discomfort.
"Anyhow," continued Miroku, "I was restless. I wanted to get out of Tokyo and see the world. So I went to college in the States."
Sango looked up. This part she hadn't heard. "So that's where you disappeared to."
"You noticed I was gone?"
"Your mom called me to baby-sit your younger brother one day. I almost canceled, because the thought of seeing you again almost made me sick… but I went anyway, only to find that you weren't even in town any more."
"You stayed in Tokyo after graduation?"
"I went to a community college for undergrad, and miraculously managed to get into Tokyo U for grad school. I was amazed."
"I'm not. You were one of the smartest people I'd ever met. Actually," he corrected, "you are one of the smartest people I've ever met."
She flushed. "Well, thanks—but your opinion is probably a little skewed, considering its completely based on the person I was eight years ago."
"I doubt you've changed much. Maybe you've become even smarter, but you've certainly not regressed."
She looked away again, this time in embarrassed pleasure. "Well, thanks."
There was a moment of silence. Sango prompted, "So what happened next?"
"Hm?" Miroku was deep in thought. "Oh. Right. Well, I got a bachelor's degree in business, with a minor in international studies, and a major in the same thing. I worked over in San Francisco for a year, then moved back to Tokyo. I've been here ever since."
"You have effectively not told me what I wanted to know."
His brow furrowed. "What was the question again…? Oh, right—my love life. Well, I didn't date at all my freshman year—which is really surprising. I guess I was still getting over you. Sophomore year, though, something inside me snapped and I went crazy. A new girlfriend pretty much every week or two… you know how it goes. Pretty soon, every girl in the college knew I was the school playboy, and at least seventy-five percent of them could personally attest to this." He shrugged.
Sango was quiet for a moment. "Did you ever fall in love?"
He took a minute to answer. "Once. Senior year." He laughed a little. "I must have an affinity for that particular year." A pause. "Her name was Maria Giovanni. She was—well, is I guess, seeing as she's still alive—from Italy. Italiana.I picked up a lot of Italian that year, just from hanging around her." He briefly glanced at Sango, then looked away again. "We were even engaged for a while."
"What happened?" Sango managed to say. It was stupid of her to be jealous, but there it was. Lucky girl. Sango couldn't even keep Miroku focused on her alone, but Maria had been engaged to him. Unless she didn't know about Miroku's cheating. Or…unless he hadn't cheated. Sango honestly couldn't rule out either decision. It had been so long since she'd known him…really known him.
"I broke it off."
Sango's voice hitched in her throat. Now she felt sorry for the woman. She was happy, and she was sorry. How love twisted a person's rationality. "How come?"
He shrugged, still not looking at her. "I wasn't ready for that big of a commitment. I was scared. 'What the hell is love?' and all that. I didn't want to make an irrevocable mistake."
"Irrevocable? Hardly. Do you know the percentage of divorce nowadays?"
He looked at her now, violet meeting mahogany. "Divorce isn't honorable."
She steadily stared back at him. Neither is cheating.
He broke eye contact. "When I make a vow, I intend to keep it. Besides…I'd already hurt too many women. I didn't want to hurt another."
"You call breaking your engagement not hurting her?"
"It would hurt worse if I left her after we were married. She's probably over me by now."
"Don't be so sure," Sango murmured, fiddling with a strand of hair.
Miroku didn't comment on her response. He glanced at his watch.
"What time is it now?" asked Sango.
"Quarter after one."
"We've been in here for half an hour?" she clarified disbelievingly.
"Looks that way."
Sango was getting worried now. "Does maintenance even know we're stuck in here?"
Miroku shrugged. "Can't say."
Sango sighed. "Watch us get roped into another all-night escapade."
Something suddenly struck Sango's memory. "Miroku?"
"You came back to Tokyo two years ago?"
"Have you always worked in this building?"
"Since the day I arrived."
"I've worked here for four years now."
Miroku voiced what she was thinking. "So we've worked in the some complex for two years and never once ran into each other." He smiled ironically. "Amazing how things work out, hm? Oh well. At least this was a more dramatic meeting than just spotting each other across the main floor."
"But you didn't recognize me, remember? So that wouldn't have worked. I'd have recognized you and—" she cut off.
Miroku looked at her expectantly. "And…?"
"'Never mind,' huh? Well we know what to do about evasive answers like that, now, don't we?"
It took a moment for the memory to trigger. "Y-you wouldn't dare!" She scrambled away from him—or as best she could in a tight skirt. "Hamaguchi Miroku, you stay away from me!"
He had that evil grin on his face as he got to his feet. "Now, Sango, you know the punishment for evading."
"Those rules hardly apply. We stopped dating years ago."
"So I could turn you in for sexual harassment."
He laughed. "Since when has tickling been classified as sexual harassment?"
They were now in opposite corners of the elevator, Miroku ready to pounce, Sango pressed against the wall. "You just stay over there, Houshi-sama."
"I'm sorry, Lady Sango," he sighed. "But I have never been one to let a crime go unpunished."
"You evaded my question earlier!"
"You snooze you lose."
Sango blurted the word without thought, but the double meaning struck both of them at the same time. Biting her lip, Sango looked down at the ground. Miroku frowned and relaxed his stance a bit.
But then darted across the elevator, hands in front of him.
Sango shrieked and tried to protect herself with her arms. "N-no, Miroku! S-stop!" She was laughing from his ministrations now. "Please!"
"Not until you say the magic words!" he said in a sing-song way.
She scowled. "You can't make me." It was hard to try and be stern while laughing.
Miroku was laughing now, too, at her expense. "I won't stop until you say it."
She lasted exactly ten more seconds. "I p-promise to love you forever and ever—" Miroku's tickling receded, as did her giggles—"and ever—"
"And ever and ever," they finished together, quietly.
Then they sighed in unison.
"We had some fun times together, didn't we?" Miroku said.
Miroku opened his arms. "For old time's sake?"
Sango gave him a look. "Miroku."
"Be reasonable. You can't—"
He ignored her voice of reason and tugged her into his arms.
"Miroku—" she protested.
"Hush. You can't tell me you don't hug your friends."
"My friends don't have a history like us," she whispered.
He didn't answer. He silently held her for a few more moments, then released her.
She looked up at him and gave him a small smile.
He smiled back.
Eventually, the maintenance men realized that all the elevators in the building had broken down, and manually pulled some wires to make them start running again. Sango and Miroku, as well as a few other workers who were stuck in the second elevator exited exactly one hour after they'd entered.
Miroku walked Sango to the entrance of the building, although they had to stop on the way, because Sango's cell phone was ringing. Apparently, her superiors had tried to call her three times before, but, naturally, the elevator didn't provide service. She explained why she missed her meeting, and knowing the dire condition of the elevators, her superiors forgave her and rescheduled the meeting for another day.
Relieved, Sango snapped her cell phone shut and tucked it back into her briefcase.
Silence prevailed yet again.
They were standing in the middle of the lobby, heedless of the late lunch stragglers rushing through the doors and those who took the afternoons off running for the parking lot.
"Well…" Sango said awkwardly, tapping the toe of her pump against the shiny tile floor. "I guess…I'll see you around?"
"Of course. We do work in the same building after all."
"Well…bye, then," she said softly. With that, she turned and walked towards the doors, half hoping Miroku would call her name, or run after her to stop her.
She pushed the rotating glass door around and walked into the parking lot.
A few tears of regret came, but she resolutely wiped them away. It just wasn't meant to be. They'd both changed too much. And what did she expect? Miroku dashing after her, proclaiming his love?
This isn't a romance novel, after all, she reminded herself. Romance novels are required to have happy endings. Otherwise, they'd be labeled as tragedies.
Smiling a bit at her own joke, she looked for her car, hidden deep within the rows of other vehicles. She finally spotted the black Toyota corolla and pushed the little button on her key ring that opened her car doors automatically. The lights flashed and she opened the door.
Then her cell phone rang.
She jumped, her hand flying to her chest. Then she laughed at herself, shaking her head. It had startled her out of her deep thoughts. And I admit that I was hoping to hear Miroku's voice rather than the jangle of my ring tone. She flipped her phone open, frowning at the unknown number. "Hello?"
She jumped again, this time from shock. "Miroku?" she said incredulously.
"Hello there." He sounded amused.
She clenched and unclenched her free hand, trying to quell the shaking. Is this the modern version of a fairy tale? she couldn't help but wonder. "How did you get my number?"
"Your boss is my best friend. I recognized his rather distinctive voice over the phone. He owed me a favor anyhow."
"You know Inuyasha?" she yelped.
"Sure. We were roommates back at UCLA."
She slumped against her car. Too many surprises for one day… "He never mentioned you."
"He didn't mention you either, the dog. Although…I never did tell him your name. He always was a little dense and probably never connected the dots."
"Probably." Sango smiled. "So…um, did you have a reason for calling me?"
"Did I ever need a reason before?"
"Okay, yes, I had a reason. Actually…I was just thinking—well…only if you want to, but—would you like to go out to dinner tonight?"
A huge grin replaced the smile on Sango's face. Never,she vowed, will I laugh at fairy tales again. "Miroku," she said, "I would love to go to dinner tonight."
Well? What did you all think? This idea just popped into my head (oddly enough, it's storming right now…lol) and I decided to try it out. Please, please, review and tell me what you thought. I'm not a mind reader! Anyhow, I had fun writing this, hoped you all had fun reading it. I'm at the beach now, on a computer at the library, but I will try and update Charade or Guilty As Charged while I'm here. The quote at the beginning is from a Kylie Minouge song.
Oh, and the phrase "God bless it" is compliments of my friend, LDP.