AN: finally, the ending to Rekindling! Thanks for all my readers who stuck with this story. This chapter's dedicated to my faithful proofreader, Kissabirde. Arigatou, Anie!
Close your eyes, give me your hand, Darling
Can you feel my heart beating?
Do you understand?
Do you feel the same? Am I only dreaming?
Or is this burning an eternal flame?
"So…run this by me again?" Inuyasha said, crossing his arms.
"I kissed her, she got spooked, and she ran away. I didn't follow."
"She was spooked by a kiss? The girl needs to get out more. Ouch! What was that for, bitch?" Inuyasha rubbed his sore head while glaring at Kagome, who was sitting next to him on the floor.
"That was for being insensitive. Sango's scared, Miroku."
"Yeah, I've noticed. But what's she scared of? Me? Our past? Our future?"
"Potential future," corrected Inuyasha. "At the rate you're going, buozo, there will be no future."
The three of them were sitting in Inuyasha's sparsely decorated apartment. The man had a total of five pieces of furniture: a bed, a dresser, a couch, a stand for the TV, and a coffee table. Unfortunately, the couch was occupied by stacks of old newspapers that had been cleared out of the office, so the three friends were having a counseling session for Miroku on the floor.
"She's scared of you, Miroku-san," Kagome said in a "duh" tone of voice.
"Because of our past?"
"Because of your past, idiot," said Inuyasha. "Do you think she'll just run into your arms after you've slept around like that? OUCH, bitch, that hurt!"
"No tact whatsoever!" raged Kagome, after having punched Inuyasha. "You have the mind of a three-year-old!"
Miroku sighed. "Is that really the issue?"
"Think about it, blockhead," Inuyasha grunted. "If Sango had been frolicking around the world, sleeping with any man she could get her hands on after she'd already cheated on you, would you jump at the chance to get yourself potentially hurt again?"
Kagome stared at her boyfriend. "That actually made sense."
He rolled his eyes. "Well, Miroku?"
Miroku shifted uneasily. "But, I never really loved any of those girls…"
"You're not helping yourself," mumbled Inuyasha.
"—But I love Sango."
"What?" Kagome and Inuyasha cried together.
"Since when?" Kagome demanded.
"Are you sure?" said Inuyasha dubiously.
"I've loved her forever, but just figured it out today, and yes, I'm sure."
The couple looked at each other. "This could complicate things," Kagome murmured.
As if to put in its agreement, her cell phone suddenly buzzed Utada Hikaru's "First Love." Kagome looked down at her phone in annoyance. "Let me yell at this person for calling at such in inopportune moment," she said, pulling the vibrating phone from her pocket. "Hey, could you call back some other time, please? I'm kind of— Sango?"
The men in the room snapped to attention. "Let me talk to her!" Miroku whispered urgently.
Inuyasha whacked him on the head. "Idiot, stay where you are!"
"What?...no, that's just Inuyasha and his. . . friend. Bob. Yeah, he's an American. . . "
"Oh thanks," said Miroku indignantly.
Kagome waved a hand at him to shush. "What's the matter? . . . yes, sweetie, I know you have problems. . . Miroku, huh. Big surprise there. . . nothing, nothing. Now? Well, I'm kinda at Inuyasha's. . . well. . . sure—" A gleam in Kagome's eye suddenly appeared. "Yes, of course you can come over. Right now will be fine. . . No, no trouble at all, we'll be waiting for you! Bye, Sango-chan!" She resolutely snapped her cell phone shut.
Inuyasha laughed incredulously. "Kag-chan, you little devil!"
Resolutely getting to his feet, Miroku said, "I'm leaving. She'll run away the moment she opens the door."
"No!" Kagome bounced to her feet. "What you two need is a good venting session. From what I've deducted, you just have major miscommunication issues."
"Locking them up in a closet could work too," Inuyasha offered.
Kagome sent him an icy glare. Inuyasha swallowed. "Shutting up."
Miroku shook his head. "No. I can't force her to love me. Making her spill her feelings might confuse her more than she already is. She probably just thinks she's in love with me…" He heaved a sigh. "I'm not the right man for her."
"Wh-what?" Kagome spluttered.
"That's the way to say it, Miroku! The first step is admitting—GODDAMMIT, BITCH! Would you cut that out?"
"Miroku, don't ever say that! Don't doubt yourself! You two are destined for each other, I know it!"
"What the hell, Kagome?" Inuyasha said. "I thought you were against their relationship!"
"The way Miroku has been acting, heck yeah, I'm against it! But he's the only one that can complete Sango…so like it or not, the two fools will be miserable without each other."
"Don't talk about Sango that way," Miroku told Kagome, frowning.
"And don't talk about my best friend that way," Inuyasha added.
"Well, Sango-chan's my best friend!" Kagome cried, her eyes welling up. "I just don't want her to be hurt! And it seems like that's all this knucklehead has been doing recently!"
Inuyasha jumped to his feet and ran over to Kagome. "No, Kag-chan, don't cry!" he pleaded. "Please?" He pulled her into his arms and rocked her gently.
Miroku smirked. Inuyasha was such a sap when it came to Kagome-san. And especially when she cried.
"What are you laughing at, hentai?" Inuyasha growled over his shoulder. "You made Kagome cry."
Miroku rolled his eyes. Make Kagome cry, get damned to hell. "Sorry, Kagome-san."
"S'ok," she mumbled, wiping her eyes with Inuyasha's shirt. "Just—how can you say you love Sango-chan and then break her heart like that?"
"I'm a bastard?"
"That's the first logical thing you've said all night," Inuyasha exclaimed, his arms still around Kagome. "Congratulations, Miroku! Welcome to the world of those who use their minds!"
"Why are you welcoming him?" Kagome muttered.
"Hey, bitch, I try and comfort you and this is what I get?"
"Don't call me bitch," she snarled.
"It's a name of affection!"
"Sure it is!"
"Um…I don't mean to break up the fun," Miroku cut in, "but we do have a minor problem at the moment."
"Minor?" Kagome barked, disentangling herself from Inuyasha's arms. "This could be filed under the label of 'catastrophic.' Sango is going to turn up in exactly 13 minutes, and she can not see you initially."
"Initially? You're just going to delay the inevitable explosion, ya know." Inuyasha crossed his arms.
"But at least she'll be in the apartment," Kagome pointed out. "I get her in, settle her on the floor with a drink, and you go lock the door. Then we can have Miroku emerge from your room."
"And then we go lock ourselves in that room?" asked Inuyasha hopefully.
Kagome's brow furrowed. "Are you implying that we should escape the impending storm of anger, or do you just wanna make out?"
Inuyasha grinned evilly. "Either or."
Miroku rolled his eyes as Kagome punched him again. "If you two are finished…"
Kagome gave her boyfriend's arm one last punch for good measure, then turned back to Miroku. "So does that work for you? You hide out in the bedroom until I give you the all-clear signal—"
" 'So, Sango, tell me about your problems with Miroku.'"
"Kagome—" Inuyasha tried to interrupt.
"Now—first off, you are going to apologize for your actions. Don't accuse, don't use 'you', always use 'I' or 'me.' And when—"
"What is it, Inuyasha?"
"Your cell's ringing." He handed her the buzzing object.
"Oh for…" Kagome flipped the top open. "This is Kagome… Sango?"
Both males leaned towards Kagome to try and hear the conversation. "What's the matter?"
"My car broke down!" Sango's frantic voice reached them. "I was supposed to get gas this afternoon, but with all the excitement I forgot! Kagome, I'm stranded in one of the busiest intersections in the city!"
"Calm down, Sango-chan," said Kagome, looking like she could use some calming down herself. "We'll be there in half a second."
Miroku grimaced. She did not sound okay.
"Just hang on till we get there, okay? I'll call Triple A and they'll get you all fixed up."
"Hurry. This isn't the best part of town, either."
"Just might wanna mention that," Inuyasha mumbled.
"Hang on, Sango—be there soon." She grabbed a pen and scribbled the name of the intersection Sango was stuck in on the back of a pizza box. Kagome snapped her phone shut. "Miroku, go pick her up."
"Me? Are you crazy? She'll probably hop onto the back of some biker's Harley the minute she sees me."
"She's not stupid; and she's stranded. That doesn't leave her many options. I'll call Triple A and man the apartment; Inu-chan can go ride with the tow truck people and straighten things out."
"What? Why do I get to do all the dirty work?" her boyfriend complained.
"Because you're the only one that can threaten those conniving agents convincingly. They laugh every time I try a death threat."
He sighed. "Fine."
"Not fine," Miroku said, worry lining his face. "If you've forgotten already, Sango isn't too pleased with me. She'll be even more traumatized if I show up."
"On the contrary," Kagome retorted, "she'll have no choice but to ride with you. And then you two can work things out. Now, go, she's waiting all by herself in that seedy area…"
Miroku sighed. "Going."
Sango slowly closed her phone and slid it back into her purse. She shifted slightly in her seat, deliberately keeping her focus straight in front of her. Her doors were locked, but that didn't make her feel any safer. The buildings lining the street were old and run-down, and many of them she suspected to be brothels. That's what I get for trying to take a short-cut…
In her defense, she had been distracted. Big time. Since she knew the statistics of car crashes that happened while people were on their cell phones, she decided not to waste minutes talking to Kagome, but instead tried to get to Inuyasha's as fast as the traffic and her car's churning engine would let her.
And this is where she ended up. Stranded in the worst part of town, the middle of a rainstorm.
A man strolled by her car (which was currently pulled up on the sidewalk, so as to not block traffic too much) slower than necessary. Sango shivered and turned the radio a bit louder, letting the driving beat of Miyavi drown out any unwelcome thoughts.
She needed to talk to Kagome. Sango was a wreck. Her hot shower hadn't done anything to alleviate her pain, and her answering machine loudly proclaiming that she had three new messages (she'd bet her last bottle of shampoo that all three of them were from Rin) hadn't only given her a headache.
Sango was horribly confused. She was more in love with Miroku than ever, and right now her dream fantasy included a wedding dress and a tux… but she knew that wasn't possible.
Miroku didn't love her. The fact that he kissed her only clinched her resolve. His interest in her was completely physical—she was just another object of lust, albeit the fact that she had a history with him.
How was it that she'd managed to fall head over heals in love with that man, but he was content to skirt chase women the rest of his life?
She choked back a sob. Her mind told her that Miroku was a cheating bastard who didn't even deserve her time and attention. If her mother had still been alive, she would roll over in her grave to see who her daughter's heart belonged to. Neither her father nor her brother approved of Miroku. Sango was completely cognizant of his lecherous tendencies and his hobby for trying women out like they were test-drive vehicles. No cost to test drive, and he got to walk away free of bonds.
You shouldn't be in love with him! her mind shouted at her. He's an ass! Let him go!
But if he was really all that bad, her heart contradicted, then you wouldn't have fallen in love with him.
She let her head fall against the window. Her headache was pounding now. It was probably a migraine by this time. Where the hell was Kagome? Or Inuyasha? Or whoever in the blazes of Hades was coming to pick her up? She didn't like the way the men were staring through her car windows.
Miroku no baka. Look at all the trouble you've caused. Aside from breaking my heart, you've also broken my car. In a way. She snorted a bit at her own joke. Was laughing at your own pitiful jokes a sign of insanity?
Somehow, she managed to hear the sound of a motorcycle's put-putting engine shudder to a stop right beside her car. She swallowed and broke her rule of looking forward; instead she pretended to rummage through her purse, praying that whoever parked beside her would go into one of the stores…or brothels…soon.
After searching through her purse for an adequate three minutes, Sango allowed herself two glance out the window through the corner of her eye.
There was a man standing right there, his face nearly pressed up against the window.
She shrieked and scrambled away from the window. "What do you want!"
How did he know her name? She shook her head and refused to make eye contact. "Go away…" she whimpered.
"Sango, it's me!" He sounded annoyed now, although his voice was muffled by the big helmet he had over his head. Finally he yanked the helmet off his head. "It's me—Miroku!"
Sango's heart leaped and, without even considering the possibility that the man was bluffing, turned. There was Miroku, in all his glory, rapping impatiently at her window. She scrambled to unlock the door, cursing her suddenly shaky hands. She threw open the door, nearly knocking Miroku over, and flew out of the car and into Hamaguchi's arms. "You idiot! What the hell did you think you were doing, scaring me like that?"
"Sorry," Miroku mumbled, seemingly a little shell-shocked at her response. His arms tightened around her waist.
She pulled back a bit, so that she could see his face clearly, and glared at him. "And what's with the whole biker costume? Did you feel the need to fit in? Or did you just have a sudden urge to act like a teenage punk who tries to get pneumonia by riding in the rain?"
He grinned a bit, the rain plastering his bangs to his forehead. "The bike's Inuyasha's. He said it'd be faster than my 'economizing car' and that at the moment, I needed speed more than he did." He started to rub her back, his hand systematically working its way lower and lower.
She glared at him again and pulled out of his embrace. "Glad as I am to see you, Houshi, I'm still mad at you."
His face fell a bit, but he schooled his features quickly. "I was afraid of that."
Nodding emphatically, she said, "Kagome sent you, didn't she."
"No…" he said, his face like a guilty schoolboy's.
"Uh huh. Right. Typical matchmaking Yente," Sango muttered under her breath. She turned back to the car and fished her purse out of the crack between the seat and the gear shift, making sure to lock the doors behind her. "Let's get out of here."
Miroku obediently climbed back on his motorcycle and shoved his helmet back on. He extended the spare towards Sango, who stared at it in distaste. "I have to wear that thing?"
"It's the law."
"Screw the law." She climbed on behind Miroku and tucked her purse into the little pouch on the back of the bike before circling her arms around his waist. "I'm pissed today."
"And you'll be even more pissed if you end up in traction with a medical bill that's off the charts."
She made a face at him and took the helmet. "Drive."
"Yes ma'am." He started the engine and put his blinker on before pulling into traffic. He secretly thanked Inuyasha for making him take the bicycle—the feel of Sango's arms around him did wonders for his bruised emotions.
Behind him, the woman of his thoughts sighed.
Sango blinked as Miroku pulled his bike in front of her apartment building. "But—I thought we were going to Inuyasha's!" she said.
"That was the plan. But I thought you'd want to be alone… you'd had a bad enough day as it is."
"Well—thanks." She shouldn't have been surprised at his thoughtfulness—he'd always been attuned to those tiny things. That's what attracted so many women to him, aside from his good looks and charismatic personality.
Miroku extended a hand towards her, waiting to help her off the bike.
He's big on chivalry too. The thoughts in her brain were spinning around like laundry in a tumble-dry cycle. He's a lecher, yet being around him makes you want to be groped. He's a player, but when you're alone with him, you feel like you're the only girl that matters. He's forgotten how many girlfriends he's had, yet he remembers almost everything about you after not seeing you for eight years. She felt like she was trying to drive the wrong way on a one-way street and dodge oncoming cars all at once.
She grasped his hand and allowed him to help her off the bike. "Thanks for rescuing me, by the way."
He smiled softly. "My pleasure."
Their gazes locked for a moment, before Sango turned away, flushing. Miroku's smile quickly turned to a frown, and he looked away. Sango said, "I…what happened to my car?"
"Hopefully Inuyasha made it to the Triple A place and called a tow truck. I'll call you tonight and update you."
"Thanks." He was going to call her. Oh, that's sure to be a cheery call. Like trying to crack a joke in the cancer ward. It just doesn't work.
"My pleasure," he said again. He opened his mouth to say something, and then shut it again, apparently having changed his mind. "Well…I guess I'll be on my way now."
What? No attempts to seduce me? No dropped hints that I should invite you in for a drink? You're just going to—leave?
"I'll talk to you later, all right?"
"Sure," she managed.
He winked at her, little droplets of rain clinging to the ends of his eyelashes. Sango simply stared, her vocal cords freezing up. "Ja ne," he called as he tugged on his helmet and zoomed off into the rain.
Sango watched him until he turned a corner somewhere down the road. A tiny part of her heart ached to hijack a car and follow him. She bit her lip. She was disappointed. Here she was preaching high and low that Hamaguchi Miroku was a bastard that didn't deserve her time…and now she wanted him to come back.
Forget it, Sango. Just forget him. If you ignore him, he'll get the message soon enough, and the relationship will dwindle down to a computer-generated card every New Year's.
Her heart clenched. Was that really what she wanted? Did she really have the desire to erase him from her life completely?
Then again, who said she had to forget him? Why couldn't they just be friends, like normal coworkers? They could meet for a lunch here and there, maybe go grab coffee before a meeting…
She laughed shortly. You're fooling yourself. Think of how tense and uncomfortable that would be.
I really, really need to talk to Kagome.
She reached for her purse to fish her cell phone out of the clutter…only to find it wasn't hanging over her shoulder like usual.
Her stomach did a flip. Oh lord… it was still on with Miroku. On Inuyasha's bike. "Damn it!" she cried, whirling and stalking into her apartment building. What she needed now was another hot shower—since she was soaked to the bone in rain water—and maybe a happy chick flick that she could fall asleep to on the couch.
Sango standing in front of her apartment door before she realized that her keys were in her purse as well.
Her agonized scream echoed all the way down the hallway.
Miroku raced through the intersection, ignoring the honks and shouts from people who didn't appreciate him running the red light. Screw them all.
What the hell had gone wrong? His wildest dreams had come true that morning when he'd bumped into Sango in the elevator. They'd connected again, after all those years… once Sango got caught up in the moment and temporarily forgot the past, they'd laugh and joke like old friends—but everything had gone wrong somehow.
She didn't believe him. Or rather, she didn't believe in him. She didn't trust him. How could he possibly tell her that he loved her? She'd laugh. Or run away. He wasn't sure which was worse.
He was a wreck without her. He missed his best friend. He missed the woman that made such an impact on his life (when you start comparing every date to your past girlfriend…for over eight years…that's a pretty obvious sign). He missed her kisses, her hugs, her jokes, her laughs, her little nuances…
His ears perked up at a strange tinny sound over the roar of the bike's motor. He glanced around, thinking he heard an ambulance. When he saw nothing out of the ordinary, he turned his attention back to the road.
Sango sighed and stared at Rin's door. "I really, really, don't want to go in there…but how else am I going to get into my apartment?"
Gritting her teeth, she reached for the doorbell—and then pulled back her hand at the last minute. She really was not in the mood for any more cheeryness. Or lectures.
Screw it, she'd just go see if the doorman had an extra key. Or if anyone knew how to pick locks.
Miroku pulled into the parking lot for Inuyasha's apartment building, turning off the ignition to the bike and sighing as silence returned. Something must be wrong with the engine—he kept hearing that whining noise—
There it was again!
He jerked his helmet off his head and spun around in search of the sound. It was coming from…from…
The back of his bike?
He then spotted the little black purse in the pouch on the back of the bike. Sango's purse. Sango's…phone? He lunged for the pouch and dug the phone out of her purse, flipping it open to answer the call. "Sango's phone, to whom am I speaking?"
There was a brief moment of silence on the other side. "This is Kuranosuke. Who is this?"
A man. Miroku felt his possessive cave-man instincts kick in. Be nice.
Aw, hell, screw that. "This is her Experimental Physics tutor," he said, quoting Voltaire, and hoping the man didn't know many old Western European novels. "How may I help you?"
"Just tell her I called." He hung up.
Miroku smirked lightly. Poor Sango. He hoped she didn't discover that he'd been screening her calls. And scaring suitors away.
He jumped when the phone in his hand began to vibrate again. Frowning at the vaguely familiar number on the display screen, he opened the phone again. Just how many guys did she have trailing after her? "Who the hell is this?"
Miroku winced. Busted.
"Why exactly are you answering Sango's phone?" Inuyasha sounded amused.
"Because—because I am." He really didn't feel like explaining at the moment.
"Well, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"
"The bad. This day can't get any worse."
"Geez, what happened now?"
"The bad news is, the car's engine needs major fixing-up. She won't get it back for another week."
"And it's going to cost a lot."
"And if they can't fix it, she may have to buy a whole new car."
"I guess that can be considered good news. She needs a new car. She can certainly afford one, but she's too stubborn to let go of Kirara."
"Her car. She named it Kirara."
"I've been wondering the same thing for years."
"So what's the good news?"
"This gives you a chance to make things up to her!"
"'Sango, it's because of me that you forgot to get gas and your car stalled in the first place—will you marry me now?'"
"Moron. You can drive her to and from work. Talk in the car, maybe go out for a coffee in the afternoon. The sky's a limit."
"Hello? Is this Inuyasha I'm talking to?"
"Kagome's idea," he barked instantly.
"I'm sure," Miroku said, grinning.
"Think on it okay? And where are you, anyhow?"
"In front of your apartment building. With your bike."
"How are you expecting to get home?"
"I was hoping to bum a ride off you…"
"Uh, I'm stuck in traffic near the Triple A office."
"What about Kagome?"
"She went home as soon as she realized that you weren't planning on bringing Miss Suzuki to the apartment liked planned."
"Okay," Miroku said without a hint of remorse.
"Keh. Guess you'll have to take the bike then. Though you really don't deserve it after— hold it, police officer's coming. Bye." The line cut off.
Miroku snapped the phone shut and slid it into the front pocket of Inuyasha's leather jacket. It was time to go home.
The phone began to vibrate again.
Muttering curses under his breath, he flipped the phone open and growled, "What is it?"
Sango drummed her nails on the marble counter. Stupid payphone was taking forever to dial. She was still slightly in shock to discover that her apartment building had a pay phone in the lobby. She really needed to work on her observation skills.
This was her third call. First she'd called Inuyasha's apartment. No answer. Then she tried Kagome's cell phone. Turned off. Typical. If Kagome was annoyed, or didn't feel like talking to anyone, she'd just turn her cell off. The modern version of taking a phone off the hook.
She was trying her cell phone now. Hopefully Miroku still had her purse. Her wallet—stuffed with cash, credit cards, and insurance cards—was in there, as well as her cell, her keys, and other important things. She needed her purse. She didn't care if he wasted ten dollars worth of gas driving back the way he came to give Sango her purse, she wanted it now. It was his fault she was in this mess, anyhow.
Ah, there, it was ringing.
"What is it?" an irritated voice snapped.
There was a moment of silence on the other end. "Sango?"
"You have my cell phone. Good. I was beginning to fear that if flew off the back of the bike or something."
"No, it just rang the whole way back, making me extremely paranoid. I thought I was hearing things."
"Really? Who was calling me?"
"I don't know. I didn't pick up; I was driving."
"So check my call log!" This was so not her day—she was not in the mood to play around.
He gave a long-suffering sigh. "Fine."
Sango smiled a bit. "You're so abused, aren't you, Miroku-kun?"
"Nagged would be more appropriate," he grumbled. "Found it—looks like the same person called you four times. Geez. Talk about impatient."
"What's the number?" she asked.
She laughed when he told her. "That would be Kuranosuke. Poor man. He's probably beside himself wondering what happened to me."
"Does he have a crush on you?"
What the hell? "Miroku. This isn't high school anymore."
"Yet men are still following you around like lovesick puppies."
Sango slowly squeezed the phone cord in her fist. What did he care? She was just another woman, just another object for him to manipulate. What was up with the whole possessive male act? "Don't tell me you're jealous, Houshi-sama."
"Don't tell me you're jealous, Houshi-sama." Her voice took on a dangerous tone. An "I dare you to mess with me" tone.
Miroku's jaw tightened and his crossed his legs, leaning against the bike for support. Kuranosuke. That was the guy he talked to before, wasn't it?
"Yes, I'm jealous," he surprised himself by saying.
Judging by the silence on the other side of the line, he'd shocked Sango as well.
"Excuse me?" she spluttered. "You have absolutely no right to say—"
"I have every right to say I'm jealous, thank you very much," Miroku interrupted.
"Congratulations, Houshi-sama," Sango said, her voice tight with anger, "you've just won the award for 'biggest ass of the year.' That is the most hypocritical statement I have ever heard. The playboy telling me he gets jealous when other men pursue me. That's rich."
"How do you know I'm still a playboy? This is the first you've seen me in eight years."
"Old habits die hard. And according to Rin, you're renowned as the lecher around these parts."
"Who's Rin?" he demanded.
"My neighbor. Takahashi Sesshoumaru's adopted child. My brother's girlfriend. The woman you tried to grope."
Miroku flinched. Crap. That was defiantly bad karma right there. "Yes, but that was before I met you. Re-met you," he corrected.
"That line is such a classic," Sango snorted. "Tell me another, Mister Smooth."
"Classic it may be, yes: but it's also the truth."
"The truth? You think that means anything to me, coming from you?"
That hurt. It really did. "Sango," he said painfully, "when have I ever lied to you?"
"You…" She paused. "When…"
"I hurt you many years ago, yes. We all make mistakes. I was a stupid kid and I can't tell you how much I regret my actions." He let the words flow, not even thinking about what was coming out of his mouth. "Sango, I gave you no reason to believe I would lie to you."
"Your actions lied to me." Her voice cracked. "When you would tell me I was the only one you loved, and then you'd go—"
"That was the truth! Damn it, Sango, what must I do to make you understand? Women I grope or flirt with—that's physical attraction. Nothing beneath the skin. A few moments of pleasure, perhaps. With you—there's something more. I'm complete around you. You're my best friend and—and my only love. I—" He stopped. "Why are we doing this over phone?"
"I wouldn't know. As I recall, you initiated this turn in conversation," she said coldly.
Defense mechanisms. She hid her feelings behind coldness. He didn't let it deter him. "I'm coming over."
"No, you're not."
"Stay where you are. Don't go anywhere. You deserve to be told this in person."
"Hamaguchi Miroku, don't you dare—!"
He flipped the phone closed and once again slipped it into the jacket pocket before climbing onto the bike and speeding out onto the main road. Screw the speed limit. He had to get to Sango.
"Damn!" Sango slammed the phone down with such force that anyone in close proximity to her jumped. Ignoring their startled looks, she stormed back up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time. She'd hide out in Rin's. Rin didn't like Miroku, and she could be as stubborn as hell if she felt like it. Sango would be safe at Rin's.
How dare he! How dare he! She couldn't believe the nerve of that man. Was he actually about to tell her he loved her? No, that's impossible. He doesn't love you. Or maybe he was about to say it. Probably gives every girlfriend the same line: "Oh so-and-so, I love you so much! I've never felt this way about a woman before!" Bullshit.
She didn't want him to tell her those words. If he truly loved her—which he doesn't, she insisted—then that would mean he was willing to marry her. Hopefully. She wasn't ready for that.
She was scared.
Scared he'd leave her again.
Scared that her heart would be broken, just like before.
She could handle loving Miroku till her dying day, but never being able to share a life with him. That would be less painful than if they got together—less painful than living each day, knowing that it might be the last. She couldn't bear that.
She couldn't see him tonight.
No, she couldn't see him again—ever.
She jumped the last three stairs and shoved open the door, flying into the hallway at top speed. She lunged for Rin's doorbell and rung with such force that for a moment she was afraid that she'd broken it. She rang it an extra three times for good measure.
Finally she heard the scraping of deadbolts and locks on the other side of the door (Takahashi Sesshoumaru was overly protective and extremely persuasive. Rin had a grand total of six locks on her door). The door opened to reveal sleepy-eyed Rin in baggy pajama pants and a tee shirt. "Sango? What—"
Ignoring all etiquette and politeness rules that her mother had drilled into her head as a child, Sango pushed Rin aside and barged into the apartment.
Rin looked shell-shocked. "Sango?"
Cursing under her breath, Sango yanked Rin inside and shut the door with a resolute thud, making sure to turn all six locks before breathing a sigh of relief. "Safe."
"Safe? What are you talking about? Is someone chasing you?"
Sango just shook her head and leaned back against the door, trying to normalize her breathing. She closed her eyes, letting the adrenaline ebb away.
Rin put her hands on her hips and gave Sango a Look. "Suzuki Sango, you tell me what's going on this instant!"
Sango just breathed.
"What's this all about?"
Sango opened her eyes. "Were you asleep already? It's only nine o'clock."
"I had a hard day today," Rin said hotly. "And counseling always makes me tired. Added to the fact that you up and disappeared…"
Sango flushed a bit, feeling guilty. "Sorry, Rin-chan."
"You better be." She crossed her arms. "Is this about Miroku?"
"No." Sango pushed away from the door. "I'm hungry. You got any food besides chocolate?"
"Of course I do. There's pizza and ice cream in the freezer. And don't you change the subject."
"Pizza sounds good. Any iced tea? Or just coke?"
"I have Sprite…"
"You're such a junkie."
"Yeah, I know… hey you're changing the subject again!"
"Your teeth are going to rot from all that sugar."
"Tell me what's going on!"
"I don't understand why you're so skinny if you eat so much junk."
"Sango! Tell me now—"
The jangling phone cut off Rin's outraged cry. "Oh for the love of—" Rin dashed to the coffee table and picked up the phone. "What is it?"
Sango smiled and retreated into the kitchen, thanking Kami-sama for the distraction. She really was hungry. She'd skipped lunch today, and all she had in her stomach was that measly hotdog from that street vendor… NO! Don't think about that. Think about anything BUT that. She yanked open Rin's refrigerator and looked for leftover pizza.
"Open the door? What for? Who is this?" Rin sounded confused.
A sneaking suspicion was planted in Sango's mind. "Rin…who's on the phone?"
"The pizza guy? But I didn't order—oh really? Sesshoumaru-sama did? Well, okay then!" Rin hung up the phone and skipped to the door.
"Rin!" Sango slammed the refrigerator door shut and dashed into the main room. "Don't open that door!"
Her friend's hand hovered above the doorknob. The brown eyed girl gave Sango a confused look. "Why not?"
"Because…because…just leave it closed for a while, okay?"
"Because Miroku's coming to get me!" she blurted. "I don't want him to find me!"
"Miroku?" Rin scowled. "Him again? And what do you mean he's 'coming to get you'? You make it sound like he's the Headless Horseman or something."
"Please, Rin! Just do this for me! If Miroku comes, don't let him in!"
Rin gave her a calculating look, then shrugged. "All right. Although I'm not sure why I feel like I'm harboring a refugee."
Probably because you are.
"And if you're so scared of him, why don't you just go lock yourself in your apartment?"
"That's kind of a long story that I think I'll save for another day."
"Okay." Rin yawned. "Man, I'm tired. I just want to go to sleep—"
The doorbell rang. Sango jumped a foot in the air. Rin smiled brightly. "Oh, good, that's the pizza Sesshoumaru ordered!" She turned the locks and threw open the door before Sango could react.
Miroku, furious and soaked to the bone, stood in the doorway.
Rin frowned. "Hey, you're not the pizza man."
His gaze flicked over to Sango.
Miroku's gaze shifted past the woman in pajamas (who he assumed to be Rin, the woman he convinced that Takahashi Sesshoumaru had ordered a pizza for her) and landed on Sango, standing in the foyer of the apartment, an expression of dismay on her face.
She turned and ran.
He pushed past the woman in pajamas and ran after the woman he loved. "Sango! Sango, wait!"
"Just one minute, you!" Rin shouted after him. "You're dripping water all over my apartment!"
"My apologies, Takahashi-san!" he yelled, following Sango. Rin's apartment wasn't very large, it didn't take him long to reach Sango, who was pulling a door closed behind her. Miroku grabbed the door and forced it open, straddling the doorway and effectively trapping Sango inside the room.
His eyes widened as he took in the numerous clothes flung over the bed, the furniture, and the floor. Books were heaped in stacks near the window, and various pictures adorned the walls in random patterns. "I take it this is Takahashi-san's room?"
Sango backed away from him, putting the piles of clothing between the two of them. Her eyes were brimming with tears.
Miroku pushed his wet hair out of his eyes. "Sango," he said softly.
She shook her head violently. "No, Miroku-san. Please don't come near me."
"Miroku-san?" he growled. "What game are you playing at, Sango?" He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, rolling his eyes at the look on Sango's face. "Come on, Sango, you know me better than that. I'm not going to try anything; I just want to make sure you won't escape."
"I'll jump out this window if necessary," she threatened.
"Right. Too bad you're still afraid of heights."
The look on her face told him he'd guessed right.
"Now," he said, slowly walking towards her, "to finish our conversation…"
Miroku froze, taken aback at the force behind her answer. "No? What do you mean, 'no'?"
"I mean no. Let's not finish this conversation. I don't want to hear it."
"But, Sango…" He moved towards her again, causing her to skirt around a pile of clothes and take refuge behind a stack of trashy romance novels. He tried not to be distracted by the cover of the book on top. "I love you."
"No!" she cried, and covered her ears. "No, you don't!"
Miroku blinked, bemused. "Yes, I do."
"No, you don't! Miroku, you don't know what love is! To you, love is any woman who is willing to get in bed with you. To you, love is—"
"Don't tell me what love is 'to me'," Miroku snapped, his patience quickly fading. Why was she acting this way, like she didn't trust him? He thought that was what she wanted to hear—that he loved her. Weren't those supposed to be the magic words?
He told her as much, and Sango just laughed sardonically. "Just hearing the words won't do anything for me, Houshi-sama. Actions speak louder, after all. I know you—I'm just another conquest."
"Is that what you think?" His heart nearly tore in half. "Sango," he whispered brokenly. "When I say 'I love you'… I mean it from the bottom of my heart."
"Be that as it may—" She finally lifted her eyes to his, mahogany meeting violet—"I can't… can't trust you," she blurted. "You could leave me again. I lost you once, and that nearly broke me. If I lose you again—I'm not sure I could take it." She tore her gaze away. "Better safe than sorry."
"Sango… that is the biggest heap of bullshit I have ever heard."
"What?" she said incredulously. "Excuse me, Miroku, but—"
He leapt over the pile of clothing and landed in front of her, knocking over the stack of dirty novels. He grasped her forearms and dipped his head so he was staring directly in her eyes. "Sango. Look into my eyes and read my lips: I—love—you. No, don't shake your head. Let me tell you what this means to me: I can't live without you. I didn't realize how much I missed you until this morning when we got trapped in that elevator together. Ever since we broke up… I wasn't really happy."
"Just when you were in bed with all those women," she spat. "Or groping them."
"Not even," he said sincerely. "Well… to a degree, I mean. Sango, all those dates I took women on, all those hours I spent with the opposite sex—something was missing. I laughed, yes, I had a good time—but I was never whole as I was with you. Back then, I could spend the entire day with you and never be bored. You were the only one I could sit in a room with and read a book while you drew or whatever—every other woman wanted to talk. Comfortable silence—that's what we had. I never tired of seeing you, and when I was apart from you, even if for a day or two, when I did see you again, it made my day."
He took a breath before continuing: "I never got a chance to tell you this back in school, so I'm telling you now. But, Sango, you aren't just my past. I walked into that elevator and once I realized it was you, my heart leaped like it always does whenever you come in sight, or whenever you smile at me. I can't explain it—but I need you." He rested his forehead against hers. "I need you—I love you."
She bit her lip, gazing into his eyes. "You'll leave me," she protested faintly.
"How do I know this?"
"Because I have no reason to." He stroked her cheek and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Everything I'll ever want and need is right in front of me—what reason would I have to wander?"
Sango felt her eyes well up again. He was serious. There was no hint of joking or anything less than gravity in his gaze. He meant his words. Although… "You'd give up skirt-chasing for me?"
He hesitated a moment before answering. "Yeah…I guess I would." He sounded surprised at his own declaration. "I would. I won't lie to you and say I won't ever have the urge to…but you'll be there to knock me unconscious if I try anything, right?"
She closed her eyes. "I don't know, Miroku. I just don't know."
"Okay." Miraculously, he seemed to accept this answer. "I can live with that. As long as you give me another chance."
"Yeah." She opened her eyes. "All right."
"All right, what?"
"I'll give you another chance."
"Really?" His face was so hopeful.
"How could I not? …I love you."
His face broke into a huge smile. "Arigtou…Sango."
"No," she whispered, standing on tiptoe to press a gentle kiss to his mouth, "thank you."
He turned his head to fully capture her lips, his hands rising to gently hold her face. Sango began to cry again. This—this was right. There was nothing wrong about the situation this time. She melted into Miroku's embrace, her body pressed comfortably against his. His kiss sent shivers up her spine, and she tilted her head a bit to deepen the kiss.
Eventually they had to break for air. Miroku gazed down at Sango, content to merely watch her. She smiled up at him when he slipped his arms around her waist and tugged her closer. Her eyes shining, she tilted her face upward, asking for another kiss, but he gently laid his fingers on her lips. "Later, sweetheart," he whispered, pressing a small kiss to her brow. "I'll bet Takahashi-san has her ear pressed against this door, trying to hear what the heck's going on in here."
Sango laughed and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Let her suffer. She was the one who told me to let you go."
"Oh really? In that case, I don't think we'll give her bedroom back tonight."
"Pervert," she chastised halfheartedly.
Miroku grinned wickedly. "For you? Anytime." He rested his head on top of hers.
They stayed like that for a time, content to be in each other's arms.
"Think we should call Inuyasha and Kagome?" Sango spoke up after a time.
"Nope," he said instantly. "Let them suffer for a time as well. Those meddlers deserve it."
Sango giggled and yawned widely. "What time is it?"
Miroku sighed and shifted her in his arms so he could check his watch. "Ten o'clock p.m. Tired already?"
"It's been a really long day."
"So it has." He winked and pulled her backwards so she lost her balance and fell on top of him…causing him to fall onto Rin's bed.
"Oof. What was that for?" She whacked him playfully on the arm.
He stretched out so he was more comfortable and pulled her closer to him. "You're tired. Let's sleep."
"Miroku. There's such a thing as wearing out your welcome."
He shrugged. "She can always come wake us up."
"She's not rude enough to do that."
"Then she'll make do, I supposed." He gave her a special smile and she blushed. "You really think she'll mind?" he said, stroking her cheek.
"Probably not." She sighed contentedly and snuggled closer. "Goodnight, Houshi-sama."
He chuckled. "Goodnight, Love." He closed his eyes and rested his head against hers, breathing in the scent of her hair. He slowly drifted off into the most peaceful sleep he'd had in a long time, wondering if tomorrow wasn't too soon to ask her to marry him.
"Yup, sleeping like babies." Rin pulled her eye away from the nearly invisible hole in the plaster near the door and meandered over to her couch to settle down for the night. "What a day. Those two certainly do like to dramatize things."
On the other end of the line, Kagome laughed. "True. So you saw the whole thing?"
"They were too busy to notice a brown eye in the middle of a white wall."
"So everything's good?"
"Mmhm. They were yelling for quite a while and Sango was in big time denial…but apparently Miroku convinced her of the authenticity of his love, because before I knew it, they were making out—just like old times, I'd imagine."
"Yup," Kagome confirmed. "Good. Thanks so much, Rin-chan. Sorry you lost your bed tonight."
"No problem," Rin said, shrugging. "Makes no difference to me. I'll sleep better knowing everything is resolved, anyway. Even on the couch."
Kagome smiled. "Night, Rin-chan."
Kagome closed her phone and smiled up at Inuyasha, who looked at her expectantly from his place on the couch.
"All's well that end's well," Kagome said, coming over to snuggle beside him.
"Good," Inuyasha sighed, pulling her into his lap. "Now that those two are taken care of, we can focus more on our relationship."
Kagome smirked in a very Inuyasha-like fashion and smoothed his silky black hair away from his face. "And how would you suggest we do that?"
"Oh, I have a few ideas…" He grinned deviously and lowered his head so his lips met hers, the their two souls for a moment uniting as one.
:: Or is this burning an eternal flame? ::
A/N: Yay! Hope you guys had as much reading this story as I had writing it. Please tell me what you thought of it! The chapter title is a song by the Bangles.
'Experimental Physics.' Anyone who's read Candidewill know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't read the cynical, sarcastic, sardonic Enlightenment author Voltaire…he had quite a sense of humor. It's a joke. Candide catches his mentor, Pangloss, giving a lesson to a handmaid in "experimental physics." (Get it?...It's sex, ok?)
There's a law in Japan that allows officers to fine people from 5,000-7,000 yen (depending on the vehicle—motorcycles get fined less, big trucks get fined more) if they are found on a cell phone while driving.