Cacophony

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Movement IX: Finale

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"And what would your name be, lovely lady?" Miroku in full-Santa Claus regalia asked.

"You know quite well what my name is," hissed Sango. If not for his iron-tight grip on her waist, she would have run away by now. But struggling to get off Santa's lap would probably not be the best way to start a kid's Christmas season.

"Ho, ho, ho, I'm afraid I don't remember you… perhaps you weren't quite such a good girl in the past."

"Yeah, well, I've had a lot of experience with scumbag men that make me do bad things I normally wouldn't do."

"Maybe it was more your fault than theirs."

"My ass."

"—is enough to drive men crazy, but not enough to bring a certain man back."

"A certain confused man who doesn't know what the hell he wants."

"He knows exactly what he wants, but the object of his affection is a coldhearted bi— uh…" His eyes strayed to the masses of little kids surrounding them—"female dog that is afraid of letting herself love."

"She's afraid of getting herself hurt."

"And Miroku is equivalent with hurt?"

"Apparently." Her eyes flashed. "Maybe I should let that redheaded bimbo in on my secret before she finds her heart broken."

His grip around her waist tightened so much she was afraid of bruising. "You," he said menacingly, "have no right to talk about my love life after what you did."

"What I did? Have we forgotten what you did? I knew getting involved with competition would turn out badly, I knew I'd get my heart broken—"

"What I find very interesting," said Miroku, "is that this is all about you. Your ego bruised. Your heart broken. No thought to how I might be feeling right now, to have a woman I am completely in love with refuse to speak to me. It's you that thinks of this relationship as dangerous because we're competitors—I never thought of you as my competition, as my rival: I put it past me. Because of you." His eyes shimmered with anger. "Obviously you didn't feel the same way I did."

"That's—are you calling me selfish?" In love?

"Still thinking about your self. I think someone," he said loudly, "needs to learn the meaning of Christmas before she finds a lump of coal in her stocking."

A group of little kids giggled and whispered, "Oooh."

Miroku lifted her off his lap and set her on the ground. "Bye Sango."

She stood staring at him. "Wait."

He ignored her and opened his arms to the next little girl who charged onto his lap. "Have you been good this year?"

The girl nodded solemnly.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.

"No, I have a husband!" she chirped, lisping slightly. It sounded more like huthband.. "We got married in the first grade and we're still married now in the second grade. I see him every day before school and he carries my lunchbox home after school is out."

Miroku's mouth twitched. "Have you told him you loved him?"

She nodded again, her eyes wide. "Every day after recess."

"Let me ask you a question," said Miroku conspiratorially. "Let's say you boyfriend got an A on his math test and you got a B. Would you be mad at him?"

"He never gets As," she giggled.

"Say he did," Miroku urged. "Would you be mad at him?"

The girl considered. "Maybe a little? I would be proud of him, though."

"Good." Miroku looked over at Sango pointedly.

Two can play that game. "Do you play any sports, sweetie?" Sango asked the girl.

"I play softball," she answered. "Second base."

"What if you lost a softball game to him? Then would you be angry?"

"Boys don't play softball," she scoffed.

"Baseball then," conceded Sango.

"Girls don't play baseball either!"

"Theoretically," she said through clenched teeth, trying to ignore Miroku's snorts of humor. "Wouldn't you be a little bit angry that he beat you in the sport that you love, that you've dedicated your life to, that is your passion and means of earning a living?"

The little girl stared at her. "I don't love it that much."

Sango rolled her eyes heavenward. "Never mind." She turned on her heel and marched away without even waiting for Kagome.

"Ho ho ho!" Miroku called after her.

Knowing that she would go to hell for all of eternity for doing so in front of a mall full of children, Sango stuck her hand—and her middle finger—in the air without even breaking her stride.

-

-

"You probably shouldn't have done that," Kagome said, though she was holding back giggles.

"Whatever," said Sango sullenly.

"Especially in front of all those kids."

"Right, like they never watch cable TV."

"How much you wanna bet at least fifty parents are going to sue the mall and complain about Miroku as Santa?"

"Good, I hope he gets his ass fired."

Kagome sighed. "You're really mad at him, aren't you."

Sango gave her a look. "Duh."

"He really loves you, you know."

"BS," she muttered, although her stomach clenched at the words. What if he really did… love her?

Get real. This is Miroku we're talking about.

"You really look terrible," Kagome said concernedly. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine."

"You're not."

"Okay! I'm not! I'm still bloody in love with him, but I can't tell him that because… because…"

"You're afraid of getting hurt again?" suggested Kagome gently.

"Maybe. I don't know. Forget it. It's over. He's already found a replacement for me."

"Sango." Kagome grabbed her arm and stopped them in the middle of the walkway. "Are you serious?"

"You saw that redhead. She's gorgeous. And funny. And a great musician."

"Just like you! And at least you can speak intelligently. He's so in love with you he's trying to dull the pain you caused him by going out with another girl."

"Oh right, that makes perfect sense."

"It does! Like… see that guy over there checking you out?"

Sango looked around. "Where?"

"You are so subtle," said Kagome sarcastically. "Over by the cell phone booth."

"The hot one?"

"As I am currently dating an extremely jealous man, I am not allowed to let those words leave my lips. But yes. What you said."

Sango pursed her lips. "I think I've seen him before."

"We live in a city a mile long, of course you have. But as I was saying, if Miroku didn't talk to you for three weeks, would you go out with that guy to dull the pain?"

Sango considered. "Hm. Yeah. I see your point. Hey, he's coming this way!"

"Who, Miroku?" Kagome looked around in bewilderment.

"No, the Cell Phone Booth guy." Sango smoothed her hair nervously. "Maybe we should get out of here. What if he's a rapist? Maybe that's where I've seen him before!"

"What, while you were getting raped?"

Sango jabbed Kagome with her elbow. "Funny. No, I meant on a 'wanted for rape' poser or something."

"Geez, say that a little louder, I don't think he heard you at all."

Apparently he hadn't, because he strode right up to Sango and smiled tentatively. "Sango?"

Sango shot him a questioning look. "Yes… do I know you?"

"You played your cello in my cousin's wedding about a year ago—remember? We started to dance dirty before we realized the entire wedding party was southern Baptist?"

Sango stared at him, then burst out laughing. "I do remember that! You had that cool name—Kuranosuke?"

He grinned widely. "I'm surprised you remembered it."

"No, not at all…" He was even more hot when he smiled.

Kagome was looking at the two of them nervously. "Uh, Sango? We've got class in about half an hour…"

Sango looked at her as if she was crazy. "No we don't. Classes finished at noon today."

Kagome could have smacked her hand to her forehead. "Well, I need to get going. Inuyasha's expecting me home for dinner. It's getting late."

"Oh yeah, it is," Kuranosuke said, looking at his watch. "Nearly seven."

"Wow," Sango joined in.

Kuranosuke smiled at her. "Would you like to join me for a quick dinner, before I have to get to work? For old time's sake?" He glanced at Kagome. "You're welcome to come too if you want."

"Thanks, but I'm cooking for my boyfriend tonight," she said coolly.

"Oh, too bad." His head swiveled back to Sango. "So what do you say?"

"Well… sure," she said, shrugging. "Why not?"

"Sango," Kagome ground out.

"Yeah? Don't worry, Kagome, I'll be fine. Go have fun with your boyfriend. I'll be back later tonight."

Kuranosuke hooked his arm through hers and smiled politely at Kagome. "Nice meeting you."

"The pleasure's all mine."

Sango smiled reassuringly at her friend. "I'll see you later, Kags."

"Count on it."

Kagome watched helplessly as Sango and Kuranosuke ambled away, arm in arm. Oh Sango… this is bad. You are Miroku are so stubborn—you're perfect for each other. Why can't you two see that?

Rubbing her forehead wearily, she speed-dialed Inuyasha. "Baby? We've got a problem."

-

-

"So how are your studies going?" Kuranosuke asked interestedly, spearing a piece of his chicken Caesar salad.

"Well. I'm a cello performance major, so I spend a lot of time at the music department."

"That's great. I remember you playing really well at the wedding… when the bride was walking down the aisle, staring at the groom and your music was playing in the background… it was perfect." He flushed. "Sorry. Didn't mean to ramble on."

"It's okay. Music does that too you."

"Yeah. Actually—" he grinned self-consciously—"after meeting you, I started taking guitar lessons from my friend."

"No, really?"

"Yeah. I like it a lot. It's my dad's guitar—he died last year—so it's even more meaningful."

"Oh… I'm sorry…"

"Don't be. It was his time to go. He and my mom had me when they were both in their forties, so he was old."

"Wow."

"Yeah." He smiled again, and Sango found herself staring. He was one of those rare cases of Asian with light brown hair. Mixed with his dark brown eyes and white smile, he was somewhat mesmerizing to stare at.

Nothing like Miroku's eyes though.

She shook her head violently. "Don't think about him," she instructed herself under her breath.

Kuranosuke shot her a quizzical look. "Everything okay?"

"Yup. Fine. Great. How's your salad?"

"Rather wilted, to be frank. How's your steak?"

"Um." She honestly hadn't tasted a bit of it. "Steaky."

He laughed hard. "Sango, you're a trip."

She started to laugh too, although she couldn't help but notice how his laugh was kind of high-pitched and whiney.

Yeah, that's real nice. Way to be judgmental.

"So what are you majoring in? Or wait, have you graduated already?"

"Last year. I've just joined the Schinintai Law firm a few months ago. It's going great; the guys there are really supportive."

"Oh really? You're a lawyer?"

"Yep. But I promise I'm not a scumbag." He winked at her.

Sango giggled. Winking was something reserved for old cheesy blank-and-white films, but when Kuranosuke could actually pull it off. It was kind of… endearing.

Endearing? Is this what you're going to settle for? With Miroku you had amazing, and you're going with endearing?

Sango grabbed her bread and ripped hunk of with her teeth.

Kuranosuke looked slightly alarmed, but recomposed himself nicely. "You like bread, eh?"

"Love it," she said, chewing slowly yet ferociously.

"You should come over for dinner sometime, I'll make you some bread from scratch."

"Really? You cook?"

"Little hobby of mine," he said, shrugging modestly.

A little too modestly. As if he expected to be praised and was giving the habitual and courteous response. Nothing like—

"So! How's your sex life been lately?" Sango asked brightly.

In an unfortunately ill-timed lull in conversation. Cheeks burning as couple's heads around the restaurant turned towards her, she immediately began to turn her head from side to side, too, as if also looking for the loud brass woman.

Kuranosuke's mouth had fallen open, but now he chuckled nervously to try and lighten the mood. "Well, not so great as of two months ago—I just split up with my girlfriend so…" He shrugged.

"Oh. Well, that's good."

He winked again. "And you?"

"Um." Right, how fair would it be to ask a really personal (if unintended) question and then not respond when it was thrown back at her? "To be honest, my boyfriend and I were having some problems about a month ago so… yeah…" She trailed off.

Kuranosuke nodded knowingly. "I know how that goes."

"Hm." Sango was already lost in another world, one where Miroku sitting across from her smiling, just like it had been.

It was Kuranosuke who suggested they take a walk down to the Rockefeller Center to watch the ice skaters. Sango should've been thrilled; for once a man asked her to take a walk, not the other way around. But then he ruined it by trying to take her arm.

She shook him off, not too subtly, and he gave her a look which made her immediately feel bad.

Why should you feel bad? You met him today! Sort of. Okay, you met him for the second time. He has no right to try and use a possessive gesture on you.

His hand slid to her waist and he leaned in intimately to whisper in her ear, "You want to go skating?" like it was some kind of secret.

"Sure," she said loudly. Just to piss him off.

To his credit, he didn't show any annoyance. "Good," he said, shooting her a dazzling smile.

Doesn't anything deter this guy? Is he even human?

He was now pulling her toward the ice skate rental stand, his arm tucked casually in the small of her back. "Two pairs please," he said, tossing his credit card to the shaggy-haired blonde kid behind the counter who looked as if he had an open manga stashed between the cash register and the paperwork.

The kid apathetically looked at the credit card and slowly brought it to his face to study. "This creeeedit or deeebit?" he drawled.

"Credit," Kuranosuke said breezily.

The kid's bloodshot eyes shifted from Sango to Kuranosuke. High, Sango thought in amusement.

"You two are… togeeeether?" the kid asked, referring to the method of payment.

Kuranosuke looked down at Sango. "I certainly hope so," he said, ducking down for a quick kiss on the lips.

The kid blinked slowly, his expression not changing in the slightest.

The couple behind them cooed in appreciation.

Kuranosuke began to smile, the corners of his mouth twitching as if being tugged upward by some invisible force.

It was at this point that Sango lost control of her body.

-

The slap she through would have sent Kuranosuke reeling, had he not grabbed her arm the moment before her arm just in time.

"I'm sorry," he said before she could even open her mouth. "Am I moving too fast for you?" He didn't let go of her arm, but instead began to massage it gently.

Sango instinctively jerked her arm out of his grasp. "I don't even know you."

"Dude." The high kid nodded appreciatively. "Way to go, man."

"Sango," Kuranosuke laughed, a little incredulously. "We go way back."

"A wedding. Dinner together. That's not 'way back'."

"Sorry. I didn't think you'd react this badly to touching." He looked at her curiously. "Was it a bad breakup?"

"Um. Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty bad." What was wrong with her?

"I thought so," he said sympathetically.

She stepped backwards. "I need to go. Go… do something."

Kuranosuke was staring at her, completely baffled. "What's the matter with you?"

That's what I'd like to know. But for some reason, I'm just really freaked out right now. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

Though he was clearly confused, he wasn't about to make a scene in which he turned out the loser. "All right. I'll call you."

"Do you have my number?"

"No, but you have mine. You got it the night of the wedding remember?"

"Oh yeah… right." If I didn't delete it already. "I'll, um, call you later."

"I'll have my phone," he assured her. "Take care."

"Yeah. Yeah, you too." She turned and took off in a run in the direction from which they had come.

Kuranosuke watched her run, scratching his head.

"Dude," the kid said, "that chick looks way too HM, if you know what I mean."

"High maintenance?"

"Nawww… hugely maddening."

Kuranosuke just shook his head and began to walk in the opposite direction.

-

-

Sango was running faster than she thought possible. She had a cramp in her side, and her feet were killing her—sprinting in platforms was not the best idea—but she knew it was only one thing that gave her strength to move so quickly. She didn't know why, but she had to see Miroku again. It was like some force was compelling her to reach him, and there was nothing that could stand in her way—

She winced and doubled over, clutching her stomach.

Okay, well maybe one thing.

I really need to get into shape.

Wouldn't that be ironic? Not being able to tell the love of her life the truth because she couldn't run fast enough?

I had to be a musician.

Settling to walk at a comparable pace, she nonetheless counted every second that passed before she reached the shopping mall again.

I have to tell Miroku that I love him.

It took being around another man—a kind, gentle man who could probably treat her very well—to figure out exactly what she wanted.

She wanted Miroku.

And she was going to go through hell to get him back.

-

-

Please, please, PLEASE still let him be here, she chanted over and over in her mind, dodging through the crowds of people towards the semi-large gallery in the center of the mall where Santa Claus sat in his plush red velvet chair.

Panting heavily, she grabbed the stitch in her side. She could see him now, still in full Santa gear, sitting in front of the giant Christmas tree…

…and in front of an even more enormous line.

Halting to a stop, she sucked in gulps of air, assessing the situation. Should she cut the entire line and ruin some poor kid's Christmas? Or wait her turn—looking like an extreme nerd—and possibly not get a chance to tell him before he went on break?

The Christmas spirit got the better of her and she stepped into line, chewing on her thumbnail anxiously. If he gets up to leave, I'll just run after him.

She waited through the agonizingly long line, fearful the whole time that Miroku would get up and leave. She watched child after child perch on his knee and pour our their secret hopes and wishes and each time she wanted so badly to be right there—

Why was I so stupid? Why didn't I realize how much he meant to me before?

Four more kids to go. The sullen boy in the baseball cap smiled grimly at his mother, who was snapping away pictures as if the camera would self-destruct in five seconds.

He's so perfect for me—I mean, he himself isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination—

Three more kids to go. The twin girls kissed his cheek simultaneously.

but he makes me happy. Happier than I'd been in a long time—

Two more kids to go. The girl actually had to consult her PDA so as not to forget a single thing she wanted for Christmas.

and that's really saying something. He makes me laugh. He understands me.

One more kid to go. The boy was rattling off the list of monster trucks he wanted at an amazing rate. His lips were barely moving he was talking so fast.

Oh god. What if I've effed this up?

The boy was still talking as his dad dragged him off Miroku's lap.

The air suddenly felt as if it had been converted into nitrogen instead of oxygen. Sango swallowed the lump in her throat and walked towards the chair. Her hair was sticking out all over the place, and she was still sweaty from running but she had to tell him, she had to tell—

Her eyes met his and she nearly fell over in shock.

Those weren't Miroku's eyes.

That wasn't Miroku.

"What the hell?" she spluttered, still a foot away from the chair.

A surprised Inuyasha in a Santa suit was looking at her suspiciously. "God, Sango, I didn't know you still believe in Santa."

"Where the fuck is Miroku?" she snarled.

His eyes widened. "Language!" he snapped. "You've got kids listening!"

"Where. Is. Miroku?"

"Left about an hour ago to go do some emergency modeling shoot. Why the hell else do you think I'm sitting here in some stupid mall playing Santa Claus?"

"No…" she whispered.

"Sorry. Did you want to tell him something?" He looked at her carefully.

"No." She bit her lip. "It wasn't important."

Inuyasha shrugged. "Well, you could try his cell phone, but I doubt he'll be answering it. He's pretty serious about his photography work."

"Yeah… I know…"

"You're holding up the line," Inuyasha said gently. "Do you want to sit on my lap anyway?"

"No," said Sango, smiling bravely. "I don't think Kagome would like that too much. I'll—I'll see you around, Inuyasha."

She turned and walked away, swiping at her eyes and then stuffing her hands in her coat pockets.

Inuyasha watched her retreat and twisted around to peer behind the giant chair he was sitting on. "You owe me, man."

Miroku, who was hidden behind the enormous back of the chair, looked like he was in physical pain. "I know. Thanks."

Inuyasha starched his chin, inadvertently setting the beard askew. "I think I'm going to regret this."

"Believe me," Miroku said, his voice dripping with bitterness, "this is for the best."

Inuyasha sighed and turned back around, pulling the next kid onto his lap. "God bless us, every one."

-

-

Kagome poked her head in the doorway. "Um…what are you doing?"

Sango jumped guiltily, hiding the knife behind her back. "Nothing. Nothing at all."

Kagome raised an eyebrow. "You're making cookies."

"I am not."

"You are. I see the dirty dishes behind you."

Sango scowled. "Okay. Fine. I'm making cookies. What of it?"

"You only make cookies when you're horribly upset."

"I do not. I cook a lot."

"You never cook."

"I make cookies about once a month!"

"When you're trying to forget about a man."

"I'm not thinking about Miroku!"

"Oh sweetie." Kagome wrapped her in a big bear hug, although she was nearly six inches shorter than her best friend. "I'm sorry. You really love him, don't you?"

"No. I don't. I hate him." But she was already crying.

"Shh, shh. I know. It's okay."

"It's not! I love him and tried to go back and tell him, but he had left an hour earlier to go do some emergency photo shoot and I don't know when he's coming back so I can tell him and now all I can think about is him and—and—and I'm a mess," she sobbed.

Kagome looked puzzled. "An emergency photo shoot?"

"Yeah. I don't know. I guess he really wanted to get out of town." Sango sniffed loudly. "I really screwed up, Kagome."

"No… there was just a serious lack of communication between you two."

"That's for sure. And there still is." She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "I need to get back to my cookies. They're about to burn."

"Don't shove your feelings down inside of you."

"Why not? It hurts a hell of a lot less if I don't think about it." She swiped at the dirty bowl and stuck her finger in her mouth. "Want one when they come out? I added some more vanilla this time; they should turn out good."

Kagome shook her head. "Sure. Why not?"

"Cool." Sango turned back to her dirty pots and pans and carried them over to the sink.

Kagome pulled her phone out and quietly began to text her boyfriend. He had some explaining to do.

-

-

Inuyasha threw his cell phone at Miroku's head.

Miroku, who had been staring out the window at the time, fell off his chair on impact. "What the hell was that for, you bastard!"

"She was going to tell you she loved you," Inuyasha growled. "If you had just listened to her, instead of hiding like a coward—"

"Look, I'm over it. I don't need this. She's more trouble than it's worth."

"You don't mean that."

"Does this look like a face that's joking?" Miroku chucked the phone back towards Inuyasha; although his roommate had better reflexes than he. "That girl has caused me more pain in three weeks than I have ever felt in my life. In my life. That is not something I need to stay involved with."

"She also caused you more happiness in two months than you had ever felt in your life."

"The cons are outweighing the pros at this point."

"Give her another chance."

"I did. She blew it. End of story."

"You're digging your own grave."

"Better dead than suffering." He got to his feet. "I'm going for a walk."

"You do that. And make sure it ends at Sango's apartment."

Miroku slammed the door behind him.

Inuyasha got up to go find himself a beer. It was hard enough dealing with his own love life—but dealing with Miroku's too was enough to drive anyone to drink.

-

-

Sango was sitting on the couch pigging out on potato chips and watching The Price is Right (while her philosophy textbook sat not-so-invitingly in front of her) when the doorbell rang.

"It's open," she called, thinking it was Kagome, who had run down to the drugstore a few minutes earlier.

The door opened.

Sango leapt to her feet. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you."

"Uh… well… thank you that's very nice—" she kicked the bowl of chips under the couch with her foot—"Kuranosuke. How did you get my address?"

"Asked around NYU's school of music. Wasn't too hard of a search."

"Oh. Yeah." She shifted her weight from foot to foot, feeling somewhat uncomfortable. She'd never called him back like she'd promised. "Well…since you went through all this trouble to find this place, would you like a tour?"

"Actually," he said, surprising her, "I'd rather take you to see a movie, if that's okay." He must have seen the look that crossed her face, because he quickly added, "Just as friends. I'm kind of bored today and wanted to spend it with a good conversationalist." He smiled at her easily. "How does that sound to you?"

She found herself smiling tentatively back. "Sure. Why not?"

-

-

"I'm going to get some popcorn," Kuranosuke whispered as they snuck into the theater just as the previews were ending. "You want something to drink too?"

"Just water."

"All right. Stick your purse in my seat, we're not giving up these babies."

Chuckling, Sango obeyed. They'd snagged the last two seats available. She settled down into her seat and began to watch the opening of the movie.

Kuranosuke returned a few minutes later, a large bag of popcorn in his hands. Sango waited until he sat down to try and go for the popcorn. It was so dark that she was afraid she'd miss the bag when reaching for the popcorn. "Did you get the buttery kind?" she whispered.

"Yep," he whispered back, his mouth already full of popcorn. Sango smothered a smile; it sounded like he was lisping almost..

They watched the opening of the movie, in which the male love interest was staring dreamily after some absolutely gorgeous blonde—while a more conservative, yet still attractive brunette was working a cash register in the same restaurant.

"He wants the blonde, but unknowingly falls for the brunette in the process—all the while making stupid and hurtful decisions, although in the end, the brunette will still fall in love with him," said Kuranosuke. "Does that sound about right?"

"Something like that," Sango replied, annoyed. "Just watch the movie—you could still be surprised."

"I doubt it," he said. "Relationships are all the same anyway."

"Oh really?" He was right about the movie though—it was already so cliché that Sango didn't feel badly about pursing this conversation in lieu of the film they paid seven whole dollars for.

"Really. Boy meets girl. Boy is attracted to girl and convinces her to go out with him. Girl falls in love, boy falls in love, someone makes a mistake and they break up. The end."

Sango rolled her eyes. "And you think there's no variation to that?"

"Not really. Unless there's a make-up tagged on to the end of that scenario." He paused. "But that part is negotiable."

"Yeah. Depends how badly they effed up."

"Who? The boy or the girl?"

"Does it matter?"

He considered for a minute. "Fair point."

They were quiet for a few more minutes, engaged in the abominably redundant movie. "Are you happy, Sango?" he asked. He was still munching on popcorn.

"God, are you hungry or what?"

"Yes. I am. Are you happy or not?"

"Well, I'm not watching the best of movies right now, but in all honesty, this popcorn is pretty good."

He swallowed and leaned over to whisper in her ear. "I mean about Miroku."

Sango froze, her hand in the middle of grabbing a fistful of popcorn.

Now that he was no longer munching on popcorn while talking, she realized why his voice sounded so different.

Because he wasn't Kuranosuke.

Trembling, she asked Miroku, "What do you want?"

"Just the answer to my question." He slid his hand across the small of her back. "Are you happy?"

"Happy is such a relative term," she said slowly, to disguise the tremor in her voice.

"In relative terms then," he said, his other hand sliding across her stomach. "Because I have been absolutely miserable with you—"

"—to warm your bed?" she asked sharply, trying to ignore the touch of his hands.

"No. If that's what I wanted, I wouldn't be here right now. I'd be in bed with some slut who was willing to sleep with anyone remotely attractive." The weight of his hand suddenly lifted off her stomach and back and moved to her face. He turned her head so that she was facing him, staring into his eyes.

"Have you been as miserable as me?" he asked softly.

She blinked rapidly. "Probably more."

"Don't cry." He wiped away the lone tear that had escaped. "I don't think I've slept for a month."

"Me neither."

"Every other woman I meet I end up comparing to you."

"Every other man makes me so depressed all I can do is run away."

"I'm so in love with you that I can't think about anything else."

"I'm—" she stopped. "You're what?"

"I should've told you earlier. I was afraid of getting too attached—but then I got attached anyway and look what happened. You broke my heart."

"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so, so sorry. I overreacted to nothing and you were right it was just my damn pride and I was so afraid I'd fucked it up completely—"

He cut off her words with a familiar searing kiss that made her tears flow faster. He kissed every one of them away. "I missed you. So much. You weren't answering my calls. I thought I'd lost you forever."

"I'm sor—"

"It doesn't matter." He was kissing her again and again. "Not anymore." He pulled back abruptly. "Just—just don't do it again."

"I won't."

"Sango. Listen. I can't stop playing my cello."

"I don't want you to stop."

"But… I'll stop playing gigs for you," he said hesitantly. "If you want. I can make a decent living off photography."

"No," she said, kissing him this time. "Keep doing your gigs. I can handle it. It's New York City, there's enough work for the both of us."

"Then why are we both starving musicians?" he murmured, brushing her hair out of her face.

"That's because we haven't knocked the rest of the competition out of the running yet."

"Oh," he smirked then dived in for more.

Neither of them saw any more of the two-hour movie. And neither of them really cared.

Nor did Kuranosuke, who was currently unconscious, stuffed in the trashcan just outside of the theater.

-

-

It seemed fitting that the very next night, the movie In the Shadows was re-released into the $.50 theatres across town. It was dubbed "the worst movie of the year" by critics, but for some inexplicable reason, it is a fact that people love to see bad movies. Whether it's to make fun of the horror in its entirety or merely because seeing the word "pointless" personified gives their lives new meaning, the movie had raked in billions of dollars.

"You two have a sick sense of humor," Inuyasha remarked, channel surfing.

"We're not going to watch the movie," said Miroku.

"We're just going to listen to the soundtrack," Sango finished. "To commemorate our—uh—"

"—reconciliation?" suggested Miroku.

"Idiocy," muttered Inuyasha.

"Inuyasha," Kagome remonstrated from the bedroom.

"Sorry," he called back, unrepentantly.

"What are you guys doing tonight anyway?" Sango asked from her place on the floor. Miroku was sitting on the couch next to Inuyasha, tickling his girlfriend with his foot.

"We're going ice skating at the Rockefeller Center," grunted Inuyasha. "Kagome's idea."

Sango squirmed.

Miroku looked down at her curiously. "What?"

"Nothing. I didn't know you could ice skate, Inuyasha."

"Played ice hockey in high school." He looked uncomfortable talking about the subject. "Shouldn't you two be leaving about now?"

Miroku looked at his watch. "Yeah, probably. Ready, baby?"

"Mmm. I think you're going to have to carry me."

"Fat chance. Get up, lazy."

She looked up at him indignantly, but he just laughed and pulled her to her feet, planting a kiss on her forehead. "Let's go," he said.

"You're just lucky I took you back," she accused.

Fully expecting a retort, she was surprised when he merely smiled and said, "I know."

-

-

It took them a full hour to walk to the $.50 theater—it was all the way across town, and although they could have easy taken the subway or a bus and cut the time in half, it seemed more appropriate to walk.

Laughing and joking the entire way, swooping from topic to topic, singing all the songs they knew in different keys—Sango felt as if she had just jumped from hell to heaven, completely bypassing purgatory.

They reached the theater about five minutes late, and because it was so tiny, there was literally only one seat left—in the very first row.

"Do you want to just leave?" Sango whispered, as Miroku dragged her towards the seat.

"Not on your life. I promise you this will be good."

"What are you going to do, sit on the floor by my feet?"

"Hell no." Miroku sat down in the seat and then pulled her onto his lap. "See? Perfect."

"Are you serious? Your legs are going to fall asleep even before your brain does."

"Nah, I have high tolerance."

"Plus, the people behind us are going to be pissed."

She and Miroku glanced backwards and realized that wouldn't be a problem.

"They even lowered the armrest," Miroku said, his mouth twitching.

Sango couldn't help staring in amazement. "What would it be like to tell your kid 'oh honey, you were conceived during the worst film of the year'?"

Miroku snorted with mirth and couldn't stop laughing for a long time. "I kind of want to tell my kid that. You wanna get started now?"

Sango poked him hard in the stomach. "Horny bastard."

He just pulled her closer.

-

The movie was horrific, as expected—it was as if the directors had recruited the worst actors in the soap opera industry—but Miroku and Sango amused themselves by picking out the players in the music.

"Kagome sounds awesome there," whispered Sango, as they actress stared forlornly through a window of her ex-boyfriend's house, while standing in the rain. "I think that was a bad reed day too; that's amazing."

They were both silent when their duet started to play from the speakers. Miroku gently put his hand over her eyes and pulled her head against his chest. "Don't watch," he said.

"I know. Just listen."

They listened in silence as their two instruments played against each other, winding through notes and melodies—as if it was Sango and Miroku themselves, contained in their instruments, their souls playing the music for each other.

The duet ended shortly—it was only a two-minute interlude—and the actors' lines took precedence over the background music.

Sango tilted her head upward to whisper in Miroku's ear. "You want to leave now?"

"Yeah," he said.

They stood and quickly walked to the door, exiting the theater and walking out into the frosty night air.

They walked in silence for a few minutes, just staring at the clear winter sky. Miroku took Sango's hand a bit later and said, "I'm always going to be here for you."

"I know."

"Forever, I mean."

She looked at him sideways. "That's a pretty lofty promise."

"I mean it though."

"What if we break up?" she asked frankly.

"I'll still be there for you. But I don't think that's going to happen any time soon."

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it?"

"Yeah."

She laughed softly. "That sounds so… cynical."

He squeezed her hand. "Not really. I think it's more optimistic than anything."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mmhm. How's it feel to know I'll always be there for you? No matter what?"

This should've been depressing. It should have made Sango feel weird. But in reality it made her feel… safe. Happy. Content.

"Good," she said quietly.

He smiled back, and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "Good," he echoed, entwining his fingers more tightly within hers.

Fittingly, a light turned on in one of the apartments high above them, and through an open window, the sound of a cello floated down, casting a spell over the busy street.

The End


Author's Note: Wow. I honestly cannot believe this story is finished -- thanks for everyone who stuck with this story for two years (geez). I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have to thank Wen (Lady Penguin) and Kip (Solichan), my incredible betas, who were always ready to proofread at the drop of a hat. Also thanks to Margo (Aamalie) for prodding me along in my periods of non-inspiration. And thank youto everyone else who read and reviewed this story. :) Till next time!