Well, here I am again; they're just so much fun to play with! The characters herein are the property of Takahashi-sensei, not me, no copyright infringement is intended and I in no way profit from this work--unless you count the warm glow of accomplishment. Feedback is welcomed.

Oh, and this one's for Aino, for giving my first Inu-fic such a friendly reception. :)

A Night Like Any Other

Lynn Gregg

It had been one of those days, and there was every indication that it would be one of those nights, as well. Fruitless shard-searching interspersed with bouts of boredom, a stopover in a likely-looking village with the inevitable question being asked of the inevitable giggling girl, one feckless monk receiving a five-foot boomerang across his skull in comeuppance, and the lot of them being less-than-gently requested to depart from the village. Business as usual.

Said monk was still staggering, his eyes a bit glazed, when it was decided that the group should make camp for the night. The decision was reached easily enough; the leader of the bedraggled pack twitched his ears, glared around at the darkening forest, and pronounced sentence:

"Keh. This looks as good as any place. Miroku, sit the hell down before you fall down, wouldja?" He gave his friend a gentle shove that sent him first to his knees, then face-down into the dirt. "Damn, Sango, one of these days you're gonna kill him with that thing. He's out cold!"

"Baka had it coming," grumbled the wielder of the boomerang, swinging the huge thing off her back and leaning it against a convenient tree. "I'm going to go collect firewood." Sparing one disdainful glance at the unconscious man, she stalked off. Her companion cat, equally disdainful, leapt over the prone body and followed her mistress, both tails held stiffly upright.

"Kagome, see if you can wake him up."

The girl had already lifted the monk's head into her lap and was fanning him rapidly, her face anxious; her expression changed dramatically when she felt a roving hand come to rest upon the curve of her ass. Several things happened at once: Kagome lurched to her feet, screeching; Miroku landed back in the dirt; the cranky hanyou, hearing the cry of his mate, raced over, made a quick deduction, and thumped the monk smartly on the head. Miroku went swirly-eyed and subsided yet again into unconsciousness.

"You shouldn't hit him so hard, Inuyasha," Kagome admonished, her outrage over as quickly as it had come. "He's going to get brain damage."

"What makes you think he hasn't already?"

The girl paused, looking from one troublesome male to the other. "Inuyasha? Osuwari." A flailing bundle of red and silver twitched next to the prone purple-and-black mass of monk. Satisfied, Kagome dropped her pack and began rooting through it for dinner items while the last member of the odd crew, a kitsune child, bounced back and forth between leaping on his downed comrades' backs and digging through the pack in search of candy.

"When I get up," Inuyasha growled, spitting dirt, "you are both so gonna be dead."

When Sango (dispatcher of youkai by profession, punisher of hentai by avocation) returned with her armload of firewood shortly thereafter, she found her victim upright but still woozy, and her other three companions racing around the campsite--Inuyasha howling obscenities, young Shippou wailing piteously about his impending murder, and Kagome shrieking with a mixture of amusement and fear. Sighing, she dropped the pile at Miroku's feet and glared down at him.

"Since it's your fault we're stuck out here instead of in a nice comfortable inn in that village, you get to make the fire."

Pausing in his pursuit, Inuyasha crowed with laughter. "Guess she told you, bouzu!" He was back to cursing a moment later after a firm crack on the head from the business end of Miroku's staff. "Ah, hell, I'm sick of both of you. I'm gonna go find some meat to go with the ramen. Kagome, you're comin' with me." Hoisting the kitsune up by his fluffy tail, he added, "You too, brat."

"Cut it out, you big jerk!" Shippou kicked and twisted to no avail as Inuyasha bore him off into the woods, Kagome trailing behind stifling giggles. Miroku and Sango watched them go before turning to their own concerns.

While Miroku busied himself with building their evening's campfire, Sango set about her various nightly rituals. Scooping the small firecat into her lap, she began to work vigourously at the mats in her companion's coat. This process continued until the neko-youkai began to smoulder dangerously, signaling the end of her cooperation. Releasing her, Sango next took up her wakizashi, pulling it from its saya and eyeing it critically; placing it across her knees, she reached into her pack and pulled forth a small wooden box of cleaning supplies then began to systematically disassemble, clean, sharpen, polish, oil, powder, and reassemble the sword. Once this had been accomplished, she reclaimed Hiraikotsu, the bone boomerang, and settled in to polishing it. By the time the scent of wood smoke reached her nostrils, she'd worked herself into an almost meditative state of mind; looking up, she saw the houshi sitting across from her, firelight reflecting in his odd purplish-blue eyes.

"I have built as fine a fire as you could ask," he said, softly. "Am I forgiven?"

"Not entirely," she huffed, laying Hiraikotsu over her lap and propping her elbows upon it. "I was looking forward to a nice hot bath and a proper bed for once--and I'd have gotten those things had it not been for your stupid fake exorcism. On the headman's daughter, no less!"

"Sango, I did truly think the girl possessed," he said patiently. "She certainly behaved as one possessed--shrieking and giggling and writhing about. I could hardly have been expected to realise she was merely simpleminded."

"You're too generous--the girl wasn't simple, she was just stupid. All that flouncing and wiggling and posturing, trying to catch your attention--"

"You're not jealous, are you?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" She snapped, flushing. "It was just embarrassing to watch, that's all. And then you had to ask her your stupid question, and--"

"Merely a formality. But you must admit, the look on her father's face when she answered in the affirmative was almost worth being run out of town. I thought for a moment his entire head might explode--I've never seen a vein swell forth from a man's forehead in that manner."

"Hmmmph." Sango tried mightily to retain the last shreds of her ire, but failed miserably. A little snort escaped her, followed by a hitching chuckle that soon grew into full-on laughter. The sound was so rare and so contagious that Miroku was helpless in the face of it, and soon both were convulsed, images of the evening's festivities playing through their memories. Mildly alarmed by this untoward display, Kirara made a leap for a low-hanging branch and perched there, striped tails twitching, as she waited for the humans to collect themselves.

It took awhile.

"Slamming the city gates in the man's face was perhaps your best moment," Sango choked out, beating the flat of her hand against the ground as she struggled to regain control of her breathing. "Or should I say, on the man's face, since he was stuck in between them--"

"He was possessed of an inordinately large nose," said the holy man, primly. "Which his daughter was also unfortunate enough to have inherited. Did you happen to see what became of her in the melee?"

"Before or after she managed to climb over her father and scale the gates?"

"Ah--"

"A very large lady came out and grabbed her by her obi and reeled her back in," Sango announced, triumphantly. "It's rather a shame you were unconscious by then."

"Indeed." He gave her a severe look, spoiled only by the quirking of his lips. "Although I suppose I should thank you for pulling me aboard Kirara rather than abandoning me to the gentleman's tender mercies."

"You're welcome, though it benefited you far more than it did me. I strained my shoulder again when I pulled you up."

"The shoulder you injured last week--which is why you were so looking forward to a hot bath and a soft bed in a nice, comfortable inn." His cheery mindless mask dropped abruptly, and the look of concern and regret that replaced it made her face flame and her belly feel hollow. "I apologise, Sango. It was never my intention to cause you pain of any sort."

She shrugged him off, turning away so he might not see the effect his soft words and softer expression were having on her. She started violently and nearly pitched forward into the fire a moment later when she felt his warmth settle beside her; his quick reflexes spared her a painful tumble, but further enflamed her embarrassment. She went stiff beside him, face averted, simmering in mortification.

"I can provide neither bed nor bath, but I may be able to relieve some of the discomfort in your shoulder--that is, if you will permit me?" The world hung poised upon his interrogative. She glanced back at him, over her shoulder and through the curtain of her long bangs, and saw no indication that the perverted hand was beyond its owner's control; indeed, both his hands were held up before him, open palms outward, asking her trust. Releasing the breath she'd unknowingly held, Sango turned again and scooted back slowly until her backside came in contact with his knees. He shifted, rising to seat himself in dragon asana, parting his legs to draw her back between them to a comfortable position for his work. Their close proximity meant she could feel the warmth of him, smell the sweet spice of incense that clung always to his robes. It did nothing for her composure.

Forcing her mind to stillness through sheer force of will, Sango began one of the deep breathing exercises that her sensei had taught her at the very beginning of her taijiya training. In time she became aware that the cycles of her breaths exactly matched those of Miroku, but there was nothing to be done about it; her eyes were sealed shut and she was suddenly, vibrantly aware of the awakening of his houriki. When his hands descended through the aura of her own ki (which she could see, mysteriously, behind her closed lids) and came to rest upon her shoulder, she felt the jolt of their combined energies roll through her, lighting up her nerve endings with stinging silver fire. Involuntarily, she shuddered--then shuddered again for an entirely different reason when he murmured near her ear.

"Did you feel that?"

"H-hai," she whispered.

"Can you see it, as well?"

"Hai," she repeated, voice a little stronger as she realised that she could, in fact, "see" herself quite plainly. She shifted her inner sight over to the sore shoulder and noted a muddy red-orange clouding the otherwise soft pink of her energetic field. But silvery-blue sparks were dancing within the clouded area, already beginning to coalesce into bright licks of cold fire; the joint and its attendant muscles felt simultaneously hot and cold. Fascinated, she focused all of her attention upon the process, watching from within and without as the flames grew in intensity along with the hot/cold until the sensation became almost painful. She bit her lip, but not before a tiny distressed sound escaped her. Miroku's voice soothed her, even as his hands and his energies continued their work. And just as it became almost unbearable, there was a great and sudden release like a wave that made her gasp and fall back against him, her whole body glowing, their energies still melded.

He sketched a sigil over her shoulder (she saw it, burning faintly silver-blue in her mind) to seal the work, then gently set her away from him, giving them both a moment to recover. The intimacy of what had just passed between them had come as a shock to both. Her eyes were enormous, regarding him with something like awe.

"Houshi-sama, what was that?"

"A--therapeutic massage." He tried, and failed, to dismiss it; she wouldn't allow it.

"I did not know that your holy powers could be used for healing."

"Neither did I," he confessed, and her heart turned right over. "How is your shoulder now?"

She rotated it, experimentally, lifted and stretched her arm this way and that. "It's fine," she said, wonderingly. "It doesn't hurt at all."

"Good. If you keep it warm, and do not sleep on that side tonight, there should be no need for further treatment." Hesitantly, he reached out for her again, and was surprised when he was greeted not by her fist connecting with his face, but by her turning again and settling back against him as she had before. Not one to argue with such all-too-infrequent blessings, Miroku welcomed her, unknotting his kesa and draping the ends over her shoulders, sealing their mingled warmth together.

"Now am I forgiven?" He asked, ages later, as far-off crashings and cursings heralded the impending return of their companions. Sango relaxed even further into him with an odd contented murmur.

"Until next time, houshi-sama," she replied drowsily, and together they stared into the fire, warm and content and not at all concerned about what the next time would bring.

FIN.

A/N: Believe it or not, that all started with the image of Kirara smouldering in annoyance at being groomed, which was in turn inspired by one of my own cats' reaction to same. Fortunately for me, my companion neko isn't prone to bursting into flames.