Title: Exile
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: May 18, 2004
E-mail: kristenskatfyresightdotcom
PG / K+
Warnings: Implied typical Miroku behavior.
Summary: A lonely figure ponders in the aftermath of the final battle with Naraku. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha, the character and the series, belongs to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan Inc., and Sunrise.
Author's Note: This is the product of writer's block and a profoundly weird mood.

Flames danced brightly against the deepening night. They stabbed at the sky hungrily, reaching out of a wasteland of the dead and dying. Hungrily, they devoured the bodies of those who had succumbed to mortality's inevitable pull. And, the living watched in silence.

It had been a day like no other. Despair had turned to triumph, triumph to an unsettling melancholy. Those who still breathed could claim victory. But, victory is a hollow, empty thing without those you most wanted at your side to celebrate it.

The flames' vermillion glow highlighting the planes of his face, a young monk stared into the impromptu funeral pyre.

'After all we've been through… it comes to this.'

He clenched his right hand into a fist. The hand felt strange now, exposed. He could barely remember the last time it had been unshackled by a concealing glove and a strand of binding prayer beads. It was some ten years ago, a lifetime at his age. Yet, here he stood, the gloves and beads discarded, his hand unmarred by a gaping void.

His curse was lifted at last. At last, he was free. Free to give up questing. Free to more openly pursue the only woman of all those he had asked that he had ever truly wanted to bear his children. Naraku was dead and, with his death, the terrible curse laid on the monk's family was broken.

But, at what cost?

He looked into the flames again. So many had died. So many with long lives ahead of them, futures cut short before they could be fully realized. So many that…

Bah, the blood loss from his injuries was making him lightheaded. It was only Naraku's hordes of mindless youkai burning after all.

"Kagome-sama, Sango!" Miroku wailed pleadingly, "Haven't I been out here long enough?" Setting his face at its most contrite, he turned to face the small, infinitely more cheerful campfire around which his friends sat. "It was only one little peek while I was giddy with joy at our victory! Surely, under the circumstances, it's excusable!"

"It wasn't 'one little peek'! You'll be sitting out there all night, you pervert!" Sango snapped. It might have just been the fireglow, but Miroku fancied her face was still tinted a rosy pink.

With a sigh, his gaze shifted toward Kagome, but the schoolgirl only paused in her ministrations of Inuyasha's battered but triumphant form long enough to give him a cold stare. Miroku looked away, shivering. His eyes darted back to Sango. He caught the taijiya in the middle of sneaking a glance at him. She looked away immediately.

Miroku smiled.

The taijiya's face was most definitely still pink. And, her mind was, however briefly, shifted away from the trauma of the last few days.

It was consolation enough for a few hours of the cold shoulder.

This was one of those stories that flowed beautifully right up until I realized it needed to end... and I had no idea how to do that. I discarded several choices before settling on what you see now, but I'm not sure I'm entirely pleased with it. Suggestions welcomed.