Title: Touch Me Not

Author: Anaphalis

Foreword: This story was originally written for an LJ challenge comm. where the challenge was to take lyrics from the song "Breathing" by Lifehouse and incorporate them directly into the text of the story. I'm not sure if this counts as a songfic or not since there were mainly generic lyrics used and most of them were being taken wildly out of context. If this is in violation of FFNet policy, could someone please let me know and I will be happy to remove the story myself. As for the story itself - one of the writers I most respect and like told me that Miroku/Kagome squicked her. Because I am perverse, I immediately got this plot bunny. Then everything got wildly out of control. Touch me nots, also known as "sensitive plant", "shame plant", "humble plant" and "live and die" are real. Although I did take a little artistic license with their biology :)

Summary: Miroku. Kagome. "In class we had these plants- touch me nots. If you even brush them, the leaves- they curl up in on themselves. Don't leave anything to reach." One Shot.

Warning: T for mild suggestive situations and language.

Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and Shounen Sunday. "Breathing" is the property of Lifehouse.

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Touch Me Not

I'm not smart or beautiful and… I've- I've never pretended to be. Sometimes I wonder if I were just that bit smarter or more interesting or had just a slightly bigger chest if it would make the difference. If I'm looking past the shadows –insecuritiesdoubthatred- in my mind into the truth, I can admit that it's never been that simple.

And that's the worst part of all.

If it were things about me, things that I could never hope to change, I could let go. But it's never been about me, not really. And that's given me a terrible, cruel hope that all those other things will somehow magically get resolved and suddenly I'll be enough. Because it's never really been about me.

And because even I realize how utterly stupid and pathetic that sounds after three years of this - bet even you're tired of me waiting for the scraps to fall off of your table to the ground-, I've got another companion tonight while I'm far enough away to not have to listen to you breathing –because masochism is only fun the first few hundred times-. I don't know where Miroku got these last few bottles of sake, but this is some very, very good stuff.

"Kagome-sama."

Oh damn. I was kind of hoping he wouldn't know that it was me raiding his secret supply.

"My beloved Sango is far too er… righteous to search my belongings. And Inuyasha hates sake."

Apparently that thought wasn't as much in my head as I'd hoped. Alcohol's always sort of eliminated the mouth/brain connection. Either that or Miroku's taken up mind-reading.

"No- no mind reading."

He's not allowed to look amused. Stupid evil priest. Oh well- it's not as if I'll get in as much trouble as the first three or four times I did this. Not that it was ever much trouble to start with- just a mild lecture on not being able to handle my alcohol. Now there isn't even that, he just grabs one of the bottles and joins me- like so. We still pretend that it could be someone else taking it and that it's an accident that he knows where to find me on nights like this.

He's slid in beside me with that easy fluid grace, taking a long swig from the container. I shift over, careful not to brush against him as I reach for another bottle. We don't touch- not ever. After this –whatever this is- started, Miroku stopped groping me altogether. This connection, dropping of our daily masks, is intimate enough. Touch would cement something that neither of us want to think about-

What's he doing?

Miroku doesn't really get drunk. Oh sure he pretends to be completely out of his head, but there's always that spark in his eyes if you look closely enough- that caution, that fear of being cornered and actually losing control. Tonight though- even he can't knock back that much sake that fast without some effect. And he doesn't even seem to care. For the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely scared and I can't keep my tone completely casual when I ask my question.

"So what is it tonight?"

"I am no longer an engaged man."

For once, he's truly managed to shock me.

"Why?"

That bitter little smile that I don't like flits over his mouth as he lazily leans back against the tree behind him. I'd believe that he cares as little as he's trying to say he does if his knuckles weren't white from gripping the sake so tightly.

"I'm finding my way back to sanity again?"

"Is that a question?"

Hell. He's not even smiling at my stupid joke. Notgoodnotgood. He's not even looking at me when he replies and his eyes… oh god… they're so empty….

"It's getting worse-"

No need to ask what. –myfaultmyfault the jewel is broken and the curse isn't-

"-And even if it weren't, I- I don't have enough left in me to give to make things work."

Again, Miroku's shocked me tonight. This is getting a little scary.

"What do you mean?"

Oh I hate that bitter laugh. And god, I've never seen him this drunk. He obviously started long before he came to see me.

"Oh let's not pretend, Kagome-sama. Yours is just as bad as mine. 'I am hanging on every word you're saying, Inuyasha.' 'I want nothing more than to sit outside of your door, Inuyasha.' 'Even if you'll never ever give me more, Inuyasha.'"

I bite my lip so hard I nearly draw blood. I won't cry, you bastard- I won't. He's been cold before and upset before, but never, never so deliberately cruel. And then I see it- just a brief flare in his eyes, but the complete grief of it floors me. It's not me that he's mad at, that he hates, not even Sango or Inuyasha. It's himself.

And for the first time in two years, I put a gentle hand on his arm.

"When did we become such idiots, Miroku?"

And there it is, faint and tired, but a tiny, real smile. His empty hand moves up to cover mine on his arm and there's something warm and genuine in his eyes as he turns to look at me.

"You've never been an idiot, Kagome. They're… passion and fire and life. Just… just not for us. We came too late, have to pay the price of games that were played long before we even met them."

It's the almost matter of fact way that he says it that really hits home –ohgodohgod it really is impossible- But while I'm busily falling apart in my mind, he's still going.

"I kept trying to reach her, stupidly I know, but it was never enough. I can't fight ghosts, at least not these ones. And it was just hurting her, I know. She- she was almost relieved when I told her… maybe… maybe this way she'll be able to focus on something, not be distracted. Maybe she'll get what she wants and then… maybe she'll be happy…. I want… I want her to be happy…."

I know he'd never say this if he weren't drunk out of his mind, but I can see him, see how he broke it off, made it his fault and then tried desperately to drown all that grief and that one selfless act. Oh Miroku and I are survivors alright- far more pragmatic and less emotional than the faces we show. But this is killing him. I can forget my own heart- he's more important right now. I desperately shift in my mind to find something to show I understand and maybe lighten the mood.

"Touch me nots."

He quirks that eyebrow and I try to pretend that I don't know him well enough that I know exactly what he's asking.

"In class we had these plants- touch me nots. If you even brush them, the leaves- they curl up in on themselves. Don't leave anything to reach. But if you poke them enough, they stop reacting."

"And what happens then?"

And suddenly it's not as fun anymore.

"They… they die."

To my complete amazement, he bursts into laughter.

"Well, it's a good thing that we're giving up then, huh?"

And the sheer, bitter irony of the whole thing makes me burst into laughter too and we're both howling and rolling on the ground like madmen and then we're rolling over each other and then-

Oh god.

Oh god.

His hands burning, burning over me, his mouth attacking so hard he draws blood, my fingers drawing bloody lines on his back, his fingers holding so hard, so hard they become a part of my hips-

What are we doing?

He's staring at me, panting, wild-eyed and I know that I don't look much better.

Is he going to run? Deny what happened? Say it was a mistake? Ravage me-

He's hugging me. So… gently. Rubbing circles on my back, whispering soft things in my ear. I pull back to figure what the hell is going on and… and… And there's something so pure and clean and not-Miroku in his eyes that I want to cry…. Those aren't tears on my cheeks, they aren't. -So weak, so stupid what am I thinking….- No….God…. Don't touch me like that…. Don't….

He couldn't break me with the kisses that split my lips, the grip that left bruises on my waist, but this... this gentleness is going to open all that trapped hurt, break these callouses off me one more time. -Let me feel one more time what it feels like to feel-

I'm lost.

Oh god, Miroku…

Please…

Please be kind.

He touches me like I'm going to fold inwards at the slightest shift in the air, then touches me like he wants to bury himself in my bones and together… together these touches make me whole.-

We're both crying, both shaking, both broken and shattered when we finally break apart. We don't speak- just sit there side by side, not touching and utterly connected.

We got to spin around one more time tonight, ride the merry-go-round of the Inuyasha/Sango saga one more circle but now… now it's time to finally get off. Or at least I thought we were getting off until Miroku speaks.

"Did all the plants die?"

I'm startled and suddenly, achingly heartbroken until I realize what he's really asking.

"No. Some just started folding around whatever touched them."

And he looks at me -lost little boy/bitter broken man- and even after all that's just happened he's almost shy as one of his hands hovers over mine. I reach up and fold my fingers through his.

"And those plants- they survived?"

There are so very many ways of touching, Miroku, so many ways that aren't even physical. I don't want a thing from you that you aren't willing to give, but… but maybe now we can both learn them.

"They survived."

-The End-

Updated 06-25-05