Hourglass

not giving up, not selling out

I.

Their bags were sitting by the door, ready to go. They were always ready to go. That could have been their motto -- "Miroku and Sango, ready to go! Always ready to leave those they love behind as they carry on looking for a way out of death!" -- and it would have been all too accurate.

They traveled light. She carried the smaller of the two bags because she also bore hiraikotsu, but sometimes he ached and she carried the heavier one. As the months passed by and travelling became second-nature to them

(pick up and leave, time to go, time to move, nothing new, let's go)

he ached more and more often. She found that, as his aches increased, so did her worries for him.

He had always been strong. He hid his strength beneath yards of fabric -- didn't make a show of it as did Inu-Yasha, or Koga, or Sesshomaru, or any of those other vain youkai -- and so others presumed him standard and mortal. Weak human, they said to him. Weak human with no Shikon shards, no youkai blood in his veins. Pathetic weak human. Of course you couldn't deny the strength that lay within his right hand -- when those that mocked him saw that, they scoffed but quieted -- but physical strength was a hierarchy for men, it seemed.

She had always been strong. She showed it constantly, but not to please, not for approval, but because that was how she had been trained and raised. She had grown up like a man, had a man's strength and a man's resilience. She could wield a heavy weapon and hardly realize she was doing so. Men admired her, immediately placing her above most ordinary women. If she was as strong as they, then that made her an excellent person, didn't it?

He was taunted, he was teased, but he said nothing. Endless patience. Temperance.

He was strong, but he didn't flaunt it. He let them believe they had the best of him, that he was so secure in his kazaana that he didn't bother to care for his body. He let them run circles in their own minds, while he remained calm in his. Tranquility. Cleverness.

When he lifted her after she collapsed, along with hiraikotsu, they didn't call him strong. Good work, bozou, and Thanks, Miroku-sama. Inu-Yasha knew, but wouldn't admit it. Kagome knew, but was too shy to tell him.

That was just fine with Sango. She didn't want another woman looking at him, anyway.

Nevertheless, his aches bothered her. She asked him about them, and he smiled, rolled over, told her to sleep.

"I'm fine," he said.

Kokoro no yami.

Darkness in the heart; blinded to your loved one's faults.

She tried very hard.

II.

He didn't care for himself, but he cared very much for her. After every battle, every small skirmish, he insisted on a brief check-through to make sure she had no hidden wounds, no missed lacerations, no bumps or bruises that weren't treated. He near to obsessive about her health, and unless it came from a virus, she was never ill, and her wounds never went untreated.

She told him to take better care of himself, tried to sit him down for one of his own check-ups, but he was all bristling and smiles, telling her they had to hurry, their lead was going to run out soon.

"Not so easy keeping track of the bastard now that we don't have Inu-Yasha's nose," he said, shouldering the heavier pack and offering her a hand up.

He kept her in perfect health and always in good conditions. If they slept in a forest, or a rice field, or an open meadow, it hadn't rained the day before, and there was little mud or unfavorable animal companions. Insects he couldn't prevent but cursed nonetheless; saimyoshu were chased like fireflies between the two. Catching the bees had become a game

(over there, watch out, i've got another, look out there, don't you dare take off those beads)

over time.

Then, once all of the insects that had been lurking from Naraku had been caught, once they had washed the filmy, crumpled wing-remains off of their hands and spread out their blankets for the night, they would kiss softly with muted laughter under the gossamer glow of the stars. He would make sure there were no roots or bumps lodged under their bedding, careful of spiny weeds or prickly burrs, and then, when he had deemed everything as perfect as it could get, they would sleep or kiss or make love or hold each other.

Only when she was lying within his arms, listening to his heartbeat above or under or beside her, did she ever feel complete, did anything ever feel truly perfect.

Kanpeki, kansei.

Flawlessness; completion.

He tried very hard.

III.

They were both living on borrowed time, and they had known it for a long while. Both Miroku and Sango knew that, once they had accepted the fact that they loved one another despite the many flaws between them and their even more imperfection-riddled relationship, they were bound together. He was tied to his curse, inextricably, and she was tied to him,

(red strings, strings of fate, only in legend, in marriage)

inexplicably. Once he died, she died.

They broke away from their companions -- the hanyou, the priestess, the kit -- because they couldn't stand it any longer. They couldn't stand being in the middle of the Sesshomaru kuno, and the Kikyo kuno, and the Inu-Yasha and Kagome kuno. They couldn't stand breakdowns of the five of them whenever they happened upon Kohaku, and they couldn't stand the teasing that they received about their relationship, even if it had been meant in a friendly way. The couldn't stand how long it was taking just to find Naraku, to find Naraku and dammit, just kill him already, and so they broke away.

Like the stars as they fade into the sky with the approach of dawn, the two of them left, packed and ready to go.

As always.

Of course, there had been the ever-present threat of kazaana, kazaana that taunted them and plagued them and dogged their every step. It was apparent that he was running out of time, and if he was running out of time, so was she. An answer was needed, and fast, and they couldn't stop for all of the kuno that followed Inu-Yasha and Kagome everywhere they went.

They knew very well the fragile ice that they were standing on; that any moment, the curse could spread viciously and consume the both of them. That was the reason that they were always ready to go -- that was the reason that they hunted the saimyoshu that sought to further shorten their time limits.

Life was a gamble. Death was a game.

Miroku and Sango were experts at both.

Mono no aware.

Sensitivity to things; knowing the impermanence of everything.

Time was ticking away, slipping through their fingers like smooth beach sand.

They tried very hard.

--

a/n: all Japanese should be pretty much self explanatory, except for kuno, which means anguish. i wanted the word for "drama", but it didn't really seem to fit, so i changed it to anguish. it was supposed to be a joke on all of the drama that follows kagome and inu-yasha everywhere they go.