Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this story… especially for two very different male-type personages who are each quite used to getting their own way. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.
Author's Note: Every friendship, however unlikely, has to start somewhere. This is just the beginning. While Incorrigible is a collection of drabbles and oneshots featuring the encounters of Miroku and Kagome and Imperceptible explores the relationship between Sesshoumaru and Kagome, Tolerable shall stand as my collection of drabbles and oneshots in which Miroku interacts with Sesshoumaru.
A Debt of Gratitude: Many thanks to Fenikkusuken for sacrificing her lunch break to beta my longwinded oneshot. Every friendship has to start somewhere, and not a day goes by that I don't bless the box of Pocky that brought me to you. ׃׃blows a kiss׃׃
"No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence." –George Eliot
"Do you feel that?" Miroku called down to Inuyasha from his seat behind Sango.
"Hard to miss," the hanyou shouted over his shoulder before pulling up short. Inuyasha allowed Kagome to slide off his back, and waited until Kirara set down beside them before continuing, "Whatever it is, it's big."
"It's angry too," Shippo muttered uncomfortably, eyes scanning the dense forest as he edged closer to Miroku's side, then clambered onto his shoulder.
"Do you sense any shards, Kagome-sama?" inquired the monk.
"No," the young woman admitted after a pause, "but shouldn't we check it out? Someone might need our help."
Sango's eyes glinted with determination. "Of course we will."
"Feels like this youkai could wreak some serious havoc," Inuyasha said, golden eyes sparking with anticipation.
"How far away would you say this demon is, Inuyasha?" asked Miroku curiously.
"Not too far," decided the hanyou as his ears swiveled, straining for some clue to their unseen opponent. "I don't hear anything though, which is kinda weird. Come on," he urged, leading the group at an angle through the trees.
Shippo, who had remained on Miroku's shoulders, was the first to catch the youkai's scent. He suddenly froze, driving small, sharp claw tips into the fabric of the monk's kesu as fear flooded his face. "Uh… Inuyasha…" he wavered.
Inuyasha's steps faltered for a moment as he caught a whiff of the demon they were tracking. "Oh crap."
"What is it, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, concerned at his change in demeanor.
"Sesshoumaru," the hanyou muttered darkly.
"Are you sure?" Miroku asked in astonishment. Inuyasha just leveled a bland look in the monk's direction, who grinned. "Right. Foolish question. However, you have to admit—we've never seen this level of rage coming from Sesshoumaru-sama before. He's usually quite… contained."
Sango nodded. "The way his youki is pouring out, I'd guess he's waging a full-scale war right now."
"Could it be Naraku?" ventured Shippo nervously.
"I don't think so, runt," assured Inuyasha. "We'd have smelled his stench by now if he was anywhere around here. Something's off though; it's too quiet." He drew Tetsusaiga before leading the way towards a break in the forest just ahead. "Just… you guys stay back. Leave the bastard to me," he ordered grimly.
As they stepped out of the woods and into the clearing, the pulse of demonic energy was enough to set their teeth on edge, yet the tiny meadow appeared to be empty. "This doesn't make any sense," whispered the taijiya, who had loosened Hiraikotsu's straps and stood ready for battle.
"I don't see him," Miroku murmured, violet eyes scanning their surroundings alertly.
"He's here somewhere," Inuyasha assured them. "I can feel him; smell him too. This way," he beckoned, shouldering his sword and marching purposefully across the sedate clearing.
Under the shelter of the nearest trees, a low stone hut stood beside a shallow pool. Water bubbled out over mossy stones, and a small creek meandered away, shadowed by dipping fronds. Eyeing the paper streamers strung around the rock at the fountainhead, Miroku hummed softly. "This is a sacred spring," he noted in a voice barely above a whisper.
"Would you look at that," Sango murmured in astonishment as they rounded the corner of the little domicile.
Sesshoumaru stood by the spring's edge, gazing out over the water. They could not see his face, but the youki poured off of him, hair lifting restlessly in the currents he was creating. He didn't acknowledge their arrival on the scene with so much as a glance.
The Inutachi exchanged puzzled glances, and finally Inuyasha called out to his half-brother. "Oi, Sesshoumaru! What's got you so riled up?"
Miroku smiled to himself as the Lord of the West ignored Inuyasha completely. Predictable. He certainly knows how to irritate Inuyasha. If it were just a matter of brotherly squabbling, I'd say Sesshoumaru enjoys taunting his little brother just to see him overreact. A quick look in the hanyou's direction confirmed the imminent loss of temper.
"Asshole," grumbled the hanyou before leveling Tetsusaiga at the taiyoukai. "Answer me, you bastard! What's going on?"
Sesshoumaru remained utterly still. Curious, Miroku began edging towards the brink of the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the youkai's face. The sight that met him sent a tingle of fear down his spine. Sesshoumaru's entire visage was a fearsome mask—eyes burned a wrathful red, fangs bared in a ferocious snarl. That look spells death to all comers. "Inuyasha, I believe your brother cannot move," Miroku announced.
"Half-brother," corrected the hanyou absently as he began to circle around Sesshoumaru in the opposite direction. The change in atmosphere was immediate. The taiyoukai's considerable youki crackled around him and a low growl vibrated through the air with a menace that weakened the knees. "He is so pissed," remarked Inuyasha with a note of awe as he moved to stand directly in front of Sesshoumaru.
The others tentatively followed Inuyasha's lead, cautiously approaching their erstwhile enemy. Fury snapped in the Western Lord's eyes and his claws began to lengthen, but his angry display was lost on those whose curiosity had won out over a healthy sense of self-preservation. "I think it's safe to say he knows we're here," Sango commented dryly.
"Not happy about it either," smirked Inuyasha.
"What do you think is holding him here?" wondered the taijiya.
Kagome spoke up from behind the taiyoukai, "Miroku-sama, isn't this a sutra on his back?"
The monk joined the miko and bent forward for a closer look. He could just catch glimpses of the paper between the youkai's shifting silver tresses. "I believe you are correct, Kagome-sama. This is definitely the cause of Sesshoumaru-sama's troubles."
It was almost laughable. A mere slip of parchment with its scrawl of ink had transfixed the taiyoukai with its holy power, effectively sealing him to the spot. However the Western Lord was proving more formidable than the spell that held him. Miroku watched in fascination as the taiyoukai struggled against the effects of the sacred sutra. Even as the monk watched, its edges began to waver, curling back on themselves. Miroku scrutinized the wavering brushstrokes, trying to decipher the characters on the sutra, then gave a low whistle. "This should have killed him outright," he muttered to himself.
"Can you remove it?" came a voice from right over his shoulder. He turned to find Kagome by his side, gazing at the seal with concern written all over her face.
"Don't you dare start feeling sorry for him, Kagome," growled Inuyasha. "As soon as you turn that asshole loose, he's gonna lash out at everything in reach. We need to get outta here."
"Given enough time, he will most certainly be able to break free," Miroku announced to the others.
"Let's go then," Inuyasha decided, turning on his heel.
"Shouldn't we at least try to free him?" Kagome asked worriedly.
"Don't even think about it," ordered the hanyou. "Sesshoumaru's not going to be happy once he's rid of that thing. Look at him," he urged, pointing to the enraged demon lord. "I'll bet that sutra thing is the only thing holding him back from transforming right now. We don't want to be here when he breaks it."
Sango seemed inclined to agree. "I wouldn't mind putting some distance between us."
"Let's just go," whimpered Shippo. "Miroku said he'll be all right."
Miroku tuned out the conversation flowing around him as he edged closer to the trapped taiyoukai, studying the sutra with a degree of professional admiration. The monk who did this was certainly powerful, though I'd say his penmanship leaves something to be desired. Inuyasha had just finished saying, "It's not worth the risk, Kagome," when Miroku caught the shift in the balance of power. The holy energies contained within the sutra were flagging under the steady onslaught of Sesshoumaru's youki.
"We don't even know if Miroku can unseal him," argued Inuyasha hotly, oblivious to the build-up of demonic power surrounding them.
Miroku waved one hand over his head to catch the hanyou's attention, though his eyes never left the spelled paper. "I don't think that's going to be an issue, Inuyasha. Kagome-sama, you'd better step back. He's nearly freed himself."
Leaning against his shakujou, the monk used his free hand to pull the length of Sesshoumaru's silver hair aside, giving him an unhindered view of the changes taking place.
"Miroku, get outta there," demanded Inuyasha, as he herded the girls and Shippo towards the clearing.
"Yes, yes," mumbled Miroku distractedly. "I'll just be a moment."
An enormous surge of youki surrounded the monk, raising the hairs on the back of his neck as he bent forward, all his attention fixed on the trembling edges of the paper seal. The sutra's ink glowed briefly, then dulled, and with an anticlimactic sigh, detached itself and fluttered harmlessly to the ground.
"Well that was mildly disappointing," grumbled the monk to himself before the frantic calls of his friends brought him back to the reality of his current position. Miroku straightened swiftly then froze as Sesshoumaru turned his head to glare at him over his shoulder. The pang of fear that plummeted through his gut was swiftly followed by calm acceptance. I am so dead.
Miroku started at the inhuman rumble beneath Sesshoumaru's clipped command, then looked down to where he still held the taiyoukai's hair. The monk snatched back his hand guiltily. "My sincerest apologies, Sesshoumaru-sama," Miroku offered with a small bow.
The taiyoukai turned to face the monk fully, and Miroku held his breath. Sesshoumaru's eyes were the color of blood, but his expression had returned to its customary impassivity. "Hnn."
For a moment, the two regarded each other unblinkingly. Then the taiyoukai's eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled into a graceless heap upon the ground.
"I dunno. I still say we should leave him," grumbled Inuyasha.
"He's hurt!" argued Kagome. "He's completely helpless right now. You can't just leave him like this—your own brother!"
"Half-brother," muttered the hanyou unhappily. "Besides, he's youkai and pretty much indestructible. He'll heal; let's go."
Just then there was a flurry of movement from behind them. "Sesshoumaru-sama!" wailed a child's voice in obvious dismay. With the patter of bare feet, a small girl joined the huddle of people surrounding the fallen lord.
"Rin! Wait!" squawked an unwelcome voice. "Sesshoumaru-sama told you to remain out of sight," scolded Jaken in aggrieved tones as he caught up.
The child drew up just short of the taiyoukai and seemed uncertain whether to take the liberty of touching him. She clasped her hands in front of her, and darted a wide-eyed gaze around the circle of watchers, "What's wrong with Sesshoumaru-sama?" she pleaded.
Kagome immediately dropped to her knees and opened her arms to the child, "Come here, sweetie. Rin-chan, isn't it?"
Jaken quickly intervened, placing himself between his charge and the members of Inuyasha's party and waving his staff threateningly. "Stay away!" he scowled.
Kagome was taken aback. "I'm not going to hurt her!"
"You expect me to believe that after what you've done to Sesshoumaru-sama?" demanded the kappa youkai. "Get back, I say!"
"We didn't do a thing to your precious lord," snapped Inuyasha. "He was like this when we found him… well, almost."
Miroku decided it was time to play peacemaker and crouched down before the indignant retainer so they could converse eye-to-eye. "May I have a word, Jaken-sama?" the monk inquired respectfully.
The bristling youkai eyed Miroku with obvious distaste. "What do you want, human?"
"I believe you are owed an explanation for the current situation," pronounced the monk gravely.
Jaken shifted his grip on the Staff of Two Heads. "Well?" he prodded impatiently.
"Well, I'm sure a capable youkai such as yourself can already see…" began Miroku smoothly.
"Don't waste my time with flattery, human," Jaken snapped, eyes narrowing with deepening distrust.
All right, let's try another tactic. "Fair enough, Jaken-sama. We were drawn to this place by the sheer magnitude of your Lord's power. Surely you detected the surge in Sesshoumaru-sama's youki?"
Mollified when the compliments were directed towards the object of his admiration, Jaken nodded readily enough. "Indeed, shortly after he sent Rin to safety, Sesshoumaru-sama's battle aura blanketed the area."
So… the way to Jaken's heart is through his lord. Miroku smiled faintly, "When we arrived in this place, Sesshoumaru-sama was already engaged in the fiercest of confrontations."
"I see no other foe," remarked Jaken suspiciously. "Did his opponent flee like a coward?"
"No indeed," assured the monk. "Sesshoumaru-sama was victorious in the end. I saw the defeat with my own eyes. His opposition fell, and only your lord remained standing on the field of battle."
Kagome and Sango exchanged glances at this point, and the younger woman shrugged and whispered, "Well, technically that's true," before the taijiya shushed her.
Rin chose that moment to speak up, "If Sesshoumaru-sama won, what happened to him?"
Miroku acknowledged the girl's question with a solemn nod before directing his answer to the retainer, "Sesshoumaru-sama is feeling the after-effects of his fight; though he won the battle, it left him drained. Kagome-sama was just making arrangements for his care when you arrived." Inuyasha snorted softly at this statement, but held his tongue when Kagome sent him a quelling look.
"Sesshoumaru-sama does not require the aid of humans in order to recover," boasted Jaken.
"On the contrary," Miroku contradicted gently, "I believe he will require further assistance. There was a sutra which sealed him temporarily, and though he broke its hold there are lingering effects." The monk cast a practiced eye over the fallen youkai. "The spell was not completely undone."
Jaken seemed torn, "You are offering aid? What assurance do I have that you will not cause greater harm?"
"Will you accept my word of honor as a monk?" asked Miroku hopefully.
"Honor from a human?" scoffed Jaken derisively.
Inuyasha decided it was high time for negotiations to end. "Listen, you little pest, we're not gonna do anything to Sesshoumaru while he's out of it. Kagome here wants the bastard moved into that hut there, so that's what I'm gonna do whether you like it or not."
Without further ado, the red-clad hanyou stomped past the spluttering Jaken and leaned down over the unconscious heap of silks, muttering invectives under his breath the whole while. Jaken protested loudly, but Inuyasha cut him off with a rap on the head. "Just shut up already. Can't you see the kid's worried?" he growled, pointing a clawed finger toward Rin. She looked to be close to tears, which brought the kappa up short. "Let me get Sesshoumaru inside and then you and the monk can talk all you want."
Miroku looked on with covert amusement as Jaken relented completely, leading Rin over to the base of a tree and fussing until she took a seat. Meanwhile, Inuyasha crouched beside his brother, unobtrusively surveying the youkai's wellbeing with cautious sniffs and light touches. Though he groused throughout the process, Miroku noted the care with which the hanyou hefted Sesshoumaru in his arms and carried him towards the abandoned shelter. All bark and no bite on both sides I see. The monk followed close on the heels of Inuyasha, ducking through the low entrance of the hut and gazing about with curiosity. "This probably belongs to the monk who sealed Sesshoumaru," he commented.
"Well, he sure left in a hurry," replied Inuyasha.
"Wouldn't you?" remarked Miroku with a smirk.
The hanyou grunted his opinion on that and gingerly lowered the taiyoukai onto the pallet in the corner. The narrow mat was far too small for Sesshoumaru's frame, let alone the fur and hair that spilled over onto the floor. It became immediately apparent to Miroku that the armor was going to have to go, for the boney spikes made it impossible to settle the demon lord more comfortably. Inuyasha seemed to have reached the same conclusion. "Give me a hand, will you Miroku?" the hanyou beckoned.
A few minutes of searching revealed the series of buckles and knots that held Sesshoumaru's breastplate in place, and they eased the cumbersome armor off the taiyoukai's torso. With a cautiously reverent hand, Inuyasha pulled his father's second fang from Sesshoumaru's side, testing the grip of the slender blade. Setting Tenseiga aside, he eyed Tokijin with trepidation. "Nasty piece of work," he commented to Miroku as his hand hovered uncertainly.
"I wouldn't risk it," Miroku warned.
"Keh. I know better'n that," the hanyou scowled, hastily removing his suikan and wrapping it around the dark blade's hilt.
While Inuyasha shouldered the gear and exited the hut, Miroku tried to arrange the Western Lord in a more restful pose. It was awkward work. This… is a lot of hair, he mused as he struggled to disentangle the strands which had become caught beneath the youkai's body. It took several minutes of patient gathering before Miroku was able to thrust the whole hank of it off to one side and out of the way.
That left the awkwardly draped furry pelt. The monk bent to gather the odd accessory up, intending to place it with Sesshoumaru's armor outside the hut, but was jerked to a halt midway across the room. Looking over his shoulder, he realized that the end was snagged underneath the unresponsive youkai. He let the armful of fur drop and was attempting to wrest the other side free when Inuyasha returned, the girls trailing after him. The hanyou cleared his throat. "What are you doing, Miroku?"
"The end of this pelt seems to be caught. I was just trying to…" he trailed off at the odd look on Inuyasha's face. The monk knew he was missing something important when Sango covered her mouth with a hand, eyes sparkling with ill-concealed laughter.
"Miroku," Inuyasha's eyebrow twitched and the corners of his down-turned mouth began to tremble, "That's… you're… he's… it's not stuck, you baka."
Shippo peeped around the corner of the doorframe just then and took in the tableau. Patting Kagome's knee to get her attention, the kitsune's clear voice cut through the confusion, "Kagome, why is Miroku pulling Sesshoumaru's tail?" After a moment, the kit added in a loud whisper, "It kinda looks like he's groping him, doesn't it?"
Inuyasha made a choking sound, and the miko giggled softly, "I think it's just a misunderstanding, Shippo-kun. I don't think Miroku-sama realized that Sesshoumaru has a tail."
"Tail?" The monk looked down at the length of fur he held and smoothed his hands over it experimentally. Sure enough, exploring fingers found the hidden cord of muscle and bone within the dense ruff of fur. "Well that is interesting," he murmured with a wry smile. "I was unaware that this was not purely… decorative," Miroku admitted as he quickly and carefully coiled the taiyoukai's tail beside the bed and stepped back.
"Oh, it ain't just for looks," Inuyasha grumbled.
"Yeah," added Kagome as she scooted closer to the unmoving youkai and knelt beside him. "I've seen him use it in battle. It must be prehensile."
Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably as the young woman peered into his half-brother's face. "Oi! Not so close, Kagome."
"I just want to see if I can help," she explained. "Maybe he'll be grateful when he wakes up?" she added hopefully.
The hanyou just shook his head incredulously, "That's not gonna happen, Kagome. You don't get it, do you? He's more likely to try to kill everyone who witnessed his moment of weakness. Listen, I said we'd keep watch until he wakes up, but we can do that from outside."
Sango spoke up then. "Didn't Houshi-sama say that Sesshoumaru-sama won't be able to wake up on his own? Something about the seal…"
"That's right!" Kagome remembered, turning to the monk expectantly. "Is there anything we can do, Miroku-sama?"
"I'm not really sure yet," admitted Miroku, who glanced at Inuyasha for guidance. "I would need a few minutes of quiet to check."
The hanyou nodded his understanding, "Out! Let the monk do his thing. Come on, all of you outside now," he flapped his arms, shooing the rest of the crew out the door ahead of him with authoritative bluster. Left to himself, Miroku knelt beside Sesshoumaru, trying to calm the nervous flutter that plagued his heart. Even in his current state, the taiyoukai was an intimidating presence. What's more, the monk wasn't sure how Sesshoumaru would respond to his efforts. Will he think I'm a threat? How much harm could he do? What if he does lash out? Miroku let his gaze fall to the deadly claws and swallowed convulsively. This could be bad.
Setting his shoulders, the monk closed his eyes, preparing himself for a more careful inspection of the taiyoukai's youki. The sound of a footfall interrupted him, and Miroku turned to see Inuyasha returning. The hanyou met the monk's surprised gaze with determination. "You didn't think I'd leave you alone with him, did you?"
Relief washed through Miroku, and he smiled his gratitude, "My thanks, Inuyasha." He ran a restless hand through his hair and tugged at the low tail in back. "I've never tried this with a youkai before, and I'm a bit nervous about his reaction to me."
"There's no doubt the bastard's dangerous; probably could kill you in his sleep," Inuyasha said seriously.
The monk tipped his head to one side, raising an amused brow. "Is that supposed to be comforting news, my friend?"
"Keh," the hanyou muttered. "It's the truth, and you need to know it." Inuyasha drew Tetsusaiga and crouched down beside Miroku, laying the sword across his knee as he gave his half-brother's passive face a long look. "You do what you can, and I'll do what I can," he said, meeting the monk's eyes with a look that promised his protection.
Miroku nodded his acceptance and moved to sit cross-legged. "This may take a little while," he murmured as he composed himself. He eased into a meditative state without a qualm, trusting his safety to his friend. Slowly, the monk settled into himself, drawing his spiritual powers up around his consciousness, shifting his awareness from external things to internal ones. With the ease of long practice, he strengthened his focus, turning his mind towards the recumbent demon lord.
Sesshoumaru's youki was locked in an internal battle, writhing and crackling in a tangle around the remains of the sutra's seal. Miroku watched quietly as the youkai struggled against its bonds—gnawing at them, raging against them, thrashing in its frenzied attempts towards freedom. The monk was ignored as inconsequential; at least, he was until he reached out to help undo the ties the other monk's sutra had left behind.
The second Miroku's holy powers brushed up against Sesshoumaru's youki, it recoiled, then reared up defensively. Though the monk could see the nest of spiritual restraints that held the taiyoukai, Sesshoumaru curled around the affected area protectively, as if to prevent further damage. Perhaps it is because my holy powers are similar to those which first trapped him? I had not realized he might not accept my help.
Another tentative foray towards the problem area was angrily rebuffed, and this time the inu-youkai fought to retaliate. A growl began to vibrate around him, low and threatening. A smell was added to this rumbling, and Miroku frowned at the sharp odor. It was bitter, yet sweet, like fading flowers, and it stung his nose. The monk hissed in surprise as pain bloomed across his thigh, then startled as Inuyasha barked a warning. There was a moment of disconcerting imbalance before Miroku regained his senses enough to realize that the hanyou had dragged him across the room.
"I'll kill him," growled Inuyasha as he thrust Miroku's damaged robes aside. "Those poison claws of his…" he mumbled darkly as he inspected the monk's leg minutely. The skin was red and raw, with a patch of blistered flesh just above the knee. "You better let Kagome have a look at this," ordered Inuyasha gruffly. "Never shoulda let you near that bastard."
"He's just trying to protect himself," Miroku gasped, wincing at Inuyasha's light touch, "You can hardly blame him for that."
"I can and I will," argued Inuyasha in a low voice, hauling the monk to his feet and pulling an arm around his shoulders.
"He's trapped, Inuyasha," the monk pled softly, trying to find words for the desperate struggle he'd just witnessed. "Sesshoumaru-sama is helpless against the effects of that seal. He won't be able to break the ties that remain."
"That asshole is far from helpless. It's obvious he can access his poison, and that stuff is deadly. You barely got touched with it, and look at the state of your leg. Any more and…" the hanyou trailed off significantly as he guided Miroku out the door.
"I can't just leave him like that, Inuyasha. It's not right."
"What's not right?" inquired Kagome as the two men rejoined their friends outside. Taking in the limping monk, she scrambled to her feet. "What happened, Miroku-sama?"
"It may take longer than expected to give Sesshoumaru-sama the assistance he needs," Miroku announced dryly.
"Why? What happened" Sango asked, scanning the singed holes that now decorated Miroku's clothing.
"The bastard turned his Dokkasou on Miroku," Inuyasha supplied in clipped tones as he cast a sidelong glance towards Jaken. The kappa simply sniffed and turned up his nose.
"It was probably just a defensive reflex, and I'm not badly hurt," Miroku assured the two worried women, trying to keep the peace.
"Didn't he realize you were trying to help?" Kagome asked in surprise, already opening the first aid kit she'd collected from her pack.
"Probably not, Kagome-sama. He was very displeased with my intrusion despite my good intentions," Miroku said with a lopsided smile.
"Will you try again?" asked Sango, straight to the point.
"Yes," Miroku replied immediately. "I just need to get him to cooperate with me. If he realizes that I am trying to offer assistance…"
"High hopes, there, Miroku," Inuyasha interrupted sarcastically. "This is Sesshoumaru we're talking about. He doesn't trust anyone."
Silence reigned for a few moments while everyone considered the problem. Finally, Shippo spoke up, "Could you trick him? Make it so he doesn't know you're there?"
"Would that work?" Kagome asked curiously. "Is there a way you can get around his senses?"
"Well…" Sango said thoughtfully, "I know of various kinds of smoke and incense that can be used to numb a youkai's sense of smell. It's possible to drug him into a stupor as well," she added uncertainly.
"He's sure to read those as a threat," Miroku said with a shake of his head. "I would rather he accepted my help willingly."
"The only way he's going to accept your help is if he accepts you," came the grumpy voice of Jaken. He had remained by Rin's side, and they'd been joined by Sesshoumaru's strange, two-headed steed. Up until this point, the retainer had kept his own counsel, and Miroku gazed at the kappa for a while, trying to decide if the little youkai was flinging insults… or advice. He nodded his gratitude as Kagome tied off the ends of a loose bandage.
She turned to acknowledge the retainer's comment, replying with a shrug, "Your lord does not care for humans, Jaken-sama. Everyone knows that."
Jaken shook his head disgustedly, muttering to himself. Miroku could only catch a few words, "Dense… blind… right in front… hopeless fools."
Miroku's gaze drifted to the child sitting beside the youkai. If Sesshoumaru doesn't care for humans, then why would he care for this human child? The monk smiled and addressed the group, "Jaken-sama has a point."
"Eh?" Inuyasha blustered. "When did he say something worthwhile?"
"We need to get Sesshoumaru-sama to accept me," Miroku declared cheerfully.
"Uh-huh," the hanyou said skeptically. "How are you planning to accomplish that little feat?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Miroku pleasantly. "But I'm confident it can be done."
"It ain't worth the effort," Inuyasha argued.
"Are you so sure?" the monk replied, nodding meaningfully towards Rin.
The hanyou gave the little girl's pale, drawn face a long look, then scrubbed a hand wearily over his face. "All right, you can try."
"Does anyone have any suggestions?" Miroku asked, looking from face to face hopefully. "Sango, is there any advice you can offer about approaching a wounded youkai?"
The taijiya frowned slightly, "Common sense says don't do it."
Kagome remained confused. "How can you change Sesshoumaru's opinion of you when he's not even awake?" she asked.
"He's aware enough to lash out," Inuyasha pointed out.
"It follows that he's aware enough to choose not to lash out," Miroku concluded optimistically. The red-clad hanyou snorted, though his golden eyes had returned to Rin speculatively. Something in Inuyasha's gaze set the monk's mind racing. I wonder. Miroku straightened with excitement and posed a rhetorical question. "Is there anyone that Sesshoumaru already trusts? Is there a human he accepts?" This time every eye slowly turned to Rin, who shifted uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny.
Sango was the first to speak. "Inuyasha, would it help at all to have Houshi-sama smell more like Rin? How would Sesshoumaru-sama interpret that?"
"So, are you saying that Miroku-sama could use Rin-chan's scent like a kind of camouflage?" Kagome asked.
"She's a part of his pack; it might get his attention," Sango shrugged.
The hanyou tugged one ear, "I don't really know for sure. I get that you want to play to his instincts, but it could backfire. He could take the presence of the kid's scent to mean she trusts him, but he could just as easily decide it means Miroku's taken her."
"That would be problematic," interjected the monk.
"It's worth a try, though, right?" Kagome ventured. "I mean, it's better than nothing."
"I guess so," Inuyasha said doubtfully. "Just remember, Sesshoumaru may be out of it, but he's no fool. He's not gonna mistake Miroku for the girl."
"Sounds like a step in the right direction to me," Kagome said cheerfully. She stood up and brushed off her skirt, then walked resolutely over towards Rin and Jaken. Kneeling down, she addressed the young girl, "Rin-chan? Will you help us to help Sesshoumaru-sama?" The girl, who'd been paying close attention, nodded gamely. Miroku noticed that when Kagome stood and held out her hand to Rin, Jaken didn't object. Kagome led the girl directly to Miroku, who was propped against another tree, his bandaged leg stretched out to one side.
"This is Miroku-sama. He's going to help Sesshoumaru-sama, but we need to make it easier for Sesshoumaru-sama to recognize that he's a friend." Kagome explained carefully. "You know that youkai use their sense of smell, right?" Rin nodded, wide-eyed. "We need him to smell more like you so that Sesshoumaru-sama will know that he's your friend."
Rin stood before the monk, fidgeting a bit while considering the miko's words. Finally, she addressed the monk, "Miroku-sama will help Sesshoumaru-sama?"
"I will," Miroku replied gravely, meeting hopeful brown eyes with a look of compassion.
Rin took a deep, shuddering sigh and launched herself into Miroku's arms, "Oh, thank you, Miroku-sama. Thank you so much!" she cried as she clung tightly to the monk.
Miroku simply gathered her up, rocking slightly as he smoothed one hand over her hair and looked towards Inuyasha questioningly. "What is the best way for Rin-chan to lend me her scent?"
Inuyasha gestured towards him with a flick of claws, "Just what you're doing. Stay close. Carry her around. Have her sit on your lap. You and the kid have just become inseparable."
"How long?" the monk asked.
"Rest of today at least," recommended the hanyou.
Kagome smiled at the picture Rin and Miroku made, "Looks like you've got a new best friend, Rin-chan!" The girl's face blossomed into a smile, and Miroku, who'd been watching the little retainer surreptitiously, saw Jaken nod once to himself before gazing off into the woods with feigned disinterest.
"So, are you trying to make Sesshoumaru think Miroku is a part of his pack?" asked Shippo from his seat beside Kirara.
"Maybe," Inuyasha admitted with a smirk. "I doubt Sesshoumaru will adopt the houshi, but he may pause long enough before killing him that Miroku can convince the bastard that he's trying to help."
The next morning found Rin perched on the knee of Miroku's uninjured leg, eating noodles with a much brighter outlook on life. "Can Miroku-sama help Sesshoumaru-sama yet?" she asked hopefully.
"I am not sure, Rin-chan," the monk shrugged and sent a questioning look towards Inuyasha.
"Let's see how you two did," declared the hanyou, slapping his knees before rising smoothly to his feet and crossing to crouch down before the pair. "You'll have to scoot kid. It's Miroku I gotta smell."
Rin stood up and backed away a few paces, looking on with fascination as Inuyasha took a deep breath, testing the air with his sensitive nose. He bit his lip, then glanced over at Shippo. "What do you think, runt?"
Happy to be called upon, the kitsune bounded over. Miroku propped his chin on his hand and suffered the minor indignity of further olfactory assessment with a bemused smile. Finally, Shippo shook his head. "I dunno, Inuyasha. It might not be strong enough," he said with a mischievous twinkle.
"What if he was wearing Rin-chan's clothes?" asked Sango from the other side of the campfire.
Miroku sat up straighter, "Excuse me?"
Ignoring him, Inuyasha tugged at an ear thoughtfully, "Might work. Kagome, you got anything the kid can change into?"
"Just a moment..." tried Miroku again.
"Sure do!" the young woman announced, heading towards her backpack. Before Miroku could protest, the child was bustled behind some bushes and into a set of Kagome's futuristic sleepwear, and the miko was offering him the child's brightly colored kimono. The monk held the small garment in both hands and raised incredulous eyes to Inuyasha.
"You don't actually gotta wear it, houshi. Tuck it into the front of your robes there. It smells like her, so it should help," explained the hanyou with a smirk.
"If you say so, Inuyasha," acquiesced Miroku, then moving towards the stone shelter where Sesshoumaru still lay. "I'll just get started then." The hanyou silently fell in step with Miroku, resuming his protective hovering as the monk seated himself beside the taiyoukai. Inuyasha gave a nod of reassurance, and the monk settled into the quietness of breath and heartbeat as he extended his awareness towards Sesshoumaru.
The inu-youkai's aura was a maelstrom of frenetic energy. Has he been fighting like this all night? Sesshoumaru's youki was in a rage, weary but waging a furious battle against its restraints. Even as Miroku looked on, he could feel the howl of frustration building around him. The normally calm taiyoukai was churning up his inner landscape in his desperation to get free, and Miroku couldn't shake the sense of rising panic underneath the futile pitch. In this near-bestial state, Sesshoumaru reminded Miroku of an animal caught in a snare, and a moment's pity was all it took for the monk to reach out, impulsively trying to calm the youkai
Keeping as neutral an aspect as he could manage, the monk brought his aura into firm contact with the Western Lord's. Come on, Sesshoumaru, it's just me again. Calm down for me, will you? Hoping he was doing the right thing, Miroku pushed up against the demonic aura again, asserting his presence without offering any sign of aggression. I'm here. You're here. We're both here. Just… don't kill me for it.
The change in Sesshoumaru's demeanor was immediate and rather frightening. Though Miroku's initial impression had been that of a caged beast, this was no animal. The taiyoukai's aura swirled against his—calculating, assessing, scrutinizing. Can he smell Rin's scent on me? Does he realize Inuyasha is here too? Miroku glimpsed the centuries-old intelligence, the unwavering stubbornness, the unassailable confidence that were parts of Sesshoumaru's very being. More surprising were the hints of innate curiosity, embarrassed self-recriminations, and growing concern.
It was this last impression that sparked an avalanche of emotions—anger, fear, hatred, self-loathing, worry, confusion, jealousy. Miroku found the unexpected range and rate of change disconcerting before the youkai suddenly clamped down on the feelings, banishing them from the monk's reach. What remained was a defensive wall. Miroku wished more than anything that he could offer some kind of reassurance to Sesshoumaru, but the keen presence of the taiyoukai blocked every advance. As the monk withdrew for the day, he found meager comfort in the fact that while Sesshoumaru had kept him at bay, he'd not attacked.
The next day, Miroku returned to Sesshoumaru's side immediately after breakfast. The taiyoukai was reticent, stubbornly fending off the monk's efforts to make some kind of connection. On the day after that, the youkai seemed to be awaiting the monk's approach, but batted away the his advances with moody impatience. The following day, Miroku persisted, patiently aligning his aura with Sesshoumaru's, hoping the taiyoukai would follow his lead as he directed his attention towards the botched seal. The inuyoukai would have none of it, countering Miroku's efforts with military precision, yet when Miroku finally withdrew from the session, he thought he could sense a certain reluctance emanating from the Western Lord. Perhaps he does not like to be alone?
Inuyasha was actually being quite understanding about the delay to their quest caused by Miroku's insistence on helping Sesshoumaru. Every day, the hanyou wordlessly followed the monk into the stone hut to stand guard over his friend's efforts on his half-brother's behalf. The rest of the group had fallen into a quiet routine, lending their support in numerous small ways as Miroku attempted to free Sesshoumaru.
Kagome had just given Miroku's poison burn a satisfied inspection, declaring it nearly completely healed, when Inuyasha spoke up, "You planning to have another go this afternoon, houshi?"
"I had planned to, yes," replied Miroku.
"Can it wait?" the hanyou asked uncomfortably.
Miroku nodded slowly. "It can if it must, Inuyasha."
"I was thinking to do some hunting this afternoon. Supplies are running low. If I do, I can't stand watch while you're sitting with him," the hanyou explained, jerking a thumb towards the hut.
"That's all right, Inuyasha. I'm quite sure I'll be safe with your brother now. He's becoming… used to my presence."
"Half-brother," corrected Inuyasha automatically before adding, "I dunno…"
"If it will make you fell any better, I'm sure Jaken-sama could sit with me," Miroku suggested smoothly.
The kappa-youkai turned surprised eyes on the monk, who raised a questioning brow. "What do you say, Jaken-sama?"
The retainer glanced at Rin, who was currently playing with Shippo by the edge of the spring. "If your females will guard Rin, I will," Jaken agreed.
"That's settled then," Miroku said smugly.
Miroku had to admit that Rin and Jaken made him curious. They seemed unlikely companions for a youkai who exuded such deadly elegance. Based on Sesshoumaru's reputation, I'd have pegged him for a loner. Why would he welcome the constant society of two people who couldn't possibly meet him on equal terms? Looking at it the other way around was just as mystifying. The two practically worshipped the ground Sesshoumaru walked on, but why? There must be something worthwhile about the austere lord to inspire such fierce loyalty. What do they see in him?
"How did you come to be in Sesshoumaru-sama's pack?" Miroku asked Jaken as they settled beside the taiyoukai's pallet.
The kappa considered the monk for a moment before shrugging, "I followed him."
"That's all?" Miroku asked, taken aback.
"No, of course not," Jaken said with the roll of his eyes. "He permitted it."
"I see," Miroku replied, though he didn't.
"What about the girl—Rin?"
"She followed him," Jaken said blandly, as if addressing an idiot.
Miroku blinked, turning his gaze to the pale face of the Western Lord. "She follows and he permits it," he murmured. I'm sensing a pattern here. Eyeing the kappa curiously, he persisted, "Why?"
"Why what, human?" the little youkai countered.
"Why do you follow him? Why does he permit it?"
"I follow him because I choose to do so," the retainer declared archly. "As far as Sesshoumaru-sama is concerned, he explains himself to no one. He tells us to do as we please, and it pleases us to follow."
"I do not wish to offend, but that seems a tenuous basis for your continued devotion, Jaken-sama."
The kappa shook his head incredulously, "You of all people should understand; you travel with Sesshoumaru-sama's half-breed brother. Surely you have noticed? What they say and what they mean are not always the same thing."
Miroku chuckled, conceding the point politely before turning his thoughts inward. If Sesshoumaru cannot tolerate you, he kills you. If you are tolerable, he lets you live. Hang around long enough, and you become a fixture. Sounds to me as if persistence is the key. Well, I can be persistent.
To Miroku's way of thinking, getting close to Sesshoumaru wasn't all that different than wooing a reluctant woman… not that he was attempting to seduce the taiyoukai. Wincing at that thought, the monk settled on a more comfortable analogy. Getting close to Sesshoumaru wasn't all that different than gentling a wild animal. Yes, that's better. It might take more time and a great deal of patience, but it would be worth all his efforts in the end. Wouldn't it?
I wonder if Sesshoumaru accepted Jaken and Rin because of some purpose they served, or if it was simply because they had first accepted the Western Lord. Miroku puzzled this over, but gave up. It's not likely the taiyoukai will unburden his heart anytime soon.
With a self-deprecating chuckle, Miroku admitted to himself that his motivation for helping Sesshoumaru had shifted slightly over the last few days. Though he knew he was here simply to undo the damage left behind by the sacred sutra, the taiyoukai had become something of a challenge. Miroku wanted to outlast the stubborn taiyoukai, to prove that a 'mere human' could be of some use, and to be accepted by the demon lord. Something tells me I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
With a nod to Jaken, Miroku closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, prepared to reach out once again to the reluctant taiyoukai. If Sesshoumaru's philosophy is 'Do as you please', then that is exactly what I shall do. He may be stubborn, but I have the upper hand now and fully intend to wait him out. As the taiyoukai's aura flared up to meet his own, the monk smirked softly at the acknowledgment to his presence. Let's just see how far persistence will carry us, shall we? He may be used to getting his way, but so am I.
Miroku let it be known that in order to get Sesshoumaru to accept him, he was going to be spending even more time in close contact with the Western Lord. A morning's meditation simply wasn't enough anymore. The monk determinedly moved his bedroll inside and only exited the low structure to eat his meals with the others. Inuyasha and Jaken took turns sitting with him, standing guard over the invisible stand-off between demon and human. On one such break, Miroku stretched and leaned backwards, causing a ripple of pops to crackle up his spine. He was trying to explain his latest strategy to Inuyasha, but wasn't making much headway.
"Let me get this straight. You're going to wear him down and gain his cooperation by pestering him?" the hanyou asked with a shake of his head.
Miroku merely smiled. "I prefer to think of it as... dogged determination. The constancy of my devotion will rival that of Jaken-sama before I'm done."
"Oh sure, that'll endear you to him," snickered Inuyasha before sobering slightly. "Don't piss him off, houshi. I know you're getting used to having him around, but he'll be a far sight less pleasant once he actually wakes up."
The monk frowned. "Mm, there is that. I'll be careful," he promised.
"I'm kinda surprised this is taking so long. Much as I hate to say it, the bastard's no idiot. I'd have thought he'd have it figured by now that you're his only way out," Inuyasha commented.
"I don't think he sees me as a threat," Miroku said slowly. "I must not be making my intentions clear enough?"
Inuyasha smirked, "Well there's your problem. He's probably worried about your intentions after you went after his tail like that."
Miroku chuckled. "That was an honest mistake. It shouldn't stand in the way of future amicability."
"Oh yeah?" Inuyasha ribbed back, "Does he know what kind of letch you are? He might like a few of the more pertinent facts laid out upfront if you're gonna try to carve yourself a place in his pack."
The monk's eyes were twinkling, but his comeback faltered. "I'm sure he's perfectly aware that I…" Miroku paused, giving Inuyasha a startled glance, then slapping his hand to his forehead. Turning on his heel, he made a beeline towards the hut.
"Oi! What is it?" called Inuyasha with concern.
"My thanks, Inuyasha," Miroku waved over his shoulder before disappearing inside. "You are quite right." And I am a proper idiot.
The monk dropped to sit beside Sesshoumaru and looked with chagrin upon the taiyoukai's calm visage. "It appears I owe you an apology, Sesshoumaru-sama," Miroku murmured softly. For the past several days, he'd been so intent on 'fixing' Sesshoumaru, he'd failed to consider things from the taiyoukai's perspective. I know who he is, but he may not realize who I am. I'll bet he's never paid much attention to the humans traveling with Inuyasha; I shouldn't have assumed he would recognize me, not that my association with his brother will smooth the way much. Still, it's a point of reference.
Remembering how the youkai had thrown up defensive walls, wary of his approaches, Miroku cringed with regret. I may not have threatened him, but he had no reason to trust me. I handled this badly. The monk had simply fallen into the daily routine of approaching Sesshoumaru, making his presence known, and attempting to access the seal. Though the Western Lord seemed to anticipate these sessions, perhaps for the break they provided to the tedium of his captivity, he had never once relaxed his guard. One-sided. It has always been one-sided.
Miroku was not experienced enough with a demon's youki to guess how adept Sesshoumaru would be at reaching out with his mind. The monk had initiated every contact thus far, but Miroku thought the taiyoukai capable of interacting more fully so long as he initiated the connection. It was high time to facilitate a little exchange of trust. Cautiously, Miroku reached out and placed his hand on Sesshoumaru's shoulder, "We have not been properly introduced, Sesshoumaru-sama. My name's Miroku, and I've been trying to help."
Slipping easily into a light inner contact, he nudged up against Sesshoumaru's aura, prodding the restless swirl of youki gently to catch the demon lord's attention. The inuyoukai turned on him immediately, pushing back with an angry snap. Frustrated, are we? Miroku accepted the rebuff, bending with the phantom blow and waiting to see what Sesshoumaru would do. Come on. Come and get me. Apparently noticing the change in the monk's demeanor, the demon hesitated as if searching for a trap. Miroku brushed his aura lightly against Sesshoumaru's again, trying to convey a sense of invitation. Come on, now. Surely you understand the idea of give and take.
Slowly, the demonic aura twined around him, testing and exploring with tentative curiosity. Making up his mind, the taiyoukai quickly seized his opportunity, ruthlessly invading Miroku's personhood. Well, he's not shy once he decides he wants something, Miroku thought wryly. Swiftly and methodically, the monk's inner landscape was laid bare. Though Sesshoumaru ran roughshod through areas long-hidden from others, Miroku relaxed through the onslaught, justifying the intrusion as due penance for taking the same liberties with the demon lord earlier. Fair's fair.
Physically, Miroku never could have withstood one of Sesshoumaru's assaults, but the monk had considerable stamina in spiritual matters. He submitted to the taiyoukai's explorations, calmly accepting his intimate perusal, holding nothing back. Emotions remained unguarded, motives unhidden, intentions as clear as he could make them. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what he makes of me.
The taiyoukai's internal assessment gradually eased in its intensity. Miroku was confident he'd been recognized now, for the Western Lord had shown unfeigned interest in the effects of the kazaana upon Miroku's aura and the monk's feelings surrounding its consuming presence. Sesshoumaru withdrew slowly, but not completely. The taiyoukai maintained a light contact with the monk, enough that Miroku could tell that Sesshoumaru was giving thought to what he'd learned. The two remained in what amounted to companionable silence for the rest of the afternoon.
"Houshi? Hey, Miroku! Snap out of it, will ya?" came a gruff voice.
"Mm?" hummed the monk sleepily, opening one eye to acknowledge Inuyasha.
"The girls made dinner, and they said to come get you. You've been here all day, and they're waiting to hear what you were on about earlier." The hanyou's eyes flicked briefly to Miroku's hand, which still lay on Sesshoumaru's shoulder.
The monk brightened immediately, rising to follow Inuyasha from the hut. "Something definitely smells good."
Over dinner, Miroku fielded questions from all quarters.
"You figured something out earlier, didn't you?" Kagome began eagerly.
"Indeed. I had a regular epiphany thanks to something Inuyasha had said."
"Your idea—did it work?" Sango asked.
"Yes, is Sesshoumaru-sama accepting you now?" Shippo interjected before Miroku could answer.
Rin quickly added to the din by scooting close to the monk's side and tugging on his sleeve. "Can Miroku-sama talk to Sesshoumaru-sama?"
Miroku smiled at the girl. "No, nothing like that. I can't read minds, Rin-chan."
"How do you know he's accepting you, then?" Shippo asked around his mouthful of stew.
Miroku answered carefully, not wishing to say anything that Sesshoumaru might view as a breech of trust. "I can just… tell. I get impressions of what he's like on the inside and of the things he's feeling."
Inuyasha's ears pricked up with interest. "He's actually letting you get that close?"
The monk tried to make light of the intimacy he'd just experienced, waving his hand. "Oh, I don't know about that."
"You were able to get past his defenses though," the hanyou said in a pleased voice.
"No," Miroku said slowly, remembering the impenetrable front Sesshoumaru had maintained for days on end. "No, I wouldn't have been able do that. He's quite... formidable."
"At least he seems willing to cooperate, right?" Kagome commented happily. "That's the important thing."
"So do you know what changed his mind?" Sango asked.
The monk gave an embarrassed chuckle. "It seems I failed to introduce myself properly."
Silence reigned for several moments, until Kagome finally said what everyone was thinking. "That's all?" Jaken grumbled something about upstarts and proper respect.
Miroku looked sheepish, "When added to the last several days of contact, it appears to have been enough to turn the tide."
"That's good. You will be able to undo that partial seal now," Sango surmised.
"I haven't tried yet, but yes, I think Sesshoumaru-sama will allow me to help him now," Miroku agreed.
"So you're gonna turn the bastard loose again," Inuyasha sighed. "When?"
The monk stretched wearily. "Tomorrow morning. I'll begin tomorrow morning."
"Begin?" Kagome said in surprise. "Will it take long?"
"I won't know until I start. I haven't been able to get a good look at it yet, but it could take some time."
"I'd feel better if we were prepared for the worst," Inuyasha remarked gruffly. "He could be royally peeved with us once he's awake. Are we talking minutes, hours, or days here, houshi?"
Miroku simply smiled and shrugged. "We'll just have to wait and see."
Sesshoumaru was growing impatient. The human returned at regular intervals, and it was past time for the monk's next visit. Not that he cared, of course. This man was known to him, though only peripherally. A monk cursed with the void in his palm; an enemy of Naraku who'd allied himself with Inuyasha. It rankled that the half-breed had seen him in such... unfavorable circumstances, but the fact that the hanyou's scent was blending with Jaken and Rin's provided food for thought. Had Inuyasha actually taken them under his protection while he was... temporarily incapacitated? How irritating. It would be most inconvenient to find himself honor-bound to express some form of gratitude later.
After their last internal exchange, Sesshoumaru thought he understood the monk's goals.
This human was the key to his escape, of that much he was certain. Vaguely, the taiyoukai recalled seeing the man just before he'd blacked out. The monk had been touching his hair, which was unforgivable, though he'd shown a properly submissive attitude when he'd apologized. Sesshoumaru appreciated courtesy. In his opinion, even insults should be delivered under the guise of politeness. There was something quite satisfying about employing the subtleties of wordplay when addressing one's enemies. Inuyasha lacked subtlety, but this monk exuded it.
The human was a study in contradictions—straightforward and sly, honorable and evasive, respectful and irreverent. How can any person embody so many paradoxes? Sesshoumaru wanted to observe this complex man for himself. I'll wager he's interesting to watch. The range of impressions he'd received during his explorations had run the gamut—cheerful, devious, tenacious, sarcastic, compassionate, disciplined, manipulative, flirtatious, honorable, good-humored, self-serving. Honestly, does that make any sense? Even the monk's actions towards Sesshoumaru seemed to be at cross-purposes. It was hardly rational to offer aid to one's enemies.
Perhaps the monk was being shrewd? If he attempts to exploit this Sesshoumaru in any way, he will die by my hand. The taiyoukai doubted the human would act deceitfully. He'd seen too much of the truth of the man to believe him capable of such falsity. The penitence in his last encounter was quite convincing. He'd been earnest, apologetic, and oddly hopeful. It's almost as if he seeks my approval. Sesshoumaru smirked over the absurdity of that thought. As far as the inuyoukai was concerned, the monk had approached him in a manner befitting his station. His attitude had been the equivalent of baring his throat, acknowledging Sesshoumaru's rightful dominance. Now it was the in the taiyoukai's power to make the monk suffer or grant him his life. He's mine to do with as I please. If the human can actually rid me of these bonds, I might just permit his continued existence.
Miroku took his seat next to Sesshoumaru for what he hoped would be the last time. The monk curled himself into the familiar cross-legged position and yawned as he stretched his arms overhead. In his eagerness to begin, he'd been up before the sun, but Jaken had been amenable to an early start. Giving the kappa a faint smile, Miroku brought his mind into focus and stretched his aura towards the taiyoukai. Well, my friend, are you ready for this? Sesshoumaru's youki crackled up to meet him, thrumming with impatient energy. It appears I am late rather than early, surmised an amused Miroku.
Having the Western Lord's cooperation made a world of difference. The monk was practically ushered to the source of Sesshoumaru's difficulties, plunked down, and ordered to undo the damage. I see your gift for nonverbal communication runs deep. He knew Sesshoumaru didn't 'hear' his words, but the teasing tone of his friendly banter would carry through their present connection, so Miroku kept up an inner commentary, chatting as he normally would. Have a little patience, my friend. We need to proceed carefully.
When the equivalent of an incredulous snort was communicated back to Miroku, he mentally shot the taiyoukai a cheeky grin before rolling up his sleeves to tackle the remains of the sutra's spell. Most of the ties were easily dealt with. It was like a complex knot, and Miroku patiently unraveled, untangled, and unwound each strand. This first part was not difficult, merely time-consuming, and the monk couldn't shake the feeling of someone looking over his shoulder as he worked. You know, you might actually regain control of some of your faculties as we go. I'm not really sure, since I don't do this sort of thing on a regular basis.
Inuyasha moved towards the low hut quietly, having been asked on the previous night for as few interruptions as possible during today's session. The hanyou's senses were on high alert, dreading the revival of Sesshoumaru despite the closure it would provide. He was tired of this little clearing with its holy spring and monk's hut. They had places to go and things to do, and Inuyasha was more than ready to leave.
Peeking inside the door, Inuyasha exchanged glances with the kappa on guard. Jaken gave him a slow nod from his seat in the corner. No cause for worry yet. The hanyou returned the retainer's nod and cast a quick look at the monk just to make sure he was fine. Miroku's posture was that odd combination of straight form and relaxed attitude. His expression was one of calm amusement—an eyebrow quirked and the corner of his mouth dimpling slightly. I wonder what's so funny. Just as Inuyasha was turning to leave, a flicker of movement caught his eye and he did a double take.
What the... how did I miss that? Sesshoumaru's tail was coiled possessively around the monk's waist, its end switching back and forth every now and again. Inuyasha's eyebrows shot up at the possibilities his half-brother's action suggested. He gave Jaken a questioning look, but the kappa merely shrugged. Shaking his head, Inuyasha walked back towards the campfire.
"Will Houshi-sama be joining us for lunch, Inuyasha?" Sango asked, shaking the hanyou from his reverie.
"Huh? Oh... no. He's still doing his thing in there," the hanyou replied, tugging at an ear and smiling to himself.
Scenting mischief, Shippo pounced. "What? What's so funny, Inuyasha?"
"I think the bastard might just adopt our Miroku after all," Inuyasha joked as he settled down beside Kagome.
"What do you mean?" Kagome asked as she handed the hanyou his bowl.
"Well, whatever the monk is doing, it must be working," began Inuyasha, pausing to blow on his food.
"How can you tell?" asked Sango.
"Sesshoumaru can move some," the hanyou explained.
The taijiya frowned at this news. "Do you think Houshi-sama is in any danger?"
"No," drawled Inuyasha with a smirk. "I'd say he's safe enough. Could get messy later though, if the asshole tries to keep him."
"What in the world are you talking about?" Kagome demanded, prodding the grinning hanyou with an elbow.
"Nuh-uh," Inuyasha replied, eyes sparkling. "This is something you two are going to have to see for yourself. Go on and look inside the hut, but be really quiet. Don't interrupt."
"Can Rin look?" asked the girl hopefully.
"Me too?" Shippo wheedled.
"When those two get back," Inuyasha said, nodding to where Sango and Kagome now stood beside the door to the hut. "Then you two can go for a quick peek."
When the girls returned to their seats, they were wide-eyed. "That man really can sweet-talk anyone," Sango commented wryly.
Inuyasha snickered. "Yep. Tamed himself a taiyoukai."
"I don't understand," Kagome admitted. "It's kind of cute, but what does it mean?"
"It most likely means that Sesshoumaru-sama has accepted Houshi-sama as part of his pack," Sango explained helpfully. "He probably won't hurt him now, so we can relax a little," she added.
"I think it means that Miroku won," Inuyasha declared smugly.
"Won what?" Kagome wanted to know.
"Well, think of it this way. Our Miroku is used to getting what he wants—you've seen how he turns on the charm." The girls exchanged knowing looks and nodded their agreement. "Well, Sesshoumaru is also used to getting what he wants, though he relies on his power and the fear it inspires. It took Miroku almost a week, but he won Sesshomaru over and wangled his way into the asshole's pack."
"You don't actually think Sesshoumaru-sama will try to keep Miroku-sama, do you?" Kagome asked with a frown.
"Oh, I doubt it," Inuyasha assured her. "They'd probably drive each other crazy."
"I dunno," Shippo piped up as he and Rin returned. "I think they're friends now. So does Rin-chan."
The little girl nodded happily. "I hope Sesshoumaru-sama keeps Miroku-sama."
"Well, they do say opposites attract," Kagome pointed out. "And you can't get much more opposite than those two."
"Best friends," declared Shippo with satisfaction.
"That would be just… weird," opined the hanyou.
"It might be a good thing, though," Kagome pointed out. "Wouldn't it be better if your brother became an ally because of his friendship with Miroku-sama?"
"Half-brother," sighed Inuyasha. "I wouldn't get your hopes up too high, Kagome. At best, I think it means he'll let Miroku live."
The easiest sections had been removed, leaving a short series of more serious problems behind. Miroku explored these last bonds and winced. I can remove these, my friend, but I am afraid it's going to hurt. How's your tolerance towards pain... and the monks who cause it? Sesshoumaru responded to the monk's hesitation with a push towards the problem. I know you're anxious to be free, but will you be understanding? Another demanding thrust, and Miroku groaned. As my lord wishes, he muttered grimly and wrenched the first of the remaining bonds away.
The taiyoukai snarled and Miroku held his breath. A growl of displeasure still vibrated around him, but Sesshoumaru didn't lash out. In fact, with a firm nudge towards the seal, the demon lord prompted Miroku to continue. Gathering his courage, the monk tore a second spell out by its roots. The stoic youkai responded with a long, low whine. I'm so sorry, my friend, but there's just one left and then you should be free.
The youki of Sesshoumaru's aura shuddered around him, and Miroku waited for the taiyoukai to indicate he was ready. Take your time; this won't be pleasant. Finally, the Western Lord wound his youki around the monk. For the measure of a few heartbeats, the two traded fleeting impressions of uncertainty and resolve, then Sesshoumaru signaled for Miroku to proceed. The monk plucked up his nerve and directed his will towards the last, clinging vestige of the sutra's spell. It resisted, and for a moment Miroku wavered. Sesshoumaru's presence battered against him, forbidding him to give up and driving him to try harder. Throwing caution to the wind, the monk flung himself at the last barrier to taiyoukai's freedom, prying it away with a silent scream. Bright lights danced before Miroku's eyes and a howl of pain rang through the air before he tumbled into darkness.
"You're sure?" Inuyasha asked one last time, loosening his grip slightly on Tetsusaiga.
"Yes, Inuyasha," assured the monk calmly as he dusted off his robes. "It just took more energy than I anticipated to break the sutra's bonds. Sesshoumaru-sama didn't attack me; I merely blacked out."
"Figures that stupid kappa would overreact. When he came tearing out of here..." he huffed his displeasure. "So he's free?" the hanyou asked skeptically. "He doesn't look any different."
Miroku eyed the unchanged face and form of the taiyoukai. "Yes, the seal is gone, and I think it best if I'm the only one here when he wakes. He may not wish to have an audience."
"Is that a polite way of saying the bastard wouldn't be happy to see me?" Inuyasha asked, sheathing his sword with a knowing look.
"Now that you mention it..."
"I'll go, I'll go," grumbled the hanyou, turning to leave. "Just don't forget who he is and what he's capable of, houshi."
"I understand, really I do," the monk said in all seriousness. "Tell Jaken-sama that he needn't return; I'll be fine."
Inuyasha stood indecisively for a few moments, but nodded, "I don't think he'll hurt you, but I wouldn't push my luck if I were you."
Miroku smiled his thanks, then returned to Sesshoumaru's side, concerned by the taiyoukai's unresponsiveness. With trepidation, the monk reinitiated contact. Why haven't you come back to us yet? You've got a crotchety retainer and a sweet little girl worrying about you, you know. The Western Lord's youki barely flickered at Miroku's touch, and he felt a moment of panic. Don't you dare die on me.
He gave Sesshoumaru an internal nudge, which was batted carelessly aside. Intrigued, Miroku gave the youkai a more determined poke, only to have that same bored thrust send him backwards. Oh no you don't, sleepyhead. You've had more than enough beauty rest. Without giving much thought to the wisdom of the action, Miroku gathered up his spiritual resources and pushed. That got a reaction as the demonic aura snapped to attention and pushed back. That's better, my friend. You had me worried there for a minute. Relief made him reckless enough to continue sparring playfully with the taiyoukai. His next little jab was parried and Miroku had to dodge the youkai's retaliatory swat. The monk could tell Sesshoumaru wasn't angered by his antics, but decided to withdraw while he was still in the demon lord's good graces.
Taking a deep breath, Miroku opened his eyes and looked expectantly at the taiyoukai. The demon remained utterly still, pale face betraying nothing of what had just transpired beneath the surface. There's no avoiding me now. Shall we get the formalities over with? "I know you're awake, Sesshoumaru-sama," Miroku announced quietly.
Yellow eyes opened slowly, pinning the monk with their intensity. Choosing to read the taiyoukai's silence as an invitation, Miroku offered a quick summation of their current situation. "We are in the house beside the spring where we found you. Jaken is outside, watching over Rin. It has been seven days."
"Hnn," was Sesshoumaru's only response as he rose from the pallet in one smooth sweep. His eyes never left Miroku's upturned face as he gave his hair an impatient flick and looped his tail into its customary place over his shoulder.
"Jaken has secured your armor and weapons," the monk supplied helpfully as he got to his feet. Sesshoumaru nodded minutely and walked past Miroku without comment. Let's not get all emotional now, thought the bemused monk as he followed the Western Lord out of the hut.
Inuyasha took a protective stance in front of the rest of their party, hand on Tetsusaiga's hilt as he faced his half-brother. "Took you long enough," he complained by way of greeting.
"Sesshoumaru-sama!" cheered Rin, rushing forward to stand before her protector, wreathed in smiles. The girl received a nod, then was side-stepped.
The taiyoukai calmly walked to where Jaken stood guard over his armor and bent to reclaim his swords, silently securing them one after the other at his hip. The bone-plated breastplate was simply shouldered.
"Come, Rin… Jaken," he commanded as he turned his back on the hut and the spring and his half-brother's pack. The two scurried to snatch up stray belongings, Rin clambering onto Ah-Un's back and Jaken resuming his place at the rear.
"Oi! Sesshoumaru!" called an irked Inuyasha. "What about the houshi?"
The taiyoukai stopped, turning slightly so he could meet the hanyou's angry glare. His eyes skimmed over Miroku indifferently, before Sesshoumaru arched a brow challengingly at Inuyasha. "He may come if he wishes."
"That's not what I meant," spluttered the hanyou. "I bet you didn't even thank him, you stubborn bastard!"
"For what, little brother?" the Western Lord replied with infuriating boredom.
"He saved your ass, you baka! That seal would've killed you if it weren't for him," Inuyasha fumed.
"In future, I shall not make the mistake of underestimating monks," conceded Sesshoumaru.
Glancing towards the monk, Sesshoumaru found the human leaning against his shakujou, eyes twinkling as he watched the two siblings interact. Catching Sesshoumaru's eye, Miroku winked, "It's all right, Inuyasha. I think Sesshoumaru-sama's generous offer is thanks enough."
As Miroku moved towards Sesshoumaru, the hanyou's jaw dropped. "What! Wait just a minute there, houshi. You can't just go off with that asshole!"
The monk waved a placating hand. "Relax, Inuyasha. I just want a word with your brother before he leaves."
"Half-brother," the hanyou grumped sulkily.
Miroku stopped a few paces from the taiyoukai and bowed respectfully. "My thanks, Sesshoumaru-sama."
The taiyoukai's brows lowered a fraction, so the monk went on to offer an explanation. "I am still alive, and you would not object to my continued presence. From you, these seem high compliments."
"You are… tolerable, for a human."
Miroku's face broke into a delighted smile. "May I ask a favor of you, Sesshoumaru-sama?"
The taiyoukai's gaze sharpened suspiciously, "Ask."
"Should you ever need the services of a monk in the future, I would be honored if you call upon me."
"This Sesshoumaru needs no one," the taiyoukai intoned.
"That is plain to see," agreed Miroku glibly.
The demon lord's eyes narrowed. "You would mock me?"
"Never," the monk replied evenly. "Though I have been known to tease on occasion. There's a difference."
"Indeed?" Sesshoumaru rejoined with a touch of sarcasm.
"Yes," Miroku maintained. "Mockery is heaped upon one's enemies, but teasing is reserved for one's friends." Sesshoumaru scrutinized the monk's face, then looked away with a small huff. "Oh, don't act so surprised," Miroku chided with a slight smile.
"This Sesshoumaru will remember your request."
"Good," the monk replied warmly and stepped back with another bow, which set the rings on his staff jingling softly. "Until next time, then."
End Notes: Those of you who are familiar with my previous fics know that I enjoy writing Miroku. While I'll continue to write Mir/Kag stories, this little collection offers the opportunity for our incorrigible monk to interact with someone who's not nearly as easy to fluster as Kagome. Tolerable's addition of Sesshoumaru to the mix provides scope for imagination and new directions to explore. If you stumbled across this fic in hopes of a little yaoi action, you'll probably be disappointed as I rarely do more than tease. I might flirt around the edges a bit, but that's all. To catch all the amusing Mir/Sess drabbles and oneshots which will be added to Tolerable in the future, by all means add this fic to your Story Alerts. –forthright
Dokkasou, which literally means "poison flower claw," is the Japanese term for Sesshoumaru's poison claw attack. Kazaana is variously translated, "air void," "air rip," and "wind void," but boils down to Miroku's wind tunnel.