Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this short story… especially for the respective heads of households. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.

Author's Note: This oneshot was written because of the Live Journal community iy(underscore)flashfic. On the first of each month, participants' story requests are thrown into a proverbial hat, then assigned to members. If you request a fic, you get a fic. The distribution is kept a secret until the finished oneshots are posted—on the last day of that same month. Matching Wits fulfills a story request made by Amara Anon. She asked for a Kohaku/Rin tale with a touch of comedy. This is what happened. I hope you enjoy it, hon!

A Debt of Gratitude: Abundant thanks go out to Fenikkusuken, who zipped through to beta—in costume no less! You make a verra schmexy hellion, m'dear.

This oneshot was posted on October 31, 2007.

Matching Wits

Rin pulled the screen open just far enough to slip into the stillness of the room, sliding the panel back into place behind her and pausing on the threshold to gauge the sole occupant's disposition. He won't mind if I don't knock. He never does. Sesshoumaru had been closeted here with guests from an outlying village for most of the afternoon, and she feared things had not gone smoothly. The men left with wide, wild eyes, their disorderly exit through the fortress gates looking suspiciously like a hasty retreat. Sesshoumaru-sama was a respected leader in the Western Lands, but he was also feared, and for good reason.

Tipping her head, she studied the taiyoukai, who stood gazing out the window; every line of his posture was rigid, and Rin's heart sank. This was not Sesshoumaru's usual degree of uprightness. He's angry. Crossing quietly to one of the mats, she knelt and waited for him to acknowledge her presence as she puzzled over what might have stirred her imperturbable lord's ire.

Sesshoumaru's indignation was complete. He'd realized from the outset that the man, a lesser lord with holdings to the south, had an ulterior motive for his visit. The long, tiresome outlining of boundaries had meandered pointlessly, serving no apparent purpose beyond self-aggrandizement. Perhaps realizing that his attempts to impress the Lord of the West were failing, the yammering guest finally came to his true intent. It was a thunderclap from a clear sky, and Sesshoumaru's instinctual response had been equally dramatic. Red flickered again across alert golden eyes, and he refused to relinquish his post beside the window until the dust of the banished man's departure faded on the horizon.

Finally, almost reluctantly, he turned his head to consider Rin. Her dark eyes were fixed on him with concern, though they brightened the moment he gave her his attention. There was no denying the fact that her presence soothed him, that her cheerfulness was pleasant, or that her companionship brought an unexpected boon of contentment to his days. Rin was his—had been his since the day Tenseiga had called her soul back from the abyss—but today's events were a reminder that it would not always be so. She had grown up; she would grow old. She was, after all, only human.

Seating himself behind the low table, he faced his ward and tried to see Rin as others saw her. She was still small in stature, though her dainty features had lost the softness of childhood. He supposed that the accumulation of years hadn't really changed her that much. She still shadowed his steps, preferring his company to all others. A hopeless chatterbox, she hadn't given up inventing nonsense songs or picking flowers. She still turned Jaken's life upside down and lavished too much attention on Ah-Un. She was just… Rin. The girl had no problem fathoming each of them, interpreting their words, actions, moods, and even their thoughts with startling accuracy. His long silences, Jaken's gruff grumbles, even Ah-Un's chirruping—displaying remarkable perception, she simply… understood. In return, it was as if they'd all reached the same, unspoken agreement—for as long as Rin was with them, she would be the center of their universe.

Over the centuries, few had even attempted to know him, and he wasn't sure if his current circumstances could be considered an improvement. These days, there were a shockingly large number of people who treated him with undue familiarity; some were more tolerable than others. As his thoughts returned to the afternoon's fiasco, he felt his youki rising again, along with a low growl of displeasure.

A gentle voice called him back to himself. "Sesshoumaru-sama?"

He blinked, vision clearing to settle on Rin's face. She was waiting patiently, eyes filled with curiosity and unasked questions. Releasing an imperceptible sigh, Sesshoumaru spread his palms on the cool surface of the table that stood between them. This girl had been at his side for nearly a decade, and he knew her as well as she knew him. If he tried to brush his behavior off, it would only make her wonder—and worry. Perhaps it is best if she is made aware of the circumstances. The idea took hold, and the taiyoukai found himself craving her opinion on the matter, so with a nod of permission, he invited her questions. "Ask."

Rin rose up and indecorously planted her elbows on the table, leaning closer to him as her quick eyes tried to read every nuance of his expression. "What did they want?" she asked seriously. Sesshoumaru hesitated before answering, but these pauses were common in their conversations. It made sense to Rin. If her Sesshoumaru-sama was a youkai of few words, then he needed time to choose them carefully.

"He thought to curry favor with this Sesshoumaru," the taiyoukai responded, words clipped by the resurgence of irritation.

Oh dear. His lapse into this stylized self-reference was not a good sign, and Rin began to hum distractedly under her breath as she tried to choose her next question. His anger still simmered at dangerous levels, and the girl spared a glance towards the open window. I hope those men realize they're lucky to be alive. She took in the hard glint in Sesshoumaru's eyes and prayed they had sense enough not to return anytime soon. "Who is he?"

The long fingers of one hand fanned across the table, claw tips grazing the surface without marring the finish. "The man is the local lord of a human village within the boundaries of the Western Lands," he supplied evenly.

Rin nodded her understanding, but his distracted mannerisms worried her. There was more, but he was letting her draw it out. "Is there a problem in his village?" she ventured.


She searched her mind for other reasons people had come to Sesshoumaru-sama in the past. "Did they need you to settle a dispute?"


Propping her chin on her hands, she squinted in concentration. "Was it about a trade agreement?"

"No," Sesshoumaru repeated, then relented. "We already have such an arrangement with his village, but he thought to strengthen the alliance."

Rin gave this some thought, then made an intuitive leap that took him aback. "Are you getting married, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Her tone was neutral, but she looked vaguely uncomfortable with the idea.

Giving a soft huff, he shook his head once. Trust her to find a way to turn his anger into amusement. "No, Rin." With an unhappy little frown, he held her eyes and spoke slowly. "He wished you to become the bride of his second son." Her eyebrows drew together as she tried to process this startling piece of news. Pulling away from the table and sitting back on her heels, she folded her hands in her lap, her face gone very pale. Sesshoumaru watched the girl in surprise. How can she think I would even consider such a thing? I summarily refused his proposal. "Rin…"

Eyes that had drifted out of focus blinked into the present and pleadingly met the taiyoukai's gaze. In a small voice, she murmured, "Rin does not wish to leave Sesshoumaru-sama."

The taiyoukai's eyes widened slightly. She hasn't referred to herself in that manner for years. "Rin…" he tried again, only to be interrupted.

Gathering herself up, she tilted her chin at a stubborn angle. "I wish to stay here."

Letting none of his relief show, he obeyed the compulsion to allay her fears, and looked for words to reassure her. Sesshoumaru flicked his hand dismissively towards the window, "The match was unsuitable."

The tension left Rin's posture, and she leaned forward again. "Was the second son here?" she asked curiously.


"How do you know, then?" she prodded.

"If the father is a frog, the son will be a frog," he quoted, giving a one-shouldered shrug.

Rin giggled. If Sesshoumaru-sama is back to quoting proverbs, then I know everything will be all right. That man will be forgotten, and we can return to normal. If only… She paused thoughtfully before asking, "Will you turn them all away?"

"Of course."

"Then Rin is safe," she surmised after a moment's hesitation, her tone light.

Something was off, and Sesshoumaru did not like the wistful quality that was seeping into her scent. "Explain," he prompted, trying to ignore the suspicions that spiraled into existence.

Rin extended her hands towards him in an all-encompassing gesture. "Sesshoumaru-sama is very particular." His easy nod of acceptance on this point made her smile. "I don't think you would find anyone suitable, so they will all be refused. That means I can stay here with you and Jaken-sama and Ah-Un."

"Hnn," he allowed, dissatisfied with her answer. He tried to fathom the shifting emotions that reached his sensitive nose and realized that she was probably arguing with herself. It is unlike Rin to be divided on anything. The taiyoukai struggled against voicing his next question, but holding it back would have felt… dishonorable. It is probably safe; there are not many in her acquaintance. "Rin, is there anyone you would deem suitable?" She blushed, averting her eyes, and Sesshoumaru knew dread. I will lose her after all. Steeling himself for the worst, he arched a brow and asked, "Who?"

"I think perhaps…" she began, then faltered. Rin rarely withheld confidences from him, but the woman-child before him seemed to have forgotten how to complete her sentences. "I would not mind so much…" Sesshoumaru folded his hands and waited patiently for her to find the courage to share a secret he had not known she carried. "If Sesshoumaru-sama thought him suitable, then maybe…"

When a name finally mumbled itself into the space between them, the taiyoukai's ears had to strain to catch it. He could not say he was particularly surprised. There was a certain appropriateness to the match; one could even call it fated, considering the similarity of their circumstances. Jaken might even approve. Realizing the girl was holding her breath as she awaited his response, Sesshoumaru came to a decision. At his single nod, her face blossomed into a shy smile.

Rin excused herself, humming lightly as she went, leaving the taiyoukai to consider the best way to broach the matter with the boy's family. A letter might be too formal and was far too easy to dismiss. He preferred to handle matters of this importance in person, but a visit might appear too eager. There is no reason to give up the advantages of one's home and go beggaring. Let them come to me. Extending an invitation to the fortress was more strategic. Pulling writing materials from a shelf, he began mentally constructing the contents of his letter only to fall still when he realized to whom such a missive must be addressed. Sesshoumaru winced. "This is going to be… tiresome," he predicted resignedly.

"Brother?" Miroku opened one eye, taking in the apologetic countenance of his wife's younger brother. "I'm sorry to interrupt your meditation, but I wished to speak with you…" Kohaku explained, casting a glance over his shoulder towards the nearby walls of their village, "…privately."

Kohaku was always so serious, though Sango assured Miroku that he was still very much the sweet, thoughtful boy he had once been. She'd mentioned in passing just this morning that it surprised her how much and yet how little her brother had changed. Miroku only chuckled and patiently pointed out that such things were to be expected when someone grew up, and Sango had grown misty. After years of wondering if Kohaku would, or even could, survive Naraku's hold over his life, her joy in having him returned to them was deep. She's happy that he has the chance to grow up, to live a normal life. Miroku wondered fleetingly if Tenseiga, had mended more than the boy's body. That day, when Sesshoumaru-sama stood over the heroic youth's battered form and wielded the fabled 'sword of heaven', it was as if the tattered remnants of Kohaku's soul had also been re-knit. He wasn't just alive; he was whole.

The lad was really a young man now, standing half a head taller than Sango and exuding quiet strength. With his broad shoulders, shy grin, and freckles, Kohaku was becoming the source of much fluttering among the village girls. Miroku had begun to think the boy oblivious to the longing looks and flirtatious comments he frequently received—until the day he'd discovered the boy doing his best to avoid a group of gossiping admirers. The monk had looked on with wonder as the young man fled from the very thing he'd always pursued, exercising his considerable athletic and acrobatic abilities to reach sanctuary in the sheltering branches of an old magnolia.

A private conversation, hmm? Curiosity immediately aroused, the monk smiled and patted the ground beside him. "What's this about, Kohaku?" he asked, giving the young man his full attention.

Seated, Kohaku let his restless fingers toy with blades of grass. "I have been thinking," he began, keeping his eyes downcast, "Father is gone, so you would be the one to speak on my behalf in official matters."

"That's true," agreed Miroku easily. "Do you require my assistance in some capacity? I can assure you that my negotiating skills are formidable."

"I am counting on it," mumbled the young man, offering his brother-in-law a weak smile.

The monk straightened in concern, "You are not in any kind of trouble, are you?"

"No, it's nothing like that," Kohaku assured him.

"Well then?"

"There is… a girl," the young man breathed.

Miroku stared in complete astonishment. He thought he knew everything that went on in their growing community, but he hadn't seen this coming. How could a romance have bloomed right under my nose? Surely I would heard some gossip. Nonetheless, there was no denying the faint color rising in his young companion's face; the poor boy's ears were practically burning. Slowly, a smile spread over the monk's face, and he threw a companionable arm around Kohaku's shoulder. "Is that so? This is wonderful news! You wish for me to arrange a marriage contract?"

"I would be grateful," he replied with a relieved smile.

"What fair maiden has caught your eye?" Miroku inquired, giving Kohaku's ribs a conspiratorial poke.

"Well…" the young man hesitated.

"Come now! To which family must I sing your praises?"

"I…" he tried again, only to be interrupted by the monk's growing excitement in the matter.

"Have you secured your beloved's promise?"

"No," Kohaku replied simply, and stood to his feet to pace. "I wouldn't dare to speak without first gaining permission."

Miroku rose to his feet, bursting with an almost paternal pride, and placed his hands on both of Kohaku's shoulders. "That is most admirable, and will no doubt endear you to the girl's father."

"I don't have much to offer," he pointed out, worry tingeing his tone.

"Such things matter little where love is concerned," Miroku enthused.

"I don't know about that, but she understands… about me, I mean," Kohaku stated pensively. "She is the only one I would choose."

The faintest of warning bells sounded in the back of Miroku's mind, but they were drowned out by the enticing prospect of wedding bells. "I am sure that you could woo any girl's heart with such single-hearted devotion! Simply point me in the direction of her father, and we will begin the arrangements immediately."

"I am afraid the proposal might offend him; he is very protective," Kohaku cautioned.

"Nonsense! Even the most protective of fathers can be won over. There isn't a person alive who isn't susceptible to my persuasive charms…"

Kohaku cleared his throat, trying to stem the tide of his brother-in-law's ebullience. "It's Rin."

Miroku's mouth snapped shut. We don't have any Rin in our village. The only Rin I know is… "By Rin, do you mean to say… Rin?"

"Rin," the young man repeated firmly, adding a nod for emphasis.

"That means you want me to talk to…"

"Sesshoumaru-sama," supplied Kohaku helpfully.

"Sesshoumaru-sama…" parroted the monk slowly, thinking fast. "About… Rin," he added, reaching up to give his earrings a thoughtful tug. "I see."

Kohaku shifted nervously, responding to the sudden seriousness in the monk's demeanor. "I thought perhaps it would be all right—since you are such old friends?"

Miroku chuckled. "Friends?"

"You have always said so, brother."

"Indeed! I count Sesshoumaru-sama as a friend, but I am not sure how much leeway that gives me where Rin is concerned. As you have said, he is very protective of her."

"Oh, I am quite sure he likes you; Rin has said as much in the past," Kohaku assured him quickly.

"Well, I think it's fair to say he finds me… tolerable." The monk rubbed his chin, "I doubt he would kill me for inquiring," he admitted, "but gaining his acceptance of the idea will require careful planning."

"So, you'll ask him?" the young man ventured uncertainly.

"Most definitely!" Miroku beamed into the young man's upturned face. "I'll talk to Sango when we get back; you and I will leave for Sesshoumaru-sama's fortress first thing tomorrow."

"Thank you, brother," Kohaku said, relief and hope lighting his eyes.

Left to his continued meditations, the monk watched with satisfaction as Kohaku returned to the village, a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Kohaku and Rin—it's a good match. Let's just hope Sesshoumaru has the sense to see it and the grace to accept it. He can be so stubborn. Miroku sighed and tried to ease back into his interrupted calm. It would be nice to see Sesshoumaru-sama again; months had passed since their last visit, and he missed the taiyoukai's singular manner. I'm sure I can get him to accept the boy's suit; I just need a strategy. Within minutes, the monk was smirking. "Oh, yes. This is going to be… entertaining," he decided happily.

"Miroku-sama! You came!" cheered Rin as she hurried towards the gate.

The road-weary monk opened his arms wide to catch the little lady in a bear hug. "How could I stay away when such a welcome awaited me?" the monk declared winsomely. "How is Rin-chan on this fine day?"

The girl completely ignored his polite inquiry and bubbled over with her own questions. "Did you bring Kirara? Where is Sango-sama? Didn't she come?" Her eyes widened as a thought occurred to her. "Do you have a new baby?"

Sango had argued that the trip would be much easier—and faster—if they took Kirara, but Miroku had insisted on walking. He figured the taiyoukai would be less likely to toss unexpected guests out on their ears if they arrived on foot. "Not just yet," the monk confided. "Ask Sesshoumaru-sama to bring you for a visit in the fall, though, because I think we can accommodate you then."

"Really?" squealed Rin, who had a fondness for babies. "That will make three, won't it?" she exclaimed happily.

"So it will," laughed the monk.

Kohaku had hung back, knowing Rin's long-standing fondness for the monk and not wanting to interrupt their reunion, but he took this opportunity to step forward. "Hello, Rin-chan," he greeted, sketching a polite little bow.

Rin would have none of the formalities. "Kohaku-kun! I did not see you!" she scolded as she bustled up to him and tugged his large hands into her own small ones. "You are so tall, I don't know how I could have missed you!"

Miroku stepped back to watch as the childhood friends reacquainted themselves. It pleased the monk to see that Rin's smile still managed to condense sunshine, and that its warmth brought a tender light into Kohaku's eyes. The eyes speak as much as the mouth. Within minutes, Miroku felt the gentle buffet of a familiar youki and turned just as a deep voice carried across the courtyard. "Why are you here, monk?"

Sesshoumaru strode towards them, countenance as implacable as ever. "Is that any way to greet an old friend?" admonished Miroku warmly.

"Hnn," hummed the taiyoukai as he drew to a halt a few paces away.

"Would you believe I was passing through the area and noticed an ominous cloud hovering over your home?" teased Miroku.

"Don't be silly, Miroku-sama!" interrupted Rin. "Your rooms have already been prepared," she announced happily.

"Is that so?" replied Miroku with an uncertain look towards Sesshoumaru. "How… fortuitous!"

Sesshoumaru drummed his fingers against his thigh in irritation. His courier had left just two days ago with the letter he had painstakingly prepared, but it was quite obvious that these men had been traveling for several days. They cannot have received the invitation, and yet here they are. The taiyoukai was mildly annoyed with the monk for upsetting his plans. Though his goal had been achieved by their arrival, they were here on their own volition and not upon Sesshoumaru's request. He narrowed his eyes speculatively and repeated his question. "Why are you here, monk?"

Miroku shrugged carelessly. "It's a lovely time of year to venture forth, and there's no more beautiful countryside in which to travel than the Western Lands," he replied smoothly.

Rin giggled at the obvious attempt at flattery, and Sesshoumaru looked distinctly unimpressed. "An excess of courtesy is discourtesy," he remarked phlegmatically, sparking a pleased light in the monk's eyes.

So he's still fond of proverbs. Excellent. "Then you must forgive me for my excess," Miroku replied with a low bow. "I shall try to curb my enthusiasm over finding myself in your esteemed presence once again."

Something suspiciously like a derisive snort emanated from the taiyoukai's general direction. Sesshoumaru turned on his heel, and swept back towards the main house, calling over his shoulder as he left, "Go clean up."

Miroku reached over to tousle Rin's hair and gave Kohaku a broad wink. "You heard him; we can stay!"

Seated on cushions with a low table between them, Sesshoumaru and Miroku looked on as Rin showed Kohaku around the gardens. The girl was chattering and gesturing animatedly, and her companion seemed to hang on her every word. Miroku stole a glance towards the taiyoukai, whose watchful golden eyes never left the pair. It occurred to the monk that Sesshoumaru could probably hear every word, so he leaned closer towards the Western Lord and whispered, "You seem quite captivated. What is she talking about?"

"Guess," replied the taiyoukai dryly.

I do believe that counts as playful on his part; that bodes well. Miroku's spirits rose another notch, and he decided to take the offhand challenge seriously. Tapping his chin, he made a show of pondering the many subjects available for polite conversation. "Knowing our Rin, it would have to be one of three things," the monk decided.

The taiyoukai's eyes slanted his way before returning to the youthful couple, and Miroku took this as permission to expound. "She could be telling young Kohaku all about the latest gossip around the fortress," he suggested.

"She only 'gossips' when you ply her for information," Sesshoumaru retorted blandly.

"I'm an interested party," Miroku said with a smirk. "All right, second guess. Is she regaling him with stories about Jaken's recent foray into the culinary arts?"

Sesshoumaru gave him a long look. "No; how did you find out about that?"

"I have my ways," the monk replied smugly. "Third time's the charm. She's talking about flowers, isn't she?"

"Hnn. How very astute, as they are standing in a garden."

Tea arrived then, along with trays of delectables, and they fell into an easy silence as everything was laid it out. Miroku enjoyed these rare occasions when Sesshoumaru was relaxed enough to be this talkative. The taiyoukai had a sharp mind and a quick tongue, and it was refreshing to match wits with him. The monk cast an optimistic glance towards Kohaku. Sesshoumaru had been keeping careful watch over his interactions with Rin, but there had been no signs of agitation or disapproval. If Sesshoumaru accepts the match, we would practically be family. He certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of his reclusive friend.

When the servants bowed their way out of the room, Miroku picked up the thread of their conversation. "I, for one, am glad that Rin freely shares her love for flowers. The contemplation of beautiful things is good for the soul." He reached for his tea cup and added, "It's not as if you favor dumplings over flowers, Sesshoumaru-sama."

The taiyoukai paused, balancing his exquisitely-painted tea cup between long, claw-tipped fingers with such precision that the amber liquid barely stirred. Surrounded as he was by the finest things that could be had in their day and age, Miroku would have sworn that Sesshoumaru actually struck a pose. Looking down his aristocratic nose with eloquent elegance, he drawled, "Whatever gave you that idea?"

The picture he made had Miroku snorting helplessly into his tea. Sesshoumaru merely turned his attention back to Rin and Kohaku, periodically sipping the steaming liquid and looking vaguely pleased. When the monk finally collected himself, dabbing at his spilled drink, he quoted, "As they say, 'If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.'"

Sesshoumaru met Miroku's gaze, let his eyes drift significantly to the spattered tabletop, then quirked his brow while offering a taunting little You're the one who said it, not me look. The taiyoukai knew the man was hiding something, and wondered at his purpose in coming. He has one; that much is sure. It would out eventually, but until then, there was nothing for it but to respond in kind. "If you wish to speak of flowers," he stated calmly, "then perhaps you should recall that not-speaking is the flower."

Oh ho! It's to be a battle of wits, is it? The Western Lord was adept at sarcasm and veiled insults, and never seemed to mind when the monk showed he could give as good as he got. "So I've heard," agreed Miroku amiably. "It is also said that one kind word can warm three winter months, however I do not think it was meant to be taken literally."

Sesshoumaru nearly smirked at the insinuation, and he was ready with a rebuttal. "The inarticulate speak longest."

"Are you saying I talk too much?" the monk asked with offended dignity.

"I made no such claim," replied Sesshoumaru distantly.

Miroku pounced, "Ah, so you admit that I'm articulate?"

"Presumption," chided the taiyoukai.

The monk propped an elbow on the table and reached for the teapot. "Prevarication," he countered.

"Either way, my response would be a sutra in a horse's ear, for you will believe what you will."

"Well said," Miroku chuckled. "You're enjoying yourself, aren't you?"

Sesshoumaru looked back out to where the sun was dipping towards the Western horizon. "One cannot quarrel without an opponent," was the only concession he made, but it was enough to make the monk smile.

Miroku hurried to match the taiyoukai's long strides, amusement sparkling in his eyes. "I think you're just jealous," he teased in a mild tone.

Sesshoumaru slowed to a stop and swept the monk with an appraising look. "Are you aware how foolish you look?"

"What, this?" Miroku asked, holding his arms out and making a graceful turn. Flowers had been twined into long chains that crisscrossed his torso, and a nodding wreath crowned his head.

"Indeed," muttered the taiyoukai, who resumed walking.

The monk jogged to catch up. "There's no harm in humoring Rin; we were just reminiscing—she and Kohaku and I. Even Jaken turned up. You could have joined us." He raised a finger dramatically and quoted, "We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."

Sesshoumaru stalked on. "It has been two days, monk. Is there a reason why you continue to plague me with your presence?"

"There are even bugs that eat knotweed?" Miroku offered cautiously.

The taiyoukai huffed, a glint of humor flickering through his eyes. "You will shed your weeds before entering my study." The monk grinned and began unwinding the floral festoons. Once they had reached the privacy of Sesshoumaru's rooms, he pinned Miroku with an unwavering gaze. "So why are you here, monk? I know you have some motive."

Miroku felt the rise of youki and knew he'd worn out his welcome. "My, you are suspicious," he hedged brightly.

"Deceive the rich and powerful if you will, but don't insult them," Sesshoumaru remarked blandly.

With a heavy sigh, Miroku took a seat in front of the taiyoukai's desk, taking his time arranging his robes as he gathered his thoughts. He supposed he'd been avoiding this conversation, but it appeared his host was out of patience. Risking a glance in Sesshoumaru's direction, he watched the Western Lord assume his own seat, eyes never leaving his face. He only had one trick left up his sleeve, and throwing caution to the wind, he attempted to turn the tables. "There's something I've been wondering. When we first arrived, Rin seemed to be expecting us. How did you know we were coming?" Sesshoumaru stilled, and Miroku mentally patted himself on the back. "You were expecting us," he stated with more confidence.

"We were," the taiyoukai admitted in a tight voice.

Miroku tipped his head, confusion plain on his face. "You sent for me, didn't you?" he guessed, his momentary feeling of triumph replaced by concern. "Did something happen?" Sesshoumaru gave one of his one-shouldered shrugs, and concern bloomed into worry. That was not a 'no'. "Why would you need me?" he mused to himself.

"I never said I did," Sesshoumaru retorted.

"Ah, but you never said you didn't, which is much more telling," the monk replied confidently. Perhaps I can use this to my advantage—segue with a bit of levity. "Wait, let me guess," he suggested.

Sesshoumaru closed his eyes and flicked a hand in his direction. "By all means," he invited with wearied sarcasm.

Mystified, the monk forged ahead. "You… You wish for me to assist you in dealing with the humans who will no doubt be clamoring at your doors, anxious for the chance to secure young Rin's hand in marriage?"

The taiyoukai's eyes snapped open, his expression darkening immediately. "Why would you say such a thing?" he demanded, voice low.

The monk chuckled nervously. "I was teasing, my friend. Wait…" Miroku realized he must have hit close to the mark, and blanched. Immediately serious, the monk quieted and rested his hands lightly on his knees. "You mean… Good heavens, did they survive the attempt?"

"Hnn," Sesshoumaru considered. "So far."

"If this was the first, it will not be the last," commented Miroku carefully. "One dog yelping at nothing will set ten thousand straining at their collars. Others will seek the merits of an alliance with the Lord of the West." The monk's face went through a series of odd expressions, and Sesshoumaru's focus narrowed. "Please tell me," he begged with a look of pained bemusement, "that you did not call for me to help you negotiate a marriage contract for young Rin."

The taiyoukai's voice dipped dangerously. "Rin is not chattel," he growled.

Miroku waved a hand in what was meant to be a soothing manner. "Of course not. Any who know you would know this to be true."

Scenting the air, Sesshoumaru frowned; recollecting himself he leaned forward, studying the monk's face. In a tone that Miroku would have called strained, he repeated his earlier question. "Why are you here—you and the boy?"

With an embarrassed smile, the monk confessed. "If you do not enter the tiger's cave, you will not catch its cub."

The Western Lord drew himself up, "Hnn."

Sesshoumaru's expression was guarded, but the anger seeped out of his youki, and Miroku breathed easier. "I suppose you thought I was just here to sell oil?" the monk accused pleasantly. "I am here at Kohaku's behest; he wished for me to speak with you on his behalf." Miroku rapped his knuckles gently on the table. "Now confess. What will I find in the letter that awaits my return?"

"An invitation." The monk shook his head and beckoned for more information. "An invitation to discuss a suitable match for Rin." Miroku folded his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrows encouragingly. Sesshoumaru huffed in exasperation, but gave the man what he obviously wanted. "It seems Rin favors the boy."

"You make it sound like a bad thing," the monk cajoled.

"A frog in a well does not know the great sea," he quoted vaguely.

"Do you oppose her choice?"

"Ten persons, ten colors," he murmured unhelpfully.

Why is he being so difficult? "Surely you can see that they are well-matched, and if she weds Kohaku, you'll have the chance to see her often." The taiyoukai's jaw tightened at this comment, and certain pertinent facts suddenly made themselves very clear to Miroku. Mentally berating himself for not catching on sooner, and he chose his words with care. "I believe he could be encouraged to settle closer; here, even, if you were to permit the imposition."

After a lengthy pause, Sesshoumaru managed a stiff, "Perhaps."

Feeling a shift in focus was called for, Miroku smiled and shook his head in wonder. "All things considered, I think 'wake from death and return to life' is an appropriate summation for this visit." He nodded towards Tenseiga as he spoke, obviously pleased with his allusive choice in proverbs. Sesshoumaru tilted his head in what might have been agreement, and the monk let out a gusty breath. Sagging slightly against the table, he pointed a finger accusingly. "You might have said something sooner."

The change in tone dispelled any remaining tension in the room, and the taiyoukai seized upon the chance for a bit more verbal sparring. "Deceiving a deceiver is no knavery. I wished to discern your true intentions first."

"As if my intentions could ever be anything more than honorable," scoffed Miroku. "It was my solemn duty to risk your wrath for the sake of Kohaku and Rin's future happiness." Receiving nothing but a blank stare from his audience of one, Miroku continued, bursting with good will. "As you well know, the go-between wears out a thousand sandals. I have been tireless in my support of this match. My only wish was for a happy union between our two families."

"Our families?"

"Well, if your ward marries my wife's brother…" Miroku mused, "then that would make my younger sibling the husband of your 'daughter'. If that is the case, and my brother looked upon your esteemed self as a father figure, then it only follows that my younger brother's father would also be my…"

"No," interjected the taiyoukai hastily.

The monk blinked innocently. "I was going to say friend. Would it be so terrible to claim me as one? I won't give up asking you to do so, you know."

"Hnn, you have been quite persistent."

"Continuance also is power," replied the monk breezily, contenting himself with the fact that while the taiyoukai had never referred to him as a friend, he had yet to outright deny their connection. With Sesshoumaru, it was often the things left unsaid that were important. "Shall we consider the match settled, then?" he inquired, a dimple lurking.

"I believe we have an understanding."

"Excellent," exclaimed the monk, clapping his hands to close the matter. "Now then…" Anticipation sparkled in his eyes as he planted his elbows on the table and offered the taiyoukai a challenging look over his steepled fingers. "Shall we discuss Rin's dowry?"

The answering light in Sesshoumaru's eyes was razor-sharp, and Miroku gulped as the taiyoukai casually reached for a well-worn abacus, placing it on the table between them. "Proceed."

End Notes: There were a grand total of twenty-two Japanese proverbs woven throughout the course of this oneshot. While I tried to give you some sense of their meaning within the context of the story, I'm sure they lost a little something in translation, so I am including them here.

- Seiten no heki-reki. Literally: Thunderclap from a clear sky. Meaning: A bolt from the blue; a complete surprise.
- Kaeru no ko wa kaeru. Literally: If the father is a frog, the son will be a frog. Meaning: Like father, like son.
- Me wa kuchi hodo ni mono o ii. Literally: The eyes speak as much as the mouth. Meaning: Love needs no words.
- Abura o uru. Literally: To sell oil. Meaning: To spend time chitchatting or to waste time in the middle of a task. Background: Comes from Edo period hair-oil salesmen, who took their time chitchatting with the customers when selling.
- Hana yori dango. Literally: Dumplings over flowers. Meaning: The person to whom it is directed prefers practical gain to aesthetics.
- Iwanu ga hana. Literally: Not-speaking is the flower. Meaning: Silence is golden.
- Uma no mimi ni nembutsu. Literally: A sutra in a horse's ear. Meaning: A wasted effort.
- Aite no nai kenka wa denkinu. Literally: One cannot quarrel without an opponent.
- Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki. Literally: There are even bugs that eat knotweed. Meaning: There's no accounting for taste; to each his own.
- Koketsu ni iranzunba koji o ezu. Literally: If you do not enter the tiger's cave, you will not catch its cub. Meaning: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu. Literally: A frog in a well does not know the great sea. Meaning: People are satisfied to judge things by their own narrow experience, never knowing of the wide world outside.
- junin toiro. Literally: Ten persons, ten colors. Meaning: To each his own.
- kishi kaisei. Literally: Wake from death and return to life. Meaning: To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.
- Keizoku koso chikara nari. Literally: Continuance (also) is power/strength. Meaning: Don't give up. Just continuing to hold on will yield/reveal strength and power. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is power.

Some of the purported Japanese proverbs I found didn't come with transliterations:

- An excess of courtesy is discourtesy.
- One kind word can warm three winter months.
- The inarticulate speak longest.
- We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
- Deceive the rich and powerful if you will, but don't insult them.
- One dog yelping at nothing will set ten thousand straining at their collars.
- Deceiving a deceiver is no knavery.
- The go-between wears out a thousand sandals.

I am also using this oneshot to fulfill a portion of my iy(underscore)no(underscore)kakera claim on Live Journal. Set #2, Theme #76, Persuasion.

Finally, this story rather assumes that the events in my story collection Tolerable have taken place. If you like the idea of Sesshoumaru & Miroku being thrown together in something that bears a remarkable resemblance to friendship, their undeniably unlikely association has its inception there.

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