Flashfic from April 2007.
The light in that room is always a deep yellow-orange, like the end of the day or the end of the year or old things well-used that were once white. Three rhythms can always be heard there: the steady, pendulous ticking of the clock that Kagome gave them as a wedding present 'To remind you, of all the time you have together'; a steady dripping from Miroku's inept attempt at indoor plumbing, and Sango's breathing.
She hardly even looks like the same woman. Age is showing on her, though in his mind he knows she is only eighteen. How could the face of one so young look so haggard, how could her hair already be streaked with gray? He thinks then of her former glory, how she had called upon the strength of years not yet lived just to make it through from one day to the next. And now there is nothing left.
That is her journey, and she has gone on without him. They share the same house, the same bed, and he misses her.
Then there is the world, so bright it is a shock to the eyes. Under the brilliant sun, a boy sleeps in a glass coffin.
In her yellow-orange room, Sango moans. "It pains me so," she says, "every single day. Like a shard of glass in my heart."
In those wild fields where the wind blows so free, Miroku can no longer hear the steady ticking of their time together, but her words linger with him.
He wanders for what may have been days, past the reach of guilt, until he comes again to the glass coffin, the shard embedded in Sango's poor heart.
Kohaku had looked so fair, even after the Shikon shard was removed, that Sango said she could not bear to bury him. Kagome had told her a fairy tale, one where a princess is poisoned so as to appear dead, and her loved ones, not being able to tolerate the thought of burying her, enclosed her in a coffin of glass until her prince woke her. It's all the fault of these foolish fairy tales. Kohaku isn't waking up.
He opens the coffin and listens at Kohaku's chest. No pulse. But when as he pulls away his ear brushes against Kohaku's lips, he hears one word as echoed by a spirit of the dead.
When he goes to sleep in their little yellow-orange room, he is unhappy. The sound of her breathing, the scent of her sweat that has sunk into all the fabrics there, they all mock him. He could have had sex with her, but when he touched her, and all pretense of arousal or coyness was gone, the gameness went out of him. Even the sleep he has there is unsatisfying, a sickly, drugged sleep. The other rooms in his house have no love for him either, for all he feels there is the absence of her. So it comes to pass that he sleeps with his head pillowed on a tussock of grass, breathing in the rich scent of earth and falling into an abyss of stars, cold and covered in dew by morning.
One morning, he does not wake up alone.
Kagome is sad to find him like that. "Are things really that bad with Sango?"
For a long moment he looks at her with eyes full of emptiness, and then says, "Here at the crack of dawn? Are things really so bad with Inuyasha?"
Kagome blows a raspberry. "It's not what you think."
"And this," Miroku says, wringing dew from his kesa, "is not what you think either."
"Hmm," Kagome says. "I think you were womanizing, and Sango kicked your ass all the way out here."
Miroku nods. "Yes, Kagome-sama, how wonderfully perceptive. That's one hundred percent wrong."
Kagome laughs. "I so nailed it, didn't I? So, how far along is she?"
"Sango-chan, of course, you big oaf."
Miroku scratches his chin. "It's hard to say. I don't think she has much longer now."
"Don't play stupid with me, when did she find out she was pregnant?"
"Oh," Miroku says, and looks Kagome straight in the eye. "Sango isn't pregnant."
Kagome grabs his arm. "Miroku-sama, tell me, what's wrong?"
"Just go home," Miroku tells her.
Kagome emerges from the hut with tears sparkling on her reddened cheeks. She feels for the walls of the house as if blind—Miroku sympathizes, knowing how dark it is in there—and slides down to the ground, so that she can hide her face in a tangle of elbows and knees.
"Oh, Miroku-sama," she says when he comes close, "whatever happened to us?"
It's that last word that startles him. Not 'her' but 'us.'
"I hate it," Miroku says, "when good women cry." He kisses her, and though Kagome's face is hot and damp and she isn't entirely happy about being kissed, it's like comparing a thunderstorm to the dead ice of winter. Kagome pulls away and slaps him halfheartedly, a little thwap that hits his cheek and doesn't bounce off. They stay like that a moment, their faces still very close together, and Kagome's hand on his cheek.
Kagome's fingers move very slightly. "You haven't shaved in a while," she says.
"You aren't a virgin anymore," Miroku says.
"What makes you say that?"
"You've lost the fear in your eyes," Miroku says very softly. "And even when you're not trying to, you kiss too well."
"So? Is it really that much of a surprise? Inuyasha and I have been living together in my time for nearly a year now."
He kisses her again, and this time there is less resistance from her. When his hand slips up her skirt she accepts it as if she had been expecting it. This time it is Miroku who pulls away.
"You've never made love to Inuyasha," he says.
"And you know this?"
"I do. I know the actions of a woman who has a relationship she wants to defend, and one who doesn't. They've just been men, haven't they?"
The tears come hotter and faster down Kagome's cheeks. "At least they wanted me." A long pause, while Kagome regains her composure, then: "Do you want me, Miroku-sama?":
"Yes," he says, and they both wait for him to say, 'but not like this,' only he doesn't, and they fuck on the baked earth outside Miroku's hut.
Months later, he is clearing the leaves from Kohaku's coffin, because someone should, when Kagome returns.
"I thought you'd left me for good," he says to her.
Kagome shrugs. "Maybe I did."
Miroku smiles. "But you came back."
Kagome smiles too. "Maybe I did."
A long time passes, and neither says anything. Then Miroku breaks the silence. "What happened that day...probably shouldn't have—"
"No. I'm glad it did."
Miroku grins. "Good, because I kind of was too."
"But it's wrong to leave Sango like this."
"What do you mean?"
"We're all friends. She's clearly suffering. She's still my Sango-chan, so I don't want her to be miserable."
"Kagome-sama, it isn't that I don't admire your compassion, but are we the people to help her? Did you plan on telling her that you did what she could not, and fucked her husband?"
Kagome shakes her head. "That doesn't matter. We're still the only people left who care about her."
"Do you think that if there were something to be done, I would have lain here idly and not done it? What is left to do?"
Kagome comes closer to him, and clasps his right hand. "When we met you," Kagome says, "you were dying. There was a hole in this hand. But together, we made you whole. You're our miracle. And now, I have to believe, you can make the rest of us whole. We saved you, now save her."
Miroku closes his eyes as if in pain. "I thought you were our beacon of hope?" he says, but gets no answer. "Even though everything I have done has gone awry," he says at length, "for you I will try."
"You haven't been alone in destroying yourself," Miroku says, "and I went along with it because it seemed to make you happy. But no more."
"Houshi...sama," Sango says, "please don't."
"I wish I could say that I'm doing this because I love you, but the truth is, loving you is what got us into this mess. It's Kagome-sama who loves you enough to do this."
"Sango," Miroku says with his eyes cast down, "it's hard to believe that you could have defeated Naraku only to be broken by opium."
"I'm not stupid. Or so innocent as to not know the smell, or so blind as to not see that money and valuables are short-lived in this house."
"I'm sorry," Sango whispers. "I never wanted this. But it was the only thing that eased the pain. Everyone else had found the things they needed to be happy, and I was still so sad. What was I to do."
"Is being my wife really so bad?"
"You never made me unhappy," Sango says, "but you were never enough to make me happy."
"The world does not owe us happiness, Sango, nor is it a prize to be earned. It is something we must make for ourselves."
Those were the last words he said to her.