Miroku sat, cuts and bruises bandaged and carefully tended by Kagome. Next to him, Sango refused to meet his eye. To say she was embarrassed by all that had happened would be an understatement - she never should have been in that position, and it really was not Miroku's fault, despite Kagome's claims to the contrary. She'd let her emotions get the better of her... a sign that her once rigid training was slipping.
As they fumbled through apologies, her heart thumped against her ribcage; the tension was like a fog around them.
But as Miroku eased into describing his feelings for her - a friend, a teammate... more, perhaps - a sense of dread settled upon Sango; certainly he wouldn't say what she thought he was going to... would he? After everything he'd done - his womanizing, her admittedly-shattered but once-determined focus on avenging her family...
"If, when our battle with Naraku is over, the curse of the kazaana is broken and I'm still alive, would you live with me and bear my child?"
A tear trickled down Sango's cheek. He would - he did, the accursed man that he was. So many emotions tore through her in that instant that she was speechless: excitement, pleasure, hope... frustration... and finally, rising above all, a cold rage.
'If the curse is broken, if he's still alive... if, if, if... and not a single thought of-'
The word was like a rock shattering a frozen pond, breaking the stillness and creating waves. Behind them, she could hear Kagome's gasp of shock, and InuYasha's muffled snicker.
With a shuddering sigh, she stood. The look in his eyes - hope had dampened into shocked pain - was too much for her to handle. "I- Hou- … Miroku," she amended, finally referring to him by his first name. This was no time to hide behind formalities. It was time to be frank, to face these feelings head on - to brave them, as a slayer facing down a demon.
And what a demon these emotions had, fighting tooth and claw to raise their head above the voice urging caution.
"I cannot, in all good faith, promise my hand to you." She swallowed against the lump in her throat. "My first loyalty is to my brother, to my slain family and colleagues, and to the vengeance they deserve."
Miroku's jaw flapped weakly as he struggled for something to say. Part of her was sorrowful; he'd been kind to her, supportive in the wake of her loss, and she never wished to cause him pain (outside of that small physical stinging he deserved for stepping over clear boundaries). Yet part of her gloried in his confusion, in how taken aback he was as being turned down when all the silly women of villages gone by swooned over his charms.
For the first time since joining the group, she'd made her own decision; it was empowering.
"I won't lie to you," she continued, steeling her resolve and meeting his gaze directly again. "I would love to contemplate what will happen when Naraku is slain. But until then... it's honorless to betray my people by agreeing to become a mere housewife, when there is so much more at stake."
Hearing Kagome's anxious twitterings in the bushes, and remembering the girl's words from the night before, Sango added, "And it's selfish of you to place the terms of a marriage on only your survival. If I die avenging my family, then so be it. While I certainly don't want to see you dead, the fact that you don't take my goals into account prove to me where your heart stands."
In the silence, she beckoned to Kirara, and walked to the tree near which Kagome and InuYasha hovered to grab her weapons.
"Now, are we going to stand her talking all day? Or are we going to continue our journey?"
Originally posted to LiveJournal on January 29, 2011
Word Count: 652
Prompt: "Second Best"