He follows in his father's footsteps and wanders through life.
It's a quiet life, moreso than one would expect, punctuated with fights and flings and frustration at the monotony and helplessness of it all. Still, he smiles and cracks jokes, always playing the optimist, because it's easier than admitting that he wishes this were someone else's burden.
It gets harder to pretend that way when Inuyasha and Kagome and Shippou come into his life. They are more attentive than any other he has met on this journey. He tries harder, but that kind of defeats ignoring the problem.
Then she enters the fray. Sango.
Gravity doesn't reorient itself and the stars don't shine any brighter. The shift is slow, more gradual than that, but when he realizes where the change is coming from his first instinct is to leave. It isn't until he tries that he finally understands it is already too late - there is no leaving this behind. Something about her - the fall of her hair or the shade of her blush, the lilt of her voice or the quiet resilience of her character. He wasn't sure what had done it, but he was enraptured by her.
This is a path he never intended to follow. There are no ancient tracks to follow, none of his father's footsteps to guide him.
He feels a little lost, for once.
Her voice breaks the silence and his reverie, but Miroku can hardly say he minds.
"I'm not interrupting, am I?" She hangs back, tentative and awaiting his response. It's amazing, he thinks, how the same woman can be so bold, yet so timid in altering degrees. He wonders if he'll ever get the chance to figure her out - and if he would even want to if he did.
"No, it's fine."
"Oh." She shifts, and the moonlight glints on her hair. "Well, the others are already asleep. I just wanted to be sure all was well." The volume of her voice dropped fractionally, as if she were embarrassed. "You've been gone for a while, so…"
He feels the smile when it comes to his face, involuntary. "Afraid I'd run off?" he queries, teasing.
"You should know better than that by now," Sango retorts, all indignation. Her scowl, so pretty and fierce, draws a chuckle from his throat. It takes everything in his tenuous self-control to resist rising and going to her, from caressing her cheek, just to feel it grow warm as she blushed - and she would blush. He'd give anything to draw her close, and the unfamiliar intensity of that desire throws him.
Instead, he rises and brushes away the grass that clings to his robes. Gripping his staff, he approaches her and stops with room to spare.
"You're right," he says, simply. "Even if I tried, I don't think I'd get far anyway."
She gazes at him for a long moment, and then slowly, her lips curve upwards and she's so beautiful.
"You're right," she replies. "You wouldn't."
I wouldn't let you.
(It goes unspoken.)
They turn then and begin walking together, side by side and comfortable. Uncharted though it is, he likes this territory.
He listens to Sango's voice and wonders if gravity hasn't shifted after all.
Author's Note: Written for the amazing and fantastic Starzki, who is generally awesome and amazingly patient. Go read her stuff now, because it's far, far better than anything I've thrown together. (Trufax.)
Written October 18 2009.