Merry Christmas, Lady Griddlebone!

"You can't be angry with me forever."

His tone was cajoling – lighthearted, though his topic and listener was anything but.

"I can try," she muttered peevishly. She was further irritated by the fact that he'd snuck up on her. Damn it, only half a year since she tucked away Hiraikotsu and she was already going soft. It was yet another reminder that things would never be the same…

Reminders she could do without.

Sango grumped, tearing her eyes away from the pre-dawn sky and focusing instead on the ground. The sky – the same twilight color of his eyes, damn it, with that sparkling glint echoed in the fading stars – was full of reminders, too.

The silence between them was strained, filled with tension – there was nothing of the comfortable peace they'd fought so hard to attain.

Miroku drew closer; she could feel the heat from his body and unconsciously leaned into it, despite her anger.

'It wasn't supposed to be like this.'

Even on their travels, with the stress of death nipping at their heels, her feelings for him had outweighed her frustrations at his varying faults. Conning, womanizing, groping – all fell to the wayside in her mind the moment he turned that coy smile on her. Not that she'd let him know that; somehow, Sango figured he knew; even when she never whispered a word.

So why wasn't it enough now?

Because there was nobody to talk to about it. Nobody to help her get away for a little while, to restore her equilibrium. Nobody else to focus on, to direct her attention toward.

"Sango?" His voice was lightly entreating now, tugging at heartstrings hardened by loss and loneliness. She stiffened, as though she could build a wall between her ears and her brain… and her heart.

'Damn him.' Her curse held less emotion than before; he was already working his magic, and had only said one word. 'Damn him!' The realization helped fuel her irritation once more.

'This is all his fault!' Everything!

Well, not everything. That wasn't fair. Miroku had nothing to do with Kagome's disappearance – and that was the reason for InuYasha's surliness, his isolating himself from the group. She didn't blame him; she missed Kagome almost as much. The girl had been the younger sister she had never had. Kagome had been so dedicated and genuine - balancing two lives and working to become a powerful miko while remaining a woman. She had brought wonders back from her world on the other side of the well – intriguing things that Sango would miss almost as much as the girl (the soaps made baths luxurious but lately, Sango had been absolutely craving the po-ta-to chips that wouldn't come around for hundreds of years).

"He'll be back," Miroku reassured, again breaking the silence.

Sango stiffened. It was easier to think of Kagome's disappearance – of the fact that she would probably never see the girl again. Kagome being sent home after her task had almost been expected… still upsetting, but a natural way for the kami to restore the natural order of things.

His disappearance, though…

She felt betrayed, though she'd never tell him that. Instead, she pasted a smile on her face and waved him off, appearing for all the world like a supportive sister. Inside she cried and raged and screamed things a lady shouldn't know, much less say aloud.

He left. Again. Just when it looked like they'd be a family again.

Miroku's hand tightened on her shoulder, thumb rubbing idly against a knot of tense muscle. "You know he had to do it, Sango. Deep down, you understand that, or you wouldn't have let him go." His voice was soft, understanding – it flowed over her and coated her with warmth, even as she rebelled against it.

She didn't have to understand! She didn't want to understand!

This was supposed to be a happy time. Their battle with Naraku was over; her family was avenged. The threat of the Shikon no Tama had been taken care of. They had a home, a place where they were welcomed... where ghosts from the past wouldn't intrude.

Memories, not nightmares, would keep the tajiya village alive.

'Except in Kohaku's dreams.'

Sango closed her eyes against the memory of Kohaku waking up in a cold sweat, night after night. His eyes glassy – was he dreaming of killing father and the others? Did he dream of being used, being Naraku's deadly puppet?

He wouldn't tell her. How was she supposed to help?

He told Miroku, she supposed; after all, Miroku had been the one to put forth "the answer."

Thinking about that particular day put a sour taste in Sango's mouth and she stiffened again against Miroku's palm. His sigh reverberated down into her shoulder and goaded her anger further. 'He has no reason to be upset with me!' The other way around, however…

He'd left. Just like that. Had packed the satchel tajiya carried while on the hunt, had requested and gained Kirara's assistance, and had begged his sister's forgiveness. 'Kohaku…' She couldn't deny it, as much as she wanted to.

"Miroku says it's best to face my demons," she recalled him saying. "Instead of hiding away."

Wasn't that what he was doing, though? He was running from her – his sister – and from the future.

Sango's hand drifted to her stomach as a brisk wind danced around her, tugging through her hair and tangling it as it tickled goosebumps from her skin. Miroku stepped closer to her despite her body's protestations and held her, warmed her…

It wasn't fair that he could still make her melt like that, inside and out, with the right touch or word. Not when she was so determined to be angry at him.

She had to be angry at him. It would be wrong to be cross with Kohaku and would only sour the visits he promised to make. "After all, Ane-ue, I'll have to see my nieces and nephews!"

"Why did he have to leave? He's only running from me…"

"He's facing what he's done," Miroku murmured, and Sango started. She hadn't realized she'd spoken aloud until the response. "He doesn't feel worthy of our family; he doesn't feel as though he deserves the peace that's so prevalent here."

Sango hung her head. "If anybody deserves a peaceful life, he does."

"He doesn't see it that way. He has to atone."

"He doesn't!" Sango's irritation flared once more and she spun, raising her hands to shove Miroku away. She had to put distance between them – his eyes, dark and solemn in the face of her anger, were so close… there was pain in them, and it tore at her.

'Damn him! It's not fair!'

She hadn't realized she'd halted in her movements until Miroku wrapped his long fingers around her wrists. Her eyes closed; for a moment, she reveled in the feeling of his bare hands, skin on skin without the whisper of cloth playing the role of barrier between life and death. He wound her arms around his neck – a bold move, when she was angry enough to shift and throttle him – and held her.

"He does," Miroku whispered into her ear, appearing unaware that the heat of his breath played havoc with her hormones, with her emotions. "Kohaku knows you've forgiven him… he knows you don't hold Naraku's trickery and evil tricks against him. But he has to forgive himself."

Tears finally prickled her eyes; the heat of his body all around her melted the ice that had filled her veins when Kohaku had told her he was leaving, taking Kirara will him to travel the lands. "I thought -"

"I know."

The two huddled in the stillness of the rising light; Sango's sobs against his shoulder were the only counterpoint to the whisper of branches bending in the wind.

"You told him to leave. I could have helped him; we should have helped him." Sango sniffled, feeling somewhat like a child but unable to bring herself to care. She was tired of the emotions ricocheting through her body; Kaede had forewarned her that she might be more emotional than normal, and she'd been right. The pain of knowing her brother had left her behind had made those emotions more than she could bear.

"He left me; you made him leave me," Sango muttered again. "He left me alone, after everything I went through to find him."

Miroku jerked as if slapped. "You're not alone." He sounded choked. "I am with you; Kaede, Rin, and even InuYasha are all still here for you. I will not leave you."

"You told him to leave."

"I was trying to help him."

This was the first time they'd actually fought about something since becoming one, Sango realized, and it was more painful than she'd expected. When on the road, they could separate; she could pull out Hiraikotsu and take out her anger. She could walk ahead; Kagome would listen to her rant while Miroku suffered Shippou's sarcastic remarks and InuYasha's silent glares.

Now it was just the two of them, and she realized she wasn't sure what to do. She didn't want to be angry at him; he was all she had now that even Kirara was gone. But he'd sent Kohaku away…

As if reading her thoughts, Miroku held her tighter. "I'm sorry."

The last of the tension fled her body and she slumped against him. It was like the lifting of a miasma. "On top of everything… that's what I really wanted to hear," she murmured against him.

Miroku sighed his understanding. "I really am. Can you forgive me?"

Sango nodded against his chest. "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have been so upset with you…"

"This is new to us," Miroku noted, lifting her face and smoothing a thumb softly over her cheek. "We'll have our arguments… but I know we can get through anything with a little give and take. Now…" he motioned with one arm to the sun rising. "I don't know about you, but I'm tired. Come back to bed with me?"

Ducking away from his hand, Sango hid her smile as she acquiesced – of everything they could, and would, argue about – that was not one of them.


Written for Aamalie's "MiroSanta" Christmas event, I was honored to be assigned Lady Griddlebone to write for :)

May you have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may your loved ones always know what to say.

I don't own InuYasha or any of the characters related to the show!