Two Heads Are Better Than One
"I'm so sorry, Sesshomaru-sama," Miroku said placatingly as he scooped his twin daughters into his arms.
The toddlers had just scrambled over the dog demon's spotless black boots as they played with Rin, who was sitting near her taiyoukai guardian during one of his visits to the village to ensure that she was doing well.
Sesshomaru did not reply.
Although Miroku knew that the demon had grown accustomed to the humans who formed his half-brother's pack, and would not be so unreasonable as to harm small children who meant no offence, the iciness of those golden eyes told everyone that he was still not to be trifled with by any means.
In an attempt to make the silence less weighty, Miroku chuckled nervously and said: "They're a handful, these twins – twice the trouble, but twice the fun!"
The monk was in fact trying to stand still without swaying from side to side, for he was badly hungover from an all-night drinking session with the village headman, and the mere act of bending down to pick up the girls and standing up again seemed to have driven all the blood out of his head.
Still no answer was forthcoming from Sesshomaru.
Kagome and Sango hurried up to Miroku. Each took one girl from him and carried them back to where their infant brother was tweaking the ears of a surprisingly tolerant Inuyasha. The monk, who remained there trying not to sway, was left standing in awkward silence before the towering taiyoukai.
"I'm sure you know how it is," Miroku ploughed on cheerfully, determined to lighten the atmosphere. "In fact, you must know all about double trouble as your dragon Ah-Un has two heads! Ha ha!"
Behind Miroku, his friends and wife tensed. Inuyasha, Kagome, Shippo and Sango stiffened as the molten-gold glare Sesshomaru was directing intently at the monk somehow grew icier while turning more fiery all at the same time.
Inuyasha carefully put Sango's youngest child into a rocking basket and got himself ready for action in case he needed to rescue Miroku from the very real possibility of instant death. Kagome bit her lip, Sango tried to telepathically bore an urgent message through the back of her husband's skull into his brain, and Shippo hid behind Kirara.
But the monk appeared oblivious to their concerns as he carried on buoyantly: "You always carry two demon blades, and the staff Jaken carries is two-headed as well – how interesting that I never noticed before how you like things in pairs…"
Kirara wisely decided that it was a good time to tuck her twin tails well out of view, under her rump.
"Miroku," Sango called tightly. "It's time to give the children a bath!"
"In a moment, my dear – I've just realised how much Sesshomaru-sama likes having two-headed things."
"Oh dear gods," Sango muttered under her breath, thrusting the daughter she held into Kagome's arms before inching backwards to the tree against which she had stood her hiraikotsu while hanging up the washing.
"I'm surprised you didn't choose a retainer who was twin-headed too," Miroku laughed, forging ahead with his determined friendliness. "Huh, although I wouldn't know – perhaps he does have two 'heads' tucked inside his hakama – well, of course, I haven't taken a look in there – I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to look inside Jaken's trousers, you know, or yours for that matter… as you are aware, I've always been one for the ladies, and whether you have one or two heads inside those puffy white trousers of yours is really none of my business –"
At this point, Sango rapped one end of her hiraikotsu smartly over her husband's crown to save his life, caught him as he fell over with a muttered exclamation of "Oh, my head…" and dragged him away with a quick apology to the taiyoukai: "Please excuse us – my husband is a very sick man."
She had made it halfway to her hut, and everyone was only just beginning to relax, when Sesshomaru made them all jump by speaking in a low, yet resounding rumble: "Houshi."
"Eh?" Miroku raised his dazed head from his prone position as Sango froze in her tracks. "Did someone call…?"
Everyone held their breaths as Sesshomaru moved in the blink of an eye over to where the couple were. Standing over Miroku, whose robe collar was still grasped in Sango's hands as if she were dragging a dead body away for disposal, Sesshomaru glared down at the monk.
"If you ever again allude to obscenities such as the contents of Jaken's hakama in front of my young ward, you will find yourself with little left to fill your own trousers," he growled in a low-enough voice for Rin not to hear, although the adults, who were closer to him, heard him clearly.
"Understood," Miroku breathed, wide-eyed, as the precariousness of his situation finally hit home.
"A human with only one head should take particularly good care of it," Sesshomaru stated pointedly, before striding away and taking flight.
As it sank into the heads of the assorted human and half-demon adults staring after him open-mouthed that the taiyoukai had just demonstrated a hitherto undiscovered sense of dry humour, Miroku gasped loudly in amazement: "So does that mean Sesshomaru really has two?"
Right on cue, Shippo and Rin innocently piped up in chorus: "Two what?"
Inuyasha snorted loudly while Kagome, unable to clap her hands over Shippo's or Rin's ears in time as her arms were full with Sango's twins, could only look daggers at Miroku, daring him to open his mouth one more time.
Sango, however, had the presence of mind to look skywards. What she saw prompted her to drag Miroku even faster along the ground, his heels leaving parallel lines in the soil.
"Oh dear, he's circling round, isn't he?" the monk asked his wife.
"Yes," Sango snarled through gritted teeth.
"He heard me and the children, didn't he?"
"Yup," Inuyasha guffawed, rising to his feet, drawing his sword and adopting a fighting stance against his half-brother's fast-approaching form. "Better stand up and run, Miroku. I'll hold him off as long as I can, but you know I've only got the one weapon against his two."
"Well, thank you, my friend," Miroku said shakily as he staggered to his feet and prepared to disappear into the deepest jungle he could find. "At least you have a big one – I mean your sword, of course, not what's inside your hakama… although I don't mean to suggest that what's in there isn't big… oh gods, there I go again – don't look at me like that, it's the sake talking, I swear. I mean, I never said anything about your maybe having only half of one as you're a half-demon, did I…?"
"You just did," Inuyasha snarled, sheathing his sword, turning away from the sky and glaring at Miroku out of golden eyes that suddenly looked very much like Sesshomaru's.
As his own wife took a step back from him, shaking her head, Miroku knew that he was on his own here, with two dog demons out for his hide.
No longer certain that he would keep either the head on his shoulders or the one under his robe, he turned and ran as fast as his legs would carry him.
Having two heads was definitely better than one.