Philosophy By Starlight

Part Two of the Friendship Duology

Some days, Miroku reflected, it was simply not worth getting off one's back and facing the day. Even if it was a holiday.

Today marked the Festival of Stars. It was the celebration of love, honoring the Cowherd and the Weaver stars. They fell in love and could only meet but once a year, and today was the legendary day. The holiday's romantic warmth rang true to the monk's soul…

Mostly because it meant that the women would be out on droves, and in any other village, he might stand a chance of finally finding one who might do him the service of providing him with an inheritor for his mission.

But no.

There would be no maidens for him. He was stuck in the village that once had once been home to the Shikon no Tama, as well as the miko that had purified and protected the jewel. Every maiden here had already heard his line and had shot him down. There wasn't a single eligible maid that took him seriously in the entire village.

And it was all Inu-Yasha's fault.

At least, it was his fault that he was stuck in this tiny, backwater hole of a village. The source of Miroku's aggravation was currently sulking up a tree, his back to the lay of the homes and the merrymaking that the place was currently enjoying.

The thought occurred, just briefly, that he could just walk back to the village and spend some time with Sango. She was lovely, intelligent, and demure. She would be far more pleasant company then the hanyou could ever hope to be. And maybe, by now, Sango wouldn't be angry that he'd pawed her this morning as a festive way to start the holiday!

Then again, she'd been quite displeased. Maybe he should let her cool off a little more.

The jangle of his staff did not draw Inu-Yasha's attention, and so the monk waited patiently beneath the tree for a few more moments.

The hanyou still did not speak or acknowledge him. This was getting irriating.

"Inu-Yasha."

Nothing.

"Are you really going to spoil a perfectly good festival with your own foolishness, Inu-Yasha?"

A piece of bark narrowly missed his head. How he wished, just for a moment, that he could simply 'osuwari' the damn bastard out of the tree. Just once! It'd be cathartic! Everyone should be able to do it, just once, to make themselves feel better about dealing with the idiot.

Just once.

"You know," Miroku began, taking a seat beneath the tree, "If you really wanted to fix things, you could simply go to Kagome-sama's world and apologize."

"I didn't do anything wrong!"

Finally. Progress.

"You dashed her hopes for a happy festival, Inu-Yasha. She obviously hoped to spend some time with you." The branches above the monk rustled, and he ignored the thump of Inu-Yasha's landing but five feet from him. "Would it have been so hard to give her a good time?"

Inu-Yasha sat down beside him with a grunt, and folded his arms over his chest in Sulk Posture #1: I'm right, she's wrong, don't tell me otherwise.

Miroku prepared himself for a headache.

"Festivals are stupid," Inu-Yasha pronounced with a grumble. "We don't have time to waste on these sorts of things! We have to find Naraku!"

Miroku reached up and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Then, he changed his mind, and reached out to grab one of the forelocks of hair that hung so nicely over Inu-Yasha's shoulders, begging to become handholds.

Cherishing the pained yelp that was music to his ears, Miroku said, "So you yelled at her and made her feel awful because you want to work on a day reserved for not working? And you truly this stupid?"

He released the lock of hair and leaned back as a flailing arm came close to clocking him in the face, then shook his head as Inu-Yasha began to yell. Same old, same old.

A few minutes later, after blocking out most of Inu-Yasha's yelling, he pondered upon why Inu-Yasha – who normally enjoyed a brief break – would not understand the importance of having a good time at a festival.

Had he never attended one?

Miroku's brows furrowed, and he glanced at Inu-Yasha. He only knew snippets of the hanyou's history with humans, and none of it was incredibly pleasant. Kagome never told the whole story, respecting her beau's privacy, and Inu-Yasha certainly didn't tell anybody anything.

"Have you ever even been to a festival, Inu-Yasha?"

"Why would I go to one?" Inu-Yasha replied. "They're stupid! All you humans do is eat to much and get drunk and act like fools over the damndest things!"

Miroku's smile turned devious. "Have you never simply just enjoyed yourself with others, Inu-Yasha? I suggest you try it before you deride it."

The hanyou scoffed at first, but it vanished in the wake of another pained yowl as Miroku casually grabbed another handful of hair and used it as a leash.

"Come with me," Miroku said, giving the hanyou not a whit of choice in the matter. "We'll begin your education in socialization now."

Inu-Yasha protested loudly, and with colorful language that the monk filed away for later use. Miroku dragged him along toward the first table set up within the village square.

"Some mochi, please? One for me, and one to fill my noisy friend's mouth with?" Miroku asked pleasantly of the young man who was making the confection. Shortly, he let go of Inu-Yasha's hair to hand him the mochi instead, enjoying the look of bafflement at the gift of food.

"It's traditional. Now eat." Miroku told him.

He hadn't needed to: the hanyou's stomach won out over irritability and Inu-Yasha was already munching before Miroku got 'traditional' out of his mouth. At least he hadn't had to wrestle him to the ground and force-feed him, like he'd originally feared.

"Now," Miroku said, "humans have festivals to celebrate certain things. Do you even know the point of this particular festival?"

Inu-Yasha grunted once around a mouthful of mochi and shook his head.

"This is a festival to celebrate love." He pointed to the sky, toward the stars that were already showing in the darkening sky. "Tonight is the night that we celebrate the love of the cowherd star and the weaver star. You see, they fell in love, but because the weaver star kept neglecting her duties in favor of being with the cowherd star, the heavens separated them, decreeing that they could only see each other one night a year. We celebrate that love endures despite all trials and tribulations."

Miroku glanced to Inu-Yasha from the corner of his eyes, and was mildly surprised to see the hanyou's gaze fixed to the stars he had pointed out. Ah, the monk thought, so even you can be touched and inspired.

"That's stupid," Inu-Yasha said abruptly, dashing Miroku's previous hopes. "If they can't be together, then they should just accept that." He finished off the last of the mochi-on-a-stick, and then tossed it down to the dusty earth.

Miroku idly wondered anyone would care if he bludgeoned the hanyou until he was unconscious and dumped him in the well for Kagome to find later. Probably. No one needed to see blood split on a holiday, anyway.

"Listen," Miroku said peevishly, "You're going to be educated if I have to abandon Buddha's compassion for a night and beat it into you. This is why Kagome-sama is upset. She's like the weaver star. Always working, just so that she can be with her lover. And who, do you suppose, that her lover is?"

Inu-Yasha was silent, but his ears pressed flat against his skull. He understood, Miroku could see, he just wouldn't admit it.

That was okay, the monk decided. There were other ways to loosen a man's tongue besides violence, and some that were more pleasant then beating a hanyou over the head until his staff broke.

"Alright, then. Come on. Next lesson." Miroku took another handful of hair, and dragged Inu-Yasha to yet another booth. This time, two full jugs of sake and two shallow cups were procured; Miroku held them awkwardly in one hand while he dragged Inu-Yasha back to the edge of the village. He did not release his deathgrip on Inu-Yasha's white hair until they were back beneath the tree.

Inu-Yasha went through his screaming fit routine.

Miroku waited patiently.

Once Inu-Yasha was out of breath and pink in the face, Miroku took the two cups, and then said, "Have a seat, Inu-Yasha."

After a few moments, Inu-Yasha sat down. Miroku passed him a shallow cup, "Am I to assume you've never had sake before?"

"I have. Just not in a long time."

"I see," Miroku replied, and then uncorked one of the jugs, before directing Inu-Yasha to hold his cup out. "Well, you know I shall pour for you, and you shall pour for me, yes?"

"Yeah, yeah," Inu-Yasha muttered.

Miroku filled the hanyou's cup, and the watched with great amusement as Inu-Yasha went through amazing confusion.

Inu-Yasha sniffed at the drink, peered at the color, sniffed again, and wrinkled his nose.

"It smells funny."

"Drink and enjoy it." The monk smiled, but it wasn't a friendly expression.

Inu-Yasha sighed, and then downed the contents of the cup—before coughing violently.

"Tastes like grass!" he sputtered wetly.

"Shut up and enjoy it." Miroku took up his cup and waited patiently for Inu-Yasha's fit to end. Once he could see that the hanyou's faculties were back, he wiggled his cup suggestively.

Inu-Yasha grumbled again and then did as Miroku had, filling the cup just so, and allowing the monk to drink. Miroku did not cough or sputter. In fact, he look fairly pleased.

"Not bad," he said simply. "For a small village."

"Keh."

"Now, now. Sake takes a little getting used to," Miroku tried to assure him, even as he poured Inu-Yasha a second cup.

"Tsh. It's just tastes funny!"

"So have another cup and adjust to the taste, then?"

Inu-Yasha rolled his eyes, and then took another drink, and went through an obligatory moment of cough-and-sputter.

Once he could speak again, the hanyou asked, "So why are we doing this?"

"This is a festival, where you cherish your family, friends and companions. And since you have driven off your lover, and I have none, the only company we can really keep is each other's."

Inu-Yasha poured Miroku's cup, and watched him with eyes that were already growing glassy with inebriation.

"You know, Kagome thinks you could have Sango if you'd just learn this 'mood' thing," Inu-Yasha said casually, only to be rewarded with Miroku's own cough and sputter.

"What did you say?" the monk asked, wiping at his wet mouth with the back of his bare hand.

"Sango. Kagome thinks she's in love with you."

The pole-axed look that Miroku gave the hanyou was probably worth the last half an hour of abuse.

"In love." Miroku repeated.

"With you." Inu-Yasha confirmed.

"…"

"I don't believe it," Inu-Yasha said, holding up his cup and giving it same 'serve me' wiggle that Miroku had done. "Every time she's with you, you manage to do something right, and then you just screw it up."

The monk's eyes narrowed, even as he poured Inu-Yasha's third cup. "Have you and Kagome-sama been spying on us?"

"Spy? That implies we have to sneak around!" Inu-Yasha laughed, even as he looked into his cup. "You two do everything out in the open!"

"I'll remember that," the monk grumbled. "Like you and Kagome-sama's relationship is so very private, ne?"

"I never claimed it was. EVERYBODY knows our business! You do, Sango does, Shippou does. Hell, I think Naraku knows everything we do!"

"Probably," Miroku agreed with a smirk.

Inu-Yasha scowled, but finally drained his third cup; this time, with no coughing.

"Much better," Miroku said.

"Still tastes like grass clippings," Inu-Yasha muttered. "But it makes you feel… warm."

"Ah, but it's no substitute for a loved one, now is it?"

"You tell me, monk. You're the one trying to get a bedmate!"

"Aren't you?"

Inu-Yasha flushed to the shells of his ears, and it wasn't from just the sake. "That's perverted!"

"Completely natural to want someone to keep you warm, Inu-Yasha. You can't tell me you and Kikyou-sama…" The monk's brow arched suggestively, and he simply looked at Inu-Yasha as the hanyou's flush went a deeper red.

When no answer was forth coming, Miroku prodded gently. "Well?"

"She kissed me. Once."

"Just once?"

"Just once!" Inu-Yasha's flush was nearly purple. "In front of Kagome."

"Oh dear." Miroku shook his head. "No wonder Kagome-sama has such a hard time."

"KAGOME has a hard time!?" Inu-Yasha snorted. "What about me?"

"You? Tsh. You had everything in your hands, and yes, you lost it. But now you have a perfectly good opportunity to set the wrong things right again. And you're blowing it because of past regret to a woman who, while very beautiful, is nothing more then a shambling mass of grave earth, bones and ash." Watching Inu-Yasha's eyes light angrily, he quickly backpedaled, adding, "And while your heart may still yearn for hers, there is a living, beating, heart that answers yours more surely then Kikyou-sama's does, Inu-Yasha. You neglect the living in favor of the dead, and that simply isn't healthy."

"It's better I answer Kikyou's heart than Kagome's," Inu-Yasha retorted sullenly. "Kagome can have a future, then."

"Can't she have one with you?" Miroku asked.

"What future? I'm not going to become human for her, and she lives in a time separate from ours! I can't go there forever anymore then she can come here forever!"

Miroku sighed, and then lifted his cup again. "Fill, please."

Inu-Yasha went silent as he poured more sake into the monk's cup, and then leaned against the tree, glancing toward the woods in the distance.

He was going to brood. If there was one thing Miroku could not stand (other then composite demons and holes in his hand) it was a brooding drunk.

He downed his cup of sake, and then reached out and yanked on a lock of Inu-Yasha's hair, rewarded with a yelp and an exclamation of pain.

"What did you do that for!?"

"Because you're stupid."

"Why am I stupid!?"

"Why can't you and Kagome-sama have a future? Explain this to me."

Inu-Yasha simply glared, and then folded his arms over his chest, snorting softly. "I'm not going to become human. I can't live in her time. She can't live in mine."

"Give me one good reason why you can't become human."

"I don't want to become human!"

"But you were going to become human with Kikyou-sama," Miroku said after a moment.

"That… that wasn't about being a human. That was about… being real."

"Elucidate."

"Eh?"

"Explain."

"Oh." Inu-Yasha stopped and stared into his empty cup, and then said, "We weren't real. She made it out like it was a struggle against our humanity, because she couldn't be human and I didn't want to be part human. But it was really that… that we were just lonely. No one knew us, no one shared anything with us, and we couldn't ever… touch anyone else."

"And you said you didn't want a bedmate."

"Shut up!" Inu-Yasha snapped. "It wasn't like that! I just… wanted to make her happy." His tone quieted with every word, unaware of Miroku's full attention on his face as he continued to glare at his cup, "She was always so sad. And if becoming human was the only way I could be real and she could be real, and we'd be real together… that was… okay."

"So why were you willing to make that sacrifice for Kikyou, but you refuse to make any for Kagome-sama? That's not very fair of you."

"Do you think Kagome would want me to do the same thing for her that I did for Kikyou? She doesn't want to be a replacement or a substitute!"

"Ahso. So there is a little wisdom in your madness," Miroku said with a pleased smile. "I suppose your heart is in the right place, even if your brain is still faulty."

Inu-Yasha threw up his hands—losing his sake cup in the process—and then crawled back to fetch it from the grass behind him.

"My brain's faulty. Keh!"

"Yes. But at least, as I said, your heart is in the right place."

"For all the good it does me!"

Miroku had no answer for that. He was comfortably buzzed off the liquor in his system, and sighed softly. "Such a fool, you are." He paused, and then looked down at the rosary that wrapped his hand.

"Like you're any better. You can't even properly woo Sango!" Inu-Yasha snapped in reply, as he came back with his cup. "You're just a big an idiot as I am."

Miroku shrugged his shoulder. "Sango-san deserves something… special," the monk admitted after a moment. "But I am unsure what it is."

"How about you not pawing her for a change?" Inu-Yasha drawled, and then stuck out his tongue. "Kagome thinks if you'd just be nice to her and show her a little affection without moving in for the kill, you'd do better."

"Speed is of the essence," Miroku protested. "And I need an heir."

The hanyou thought for a long moment, the process made unusually difficult by the amount of sake in his system.

"You've never asked Sango for an heir," he finally realized.

"As I said, Sango-san requires something…special."

"Like what?"

Miroku knew he'd rue his answer, but simply replied, "A future."

His suspicions were proven correct as Inu-Yasha abruptly pointed and barked, "Ha!"

"Yes, yes. Just as stupid as you?" Miroku snorted softly, putting his sake cup aside. He'd obviously gone past his limit if Inu-Yasha could actually call him stupid and he'd agree.

"Yes!"

"No."

"No?"

"No."

Inu-Yasha looked confused, and then mimicked the monk's tone, "E-lu-ci-date!"

"You're very drunk, you know that?"

"That doesn't get you out of explaining!" The hanyou proclaimed. "So talk!"

"Your idea of a non-future is ridiculous," Miroku said flatly. "Marching off to hell with Kikyou-sama, while a noble sentiment, is misguided and foolish. You can put a stop to it. You can have a future if you so choose."

"And yours?"

"My life is measured in less than a decade."

"We'll kill Naraku before you die, houshi! And then you won't!"

"Will we? In time?" He glanced at his hand again, and then smiled slightly. "I wonder."

Inu-Yasha stared at Miroku a long moment, before he set his sake cup aside. Then he reached out, and in a blur, cuffed the monk upside the head so hard it knocked Miroku over.

"What in the gods name did you do THAT for?!"

"Because you're stupid," Inu-Yasha said with glee. "JUST as stupid as me! You sit here and you talk about how I'm a fool when you're doing the same damn thing! You won't try with Sango because Kagome's right! You big idiot, you did fall in love with her!"

Were it not for the childish glee in the way the hanyou delivered his retort, Miroku might've actually listened. As it was, his head was still ringing as he sat up. "When I can stand up," he said, "I am going to beat you till you're bloody with my gohei, and then go and repent for my violence in the temple. You do know that."

Inu-Yasha was still laughing, having picked up Miroku's cup and filled it while the monk righted himself.

Once he was upright, Inu-Yasha thrust it into his hand. "Tsh! You can't even stand up, monk."

"And so you endeavor to further inebriate me?"

"Fuck yeah," Inu-Yasha laughed.

Miroku could not help but grin. While he had not exactly intended the conversation to meander so between their lives, nor draw such parallels, he could not help but decide his Lesson in Socialization had been a success. It had been weeks since Inu-Yasha had honestly laughed with merriment and pleasure.

He accepted his cup, and then filled Inu-Yasha's.

"To foolish men, and the women who may or may not love them," he said, raising his cup.

"To the future," Inu-Yasha replied in turn.

"Kanpai!" their voices rang out in unison.

Downing their cups, both men settled against the tree's broad trunk, gazing up at the dark sky. Night had fallen. Somewhere, in the distance, they watched as in the village, the celebration reached its climax, pigeons and wild fowl were released from coups to fly.

"The bridge of birds," Miroku said reverently. "They go to cross the sky, to bridge from one star to another, so that the weaver star may now join her lover."

"Saa," Inu-Yasha murmured, watching the dark blot of the uncaged birds sleep across the sky. "Do you think they're happy? Crossing only at certain times, only able to have a little time with each other?"

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

"What about forgetful? Doesn't the weaver star have other stars nearer to her?"

"But none compare to the beauty of the cowherd star. At least, not for her."

Inu-Yasha grunted in acknowledgement, and then fell silent. Miroku soon felt the hanyou's head roll slightly, resting against his shoulder; his breathing was even, and his body slack.

He'd finally passed out.

Miroku smirked. Well, here was as good as any a place to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sango waited impatiently at the well when dawn came. She hoped that Kagome would return upon the dawn, and was rewarded for her patience. As soon as the other-world girl began to climb out of the well, she as all but assaulted by a smiling demon-hunter.

"You really MUST come see this! Put your bag down and hurry!" Sango insisted.

"But—see what?" Kagome protested, only to be tugged along by Sango.

They wove through the trees, till Sango abruptly stopped, almost tripping Kagome. She pressed a fingertip to her lips, and then began to sneak forward, around the trunk of one very broad tree.

Then she pointed at what they were spying on.

Laid out in the grass beneath the tree were their two menfolk; Inu-Yasha sprawled on his back, his head propped against the tree. Miroku had slid down to pillow his head on the hanyou's stomach, equally stretched out.

"What did I miss?" Kagome whispered as she peered at the two men.

Sango pointed at the sake jugs in answer.

Both girls struggled not to wake the sleeping pair with their giggles.