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Rejuvenation
By Eye of Aurora

Thanks for all the wonderful, beautiful reviews, *sniff* I love you guys... Not much to say...this is where we begin with the romance ^_^ Do me a favor guys, don't over-analyze the plot...there isn't much of one and that aren't too many hidden motives here. I wanted the story to be romantic and angsty and to symbolize the alternate relationship between Nuriko and Miaka. If you over-analyze this story, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

Disclaimer: What do you think?

Aw man...the romance part...how am I gonna do this...?

Here we go.

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Part 3 out of ? - Restoration

It became a routine. On the days that followed my 'morning of awakening', Miaka spent every night with me. It felt to me as though a section of reality had vanished and this nightly scenario was put in its place. Everything around us was perfectly normal; everyone went about their daily habitual activities, taking heed to my health in supplying anything I would need to aid in my recovery. As it was, I was left in peace, and of course, to my utter wonderment, no one questioned Miaka's behavior. I suppose it wasn't anything major, it was simply a strange and sudden change that, I guess, nobody else noticed (not even Tamahome...). Maybe all the others had predicted Miaka would act this way...remaining by me constantly...or maybe they just figured it was her way of coping, of convalescing from the distress of witnessing a close friend near death. It SEEMED to make sense, so I left it alone, and allowed Miaka to do what she pleased in hopes that she would soon return to her usual self and start acting like that loveable idiot again. I was beginning to miss the old, clumsy, gluttonous behavior of her formal nature...a serious, somber Miaka did none of us any good...

Our evenings were most often uneventful. She would creep into my room, pull that single stool over to my bedside, and lean over the mattress, making idle conversation. Each day I grew stronger, and the continuous pain in my torso slowly began to fade. Miaka would ask each night how I felt, if there was anything she could do for me...etc. On the fourth night I'd been conscious, she reminded me that my week was almost up and we would soon be forced to travel to the west in search of the second Shinzaho. I politely informed her that the week was all I needed.

It wasn't until the fifth night when our ordinary chitchat was altered, as in...there wasn't any...

I'd slept into the afternoon on that particular day. Mitsukake had come in to wake me, and change my bandages. As he tended to my wounds, he notified me that Miaka had gone with the team excluding his Highness to meet with Taiitsukun at some random location and wouldn't return until later that evening. He also paused at the door to mention that Miaka had chosen a large breakfast, and that he felt she was also getting better.

I, of course, had yet to see any improvement.

And on that fifth night...everything...everything began to change...

She entered cautiously, as if she might've suspected I'd already gone to sleep. Seeing I was wakeful, she uttered a hushed "I'm back" and slid the door closed. She ignored the customary stool and padded straight over to her place on the floor, set her blankets down and lowered herself to the ground.

"I'm really sleepy...good night..." was all she said.

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I was awoken that night by a new weight on my mattress. My eyes fluttered open, greeted by the darkness of the room, and I realized I had not been asleep a full hour. Next to me, I felt a body lowering themselves onto my bed, then move to share the blanketing. Long, soft hair grazed the hand I had settled beside my face.

"Miaka."

"Sorry I woke you..." she whispered. I could feel her close to me, her clothing brushing against mine, her body heat spreading evenly upon the mattress beneath her, warming my sheets.

She had never crawled into my bed before.

"Is something wrong...?" I questioned, keeping my tone low and gentle.

Her weight shifted, and I could feel her face next to mine, her legs moving against my thighs.

"Nuriko..." she started, a slight quake to her voice. "I...I just realized something."

The scent of her hair caught my attention, and I silently inhaled, savoring her closeness, allowing my senses to focus wholly on her, waiting for her to continue speaking.

"Hm...?" I murmured, too wrapped up in her warmth to be articulate.

She moved nearer, her disembodied voice drifting through the blackened room. "I just realized..."

A long pause.

"...that I have feelings for you."

Silence.

Then a sweet heavenly white wind tickled my eyelids, pulling my eyes closed, and tugged sharply at the depths of my sentiment, sparking a dizziness so potent my entire body felt heavy.

My heart stopped...then sped to a pace I never though possible.

I was dreaming...

I had to be...

"Wh...what did you say...Miaka?" my voice sounded rough with confusion.

I felt her sit up as a sob escape her lips. "I just realized...that I feel for you...that I..." she began to stutter, "that I have feelings for you...Nuriko..."

A wave of euphoria rushed through my veins, flooding my mind with layers of strange elation.

I trembled.

"You...you do?"

I was completely at a loss for words.

"I'm sorry..." she replied, her voice muffled. I could faintly see in the surrounding darkness Miaka burying her face in her hands. She was blatantly on the verge of crying.

A fleeting, delirious smile then formed on my face, vanishing not a moment later. "You...didn't know...did you?"

I could hear her heavy, heavy breathing. She waited...

Sitting up completely, I kneeled directly beside her on my mattress as I leaned to embrace her shaking form. I spoke, my lips pressed to her ear, my voice barely a murmur.

"I love you...Miaka..." I whispered.
Warmth...an opulent surge of heat swelled my entire being...

Yes...I loved Miaka.

She needed to know...

I sighed deeply, overcome by emotion...filled completely by this perfect warmth of having professed my true sentiment at last.

I felt faint again...

Miaka was silent for the most fleeting of moments, her body still against me. A trifle of regret shifted within me...had I made a mistake?

I became keenly aware of her every move, every breath...every flutter of her eyelashes...even in the congealed darkness. She inhaled, as if cautiously preparing to speak.

"I know..."

What did she say!?

"You know...?"

I felt her nod.

"I know you do...Nuriko..."

How!?

"Miaka...?"

Since when? How did she find out!? Did Tamahome tell her?

Endless thoughts raced angrily, bitterly, confusedly through my mind...so swift and mercilessly that I barely heard Miaka's quiet response.

"...I heard you and Tamahome talking that night..."

As vague as it sounded, I...of course...instantly understood of what she spoke. My troubled ponderings began to cease as quickly as they'd come...a tinge of embarrassment replacing them. I sat back, no longer against her, as if to study her in the blackness.

"You mean..."

Her hand seemed to clumsily find mine in the dark, Miaka's gentle fingers tracing arbitrary patterns upon my wrist; probably a mechanical attempt at soothing my obviously distressed state. She said nothing, waiting for me to continue, to question, to query...

"You've known?"

"Yes..."

"Miaka..."

I heard a whimper, a sort of strangled sob, a noise of imminent tears. "That is why I cry, Nuriko..."

Why?

My mind was in such a frenzy that I could not figure out the meaning behind this statement.

"What do you mean...?" My voice sounded far away...unattached, quivering with the rush of feelings I'd been bombarded with only moments before.

"...I love Tamahome..."

...a sudden swell of pain boiled within my stomach, fearing her next words...

"But..."

She pressed her forehead gently against mine, her face so near I could zealously feel the warmth of her breath on my lips. So close...

"...but this new feeling I have..."

Our hands interlocked.

"...is so strong..." A pause...brief but long enough for my pulse to begin to race once more. "I...I don't know what I feel anymore...for you...for Tamahome..."

I trembled, overtaken by a great flow of emotion.

"And I'm scared, Nuriko. I'm so scared..."

Her face was brought even nearer...her lips just grazing my cheekbone, her breath in my hair.

"I feel as though...I am in love with two people at the exact same time." Her voice was low, uneasy, as though she was afraid of driving away the very darkness of the room. Then she whispered, "Is that possible?"

Tears of bizarre ease were about to spill from my eyelids as I absorbed what she spoke of. I was moved, touched...happier than I'd ever been, beyond happy. My heart felt as though it would soon burst...and I was warm, so very comfortably warm...internally...externally. Everywhere.

Nothing could ever compare to this...

"You...love me? Miaka?"

A sigh. "I..." She paused thoughtfully. I immediately regretted asking her such a thing. I was driven by curiosity, by the tangle of contemplations dancing about amid the chaotic maelstrom of my mind. She was probably riddled with such frustration! So many thoughts must have been racing through her head...her heart, feeling so many things. Miaka was confused, torn; I didn't want to amplify her pain, her state of perplexity. I was already experiencing the deepest, most surreal joy.

"No...don't worry about it..." I said softly, again not knowing exactly how to comfort her, but to serve as some sort of solace was my decisive intention at that moment. "Don't say anything..."

Her breath slowed, as did mine. I wrapped my arms around Miaka tightly, pulling her smaller form against me. I was relieved that she did not cry then, for I was sure that I would begin to cry also, thus proving that Miaka was my ultimate weakness.

And as I held her there, in the darkness of my windowless room, everything began to make sense. Miaka's behavior...all the things she was doing that utterly baffled me, they suddenly seemed entirely logical. Why she continued to sleep in my room, why she seemed so deeply scarred by my near-fatal battle with that Seiryu Seven. Miaka, all a long, felt for me, cared for me...in a manner so potent it frightened her, caused her to question her feelings for Tamahome, confused her beyond handling...

She clung to me, hugging me close. I buried my nose in her auburn hair, inhaling all that was simply Miaka, my beloved Priestess...

"Miaka...we should sleep now..."

She shifted, her warm cheek on mine. "Yeah..."

My eyes traveled to what I could see of her then, her body against my body, warm and no longer shivering with uncertainty.

"Are you sure Tamahome doesn't mind...?"

"He doesn't," she replied softly.

"You know this?"

"Yes."

"How...? Does he know...?"

"Hm? How I feel about...?"

"Right..." I didn't give her time to finish her question. It sounded too unreal, so dreamlike, and felt so wonderfully sensibly illusory. I didn't want to ruin that feeling of lightness by beating it mercilessly into my brain.

"No." She spoke gravely, as if she knew he could never know...

"Then..."

"He knows how scared I was..."

"He believes you are simply regaining reassurance of my well-being? Sleeping here...being with me so often?" That made sense, too...

"That's right...that's all he thinks this is. Does it bother you?"

I tightened my hold on her. "Never."

"I'm glad..."

"You feel bad..."

She sighed deeply, her chest rising against my abdomen. Her distress was unconcealed. "Yes..."

"Like you are betraying him?"

A nod. "Right..." her voice had lowered to a whisper.

My left hand slid up her shoulder and cupped her face. To my brief surprise, she leaned into my touch, lovingly, wholly. "I'm sorry..." I said quietly. It seemed as though my words were lacking direction, my mouth forming them without much consideration. I was aware that I could probably say something more, something better suiting the moment, anything to alleviate her pain. But I felt as if I was on an otherworldly cloud, watching from above, not doing from below. I was still dreaming, still feeling that perfect airy warmth of knowing that Miaka deeply cared for me, yet I was very much aware that it was real. It was dizzying...

She sniffed, forcing back any trace of stray tears. "It isn't your fault, Nuriko..."

A silence took over, allowing both of us to breath, to understand. I was then hit with a wave of fatigue, nearly weighing me physically down.

"Let us sleep, Miaka...we can figure things out in the morning..."

A tired nod, followed by a weak sigh, "Alright..."

I released her, easing my still-bruised form back against the mattress. Miaka accompanied me, aiding with pulling the blankets upon us, then curling up at my side, her head resting gently on my shoulder, careful not to near my injuries. Smiling drowsily to myself, I brought an arm around her and pulled her against me, reveling once more in her closeness and seemingly constant warmth.

"Let's hope we don't get caught like this..." I muttered, making a meek attempt at a joke.

She giggled melodiously, softly...most likely to humor me, "Yeah...I move around a lot in my sleep...I'll probably end up kicking you to the floor..."

I chuckled. "I can handle it."

I then felt her lean in and press her lips to my cheek, applying a gentle kiss to my face. I blushed in spite of myself, my heartbeat speeding up ever so slightly...

"Good night, Nuriko," she whispered, her head falling back on my shoulder.

"Good night, Miaka," I replied, taking a deep, calming breath. "Sleep well..."

And with a final closure of my eyelids, I fell pleasantly into a soothing, contented slumber...

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I'm so sorry that took so long...AGAIN! I didn't keep my promise! Forgive me! I've recently developed a powerful obsession for Lord of the Rings! (As of Feb. 16th, I've seen Two Towers in theatres 9 times, and I've been keeping myself woefully occupied with all the wonderful, delicious, perverted SLASH fanfiction that LOTR comes with! Yes! Aragorn and Legolas! I love you!)

Anyway...*ahem* there will probably be 2 more parts to this...the next part will be the dainty little lemon and then the conclusion (which I have all planned out...so it shouldn't take long...I hope!) Um...I haven't proofread this yet...I wanted to get it out ASAP, but I did work hard on it...and if I go back and find something I don't like...I'll probably just correct it or rewrite the paragraph...no major changes, I don't think. Anyway...thanks for all the great reviews I keep receiving! You guys make my day all the time!

Thank you very much, and stay tuned for Part Four- Regeneration! Bye for now! *blows kiss*

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