~A Sango and Miroku Story~
He gazed at her through the trees, incapable of moving forward; reluctant to turn and leave. After so long a time: traveling together, fighting along side one another... To have this one moment, this chance to tell her how he felt... The wind shuffled through the trees; the smells of the early spring morning fresh, crisp, clean; a hint of rain filling his nostrils—it wouldn’t be long before the rain started to fall. It enchanted his senses and brought a vague smile to his lips.
‘And what do you think she will do if you tell her how you feel? Are you fool enough to think she will fall into your arms? What have you ever done to deserve one such as her?’
He sighed. What did he expect? She’d made her feelings clear time and again. How often had she gazed at him, her eyes burning him, her expression chastising him? How many restless nights had he lay awake, content to hear her breathe as she slept, oblivious to what she inspired in him, this hope that one day he could be a better man?
“If you’d talk to her instead of always groping her ass, you’d probably get further,” InuYasha commented one night when he’d noticed how Miroku stared at Sango while she slept. “Why don’t you just tell her? The worst she’ll do is slap you senseless—again.”
“I can’t help that,” Miroku replied, a trace of humor evident in his tone. “It’s the mystical hand of the amorous monk—me.”
InuYasha tossed another log onto the campfire as he shot Miroku a disbelieving look. “It’s a miracle you still have that hand, you know,” he pointed out before sinking back down: legs folded, arms crossed, Tetsusaiga nestled in his embrace. “You’re such a pervert, monk.”
“You’re one to talk, the way you moon around, staring after Kagome,” Miroku couldn’t resist adding. InuYasha’s face reddened but he didn’t argue. “I’ll make you a deal, InuYasha. You tell Kagome how you feel, and I’ll think about telling Sango.”
The hanyou had fallen silent after that. Both he and Miroku were still wide-awake when the first rays of light had emerged over the horizon hours later.
Miroku blinked as the edges of that memory faded. Sango, he saw, was still crouching beside the edge of the pond, staring off into space. ‘She’s thinking about Kohaku,’ he thought, scowling at the lonely image of the taijya. If he looked closely enough, he could almost see the sadness emitting from her in dulled waves. He’d tried to comfort her many times. When she stared at him with such pain, such heartache, he’d wanted to hold her, to tell her that he would make things better for her—for them.
But he also couldn’t help himself, either. Whenever Sango was close to him, he couldn’t resist the overwhelming desire to stroke her rear. ‘It is like an illness,’ he defended himself. ‘I have to do it. I’m compelled to do it...’
Pulling his robe out of the way, Miroku sank down on a tree stump without taking his eyes off Sango.
‘What’s the matter with me?’ Sango berated herself with an inward sigh. Kneeling beside the water and staring at her despondent reflection, she admitted that she had overreacted, and that she owed Kagome an apology for the things she’d said. She hadn’t meant any of it, not really...
“Sango? Are you all right?”
Sango jerked out of her reverie and slipped Kagome a nervous glance, hoping—praying—that the young miko hadn’t caught her staring at Miroku’s back. If she had noticed, though, Kagome gave no indication of it. “I was thinking about... Kohaku,” she said.
“Kohaku, huh?” Kagome had seen through that lie, though. “So you’re not thinking about a certain monk we all know and tolerate?” Intuitive, she was. Most of the time Sango loved that facet of her friend’s personality. It saved her from having to explain many things.
This time, however… Sango grimaced and stubbornly shook her head. “I never think about that pervert!”
Kagome laughed. “Yeah, and I don’t breathe, Sango! Fess up! I know you like him.”
She could feel the hot blush wash over her skin. “I know you like InuYasha, but I’m not pestering you about telling him, am I?”
Kagome’s smile faded, and she looked upset at Sango’s dismissal. She looked like she wanted to say something but thought better of it. Sango watched, irritated with herself, as Kagome had turned and walked away.
No doubt about it, she owed her friend an apology.
Truth was, she had been thinking about Miroku. It was almost impossible not to think about him. ‘It is such a foolish thing,’ she thought with a grimace. In the beginning, she had tried to keep her distance from the lecherous monk. She went out of her way to use the honorific, ‘houshi-sama’ instead of calling him by his name, as he had told her more than once that she should feel free to do.
She just couldn’t. The need to keep her distance from him... It was as much for her own peace of mind as it was because of his own desire to maintain a friendly space between them. How often had she watched him, staring at his cursed hand—at the cloth glove and the prayer beads that sealed the kazaana? She couldn’t help him. She’d tried before. She’d told him that she would be there for him, if he needed her. Still he preferred to keep his feelings to himself, quietly locking away his fears as she locked away her sadness over her brother.
It was tedious, suppressing her emotions, quelling all of her anxieties. She felt so much older than her seventeen years. While other girls her age were already married and starting families of their own, she was here, in the middle of Musashi, traveling with a lecherous monk, a surly hanyou, a kitsune youkai child, and a strange girl from the future as they searched for Naraku, for a way to defeat him, to destroy him. The last of the shards... two were lodged in the legs of a wolf youkai named Kouga, and the last...
It was embedded in Kohaku’s back, keeping him alive.
Sango winced, her brown eyes pooling with frustrated tears. That was too harsh. What had come over her? So much anger, so much resentment welled up inside her so often lately that it was becoming harder and harder to separate herself from her uncharacteristic emotions. As though she were two entirely different beings, the feelings of bitter fury felt as though they belonged to a Sango that she didn’t know. For all that, it was the other Sango who suffered, alone and in silence, wishing for something that never came, longing for something she didn’t dare voice out loud.
She’d caught him recently, staring at her when he hadn’t known she could see him, gazing at her with an emotion she didn’t quite recognize. There was a warmth in his violet eyes, a tenderness that burned with an unasked question. The memory was enough to make her want to hold her stomach as an altogether pleasant trembling took hold deep inside. It made her want to hide from the consuming fear that she would somehow be found lacking in his eyes.
‘Entirely too nice,’ she realized with a heavy sigh, her gaze dropping to the water beside her. Only recently had she started to understand why he did the things he did. She wasn’t sure how she figured it out. Perhaps it was on one of those nights when everyone else was sleeping, when she woke up to see him staring at her... his eyes had been filled with such tenderness, such devotion, underlined with something she didn’t know how to define... and perhaps it was then that she’d realized that the reason he let his hand wander wasn’t to gratify some sort of perverse fascination. It was to protect her from falling in love with him... but why would he do that?
Staring at her reflection brought a deeper scowl to her features. Trained in the ways of the youkai exterminators—the taijya—she was adept in combat, at self-defense, and in calculated attack. She wasn’t taught how to sit at home and sew, wasn’t raised in the ‘conventional ways’ of most womenfolk. Having lived much of her life without benefit of a mother, it had only seemed natural for her to train, to learn her father’s art, and now... It almost seemed as though the very skills that she prided herself on were the same ones that condemned her to leading such a lonely existence.
Brought together by fate, held together by the fear of being alone, they traveled as one. Kagome, Sango knew, was in love with InuYasha, and amazingly enough, Sango had a very good hunch that InuYasha loved Kagome just as much—if they’d ever admit it to one another. As much as the two fussed and argued, there was a certain affection there, too; something that warmed Sango’s heart even as it ruthlessly whispered that it was the closest to true love that she’d ever be. Always an outsider, the last of her people...
A sudden rustling in the bushes behind her drew her attention as the rain started to fall. Slowly she stood, hiking Hiraikotsu over her shoulder as she cautiously squared her shoulders and stepped toward the foliage...
Miroku idly kicked the bottom of his Shakuju, vaguely hearing the soft chime as the golden rings clinked against one another. ‘I don’t deserve her. I never have. I’ve done nothing in this lifetime to be worthy of one such as Sango. Her brilliance astounds me, her grace amazes me, her innocence humbles me... She truly has no idea just how beautiful she is, does she? And what do I do?’ Miroku frowned in self-disgust. ‘I rub other women’s rears and blame it on kazaana...’
He sighed with a shake of his head. Kazaana... that was the trouble, wasn’t it? If he were honest with himself, he knew deep down that it had nothing to do with desire for all these other women. It really was his cursed hand that made him do it, especially when Sango was around, but it wasn’t the reason he always gave. He was afraid. If he allowed Sango to love him... if they didn’t defeat Naraku before the kazaana spread... ‘A good excuse, Miroku... and what will you say to her in the end? That you’ve always held her as your shining star but couldn’t tell her because you didn’t want her to feel bad when you got sucked into yourself? Baka... and you think she’d care any less than she does now?’
The trees whispered as the fat droplets of rain started to fall. Light as the flutter of a bird’s wings, the soothing rush of a cooling breeze filtered through the forest, razed the land with a fresh renewal, a promise of regeneration. He lifted his face to accept the falling damp, letting it soothe his tortured soul, let it wash away the lingering melancholy, wishing it could dispel the images of Sango’s smile from his mind as easily as it could cleanse the earth and replenish the streams and rivers.
He’d once asked Sango if, after everything was over, if she would consider bearing his children. She had agreed. Closing his eyes, Miroku choked back a sigh. He’d been afraid, more afraid than he’d ever been before, afraid that she would love him, afraid that the kazaana would take him away before he had a chance to tell her the things he wanted to say. In the end, she’d asked if he would stop touching other women, and he had stupidly remained silent. Her anger had masked her pain.
Best to leave things alone. Best to go on as they had been: as friends, walking along the same path as long as he was allowed. There would be time enough to tell her once they defeated Naraku, wouldn’t there? His smile was sad, more of a grimace as his chin dropped, as his gaze fell to the muddy earth. Raising his glove-covered kazaana, Miroku swallowed hard, thankful of the concealing rain as one hot tear escaped. In the rain, it would never be discerned. ‘Because of this... because of this, I can’t... Sango...’ If he waited too long—if he lost his chance… maybe it was no more than he deserved, and maybe he really was cursed...
“Houshi-sama? What are you doing here? I thought you were still in the camp,” Sango said, interrupting his self-imposed solitude.
Slowly lifting his gaze to lock with hers, Miroku didn’t stand up, acknowledging her with a curt nod, instead. Standing before him so proudly in her youkai exterminator clothes with her weapon held casually over her shoulder, she reminded him of the stories he’d heard of the warrior-miko, Midoriko: so proud, so aloof, so unattainable... and so very oblivious to the effect she had on him.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, cocking her head to the side as she frowned at the monk.
Dragging his eyes off of her to stare at the surrounding trees, Miroku had to clear his throat before he could speak. “You seemed quiet... I was worried.”
Sango relaxed slightly, shifting her weight to one side as she let Hiraikotsu drop against the ground with a dull thump but didn’t let go of the weapon. “You were? Why?”
He tried to smile. He really did. His face felt paralyzed, and he couldn’t manage more than a weak grimace. “Don’t you know?” he asked, his voice no more than a trace whisper.
She took a hesitant step closer then quickened her pace, letting go of her weapon. It crashed to the earth as she dropped to her knees before him, taking his hands in hers, concern adding dark shadows to the depths of her intense gaze. “Houshi-sama?”
Pulling one hand out of her grasp, he reached out, stroked her hair, pushed her bangs out of her face. Letting his fingers trail down the contour of her cheek, tracing the hollows and ridges, the velvet of her skin, he reveled in the feel of her. When she blinked, her eyelashes brushed the back of his fingers, and he closed his eyes as he let his hand fall away. “Run away, Sango. Do it now.”
She started to rise as she drew a ragged breath as the first crack of thunder rumbled through the air. Lightning split the sky, and she stopped, turning back to him, a ferocity as bright as the gathering storm alight in her stare. “Tell me why I should,” she said quietly, firmly.
Eyebrows drawing together in a frown that she wouldn’t listen to reason, Miroku opened his eyes to spear her with his penetrating gaze. He shook his head slowly. “Because... I’m just a man, Sango... and you... you’re... beautiful.”
Her flush was immediate, dusting her cheeks with the softest rosy hue, brightening the surrounding storm with a brilliance of the sun. Eyes soft, yielding, chest heaving as she struggled to breathe, she worked her slack mouth a few times, uttering soundless words. “Houshi-sama... I...”
‘Too late,’ Miroku thought, his mind lost in a daze as he reached for her. Holding her hands, pulling her closer, he cradled her against his chest as he stared into the depths of her fathomless scrutiny. The flutter of her erratic pulse under his fingers, the sweetness of her breath as she gasped softly, brought to bear the rise of quiet understanding. He wanted to become the one who deserved her smiles, her laughter, her blushes. “For you, Sango, I would be a better man.”
Sango shook her head but didn’t look away. “For me, houshi-sama, you are the only man.”
Eyelashes fanning over rosy cheeks, the dusty rouge of untouched lips as she lifted her chin, instinct guiding her as she let him cover her mouth with his, he nearly moaned at the surge of energy as thunder clapped high above. The sweetness of a sacred promise, the whisper of an unspoken vow, made and accepted, exchanged from one heart to the other.
He tightened his grip on her hands, her fingers wrapping around his thumbs like an infant. Her trust in him was implicit, surrendering to the gentle crush of his lips on hers. A wealth of emotion, a surge of power, a delighted trembling that left him breathless, wanting; a pulsation of flesh, a twisting and combining of the physical and the ethereal as the honey of the first kiss, the magic of a kinetic storm engulfed them both. A tremor of the softest sigh, a weak laugh as they drew apart, Miroku dropped his forehead against hers, his heart as unsteady as his hands clasping hers.
Sango leaned against his chest; let him hold her as the inundation of rain that showered down on them. Soaked to the bone, warmed from within, content to hold onto one another, and maybe, just maybe, everything would be fine, in the end...
Shakuju: Miroku’s staff.
Kazaana: Wind Tunnel/Air Rip; Miroku’s void.
Hiraikotsu: Come Flying Bone: Sango’s weapon.
Blanket disclaimer for Spring Rain: I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.