Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 11 of 13

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Chasing Methuselah

The great thought, the great concern,

the great anxiety of men is to restrict,

as much as possible, the limits

of their own responsibility.

He was developing a relatively unhealthy habit.

Watching over the well at night.

And his mind was going in circles. For three days, he'd felt disconnected from reality. Little white lies were becoming his expertise. He'd lied to Inuyasha, told him they'd been attacked. Lied to him, with a child's face, innocent and lost, and then watched the hanyou carry her away, perhaps forever.

He'd made a deal with the devil, he knew.

For the thousandth time, Miroku wondered. Wondered why he'd done it, why he'd let Naraku manipulate him. Wondered why he was seeing shadows that weren't there; shadows and remnants of that night, with their arbitrary memories and consequences. Even the godless among men would eventually pause to wonder, and Miroku...

Miroku wondered how it would feel.

He wondered how it would feel to die, to not exist anymore, to be forgotten and inconsequential. It was petty and childish, this greed, this desire to see the world through its changes, to go to sleep every night and wake up every morning and just live.

It was selfish to crave it, but it was simple human curiosity. And Naraku had stripped him of his buffers, tore them away, piece by piece. He'd shown him life, then took it away.

So, Miroku had said yes. He'd given the demon consent to do anything-anything it took-to bring Kagome back, to keep her alive, to keep her safe.

And he realized now, as he rested against an old oak, staring at the silent well, that she was going to hate him.

But she'd done this to him.

She'd ruined him, given him hope, triggered that impulse that had been dormant or dead or nonexistent before he'd had to wipe the blood from her dying hands, before he'd cradled her in his lap, before he'd shouted at that bastard until his voice (and moral principles) cracked.

And now he was scared. Scared of death-of dying, of seeing her die. That old sense of panic-of not having enough time, of not having enough of anything-was suffocating him and making him so incredibly, dangerously angry.

He was angry.

Because he wouldn't have to wait long to find out.

The kazaana was... eager. Miroku could feel it pinching at his skin, taunting him as his father's voice resonated in his head.

...when the day comes, Miroku...

...all you have to do is...

...close your eyes...

...and...

Miroku's eyes shot open.

A twig snapped somewhere to his left. Lightning-quick, Miroku jumped to his feet, gripping his staff. Carefully, he approached the well, peered down into its thick darkness, then let out a breath.

"Hachi."

The tanuki grinned sheepishly. "Miroku no danna."

"What are you doing here?" asked Miroku slowly, perching himself on the well's lip.

"I've been looking for you, actually," said Hachi warily. "There are rumors spreading throughout the lands. Of N-Naraku."

Miroku narrowed his eyes abruptly. "Such as?"

Hachi cowered slightly, bringing one pudgy arm over his head. "Miroku no danna, I do not wish to offend."

Haughtily, Miroku waved a dismissive hand. "You won't. Speak freely."

Hachi took a deep breath. "Rumor has it you and your companions were defeated by Naraku, yet you... are here before me and..."

With a frustrated sigh, Miroku rubbed the back of his neck. "You think I switched sides."

Hachi coughed. "Hearsay, I see."

Was it?

Wasn't Miroku indebted to Naraku now? Hadn't be promised him, through gritted teeth, that Inuyasha would never have Kagome? Hadn't he agreed to compensate the demon? To turn over the shards once Kagome returned? Hadn't he been willing to do anything barely three nights ago?

But why?

What could Naraku possibly gain by keeping Kagome alive? By keeping Miroku alive?

"Hachi," said Miroku contemplatively. "Would you question a sudden blessing if its attainment were relatively effortless?"

The tanuki seemed confused. "Miroku no da-"

"Just answer me."

"I don't know, Miroku no danna," said Hachi, his furry brow crinkling thoughtfully. "I wouldn't think the methods mattered."

Miroku tilted his head imperceptibly. "What would?"

Hachi's snout twitched abruptly, as though he was happy he'd come up with an appropriate response. "The motive behind the methods!"

Miroku was taken aback for a moment. His motive was clear, but... "What about the consequences, Hachi?"

Hachi shrugged, clawing at the weeds growing between the stones. "What about them?"

Miroku chuckled lightly. "You certainly have an interesting approach to life."

Hachi grinned merrily. "Well, it's not like I'll get to live it again, so!"

Blinking, Miroku nodded. "You have a... point there."

Jittery with energy, the tanuki stuck one claw in the air and said, self-importantly, "That's what you taught me, Miroku no danna-er, to an extent."

Miroku raised a bemused eyebrow. "I called you a coward. You consider that positive reinforcement?"

"Well, I'm certainly less cowardly!" mused Hachi enthusiastically. "Er... during the day, at least." With a determined look of concentration, he smashed a fist into his palm. "That was my goal, Miroku no danna! To be like you! To take what I want, when I want!"

Startled, Miroku glanced at the tanuki.

When?

When did he stop taking what he wanted, when he wanted?

"And how's that working out for you?" asked Miroku caustically.

Hachi grinned. "Great!" Guilty wince. "How about you, Miroku no danna?"

Miroku watched him for a moment.

Who cared whether it was unfair to Inuyasha? Or Sango? Who cared that Naraku wanted this? Miroku wanted it, too. He wanted Kagome. And hell if he wasn't going to have her. There was no way he was going to die before taking what he wanted. There was no way he was going to die before satiating that escalating hunger growing inside him.

Deliberately, he rose, straightened his robes, and said, in a firm, resolute voice, "Thank you, Hachi." He offered the tanuki a polite little bow. "I wonder if you would do me one more favor?"

Hachi cringed, collapsing in on himself. "There's nothing to steal in a seven-mile radius."

Miroku grinned. "Tempting offer, but I had something else in mind. I need to find Inuyasha. He's been in and out of Kaede-sama's village, and it is imperative I find him. Tonight."

And make him bring Kagome back.

Hachi gave him an odd look, then shrugged his furry shoulders. "Hop on," he said, plopping into nonexistence for a moment, and transforming into an inflated blimp the next.

Miroku's staff was already poking into Hachi's stretched torso, when a soft noise brought his attention to the well.

A soft, familiar noise.

"Stupid rust and water and-oh. Hi."

Miroku hopped down bewilderedly. "Kagome?"

Kagome!

What was she doing here? What was she thinking? What was she-

-wearing?

"Pajamas," she gestured uncomfortably, as though she'd read his mind. "I was kinda in a hurry."

Miroku blinked, transfixed with the huge, fluffy... things on her feet. His gaze traveled upwards slowly. Bunnies. She was wearing bunnies. And pants. With silver moons and stars. And a short, silky kimono with... kittens.

Had he really been lusting after her only moments before?

"Kagome," he began, his voice oddly gruff, "what are you doing back so soon? Your injuries-"

"Don't start," she mumbled, holding up a hand in the moonlight. "I know. And I don't care. Nothing hurts, I've moved on, so should you. Now-"

Miroku's eyes widened. How could she possibly know? How could she know those shards around her neck would be in Naraku's hands by morning? And more importantly, how could she not care? She'd been marked by Naraku and-

"-listening?"

"I'm sorry," he shook his head to clear it of thought. "I... just... you..."

Kagome smiled, pointing at the well over her shoulder. "Should I come back when you've had some caffeine? And a nap?"

Miroku forgot Naraku ever existed.

"I was about to go find Inuyasha," he said, a strange sort of cheerfulness creeping into his voice. "So he could... check if you were well enough to return. Which you are."

Kagome nodded lightly, dusting off her silly little bunnies. "Really? And where is he? Hopefully being nice to Kikyou...?"

Miroku gaped. "Er..."

"He better be!" she said, shaking her little fist theatrically. "And Sango-chan? Shippou-chan?"

Stunned, Miroku gestured vaguely behind him. "Sango... decided to visit with Kuranosuke-sama after you... left. Shippou went with her. Apparently, he was hungry."

Kagome flushed, gaze falling to the ground. "Oh. Kuranosuke-sama. Oh."

A small smile crept to his lips. "You said it yourself, Kagome. She's going to be happy."

Kagome looked up, beaming. "She will if I have anything to do with it! And also, that's no good! She can't stay there with that crazy guy. I need everyone to be in the same place, because I have a plan that we need to go over, and hey, what's Hachi-san doing here?"

Miroku blinked, having forgotten all about his faithful tanuki, plainly distracted by the mounting excitement Kagome's presence invoked. Because he'd decided, the moment she'd climbed out of that helpful little well. He'd decided-

He was going to have her.

Now.

"Miroku no danna," asked Hachi guilelessly, "is Kagome-sama the motive, or the consequence?"

Miroku grinned evilly, and said instead, "Hachi. Remember that favor I asked for? I have a slight modification to your route."

Kagome blinked. "Hey, what-"

Hachi fluttered in the breeze. "Where to?"

"Away from here. Anywhere," said Miroku quickly, reaching for Kagome, wrapping his fingers around her wrist, and pulling her onto Hachi.

Soon, they were gliding through the night sky, staring at each other; Kagome warily, Miroku with immense interest.

"Miroku," warned Kagome. "This is serious." Her features softened. "I-my family-"

"Ka-go-me," he murmured, trying to keep his distance. "We can talk later."

"Later?" she frowned. "Did you not hear me when I said I was in a hurry to get here and-"

"Hachi, here is fine!" shouted Miroku.

Kagome sighed deeply, thumbs and forefingers creating an imaginary headline. "Monk Found Strangled to Death. No jury in the world will convict me."

Slowly, Hachi descended, flattening against the ground and waiting patiently for his cargo to hop off. Once they did, he shot Miroku a questioning glance-Miroku nodded undiscernibly-and with a crackly poof, the tanuki was gone.

And Miroku and Kagome were...

...alone.

"Um," fidgeted Kagome, clearly comprehending there was something different about the way Miroku was looking at her. "So, that plan I-"

Miroku kissed her.

He didn't want to use her. He didn't. But the past three days had made him very irrational and temperamental and she was just. Asking. For. It. By simply existing.

"Miro-kun," she mumbled, "I-we have to-mhmmm-work on the details-"

Miroku slipped a hand under her little kimono. "You shouldn't concern yourself with those at the moment."

Kagome bit his lip, and pried him off her. "Don't tell me what to do!"

Miroku blinked.

Kagome crossed her arms, stuck out her chin, and turned her back to him, facing a large tree.

Miroku watched her for a long moment, distracted by the curve of her shoulder, the stretch of skin, the outline of her breasts.

And then he just... lost it.

Roughly, he brought an arm around her shoulders, pressing her against the tree, and murmured, "I told you not to concern yourself with the details, Kagome."

"Mi-"

He backed her up against the tree, crushing his hips to her ass. "You came back," he said, placing one hand on the tree bark for leverage, while his other one wrapped around the shard dangling from her neck. "And you don't care," he murmured, tugging at the thin silver chain until it snapped. "So. I propose we finish what we started three days ago. Several times, if you don't mind."

Trying very hard not to think, Miroku pocketed the shard, letting Kagome turn around in his arms. He would bring the damn thing to Naraku. Tomorrow. Tonight, he would-

"After all," he continued quietly, bringing both hands to her hips, "nothing changed."

"Everything changed," wavered Kagome, trying to wriggle out.

But Miroku liked this.

He liked towering over her, hardening at the mere thought of losing himself between her thighs.

So, he brought his lips to hers, slid his fingers down, and hooked them around the waistband of her pants. "Minor details," he hummed, pushing everything-duty, betrayal, life-out of his head, and kissed her, starved and irredeemable.

Because he wanted this.

And he would die soon. So. He deserved to be a little selfish.

Therefore, if he had to manipulate, force her into this, he would. He-

Tore his lips away from hers. "Tell me to stop."

"Stop," she breathed, trying to catch her breath.

Miroku did. "Ka-"

"Miroku," she hesitated bashfully. "I'm sorry, but you have to understand that not everyone's obsessed with stupid, perverted stuff like you a-ahh!"

"Liar," said Miroku, his fingers wandering down and pushing inside her pants, lower and down and around her panties. They were silky to his touch, and Kagome was... Kagome was wet. He rubbed her through the fabric slowly, relishing in her little gasp of embarrassed surprise.

Lazily, almost on auto-pilot, Miroku withdrew his fingers.

A few short moments passed, filled only by heavy breathing.

"Miro-kun," began Kagome shakily, with a mortified, oddly attentive glance. "That-that's beside the point. I came back to t-"

Miroku took off his outer robe.

"-nhh," she finished.

"Go on," he nodded casually, untying his pants.

"W-with what?" asked Kagome, blushing and trying not to peek at him.

"With your explanation. While I undress."

Kagome practically bolted. Fortunately, that same helpful tree was still there, blocking her exit. "Wh-we-we can't! What if someone sees-and... and it would totally change our friendship and the group dynamic and-oh, my GOD, Miroku, put your pants back on!"

Miroku grinned, completely unconcerned with his nudity, "Kagome, I don't know what you've been taught, but my clothes need to remain off for what I'm about to do to you."

Kagome's eyes widened. "What? No! There will be no doing of anybody! ANYTHING! I meant anything, not anybody!" she shrieked, though he could have sworn she'd been contemplating something-not necessarily him-with that panicked little frown.

"Ka-go-me," murmured Miroku, taking a step closer.

Kagome stopped breathing. "No! Think of the consequences! Bad consequences! I could end up pregnant (well, not really, 'cause, pill), and then you'll be stuck with me for the rest of your life and we'll end up hating each other and-"

Did she really think she could scare him out of this?

"I have no objections," he said, pressing himself against her, his hands wandering down to her hips. "As a matter of fact, I have a name in mind. For our first son, that is."

Kagome's eyebrows shot up peculiarly. "Really? What kind of a na-WAIT. No."

His fingers slid to the waistband of her pants. "You cannot possibly win this argument," he grinned.

Kagome sniffled. "No," she said softly. "I guess not." She threw him an almost scheming side-glance. "So, fine. Go ahead. Take advantage of me." She looked up at him, through thick, dark eyelashes, with an incredibly innocent, incredibly intimidating, incredibly discouraging pout. "It's not like I was recently injured or anything..."

"Guilt won't work, either, Kagome."

Kagome's shoulders slumped in defeat. "What will?" she asked quietly.

"This," said Miroku, and kissed her.

Because he had to make her understand how he felt. How he'd been feeling for days-out of control and desperate for her. He had to.

And even though he knew she would hate him later-for this corruption, this emotional blackmail-he murmured, in a seductive, pained voice, "Kagome. I could die tomorrow."

Kagome choked on a sob, and threw her arms around his neck with such tangible desperation that Miroku immediately regretted his course of action. But her little kimono slid off her shoulders, and the next thing he knew, they were on the ground, and he was kissing the small of her back, and thought if he kept at it long enough, the mark on her skin would go away, and if he were lucky enough, he could die in her arms and-

He could never do that to her.

Unless...

"Kagome," he began quietly, and she climbed into his lap, as though she was having trouble trying to hold onto him, whether literally or figuratively. "It doesn't have to mean anything."

Kagome burrowed deeper.

"I'm not trying to take you away from Inuyasha," he continued, schooling his features.

"What-what do you mean?" she asked bewilderedly.

And since he needed her to not pay attention, Miroku latched onto her collarbone, mumbling, "It won't mean anything. Please."

She didn't have to love him. He didn't need her to love him. As long as they were doing this for no particular reason other than lust, she would be fine once he was gone, and-

"I can't," she whispered. "I can't do that."

"Can't?" Surprisingly, Miroku found himself grinning. "Want me to prove you wrong?" His hands wandered down, and she looked so torn, so indecisive he couldn't help but add, "Inuyasha will never know."

Kagome's fingers dug into his back painfully. "It has nothing to do with him, you stupid-"

"And I'll go slow," he said, wondering if he was lying through his teeth.

Flushing, Kagome flinched. "It's not that, it's-"

"Kagome," groaned Miroku into her shoulder. "I'm not asking you to love me or bear my child or forget Inuyasha. All I ask is-"

"What if I wanted to?" she asked so quietly he almost didn't hear her. Quickly, her eyes widened. "I don't mean the 'bear my child' part, but what-what if I wanted it to mean something?"

Momentarily, Miroku regressed, a certain familiar panic gripping him. "Mean what exactly...?"

Kagome was burning with humiliation. "Nothing. Forget it."

"Kagome."

"We should head back to the village, Miroku-sama."

Miroku twitched, and Kagome bounced on his lap, too self-conscious to lower herself back completely. Which, on closer deliberation, wasn't quite as detrimental to his plan, considering she was giving him the perfect-

Cleverly, his fingers maneuvered around her silly little 'pajamas', and within a moment, she was squirming atop him, instinctively biting down on his shoulder. One finger inside, two... curled up and pressing against that little spot he'd discovered rendered girls incapable of objecting.

"The village can wait, wouldn't you agree?" he coaxed, stretching her slowly.

"Miroku," she gasped helplessly, pulsing around his fingers, "don't. Don't. I can't." With a desperate little moan, she shut her eyes tightly, and Miroku faltered. "It has to. Mean. Something-aah!"

Miroku frowned irately. "Then say it." Increasing his pace, he added, "If you say it during this," his thumb flicked over her heated flesh, "it won't count anyway. So, if it'll help you, pretend you love me."

Kagome frowned prettily, nails digging into his skin. "Pretend?"

Suddenly irritated, Miroku twisted his fingers sharply. Fine. It would be mutual exploitation. He could deal with that. He could.

"Say you love me," he grumbled, wondering if Kagome was capable of yielding to deceit.

"Love you...?"

Miroku paused, watching her mouth form the words. And then-

He crushed his lips to hers, realizing-

It wasn't enough.

It was never going to be enough.

He wanted her to remember him. He wanted no one else to erase this-this memory from her, wanted no one else to have her, ever. So, selfishly, he added a third finger, curled them up against her fluttering walls, and swallowed her little gasps until he felt her about to fall over the edge.

"Say it," he murmured then, nipping at her jaw.

Kagome's soft gasp tickled his skin. "No," she mumbled, arching her back.

Miroku grinned ruefully, sliding his other hand under her shirt, cupping one breast, and pinching its hardened nipple. "Say it, Kagome."

Startled and lost and on the brink, she burrowed her head in his shoulder, so he wrapped his other arm around her, and lowered her to the ground with a slight frown. "Kagome."

Skin flushing, glistening in anticipation. Lips, parting with a surprised little oh.

"Say it," he said angrily.

Because he-he'd been lying.

She had to.

She had to love him.

"I-" she began, but he cut her off with a searing, almost violent, kiss.

A furious surge of... something was coursing through his veins, taunting him, telling him she'd never say it, never love him. Want him, maybe. Love him, never. So, he needed to show her he didn't care, either, needed to make her helpless against him-needed her to feel lost and desperate and empty without him, needed to-

"I love you."

Miroku froze, tensing. He withdrew his fingers, chancing a glance at Kagome.

And Kagome-Kagome was looking away, pink and flushed and afraid, her grip on his forearms loosening. Startled and reeling, Miroku found himself tracing her bottom lip with his fingers. Did she really say-

With a frustrated groan, he descended upon her, hungry and confused and burning. "When? Since when?"

Shyly, Kagome tried to resist him, squirming and wriggling beneath him, so he pinned her to the ground, firmly, and pressed his hips to hers.

"Kagome," he warned.

"I don't know," she whispered, pushing his clutching fingers away. Her skin was white where he'd touched her-red in places he wanted to touch, wanted to bruise, wanted to claim.

"I have to know," he told her, a dark shadow falling across his face.

And then he-

-proved it.

In two fluid, demanding movements, he stripped her of her silly little kittens and silver moons and stars and she was bare before him, bare and waiting for him, tempting, addictive, and he had to-

"Since forever," she murmured finally, trying to cover herself and burrow under his skin and Miroku didn't care. He didn't care if she was lying. He didn't.

"For how long?" he asked instinctually, and took possession of those slender hips of hers, lifting her up, inviting himself in. He was so hard and so anxious and he'd waited so long, but it depended-it all depended on her answer. His nails dug into the ground around them and the tip of his length was teasing at her center, stroking it ever so slightly, driving him insane and-

"Forever."

She was slippery and slick and had almost surrendered now, so he asked again, because he loved hearing it and believing it. "Say it again."

Kagome mewled desperately as his fingers slipped lower; lower, down and fast and between their bodies to lightly scratch over her wet little-

"Uhmmm, forever," she gasped, wrapping her legs around him.

So he drowned and burned and was buried in her.

And as her eyes closed tightly and she climaxed against him, Miroku exhaled shakily, waiting for her to calm down. A small part of him-one still doused in oxygen-was mildly surprised. Through a fog of incoherence, he knew he shouldn't be. Because Kagome had always been easy to please. Always sensitive to-

"You realize, of course, I'm not quite done?" he grinned once she accidentally glanced at him, panting.

"Oh," she coughed softly, a blush spreading over her cheeks.

Miroku cocked an eyebrow, and nudged her hips with his, pulling out halfway, muscles tensing impatiently. "High pain threshold?"

Kagome's cheeks were burning. "Uhnmw?"

Miroku bit back a grin, feeling ridiculously proud to have been her first. "Not sure whether I should be insulted or honored."

Kagome groaned, mortified. "Shut up."

"After all, I was under the impression you-"

"Shut up."

"-would have lasted longer, as it is common for someone as... untouched as you (insert cocky grin) were."

"I hate you."

Miroku moved inside her, marveling at the way she immediately tightened and adjusted around him. She was so incredibly wet and slippery now that he couldn't help but slide a hand to her leg, hooking it under her knee and bringing it up. Kagome's eyes widened as he pulsed inside her.

"Let's see if you can be persuaded differently," he whispered presumptuously, teeth clenched.

And so, lungs burning, Miroku concentrated on the intoxicating sound of slapping flesh and the inciting scent of her arousal, and soon, Kagome was clutching the ground, then his arms, then shoulders, and finally, she unconsciously licked his jaw.

Miroku grinned, bucking violently against her, ramming against her flesh, and noting briefly that he'd been right. But surely, she would last longer the second time.

"Mi-"

Or not.

His hipbone slammed into her as she curved around him, squeezing him into oblivion. Her toes curled, and she was wet and hot and right around him and he was still stretching and filling her and-

-with a surprised shudder, he came inside her.

It took him a few minutes to recover, and when he finally did, he growled low in his throat. "Kagome."

Kagome was breathing heavily underneath him. "Y...es?"

"You're a bad influence."

A muffled giggle.

"We should just spend the night here," he suggested, unwilling to roll off her.

Embarrassed cough.

"You're never talking to me again, are you?" he asked, shaking his head amusedly.

"Miroku?"

"Yes?"

"Can you-um-please?"

Miroku sighed, reluctantly pulling out of her. Kagome was obviously coming down from her post-coital high. Therefore, as soon as it dawned on her what they'd just done-so inexpertly-she was going to kill him. Or hate him. Which was definitely much worse.

Warily, he watched her untangle herself from him as though whatever he had was contagious.

So, was this it, then?

Was he satiated?

Was he supposed to take her back to the village, wait until she fell asleep, and then bring Naraku his damn shards? Was he supposed to apologize? Explain to her he wouldn't breathe a word of this to anyone? Lie and tell her she was free to go on with the rest of her life, without him, without this? Or tell her the truth, tell her that if he couldn't have more time, he wanted to take her with him. Tell her he wanted-so badly-to bury himself in her again, and never let go.

"Don't indulge guilt, Kagome. It meant nothing," he said instead. "I won't hold your words against you."

But I'll pretend you meant them.

Kagome resolutely ignored him, scurrying off to put her clothes back on. "Village. We have to get back to the village."

Miroku nodded absentmindedly.

No.

No, he wasn't satiated.

She was bent over, searching the ground for no discernable reason. So, inspired by the wonderfully delicious view, Miroku stepped behind her, and kneeled, bumping his pelvis against her ass.

Kagome eeped, and jumped a meter in the air. Amused, Miroku sat down on the grass, cocking his head. "Anything the matter, Kagome?"

Kagome looked ready to bolt. "I can't find my, um..." she twirled a finger in the air, embarrassed. "Panties."

Miroku grinned. "These?"

Flushing, Kagome quickly snatched at the silky piece of cloth. "Yes, tho-let go of them!"

Miroku appeared the picture of innocence, pocketing her panties. "I didn't say you could have them. I found them first, after all."

Kagome's bottom lip trembled ominously. "Unhealthy obsession."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Miroku tilted his head quizzically, then spread out his robes on the ground, and patted a patch of grass next to him. Suspicious and flustered, Kagome slowly sat down next to him.

She cleared her throat.

Miroku smiled virtuously.

Kagome averted her eyes. "Can-can you put something on, please?"

Miroku grinned wickedly. "No."

Kagome turned to look at him, hands twisting nervously in her lap.

"You're evil," she said accusingly, her cheeks glowing a brilliant pink.

"Mhh," said Miroku casually, eyeing her lips. "Possibly. But you liked it."

Kagome flushed to the tips of her ears. "W-what? No, I didn't. I only-um-agh!"

"You're welcome," he grinned, amused and aroused and truly happy. "You know, Kagome-sama, I'm not ready to sleep or return to the village yet. Are you?"

"No," said Kagome automatically, then recoiled in horror. "No! No. No. Don't even-"

But he'd already slammed her against the hard, welcoming ground, his nails digging into her flesh. "You're not leaving until you admit it," he said playfully.

Kagome watched him suspiciously, wiggling beneath him. "Admit what?"

Miroku found himself unable to form a coherent sentence. She was killing him with those eyes and lips and hair and hips and... thank Buddha she had no idea how easy it would have been to completely ruin him.

"That you wanted me. That you still want me."

Oddly enough, to Miroku's surprise, Kagome smiled innocently. "Of course I do," she began, and Miroku blinked bewilderedly. "I want you-I want you to get off me!"

With a screech and a shove, Miroku was left sitting on the ground, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.

Seriously, what did he have to do to win her over completely? Die?

"Look," she said, fidgeting with her bunny slippers, "I-what I was trying to tell you before... we have to concentrate, because Naraku's not going to just sit around, waiting for us to-aaaah, Miroku!"

Miroku grinned sheepishly, bringing two fingers to his chin and away from Kagome's thigh. "You can't possibly expect me to act as though I haven't had the pleasure of-"

"No, really," muttered Kagome to no one in particular, "I wonder if I tested this lake, whether I'd find trace amounts of crack cocaine?"

Miroku raised an eyebrow. And an arm. And then, Kagome was in his lap, blinking up at him and parting those pretty little lips. "Ka-go-me," he whispered, trying not to fumble with the buttons that stubbornly insisted on getting in his way. "Surely, you're not suggesting either of us think of Naraku at a time like this."

Kagome shifted so she could look at him. "Time like this? Time like this?" she asked incredulously, then visibly tried to compose herself. "Miro-kun," she continued softly, snaking her hands around his gloved arm (Miroku's eyes widened). "Please."

Later, he would wonder whether Kagome had melted the part of his brain that was capable of refusing her, but as she leaned into him, practically wrapping herself around his right arm, Miroku acquiesced, and did so quite shamelessly. "I'm sorry."

Kagome waved a sleepy hand. "I just want to get all this over with, Miro-kun. I want everything to work out. I want... I want-"

"Me, too," he mumbled into her shoulder, scraping his teeth against her skin. "Nevertheless, you must realize he's too strong and too cowardly to fight in the open. We have to-"

"-fight dirty," said Kagome with a tiny little smile. She shifted in his lap, eyes bright. "I've worked it out perfectly in my head, but there are way too many variables for me to be sure."

Miroku offered her a rueful grin, hiding his face from her questioning eyes. "Mh hmm. Tell me."

"Well," she began excitedly, twisting her fingers around his protective beads, "we're going to need help. Outside help. We're going to need Kikyou and we're going to need, um, Inuyasha's brother, and-"

"What? Sesshoumaru?"

Kagome cleared her throat, suppressing a yelp as his teeth made contact with the nape of her neck, soon to be replaced by his soothing, sliding tongue. "For Sango. For Kohaku," she explained shakily.

"Neither brother will agree, or even listen, to such a proposition," mumbled Miroku, faltering.

"Inuyasha definitely will. He has to. Once we complete the jewel, he can wish for whatever he wants, but what about Sango? Inuyasha hasn't thought about it, but no matter what he says, he would never deprive Sango-chan of her little brother."

Miroku's eyes widened imperceptibly. "Why... why Kohaku? Why now?"

Kagome flinched, her words coming out in a meek rush. "He has a shard. We need it. Without it, we can't complete the jewel. Kouga-kun (Miroku frowned) has two. Naraku has the rest. So, Kohaku..."

"Has to die," finished Miroku, cringing. Involuntarily, he found himself holding Kagome tighter. "Alright, so Inuyasha might agree. But what about Sesshoumaru? He would never do something like this for Inuyasha."

Kagome paused, fixing her eyes on his. "They could trade."

Miroku's eyebrows shot up. "The Tetsusaiga!"

Kagome smiled slightly. "Uh huh."

A strange, uplifting sense of hope pulsed through Miroku. Maybe... maybe he'd given up too fast. But with Kagome-

"So, theoretically, that takes care of the Shikon shards," he said, a proud little smirk tugging his lips upward, "but how will we get Naraku's share? Without dying, I mean."

But Kagome wasn't laughing. "Kikyou."

Miroku blinked.

"Kikyou-sama has access to Naraku. And Onigumo. And Onigumo is incapable of hurting Kikyou. So-"

Miroku caught on quickly. "But-but how?"

Kagome scrunched up her nose, tugging at the golden ring on his finger. "I can't believe I'm actually sitting in your lap, discussing how best to kill someone."

And though Miroku was sorely tempted to let the conversation degenerate into... well, less conversing and more licking, he actually said, in a frustrated, angered voice, "Kagome. Onigumo died a long time ago. And Naraku deserves to die. So. Tell me."

Kagome nodded absentmindedly. "You know how the demons within Naraku keep... um, exploding out of him?"

Miroku grinned at her choice of words, and ruffled her hair, commanding himself to pay attention. "Yes."

"Well, this is going to sound kinda crazy-and if it does, I'm going to blame my little brother-but what if we could just find a catalyst-something that would accelerate the process?"

Miroku's brows were drawn together in thought. "Force him to expel the demons out of his body? What could possibly-"

Kagome's eyes were glistening oddly. "He'd do it himself."

Miroku gaped at her like a trout.

Kagome giggled softly. "20th century's answer to a Sengoku Jidai dilemma. Biology."

Miroku's eyebrows twitched suspiciously. "Kagome-"

"Onigumo was human. Humans and demons cannot possibly have the same DNA-um, modern science stuff... ack, never mind. Basically, humans and demons cannot possibly share cells or tissues or organs. Onigumo's body is rejecting these foreign organisms. That's why Naraku wants the jewel. Because he's literally falling apart. He's powerless without the shards. He-"

"Kagome," grinned Miroku, feeling more hopeful than he had in a decade. "You realize, of course, you are now obligated to bear my children. With our combined-"

"Don't even joke about that!" shrieked Kagome, swatting at his wandering hands.

And as Kagome embarked on a rant involving some kind of pill he wanted to know nothing about, Miroku gradually (and rather underhandedly) lowered her to the ground, grinning roguishly as she virtually disappeared under him, the thin fabric between them molding to his impatient fingers.

"Miro-kun," grumbled Kagome, though her cheeks were flushed expectantly, and her eyes lowered bashfully, "We haven't finished talking about-"

But Miroku wanted those lips of hers doing something else. So he rolled them over, urging her to slide on top of him, and said, "Of course we have. Sounds simple enough."

Kagome wrinkled her nose huffily. "It's not simple! We might get rid of Naraku, but there'll be a million little demons left in his wake, and-"

"So we'll deal with them as we always do. Inuyasha has the Tetsusaiga, Sango has Kirara and that giant atrocity she uses for evil," here, Miroku rubbed his head, fighting off phantom pain. "And, naturally, I could just use the kaz-"

"NO!" shouted Kagome, and pressed her chest to his, locking her knees against his hips, and tightening her arms around his neck. "If you use that thing ever again, I'm going to kill you. And then I'm going to kill you some more."

Miroku laughed, wondering why the thought of dying or death or revenge failed to interfere with this unfamiliar, gentle comfort. "You're killing me right now, Kagome. Especially as you seem intent on denying me my fair share of nudity."

But Kagome didn't acknowledge him at all. She slid her fingers down his neck, down his forearms, down to his gloved arm, while her other hand tangled in the robe beneath them. "Promise me you won't use it. No matter what happens, you won't."

Strangely flustered, Miroku nodded, tangling his fingers with hers. He was vaguely aware of her warm palm resting against his. No one had ever touched his hand like that-touched him like that, and he had no other choice but to promise her, promise her anything she wanted. "I won't."

And then he took her.

Because she gasped softly when he touched her.

Because she cried out his name, over and over and over again, as his fingers slipped inside her.

Because he needed more that that.

Because he belonged inside her.

And no one-not Inuyasha, not Kouga, not Naraku-was going to take Kagome away from him.

"No, seriously-"

"I know, Kagome. We must never repeat this horrible impropriety."

"Right! And-um..."

"We shall never speak of it again."

"Exactly! Because it was a mistake. A horrible, terrible-"

"Ka-go-me."

"-mistake. Caught up in the moment! Legitimate excuse! Because one second of weakness should definitely not interfere with the group dynamic, especially not now that we have a plan and-"

"Agreed."

"So. Never going to happen again!"

"Of course not."

"You'll keep your hands to yourself."

"Certainly."

"I'm serious, Miroku."

"I believe you, Kagome."

"Well. Good, then. Hff."

"Indeed."

"Mi-ro-kun!" she cried out, curving up to meet each slam of his pelvis.

"Last time," he ground out, teeth clenched. "Promise."

Kagome writhed beneath him, arching off the ground and quaking around him. "Uhn."

"You're telling them."

"No, you are."

"I don't think so."

"Could we just... not tell them, then?"

"Inuyasha will know."

"Darn."

Miroku grinned. "Technically, Kagome, he probably already knows."

Kagome's nose scrunched up adorably. "Stop drinking, Miro-kun."

"I assure you, I'm quite serious," he replied, poking her cheek. "Remember when we met?"

"You mean, when you were spying on me, or when you kidnapped me? 'Cause, really, if I were you, I wouldn't be reminding me of either-"

Miroku's hand slipped to Kagome's behind. "The village. Do you remember the village where you found me?"

Kagome nodded suspiciously. "The one you and Inuyasha almost wrecked because you're both complete idi-?"

"Uhn," nodded Miroku, his eyes shining with a strange sort of satisfaction.

Kagome waited patiently.

And then stepped on his foot. "Aren't you going to finish your little story?"

Miroku resisted taking her against the tree they'd passed barely a moment ago. "What will I get if I do?" he asked wickedly, the cool night breeze brushing his hair against her cheek.

Kagome was obviously fighting a horrible blush. Miroku was torn between finding her persevering innocence incredibly endearing, or-and this one was clearly winning-incredibly arousing.

But amazingly, she rose on her tippy-toes, and hastily pressed her lips to his, making to leave, so he pulled her back, teasing at her lower lip with his teeth.

"I thought you were in trouble," he began slowly, lowering his mouth to her neck. At this rate, they'd never reach Kaede's village, but Miroku couldn't care less. "Traveling with a half-demon and all."

Kagome nodded, though she didn't seem to be paying much attention to his words at all. "Mrkn."

"Indeed," he grinned, then detached her from himself with a prim and proper (and so very artificial) air about him.

If she wanted him, she'd have to say so.

Preferably, now.

"So, considering I was concerned for your safety (and you were practically naked), my first instinct was to take you away from him. So, in a manner of speaking, he shouldn't be too surprised. Apoplectic with rage, yes, but not terribly shocked."

Kagome seemed slightly disoriented, and Miroku bit back a triumphant grin.

"Who?" she asked, watching his lips.

"Inuyasha," answered Miroku haughtily, raising an amused eyebrow.

"Oh," she mumbled, blushing. "What were we talking about?"

Miroku was positive he'd won this round-won over her-so he smiled brilliantly, and walked off ahead, gripping his staff in lieu of molesting any part of her.

Resolutely, he ignored the twinge of discomfort at the back of his head, the one warning him not to disobey the spider again. The Shikon shard tangled itself around Kagome's panties somewhere in the deeper regions of his pocket, so he grinned optimistically and waited.

"Hey!" protested Kagome, running up to him. "What do you think you're doing?"

He cocked an amused eyebrow. "Walking?"

Kagome narrowed her eyes. "Without me?"

Say it.

"You seemed preoccupied," reasoned Miroku, his fingers twitching impatiently. "And considering we are only moments away from Inuyasha's forest, I-"

"-thought you could just... just..."

"Form a sentence?" he grinned.

Kagome kissed him.

Pleasantly surprised, Miroku deepened the kiss, his fingers automatically zooming in on the waistband of her pants.

...Say it...

"Miro-kun," she murmured, melting into him.

With a wet, achy slide of lips, Miroku reached for her hands, bringing them to his sides, and hoping she'd take the hint.

"Miro-kun," she hummed against his lips, and he was instantly hard again.

Say you want me.

"Yes, Kagome?" He covered her fingers with his, pushing them inside his robes, seeking flesh.

"We'll disturb Kaede-baachan's rest if we don't hurry," insisted Kagome, and pushed him away, perfectly unperturbed.

Miroku would have cried if it hadn't been against the law.

"...What are you doing?" he whined, a thick haze of desire clouding his judgement.

"Walking," she said sweetly, then ran off, giggling.

Miroku blinked.

And blinked some more, realizing she knew the effect she had on him.

Ergo, he was going to spend the rest of his life-regardless of its length (or lack thereof)-miserable and aching for her. Unless! Unless he caught up to her now-before it was too late-and showed her she wasn't allowed to treat him this way! And if possible, there would definitely be a moderate amount of spanking involved.

So, plotting various things he could do to her (and consequently having to fight off an aneurysm), Miroku quickly caught up to Kagome. She was standing in a small clearing just before Inuyasha's forest, surrounded by a number of suitable surfaces, so Miroku-who was wondering whether there was a rule about overindulgence somewhere in his religion-joined her.

"You run off entirely too often," he grinned, as she scuffed her toe in the grass. "I should really tie you up."

Kagome choked violently. "You-you wouldn't dare!"

"Merely as a precaution, I assure you," nodded Miroku, deciding he couldn't afford to wait for her to say it-say she wanted him. Which she had to.

And so, even though it meant she'd won-again-he scooped her up in his arms, his robes billowing in the wind. "Don't you know it's dangerous for someone so young and helpless to travel-even short distances-without a strong escort?"

Kagome smiled at him, her eyes twinkling merrily. "I know. But Inuyasha wasn't around."

Miroku put a lot of effort into trying to glare at her sternly. And failed miserably, as usual. He set her down on the ground, and grumbled, "If you mention Inuyasha one more time, I'll-"

"Inuyasha," said Kagome.

Miroku narrowed his eyes-

-then pounced, toppling them both to the ground. His hands snaked around her waist and flipped her on her stomach. Lazily, he sprawled atop her, nuzzling her neck.

"No, Miro-kun-" she told the grass.

"I think we should establish a penalty of sorts," murmured Miroku, skillfully divesting her of her pants and bunnies.

"Miro-kun-"

"Perhaps one we could put into effect immediately."

"Miroku-"

His fingers slipped between her inner thighs, skimming over silky, warm flesh, and slowly continuing upwards as Kagome shivered. "Wouldn't you agree, Ka-go-me?"

"No, I-Inu-mhhhm!"

One finger, in.

"What did we say about mentioning Inuyasha?"

Kagome whimpered. "He's-he's coming, you idiot."

Miroku froze.

And indeed, if he squinted hard enough, he could almost spot a tiny red dot far off on the horizon.

Far away, but approaching at an incredibly dangerous speed. And with the incriminating position they were in, Miroku was positive Inuyasha would... misunderstand.

Except, what was there to misunderstand?

"Kagome," he said, perking up. "Stay still."

"M-what? He-"

But Miroku was already drawing a set of ofuda from the deeper regions of his robe. "This is going to require a lot of concentration on my part, so please. Take off the rest of your clothes by yourself."

Kagome gaped at him incredulously, putting her bunnies back on. "Eee! I'm not taking my-ah! What are you doing!"

"Preserving our chances of having children," said Miroku nonchalantly. He flung one of the ofuda straight ahead, muttered a quick chant, then repeated the process three times in adjacent directions. And so, four imaginary corners later, a thin barrier had been erected around them.

Unfortunately, the barrier wasn't the only erect thing in the vicinity.

Kagome was kneeling there, next to him, flushed and slightly confused. Her kimono was askew. Her hair was tangled. Her legs were bare and slightly spread and-

"Kagome, please," groaned Miroku. "The clothes."

Kagome shook her head, panicking. "Shut up, shut up, shut up! If Inuyasha-"

"Oh, how unfortunate!" said Miroku dramatically. "I feel my concentration slipping."

Horrorstricken, Kagome glanced ahead.

Inuyasha was approaching rapidly.

He skidded to a halt a few meters away, sniffing the air in confusion, almost as though he were positive he'd smelled his elusive companions only moments before, but couldn't quite sense them anymore.

Miroku heaved a sigh of relief.

Now, if only Kagome would cooperate, too-

"Please don't see us, please don't see us, please don't see us," she chanted, shutting her eyes tightly.

Miroku grinned evilly, as a luxurious, greedy itch tickled his abdomen. "I was quite serious, you know. I need to stay focused."

Kagome's head snapped up angrily. "I'll focus you! Where's that staff of yours?"

Miroku stifled a laugh. "I had something different in mind," he said, waggling his eyebrows. "Come closer."

Kagome narrowed her eyes. "No."

"Oops. There goes one corner of the barrier."

Kagome shrieked, and tackled him. "Up! Up! Get it back up!"

Miroku coughed into his hand to hide a surprised laugh.

Was she even aware of the innuendo? Or would he have to show her?

Yeah, that.

"Your wish," he smiled innocently, sitting up, and letting her bounce back into his lap, "is my command."

Kagome's eyes widened as she felt him harden and twitch against her. "Oh."

Miroku nodded sagely. "Now, what shall we do about this? After all, we don't want Inuyasha to find us."

Kagome's fingers dug into his flesh. "Maybe he should," she hissed. "Then I'll just say you were trying to molest me and he'll kill you and everything will be great!"

Miroku licked her.

"Take off the bunnies first," he commanded, acting as though he hadn't heard her.

Kagome flushed, lowering her head in embarrassment. "You-you can't be serious!"

"Ah," he shook his head theatrically. "A second corner seems to have disappeared."

Kagome glanced behind her.

Inuyasha was still skulking nearby, scratching his head and frowning.

"Just the bunnies," she grumbled, and slipped off those fluffy little monsters.

Miroku groaned inwardly. She was technically naked now, and his body knew it, so he mumbled, with less composure, "Now the kittens."

Kagome giggled, and to Miroku's surprise, focused all her attention on him. "No. The kittens want to stay."

Miroku offered her a heated look. "Because they don't know any better. Kagome."

Kagome smiled, clearly oblivious to the fact that he was losing control, fast. "Not going to happen, Miro-kun."

A tiny little smirk played about his lips. "Fine. Take off my robes, then."

To Miroku's complete and utter shock, Kagome complied.

"Only because they're on backwards anyway," she nodded virtuously, gently untangling the main knot holding his robes together. Except, she didn't stop there. Her hands traveled up, her fingers tangling in his hair, tugging at his ponytail.

"I'm starting to think you've developed an unhealthy fixation," he said hungrily, his mouth barely a centimeter from hers.

"Me, too," she breathed unexpectedly, then slowly, tentatively, experimentally brushed her lips over his with a timid little frown.

He was going to let her take some time to adjust to this new intimacy, this new role, really he was, but her lips were too soft and her breasts were too covered, so Miroku threw a perplexed Inuyasha-who was still wholly unaware of what was happening right before his eyes-an almost vicious glance, then deliberately pushed the hem of Kagome's kimono up, and readjusted her on his lap.

"Help me take off my-" he began recklessly, throbbing and pulsing and craving friction, but Kagome was already untying his pant string.

Finally.

With renewed vigor, Miroku wrapped him arms around her tightly, guiding her onto him without warning, without preparation, without much concern for the wandering hanyou sniffing the air behind them because Kagome's inner thighs were slick and slippery and he slid inside her with a shuddering growl and she whispered his name like it meant something completely new now.

"Good girl," he purred, and Kagome whimpered quietly.

She sank against him, so he moved his hands lower, down to the small of her back, then lower still, cupping her ass and slamming her down, hard. She curled atop him, her nails digging into his forearms. Her breath was hot on his neck and her muscles were clenching around him violently and he knew he wouldn't last much longer.

He made a mental note to draw it out next time, then angled her hips, nipping at her jaw.

"What are you-mnhh!" she moaned anxiously, as he made her ride him faster.

"Talking... bad," he grinned against her skin between quick, shallow thrusts.

Kagome nodded absentmindedly, her breath catching at an increasing rate. She closed her eyes and arched her back, so Miroku bent his head down and caught one protruding nipple with his teeth. The fabric was in his way, but it seemed to have had the desired effect as Kagome moaned helplessly and arched further, accidentally allowing him deeper access.

Incoherent and wanting so badly to go faster, harder, deeper, to have her completely, Miroku let one hand travel back to her navel, then lower, much lower, pinching at her swollen little-

"Don't," she panted suddenly, opening her blue eyes. "I-don't-not yet. More. Please."

Inwardly, Miroku was celebrating, but outwardly, his body didn't care. He was close-practically there already-so he crushed his thumb against her, and whispered darkly, "Inuyasha... might... catch us."

Kagome came with an undecipherable little noise.

And though he'd been on the brink only moments before, he didn't follow after her, even after she clamped down on him, hard, almost painfully so.

Perhaps it was the fact that she came so explosively when he'd mentioned Inuyasha. Perhaps it was the fact that he was so very angry now-angry with Inuyasha for being there, angry with Kagome for responding so strongly, angry with himself for opening his stupid mouth in the first place.

Kagome was panting into his neck, her grip on his forearms loosening. Her whole body was trembling, inside and out, and Miroku waited, still hard and still frustrated. Slowly, Kagome's coherency returned, and modestly, she looked up at him through thick, dark lashes.

"Um," she began, blushing adorably, "you have to stop talking."

Ruefully, Miroku offered her a halfhearted smile. "Uh huh."

She leaned against him. "It's your voice-" she murmured, exhausted, but he cut her off.

With a deep, possessive kiss.

He remained buried deep within her, trying to resist the tiny little tremors still coursing through her satiny walls, then roughly pushed her backwards, and worked himself back and forth inside her, grunting indulgently. Briefly, he caught a glimpse of her face-slightly terrified and confused-so he fixed his eyes on hers, and kept pounding into her.

Because, even though he was generous and genial by nature, he refused to share her.

And she needed to learn.

So, as she squirmed beneath him, his fingers left the warmth and wetness of her hips in search of what he was looking for. Finally, after groping blindly for a long moment, he found it-her pants, and more importantly, their edging, belted with a ribbon. Quickly, he tugged the ribbon loose and-

"Mi-Miroku, don't-"

But Miroku merely looked at her through heavy-lidded eyes. "Running off in your imagination counts, too, Kagome," he mumbled, pinning her hands above her head and tightening the ribbon around her wrists to his satisfaction.

"What are you talking about?" she asked desperately, tears trembling in the corners of her eyes.

"Inuyasha," said Miroku, peripherally aware the hanyou had retreated quite some time ago. "Does he make you wet, Kagome? Have you been thinking about him all this time? Do you want him between your legs?"

Kagome whimpered. "No."

Miroku took hold of her chin and turned her face up to his. "You're a bad liar, Kagome."

Kagome's eyes suddenly narrowed. "You idiot."

Miroku frowned.

"Are you suffering from amnesia or something?" she asked angrily, her tears quickly drying up. "I told you I lo-"

Miroku thrust deeper, and kissed her, then gently brushed his lips over her wet eyelashes.

He didn't deserve her.

Not like this.

Maybe if she were less innocent, less unique, less Kagome, maybe then he'd be good enough for her. Maybe if she were like those other girls, dirty and impure and selfish, maybe then he'd be able to believe she'd chosen him, wanted him, loved him.

But she wasn't.

So, he wouldn't.

Still, she needed to see him, see all of him.

He wanted her to. He wanted her to see all of him-the passion and the depravity-see it, and accept it. Accept him. Because maybe then she'd tell him the truth, tell him she didn't love him, and he wouldn't have to deal with this stifling ache deep within his chest, this jealousy and greed, this fear.

So he plunged inside her again, stroking and probing and watching her look at him like she was afraid of him, afraid he was going to hurt her, devour her, which only made him want to hurt and devour her.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled into her hair as she whimpered, and for a moment, he thought he'd hurt her, then realized, as her cheeks continued to burn with shame, that she was wriggling towards him, trying to take all of him in, so he pushed further in and her legs wrapped around his hips and he was gone.

He collapsed on top of her with a drained grunt. "Ka-go-me-"

But Kagome was sniffling. And trembling. And curling away from him.

Horrified and heavy, Miroku pushed himself off slowly, trying to look at her face. Guilt washed over him in waves. Because... because she was crying.

"It's your stupid voice, not Inuyasha," she choked out, pushing at his chest, her wrists still tied.

Miroku flinched, tenderly wiping at her cheek. "I-I didn't mean to-wait. My what?"

Kagome looked away from him, shivering, and Miroku instantly realized she hadn't come yet.

"My what, Kagome?" he asked curiously, slowly withdrawing from her, and pulling back to rest on his haunches.

"Voice," she mumbled to no one in particular. "Your voice."

A slow, lazy smile spread across Miroku's lips. "Really? Never heard that one before."

Kagome huffed. "Yeah, well, I guess in your many conquests, you neglected to a-ahh!"

Miroku grinned against her skin, spreading her legs wider, and flicked his tongue over her slit, dipping one long finger deep inside her.

He thought it would take longer-perhaps days-to talk her into this (and, of course, into reciprocating), but apparently... talking itself was key.

"Really, Kagome," he rumbled against her flesh, rolling the R and stretching the E and tasting them both, "I never thought it would be something so simple."

The prolonged Ss seemed to draw the fastest response from her, so Miroku wracked his brain for more words, but her fingers tangled in his hair, pulling him closer. Delighted, Miroku kissed just below her navel, adding a second finger, and wondering if those damn kittens were ready to come off yet.

And considering it was getting extremely late, and Kagome really needed to get some sleep (because, tomorrow? More-), Miroku grazed his teeth over her clit, then murmured, "Such a greedy girl, my Ka-go-me."

Kagome shivered, tightening around his fingers and arching off the ground.

He blew a soft, cooling breath, and added a third finger, "Hmmm-and how long have you been hiding this?"

Kagome gasped.

"Hiding your little sssecret?" he hissed pleasantly.

The ribbon tying her wrists together almost broke as she moaned and clutched his hair.

"Lying awake at night," he rumbled, deep and low in his chest, "perhaps touching yourself secretly, while I spoke to you about minutiae and technicalitiessss-"

Kagome came suddenly, coating his fingers and crying out.

Miroku grinned, stunned.

So. She hadn't been lying. It really was his voice. His.

"Kagome-" he began victoriously, but Kagome pushed him off and away, scrambling to find the rest of her clothes.

Miroku blinked, scratching the back of his neck. "Kagome...?"

Trembling and dizzy from the aftershocks, Kagome turned to him with a sharp glare. "Shut up."

Flabbergasted, Miroku stood up, blinking as she stuck out her wrists at him.

"Untie me," she said shakily, unable to look at him.

Miroku did, growing slightly apprehensive. What... what if she couldn't accept this? What if he'd gotten exactly what he'd wanted? What if he'd proved himself right?

"You're upset with me?" he asked, fearing her answer.

Kagome shimmied into her pants, tying the ribbon around her waist. "Shouldn't I be?"

Miroku's shoulders sagged in relief. That definitely wasn't a yes.

"No...?"

Kagome huffed, and stomped off.

Miroku groaned exasperatedly, then quickly grew serious.

Of course she was upset. He'd used her and toyed with her and-

He really wanted to do it again.

So, having the grace to appear repentant, he dressed, and quickly caught up to her, and even though she wouldn't talk to him at all until they were out of Inuyasha's forest and on the outskirts of Kaede's village, Miroku was relatively happy.

His muscles were pleasantly relaxed (though there were instances when his eyes became bored with the incessant procession of trees and recalled certain, very pleasing, images instead, thus coiling every muscle in his body into a rigid agony). He was satiated. He was optimistic. He was-

Wondering how long it would take Inuyasha to smell his scent on Kagome (and consequently, how much longer Miroku would live), but was promptly distracted by Kagome's, "Kaede-baachan!"

Kaede, who'd been digging in her garden for herbs, looked up. "What are ye doing here, child? And-" she trailed off at the sight of them, covered with grass stains and twigs, and looking suspiciously flushed.

"Um... we were attacked by a demon?" tried Kagome, twisting her hands nervously.

Kaede nodded, clearly unconvinced. "So that's what ye children are calling it these days," she deadpanned, then indicated at her little hut. "Inuyasha will return by morning. I suggest ye get some rest."

Relieved, Kagome rushed into the hut, leaving Miroku to bear the full brunt of Kaede's disapproval.

"Uhn, we-" he began, but Kaede cut him off.

"I require no explanation," she said.

"Kaede-sama," began Miroku slowly, "Kagome's come up with a plan. I'm not going to... hurt her." By dying.

Kaede seemed skeptical, but returned her attention to plucking out a particularly persistent root. "Rest, houshi-sama."

So, feeling slightly chagrined, Miroku entered the hut and-

Frowned.

Kagome was curled up in one corner, huddling against the wall.

And resting against the opposite corner were a few-carelessly tossed-coverlets and cushions.

She wanted him to sleep way over there? That far away from her? Really?

Miroku looked at Kagome. Miroku looked at the corner. Miroku laughed, shook his head, dropped his staff onto a random mat, and picked up the linen she'd left for him.

And then, still chuckling, he made his way over to Kagome's makeshift bed, and slid in next to her, fluffing up his pillow.

Angrily, Kagome whipped around, narrowing her eyes.

Miroku gently kissed her cheek.

Kagome blinked, melting against him.

"Good night," was all he said, snuggling against her.

Kagome was frozen for the longest moment, then, with a deep, long sigh... she gave up.

"Story," she said.

Miroku burrowed deeper. "What?"

"Bedtime story."

He grinned sleepily. "What?"

She yawned adorably, nudging her knee in between his. "I want a bedtime story. I deserve one."

"You just want to hear my voice," he smirked, touching his forehead to hers.

"Do you want to sleep outside?" she mumbled sleepily, nuzzling against his cheek.

Miroku yawned, wrapping an arm around her, and began, in his best storyteller voice, "Once upon a time, there was a girl. A very naughty girl..."

Morning found Miroku stretching out of his sheets.

He was incredibly warm and rested and his dreams had been pleasant. In his dreams, Naraku was dead, and Kagome was naked. So, cheerfully, Miroku concluded his dreams were bordering on reality, and smiled blissfully.

He cracked one eye open, patting the mat next to him with a lazy yawn.

Instantly, he sat up, eyes widening.

Empty.

The hut was empty.

Briefly, he expected to find no evidence of the previous night-after all, his dreams had been becoming progressively more realistic lately, and-

Miroku grabbed his robes, searching the pockets with an almost frantic numbness.

His fingers wrapped around a small piece of silky cloth, and a large Shikon shard.

A startled, relieved grin curled his lips.

"I would not be so happy if I were ye," came a wearied voice from the doorway. "I told ye to rest, not babble 'til morning."

Miroku grinned. "Sincere apologies for the inconvenience, Kaede-sama."

"Ye better get ye own home," grumped Kaede, setting a stewpot onto one of the wooden benches under the window. "Soon."

Miroku's grin threatened to split his face in half. "So," he concluded perkily. "Kagome's told you of her plan, I take it."

Kaede nodded, tinkering with a pestle. "Aye."

Miroku rose, adjusting his robes and cleaning up. "Simple, isn't it?"

Kaede looked up, brow crinkling. "Ye shouldn't get ahead of yourself like this."

But Miroku didn't care. His heart felt oddly light, and his spirits were soaring. "Where's Kagome?"

Kaede's hand froze mid-air.

Miroku grin faded. "Kaede-sama?"

Kaede was breathing with difficulty. "Gone."

Alarmed, Miroku grabbed his staff, pulling his hair back into its patented ponytail. "Gone... where?"

Kaede paused for what seemed like an eternity. "She went in search of Kikyou."

Momentarily thrown off, Miroku scratched his head. "Why would-wait, WHAT?"

Nostrils flaring, he cast Kaede an angered glance, then ran out of the hut, looking down the path. Cursing under his breath, he went back in and asked, in an apprehensive, worried voice, "When?"

Kaede ground her bundle of herbs impassively. "A while ago. She left ye a note."

But Miroku didn't have time for notes. If she'd gone in search of Kikyou, that meant... it meant-

Devil's Tower.

"Hold onto this, please, Kaede-sama," he said hastily, stuffing the Shikon shard into Kaede's wrinkled hands and practically flying past her. He was out of the village and in Inuyasha's forest before he could pause to reconsider. Stupid girl. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

What was she thinking?

Why go alone?

Why would she just run off into that damn-

No.

That couldn't have been why she-

Wildly, Miroku stopped dead in his tracks.

'You are too pure to pass.'

'Is that... a bad thing?'

'Yes. Terrible things happen to the innocents who enter the forest.'

Miroku froze, surveying his surroundings, and trying to catch his breath.

She wouldn't-she wouldn't have used him. She was Kagome. She didn't work that way. She...

She was determined to not let him die.

"Son of a-" he growled low in his throat. Stupid. She was so-

"Idiot monk!" came a deep, furious grumble behind him.

Miroku spun around.

"Inuyasha, I have no time to-"

"Too fucking bad!" bellowed Inuyasha, storming toward him. "Where's Kagome? Kaede-baba said to ask you. When did she fucking come back? And where the fuck were YOU?"

Miroku groaned. "Go back, Inuyasha. This doesn't concern you."

Inuyasha exploded. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? First you let my shard detector get attacked by some stupid snake demon so we can't use her for who knows how long and then she comes back without anyone telling me and-"

"SHUT UP!" shouted Miroku, swinging his staff at Inuyasha.

Inuyasha blinked. "W-what?"

"First of all, she's not your anything!" growled Miroku through gritted teeth. "And second of all, she's not here."

Inuyasha twitched suspiciously. "So, she went back home?"

And before Miroku could correct him, Inuyasha stalked off, muttering profanities.

"Inuyasha," Miroku called out. "Pick."

Inuyasha whirled around. "Eh?"

"Pick," said Miroku. "Kagome or Kikyou."

Frazzled, Inuyasha bared his fangs. "Oi, what's wrong with you?"

Feeling betrayed and rejected, Miroku dug his staff into the ground. "It's your fault," he mumbled, with ferocity born out of desperation. "If you hadn't been such an idiot, I wouldn't need her so much now-I wouldn't-"

Inuyasha's eyes widened. "Oh, hell no!" he snarled, stumbling. "What-what kind of a death wish do you fucking have?!"

Miroku clenched his fists. "Do you love her?"

"H-hey," stammered Inuyasha, his ears flattening against his head. "This isn't about me."

"No, it isn't," agreed Miroku. "But I need to know, Inuyasha."

Inuyasha twitched uncomfortably, his upper lip curling back with distaste. "I-"

"Kikyou, Inuyasha. Do you love her? Would you die for her?" asked Miroku impatiently.

Inuyasha's features shifted immediately. "Yes."

Miroku was taken aback for a moment, then steeled his resolve, fixing his eyes on the hanyou's. "I know you would die for Kagome, as well. But they're not the same person, Inuyasha. Would you like to know why?"

Inuyasha offered an unconcerned glare, though he couldn't properly hide his curiosity. "Why?"

"Kagome would rather you live," finished Miroku, turning his back to Inuyasha.

Several branches swayed in the breeze, their leaves drifting to the ground.

"What about you?" asked Inuyasha eventually, recovering.

"I don't like you that way," said Miroku.

Inuyasha growled. "No. What did you do to Kagome?"

Miroku rubbed the bridge of his nose exasperatedly. "I wish people would stop asking me that question. Why is it so hard for everyone to believe she could truly care for me?"

Inuyasha's ears twitched. "Because Kagome cares for everyone, idiot."

Miroku remained silent for a moment-half for effect, half because he'd rarely felt the need to twist someone's ears off this badly-then said calmly, "Perhaps. But she's made her choice."

Inuyasha blinked in surprise. "Choice? What choice?"

Miroku averted his eyes. "She hasn't chosen you."

Inuyasha growled, low and dangerously. "I thought I told you. You can't have her, either."

"Too late."

Inuyasha's eyes flew open.

He stepped closer, took a tentative whiff, then bared his fangs fully, growling. He shook with rage for a moment, and Miroku watched the emotions play across his face. Disbelief and fury vied for domination of his features, and for a moment, Miroku wondered whether he could truly hurt Inuyasha if he had to.

But-

"Doesn't matter," said Inuyasha finally, dropping into a sulky crouch. "You can't keep her," he mumbled and continued to glare, as if nothing affected him, and Miroku could sympathize, honestly he could-snakes and ice and everything nice-but there were limits to even the worst of lone wolf specimens.

And even though he really wanted to say, 'I can and will,' he sat on the ground opposite Inuyasha, and mumbled, "She's not a thing. And... I know."

The two exchanged weighty glances.

Inuyasha scoffed, lifting his nose up flippantly.

Miroku, on the other hand, decided to be the mature one. "If it helps matters any, once the jewel is complete, none of us will have to cross paths again."

Inuyasha's ears drooped immediately. "I-I didn't say I wanted that."

Miroku raised a pensive eyebrow. "Then what do you want, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha's eyes narrowed dejectedly. "I don't know anymore."

Miroku scoffed, but it was a hollow, absentminded sound. "I suppose that's the only difference between us. Well, that, and I'm taller."

Inuyasha snorted, stuffing his hands in his sleeves. "You wish."

Miroku smirked, then sighed deeply. "Speaking of... she wants to bring Kikyou back, you know."

Inuyasha's head snapped up.

"With the jewel," elaborated Miroku further.

Inuyasha averted his eyes guiltily, as though he hadn't been giving the idea proper consideration for the millionth time. "W-wouldn't that be selfish?"

Miroku whacked the hanyou with his staff. "Comes with the territory."

Inuyasha rubbed his head, frowning contemplatively. "And then what?"

Miroku scowled. "And then she's going to go home, and the rest of us will just have to," here, he waved a nonchalant hand, "settle down. Live our lives. Be bored. Die."

With a meditative glance, Inuyasha scraped his claws against a pebble. "I should've killed you when I had the chance," he muttered halfheartedly.

Amused, Miroku rose, straightening his dusty robes. "Like you said, Inuyasha. I can't keep her," he shrugged, trying to decide whether Inuyasha was looking at him with a smug or commiserating grimace. Finally, deciding he really didn't want to know, Miroku pointed west. "Coming?"

Inuyasha blinked. "Where?"

"To get Kagome."

Inuyasha blinked some more. "Why? She's not at the village. She went home again. Didn't she?"

Miroku glowered. "No. She came back, told me her plan, and, er... we... talked for a while-which was all, apparently, merely a ploy to allow her access into that damn forest-and then she left, by herself, while I was sleeping and-"

Inuyasha blew up. "WHAT? Why the hell are you babbling here like a woman when Kagome's in trouble?" he yelled, gripping the hilt of his Tetsusaiga.

Miroku let out an exasperated groan. "Excuse me for trying to mend our deteriorating friendship."

Inuyasha paused, turning his head ever so slightly. "Friendship...?"

Miroku grinned lightheartedly. "Why the hell are you babbling here like a woman, Inuyasha, when Kagome's in trouble?"

Inuyasha grumbled and set off, cursing under his breath, though Miroku knew he'd seen a small smile escape his lips.

And so, though neither seemed genuinely comfortable, they traversed the eerily silent forest, went past a small field of stone, past tumultuous rapids and thickening woods, and finally arrived at a clearing.

Remnants of dawn still lingered on the foliage, and nestled within a thick patch of flowers, was their destination.

They found two silhouettes there, sitting rather peacefully next to each other, atop a small hill, staring off into the horizon. Their identical miko robes were fluttering in the breeze, Kagome's hair tangling with Kikyou's.

Both Inuyasha and Miroku paused, hesitant to intrude.

Something about their position made them seem exceptionally unattainable.

Not that Miroku hadn't figured that out this morning.

Fortunately, Inuyasha snapped out of it first, and shouted, "Oi, Kagome! What the hell are you doing?"

Kikyou turned her head furtively. "Wasting her time."

Miroku gripped his staff tighter, and closed the distance in a few short, angry strides. Because he had nothing to lose anymore, and had had too much of the drama and the uncertainty and-

"Listen here, both of you," he began decisively, "enough of this. Kagome, you're going to stop running off, and Kikyou-sama, you're going to help us."

Inuyasha backed up a few steps, cringing and mortified.

But Kagome giggled happily. "Not at all up to your usual diplomatic standard, Miro-kun! Did you not have breakfast this morning or something?"

Miroku glowered at her. "There are limits, Kagome-sama (Kagome's eyes widened)," he ground out, furious and gloomy and wishing she'd stop looking at him like that-like she hadn't used him, like nothing was wrong, like she loved him.

Looking crestfallen and slightly confused, Kagome tilted her head helplessly. "Miroku," she began carefully.

"Inuyasha knows," interrupted Kikyou impassively.

Kagome started wildly, turning to stare at Kikyou. "W-what?"

Kikyou bore her eyes into Inuyasha's, stuffing her hands into her sleeves. "He knows about you and the monk."

Kagome looked ready to bolt.

Inuyasha winced and twitched, extremely uncomfortable, unable to look at either of them.

With a repressed scowl, Miroku faced a flushing Inuyasha. "How does she know?"

"H-how would I know!?" yelped Inuyasha, throwing a hesitant glance at Kikyou.

Kikyou, for her part, looked at Kagome. "You need supervision," she noted coolly. "Of all the horrible, traitorous, promiscuous men roaming these lands, you favor that one?"

Kagome forced a sheepish laugh. "Well, it really wasn't my choice. He kinda doesn't take no for an answer. And, well, he's really not that bad. A little evil, granted, yes, but overall, I really do lo-"

"ENOUGH!" shouted Inuyasha, storming toward them. "Yes, I know," he explained, foaming at the mouth. "Yes, I'm going to kill him later, and yes, you have to be the stupidest-"

"Sit!"

Miroku winced, squinting one eye open as Inuyasha slammed into the hard, dry dirt.

"Useful," said Kikyou unemotionally.

Kagome rose and dusted off her robes. "Yes, except, I need a new one. Stronger. With more damage to the pelvic area."

Miroku could have sworn a small smirk was tugging Kikyou's lips upwards, but he blinked, and it was gone.

"Kikyou," murmured Inuyasha, once he'd pried himself away from his imprint in the ground. "You-you changed your mind?"

"Of course not," she muttered unconvincingly, rising to stand next to Kagome. "I still wish to take your soul to hell. I deserve to after the suffering you've put me through."

Miroku opened his mouth, but Kagome beat him to it.

"And I thought I had a Jesus complex," she grumbled exasperatedly, rubbing her eyebrow. And then-in what Miroku considered a very bold, if not foolish, move-Kagome lightly grabbed Kikyou's arm, and said, in a resolved, adamant voice, "You're not going to take Inuyasha to hell. We're all going to go talk to Sesshoumaru-sama and he's going to help us and you're going to live happily ever after with Inuyasha, demon or human or hanyou!" Pause. "Which, well... I guess you might consider that hell, too, so there!"

Miroku grinned haughtily despite his firm resolve not to.

"Sesshoumaru!? SESSHOUMARU?" bellowed Inuyasha, practically snapping his sword in two.

"Sit!"

Miroku cringed, empathizing, and offered the hanyou a hand up.

Kikyou seemed strangely flustered for the briefest of moments. She turned to Kagome and said, "You're a fool. Just like Inuyasha. You make it sound so effortless. But-"

"Please, Kikyou-sama," said Kagome, eyes shining. "We just need the shards. And you can get them. So please. Please. Please."

"If I obtain them, will you shut up?" asked Kikyou with annoyance.

"Of course."

"Promise?"

"Cross my heart."

"Fine, then."

Miroku blinked.

Inuyasha gaped speechlessly.

Kagome giggled, explaining, "I've had two hours to work on her. And I had sugar for breakfast. Unlike some people."

Inuyasha goggled, dumbfounded.

"I never talked that much when I was alive... did I, Inuyasha?" asked Kikyou, almost apprehensively.

Inuyasha glanced at Miroku as though seeking confirmation that he was, indeed, not hallucinating. "Er... no. I guess... uhn... not?"

And so, Inuyasha took a tentative step closer, tilted his head warily, and began talking with Kikyou.

Slightly dazed, Miroku looked at Kagome-momentarily forgetting he was ever angry with her-then rudely grabbed her hand, and dragged her off to the side.

"Happy?" he asked, trying to compose himself.

Kagome nodded, smiling brilliantly and reaching for his hand. "Extremely!"

"Must be satisfying to get what you want," he said coldly, his fingers digging into her flesh.

Kagome's lips parted softly. "Wh-Miro-kun, what's wrong?"

He was going to say, 'Nothing,' and walk away and never see her again, but instead, Miroku found himself saying, in an almost hurt voice, "You used me."

Kagome had the decency to flush. She didn't answer right away; she waited and waited with the breeze tugging at her hair, making him wonder and think and falter, and before he could tell her again, she half-mewled, in a soft, desperate, miserable manner, "What?"

"You used me to get into the forest," he said icily, but his voice was oddly ragged, "and I suppose it's only fair after what I..." he paused, frowning. "If you wanted to teach me a lesson, Kagome-sama, you could have just-"

"Shut up already!" she shrieked, and kicked his shin.

Miroku blinked.

"You were sleeping," she said angrily, poking his chest. "And I thought I'd save us some time," here, she poked him some more. "And I left you a note, so what the hell are you accusing me of?"

Miroku backtracked. "Nothing...?"

Kagome crossed her arms over her chest. "If anyone used anyone here, it's you."

Miroku's eyebrows shot up. "What?"

"All that evil stuff yesterday?" she huffed. "You took advantage of me."

Which wasn't exactly not true, but-

"And maybe it was just something you had to get out of your system, so now you can go be happy with whomever you want. Koharu. Or Sango. Or both. Because my part here is done. Hff."

Something inside Miroku's chest loosened most pleasantly.

"As you wish," he said darkly, then-

-pounced.

"You did say whomever," he reminded playfully.

Kagome winced.

"What's wrong?" he asked worriedly.

Kagome blushed horribly, and averted her eyes.

"Kagome?"

Kagome mumbled something under her breath.

"What was that?" he asked anxiously.

Flushed, Kagome cringed. "Sore."

Miroku's brows drew together in thought. "Sore? Why w-oh."

A ridiculously goofy grin softened his features.

"Sorry," he lied.

Kagome stilled beneath him, and as he stared at her, trying to memorize that look of utter loyalty, a new, raw emotion swept through him. Because it was still there, that need and desperation and fear, and yes, finally, it had a proper definition. It was home. And he-

He loved it.

Loved her.

Now, if only he could remember that long, persuasive speech he'd compiled mentally last night, when she was curled up next to him, licking his thumb in her sleep...

"Foresight, Ka-go-me," he began awkwardly, twenty years of verbal proficiency going down the drain, "is an absolute necessity."

Kagome raised both eyebrows, and sat up. "Um, okay..."

"And-" he continued, trying not to flinch.

"Miroku, are you okay?" she asked worriedly, pressing her palm to his warm forehead.

"I want to make plans," he told her bravely, sliding a hand under her silky garment. "And considering Shippou wouldn't exactly thrive with Inuyasha and Kikyou, and you can't take him to your time, you should... stay here. Because you'll miss, uhn... Shippou. And I know he can't live without you. And really, if you think about it-"

Kagome's features softened.

"I'm staying, Miro-kun," she said, and was up and off, running away from him.

Miroku watched her go, flustered.

He was unable to remember when-if ever-he'd felt this... full.

Because he could.

Despite all his shortcomings, he could keep her.

Miroku smiled, propping his head onto an elbow and watching Kagome approach Inuyasha and Kikyou. A particularly stubborn leaf was tickling his chin, so, with a sigh, he sat up, then climbed to his feet, and joined them.

"-but why Sesshoumaru?" complained Inuyasha petulantly.

Kikyou didn't seem to mind his whining.

"Because," began Kagome patiently, "we need the Tensaiga."

Inuyasha face-faulted. "That wussy little stick of his?"

Kagome's eyes narrowed. "Sword. Healing blade. Unless you'd like Sango to be miserable. I mean, it's not like she's an orphan with only one surviving sibling or anything..."

Inuyasha exploded guiltily. "But he won't do it unless he gets something in return!"

Miroku cleared his throat. "Precisely. Which is why you'll offer him your Tetsusaiga."

"MY WHAT?"

"Just offer it to him, Inuyasha," suggested Kikyou to everyone's stupefaction. "He might not accept it."

Kagome squeed, clearly thrilled with the unexpected support. "Right! You never know with him. He always looks so bored that maybe he'll actually want to do this without us breathing down his neck."

Inuyasha's left eye seemed ready to pop out, but he got himself under control. "Fat chance," he grumbled, then added, under his breath, "next you'll want me to make friends with that wimpy wolf."

"Um..."

"KAGOME!"

"Well, he has two shards!" she defended. "We have to go see him."

Inuyasha appeared to be having a seizure.

Miroku bent to whisper to Kagome, pressing a feather-light kiss to her temple, "Remind him how weak Kouga will be without the shards."

Kagome shot him a murderous glance. "Kouga-kun is not weak!" she grumbled huffily. "What's wrong with both of you?"

"They're jealous," said Kikyou lackadaisically. "Inuyasha because the wolf fights without a weapon, and your monk because he is... dense."

"He's not my monk," muttered Kagome.

Inuyasha smirked at Miroku smugly, as though he'd never actually believed Kagome had ever shared the monk's bed. Expressionlessly, Miroku whacked the hanyou on the head. Kagome giggled, slipping her hand in Miroku's.

"That's it!" snapped Inuyasha. "He dies now!"

"Inuyasha," said Kikyou, "if this session will degenerate into a childish spectacle, I will leave."

Inuyasha calmed down instantly, leaving Miroku and Kagome to stare at him bewilderedly. "Fine. I'll just kill him later."

Kikyou turned to Kagome. "Are we finished here? I have other matters to tend to."

Kagome nodded vehemently. "So, we're meeting here tomorrow night? With-with the shards?"

A vague inclination of Kikyou's head was all the confirmation Kagome needed.

"Kikyou-" began Inuyasha prudently.

"We shall speak tomorrow, Inuyasha," said Kikyou, fading into the forest.

Miroku glanced at Kagome. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, looking at Kikyou's retreating back as though she wanted to hug her and was trying very, very hard not to pounce.

"Don't do it," whispered Miroku, eyes twinkling.

Kagome fidgeted, looking up at him pleadingly. "But I really, really want to."

"Here, hold onto this instead," he grinned wickedly, grabbing her hand and guiding it inside his robes, lower and lower and-

"ONE MORE INCH AND YOU'LL BE SLEEPING WITH BUDDHA, MONK!"

Sheepishly, Miroku dropped Kagome's hand. "Inuyasha. There was an insect I couldn't remove by myself."

Inuyasha stomped over, fangs gleaming. "Oh, I'll remove it for you!"

Miroku grinned. "We should be heading back, Inuyasha. Kaede is expecting us, and Sango and Shippou still don't know anything out of the ordinary has transpired. We don't have time to play."

Inuyasha deflated with a pout. "I didn't want to play. I just wanted to behead you."

Miroku grumbled something about sexual tension, then quickly segued into a casual, "Will you fetch them, then? While Kagome and I return to the village?"

Inuyasha's eyes narrowed to tiny, wrathful slits. "And what will you be doing while I'm gone?"

Kagome flushed, then covered Miroku's mouth before he could say anything. "We'll work on the plan some more, Inuyasha."

"Mh hmm," said Miroku, removing her hand from his mouth, but not before he licked her palm. "Yes. It's exhaustive work, you know. After all, Kagome has an insatiable-"

"Sit!"

"-mind," finished Miroku innocently, as Inuyasha struggled on the ground, claws extended violently toward Miroku's face.

Kagome rubbed her temples. "Miroku, please."

Miroku's hand slipped to her behind possessively.

Kagome stared at him, turning a dozen shades of red. "Um. That's not what-"

"I can't believe you're actually willing to generate more of HIM," spat Inuyasha, choking on dust.

Miroku and Kagome glanced at him incredulously.

"So-so, you're not mad?" asked Kagome carefully, eyes glimmering with a soft sort of relief.

"OF COURSE I AM!" hollered Inuyasha furiously, and for a moment, Miroku reconsidered his position.

But Kagome merely giggled.

"And when I find out what kind of a drug that monk put in your fucking food," ranted Inuyasha, glaring at the two, "I'm going to rip out his bowels and castrate him with them."

Miroku tried desperately not to conjure up a visual.

"In my defense," he hurried to explain, "it's all Kagome's fault."

Kagome twitched.

"I was minding my own business, but she insisted. And I am not now, nor have I ever been, able to refuse a lady in such absolute need."

Inuyasha twitched, too.

"Furthermore, we've agreed to name our second child after you, Inuyasha, so-"

"Kaze no-!"

"Sit!"

Miroku squinted one eye open, patting himself down for any sign of a life-threatening injury, and upon finding none, spotted Inuyasha sprawled on the ground, one foot twitching spastically.

"I'm going to help you with that castration thing," said Kagome as way of apology, and bent down to help Inuyasha up.

Miroku grinned.

Because he'd been wrong.

There was nothing wrong with the world that couldn't be fixed.

They had a plan. A real, tangible, infallible plan. They had each other (and even though Inuyasha would probably try to murder Miroku in his sleep for the first year or so, he wasn't going to leave or hate them). They had allies and Shippou and pocky and all the time in the world.

Life was perfect.

"Whatever," growled Inuyasha, as a small clump of dirt slid off his forehead. He plucked a few sticks and pebbles out of his hair, then poked a sharp claw into Miroku's shoulder. "You. Watch your back. I know where you sleep."

Miroku grinned evilly, and glanced at Kagome.

Kagome's eyes instantly widened, and she rushed to cover his mouth, but-

"Underneath Kagome?"

Hundreds of birds flew from their branches and into the heavens as Inuyasha's enraged snarl spread across the plains.

"Generally speaking, of course," coughed Miroku, raising a cheerful eyebrow. "Because customarily, I prefer to be on top."

Inuyasha's eyes seemed to be tinged an odd... red... ish color.

"Miroku," warned Kagome, mortified and stuffing the Tetsusaiga into Inuyasha's trembling hands as a precaution, "are you trying to start a massacre?"

But Miroku knew what he was doing. "Ah! I'm sure Inuyasha could apply this knowledge (I am so eager to bestow) wisely. After all, Kikyou-sama doesn't seem like the patient type."

Both Inuyasha and Kagome seemed to want to burrow into the ground and die.

"You!" shrieked Kagome furiously. "Inuyasha, give me the Tetsusaiga!"

"H-hey," cowered Inuyasha, putting a reluctant arm in front of a very delighted Miroku. "You can't kill him!"

"Yes, I can!" growled Kagome (though, once again, Miroku was reminded of a very cranky kitten), and tried to reach past Inuyasha, swatting at Miroku.

"No, you can't," Inuyasha growled back. "If anyone's going to kill him, it's going to be me!"

Kagome narrowed her eyes dangerously. "If you lay one finger on him, I'll-"

Inuyasha's jaw dropped. "W-what? But you just said-"

"I'm allowed to say it! He's mine!"

All three froze.

Kagome flushed, fidgeting. "That is to say, 'Mine to take care of'. That's what I meant! In a killing way only!"

Miroku, feeling content and satisfied, nudged her slowly, seductively, slyly. "You had it right the first time, Ka-go-me."

Frustrated, Kagome pressed her lips to his-quickly, very quickly-then huffily stomped off ahead, muttering about monks and dogs and adolescence and an unjust God.

Miroku licked his lips, then dared a glance at a bewildered Inuyasha.

"Word of advice? Go for the neck," he instructed, watching the hanyou for a reaction.

Inuyasha looked no older than ten with that blush spreading across his cheeks. "Shut up."

"And that little spot between the shoulder blades."

"I'm going to kill you."

"And I know you're both addicted to trees, but trust me. Splinters are a pain the next morning. Literally."

"Dead."

"And perhaps you ought to avoid lakes, as well."

"But Kikyou likes-GHRHH. For fuck's sake, idiot monk, can't you-"

And then, Inuyasha was just-

-gone.

Flung off to the side, slamming into the ground and away from the Tetsusaiga.

Miroku's heart seemed to stop inside his chest.

Quickly, his eyes scanned the horizon for Kagome, but she was nowhere to be found.

A brief jolt of panic rose up in his throat, but he caught a fleeting glimpse of a female silhouette straight ahead, the sun at her back.

Kag-!

-ura...?

Kagura?

Instinctively, Miroku ran forward, gripping his staff until his knuckles were raw and white with pressure.

Kagome. Where was Kagome?

"Adorable," said Kagura, fanning herself with apathetic boredom. "Naraku thinks it's all very adorable."

The wind seemed to pick up. Miroku glanced about, disoriented.

"He told you," sang Kagura. "Dog and the jewel. But no," she said, sending a blast in his direction. "You just had to make him angry. Don't you know? Everybody suffers when Naraku is angry," she spat furiously.

Miroku could see the gusts of wind coming toward him, but there was no way he could avoid them in time and-

Something knocked him out of the way.

Inuyasha.

His red haori was a little tattered and he was incredibly pissed and Kagura took an involuntary step back. "Where's Kagome, you bitch?"

Slightly disconcerted, Kagura forced a sneer. "Where do you think she is?"

Miroku balled up his fist, wrapping his fingers around the beads. "Where?"

Kagura pulled a feather from her hair. "She seems to have found great happiness. So. Naraku's... congratulating her."

Miroku's blood boiled. He couldn't think straight-he couldn't understand-

"And he also has a present for you, houshi," shouted Kagura over the gust of wind surrounding her. "Don't forget! Compliments of Naraku!"

And then-

The horizon was teeming with a mass of demons, and Kagura was gone.

"Fucking hell!" yelled Inuyasha, as the Tetsusaiga transformed.

Miroku's chest constricted.

Naraku couldn't-not Kagome. Not after he-

The mark.

The mark.

Miroku's eyes widened in horror.

That's what Naraku was really after.

Frantically, Miroku glanced at Inuyasha, who was staring at the approaching demons with disgust.

That's why he'd kept her alive. That's why he'd kept Miroku alive.

Naraku needed Kagome. He needed her to complete the jewel for him. He needed her to be less pure and less resistant to his control. He needed her for himself.

And Miroku had helped him.

"Son of a bitch!" he shouted, and grabbed Inuyasha's sleeve.

"Miroku, what-"

"Leave," said Miroku through gritted teeth. "Now. Get Kagome. No matter what, get her and send her back home and seal the well. Do you understand, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha's eyes widened fearfully. "What?"

"Do it."

Inuyasha arranged his features into a firm scowl. "Fine, but I can't get past all those fuckers-"

"Don't worry about them," said Miroku, wrapping his fingers around his gloved wrist. "I'll take care of this. Just promise me you'll keep her safe."

Inuyasha faltered, realization slowly sinking in. "I-what?"

"And don't tell her," mumbled Miroku, turning to face the advancing sea of demons.

"Don't tell her what, monk?" shouted Inuyasha, though he'd already realized what Miroku planned on doing.

"Go," said Miroku determinedly. "Hurry. He'll hurt her if you don't."

Inuyasha seemed torn. Finally, a low growl of complete frustration tore from his lips, and Miroku was slightly grateful to know the hanyou cared. "You're an idiot."

"I know."

"She's going to hate you."

"I know."

"She's going to hate me, too."

"I know. I'm sorry," mumbled Miroku.

"Fuck."

"Yeah."

"No other way?" asked Inuyasha dully.

"No."

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."

"Inuyasha," said Miroku, unable to look at him anymore. "Please."

And with a last, loud curse, Inuyasha tapped Miroku on the head affectionately and darted past, clearing himself a path through the demons.

Miroku felt numb.

Die.

He was going to die.

No other road, no other way, no day but today.

Inadvertently, he'd been preparing for years, but now, now that he was finally living-

It didn't matter. It didn't.

As long as Kagome remembered him-all of him-he could... he could die without regrets.

Except...

He wanted to be there.

He wanted to be there tonight. He wanted to be there a week from tonight. He wanted to sit there, years from now, with Kagome between his legs, her back against his front, and watch their children chase butterflies. He wanted to see Shippou grow up. He wanted... he wanted-

The demons descended as one, with a horrible, eerie wail.

Miroku gripped the protective beads.

He had to do this.

For Kagome.

So Kagome could have everything he wanted.

With someone else.

Resolutely, he ignored the fire that burst within him at the thought of someone else touching her-

-and faced his demons.

'No matter what happens, you won't.'

Schooling his features, Miroku took a deep, steadying breath... closed his eyes... and-

Unleashed his kazaana.

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 11 of 13

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