Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 37 of 60

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Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go. ~Author Unknown

InuYasha walked into the campsite early to find his companions sleeping next to the dying fire. Sango lay in Kagome's green sleeping bag, her long ponytail and hand stretched above her head. Miroku was only a few inches away on his stomach, his hand twined within her hair. InuYasha smiled despite the sadness he felt.

While taking Kagome's letter back to the well, he stopped at Kikyo's shrine to tend the flowers by her grave. His heart ached at the loss, a loss he had endured twice. One of the dainty white flowers was still tucked inside his haori along with the letter that Kagome's mother had sent back with him.

He dropped a heavy backpack that he also carried back from the Higurashi shrine by a nearby tree and grabbed a few logs to build up the fire. The morning was chilly with the first sign summer was winding down. Closing his eyes, he reached out to find Kagome's aura within the nearby castle and let it sooth his raw nerves. Its steady strength brought comfort to the ache in his heart, helping dull the powerful sadness that plagued him. Losing Kagome would surely break the rest of his damaged soul beyond the tentative repair he had been able to achieve since Kikyo.

Miroku stirred, his eyes opening slowly. InuYasha watched the monk's lips curve into a sleepy smile. His hand traveled the short distance to Sango's outstretched hand. Grasping it lightly, he caressed her fingertips with reverence. When she started to wake, he pulled back and sat up, finally noticing InuYasha. The monk blushed slightly when he realized there was a witness to his stolen moment.

InuYasha shook his head and met his gaze knowingly. "Just tell her already," he said softly before sitting down to stare into the fire morosely. Flames reflected in his eyes, making them glow unnaturally. Lost in thought, he lifted a hand to cover his chest and the hidden flower resting against his heart. "Trust a grave all that you should have told her when she was alive is not how you want it to be. Regrets are the worst enemy a man can have."

Miroku watched his friend battle an emptiness that he feared would never cease its merciless hold. There were no words to comfort a soul that yearned for the unreachable. he glanced over at Sango as she woke. His heart swelled at the sight of her beauty in the early morning light. InuYasha was right. Sango was his love, his world. His only future.

It was time he grab that future with both hands and never let go.

Kagome dropped her training spear and stood up, "Oh!"

Sesshomaru had been in mid swing when she decided to drop all defenses. If he hadn't been paying attention, he would have taken her head off. He stiffened and pulled back just before impact.

"What are you doing?" he growled, anger coloring his tone at her lack of focus.

"InuYasha's back, I gotta go!" She started for the door but his hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist, yanking her back.


He watched with fascination as she looked at him incredulously a moment before being replaced with anger. She flushed becomingly as her heartbeat escalated. Her angry tirades always entertained him so he waited patiently for the flood of words to pour out.

She surprised him as she seemed to make an effort to calm herself before finally asking evenly, "Why not?"

He blinked at her rational question, confused by her controlled response. "Because I forbid you from leaving the grounds for your own safety," he answered as if speaking to an idiot. "We both know what happened the last time you decided to sneak out of my house."

She inhaled through her nose, clenching her jaw to keep from retorting quickly. Instead, she smiled tightly, "I think that your excellent training has given me the ability to defend myself long enough for one of your highly skilled guards to make it in time, if indeed I am attacked within the short distance it is from here to my friends. Otherwise, what are we doing wasting our time every morning?"

He looked at Hoshi across the room and saw her conspiratorial grin. 'Of course! This has Hoshi's influence all over it.' He looked back at Kagome, mulling over how he could shut down this new method of argument using logic.

"I fail to see your point. None of my guards would need to come to your rescue if you'd simply stay inside where it's safe." He pushed his toe beneath her discarded spear and flicked his ankle, the spear shot into his hand. With a haughty look, he held it out to her.

She took it reluctantly, all pretense of her former control gone. Resentment and disappointment washed over her features and he caught his breath at the tears gathering in the corner of her eyes. She remained quiet, eyes on the floor at her feet. She gripped the spear with white knuckles and seemed to be choking back the melancholy that suddenly replaced her momentary joy. He waited for her to speak, but when she remained quiet his curiosity got the better of him.

Dropping the end of his spear to the floor, his other hand rested on his hip in a relaxed manner. Trying to soften the mood that had overtaken the dojo, he asked lightly. "What, no argument?"

She only shook her head and held the spear out half-heartedly in a defensive position, eyes locked on the floor between them. Sighing, he spoke quietly so only she could hear, "What happened to the little miko not afraid of speaking her mind?"

That finally got her to look at him, sparking the chocolate depths with a little fire. "I'm not afraid. I was just hoping to hear news from home. InuYasha took a letter to my mom and I wanted to make sure my family's okay." Her voice held the longing that she felt in her soul. "It's been a long time since I've seen any of them."

His jaw flexed as she held his gaze. 'No, she isn't afraid,' he thought with satisfaction. It also wasn't eagerness to see his brother. She wanted information about her family. Swallowing the burning lump that had risen to his throat, he shrugged off the irrational desire to keep her away from his half-brother.

"I'll send a servant for a full report. Will that ease your mind?"

Her brows drew together at his response. The small opening seemed to erode the tenuous control she had over her emotions. Dropping the spear again, she rushed forward to grip his haori in both hands, pleading with him, "Please Sesshomaru, let me go myself. I won't be able to relax until I know they're okay. I have to know!" her desperate tone cracked against his defenses like lightning splintering a tree.

He took a deep breath, considering his options. While he could simply deny her and leave it at that, he didn't want to see the sadness return to her eyes. The quietly spoken words about her family from the night before played in his ears again. He hated himself in that moment, knowing that he would not coldly deny her such a simple request.

"Fine. I'll take you after we finish this lesson." The words came out harshly as he fought to control his frustration at giving in to her imploring eyes.

Kagome sighed in relief and dropped her forehead against his chest, forgetting for a second that he was one of the most dangerous youkai in the world. Her senses seemed to return and she dropped her hands quickly and stepped back, eyes averted. Had she looked up, she would have seen a flicker of self-satisfaction and something more dangerous soften the great taiyoukai's eyes before his apathetic mask slid back into place.

Kagome let out an exasperated groan as she felt another tug on the back of her kimono. Sesshomaru seemed to move slowly on purpose and every time she got more than a few steps ahead, he reached out and pulled her back. She was trying to keep her cool, fearing that if she complained he might turn her around and drag her back to the castle.

Of course, he wasn't making it easy on her.

"Is there a problem?" he asked drolly.

"Nope, just hoping that we can get there before tomorrow," she quipped. She kicked a pebble along the path as she marched silently, taking her frustration out on the ground instead of her escort.

"I find your sense of distance seriously lacking. Perhaps we need to add that to your training," he added in a bored tone, "They are only a short distance ahead. Far from an entire day's walk."

She spun around and put her hands on her hips, glaring at his obtuse observation. "I know that! You're the reason it'll take us all day. You walk slower than an old woman!"

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow at her display of anger. 'So amusing when angry,' he thought with pleasure. "And yet you're the one who has stopped walking. At least I have continued forward movement, however inadequate you feel the pace."

Kagome's face turned red at his words. "Ohhhh!" she growled and turned back around, marching toward the campsite again. When she got too far ahead, Sesshomaru tugged her back with a satisfied grin. Still fuming over his last statement, her words came out a little harsher than normal, "What's your deal? I know you can keep up with me," she glared at him over her shoulder without pausing.

"You tend to get yourself into trouble when unsupervised. I'm merely making my job easier by keeping you close. Besides, there are dangerous animals nearby. Several in fact."

"What are you talking about? I don't get myself in trouble, trouble finds me," she shot back petulantly. "And I can protect myself from animals easily enough." They rounded a curve and as luck would have it, Kagome came face to face with a large black bear and her cubs. The mother bear growled, ready to protect her cubs, squaring her body in the middle of the path. Staring agitatedly at Kagome who was only a few feet away, the mother bear sniffed the air. Sesshomaru tensed behind her but remained still.

Kagome didn't want to be afraid, especially since she was just shouting about how she could take care of herself. Frozen in mounting fear, she lifted her hand to her chest unconsciously as her heart beat wildly. The mother bear lifted herself up on hind legs and roared at Kagome in warning.

Falling back, Kagome crashed into Sesshomaru, startled at the ferocious sound. She felt his left hand come up to her shoulder, holding her in place. Her right hand reached back and gripped his hamaka right above his knee. At that moment she felt Sesshomaru release some of his youki, cautioning the mother bear that he was not something that she wanted to tangle with. The bear dropped to all fours and moved on quickly, calling for her cubs to follow.

Kagome took a deep breath as soon as the path was clear, closing her eyes in relief. She was about to move when Sesshomaru's other hand swept her thick hair off one shoulder. She shivered as his breath tickled her ear "Would you like to question again why I kept you close?"

Tipping her head, she met his gaze only inches away. Neither moved, spellbound at the prolonged contact as his hand rested on her shoulder and her back pressed into his chest. InuYasha called out from the distance, having felt Sesshomaru's youki spike.

Shaking loose the hold that her dark eyes had over him, Sesshomaru's features closed off and she felt a gentle push at the small of her back. His voice was like velvet covered steel, "Go and see your precious InuYasha."

Later that night, Miroku and Sango were walking back from the lake near their campsite. Miroku carried two large buckets of water while she gripped freshly washed clothes in a hand-woven basket borrowed from the castle. He had been unusually quite all day, casting odd looks at Sango and fidgeting nervously whenever she asked what was wrong.

"I was happy to see Kagome today," she said with a smile, thinking of her friend. "But did you find it odd the way Sesshomaru was acting?"

"Hmm, he was behaving rather strangely," Miroku answered quietly. They traveled slowly, neither in a great hurry to return to the campsite.

The pair had been dancing around their attraction and the topic of the future like leaves in the wind for so long, neither knew how to proceed. The mutual avoidance had always been easy as they kept their focus on the problem of Naraku and then Kagome's kidnapping, but Miroku was beginning to get restless as his patience wore thin. InuYasha's words had been echoing in his mind all day, haunting like an omen that dare not be ignored. Every time he looked at Sango, he pictured InuYasha clutching Kikyo's lifeless body to his chest. His friend had never had the chance to make a life with the woman he loved. Miroku didn't want the same fate in his own story.

Seeing Kagome today and how well she seemed to be doing alleviated all his lingering concerns about her safety and health. Her eyes were bright and aura stronger than ever. She seemed to be flourishing over the past few months in the House of the Moon. Miroku thought on that for a few minutes.

"I find it interesting that she seems so happy away from InuYasha."

Sango sighed as she readjusted the basket in her hands. "I guess I saw it coming. When I was still allowed to visit her, I could see the change happening slowly when she started training. She told me that it was really important for her to become stronger. She said she always felt like a burden to us in battle."

"So her training has allowed her to gain the confidence that she was never able to learn on her own?" he asked, watching Sango intently.

"I suppose so," she answered evasively.

Miroku narrowed his eyes at her. "What else do you know? I can tell you're holding something back."

She paused, still surprised how much he seemed to see through to her inner thoughts. He stopped too and waited for the answer, never once thinking she would keep secrets from him.

"Kagome once told me that she knew that InuYasha could never love her the way that he loved Kikyo. She had come to terms with it and accepted that they would always love each other, just not in the way she had hoped for in the beginning."

Miroku was silent, absorbing what Sango had just told him. He was surprised but relieved at his friend's gained wisdom and perspective. "I have to say that I'm relieved, but it's sad that the story could not end differently. I wish for my friends a love as deep as mine."

Sango blushed crimson at the passion that burned in his eyes. She started walking again, grasping at her composure as she hurried along the path.

Miroku grinned and followed. After a few paces of tense silence he decided to take pity on her, changing the subject. "So Kagome's not missing us as much as we thought." He chuckled a moment later, "But you know, Sesshomaru seems unusually protective of her."

Sango paced along the trail, a thoughtful look overtaking the embarrassment. Miroku caught the expression and was just about to ask what her thoughts were when she stopped dead in her tracks. Miroku paused too, concerned for a minute as she stared ahead, shock and fascination blooming over her beautiful features.

"What if…?" she trailed off, only to shake her head and laugh before starting to walk again. "No. That would be way too weird."

"What are you talking about?" he asked, juggling the buckets as he hurried after her.

"Nothing. My imagination's running wild again."

"Again?" Miroku's interest was piqued.

She shook her head with a smile. "I woke up this morning and I could swear that you were holding my hand." She added nervously, "I know it had to be my imagination."

They paced slowly, neither saying a word as Sango's statement hung in the air. Miroku took a deep breath, steeling himself against whatever reaction she was about to have. "It wasn't your imagination Sango. I was holding your hand this morning." He glanced at her quickly but looked back to the path, afraid she would be angry. "I'm not going to apologize for it," he added hurriedly.

Her words were soft, almost too quiet for his ears, "So it wasn't a dream." Her steps slowed further as she considered the morning's events that until now were only remnants of a dream to her. "I heard what InuYasha said about Kikyo. I heard what he told you about regrets." She stopped and glanced at Miroku with sadness in her eyes. "I thought maybe I had dreamed it."

He watched her silently replay the events of the morning. He knew the exact moment that she remembered InuYasha's hollow words. Tears filled her eyes and for the first time, the wall that she kept firmly in place dissipated like mist at sunrise. At that moment, he saw Sango standing before him with all the vulnerability and fear that resides in every human. Her damp eyes stole his breath with their sincere plea.

"I don't want to have regrets Miroku," her voice choked out the words. He nodded in agreement, lungs trying to drag in enough oxygen to speak the words that filled his soul with love. Never having witnessed this side of her, he waited, afraid that the wrong move would cause the walls to shut him out again.

A single tear slipped down her perfect cheek, catching his soul and freezing him in the moment. Without warning, she dropped the basket and crossed the small distance. Letting go, the buckets clattered to the ground, splashing wildly as he caught her to him at the last moment, staggering backward from the force of their bodies colliding. She grabbed his robes in her fists, pulling him to her as four years of repressed emotions poured out at once in a passionate kiss.

Miroku's eyes were wide as his mind scrambled to catch up with Sango's sudden actions. Her soft body pressed against him and the flowery scent of her hair filled his senses with heady delight. He wrapped his arms around her, crushing the soft contours to his steely frame. He had been waiting for this since the moment he first saw her, and now that she was in his arms his eyes closed to savor the moment.

Sango was the first to pull back. She stared up at Miroku, searching his eyes for any clue to his feelings. Cupping her cheek gently, he smiled widely with happiness at her impetuous behavior. She relaxed at his open expression and eased into his embrace.

Miroku buried his face into her neck, inhaling her scent. Ever so softly, he kissed the sensitive skin at the base of her neck, just above the collar of her kimono where her heart beat wildly. "Every lifetime I walked this earth, I have loved you," he murmured. Lifting his head, he rested his forehead against hers and whispered the three words that had come to define him.

"Only you Sango."

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 37 of 60

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