Warnings for references to and fears about potential suicide and potential rape. Written for Remix 2009 for "Empty Acquaintances" by Numisma which can be found on LiveJournal at the community numisma_fic. Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading and to Truth and Chichiri no da for beta reading.
The curse wants to be passed on. Miroku wonders sometimes why no one ever sees that part of it, never notes the effort he puts into placating it without satisfying it. He knows that he could have fathered more than one child by now if he'd actually wanted to. He is capable of subtlety, after all, and he's not physically repulsive.
None of his friends would ever believe that Miroku is a virgin.
He sits on a fallen tree, keeping watch over their camp and wondering what to do next. The curse is becoming frantic as the hole in his hand grows. He hears it all the time now, even as he watches Kagome and Sango sleep and rubs the beads that wrap his hand.
The curse whispers in his head. You love Sango. Reach out. Touch her. Seduce her. She wants you to. Marry her if you have to. Just get your hands on those-
Miroku taps his staff against the ground just hard enough to produce a soft jingle. He frowns. I shouldn't have to resort to that, and I don't know how long it will work. He closes his eyes. I won't- I can't- If the curse is starting to urge rape, how long will it be before it insists? Flirting was enough for a while then groping then- Then I fell in love. He smiles, letting his thoughts run along established tracks to dream of the day he and his wife will live together in peace. I will not marry until the curse is broken. I will not father a child until I'm married. I will have a wife and children some day.
Miroku's good at identifying the curse's suggestions by now. He shakes his head.
Really, why wait? You might be dead tomorrow. She might be dead tomorrow. She can give you a child.
"Oh, yes. A child. Just what I want," he mutters. He's still not sure that he's glad the curse is too stupid to recognize sarcasm. It also can't recognize self-sabotage. He is grateful for that. If it could, it would have forced me to this point sooner.
He stands. If I'm at that point now, I can't stay. He licks his lips and looks out over the trees. "InuYasha," he says softly, hoping the hanyou is within range and either sleeping lightly or awake.
No more than two minutes later, InuYasha drops from the trees above Miroku. InuYasha obviously knows that the camp is safe, at least as safe as it ever is, because he's giving Miroku his full attention. "What can't wait?" He scratches the side of his head.
"I need to leave. Now." Miroku looks away. How much do you need to know? "I... Will you say my goodbyes in the morning?" He has his back to the campsite, his back to Sango and hope and everything else.
InuYasha's eyes widen then narrow, and he fingers the hilt of Tetsusaiga. "They won't be pleased."
Miroku sighs. "I know. I'm sorry to leave that to you." He isn't. Saying goodbye to InuYasha is proving hard enough. "If I talk to...them, I won't leave in time."
Miroku knows that InuYasha needs an answer and that InuYasha has guesses. He also knows that InuYasha won't understand the real reason. "The curse." That's true enough. "I don't have time left." That's also true. "I saw what happened to my father. I don't want any of you to see what happens to me." Every word is true, and he's almost pleased with himself. It doesn't matter that I'm omitting the key point. It doesn't matter that I'm choosing now rather than- He shakes his head sharply.
InuYasha scrapes his claws along the bark of a tree then flicks small pieces through the air. "Nothing else?" There's grief in his voice, well hidden but there nevertheless.
Miroku shakes his head. "My father and my grandfather asked every priestess, holy man and witch they could find, every fraud, too. Nobody could help."
InuYasha kicks the tree without any real force. He looks up at the stars then back at Miroku. "You ever ask Kikyou?"
Miroku shakes his head. "I'll look for her. I don't know if I'll have time to find her, but I'll look." She won't know any answer. She's in a worse state than I am. He blinks once as a thought occurs to him. The curse thinks she's attractive. That might mean something.
InuYasha grabs Miroku, pulling him into a rough hug. "Traveling with you hasn't been half bad," he says. He steps back quickly, the frown on his face announcing clearly that he'll vehemently deny what just happened if ever asked.
Miroku doesn't look back as he walks away. Instead, he scans the air for Kikyou's shinidamachuu and tells himself that his eyes aren't wet. He knows I'm going to die.
He follows the scent of death on the wind until he finds the first shinidamachuu. The illumination from the moon casts shadows that can hide hollows and roots that might trip him. I'm not sure why I'm bothering. I'm done. I can't- No. She might know. Something. Anything.
He watches the shinidamachuu slither through the air and follows them as quickly as he can. He uses his staff to probe the shadowed ground ahead of him, wishing that Kikyou's minions would follow footpaths. As if any flying creature would.
The shinidamachuu know he's following. They loop back any time he falls behind.
Which means she wants me to come. He shakes his head. That means something, too. He empties his mind of everything but the next step and the next and the next. Eventually, he finds himself beside a stream. He can see the shinidamachuu circling up ahead and guesses that they've reached their mistress.
As soon as he can see her, Miroku pauses, clears his throat to call her attention and bows. "Kikyou-sama."
"Hoshi-sama." Kikyou's dark eyes look hungry. "Humans shouldn't walk at night." She almost smiles.
He waves his free hand to dismiss that. "The rules are for the living." In spite of his mood, he smiles. "My body simply doesn't know the truth yet."
She tilts her head slightly to one side. Then she straightens her back and points to the ground near where she kneels. "There's no need to stand."
The not quite dead yet and the no longer quite so dead. "What is it like?" He hadn't meant to ask.
She takes a soul from one of the shinidamachuu and swallows it. "Death? I don't remember. If I'd had fifty years between dying and...not, I'd not have pursued InuYasha. Even one year is long enough to ease fire. A little."
Miroku looks at the ground for a long moment. Then he kneels a few feet from her. He looks at her with appraising eyes. Could I? Yes. He pushes all thoughts of Sango from his mind, not wanting to taint them or to risk having them get in the way. "We're on a long path and can only see the tiniest bit." He looks up at the moon. "There's not light enough for more."
"We see what we need to see." She strokes one of her shinidamachuu as it coils around her wrist.
"A little less than that, I think. Knowing might be too much."
"It might." She meets his eyes. "She is not something I'd have chosen to see."
She? Who? Oh. Kagome-sama. Of course. "Isn't she you?"
She shakes her head. "I thought so at first. I think... The soul has grown, and her place shaped her differently. She's herself. We're gone when we die."
He doesn't want to think that. She looks alive. Is that enough? It might be. He raises a hand as if to touch her then lets it fall again. "Do you know my curse?" Do you understand? You might.
She nods. "Naraku likes to boast."
"I can light a fire if you'd like tea." She leans back against a tree. "I'm no longer much of a hostess."
"I came uninvited." Miroku lays his staff on the ground. "Tea would be welcome, but..." He shakes his head. "I don't think I want more light right now."
"Do you expect to see dawn?"
He blinks. She thinks- Oh. And she doesn't care. "If I don't, it will be by choice." He looks away, not wanting to see even an artificially created female form as he speaks. "It's the...other aspect of the curse." It wants to be passed on. "None of my friends would believe that I've never-" He closes his mouth hard. I am not saying that to a lady, even if she isn't quite...whatever she isn't.
"Ah." Her shinidamachuu have all settled around her body. "I can't break it."
"I know." He sighs. "I've talked to other priestesses. My father and my grandfather asked, too." He wants to say it but somehow also doesn't want to. What if she cares that she can't- "I'm not my father or my grandfather. I...don't intend to...give in."
"It would buy you time. Even if the woman conceived immediately-"
"She would. It's getting...insistent." I'm afraid the curse will drive me to assault.
She raises a shinidamachuu to her face and rubs her cheek against it. "Not all women keep such children."
"I do not think the curse can control a woman. I don't know." He shrugs, looking away from her again. "If it could, women would be chasing me."
"Instead you chase them." She meets his eyes when he turns to stare. "I've talked to people after you pass. No one takes you seriously, not about that at any rate. Have you ever-?"
He shakes his head. "I'm not an idiot." He digs his fingers into the dirt, freeing a rock. He tosses that into the stream. "Naraku will die. It just won't... I won't kill him. I don't have time left."
Neither of them speaks for quite a while. Miroku continues finding rocks and tossing them into the stream. Kikyou continues whatever she is doing with her shinidamachuu. Miroku tries not to look at her.
"I'm not really a priestess any more." Her words are soft enough that he almost can't hear them.
"You act like one."
"I lie." She shifts so that she's sitting closer to him, within arm's reach. "I don't have anything else."
"I can't give you something else." I wouldn't if I could, but since I can't... I didn't think she'd offer. I hoped, but I didn't think she would.
"It's a little thing." She puts one hand on his arm. "Will it serve?"
"I hope so." He places his hand over hers.
"You came here for that."
It isn't a question, but he answers anyway. "I...hoped."
Her cold fingers trace the line of his jaw. "I should be angry."
"Are you? You're entitled." He tries not to think of the horrors her anger has wrought. "It's a hard thing to be doomed." He turns his face into her touch, keeping his eyes closed.
She doesn't say anything for a while. "I'm lonely," she finally says. "Show me what might have been."
He takes her hand in one of his and kisses the palm. "I'm new to...this."
She laughs quietly with bitterness curling the edges of the sound. "Not surprising." She leans in so that her face is close to his. "I could kill you."
"You could." He kisses her, just brushing his lips against hers. The curse heats his blood and urges him on. It speculates about what lies under her garments and about how he'll feel inside her. "That's up to you." I can give you that much.
She smiles. "I'm not sure this is the place for...experimentation. I've sent my friends to look for a better location, one that won't have humans walking through it come first light."
He swallows hard, licks his lips then nods. She tastes- I can taste the ashes, but she's almost- He clears his throat. "I...may not be able to wait. I- The curse wants." His fingers twitch toward her breasts. He stops his hand's movement. "I want, too." The last sentence comes out as the barest shameful whisper. I'm not supposed to want like this. Especially not you.
She pulls him against her body so that his head rests against her chest. "It would be a pathetic curse if it couldn't ride you." She strokes his hair.
He tries not to think about InuYasha. Somehow, that's harder than not thinking about Sango. "I'm sorry I'm not-"
Her grip tightens until he can't talk any more. "Hush. We'll walk soon, just a little way. Then you can show me why neither of us should be sorry. Let me do this for you."
Miroku closes his eyes and nods. He forces his body to relax. I hope this is for you, too. He traces fingers over her skin along the edges of her collar. "I don't want to be selfish," he whispers.
She laughs, and he feels it vibrate through her body. "It's past midnight, Hoshi-sama. Can you be selfish in a dream? When we part, this won't have happened, not until the next time you need my help."
"Next time...?" Miroku decides that that belongs in the category of things he's not going to think about. Instead, he turns his head to kiss Kikyou's breast. "We have now. Let later take care of itself."