I saw today that this story has been nominated for an IYFG award. Thanks Robert! The link given was to this early version which contains a number of uncorrected punctuation errors and lacks additions and subtractions that were done after I had a chance to get more than a quick look over by a beta. Please click on the Leap of Faith banner you see to your left to go to the final edited version at FF.Net.
Leap of Faith
Summary: The biggest challenge is just being alive. Written for Forthright's Leap Day Challenge.
Thanks to Christina for a quick beta!
Going to the monastery to finish his studies.
Setting out on the road at fifteen with the clothes on his back, a few coins, a small bottle of sake, and his father's shakujo.
Sitting on a riverbank on a beautiful sunny day and looking into the eyes of the woman he loved and asking her to share his life.
Lunging for safety with her limp weight on his back as a roiling mass of lower youkai closed in and realizing that he would gladly die if it meant she would live.
Drinking a cup of something that was not sake to ensure he might still have that option.
Putting his trust in his comrades after he was given a second chance to get things right in the bowels of his enemy.
So many times when he had to leap into the unknown and have faith that he would make it through but always there was the knowledge that the ultimate test was yet to come. Always there was the knowledge that if he failed he would die, probably without seeing twenty.
Miroku stared into his unblemished right hand tracing his unbroken lifeline with his eyes until his hand became an unreal apparition floating in the flickering firelight. They had won. He was free. As of a week ago he had reached the advanced age of twenty and was still breathing. He could expect to live as long as anyone else and make a life with Sango. He could see his son born and grow into a man without the constant certainty of death.
He felt as if a chasm big enough to swallow Fuji-sama had opened before him and he had no idea how to cross it.
He had heard nothing but a roaring in his ears and the drumming of his heart since her announcement a few minutes and an eternity ago and he jerked when a pair of strong arms materialized around him and he was drawn back into reality.
“Miroku,” Sango said in a strained voice. “Aren't you happy? It's what you've always said you wanted.” He couldn't have changed his mind, could he?
He was silent long enough that she was starting to get scared when he suddenly turned and pulled her into his lap. He held her not as a lover would but as a man on a crumbling cliff holds on to the only vine that will bear his weight. He buried his face in her shoulder and she felt the warmth of his tears.
“I'm sorry Sango,” he finally said in a quiet, broken voice.
“Sorry?” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had to stay calm. His reaction was frightening her and if she gave in to that then anger would follow. “What do you mean,” she said slowly.
He pulled back enough to look at her. “I...I should be...I don't know what...” He gave up, his normally easy way with words had completely deserted him as his confusion and the strong emotions he was feeling overwhelmed him, and he clutched her to him again.
She had to ask – to be sure -- “Are you sorry about the baby?”
“NO!” He let go of her. “Sango, why did you marry me?” he said miserably.
“Miroku, I swear if you don't start making sense I won't be responsible for my actions!”
“I'm a fraud. I'm the worst kind of fool, a con man who bought into his own con. I don't know what I'm doing anymore and I don't know how I'll be a good husband or father and I've probably ruined your life and you'll despise me for it.”
She didn't say anything at first and he knew she had to agree with him. He was totally unprepared for her snort of laughter. “I thought I was the one who was supposed to be emotional and irrational now.” His expression was so hurt that she immediately sobered. “Miroku, love, you are a wonderful man and a wonderful husband. The last few months have been some of the happiest I've ever known and you will be a wonderful father; look at how good you are with Shippou and Kohaku.”
She interrupted, “But nothing, you will be fine.”
“Sango, please, listen,” he begged. “I'm alive. I'm going to live. I'm going to have be a father and help raise a child and live in one place and be faithful to one woman and I don't think I ever really planned for any of that to happen.”
She moved back to embrace him. “Of course you are going to live; Naraku is dead, the kazaana is closed. You always said that you wanted a lot of children, how can you say you haven't planned on it?”
“I said that but I really didn't believe it would happen,” He closed his eyes for a moment with a pained expression. “Sango, my father was my hero. He was brave and strong and a skilled fighter. Mushin always said he could charm the ivory off a miser's teeth. He could do anything. If he said that he was going to avenge grandfather and end the curse and it would never pass to me then that was what would happen,” he sighed. “But it didn't. I saw him die. I heard his scream over the sound of howling wind as he was pulled into his own hand. And then I felt the tearing pain in my own hand. Mushin couldn't calm me down so he gave me something to drink that knocked me out and when I woke up I was just numb.”
He was looking into his hand again and Sango had to resist the impulse to reach over and cover it with her own. She knew he had to get this out.
“I knew then that I was going to die. That I would die just like Father and Grandfather and nothing I could do would change that. If Father wasn't able to defeat Naraku then there was no way I could.”
She couldn't keep quiet any longer. “But you did – we did – he's dead!”
He nodded, “I know. But back then, it seemed impossible. We went back to a daily routine and I buried myself in my training but it was all really just a way to survive knowing what I knew. Just putting one foot ahead of the other and focusing on learning the skills Mushin was teaching me just because if I was memorizing a sutra or trying to figure out a difficult bit of Sanskrit I wasn't thinking about anything else. And when it wasn't enough, well, as I also learned from my master there are other ways to distract the mind than mediation and study.” He gave her a sheepish look.
She took the opportunity to take his hand in hers. “Miroku, I wish you hadn't had to go through that but how does any of that mean you'll be a bad father or that I made a mistake in marrying you? I knew you weren't the most virtuous monk in Japan when I married you.”
“Don't you see, the whole time that you and I were promised I never expected to have to follow though. I'd die and you'd go on and I'd have had a pleasant fantasy to get me through my last days.”
She felt a burning lump form in her throat and had to force her words past it. “You didn't want to marry me?”
He realized what he had implied. “Of course I did!” He pulled her to him. “I was selfish enough to want you with me for the rest of my life. It's just that now that's a bit longer than I thought. What I'm trying to say is that my whole life has been shaped by Naraku's curse. I became a monk like my father and grandfather in order to obtain the skills I needed to kill him. I became a lecher like them in order to forget that I wouldn't.”
He sighed. “And now, there is no curse, and I never planned on living this long. I haven't lived in one place for longer than a few days in five years. What if a year from now I can't stand it? After asking all those women to bear my child as a way to drive off the respectable husband hunters now I really am going to be a father and I...what sort of father will I be to my son as he becomes a man with Mushin as my reference on how to handle things?”
“How do you know you don't already have a son?” It was something she'd been nerving herself to ask for some time.
“Sango, dearest, there are ways to pleasure one another without the risk of pregnancy.” His dark mood was lightened a little by his amusement at her dark blush. “I was always careful in who I chose and what we did. I'm ashamed to say that I only paid lip service to my duty because I couldn't bear another child having to endure what I did.”
Sango kissed him then and when they came up for air said “THAT is why you will be a good father. You will always put our children first and do what is right for them. And you won't be doing it alone you know.” She kissed him again and he had trouble coming up with any other arguments.