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The Miroku Special

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Sango filed into the classroom right as the last class started leaving, with Kagome following close behind. They grabbed their usual seats together in the middle of the room and Sango took out her notes. Kagome chatted about the readings for the class, and where to grab lunch after class, but Sango found herself distracted by the empty seat next to her. Of course, he won’t be here until the last minute...

And right on cue, with a minute to spare, Sango heard a smooth voice behind her.

"You look lovely today, Yumiko." The flirtatious compliment and the giggles that followed it were enough to make her roll her eyes.

Miroku was probably one of the biggest playboys on campus. He seemed to be a fixture of all the Greek parties, had likely dated more women than Sango had even met, and probably spent most of his time between classes finding new women to flirt with. He also had trouble keeping his hands to himself, despite Sango’s not-so-gentle “reminders” any time his hands strayed in her direction. And she suspected that his calm and pleasant demeanor was just a facade - there was no way anyone could be that easygoing all the time. To her, there was something dishonest about the fact that she never knew what he was thinking.

And yet, sometimes he could be a kind, likable guy. He had worked with Kagome and Sango on a few group projects, and he always did his fair share of work. Even with his habit of dating a new woman every week, Sango had never heard his exes speak of him in anything other than glowing terms. And when Sango was home sick for a week with the flu, Miroku had showed up at her door with soup and meticulous notes on the lectures she missed. He could be surprisingly thoughtful when he put his mind to it - it just drove Sango crazy that this flirtatious, lecherous side of him was the one she saw most often. It was just so hard to figure him out.

"Ah, my two favorite women!" Miroku beamed as he slid into the seat next to Sango. He was wearing a dark sweater with jeans, and his longish hair was pulled back as usual to expose the gold earring in one ear. He was gorgeous, Sango hated to admit.

"Hi, Miroku!" Kagome said cheerily with a wave, while Sango just nodded, grumbling "Tell that to Yumiko." under her breath.

"Any big plans for the weekend, Sango?" Miroku enquired, either not hearing or pretending to ignore her comment.

She shrugged in response. "Not really - just studying. Any big parties to crash this weekend?" she asked in reply.

He sighed heavily, pretending to look offended. "I would never go to a party where I wasn't invited! And sadly, my weekend plans fell through - my date canceled on me."

"Oh?"

"Yes…" he sighed heavily again, looking forlorn. Sango nearly rolled her eyes again at this play for sympathy. "I had it all planned out and everything!"

"All of what planned out?" Sango asked, interested in spite of herself.

He perked up at this. "Well, you see, I have perfected this formula for the perfect date that can make any woman fall in love with me." He paused dramatically for effect, which Sango responded to with only the quirk of an eyebrow. Miroku continued, undeterred. "I call it The Miroku Special."

"Ugh, and you named it after yourself?" Sango countered, wrinkling her nose. Still, curiosity got the better of her. "So what is this perfect formula?" She asked skeptically.

His eyes twinkled in mischief. "I'm sorry, but the master never shares his secrets. Unless...you’d like to join me?"

Sango was about to retort a reply when the professor started talking, so she switched back to her notes. The three of them were all in a Religion course - Miroku and Kagome because it was a requirement for their major, and Sango because it was a break from her intensive Chemistry labs. She gladly turned her mind away from Miroku and instead focused on the lecture - the professor was notorious for randomly calling on people. However, between Miroku’s irritatingly charming answers to the professor’s questions and the occasional “accidental” nudge of his arm or his leg against her, she couldn’t completely block him out.

"I have an idea." Miroku said cheerily as the professor ended the lecture. A wayward hand strayed a little too close to Sango’s hip as she packed up her things and she swatted it away - it was practically a reflex at this point.

“If you’re asking me to go on this date because your first choice canceled…” Sango began in annoyance. He held up his hands to forestall her.

“No, no. Not as a date. But everything is already arranged, so why not join me?” She was unmoved as she began to file out of the room, with Miroku following close behind.

“Unless you’re afraid you’ll fall in love with me?” He asked teasingly, so close to her that he was nearly whispering into her ear.

Sango jumped a bit at his nearness and scoffed by way of reply. “Ridiculous. Dating isn’t some magic formula - it doesn’t work that way.”

He held the door open for her as they exited the building, holding out a hand expansively. “Then you have nothing to lose! Plus, you get a whole afternoon of entertainment and a nice dinner, all of it on me.” Sango continued to look skeptical as they began to cross the campus green, following Kagome to their bus stop. Miroku seemed to realize that he was losing his audience, and looked at her more seriously. “Also, it would be nice to get to know you better."

Something about his tone then caught her off-guard, something that sounded so genuine. The smooth facade Sango had so often noticed was gone, and in its place, Miroku was looking at her earnestly. She thought about it for a bit longer, and then nodded.

"Fine." And as Miroku grinned broadly, she held up a hand. "But it's not a date."

"Not a date." Miroku confirmed. “But I’ll see you tomorrow at 2 at Greenfields Park.”

“Do I need to bring anything?” Sango asked, feeling a little nervous in spite of herself. What have I gotten myself into…

“Just wear something nice - though I’m sure you’ll look lovely in whatever you choose.” he replied, again with that earnest expression, and she couldn’t help but blush.

“W-well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Sango managed. Miroku smiled and nodded, and then turned back the way they came, presumably to his next class. Sango stood for a moment, wondering how he managed to talk her into this, feeling a strange mix of anticipation and nerves. She heard Kagome call her name, and looked up with a start as her bus was pulling up to the stop. She jogged over, reaching her friend just as the bus doors opened. Kagome was looking at her curiously.

“What were you talking with Miroku about?” Kagome asked as they climbed onto the bus and found a seat.

“I guess we’re hanging out on Saturday.” Sango replied, and almost regretted telling Kagome as her eyes widened and she nearly squealed with delight.

“Miroku asked you out, finally?!”

“I-it’s not a date!” Sango sputtered. And what did she mean by ‘finally’? “And besides, I don’t think he’s interested in me that way.” She could name at least ten other women in their class who Miroku had propositioned for a date. He had even asked Kagome out last year, but he had never approached Sango. She might have been fun to tease or grab at, but she clearly wasn’t his type.

Kagome gave her a knowing smile. "Whatever you say, Sango. Now, we need to do some shopping!”
*****
Sango walked nervously down the sidewalk, approaching Greenfields Park. The closer she got, the more awkward she felt. She tugged nervously at the hem of her dress, the product of her shopping expedition with Kagome. While Sango protested that it was unnecessary given that it wasn’t a date, secretly she appreciated Kagome’s insistence that they go anyway. Kagome had tried to convince her to get something sexy, like the miniskirts and high heels she was so fond of, but Sango had picked a longer sweater dress and tall boots, to keep her more comfortable on this cool, cloudy day. But maybe Miroku had had something else in mind? Kagome makes dating look so easy. She thought ruefully. Her roommate was constantly asked out on dates, and Sango had only been on a few in the last two years. Maybe she should have followed Kagome's advice more closely. Maybe this was a really stupid idea. Maybe he wouldn't even show up! This isn’t a date. She reminded herself, feeling a little silly about how nervous she was.

As Sango approached the front gate of the park, she noticed Miroku standing near the entrance, with a bag over his shoulder, smiling at her. He looked great, as always, in another dark sweater, slacks, and shoes that looked fashionable. He seemed entirely relaxed and at ease.

"Sango! You look lovely - I think having your hair down suits you" he said with a smile, looking her over.

Uncomfortably aware of him eyeing her up and down, Sango tried her best not to sound flustered. "Hi Miroku. You look nice yourself."

Miroku offered his arm to her and with a teasing expression asked, "Shall we?" She rolled her eyes a bit and ignored his proffered arm, but followed him down the walkway.

"So, what are we doing here?" Sango asked, looking around at the green space in front of them. It was a pretty park, with some early spring flowers in bloom and precisely-trimmed trees and shrubs. There were a few other people there, but there was nothing particularly special about it.

"We are here on a picnic." Miroku replied. "I've put together something I think you'll like." He headed to the right, towards a shady, grassy area near a large and sprawling oak tree. As they reached the shade he fished inside the bag he was holding, laying out a lightweight blanket on the ground with a flourish. He gestured to it. "Please, have a seat. This will be ready in a moment."

Sango took a seat as instructed, curling her legs underneath herself. Miroku was kneeling down too, facing away from her, pulling various items out of the tote bag that had contained the blanket. He rearranged them, and when he seemed satisfied, he moved to a sitting position next to her, revealing the items he brought.

Sango was shocked - every single thing he had laid out was something she liked. "How did you know?" There was a bowl of fresh strawberries, bite-sized savory pastries, a neat stack of chocolate chip-pecan cookies, and a small bottle of sweet white wine. There were also plates, plastic cups and utensils - he really had thought of everything.

Miroku looked gratified by her reaction and smiled broadly. "I did a bit of research beforehand."

"Stalking?" she asked tartly, anticipating Miroku's puppy dog eyes before he even started to look offended.

"Research." he corrected, and when it was clear that she wasn't taking his insulted expression seriously, he let out a long-suffering sigh and then abandoned it. "In your case, I asked Kagome for a few hints and made educated guesses on the rest."

She reached for a cookie, and was impressed to find that not only was it her favorite kind, but it was also from her favorite bakery. “And so you customize this for every date.”

Miroku nodded, reaching for the wine bottle. He uncapped it and split it carefully between the two plastic cups, offering her one once it was done. Sango was surprised to notice that the wine was even chilled. “Very perceptive of you.” she acknowledged, a little begrudgingly. He certainly seemed to have her figured out - all of his experience seducing other women gave him a leg up here, undoubtedly.

He grinned at her acknowledgment, and then took a sip of the wine, wincing a little at the sweetness. “Although, in hindsight, I probably should have brought something to drink that I actually enjoyed.” Sango laughed in spite of herself, savoring her own small glass. She had expected something a little more dramatic and showy given Miroku’s reputation, but so far she was pleasantly surprised. She wasn’t sure what to say, now that they were both sitting there - all she could think of was this ridiculous date setup.

"So, why this park?"

"It's never very crowded, looks nice all year round, and is within walking distance of our next destination." Sango supposed she shouldn't be surprised by the thought that was put into the location, given that this was crafted to be the "perfect date".

“And how much did you have to change this picnic from your previous date’s interests?”

He shrugged. “Hardly at all, actually - since I want everything to be fresh, I picked most of it up this morning.”

“And what about the rest of the day? Did you have to change things around?”

He gave her a teasing grin. “If you want to know what comes next, you’ll just have to wait and see.”

Sango rolled her eyes. “I was just curious. But what do you do if this date goes well? Is there a ‘Miroku Special 2’ or something?” Saying the name aloud nearly made her grimace.

“Actually, the second date usually takes place somewhere more...intimate.” The lecherous grin on his face and happy sigh, as if he were imagining past encounters, took away some of the good will Sango had been feeling.

“Lovely. And after that?” She replied, reaching for a pastry and taking a bite. It was still crisp, and Sango could taste ham, cheese, and something else that she couldn’t define. Delicious. Of course.

“Things don’t usually go anywhere after that.” Miroku replied with a bit of a shrug. “We meet up, have some fun, and then we go our separate ways.” He glanced over at her, looking amused.
“You’re asking a lot of questions…it’s only fair that I get to ask you something.”

“Fair enough.” she replied, taking another sip of her wine.

“What about you? Have you been on many dates lately?”

“W-what?!” she asked, feeling flustered. “No, I haven’t.”

“That’s surprising.” He commented. “I would have thought someone as talented and beautiful as you would be getting a lot of attention.”

Sango felt her cheeks get warm, and couldn’t manage to find a reply. There was that look again, like he actually meant it, and it wasn’t just some throwaway compliment. She looked away, feeling a strange fluttering in her stomach.

After a few moments of silence, Miroku thankfully changed the subject. “So, you’re a Chemistry major, right?” She glanced back at him, grateful to talk about something different, and nodded. “So why are you in a Religious Studies course?”

Sango shrugged, reaching for a strawberry and taking a bite - it was ripe and sweet. “Kagome and I try to have at least one class together every semester. She takes chemistry courses for science credit, and I take her classes for my humanities credits.”

Miroku smiled at that. “You two are really close, aren’t you?”

Sango smiled back at him. “Yeah, we are. We met in grade school, and we’ve been best friends ever since.” She thought about what to ask him next. “You’re a Religious Studies major too, right?”

He shrugged. “I am, but I’m also taking courses in three other majors - I can’t quite decide what I want to do.” As he reached for a cookie, they were both startled by a crack of thunder. While they had been talking, the sky had gotten grayer and grayer. He looked up, surprised. "There was no rain in the forecast today."

The weather belied his words as Sango began to feel large, cold raindrops on her head and shoulders - they'd be soaked within minutes. "Is there a gazebo or something we can stand under?" she asked as he hurriedly began putting the rest of the food and drink back in the bag, trying to shield it from the rain.

"Unfortunately, no - I wasn't expecting this so I don't even have an umbrella." Miroku replied, looking a little sheepish. Sango stood, fishing in her purse until she produced a compact, pale pink umbrella. Wordlessly she expanded it and held it over his head. It took him a few moments to notice, as he was trying to fold up the blanket, but then he looked up at her gratefully. "At least you're prepared."

"Sorry it's so small...and pink." she replied as he finished packing the bag and stood. He moved closer to her, the bag between them, to try and keep them both dry.

"It's perfect." he replied simply. Then, he gestured at the closest exit of the park. "Shall we continue?"

Sango nodded, and they set off at a quick pace. The park was close to empty by now. Miroku kept up the conversation as they walked, and Sango was surprised to find how easy it was to talk to him. The umbrella kept dripping cold rain onto one shoulder, but the rest of her stayed fairly dry as they continued to walk together. They were entering a part of town Sango was unfamiliar with, with beautiful tree-lined streets flanked by well-kept but old houses. The little neighborhood gave way to larger brick buildings, and the signs indicated they were now on campus, albeit a side she had never visited.

Miroku directed her to a small, one-story white stone building. "We're here." he said, taking the umbrella from her and gesturing at the sign.

"The Morinaga Museum?" Sango had definitely never been here. She hadn't even known that there was a museum on campus.

"Yes!" Miroku replied. They were now under the awning near the door, and he compressed the umbrella and held the door open for her. She stepped through the door, grateful for the warm air inside, and looked around the entryway. It was a small and warmly lit room, with intricate wood flooring and navy blue walls. There were two hallways leading to the left and right, and each wall had a large mural or painting hanging on it - one was a medieval tapestry under glass, while another was a much more modern and abstract work. A marble bust of a young woman and large blue-and-white porcelain vase flanked the ticket counter.

"This is not what I expected." She commented.

"Well, I am full of surprises!" he said with a grin. "Let me drop this bag off at the desk." As he walked over to the coat check desk, Sango made her way to the rack of brochures and took one out. She opened it up and began to read.

“The Morinaga Museum is a curated collection of art pieces from all over the world, all of which were donated to Shikon State University. It is named for the original university president, Daisuke Morinaga, who…”

“I was going to give you the introduction, but it looks like you’ve found it on your own.” Miroku commented as he walked back up to her, pulling two tickets out of his pocket.

Sango looked up from the brochure, closed it up and slid it into her purse. “Well, if it’s part of the Miroku Special experience, I wouldn’t want to deny you.” She replied, with a touch of sarcastic emphasis. As usual, he took it all in stride.

“Of course it’s part of the experience. This is my favorite art museum - I found it my first semester on campus and I come back to visit it frequently. They rotate through their collection often, so I enjoy coming back and seeing new pieces every time I visit. What do you think of art museums, Sango?”

“I don’t-” Sango was interrupted as a short young woman in a navy blazer ran past her and grabbed onto Miroku’s arm, staring up at him adoringly.

“Mirokuuuu~!” She said, sounding slightly out of breath. “I’m so glad you’re here! I can’t wait to show you what’s just been added to the collection! You have to come see, you’ll love it!”

Sango suddenly felt her chest constrict painfully as she watched the other girl fawn over Miroku. Of course he was meeting someone else here. She felt her hurt gave way to anger.

Miroku looked surprised to see the other girl, not that Sango believed it. “Oh, Sango, this is Meg - she’s one of the assistant curators of the museum. Meg, this is my friend Sango - I’m giving her a tour of the museum.” As Sango was introduced, she noticed Meg’s expression sour a bit - she must have assumed that Miroku was alone.

“Hello.” Sango managed, trying to keep the irritation she felt out of her voice. She felt that she was only slightly successful.

“Nice to meet you.” Meg replied in kind, with barely a smile. An awkward silence stretched between them until Meg turned back to Miroku, ignoring Sango completely. “Why don’t you come see what we have in the back?” She said cheerily, stepping away and pulling him towards her.

Miroku took a step towards the ticket desk as Meg continued to pull on his arm, but he held a hand out to Sango entreatingly. “Here, let’s go see what the museum looks like behind the scenes.” Although she certainly didn’t want to play the part of a third wheel, Sango hesitantly took a step forward, only to be stopped with a sharp glare from Meg.

“Oh, I’m sorry, but we really can’t have visitors walking around in the staff area. I only made an exception for Miroku because he’s been a longtime supporter of the museum, and I trust him completely.” Meg said sweetly. How convenient. Sango thought irritably. The idea of Miroku leaving her behind to spend time with Meg, and the implication that she couldn’t be trusted, both rankled.

‘Why don’t we-” Miroku began smoothly, clearly trying to negotiate a compromise in the situation that was rapidly deteriorating, but Sango interrupted him sharply.

“It’s fine - I’ll just stay here.” Sango said coldly, and turned on her heel and stalked over to a nearby bench before he had a chance to say anything. By the time she had seated herself and looked up, Meg and Miroku were almost all the way to the “Staff Only” door behind the ticket counter. Miroku glanced back and caught her eye, mouthing “sorry” as he went. Sango merely glared daggers at him until the door shut behind them.

While he was gone, Sango seethed. She couldn’t decide if she was angrier at him or at herself. They had been in the museum for barely a minute and another girl had shown up. Cynically, she wondered if they were even looking at art back there, or if they were just looking for somewhere to hook up. Of course, she shouldn’t have been surprised - he was a shameless flirt, after all. This was a terrible idea to begin with, and she felt like an idiot for agreeing to come along.

Time passed, and a few others entered to buy museum tickets, but there was still no sign of Miroku. The longer Sango waited, the less she wanted to stay. Who knew how long they would be back there? She reached for her purse and pulled out her phone, debating about whether or not to text Kagome. It would be nice to get a ride in case the rain hadn’t stopped, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to deal with all the questions that would follow. Sure enough, Kagome had already texted her to ask how things were going.

As Sango debated about whether or not to reply, she heard Miroku calling her name. She looked up to see him almost within arm’s reach, a look of relief on his face. “You’re still here.” he said simply.

“Should I not be?” she asked tartly, her anger starting to return as Miroku stood before her.

“No, of course not!” He replied, looking a little shocked by her reaction. “I’m so sorry about that interruption. Meg is-”

“You don’t need to explain - I think she made your relationship very clear.” Sango replied, cutting him off with a glare.

“Actually, I think I should explain.” Miroku said quietly. He paused a moment, giving her a chance to reply, and when she said nothing he continued. “I met Meg during one of my first visits to the museum. We became friends, mainly because of our mutual interest in art. A few weeks ago, Meg admitted she had feelings for me, but I told her that I didn’t share those feelings. I thought that she was okay with that, but…” he sighed.

“Clearly not.” Sango said acidly, which made Miroku look even guiltier. She noticed that he did actually look a little upset, which made her anger fade a bit. Thinking back, she realized that Miroku hadn’t actually been flirting with Meg - it had all been one-sided. And he seemed sincerely concerned for Sango’s feelings. Perhaps she was overreacting a bit. After all, he was only a friend, and she still got instantly jealous when another girl showed any interest in him. Sango felt foolish, and more than a little embarrassed.

“I’m sorry - that was unfair.” She said softly.

“I don’t blame you - I suppose I do have that reputation.” Miroku said with a dry chuckle. The humor didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Anyway, shall I give you the tour?”

Sango nodded, and stood. She hoped they could put this behind them. “Sure. Although I know nothing about art, so I’m not sure how much you’ll enjoy my company.”

He smiled at her, a little more genuinely this time. “Not to worry - I can fill you in. Although you don’t need to know about art to appreciate it.” Walking next to her, he first showed her to the hallway on the left. The walls of the hall were bare with the exception of a few plaques honoring donors, and after a few yards it opened up into a larger gallery, where the walls were lined with paintings, and a long glass case in the middle was full of sculptures and vases. Again, Sango could see no rhyme or reason to the organization of the art in the gallery. As if reading her mind, Miroku drew her attention to a small placard to their right.

“Every season, they rotate through the collection and a different curator decides how to arrange the art. It’s almost never by style or age or geographic origin - they decide to do things in a more...interesting way.”

Sango read the placard’s title aloud, a little incredulously: “Hidden Creatures: The Hall of the Cat?” The meaning became clear as she kept reading. Apparently all of the pieces in this gallery had cats in them - apparently there were 60 cats in total in the gallery.

“Last season, each room was centered around a different color. I do like the addition of an animal theme, though.” Miroku commented with approval.

Sango looked around the room again. There were some other people walking around the gallery, including a family with two young children who were busy trying to count all the painted cats that adorned a set of china. “So, what can you tell me about the art here?” She asked. He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then escorted her to a large portrait of a woman holding a cat in the middle of the gallery, his hand lightly touching the small of her back. Sango was wary at first, then pleasantly surprised when his hand didn’t actually slide any lower.

“This painting is from the Renaissance Era, likely from an Italian artist. You can see how they use light and shadow - chiaroscuro, to use the Italian term - to make things look 3-dimensional, and they used many layers of thin paint to get this hazy, blurred effect - sfumato.”

Sango took a closer look at the artist’s name and date of the painting, and sure enough, he was correct. She stared at him in surprise. “How do you know all of this? Did you go home and memorize the details about these paintings, just to impress women?” She asked skeptically.

He chuckled in reply. “No, I am actually an art history minor, and I just enjoy learning about art. Feel free to ask me about any of the art in the room, and I’ll do my best to enlighten you.”

Sango walked over to a woodblock print closer to the end of the hall, which depicted a black cat staring at an orange butterfly. “And this one?”

“Ah, yes, woodblock printing. It was a common art style in the Edo Period, but this one looks more modern…”

They wound their way through the museum in this way, with Sango choosing art pieces at random and Miroku telling her about them - when or where they were made, the techniques used, or even the emotions or concepts the artist was trying to convey. He seemed to enjoy sharing what he knew with her, and though Sango had never really been very interested in art before, his fascination with the art was infectious. They made their way through the galleries of cats, elephants, and songbirds before they decided to actually try and find all of the hidden creatures in the final gallery, which focused on dragons. It was harder than Sango had expected, and turned into a fun and intense game. When she beat Miroku to the total count, she had to stifle a victory cheer after one of the museum docents stared pointedly at her. Miroku chuckled softly as they walked back to the counter to reclaim his bag and leave the museum.

“Thank you for bringing me here. This was really a lot of fun!” Sango said sincerely as they walked down the sidewalk together. It was surprisingly late in the afternoon; the sun was already starting to set, and though the rain had stopped, the air was even colder. Sango hadn’t realized they had spent so much time in the museum.

“I’m glad that you enjoyed it.” Miroku replied with a smile and a bit of a sparkle in his eyes. Something about the look he gave her made her feel a little weak in the knees. “And we finished just in time for dinner. We’ll have to drive there, but my car is nearby.” He gestured at a distant parking lot a few blocks away, and offered his arm to Sango again. She took it as they walked down the sidewalk together.

“So, where are we going for dinner?” Sango asked curiously as they crossed the street. Knowing him, it was somewhere nice and intimate - likely just as well-researched as the park.

“The Apple and Acorn.” She looked at him in surprise. That was the new, fancy farm-to-table restaurant in town. It was the go-to place for graduation dinners and other special celebrations, and the food was apparently amazing. However, the trendy restaurant was small, and their reservations were booked out for months in advance.

“Really? You were able to get a table?”

Miroku replied with a wink that was equal parts attractive and irritating. “I have some connections. The head chef is a friend of mine.”

“If you say so…” Sango replied doubtfully. They had reached his car, and he unlocked the doors and deposited the tote bag in the back seat before heading to the passenger side door and opening it with an exaggerated flourish.

“My lady.” He said, with a bit of a bow. Sango scoffed and climbed into the car, looking around the interior as he shut the door with care. She was expecting something new and flashy, based on his reputation, but his car was an older, reliable model - well-kept but not particularly fancy.

Miroku climbed into the driver’s seat, shut the door, and started the car. They headed away from campus and towards the downtown area. A news radio program played softly on the stereo, and Miroku stayed quiet as he navigated the busy streets. Sango felt suddenly shy, and had run out of things to say. Despite her low expectations for the day, she was actually having a good time. This was starting to feel more and more like an actual date, and Sango could feel her nerves returning. Seeing this side of Miroku today left her feeling even more confused.

“Ah, here we are.” Miroku said, pulling Sango back out of her own head as they turned into a parking garage. It was nearly full, although Miroku managed to snag one of the final spaces on the second floor. He turned off the car, exited, and walked around to open her door for her again. When she stood, he offered his arm. “Shall we?”

Sango took his arm, hoping he didn’t notice the flush she could feel spreading across her face. As they headed down the ramp together, all she could think about was how close they were and how nervous she suddenly felt.

Miroku seemed to pick up on her discomfort. “Are you all right?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

Sango tried to think of an excuse. “I-I just didn’t realize we were eating at such a nice place. I hope I’m not underdressed” she lied, hoping that sounded plausible.

“Don’t worry - you look perfect.” Miroku replied, which only made her blush even more. They had reached the sidewalk now, which was almost as crowded as the roads had been. Miroku pressed even closer to her as they dodged other people walking down the sidewalk, and Sango was made even more aware of the warmth of his body next to her, the faint smell of his cologne. It was...nice.

The Apple and Acorn was just half a block ahead of them, and it looked crowded. Sango could see people waiting in the packed restaurant, as well as hanging out outside. Miroku steered them towards the door, and let go of her arm to hold the door open for her. She smiled at him nervously in thanks as she stepped inside, and together they approached the host’s stand.

Inside, the restaurant was roughly what she expected: warm lighting, modern but cozy-looking furnishings, and a quiet rumble of conversation undercutting the soft, jazzy instrumental music that played. The food that she could see looked amazing - her mouth started watering immediately.

Miroku strode up to the hostess. “Hi, Anya.” She had a dark red bob, dark eye makeup and was dressed like the rest of the waitstaff in a white button-down and black slacks. Her eyes lit up when she saw him.

“Oh, hey Miroku! Great to see you.”

He gestured to Sango, who was standing next to him, still feeling nervous. “Would you be able to accommodate the two of us for dinner tonight? We’re willing to wait a little while.”

“You’re lucky you have a friend on the inside - otherwise you’d be out of luck.” Anya teased, and then consulted the small tablet in her hand. She scrolled down a bit and then made a face. “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I can manage it tonight. I forgot - we had a VIP client book a party at the last minute, and so I had to book up the table that we would normally have available for you.” She looked up at the two of them, extremely apologetic. “I meant to tell you earlier in the week, but it completely slipped my mind! I hope it doesn’t ruin your night.”

“No, that’s all right. We understand.” Miroku replied smoothly, his charming smile in place as always. But Sango noticed a bit of tension in the way he was standing - maybe he wasn’t impossible to read, after all.

Anya still looked a little guilty and embarrassed. “Here, I’m happy to book a table for you two when a cancellation pops up in the next few weeks - people always cancel last minute, and I don’t want you to miss out! I’ll text you, okay?”

“Of course. Thank you, Anya.” he replied, and then turned to Sango. “Let’s go find somewhere else to eat.” Sango nodded, smiled at Anya, and led the way out of the restaurant and back onto the sidewalk. They got a few steps past the Apple and Acorn when Miroku stopped with a sigh. Sango turned back to see him actually looking embarrassed. For the first time, he didn’t look like his usual confident self. He stepped out of the way of the foot traffic, then slumped up against the building.

“I promise, that has worked for me every time before tonight. I’m so sorry about that.” He looked up and down the street and chuckled ruefully. “And all of these other restaurants are going to be busy now too...I don’t know where we should go for dinner.” He looked a little lost, and Sango thought quickly to come up with another option.

“Well, I know a place nearby that won’t be super busy, and the food is really good. It definitely isn’t fancy, though.” She said thoughtfully.

He looked up at her, looking a little hopeful. “I’ll take any suggestions. What is it?”

“It’s a sports bar, actually...they have really good wings.” She felt almost embarrassed to say it aloud, especially given how nice The Apple and Acorn was by comparison. But Miroku didn’t seem put off by it at all.

“That sounds great. Lead the way.” He pushed himself off the wall and followed her as she led him to a quieter part of downtown.

“Actually, do you mind if I invite Kagome? This is one of her favorite places, and she might kill me if I go without her.”

“Of course not - the more the merrier.” Miroku replied affably, his confident demeanor restored now that they had a plan. Sango took out her phone and began to text Kagome as he spoke up again. “I think I’ll invite a friend of mine along as well - this sounds like a place he’d like.”

“Sure!” Sango replied with a smile. They walked in companionable silence for a while. The streets were much quieter now that they had left the bustle of downtown, and despite the cold breeze, Sango was enjoying the walk. She was startled as her phone vibrated, and saw that Kagome had already replied.

“She’s busy helping at her family’s shrine, but she should be done in half an hour. I’ll go ahead and order for her, then.”

“Sounds good. Inuyasha gets off work soon, and then he can join us too. What’s the place called?”

“Actually, the place is right here.” She pointed down the street as they turned the corner. The bar was the middle storefront in a tall, slightly shabby brick building. A bright red and yellow neon sign displayed the name - ‘Wingdings’, with a bunch of symbols underneath that Sango assumed were from the old symbol font.

“Wingdings.” Miroku repeated as they got closer. Sango tried to gauge his reaction but as usual, it was difficult to tell what he was thinking. He looked down at his phone and sent the name to Inuyasha, then put it away, looking at her expectantly.

“Yes, we’re here.” Sango said nervously, hoping he actually was okay with this random bar instead of a nice dinner. She reached the door first and pulled it open, holding it for him. It just looked like a standard sports bar, with scuffed wooden tables and chairs, several large televisions, and a crowd that was significantly rowdier than the one at The Apple and Acorn. A young college student with spiky blue hair waved cheerfully at them from the host’s stand as they entered.

“Sango! Welcome back.” he said with a broad grin. “Where’s your other half?”

She smiled in reply. “Good to see you, Takumi. She’ll be here soon.”

“Oh, good! Sit wherever - I’ll come take your order soon.” Sango led the way to her and Kagome’s favorite booth, which was in the back corner of the restaurant, near a TV showing a basketball game. She slid into the booth, and was a little surprised as Miroku slid in next to her, rather than sitting across from her. She pulled out a menu for them both to peruse

“Your other half, hmm?” Miroku asked teasingly. There was something suggestive in his look.

Sango elbowed him lightly. “He meant Kagome - we always go here together, remember?”

“Of course, of course.” He replied, turning his attention to the menu. “What do you like from here?”

“Kagome and I usually split a medium wing sampler - I like a mix of flavors.”

“Perhaps we could order a larger sampler and all share it, then.” Sango nodded in agreement. Takumi returned to take drink orders, and they ordered a few appetizers to go with it. Their beers arrived promptly, and Sango was about to take a sip when they were interrupted.

“You could have sent actual directions, you know.” Sango looked up to see a man glaring at Miroku. He had long and unruly dark hair, light brown eyes that were almost orange, and wore a bright red jacket and a baseball cap. Overall, he was a very striking figure.

“Inuyasha, welcome!” Miroku said, completely ignoring his friend’s complaint. “This is Sango.” Sango waved as Inuyasha huffed and slid into the other side of the booth. “Took me twice as long to find this place as it should have.” he grumbled. He then looked up at Sango with a gruff “hello”, then looked down again to examine a menu.

“Forgive him, his manners need improvement.” Miroku said, which earned him an affronted “Oy!” from the man sitting across from them. He turned his attention back to Sango. “So, what drew you to this bar specifically? Anything besides the wings?”

Sango pointed up at the screen nearest to them. “They’re one of the few places that show all the European football games, and they have the best food by far. I pretty much lived here during the World Cup.”

Inuyasha perked up, then, looking at her with interest. “What’s your favorite team?”

Sango didn’t even have to think about it. “Bayern Munich, definitely. They’re having such a good year!”

Inuyasha’s eyes lit up. “I know!” He seemed like a totally different person now as he conversed animatedly with her about favorite players and contentious matches of the season. Sango was privately grateful that they liked the same team - she guessed that Inuyasha took rivalries rather seriously. It was nice to have someone to talk about football with - Kagome would come along to watch games, but wasn’t nearly as into it as Sango was. Miroku was apparently also a fan, although his loyalties lay with another team. She ribbed him good-naturedly about his favorite team’s record, which was not looking great so far.

Their sports discussion was only interrupted by Takumi’s return with multiple platters of food. As always, the wings looked magnificent. “Enjoy!” Sango nodded her thanks, then gestured for everyone to dig in.

Miroku grabbed a piece and took a bite, and then looked at her in surprise. “Wow, this is amazing.” He actually looked impressed. Inuyasha said something unintelligible in agreement, his mouth full of food.

Sango grinned as she transferred a few onto her own plate. “I’m glad you like them.” She took a bite of her own, enjoying the crisp skin and tasty sauce. For a few minutes, they ate in silence, savoring the meal.

“I hope you left me some!” Kagome said brightly as she walked up to the table. She looked a little tired, but was otherwise her cheerful self.

“Good to see you, Kagome!” Miroku said with a smile, then gestured at Inuyasha. “This is my friend Inuyasha. Inuyasha, this is Kagome.” Inuyasha glanced up and seemed to almost take a double-take at Kagome as she slid into the seat next to him. Kagome didn’t seem to notice, but was already managing to draw him into conversation as she took a sip of the drink Sango had ordered for her. Inuyasha was now giving Kagome his full attention, seemingly hanging onto every word she said.

Miroku leaned in close to Sango, whispering quietly so they wouldn’t be overheard. “I take it Inuyasha has a thing for Kagome - it’s a shame he’s probably not her type.”

Sango leaned into him with a grin to reply. “Are you kidding? Two of her last three dates have been with ‘bad boys’ - he’d definitely fit that type.” After Miroku looked at her with surprise, she quietly regaled him with stories of Kagome’s last serious boyfriend, Kouga, who always wore a leather jacket, kept his long hair in a ponytail, and was obsessed with his motorcycle.

“He seriously called his group of friends with motorcycles his ‘Wolf Pack’?!” Miroku asked incredulously with a chuckle. His attempts to keep his volume low were failing.

Sango giggled quietly in response. “Yes! And he always referred to Kagome as “his woman”. He was a mess.” She glanced across the table, to see if Kagome had heard them, but she was still deep in conversation with Inuyasha. By the looks of it, they had barely touched the food.

Miroku had noticed it too. “I think they’ve hit it off.” Sango nodded in agreement as she finished off her second beer. She was feeling a little tipsy, just enough for everything to feel a little warm and fuzzy. It was nice to sit here, chatting with Miroku, and she was happy that their friends had hit it off so well. She checked her phone for the time, and winced at how late it was.

“I’m sorry, but I should be getting home - I have an exam on Monday that I have to study for tomorrow.”

Miroku looked momentarily disappointed, but then nodded. “I probably shouldn’t drive - can I get you a cab?”

“Oh, that’s okay! I can just walk home - it’s not too far from here.”

“Let me walk you home, then.” Miroku said as he slid out of the booth. He raised his voice a bit to get Inuyasha and Kagome’s attention. “We’re going to get going - have a good evening!” Inuyasha vaguely waved at them, as if he were only half hearing him. Kagome also seemed fully engrossed in the conversation. Sango shrugged at Miroku as she exited the booth. She reached for her wallet to pay, but Miroku held up a hand to stop her, and she realized he had already covered it.

“Thank you.” She said with a smile, following him out of the restaurant.

The streets were quiet and close to empty - most people had already headed home. Sango felt a little fuzzy with the alcohol in her system, and she stumbled over an uneven patch of the sidewalk. Miroku grabbed her hand to help steady her, but even after she regained her footing, he didn’t let go. Sango was surprised to note that she didn’t mind.

“So, now that you’ve experienced the complete Miroku Special...what do you think?” Miroku asked casually.

She laughed a bit at that. “You really need to stop using that name.”

He chuckled, but persisted. “But what did you think?”

Sango thought about it for a moment. “I was impressed. I can see why everyone enjoys these dates - you’ve put a lot of thought into it.”

“I have to say, though, between the rain, the interruption at the art museum, and us managing to set up two other people at dinner, this has probably been the most disastrous version of this ‘date’ yet.” Miroku said, with a bit of a sheepish smile.

“I had a good time, though.” Sango replied with a smile, looking up at him.

“I did, too.” he replied, and for a moment he stopped, smiling at her in return. Something about the intensity of his stare gave her a fluttering feeling in her stomach and she blushed before looking away. They soon turned the corner towards Sango’s apartment building.

“I do have one more question for you.” Miroku said lightly.

“Yes?”

“Have you fallen in love with me yet?”

Sango looked up at him, startled, but quickly realized that he was teasing. She scoffed in reply. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

He looked completely undeterred. “I guess I’ll have to keep trying, then.”

Sango glanced over at him with a playful smile. “I guess you will.” Miroku seemed taken aback, and although it was difficult to tell in the darkness, she thought she had actually managed to make him blush. They had now reached her apartment building, and he let go of her hand so that they could climb up to her third-floor apartment. They reached Sango’s door, and she unlocked it before turning back to him. “Thanks for today, and for walking me home.”

“Of course, Sango.” He replied. “Thanks for joining me. Perhaps we should do this again? I do owe you a nice dinner, at least.”

She nodded. “We should.” She was going to say more but began to yawn instead, which made Miroku chuckle. “Good night.”

“Good night.” he replied with a smile. Quickly and carefully, he leaned in and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Before she could even process the fact that he kissed her, he was already headed back down the stairs. She watched him descend out of view, grateful that it was too dark for her crimson face to be noticeable, before she finally entered her apartment, closing the door behind her. Perhaps there was something to The Miroku Special, after all.