DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inuyasha. If I did Miroku would be my sex slave and Inu-kun and Kouga-kun would be my personal bodyguards…

Sweetest Thing

By: Lara Winner

Blue-eyed boy meets a brown-eyed girl
Oh, the sweetest thing

Sew it up but you still see the tear

Oh, the sweetest thing
Baby's got blue sky's up ahead

But in this I'm a rain cloud

Ours is a stormy kind of love
Oh, the sweetest thing
-U2 "The Sweetest Thing"

Shinigami has finally stated the ultimatum and I am out of time.

The proverbial clock has been ticking since the curse borne by jii-sama and oyaji-sama passed onto me. As a small child the concept of death was more of an enigma rather than the actual inevitable conclusion of human life in its simplest form. For death unto itself is very complex. There are limitless methods of destroying the frail human body just as there is an infinity of possibilities as to how this destruction may come about.

Even a man enlightened by many rebirths to this earth will never understand death and its many intricacies. For instance, what does it feel like to die? Pain is probable in most scenarios but that is purely physical. It is impossible to know what death does to the soul. Is it freedom? Is it unbearable numbness? Do we enter a conscienceless void where emotions and knowledge cease to exist? Or does one return to Gaia and await their reawakening?

Even Buddha-sama could only imagine what truth lies behind enlightenment, for the living are not meant to covet the wisdom of the dead. We can only walk in the dark shadow of it's looming presence knowing that one day it will come to cradle us in it's cold embrace.

The desolate path of my thoughts reminds me of a haiku I once read and softly I whisper the memorized words. "The light fades quickly, In the stillness of my soul, Death has come."

A smile lacking mirth and humor crosses my lips. Hai 'tis true, death is coming for me much sooner than I expected. My gaze drops down to my sealed hand and I flex my fingers wincing at the crippling pain the tiny movement causes. Fearfully, I trace my fingertips over the cool prayer beads knowing even their holy power will be unable to restrain the kazaana much longer. The consumption has begun.

I draw in a shaky breath. The fear that has plagued the edges of my thoughts for years has become a vital force that has my stomach in knots. My skin is damp with sweat yet I'm chilled straight to my soul. No amount of preparation can ready someone for death. All the hours meditating have not given me the calm I longed for in this moment.

Tough I am afraid I am not surprised. In fact, as I've been told, it is miraculous that I am alive now to enjoy the precious little time I have left. According to Mushin's diagnosis I should not have survived the amount of poison my body absorbed from Naraku's wasps. Even so, as I sit here on this grassy hill overlooking the fields in the dusk, my mind wanders back to this morning when Mushin explained the depth of my injuries.

His thick gray brows knitted in a frown as he turned to me. The graveness of his expression was a warning and I knew what he would tell me before he could bring himself to speak. He handed me the herbal tea I was to drink as to ease the pain and then turned away to the window looking out into the distance.

I was expecting the worst and was not disappointed.

"Miroku my boy," he said sadly, "you've gone and done it this time. I've repaired the kazaana as best I can but the tear has already begun to widen. It will not heal and binding it with holy spells will not help at this point. The damage has already been done."

Staring down into the steaming amber liquid, my trembling grip tightened around the small cup. "I feared as much. This time the pain was far greater than ever before."

Mushin grunted, his gaze shifting back to mine and pinning me with an angry stare. "I should think so. The kazaana has nearly spread to the base of your fingers and your wrist. Once the void reaches beyond your flesh it will open and pull you in with it."

In horrified amazement I lifted my hand, looking at it as if I'd never seen it before. Indeed the glove was pulled taught against my skin as if straining between the pull of the curse and steadying magic of the prayer beads. Instinctively I moved to fist my hand and cried out as pain, the equivalent of a red-hot knife, tore up my arm all the way to my shoulder. Quickly I downed the medicated tea, barely noticing as it scalded my throat and clutched my arm to my chest.

"Take it easy. There is no need to make matters worse." Mushin scolded lightly. Subtly his expression changed and a deep sadness entered his eyes as they took on a suspicious, glassy sheen. This man, who was as much as father to me as my oyaji-chan, was not given to emotional moments. He was a merry, drunken fool living for the next distraction that would ease his mind from any and all worries. For him to look at me in such a way…

I swallowed hard, my mouth suddenly going dry, as it became difficult to breathe. "This is the end isn't it?"

Mushin lowered his gaze and clasped his hands behind his back. His voice was so low I had to strain to hear it. "I had hoped it would not come to this so soon. You are barely a man and yet you carry a burden that no one should have to bear. But all hope is not lost. That evil, vile, disgusting, cheating, bugger Naraku can still be defeated. Do not give up just yet."

He was skirting the answer I wanted. Ignoring his forced optimism I asked bluntly, "How long do I have Mushin? Tell me. I need to know."

He was silent of a long moment. Then closing his eyes as if pained, he whispered, "At the rate the kazaana is growing, I would say one month. Two the most. The void is no longer sealed and it will spread, only those prayer beads can buy you time. Whatever you do, do not remove them."

One month?

My life was not supposed to end this way. I had hoped to die fighting or at least see this quest to its end. But as I sat there I realized that my wish was no longer possible. All the hopes and dreams that had formed by my will to live were suddenly fading before my eyes. There was no time.

At that moment it became obvious that my friends will have to take down Naraku on their own. As much as I long to be there with them, watching that bastard breathe his last, it will not happen. It is as if I'm letting them down, like I'm letting myself down.

The feeling of failure weighed heavily on me as I asked softly, "Have you explained this to the others?"

"No," he sighed, "I didn't know if you would want to tell them yourself. I understand they have come to mean a lot to you, ne?" There was a knowing half-smile on his face that carried a hint of bitterness in the light of my legacy's irony.

Seeing my feelings glaring sharply back at me from Mushin's face was nearly too much for my mind to comprehend. There was an evanescent feel to this moment, almost as if it were not real, as if I were merely watching someone else go through the motions and I was only present for quiet observation. And, at the same time, a separate part of me had already accepted my fate and was wallowing in defeat. It was the most inexplicable manner of perception and I let the paradoxical feeling claim me as I tried to clear my head enough to request, "Would you tell them for me Mushin?"

"Hai Miroku if that is what you wish."

At his soft reply I nodded. "I would greatly appreciate it old friend. I fear I would not be able to face them right now. If you don't mind I'd like to be alone for a while. I've got much thinking and meditating to do."

I waited till Mushin had gone before I slipped outside and, using my staff to help steady my slightly precarious balance, came to this spot where I have been since.

The sun is setting behind me and night is quickly approaching yet I can not force myself to rise and return to Kaede's humble dwelling. My eyes are thirsting for every sight and my ears are hungry for every sound that this night will bring. Sleep suddenly seems a waste of precious time and I have no desire throw these days and weeks away. Yet I can not make myself move…

I suppose I dread what is coming. I can not stand the thought of the pity and sadness I will face when I finally confront the others. Especially Sango. My chest tightens as I breathe her name softly. My Sango, so strong and brave. I'm going to leave her. Just like her father and Kohaku, I will only cause her more pain with my death. It is this very reason I had not intended to love her. I wanted to help ease her pain, not compound the hurt further.

Cursing softly, I bow my head once again looking over my cursed hand. If it weren't for the kazaana I would never have met Sango and it is because of the kazaana that I will never have her. It is nearly unbearable to know she is close, to constantly ignore the depth of my feelings and continuously fight the need to express this love that is filling me to near bursting.

I understand that now it is more imperative than ever that I keep these errant thoughts to myself. It would be a sin of unforgivable proportions if I were to encourage what exists between us. It would be cruel to lavish her with all of my affections when there is so little time to be had. Then again, I am selfish enough to take what I can get before I die.

I know it would be wrong of me, but I have to ask myself if it would hurt Sango more by not speaking my heart or less if I were to confess? After the confession she made…

For the first time today I find a reason to really smile. I recall Sango's soft words to me just days ago and cherish the memory as best I can. She said she loved me, though I'm not sure if she thought I was asleep or not. I had tried to fight the drugs to stay conscious, mainly to have her repeat her little secret, but I was too weakened and sleep deftly overpowered me. But I heard those three little words clearly before I succumbed to the welcoming darkness.

However, my doubts are beginning to surface. Sango has shown no outward signs of her feelings, nor had I expected her to, but I'm sensing even more distance between us now. She remained by my side even after I regained consciousness yesterday but her barriers were up, more secure than ever. Conversation was limited to impersonal queries of comfort and such, but nothing was mentioned of her feelings.

I had tried to put her more at ease, I even resorted to groping her sweet little bottom just to prove that things hadn't changed, that it was okay and the worst was over, but she did not even bat an eyelash. Granted I did not relish getting slapped, but the reaction would have been better, damn it all, anything would have been better than the cool polite mask she was hiding behind.

My macabre thoughts take an even more desolate path as I begin to wonder over this new development. Has Sango finally decided the pain I will bring her far outweighs the happiness we could have together? My bitter laugh echoes in the darkness. Now that is a selfish thought if I do say so myself. That I should feel disheartened because she chooses to protect herself from unnecessary heartache is unfair on my part. I had even sworn off getting closer for that very reason and yet now all of my benevolent intentions are forgotten as I realize that I want her for the extent of what little time I have left.

It is the last wish of a dying man. Am I wrong to want a taste of the heaven she offers?

It is a question that will remain unanswered, or so I should think, but the gentle approach of someone behind me makes me wonder. I do not need to turn around to know that it is Sango. The sudden electricity that fills the air nearly crackling with tension and anticipation is enough to make me stiffen with a healthy dose of apprehension. Now is not the time to fall prey to harmful illusions.

Wordlessly and with a measure of gentle grace that belies her skill as an exterminator, Sango settles down on the cool grass just out of my lazy reach. For a long moment I am acutely aware of her larger-than-life presence but cowardice keeps me from speaking as I cast a curious side-glance in her direction. Her face is turned toward the moonlit land, her expression poised and neutral. However, her pale skin and red puffy eyes tell me all I need to know.

Sango will be strong and she will remain steady even when hope is no more than a whisper of a memory. I know this new turn of events will not be different. It is her core of steel that kept me going when all optimistic beliefs faded in the shadow of defeat. I would like to think there is a chance I can return the favor before we are forced to say our final farewells.

Forcing aside my sudden inarticulate silence, I manage to ask, "The night is beautiful, is it not?"

After a long moment Sango nods, but her gaze remains fixed in the distance. She is not really observing her surroundings any more than I care about the weather. She is deep in thought, perhaps even planning what she wishes to say to me. After another pause of stifling silence she finally speaks. "Houshi-sama-"

I'm not sure if it is something hidden in her tone or if it is the completely wretched look in her averted eyes that has my heart pounding in fear. I do not want to hear what she will tell me so forsaking politeness I cute her off abruptly. "Kagome-sama says that the evening, especially the sunset in her time is quite beautiful with the many structures that her people have built but you can not see the stars. She said an abundance of man-made lights make them nearly invisible."

"Houshi-sama-"

"Can you imagine that Sango? Not being able to see the stars. It would be like a book without words, like a world without color. The night sky would be nothing more than oppressive darkness-"

"Miroku-"

"-lacking it's natural counterpart-"

"Like my life without you!" She cries, halting my words as my eyes go wide. Watery brown orbs pin me with their immeasurable sadness as she turns to face me, her tear streaked face becoming the picture of misery's beauty. Her hands are shaking violently, one fisted against her stomach as the other is pressed to her mouth trying to hold back the sound of her tears.

The sight of her breaks my heart.

I am afraid to pull her close and I am unable to move toward her. The delicacy of her emotions takes priority over my instincts. I would rather die right this second than to see her cry in this broken manner, however, I am at a loss as to how to ease her pain. Swallowing hard against the painful restriction in my throat, I breathe her name unknowing of what else to do.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. This is… all… my… fault." She whispers, beginning to cry harder.

That Sango should take responsibility for my condition leaves me feeling appalled. "How can you say that? You have done nothing."

"Yes I have. If I weren't so weak there would have been no need for you to protect me and then you wouldn't have injured yourself further. If it weren't for me this wouldn't have happened. You can't deny that."

As she mumbles another apology the intention to ignore my instincts goes straight to hell. Reaching over I grasp her wrist and tug her forward until she collapses against my chest. I hold her tightly, nuzzling my cheek against her soft hair as I ask, "Was I supposed to let you die? Forgive me Sango but that was not an option for me. I chose to intervene knowing the risk I was taking if the damage were to be this severe."

"But-"

"Shhh…" I whisper, biding her to let me explain. She acquiesces I press a kiss to her temple and continue, "Everyday that I have been alive is a gift to me. I've known that this fate would come to pass. It has always been and until Naraku is dead it will remain hanging over my head. This is the lot that I was given in this life and Naraku is the only one to blame for that. How I live and what I do with my life is my choice. And when faced with the thought of loosing you I already knew that I would die for you without thinking twice. That is also my choice."

I can feel her shake her head against my throat. "That's not fair Miroku. If you can make that kind of decision then so can I. When the time comes I'm not leaving your side. I'll die with you."

A startled, disbelieving laugh escapes my lips. The implication of what her words would not even register in my mind. There was no possibly way I would allow that to happen, not as long as I am alive. In case she thought differently I voiced my opinion.

"I think not Sango. In fact I'll make sure that you are safe and well away from me when that moment comes."

Stiffening, she leaned back in my arms prepared to fight me on this. The hopeless sadness that had filled her expression was now tempered with invigorating anger. A splash of color once again returned to her cheeks as they flushed from her simmering temper. Leaning close, so close that I could feel her breath brush my lips, her eyes bore into mine glowing with determination as her tears slowed to a stop.

"This is my choice." Looping her arms around my neck, she sniffed, "I can not loose you, no matter what you say. "

"No Sango. We are not discussing this. I want to leave this world knowing that you've got a fighting chance to live the rest of your life. If you were to die then everything would be vain."

Sango lets my words fall between us while watching me carefully. She's trying to read me, to see if I am adamant in the stance I have taken, and I do not intend to waver. After a moment of contemplation she realizes this also and looks away. "Then how am I supposed to live without you? You tell me because I do not know."

What could I say to that? Was I to belittle her fears and give her false comfort? That is not my style and nor is it hers. Sango would rather know what to expect than to be kept in the dark, and in this we are alike. I am not able to look her in the eye and say that everything will be all right, not when I feel like my heart is being torn from my chest. I do not want to leave Sango's side. I want her to bear my children and be my wife. I long to have the simple things that most everyone takes for granted.

But I am well aware that once death claims me I will be freed my heartache. Unless I am damned to hell but even that no longer frightens me. If demons walk this earth then where exactly is hell? It is right here, I think. How else do we explain why we are denied happiness no matter how hard we try to grasp it? And if she believes that it is easy for me to leave her to this world alone then she is greatly mistaken.

Gently, I tilt her chin and force her to look at me once again. There is only one answer I can give her and it comes straight from my heart because it is what I truly believe. "You are a survivor. You will do what it is in your nature to do. I can not tell you how, I just know that you will as you have done before."

"Miroku…"

"Think about Kohaku. He needs you and as his sister you are the only one who can be there for him. Think about the rest of your life. There is much that you have to live for and much you should accomplish before you leave this world. You have dreams of rebuilding your village ne? See, there is still hope Sango. You must promise me that you will remember that."

Though Sango wants to deny me I know she will not. I am comforted, if only slightly, to know she will remain safe. Like Inuyasha, Sango has the heart of a warrior and I will not deny her the right to fight her own battles but to end her life purposely I can not tolerate. Perhaps my motives are much more selfish then I am willing to admit, but I can justify them with one word. Love.

"Promise me."

The chocolate depths of her eyes are turbulent with many emotions but regret stands out among the maelstrom as she whispers, "I promise."

I want to kiss her, to show her how much her promise means to me. But as much as I want her I will not hurt her and to act upon what exists between us would only cause her more heartbreak.

Few people are able to find that one person whom can bring about completeness in their life. But for those who do, who can see the feelings for what they are and act upon them, they will love with more then just their heart. They will love with their entire soul. That I should feel this for Sango and remain forced to let her go...

In perhaps what I should call a blessing in disguise the air suddenly echoes with Shippo's voice as he calls our names in the distance. Collectively we stiffen, the moment fading, and reluctantly Sango moves away to sit in less compromising position beside me. However I smile as her hand grasps mine, our fingers entwining tightly.

As I expected Shippo is not alone. The soft voices of Inuyasha and Kagome drift to us on the wind as they approach. Shippo's usual cheer is subdued as he comes to my side. His large emerald eyes are troubled and I know he wants to comfort me. I see so much of myself in Shippo, he is only a child and yet he wise far beyond his years.

Sango's hand squeezes mine as Inuyasha and Kagome join us. As always Kagome's emotions are written clearly across her face. Her expression is completely miserable. But I must admit Inuyasha surprises me. I know we have become friends, it is not something that needs to be said or reaffirmed, it simply is. Even so, I suppose that I never thought Inuyasha would show his feelings so plainly when my time had come. Yet as he stands before me I can see the anger, the only manifestation he uses express what causes him pain, and he is nearly growling with the force of it.

"Keh, why are you two sitting here moping around? We should be looking for that bastard!"

No one needed to clarify of whom he is referring to and I was hard pressed not to smile. Leave it to Inuyasha to turn this into an obstacle that could be overcome. It is touching, even more so as I realize I this is the first time I have heard him mention searching for Naraku without pointing out the jewel shards as well.

Feeling a little lighter of heart and surrounded by my dearest friends, I reply, "I needed a little time to think."

Inuyasha gives me a look that suggests I've just sprouted two heads. "You don't have time to think Baka. I'm not gonna let you kick it so get up and quit wasting time."

"Inuyasha!" Kagome gasps. "You didn't have to put it quite like that."

He's blunt but it is refreshing and the just motivation that I need to put an end to my wallowing. Giving Kagome a knowing look, I rise to my feet pulling Sango with me. Not letting go of her hand, I smile. "Then we had best make ready if we are leaving in the morning."

As we begin to head back to Kaede's home, I glance up into the night sky. The stars are sparkling and the moon is glowing as if to show us the way. It is moments like this when I can almost believe that we are destined be victorious. There is little time and what we are trying to achieve will be extremely difficult but we have fought against the odds and survived far too many times for me credit it to pure luck. The stars continue to twinkle and my smile turns hopeful.

After all, there is nothing one dares to achieve without the hope of success.

A.N- The angst demon snuck up and bit me on the ass. That's the only excuse I have for writing this piece. Will this have a happy ending? Your guess is as good as mine, this fic took on a life of its own in the first part when it went a completely different path then I had planned so I honestly don't know how this will end. The next part should be the last one but that could also change. I will start working on it after x-mas because I just found out a few days ago that I have to move out by the Jan.1. Not good. Now I need a packing fairy to come and wave her little wand to sort out all this crap… hehehe.

Thanks for reading. *hugs* You guys are the best! Luv ya bunches!!!!!