A/N: Sorry for the long wait. I've been busy, and I had to go out of the country for a while. I was in Italy. Ha, ha. Choir trip. You know the drill. I did get to go to Venice, though, which was especially inspiring. Anyway, that's all done and over with. Now I'm bringing you this update. I really hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I'm a strange one. You never know where my imagination is going. Let's see what I've cooked up this time.

Disclaimer: It doesn't matter what country you go to, I've discovered. There's still no way to buy InuYasha.

Chapter 18: In the Water I Remain

InuYasha's eyes were locked with Kagome's, his body gripping hers soothingly as he leaned closer. Her face was cold, distance engraved in her flesh, and he could tell her tears were held captive. A strong one—she always was. It was hitting him hard; black and blue were quickly becoming his signature colors. He had no alibis, just his lame apologies, which seemed to be just short of enough. As he sighed, he kissed her cheek hesitantly, relaxing into her cushioned bed with a feeling of hatred delving into him. But it was for no one in particular. These days he often found himself angry for no other reason than simply for the purpose of being angry.

"I don't know what you want me to tell you, Kagome," he said with shortness. "Maybe I can't be whatever the hell you want me to."

"Would you stop?" She rolled away from him. "I don't want you to be anything. I just don't trust you anymore." Thrusting herself upwards, she scanned her room, and she could feel her gaze shaking. "Is that so hard to understand?"

"No." He clawed at his silver locks, groaning with quiet remorse.

"You know I love you," she said. "It's just that I can't—"

He stopped her. "I know. And I can't either." Pulling her down next to him, he let his hands linger over her cheeks, his fingers tickling her skin. "I can't tell you what you want to hear," he whispered.

Kagome let her tears go as she stared at InuYasha's limp body. How had it come back to this? Like the arrow embedded in his chest, she couldn't move. Her thoughts centered on the last moments with him that she could remember. She could still feel the poisonous sting of his words. I can't either. But how did she end up in the hospital? After that moment, opaque shards of glass clouded her memory. The only thing she could see was herself. Alone. InuYasha didn't love her, and now he was just as lost as she was.

"You can't be real," she stuttered with her eyes averted from his hanging form. "You can't!" She looked right into his face; he was unsettlingly peaceful. Slowly, she ambled toward him, hands outstretched and waiting. Her body began to grow warm as she got closer, and her skin tingled. "InuYasha?" she pleaded. "Please…" As she reached him, she found her arms around his waist.

"Kagome… You're here…"

She turned her head sharply at the sound of Sango's voice, and her hands scraped the tree. InuYasha was gone.

"I think you should go back home for a while," Sango forced. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip as she quaked, fists clenched at her sides.

"Where is he? He was just here!" Kagome found herself spinning in circles—frantically spinning. She had felt him beneath her, sleeping in her hold. Clear as a clean river, she had seen him. "Where is InuYasha?" she demanded. "Didn't you see him here?"

"No, Kagome…" Sango pressed herself forward, taking her friend's hands gently, her thumbs running over them. "You need to listen to me… InuYasha wanted to keep you safe, so… You need to go back to your time. There's nothing for you here anymore."

"What are you saying?" She shook her head. "Just tell me. I'm tired of all the shadows. Don't keep me in the dark. Please! Sango, this is insane! What are we doing here? Why is this all happening? You owe me the truth! You know that!"

"InuYasha's dead." As she spoke, Sango's words slipped out quietly, one wispy syllable after another. But she was collected—her body had stilled. "He's dead," she echoed. "You were sick, he was sick. It said he needed to die…so that you would live…" She glanced at Kagome's enlarged stomach. "So that the baby would live."

Kagome was struck with silence at first. It couldn't be true. Lies had to be the answer, just like they had been for everything else over the last five months. She couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't. It was like she was engulfed by water, lights shining brightly in her eyes; shapes were moving and glistening, but they weren't clear. Words were spoken, but they were muffled and covered in wet uncertainty.

"I tried to stop him," Sango said finally. "He loved you. He wanted to protect you. I couldn't fight that."

"No! He didn't! He didn't feel that way!" She jerked away from Sango fiercely, turning around. "This isn't happening," she murmured. "This isn't happening…" Hesitating, she gritted her teeth. "Take me to him."

(0000000000000000000)

InuYasha's feet thudded against the white nothingness as he pushed through the blank pages with Miroku following closely behind him. He felt himself beginning to lose it, like he was nothing but a paper napkin, so fragile, easily torn to shreds.

"Where are we going?" Miroku asked, his breath sputtering from his lips in hard gasps.

"I don't know." InuYasha slowed his pace, and he inhaled deeply. "This is all an illusion. This place, it doesn't exist." He stopped, glancing back at the monk. "We've got to break the barrier of this mirage. That's what it's all been about. This demon wants us to believe we're trapped here. Eventually, we'll run out of energy to sustain us. Well, I'm not waitin' for that!"

Miroku nodded. "So then… We must find a connection to the real world. How?" His face darkened, lines seeming to weave themselves into his features, weariness setting in. "If this is an illusion…" He paused. "Then where are we really?"

"I think…we're inside the cave…behind the stone."

"InuYasha," Miroku began, "perhaps the stone itself is also a hallucination. And the demon is here with us, just watching us squirm."

"I don't know what to do." InuYasha fell to his knees. "Kagome… Please hear me…"

(0000000000000000000)

As they neared the cave, Kagome's heart stopped for an instant; her chest felt as if it were filling up. I'm drowning, she thought. Someone save me. Her steps grew languid and hard. Her world began turning in slow motion. What if he was dead? What would she do? InuYasha, I can't lose you again. Not again. And this… This will be forever. She quivered, her mouth turning tense. Melodies chimed in her head, but they all sang the same thing. He was gone.

"Are you sure you want to see this?" Sango faced her weakly, afraid to let her eyes drift beyond the obscurity of the cave. "I had to send Kirara off with Shippou… It's not easy…to see." She slowly stepped inside when Kagome pushed past her. There it was, InuYasha's bloody corpse. Tetsusaiga had severed his middle, sticking out his back. His expression was blank, lifeless, just like him. "I'm so sorry," Sango said.

"Where is he?" Kagome asked frantically. "I can't see him." Sango watched her step right over his body and gasped, shaking her head.

"What?"

"You said he was here! He isn't!" Kagome pivoted, looking around the empty cave, unable to swallow the lump in her throat. "InuYasha!" she called out.

"He's right there!" Sango pointed at him, and she grimaced, her eyes taking in nothing but scarlet. "Look…"

Kagome saw nothing.

" Please hear me…"

His echoing voice caressed her body like velvet, smooth; it made her feel like she was gliding. She stared, still unable to see his tanned face, those amber eyes that made her melt. Where had that come from?

"I hear you!" she said. "InuYasha…"

Sango fought back tears. It was painful to watch. Kagome couldn't accept what was there, but forcing her to… She couldn't stand the thought of it. Even she knew that sometimes living a lie was much easier than accepting fate for what it was. Painful.

"Kagome, are you all right?" InuYasha cooed.

"InuYasha, where are you? Please… I'm scared…" She turned to the stone, letting her palms rest over it, her eyes drifting shut. "Don't leave me."

"I won't. Pretend it's just the two of us. No one else is there. There's no stone. There's no prophecy."

She could see it. He was there in front of her, a cool wind entwining with his hair, blowing towards the sky. He was gazing at her warmly, like he did when there was nothing else to say. His smile beckoned her forward, his arms extending to touch hers. She took a step closer; her body felt weightless. Gradually, her hands touched his.

"I can feel you here, InuYasha," she whispered breathily.

"Because we're touching."

Her eyes shot open. He was pressed against the stone, his fingers laced with hers, a sigh fluttering from his lips. She couldn't believe it at first, blinking and pulling back. But he didn't disappear. He was right there with her. His arms snaked around her as he buried his face in her neck.

"I was going to die for you," he said in a low tone, pulling her closer.

"I know." Tears cascaded down her face onto his haori. "I know… I know…"

Sango backed away, unable to make sense of it all. She couldn't avert her stare from InuYasha's body, his dead body. Kagome was losing it. InuYasha wasn't there. And what was she supposed to do? She couldn't just grab her and force her to smell the scent of blood. But she couldn't keep herself from crying as she watched her friend hold on to the stone like a lost lover.

"I feel so washed out," Kagome said to InuYasha, breathing in his woody aroma with a soft grin. It slowly faded. "The last thing I remember is… You… You couldn't say it… But I wanted you to. I don't know how we got here, but I want to go back… I want you to say it, InuYasha. I can't lose you like this, knowing that what I feel…is more than anything you've ever felt… I just can't do it." She kissed his chin lightly. "Please… Just say it, even if you don't mean it. I just need to hear it."

"Kagome…" He felt himself hesitating. "You know I do."

"So tell me," she fought, and she gripped his shoulders furiously. "Please."

"I…" He watched her for a moment, senseless yearning beginning to overtake him as he felt her heart pound in unison with his against his chest. "I can't. You gotta know I want to." Placing a hand on her pregnant stomach, he waited for her eyes to touch his. "I was going to die for you."

She nodded. "I'll miss you while you're gone." Her stomach was in knots—her insides felt like they were rotting. Just a ghost, she reminded herself. I need to see that. I know I do.

"Kagome, he isn't going anywhere."

"Miroku?" His voice hit her square in the back. She swung her head backwards, incredulity encasing her.

A/N: Now, I know that was a disgustingly short, and probably confusing, chapter; however, I really feel like another update is oozing out of me. This one just had to be cut off here. It may not make sense at this point, but I promise that it will, come next chapter. ANYWAY… I really hope that you enjoyed this latest addition. I love you guys. For serious. XD Though I may be evil, I still have a heart. Ahem. Reviews are always appreciated. Thanks in advance.