Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or its characters. They are the sole property of Takahashi Rumiko

-To Sip of Black Velvet-

Chapter 26: Eyes Painted Black

A.N.: Long chapter! Go me! Hope you enjoy it :)

And a very very special thanks to White Luna for giving me great advice to help with this chapter and betaing per usual ;)


"Ah Sesshoumaru, I see you've noticed Inuyasha's date," Kagura stated shifting to turn towards Sesshoumaru as he came to stand in our increasingly discomfited circle, "Lovely isn't she?"

He was beautiful, standing before me, his silky glistening silver tresses in one long braid gliding over his left shoulder. He was dressed in a dark stony grey suit, with a white button up shirt and golden tie. It fit him flawlessly, outlining the broad shoulders, angling down to his narrow hips, the pants flowing down his strong legs.

He was always so imposing and now was no different. His eyes were literally blazing beneath his reddened eyelids and I found myself drawn in.

They were deep pools of golden water, enticing me to let myself slip beneath the tide but I also noticed that there was something a little off about him. It was barely visible, could have been my imagination but he looked… less composed, tense even? He blinked slowly, his thin lips parting to answer Kagura and I suddenly remembered that she was still there. Quickly I averted my gaze, let my eyes wander, and watched as her arm wove around his suit-clad elbow. A part of me expected him to shrug her off or sneer... but he didn't, seemingly behaved as if it was normal, as if he didn't even notice it.

It threw me off. I'd never been in both of their presences before. I had once assumed that he'd loved her and she him… but since the last night we'd spent together I'd finally come to the conclusion that he didn't feel for her. He'd said it before then but he'd shown it that night. He loved me, wasn't just saying he'd mate me but was aching to, and I repeated it in my head like a mantra because seeing them together was like having someone pluck my heart from my chest and crush it. I let my eyes fall away from the sight of them and listened as Sesshoumaru spoke.

"I know Kagome," he started and I felt a tug on my soul, his velvety smooth voice, rich like wine, was affecting me as much as an embrace could. "And yes, she is beautiful."

I wanted him to say more than that, which made no sense, wanted him to outright claim me. I knew we couldn't behave in the way we normally would. Even if I wasn't so sure that Kagura was as vindictive as he'd informed me, I'd never take the chance and be wrong. What if she really did take his daughter away from him and it was all my fault?

Going along with that thought, I brushed off his slightly more tense behavior. It wasn't that he was feeling caught up in the presence of his wife and mistress…no, that wasn't right... his soon-to-be mate, I corrected myself. It must be that he's just worried we might give ourselves away, that I might give us away before it was had to be it.

The weight of his gaze was still fixed on my form. I could feel it simmering within my own skin. Now that I thought about it, I was feeling far more close than I physically was to him. It was almost like we were intertwined, a strange and intense intimacy of which I had no words for but it did help to further stamp out those pestering and lingering thoughts that he wasn't mine. And then I realized I'd need to act as if he wasn't.

It would be hard and probably hurt my pride a little but I still had the faith he'd given me that night. We would be together. He gave me his word and I believed him. I could live with pretending to not love him for now… in front of his wife, to protect him. This whole situation was just so complicated. And I didn't feel quite right about putting on a show, doing something so morally questionable, but it seemed to me to be the only solution.

Inuyasha spoke.

"Yeah, Kagome told me that you both had a mutual acquaintance. I never would have met her if it wasn't for that time she came by the office." Inuyasha's last sentence was punctuated by tightening his arm around me more firmly, an arm that I had completely forgotten about and an action that I didn't have time to consider because it was the first thing to draw Sesshoumaru's gaze off of me and it was that which I noticed. As I looked up, his orbs landed on Inuyasha so coldly that even I chilled. For a second I was sure I witnessed red tinting his amber eyes, his lip curl slightly.

But I blinked and the uncharacteristic lapse in his perpetually indifferent demeanor was gone. Perhaps, I'd been mistaken.

"Is that so?" Was all that Sesshoumaru said in response, his voice dead-panned and even.

As they stared at each other the air became heavy and I felt somehow in the middle of it. Right then, their dislike was palpable and I was feeling drowned within it. I hadn't known that the discontent ran this deep. I knew they didn't care for one another but this was suffocating.

It was like I was missing something crucial.

"Perfect," Kagura cut in, "Since we're all so well acquainted, we'll have to spend some time together. You two will join us at our table," she said gesturing to Inuyasha and I.

For a moment, I was actually grateful for the reprieve from the smothering atmosphere until I comprehended the words she'd spoken. I couldn't be around them any longer, couldn't continue to see them together even if I knew their relationship was not really one of man and wife. Now that I had a sense of what to do, I knew it'd be easier for me to pretend if I distanced myself from Sesshoumaru. Sometimes I couldn't control myself in his presence after all.

"Actually, I thought Inuyasha and I would continue to mingle," I said quickly. Kagura frowned darkly at my words and I was a little taken aback but before panic could set in she suddenly brightened.

"Mingle? Right... If you two wished to be alone, you could have just said so."

What exactly was she alluding to? I was about to correct her apparent misunderstanding of Inuyasha and my relationship but then realized if she thought I was interested in him instead of Sesshoumaru, things would go even smoother. Hopefully Inuyasha would play along… or not even notice. I'd have to explain later. Maybe it was about time that I informed him about Sesshoumaru and I anyway. He would keep my secret, though I'm sure he wouldn't necessarily like it considering the ill feelings and stunted relationship I'd just witnessed between the two. But in the end I knew he'd approve if simply because it would make me happy. He was always looking out for me, was just that kind of friend.

Sneaking a quick glance at Sesshoumaru, I saw that his face was devoid of emotion, his eyes staring somewhere off beyond our small group. I hadn't noticed when but Kagura's arm wasn't wrapped around him anymore and the constriction in my chest lessened. Now, I needed to let him know I wasn't going to be the one to give our secret away.

"Um… yeah," I started, agreeing with Kagura, " It's just that Inuyasha and I never get to spend time just the two of us. My roommate's always around and… well… we could all meet up later. I'm sure you two have business to attend to anyway. It is what this gathering is for right?"

I looked to each individual. Kagura looked strangely pleased. Sesshoumaru was still distant, but his jaw clenched, and Inuyasha was smiling gently. I just needed to get away and fast.

"Sure, but drinks first?" Kagura asked and without waiting on an answer she turned towards the white haired girl standing a little ways behind her, asking her to bring them. I hadn't even noticed her, she seemed so quiet and meek. I tried to remember her name from that day so long ago. I'd thought she was Kagura's assistant of some sort, Kanna.

Kanna rushed off at the order and Kagura turned back and began a conversation with Inuyasha.

I didn't pay attention, tried to remove myself for the time being. I was finding it too hard not to notice Sesshoumaru, not to feel his presence tapping at the barrier of my mind. His unease had not lessened with my actions and I was so strongly feeling the urge to do anything to fix that, that I was afraid I'd make a mistake. So instead I watched Kanna.

She'd quickly gone over to where the beverages and foods were, placing four filled champagne flutes on a tray. There was a slight pause in her actions and then turned her head back towards us. When she did, I smiled faintly at her and she quickly turned around again.

Soon she was returning, balancing the four drinks and walking swiftly, eyes staring at the flutes as if by doing so she could keep them upright.

She was almost to us when Kagura muttered a harsh, "Where is that girl?", twisting around to check on her progress, or perhaps berate her, and promptly knocking the tray and glasses of drinks into Kanna. The liquid splashed, soaking the front of her dress before finally the glasses and metallic tray shattered and clanged loudly in impact with the floor.

There was a moment of stunned silence, other people stopping and looking over at the loud noise before Kagura's voice sliced through it.

"Can't you ever do anything right?" She seethed and Kanna dropped to her knees.

She didn't even look to her ruined clothes, she was apologizing, though it was honestly not at all her fault, and making a rushed and frugal attempt of picking up glass shards as if she could somehow put them back together. Her face looked shocked and… maybe even frightened. It was the most expression that I'd really seen from her and my heart lurched. Though I knew it was a frugal attempt, I automatically dropped to my knees to help her.

"It's okay," I whispered when she looked up at me in disbelief as if no one had ever tried to help her before, "It was a accident. I drop stuff all the time at my job."

"...T-thank you," she said and I smiled at her again as I picked up another shard and placed it on the tray. This time she managed to offer me a small uneasy smile of her own but then I was being pulled up abruptly by my wrist.

"What are you doing? She can clean up her own mess," Kagura said glaring down at Kanna. "Leave her to it."

"I will not-"

"No it's okay," Kanna interrupted me quickly, "I've got it. Thank you for offering."

Her face was as close to pleading as it could get, looking up at me.

"…Alright, if you're sure," I managed to say even as Kagura tugged for me to turn away from Kanna. The short scene made me realize that maybe I should take seriously Sesshoumaru's warnings about Kagura. Kanna had seemed so wary and afraid of her, far too anxious not to notice.

I looked up for comfort, eyes immediately seeking Sesshoumaru, to find him missing.

"Where'd you get this?" It was Kagura's voice asking me the question, as her ruby eyes glared down at my bracelet adorned wrist. Her claw ran over the crescent. I hoped she didn't recognize it. Inuyasha hadn't known what it was so perhaps Kagura didn't either. I could only hope.

I didn't get a chance to answer though because Inuyasha turned me towards him suddenly. I was starting to get upset with everyone maneuvering me around as they pleased but it turned out Inuyasha had a good reason.

"You're bleeding," he declared, bringing my attention to my other hand and the crimson dripping from it.

It must have happened when Kagura was pulling me up from the ground. I had to have cut myself on the glass then.

"Come on. I'll find a towel."

And he was pulling me away from a still glaring Kagura, a frantic Kanna, and the space from which Sesshoumaru had disappeared. I looked around, through the crowd of people and couldn't spot him. Why was I beginning to get a aching, twisting feeling in the pit of my stomach? Why was I suddenly sure that something was terribly wrong?

My eyes narrowed, and I wondered, still searching for him as I stood at the side of the large room. A sharp pain made me wince. Inuyasha dabbed at my cut.

"It's not so bad, barely even a flesh wound," he assured after wiping away the blood from it.

I turned my hand and looked to my palm. It was definitely more than what I'd consider a flesh wound but I didn't comment on it. I felt i had other things to worry about.

"Tonight's not going so well is it?" I asked him instead looking away as Sesshoumaru's unstable aura was somehow reaching out me.

Inuyasha had even seemed higher strung then he was earlier and I probably had something to do with it. I doubted every gathering set people on edge as this one had been doing.

"Keh, it's alright. Believe it or not I'd probably be having a worse time if you weren't here, bloody hand and all," he grinned slightly before the expression faded off his face, exchanged for one that was more serious. "It's just... something is off with Sesshoumaru. I didn't even know he was coming and when he made his appearance I knew he'd be angry that I was late showing up but he looked about ready to cut my head off. Usually when he feels that way I'm not so aware of it," Inuyasha frowned, "He's typically an indifferent angry, not fuming or obviously irate. Then he just vanished. I didn't even see it."

I'm sure Inuyasha wasn't aware of how much his words affected me. So the discontent I'd seen between them really wasn't normal? Something was definitely wrong with Sesshoumaru. I could feel it. Had I done something wrong? I needed to find out. I'd have to get him alone at some point… if I could find him.

"Do you want to dance?"

"What?" I asked, slightly staggered by the change of topic.

"Dance, do you want to?" Inuyasha asked again, "It would give us a breather from having to talk to any new people for at least a little while and I noticed you looking over in that direction so…"

"Oh," I said. I had been looking over in that area but mostly because I was still looking for my daiyoukai. I glanced there again. I'd probably have a better view of the whole room from the dance floor. "Sure, I'd like to dance," I answered.

There were a few other pairs on the floor as we made it over to the area, Inuyasha leading me by my good hand. His arms wrapped around my waist and I wove my arms around his neck, careful of my injury and yet almost absentmindedly. As we danced, my eyes continually searched the room.

. . . O . . .

Sesshoumaru was beginning to face that fact that something was seriously amiss. It wasn't just that he couldn't control his possessiveness or jealousy, a thought that he'd considered and found preposterous, but he couldn't even control himself in general. He was unstable. His youki was erratic, fighting against his will to keep it contained and he was overwrought and straining himself to just remain composed. The blood flow in his veins didn't even feel right, was biting and sharp. This had never happened before.

And of course he was both feeling jealous and possessive, which was not helping the situation at all. Little things, like being so caught up he hadn't noticed Kagura touching him or when he'd nearly lost himself to a rage that was only half warranted. His body was fighting itself and concurrently looking for any outlet to rid himself of the constant pulsing discomfort. Inuyasha had nearly been that outlet when he'd tucked Kagome closer into his body. He'd felt the heat of his blood boiling beneath his pale skin, something foreign ripping through the nerves inside him. He had only been moments away from turning feral.

He'd come to Kagome and his brother for a purpose, set on figuring out just what was going on between them and it was obvious that his brother felt something for Kagome, his overprotective gestures plainly apparent to another of his kind, but he had not been able to gauge Kagome as easily. She was allowing Inuyasha to touch her, he couldn't deny that and it was taking all of himself to not correct Inuyasha rather painfully, but for a time she had seemed far more interested in himself, paying no attention to any other. It had helped to ease him somewhat but then unexpectedly she had avoided looking at him, frankly ignored his presence altogether.

A struggling to keep in control part of Sesshoumaru's rational mind had blamed those actions on the fact that Kagura was there but Kagome's attempts to be alone with Inuyasha could not be overlooked nor the gentle smile that had lit his brother's face at her words.

He'd drawn inward. Some deep and buried thoughts slithering their way into his already clouded mind, memories of a youth watching his father dote on Inuyasha and Inuyasha's mother in the wake of the most miserable time in his life, memories of Inuyasha receiving everything that he had once wanted.

The only strife his brother had ever had to face was due to his hanyou heritage and Sesshoumaru had definitely used that weakness against his brother many times. It was not that Sesshoumaru ever hated humans per say and by that point he had shut himself off from traitorous emotions but that did not mean he wasn't pleased to see to it that Inuyasha had his own share of misery in penitence. But still Inuyasha continued to receive everything with little effort. Sesshoumaru had thought himself far over such past trivial matters but adding to it the thought that Inuyasha could even conceivably have Kagome too…

His jaw was clenched so tight, he could have shattered his own fangs with the pressure.

And that was when he'd scented Kagome's blood and with it he'd snapped. His eyes had bled over in an instant, his claws lengthening, poison merely seconds from dripping from them. He'd only had enough mind to immediately create distance between them. Not for the brother that at that moment he wished to maim, nor for anyone else who might have gotten in the way, but for Kagome. Even accidentally being within breathing distance of his poison could be dangerous to a human, miko or not.

This was not a regular unleashing of his youki, it was being forced, and it was not pleasant in the least to have his barriers shred through. When even distancing himself hadn't allowed him to regain composure completely, he decided that he should depart altogether. Whatever was affecting him, was managing to cloud his mental awareness while at the same time letting loose his power. He was no lesser youkai and the consequences could be dire. Angrily, he accepted that his plans for the evening would have to be rescheduled until he uncovered the source of his body's uproar.

. . .O. . .

I knew where he was. I didn't know how I knew but when I figured it out, I halted dancing abruptly.

"What's wrong?"Inuyasha asked.

I could barely even hear his voice.

"I just have to do something, I'll be back," I called over my shoulder as I quickly made my way through the crowd, pushing through people on the way. I didn't have time to think about the impression I might be making as I finally made it to the hall and to the large oak doors in which we'd entered. I pushed them open to walk out.

Outside there was a neatly manicured and massively large lawn, with lush gardens and a few lavish fountains. Everyone else was still inside and at first it seemed deafeningly quiet in comparison until something in the distance caught my attention. It was dark now but was still easy to spot Sesshoumaru's glistening silver locks catching the moonlight.

I ran for him.

"Sesshoumaru!" I called out and even from my position I could see his reaction.

He stilled uneasily and clenched his fists.

I paused at his actions, "…Sesshoumaru?"

"What are you doing here with him Kagome?" his voice was exceptionally cold and unnervingly even as he slightly looked over his shoulder at me.

My eyes met dark red ones, and I could see the stripe on his cheek was jagged but I headed forward anyway. His aura was more obvious to me than it had ever been and I could see rather than only feel it spiking, stabbing even, it was painful just witnessing it.

"What's wrong?" I asked as I slowly made my way closer to him. There was perspiration dotting the space above his brows, his hair slightly disheveled, pieces of silver having unwoven themselves from the once neat braid, "What's wrong Sesshoumaru? Are you okay?"

He snarled.

. . .O. . .

She'd followed him. They were alone and he was still fighting with his youki but he felt like if maybe he could finally get some answers from her a part of him would be set at ease.

For a moment she looked taken aback by his loss of control, snarling at her for not answering his question and he wondered if he'd frightened her. It was an accident. He'd never want to scare her but she was avoiding explaining herself. He needed her to calm him. No he was not alright, nowhere near it, but if she would only answer him…

"What are doing here with Inuyasha?" he repeated himself, the effort to keep his voice still was draining him. He felt himself shaking.

"I'm just here with him. That's all," Kagome answered, looking confused.

That was all? That wasn't what it looked like to him and definitely not what it smelled like either. His mind was swimming, his body's struggles affecting his rationality. What did she think him for, a fool? She'd come following him, smelling even more strongly of his brother's scent. As soon as he'd left what had they done?

"He has touched you," he growled out deeply.

It was an accusation. It meant more than the words he'd said.

Kagome caught on quickly. Her ire rising.

"We danced Sesshoumaru. Is that what all this is about? Do you have no faith in me? I was only pretending with Inuyasha because I thought you were worried I'd give us away to Kagura!"

Kagura didn't matter. At least she wouldn't have mattered soon enough. But he couldn't currently grasp the fact that Kagome had no way of knowing that. Sesshoumaru, after having given Kagome his word and thinking on it fixatedly, had come to the decision that he would give up the company to Inuyasha. Inuyasha had proven himself to be at least capable and it was this that he had planned and tonight that he was to announce he'd be stepping down from his position of President.

He'd still have millions to his name, as well as shares in the company, and there could be no reason that anyone would be able to place Rin in Kagura's care after the divorce. There could be no claim that he would be an absent father because of his obsession with work or his business. A part of him would surely miss the competition, the claim to power that came with running the company but he would have stood to gain so much more in giving it up. He would have finally been able to have Kagome on her terms, the way she wanted. He'd been willing to give up the only thing he'd striven to obtain for centuries and he would not have regretted it.

But at this moment he couldn't even fathom the idea of ceding the company to Inuyasha, of relinquishing to him anything. And now he was questioning if Kagome had really wanted what he'd been willing to offer her at all.

He did have faith in her. He'd thought much earlier when his mind was clear that she would have never done what he was accusing her of... but that was before he started losing control. That was before he was so heavily preoccupied with keeping himself contained and when he could think sensibly. Now the memories were whispering dark thoughts in his head and everything was fogged and cloudy. He reacted, latching onto one of the treacherous thoughts.

"My attendance was not known," he started words hissed, his control fading even more, "You cannot claim your relationship with the halfbreed," both words were spoken like venom, "is pretend. You would have come with him tonight regardless of my presence."

"Halfbreed?" Kagome was shocked,"I'm all human Sesshoumaru! How can you say that? Do you know what kind of children we'd have?" Kagome looked at him angrily, "He's your brother! And he's someone who was there for me when you weren't!"

Sesshoumaru had no way of knowing that Kagome was referring to when Inuyasha had saved her from Naraku, had no way of knowing she was only sticking up for a friend who may very well have saved her life. And he would continue not to know anytime soon because he couldn't comprehend anything after that sentence because to Sesshoumaru it had been nothing more than an admittance, a confession of her betrayal.

"I owe Inuyasha a lot and you know my history Sesshoumaru," Kagome's eyes were tearing, icy blue droplets falling down her cheeks, "I can't believe that you would think this of me… I hadn't even assumed that was what was wrong with you tonight," She quieted slightly, " I've never been with anyone but you that I've chosen and I've trusted no one but you with my body since Naraku took it from me by force."

Kagome was speaking but he couldn't hear her. The blood was rushing too loudly in his head, his youki was raging. The foreign feeling took hold and his last thread of control was slipping from his fingers. His poison was seeping from his claws and he took a step back even now. His last completely coherent thought was that he did not want to hurt Kagome.

. . .O. . .

Sesshoumaru didn't say anything back to what I'd said. It seemed like he wasn't even mentally present anymore. During the argument I had momentarily forgotten that he'd looked so visibly ill, that I had come out here because I'd physically felt something was wrong with him. I'd forgotten until he stepped back from me.

He looked in pain, his eyes clenched as if he was fighting something, his hands strangely glowing green. His fangs were lengthened and his lips were drawn back in a silent snarl. I got the impression that anyone else would have been screaming.

I stepped forward again, my anger at having him accuse me of what he had fading in the face of my worry, tears continued falling but now for a new reason, "Sesshoumaru please, talk to me. Something else is wrong."

He wasn't himself, that much was obvious.

I reached out for him when he continued not to answer and he jerked away from me, eyes shooting open. His sclera and irises had gone completely black, not the red that I was at least somewhat used to.

"Leave now."

The feral noise that escaped from him was a warning but I couldn't make myself go. I needed to help him. Seeing him like this was frightening. I wasn't scared of him but for him.

His erratic aura was persistently calling out to me and from deep within my own body I felt a thrum. When I reached forward again, I vaguely noticed my hands were glimmering slightly pink.

"Please… let me help," I said drawing closer. Somehow I knew I could help him and he didn't move as I advanced this time, even looked slightly less pained for a moment. I thought I saw his eyes flash red and I was only inches away, just seconds from touching him.

"Kagome!"

It was Inuyasha and he was running towards us. My name uttered from his lips drew my attention away and by the time my eyes had flickered over to Inuaysha, Sesshoumaru already had him dangling in the air from his neck.

Inuyasha, shocked, was clawing at his arm, and I could see Sesshoumaru's grip tightening, his claws digging into the skin of Inuyasha neck even as the green glow seemed to be burning him. He snarled in Inuyasha's face.

"No, wait! Sesshoumaru!" I yelled, my heeled feet stumbling as I tried to make my way to them as fast as I could. I could barely see, the tears in my eyes were blurring the image in front of me as I finally made it closer to the two.

"Stop!" I shouted and it was like Sesshoumaru wasn't even aware I was there, my plea falling on deaf ears. His focus was completely on Inuyasha and on causing him as much pain as slowly as he possibly could. He was crushing his windpipe, not even flinching as Inuyasha's claws dug deep gashes into his skin. I knew he would regret this. Sesshoumaru was strong and powerful, could be lethal and that I knew, but this was being done needlessly. He wasn't in his right mind.

Not thinking and desperate, I pulled at his free arm, intent on trying to somehow get him to cease, only to have my wrist grabbed and be pushed backwards brutally. I landed hard, the air being forced from my lungs by the impact as I cried out in pain.

As quickly as it'd happened, Inuyasha was dropped. Sesshoumaru turned towards me. This time I knew I saw the flickering of black to red and red to black in his eyes. His fists clenched and I could see blood dripping down his fingers from the wounds he was inflicting on himself.

"Kagome…"

His voice was only slightly less feral than it was when he'd warned me to leave but the remorse was plainly heard to me.

I knew it was an accident. He hadn't meant to and I was about to tell him that I was fine, it was okay, but suddenly I found myself being lifted, my back pulled against a strong chest, and Inuyasha's arm winding around my front as he leaped us further away from Sesshoumaru.

The ominous black glaze over Sesshoumaru's eyes quickly began regaining control but then there was a strong flash of light, so bright that I had to shield my eyes from it.

When I opened them Sesshoumaru was gone.

I barely registered the scream that left from my lips, as my own.

Word Count: 5241


A.N.: And again I say go me for the length and not falling into the urge to split this into two chapters :). Let me know what you thought about it! (and in particular the little bit of action at the end since it is my first time writing such) Until next time.:D

-E.C.