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

-To Sip of Black Velvet-

Chapter 27: What Next?

A.N.: It's almost been a year since I completely lost the muse for this story, went through writer's block, and started to feel like I couldn't write chapter stories anymore... but recently I've been giving chapter stories a go again in other fandoms so I decided to try my hand and come back to this. I can't promise quick updates anymore (or really lengthy chapters either) but I'm going to try really hard to make sure that this story does not go on "forever hiatus" and that I complete it. I'd really appreciate any feedback to let me know how many of you are still even here reading this. Sorry this is so long over due. - E.C.

Everything stopped. I could feel myself getting sick as my body twisted in Inuyasha's arms. I was trying my hardest to escape from his iron grip, to follow or somehow stop Sesshoumaru. I watched as a bright orb of light, blindingly white, soared further and further away from me, beginning to become a blur against the night's starry background. Somehow, though I'd never known before that moment that he was even capable of such, I knew it was Sesshoumaru, that he was distancing himself to try and protect us while he still had some control left.

He was leaving… injured and in agonizing pain and I could do nothing for him standing confined in Inuyasha's grip. Precious seconds continued to slip away, the vice around my heart tightening painfully as the distance between me and the orb of light grew larger, making it harder and harder to breathe.

Maybe it was desperation, but a sharp spike in my powers forced Inuyasha to let me go. He did with a hiss, arms unlatching so quickly that I was thrown off balance and fell to my knees. I landed with a huff but paid no attention to the jolt of my bones. I was still busy glancing upwards into the sky, searching amongst the stars. There was a cold heaviness beginning to weigh me down. My head snapped one way and then the next, blurring the images above me but I couldn't find him anymore. He was gone. I'd lost him.

At first I felt nothing, disbelief maybe, I'd been so close just moments before, steps away from him but then reality began to set in. My hands clenched and fingernails dug into the earth at my sides. It was cold but I needed to be grounded for this. My head grew heavy. Tears burned the back of my throat, were threatening to fall, but I fervently tried to hold them back.

He'd been there for me, I couldn't stop thinking. Just two weeks ago I had been feeling as low as I could, had been only a second away from giving up on myself completely. I'd been worn down, bruised, and battered by grief, by my steadfast belief that my life was destined for nothing but anguish and Sesshoumaru had come for me then. Granted it was not planned, but somehow Sesshoumaru had still managed to be there at the time I needed him most. He had saved me, saved me from myself and given me hope, given me something to look forward to. And now when he needed me, now when I could have helped him in return...

-I'd failed him.

And the worse part was that I didn't even know how.

What had happened? Something had been terribly wrong, that much was obvious, and he'd been in so much pain that I'd literally felt it ricocheting within my own body. How had I been able to do that, feel his pain? Was that just a part of being a miko or was it because it'd been that bad? … Could he—could he die from something like this?

I tried to swallow but the dry lump in my throat wouldn't allow it so I shook my head instead.

It couldn't be that grave-couldn't be! Had I wasted the only time we could have had together by pushing him away for all those months?

A strangled whimper that erupted from my throat shocked me. It seemed I didn't have the energy to keep it at bay any longer.

If- if something happened, something even worse than what was apparently happening... what would I do without him?

Tears fell, forced from the corners of my eyes as I shut them against my thoughts but it didn't help. The worst outcomes my mind could conjure played across the darkness of my eyelids. I'd lost too many people in my life already, seen too much death, gone through too much to lose him too. And then there was the chance that some other horrible thing could happen. What if he hurt someone? He'd just hurt Inuyasha. What if he did something so gruesome while out of control that he would have to be sealed? That could never happen, could it? I clenched my lids shut even tighter, trying to stop the images.

A hand landing ever so gently on my shoulder, made me jump and then tense. My eyes creaked open. I looked up just enough that I was peaking from beneath my bangs. Inuyasha was crouching in front of me and my eyes were drawn to the seared skin marring his neck. The wound was darkened and angry, vaguely resembling the outline of a hand, tand there was dried blood around the deep claw marks gauged in his flesh.

This was all my fault. If I had not let myself get distracted… if I had just reached forward quicker for Sesshoumaru I could have fought whatever it was inside of him, whatever it was that he was trying to fight but couldn't himself, and none of this would have happened. I'd known I could help him and the glowing of my hands at the time had only proven it.

"I'm- I'm so sorry Inuyasha," I managed to get out between a dry throat and tight chest, eyes still roaming over his injury.

He shook his head.

"No… it's not your fault. Sesshoumaru, he…" But he didn't finish the sentence, frowned, because I suspected he didn't know what was going on either.

"I'm fine and you're—you're okay now. He's gone," He continued, trying to make me feel better.

Unfortunately his words only made me clench my eyes shut and sob harder. Sesshoumaru was gone, alone, and probably off suffering somewhere without me.

Inuyasha reached forward, hands settling around my jaw as he forced me to look up at him. He looked confused and regretful that he had somehow only managed to make things worse and was fumbling, searching for something to say.

"Please Kagome… please stop crying," he started, brushing away some of the wet trails on my skin with the calloused pads of his thumb, "I promise everything is fine. We're fine. I'll protect you… I'll…"

I watched confused as he nervously bit his lip, wondering what was going through his head, and then suddenly his mouth was crashing into mine, pressing while one of his hands wove in my hair and clenched. The kiss was messy, tasted bitter and salty from my own tears and my eyes went wide in shock. For a moment my mind blanked out, I was so startled with his action that all I did was stay frozen but then reality rushed back in like water filling my lungs and I pushed hard against his chest.

He immediately let me go and I fell back onto my backside, scrambling a few extra inches away on purpose.

"What the hell are you doing?!" I shouted at him.

"I-" he started, and then stopped. "I- I'm sorry. I was just trying to reassure you and..."

"By kissing me?!," I interrupted angrily, eyes wide. I'd just finished telling Sesshoumaru that he'd had nothing to worry about when it came to Inuyasha and I, and now I was left feeling queasy as if I'd lied. I shuffled, drawing my legs underneath me to stand up and he did the same, coming forward to lessen the gap I'd created between us, quickly grabbing my wrist before I could back away again.

"Let go of me," I said. I wasn't trying to be mean but I knew it must be coming off like that. I was just so confused. "Please... just... let go."

His mouth opened, intent on saying something before he blinked and looked down at the wrist in his grasp. I tried to pull it back again but he held it firmly, twirling it in his hands and staring as if looking for something.

"You're not… why isn't it burned?" His eyebrows were furrowed as his head jerked up to look at me, "I saw Sesshoumaru grab you. His dokatsu is poisonous. You should be injured but… you're not."

I looked down and stared at the clear skin on my wrist too, so unlike the marred flesh of Inuyasha's neck. How had that happened? Sesshoumaru's hands had still most definitely been glowing an iridescent green when he'd grabbed me and I was sure my powers had not been present then so it couldn't have been that. Unfortunately though, I'd have to ponder on it some other time because at the moment I had another situation on my hands. Besides, I was fine. That was a good thing right?

"I don't know Inuyasha but that's besides the point right now. Why would you kiss me?"

During the quiet that followed my question, I tried to answer it myself with the least complicated explanation I could think of. It was far-fetched but I still hoped that it had been merely just to startle me so bad I stopped crying. I mean, technically if that was the reason behind it, it had worked.

Without thinking, his hand rose to rub against the back of his neck and he winced. I winced too a little empathetically but did notice that he was already healing and at least no longer bleeding from his wounds.

After that he sighed and blinked up at me. The look he gave me guaranteed that his reason for the kiss was not so simple like I'd hoped it would be.

"I know you've said we're just friends," Inuyasha began, his eyes glazed over with an emotion I'd never seen in them before, "but I had hoped… I mean… I thought that maybe…"

I couldn't let him finish. If he got through saying it all it'd probably just hurt him more in the end. I didn't need this right now. So much had already just gone wrong and I really didn't want to play a part in hurting him too. I loved Inuyasha but… just not in that way.

"Inuyasha… I..," I paused. What was the best way to say it? What was the best way to break his heart without ruining us? I inwardly cringed at the horrible phrasing and selfishness of my own thought and hoped he'd be okay with whatever came out of my mouth next, "I- I've always looked at you like a friend… I love you... like a brother...like family." And one day soon I hope that you'll really be family, I added mentally, a thought which only brought forth a new problem.

Before I thought Inuyasha would have been okay with it but how was I to tell him about Sesshoumaru and I now? If there still was a Sesshoumaru and I… if he was okay. My heart clenched and the world spun. I started feeling weak in the knees.

What I didn't expect after saying what I'd said was for Inuyasha to smile. It wasn't a grin particularly up to par with his usual ones, it was only half way there and there was a hint of sadness or disappointment that he was obviously trying to hide, but it was still a smile nonetheless.

The fact that I hadn't just competely destroyed a friendship, one that sincerely meant a lot to me, helped me breath a little easier... at least for the moment.

"I figured you might say something like that," he admitted with a voice laced in good humor, finally releasing my wrist from his grasp, leveling me with one last lingering look filled with an emotion that I could now recall glistening in his eyes many times before, and then he looked away. "Well, do you think that we should go back inside?"

I looked at him and then back towards the building we'd emerged from not long ago. The events of the night replaying in my head, ending with the terrible scene that's happened after I'd come running out in search of Sesshoumaru. "There is no way I'm going back in there," I said bluntly.

But my search for Sesshoumaru was no where near over.

Word Count: 2024

Thanks for reading :). And again, I'm sorry to everyone who was following this story and had to wait so very long.