Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha. I do not even own a clone of Inuyasha that I could bend to my will and force to obey my every evil command—yet. I have plans… but unfortunately I don't own a laboratory or the required spell books either.
Darn my luck.
Beneath the Surface
It didn't occur to Inuyasha that he was dying until after he had defeated the youkai.
He had collapsed almost immediately after using the Kaze no Kizu, dropping the Tetsusaiga beside him, and only then had he realized that the entire front of his fire-rat kimono was covered in dark blood… blood that was pooling on the forest floor below him at something of an alarming rate. After a battle of that intensity, particularly one where Inuyasha was concerned, that in itself wasn't so unusual.
What was strange was that it didn't hurt as much as it should have. Instead, as he mused while lying on the ground, everything seemed dimmed. The pain, his perception of his surroundings… everything suddenly seemed strangely and almost pleasantly distant.
That was when he came to the slightly sick realization that he had lost too much blood—far too much, even for him. Too much blood to even transform into his youkai form, not that he would have wanted to. It would have saved him, though.
Now, there was nothing that lay between him and death—he had lost far too much blood to survive.
Were he in a less drowsy state of mind, no doubt he would have been absolutely furious with himself. As it was, he mostly just felt frustrated. He'd just gone and thrown away everything he'd gained during their quest, everything he had literally fought tooth and claw for, in a single fight with a single stupid youkai, whose craftiness he had foolishly underestimated until it was too late. What did it matter that he'd won in the end? He had lost, now, hadn't he?
Damn it… it was all so fucking stupid!
He'd left Kagome and the others some ways behind. They had all been on the trail of a new jewel shard, following Kagome's sense, when they'd suddenly been ambushed by a large group of demons, led by a youkai wielding the very prize they had been searching for. Miroku and Sango were almost immediately overtaken by the sheer number of youkai, who attacked so swiftly and from so many directions that the monk was unable to use his kazaana without risking the safety of his companions. Within moments, he, Sango, and Kirara were completely engaged in a fierce battle for their lives. Inuyasha had quickly taken Kagome and Shippou to safety before facing off against the youkai leader, who stood his ground, brandishing a large halberd before him, and looking far too confident for Inuyasha's liking. The hanyou had charged with Tetsusaiga; the youkai had swiftly evaded the first strike.
And then he'd fled.
Taken by complete surprise, Inuyasha had hesitated a fraction of a second before giving chase. The youkai was fast; he'd had to run at almost full speed to keep up with the demon. Before he knew it, Inuyasha had been drawn some distance away from where the others still fought. It never occurred to him that might be what the demon had intended all along.
By the time he'd caught up, it was already too late and they were already too far. The youkai had made certain that no one was around to help Inuyasha in that moment before he made his fatal strike. Miroku couldn't use his kazaana to save him. Sango couldn't attack with Hiraikotsu in the nick of time. Kagome couldn't strike with a purifying arrow at the very last second.
It all happened so fast. The youkai struck just as Inuyasha stopped running. He never even saw the halberd coming.
He just felt the thundering, dizzying blow, and the explosion of pain that followed it. White-hot agony… and then, suddenly, it all vanished and just went numb. In that instant, even as Inuyasha had continued to fight on, the demon had claimed its victory prize—the hanyou's life.
All over. Just like that.
It was almost funny in a way, he thought now. When they'd first started out on their quest to recover the shards of the Shikon no Tama, Inuyasha couldn't have appeared more confident on the outside. Yet somewhere on the inside, he'd never really believed they would get very far before it all fell apart. That was just the way things went in his life.
So he had just carried on, the picture of self-assurance. He met every new challenge they faced with cocky bravery, even arrogance… yet inwardly, he knew it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt or killed, and their quest failed. Even after they'd found out about Naraku, even after Inuyasha had become absolutely determined to kill him and take revenge for Kikyou and everyone else, deep in his heart he'd still had to wonder if indeed they would ever truly manage to slay the evil youkai. It seemed inevitable that at some point along in this impossible mission of theirs, something would go wrong.
But somehow, somewhere along the line, a part of him had decided he really wasn't going to take no for an answer. A large part of it had to do with Kagome, he supposed. Somehow she had effortlessly managed to get past every one of the defenses that he'd built over years of struggling on his own to survive. Somehow, she had burrowed her way into the deepest depths of his heart. Before he knew it, he'd realized that he would do anything to protect her. And when he realized in turn that there was no way he could keep her from accompanying him until the end, he decided that in that case, he would simply have to succeed. For her sake.
And for the sake of his other companions. Before they had joined him, the concepts of winning and losing had seemed so much simpler. If he won, he profited; if he lost, he paid the price. Now, though, the stakes were so much higher. If he lost, they all lost—and Naraku won. Shippou would meet the same fate as his parents. Miroku would be swallowed into the black nothingness of his kazaana, a fate worse than death. And Sango would likely die at the hands of her own beloved brother.
None of these things could be allowed to happen, in Inuyasha's mind. And so, with only one objective, one option in mind, he'd continued on. And slowly, as despite all odds they succeeded again time after time, his confidence that they could win, would win, became real.
And just as it had happened, he was struck down by a pathetic little youkai and reality came crashing back down on him.
Yeah… it was funny…
As he lay there, his head propped up against a fallen log and his awareness steadily becoming hazier, he wondered what everyone was going to do now. Would they continue searching for the remains of the Shikon no Tama without him? Probably… he hoped so, hoped they wouldn't give up. He wanted them to succeed… maybe they could. They may have been humans, but Kagome, Sango, and Miroku were some of the strongest people he knew. (Not that he'd ever said this aloud, of course.) And Shippou was young, but Inuyasha had no doubts he would grow into a powerful youkai one day, if he had a good someone to teach him the ropes. For a while, he had sort of planned on being the someone, but it didn't look like that would work out.
But they might be able to defeat Naraku without his help. They'd come close to it before… who knew? Maybe they could even find another youkai ally if they needed to. Just so long as it wasn't that wimpy wolf, Kouga. …Well, all right, maybe he could help… just so long as he kept his wimpy claws away from Kagome…
Inuyasha choked out a laugh. Oddly enough, he meant for it to be bitter, but it came out sounding almost regretful, if anything. It wasn't like he'd be around to stop Kouga, anyway, would he?
Prompted by this, his thoughts drifted to all the things he would miss once he was gone. He was so caught up in this that as a result, his already much-weakened senses didn't detect the new presence in his little clearing until it was no more than a few feet away. At that point, however, not even approaching death could mask this particular presence from him.
Slowly, Inuyasha tilted his strangely heavy head upward to meet the cold amber eyes of his elder half-brother.
Sesshoumaru had a strange expression on his face that Inuyasha could not recall ever seeing before. Not that it mattered, for it was unreadable. All of Sesshoumaru's expressions were unreadable. Inuyasha found himself chuckling again, ignoring the coughing that came along with it. And definitely ignoring the blood that seemed to have found its way into his lungs.
Sesshoumaru didn't say anything, just continued to look, but Inuyasha had a fairly good idea of why he was here. And for the first time in his life, it didn't bother him in the slightest. Somehow, all of the hate and anger that he'd ever harbored for his elder brother seemed to have ebbed away along with the rest of his pain, just leaving a peaceful feeling behind. Really, there was no point in hating Sesshoumaru now anyway, was there? He was dying. What more could his brother do to him? What had he done to him in the past that could possibly matter now?
So he just chuckled. "Hey…" he mumbled by way of greeting. "Come to take the Tetsusaiga… huh?"
Something unfamiliar flashed in Sesshoumaru's eyes that gave Inuyasha pause for just a moment, but when he remained in his silent stance, the hanyou went on.
"Go ahead, then… take it."
There was something that would surprise his brother, no doubt! Inuyasha, who hated Sesshoumaru, who always fought with him, who refused to acknowledge his so-called "place" as a half-demon, offering up the prized Tetsusaiga inherited from their father like it wasn't anything at all—ha!
But the thing was, it wasn't. It certainly wasn't anything to worry about now, at any rate. They had always fought over that stupid sword. Sesshoumaru for whatever reason had always desired it so badly, even though he now had the Toukijin, a sword which surely was equally fearsome. And Inuyasha, elated to have something for once that his brother was truly envious of, had refused to give it up, even before he'd discovered what the fang could truly do. It showed that even though he was only a half-demon, his father had valued him, loved him enough to give him something over his brother—even though Sesshoumaru was not only older, but a full, true youkai to boot. Inuyasha loved being able to throw it in his brother's face, every time they battled.
And only as he lay there now did he realize what a stupid, stupid thing it was to fight over.
Too late to change any of that, however. But he wasn't going to need the sword any longer after this, not to slay youkai, nor even to seal his own youkai blood. And Sesshoumaru wanted it, had always wanted it. So… why not let him have it?
"S'all yours… go ahead…" he slurred, rapidly losing what remained of his strength. He watched almost fearfully for a moment. This was his peace offering, after all those years they'd spent hating each other. He wanted him to take it. He forgot in that moment that Sesshoumaru, being a full youkai, could not even touch the Tetsusaiga unaided. He waited breathlessly.
Then slowly, through his hazy vision, he saw Sesshoumaru finally moving up to him. Inuyasha smiled.
"Just… promise me…" he found himself continuing. Suddenly, he knew just what he wanted to say, and he wanted to hurry and do so before his time ran out. "Promise me… you'll defeat Naraku for me…"
Sesshoumaru paused abruptly, and Inuyasha knew he had once again taken him by surprise. To tell the truth, he had taken himself by surprise. But it made so much sense all of a sudden, and that was what he wanted. "If… if I can't do it… then you, instead…"
He wanted his brother to be the one to take the fang right to that evil demon's heart. Maybe not in vengeance for Inuyasha, nice as that would be, but even so, he wanted Sesshoumaru to do it. It just felt right. And any other time, he would never have admitted that to his brother's face, ever. But right now, at this moment, he desperately wanted him to know. He felt some strange desire, in these last few moments, to clear his mind. Not his conscience, just his mind. He suddenly wanted everybody to know that the Inuyasha he always pretended to be was not all that he truly was.
By whatever chance, it happened to be Sesshoumaru there in that clearing right now; and thus Inuyasha told his half-brother what he wanted him to hear after all these years. Had it been someone else there, say Kaede, he would have done the same thing. He would have told Kaede how grateful he was for her gift—though he hadn't always thought of it as such, that was indeed what it was—the enchanted rosary around his neck, which had prevented him from harming Kagome in those first few moments he had known her, and which had bound him forever to the young schoolgirl, even across time. He would have thanked Kaede for somehow believing in him, even when she thought he was the cause of Kikyou's death; even when he himself was more than willing to admit outright that all he wanted was to become a full youkai. He would have thanked her for looking out for Kagome and the others, and for her wisdom, which they'd drawn upon time and time again for dilemmas both big and small.
Had Miroku been there, Inuyasha would have told the monk to cut the crap with Sango, and just tell her how he really felt about her. Even if the kazaana in Miroku's hand might one day force them apart, to just tell her anyway, so that they could enjoy whatever time they had. Inuyasha had made that very same mistake with Kagome, after all.
He would have told Miroku how much he appreciated having another guy in their group at times. He would have thanked him for those occasions when they'd had "serious" man-to-man talks, something Inuyasha had never had anyone else to do so with. He would have thanked him for all those times he'd groped Sango or done something similarly dim-witted, and thus given the hanyou and everyone else something to chuckle about; to distract them from the seriousness of their journey. He would have told Miroku he admired his day-to-day courage in spite of knowing that his days, thanks to the kazaana, were numbered. And he would have thanked him for being a brother-in-arms, someone he'd come to fall back on when he just couldn't defeat an enemy on his own.
Had Sango been there, Inuyasha would have told the taijiya how much he admired her bravery and willingness to go on in spite of… everything. How the fact that she could be so strong even after losing her family, her entire village, and her brother—in more ways than one—just floored him. He would have thanked her for being there for Kagome whenever he screwed up. He would have told her to knock the damned monk unconscious with Hiraikotsu, drag him to a remote cave, and hold him hostage there until he admitted his feelings for her. And he would have apologized for being unable to save Kohaku when he had the chance, for leaving such a huge and horrible issue there for her to face on her own.
Were Shippou there, Inuyasha would have apologized for all the times he'd bonked the kitsune on the head… though he probably wouldn't have meant it. He would, however, be sincere when he told the little fox that he was proud of him. He would have told him to keep learning and practicing and growing stronger every chance he got, and for gods' sakes, to not go down as stupidly as he just had. He would have told Shippou to listen to Kagome and to watch out for her, and that nobody likes a smart-ass demon—he should know.
Were Kagome there…
In a way, he was kind of glad that she wasn't. Because if Kagome had been there, Inuyasha was fairly certain that, much as he hated to show such weakness, he might have cried. He didn't want to leave Kagome, not at all. Worse, he was afraid she might cry… and he wouldn't have been able to deal with that. No, all things considered, it was better that she wasn't here in his final moments. Even if he did have so many things that he wanted to say to her…
Were Kagome here, Inuyasha would have apologized for being so stupid and getting himself hurt like this. He would have apologized for every single time he'd said or done something mean or thoughtless that upset her, accidentally or not. And he would have apologized profusely for every single incident involving Kikyou. He would have tried to tell Kagome the truth—that while he had loved Kikyou, and still cared about her greatly, he did not love her any longer, not truly, not in the way Kagome thought he did. That he'd instead wanted to save her… wanted badly to save her… but that since coming back she had never, ever touched his heart in the way that Kagome could.
Inuyasha would have told Kagome how much he wanted to stay with her, and how sorry he was… for everything. And after all of that apologizing… he would have told her that he loved her.
He hoped she knew how much he cared about her, whether he could say it to her or not. He hoped she knew…
Vaguely, he became aware of Sesshoumaru's presence as he bent on one knee by his side, and realized he was really starting to lose it now. He tried to focus through the black spots that were dancing in and out of and across his vision, and saw his brother's face close up, still wearing that strange, unreadable expression. He found himself smiling peacefully, and shut his eyes, waiting for Sesshoumaru to take the sword that lay discarded at his side, and perhaps finish him off with it.
He heard the sound of a blade being drawn. So he was going to finish him off, then.
At the sound of his brother's voice, Inuyasha's eyes fluttered open one last time. Sesshoumaru was standing again, before him, his face, as always, perfectly calm. Inuyasha prepared to meet his end. He saw Sesshoumaru swing the fang down in a smooth, perfect arc…
His last thought before darkness took him was that, oddly enough, that sword didn't look like Toukijin…
Kagome knew that something very bad had happened, but she was nowhere near prepared for the horror that surged through her when she, Sango, and Shippou broke into the clearing astride Kirara, Miroku running close behind.
The whole place smelled like blood. Even her own human senses were nearly overwhelmed; beside her, Shippou suddenly looked very pale. Lying dead unceremoniously in the center of the clearing was the youkai Inuyasha had fought, ripped to messy shreds by the cutting power of the Tetsusaiga. Kagome could see the Shikon fragment it had, still embedded in its forearm. That arm was still wielding the halberd it had so effectively used in battle; the halberd itself was now covered in blood…
Kagome suddenly felt sick. Though her senses were pitiful compared to a youkai's, she'd still know the scent, the taste of that blood covering the halberd, from anywhere. She had known it ever since the owner of the blood in question had pressed her gently but firmly against himself and told her that he was afraid… afraid for her. But it was him that she'd been afraid for. He'd just come away from another tough battle then, and the smell of his blood had overflowed her senses, filling her with a fear so strong it had brought her running back to him a few days later, even though he had tried to seal her on the other side of the well.
Desperately, she scanned the clearing for any sign of Inuyasha… and what she found brought a icy, fearful sensation to her chest so sharp that it almost overwhelmed her.
Inuyasha lay propped against a fallen log in a corner of the clearing, utterly still and covered from head to toe in that same blood that was now trying to burn her sinuses. The Tetsusaiga lay a few feet away beside him. And standing before Inuyasha, his head tilted to regard the newcomers in his usual silent, disdainful way, was Sesshoumaru. In his hand was a sword Kagome had never seen before, but that nonetheless sent the icy fear in her heart spreading throughout every inch of her body.
"Inuyasha!" she cried, fairly leaping off Kirara and setting off at a desperate run toward the motionless body of the boy she'd come to care for so much. She collapsed at his side, tears filling the corners of her eyes and blurring her vision as she checked his form for any sign of life. Sango and Shippou crouched anxiously beside her, while Miroku turned to face Sesshoumaru, who was still regarding the scene dispassionately. With no concern whatsoever for the fact that Sesshoumaru infinitely outmatched him, the monk raised his shakujou threateningly.
"What happened?" he demanded, just barely managing to hold on to his usual calm control. Sesshoumaru looked at him for a moment, but said nothing. When he turned to leave, Miroku finally lost it.
"I said, what the hell happened??" he exploded, moving to bar the youkai's way and gripping the beads on his rosary with a white-knuckled fist. "What did you do to him? Tell me, before I unleash my kazaana!"
Sango was about to move to help the monk, her hand gripping the strap on Hiraikotsu, when a harsh cough rang through the clearing, silencing them all as they spun to look.
Tears had now begun to glisten on Kagome's face as she cradled Inuyasha's head in her lap, one hand running up and down his back in a soothing motion. He continued to cough, flecks of blood landing on his chest as he struggled to clear his lungs. Then, suddenly, miraculously, he stopped, and the air in the clearing once again fell silent. The only sound that could be heard was a boy's steady breathing, in and out, as he rested peacefully on a girl's lap.
Gently, Kagome moved to undo the front of Inuyasha's haori, then his inner kimono. Underneath, they could all see, the skin was smooth and unmarred. Though his clothes had been torn and he was still covered in blood, absolutely no wounds remained.
Miroku slowly brought his hand down, relinquishing his grip on the prayer beads wrapped around his hand. His staff, too, he lowered, though it remained in a slightly guarded position. "How on earth…?" he murmured to no one in particular.
Sesshoumaru stood there for a moment, then turned to leave. Tears still streaming down her face, now of relief, Kagome moved her gaze away from the slumbering boy in front of her to the elder youkai. She watched as he started to walk away, sheathing his sword—
Sheathing his sword—
—and then she understood.
"Tenseiga," she whispered. "The sword that heals. You used Tenseiga."
Sesshoumaru paused, but did not look back.
"…Thank you," she smiled softly.
He stood there a moment longer, then silently left the clearing.
Miroku, Sango, and Shippou gave each other looks of astonishment, then turned to Kagome. "Did he really use the Tenseiga?" Shippou asked incredulously.
"I… I guess he must have, Shippou-chan… I can't think how else…" She trailed off and wiped away the rest of her tears, smiling down at Inuyasha. Suddenly, as if aware he was being stared at, the hanyou groaned and opened his eyes, stretching absentmindedly.
"Heh… welcome back," Kagome told him as he blinked up at her in confusion.
He sat up immediately and looked first at his surroundings, then at himself in shock. "Am… am I alive?" he asked finally, hesitantly.
"I hope so," Miroku said good-humoredly, "otherwise it would seem we've all found ourselves in Hell."
"Shut up, bouzu."
To Inuyasha's great surprise, that comment was met not with a retort, but with laughter. Soon the others were laughing too, the look on Inuyasha's face all that was needed to get them to join in. His puzzled expression soon turned into a glare.
"Hey, what the hell's so funny?"
And the glare melted right back into slightly stunned bafflement as Kagome wrapped her arms around him happily. "Nothing, you baka. We were just worried about you, that's all…"
Inuyasha frowned. Suddenly, his eyes widened as his memories came flooding back more clearly. "Was I… wasn't I… what happened?" Kagome pulled away as he blinked, remembering yet more. "Where's Sesshoumaru?"
The laughter died down somewhat as everyone recalled what had just happened. "…He left," Kagome told Inuyasha.
The hanyou glanced off to the side, to see Tetsusaiga still lying there. "…He didn't take the sword," he said thoughtfully.
"That's not all," Shippou muttered.
"Huh?" Inuyasha frowned over at the kit. Shippou shifted uncomfortably and shot a look at Kagome. In turn, the hanyou's glance shifted to meet her.
"We think…" Kagome said hesitantly in response, "that Sesshoumaru… used Tenseiga to heal you."
This statement did not have at all the effect on Inuyasha that they might have thought it would. Rather than bursting out in surprise or shock or even anger, the hanyou merely adopted a thoughtful expression on his face. What he was thinking at that moment, none of them would ever be able to guess, but his gaze shifted slowly to all of theirs in turn, looking longest and lastly at Kagome before he said, simply: "Huh."
Everyone blinked as Inuyasha abruptly grabbed Tetsusaiga, rose to his feet, and started to trudge off to the fallen youkai. When no one moved to follow him, he turned around and raised an eyebrow. "Keh… what are you all staring for? We've got jewel shards to find, remember?"
Slowly, the others nodded and moved to follow him. Satisfied with that, Inuyasha turned toward the youkai. "Where's the shard, Kagome? In his arm, you said?"
As Inuyasha hefted the Tetsusaiga to cut away the jewel fragment, Kagome realized he looked a little different. She doubted it was something any of the others would notice, but she did. His stance was more relaxed than usual… but his eyes seemed to hold more confidence, more determination than ever. She wondered if it had anything to do with his brother, but then recalled the odd, thoughtful look he had given everyone just a moment before. He was rarely difficult to read, but when he was, it was all but impossible to figure out just what was going on in that head of his.
She smiled. Oh, well.
Kaze no Kizu: Wind Scar/Wound of the Wind. Inuyasha's main attack with Tetsusaiga.
Kazaana: Air void. That thing in Miroku's hand… eh, everyone knows what the kazaana is.
Hanyou: Half-demon (once again with those things everyone already knows…).
Taijiya: Demon exterminator.
Shakujou: Monk's staff.
Bouzu: Rude term for a Buddhist priest.
Baka: Moron; idiot.
Well, there you have it, my second one-shot. Though to be honest, this was actually written earlier than the first; all the way back in January. Since then, it's gone through countless edits, some of them pretty drastic. I'm still a little iffy about the final product (I don't think I'm all that great at introspective stuff), but at some point, I finally figured, 'ah, the heck with it.'
This was mainly done as an excuse to get into my favorite half-demon's head for a little while, and to explore some of his deeper thoughts and relationships—I've got to say, he fascinates me to no end. So it was very fun to write… hopefully it wasn't too bad to read as well. I'd say it would probably take place sometime after the battle with Ryuukotsei, but before Naraku's disappearance around episode 81.
I hope I got Sesshoumaru all right in this—now I finally understand why everyone says he's so hard to write! oO Believe me, when Inuyasha thinks to himself that Sesshoumaru is unreadable, he's taking the words right out of my mouth. Still, it was an interesting challenge, and I very much enjoyed the chance to get him to do something halfway decent for once as well.
Lastly, I figured I should note this somewhere: I realize it's not usually in Inuyasha's character to just lie down and die—in fact, his youkai blood usually acts as a built-in failsafe at that point and turns him into a full demon. And I realize that's what should have happened under normal circumstances, especially since he didn't technically have the Tetsusaiga with him (though it was only a few feet away). But it didn't, and I have three reasons for this: one, because he had already won his fight, and so didn't really have anything to push him over the edge like he has in the past; two, because he had already lost so much blood that even the powerful blood inherited from his daiyoukai father couldn't influence him anymore; and three… because otherwise, I wouldn't have had the fic that I wanted.
Anyway, please drop me a line or review if you liked it; like any author, I'm always happy to read them. :)