The Fragile
Chapter 14 – Even Deeper

Kagome, along with almost everyone else in the room, watched the two leave and save for Sesshoumaru—who was certain is was simply hallucinations at that point—felt like what they had just seen was probably a very bad sign for what was to come. A shiver went through her at the last words spoken by the future Sesshoumaru. Something about those words seemed void and almost…alien.

Everything to the point they were at seemed utterly alien. She had to try and recount what all had happened, and her mind simply didn't have the space at the moment to run through the steps. She'd seen Naraku wielding powers that terrified her, Kagura helping them, Inuyasha actually defending his borderline suicidal brother and Sesshoumaru making jokes. All of the things that she'd sworn could not happen. The last in that list being the most terrifying of all.

'Speaking of Sesshoumaru…' She turned to him. He'd moved closer to her when the intruders stepped in with their cryptic messages. She surveyed him warily. She knew he wasn't exactly fond of his personal space being invaded, much less by a human that wasn't Rin or Kohaku. But she was also keenly aware of the several very prominent wounds he'd been subjected to. She'd seen Inuyasha rendered unconscious for days over less, so it was without a doubt that he had to be nearing his exhaustion point. "Sesshoumaru…" She said softly.

He simply turned his head and gave her the same distanced look his face always wore. He probably wasn't even aware that his facial expressions never changed. "Hn?"

'Well…at least he answered me.' She thought idly. "Um…you probably should si…" she dragged the syllable out and much to Inuyasha's appreciation she altered the word, "be seated and rest. Even if we have some time…who knows how much."

It was without any hesitation that Sesshoumaru retreated back to the chair Kagome had brought him to originally. His body was aching in ways he hadn't felt since his childhood. It brought a tinge of shame to him on a personal level that he allowed himself to get in such a position and as much as he wanted to blame his human charge for his injuries, carelessness and ever growing soft spot, he could not seem to actually convince himself of a fault other than his own. He'd made too much of a commotion in the times he had trifled with Naraku, that Naraku had taken more notice of his potential than he would have liked. That went without saying, that had Naraku challenged him in a state of non-distraction, Sesshoumaru would have obliterated Naraku without hesitance.

His first and foremost cares had some how become Rin. Without even noticing, he realized as he rested in the Priestess's foreign place, he had become no different than his father. It was almost as if his family line was somehow cursed with afflictions for humanity. Not that he was jumping to save any human that wasn't Rin or perhaps benefited him at the time, but he wasn't exactly appalled that he had simply abandoned his battle in order to take Rin to the safety of the idiot brother he resented because of his father doing the same thing he was doing right now.

Had Sesshoumaru had a son, would his heir have hated him for protecting Rin with his life?

Thinking this way hadn't exactly stilled the distaste that had welled up in him for years. His father died for the human woman and her half breed son and Inuyasha had gotten himself sealed to a tree when Sesshoumaru actually came to—in certain words—ask for help against the Panther Clan. Inuyasha was spoiled with absence of the kind of life Sesshoumaru had lived. Not that the Ice Prince was lacking for anything material, but it was the warmth he'd seen his father give the woman who he'd abandoned his son for.

He blinked slowly. He wasn't certain why he was thinking so deeply on anything at this point. His mind had already made plans and concreted them the moment he landed in Inuyasha's territory. At the opportune moment he would separate himself from them. As much as the humans enjoyed their positive outlook—and as much as he wished he was capable of believing in such a ridiculous notion—he had already predicted the out come. Luck was not something he was willing to hold hands with for very long.

Naraku was an annoyance to say the least, but even the Demon Lord wasn't stupid enough to think his power alone as he was enough to put Naraku down enough to keep this trouble out. If anything, Naraku wanted them to fight him. In a sense, they were fighting Naraku just by running. It didn't set well with him…at all, but now that his wards were in safe hands. Dying to escape that fate didn't appall him as much and if it came down to it, he would without hesitation take his own life. If anyone was going to take Sesshoumaru's life in such an unfitting way, it would Sesshoumaru himself and no one else.

"Hey, are you in there?" He heard his brother's obnoxious voice, but didn't have the energy to care enough to even tell him to be silent. All of his collective injuries had finally caught up and he had been not looking forward to being in such a vulnerable position before his idiot whelp of a brother. There was a pause that almost seemed to last forever before that voice echoed in his head again. "Sesshoumaru?"

Inuyasha's voice tainted with that filthy human concern didn't even stir anything in him. He was almost…disturbed at this feeling of complacency that had over taken him. All his mind could do was think. Consider. Rethink. Expand. Rethink again.

Wait…when had they stopped moving?

"Kagome." Inuyasha beckoned Kagome back from the kitchen, where she had disappeared to gather a couple cold damp towels. "He's not responding at all. His eyes are still open, though."

"He's not responding?" Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He had seemed fine moments before…albeit he'd been weird since he rained down on their parade in the very beginning of the journey. As she'd made a mental note…he joked on occasion. That in itself was cause to be concerned. That and he made no real threat to Inuyasha. Of course, she'd noted a while back, if he wanted him dead, Inuyasha would have been dead. But, taking a look at him from how Inuyasha had seen him, it was clear that he wasn't responding normally.

"Koumaijii. What's wrong with Sesshoumaru?"

The silver haired uncle of the two brothers looked up from his seated position on the floor by the wall closest to Sesshoumaru. "He's most likely in shock."

"Shock?"

He nodded to Kagome, "as he told me, he had been running from Naraku for several days, poisoned, and injured in several fights, including his fight with me. However…" He stared toward the door and back to Inuyasha who seemed to be considering as well.

"Wait." Kagome started, watching the two men's eyes darting from important places back. "Do you think it's a reaction from the two who just left?"

"I can't really say, milady…but shock can be a physical defense to block out pain and allow healing…or it may be induced."

"Heh, that's all I needed to know. Kagome. We're going after those two." Inuyasha declared.

"Wait what?" She stared at him, slack jawed.

"Look, Sesshoumaru is fine here; he can heal up while we're gone. But something is fishy about what just happened. I have a couple questions they brushed off."

She couldn't exactly tell him he was wrong for thinking that. Things didn't exactly all fall into place neatly, starting with the story that had ended with a priceless book being destroyed. Something had been in that book other than that passage that was important to the future and past. Her naivety had originally had her believing the modern Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru, but simply knowing that this modern version was a container for Naraku, complicated things to a degree that made the line between fact and fiction a little hazy.

How desperate she wanted to believe it would be so simple. If simply making it back to the other side could change the future, she wanted to know why they were still instructing further. If more than just the brothers had made it back, then how was the future not already in better shape than before?

Could this 'container' actually be leading them to change the future in favor of Naraku? Hell, she didn't even know any more. But more and more, she wanted to see justice for Sesshoumaru's efforts. He had gotten a bite taken out of his shoulder protecting her and she owed him. Even if it was a simple obligation, she had to see this through.

"Okay." She nodded. "Come on, let's hurry then. They could have gotten anywhere by now and the scent won't be as strong in my world."

Inuyasha nodded and swooped in to grab her, taking off through the front door, opening it without a moment's pause and taking to the air in his normal fashion. He could still smell the future version of himself, but the other had no defining scent. He had thought it a little odd. There was a scent to him, it just seemed…bottled. A common flavor. Or a mask to a scent that lay underneath. He couldn't trust anything anymore, let alone something that looked like his brother and carried Naraku in it.

For all intents and purposes…Inuyasha was doing this for his stupid brother now. He wasn't the fool Sesshoumaru thought he was, well, not entirely. Even a half-breed like him could feel and smell the lost resolve leeching his brother's will to fight. If he thought dying was the better option…then Inuyasha would just have to beat the will back into him. He was not about to one-up the man who had all of his strength plus one-hundred fold of that. Sesshoumaru was stronger, as much as it made him want to eat his own teeth to admit. If Sesshoumaru—in all of his godly glory—was giving up, then the rest of them may as well lay down with their necks exposed to Naraku's chopping block.

"Kagome. I think they're making way on foot." He announced, breaking his inner thoughts. The scent is still fresh.

"That's odd. In this modern world, they should have been able to take a faster route…Unless it's a trap."

"No…It doesn't feel like a trap." He replied, jumping far from a light post to the next one. "They're not hiding, but they're not trying to be found either."

"Why would they do that?"

He looked down at her in between a long jump. "Remember what they said. According to them, only I and Sesshoumaru made it through the well in their past. So they may not have been anticipating that to already have changed stuff."

"You mean…" She blinked. "They don't think we'd come after them?" Her question spanned over two extra pairs of ears as Inuyasha landed squarely before the two dark haired future demons.

"I told yo-"

"Silence, half breed." The sultry voice of 'Sesshoumaru' effectively did silence Inuyasha's future self.

"Alright. Start talking now. I'm tired of this bullshit." Inuyasha demanded within seconds of letting Kagome to her feet, Tetsusaiga drawn and transformed. "Or I'll start cutting you bastards down one at a time."

"I would not advise cutting either of us down. Or thinking you can, Halfling." The elder one threatened loosely.

"Look, I want to believe you." Kagome started. "But, how are we to know that you're not just Naraku trying to trick us?"

"And what did you do to Sesshoumaru?" A growl erupted from the brash half-demon bearing the dangerous weapon.

"You would calm the fuck down!" The other Inuyasha—"Yasha"—growled right back, drawing the same weapon. "I told you they wouldn't understand. We should have kept the Naraku bit silenced."

"They wouldn't have suspected any less, I hadn't anticipated the Priestess and my Advisor to be there, neither did you."

Inuyasha's patience was spreading thinner by the second and Tetsusaiga was rattling quietly. "Enough! Why did you paralyze Sesshoumaru?"

'Yasha' whistled lightly and kept his guard mere feet from his elder brother. "I'm surprised you gathered that much."

"Inducing shock. Koumaijii said it could be instilled. We really weren't sure, but you seemed to have confirmed it anyway. Instilled shock isn't much different than paralysis." Kagome offered her part in the conversation. "Why? If you're trying to change the future, why can't you tell us what happened? We could avoid it if we knew!"

"If I told you the future—Priestess—then both of you would be unable to make the choices to ultimately fix the error. Only under that pressure can you make that decision. If you know the events, I know the mistakes I would make. I paralyzed my alternate self because of the simple fact that if he has free movement at this time, he will make a decision worse than the one I in this future made. I know what he is thinking, because I was making those same thoughts."

"But that explains nothing! There are too many things you didn't tell us."

"To top that off, you were sneaky about what you did. He didn't even notice you putting him in a trance."

"But you did." Inuyasha's future self stated blandly.

"I didn't know anything other than not to trust you fuckers. Considering this Sesshoumaru here smells like a wood soap instead of what he should smell like."

"How primal. Relying on familiarity of scent to base your judgments. Your problem lies not with us, but with the world you will return to." Shou spoke, stepping up in between the two. "You will both put your weapons away. This brother of mine is the seal keeping Naraku at bay. If you kill him, you break the seal and condemn this world to damnation. So use the head our father was kind enough to bless you with."

Inuyasha stepped back, eyes widening slightly at the sudden announcement. That had explained the reasoning for their apparent closeness. He sheathed the sword once more. "How can we trust you…" He said into the wind.

"You have no choice. I cannot force you to listen. We have trespassed into your world for as long as my body would allow it. We have guided you all here and now we are forcing you to stay until the shock is lifted. The manifestation has already begun."

"Wait, manifestation?" Kagome's little voice seemed strong as the weight of the topic suddenly came down on Inuyasha. She hadn't been able to feel this brother's aura, or the scent wafting through the wind when Sesshoumaru's blood had been spilled.

"By this point in time, Naraku has already buried his essence into you your brother's heart. Five hundred years ago, a small seed was planted. A poisonous one, sunk even deeper; a malicious infestation."

"Yeah but we got rid of th-" Inuyasha stopped midsentence. He wasn't known for his moments of brilliant thinking and at that moment, he wished he could keep not having moments like that. 'A fucking decoy within a decoy,' he thought, looked down gritting his teeth. 'Sesshoumaru's natural poison is masking Naraku's. FUCK.'

"With all this being said, and I honestly grow tired of speaking, we can do no more for you." The black haired Sesshoumaru stood against the light of the moon. Kagome could see his melancholy aura just in the way he turned his face from them, the wind dragging his hair back, almost as if it had a life of its own. Caressing him. Protecting him.

"Ses…shoumaru…" She started, reverting back to the name that felt right. "Please understand our concerns. We are tired and beaten back, but we're not ready to give up if we have options. If what you're saying is truly what will change the outcome of this, and that we have to believe in the decisions we make. We'll do it. But nothing can ever go according to plan. Nothing ever can be predicted. All we can do is try to can change what would have happened. We can't rely on luck…"

"Because luck runs out." He finished, watching her with hallow eyes.

"I…am not willing to send you to death to defeat Naraku." She declared. "It's our burden too. If all demon kind is to be destroyed by your hands, so be it. But I don't think it will happen because a bitter witch with a sacred arrow wrote some lies. Not now it won't."

The Sesshoumaru before her cocked a brow almost amusedly. "You're quite aware of the author of that text then. You were perceptive, I had forgotten."

She nodded, but did not say. She knew Inuyasha's heart would shatter to hear it, even if she suspected the half-demon had already concluded it for himself. "I suspect there's nothing more at all you're willing to tell…"

"I simply cannot."

"I see. Well, we will win. And in the future, the good one, your smile won't be empty, neither will your soul."

"I would really like to believe you."

She turned from him, nodding to Inuyasha, who was in just as much turmoil as she. He didn't look back, neither did she. It was as if looking back would only act to hammer the nail deeper into the realization that Sesshoumaru wasn't running from Naraku, he was simply prolonging the purgatory to what was simply inevitable. Naraku was no fool and Inuyasha knew his brother wasn't either. But…was he aware of what was going on? The seed Naraku planted was a decoy, to the false shard…which was also a decoy, to the poison that was pulsing through every vein and artery. He was contaminated from the moment he'd drawn Tokijin.

Without a word, Inuyasha led them back to Kagome's house. They had left in a panicked flurry, set to defend his brother and hopefully lift the 'shock' placed on him, but the half-brother wasn't sure he wanted Sesshoumaru aware now. 'Well, that explains why he's been itching to jump in his own grave. His body is warning him.' Inuyasha thought grimly. 'This sucks. What can we do?'

What could they do? He was ruffling his own fur in his frustration. He let Kagome down and immediately retreated to the roof of her house to skulk. He had to think. No one who had been corrupted by Naraku had walked out without losing something. He'd lost Kikyo. Kikyo lost her life and the love in her heart. Miroku lost his father and could lose his life as well. Sango lost her family and almost lost her little brother. Kohaku lost his own trust in himself along with his family. And…there were countless others.

And those…were all nothing compared to what Naraku was hatching now. Puppeteering was a hobby of the monster's, but this was beyond just puppetry. This was slavery. This was taking free will and crushing someone's soul slowly. This was dominating someone as powerful as his brother and it send cold shivers down his spine. He wasn't entirely stupid. He was well aware that Sesshoumaru could have ended him several times. The power that could have ended him, being forced to submit.

Not only was Inuyasha afraid he couldn't bring himself to kill Sesshoumaru morally…but he was afraid he wouldn't even have the power with which to do so anyway.

Fuck.


A/N: Holy crap two updates in a week. The end of the world!

AT some point I will be going through this and fixing all my errors and fixing minor plot holes as I find them. I really hope this all doesn't seem too stretched. I was trying to keep these future selves from revealing too much, but reveal enough to secure the strength of the plot.

Let me know what you think at this point. I'm really curious to know if I've lost anyone storywise.