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Illumination by Kanna37

Naraku's Desires

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha. I also do not own Lies by Evanescence.

Chapter 1: Naraku's Desires

~oOo~

The girl known as Kagome slumped against her bedding, unable to fight the pain her body was in. She had been injured... it seems so long ago – I should be healed by now... right? Or was it yesterday? I can't remember... Confused, she thrashed a bit on the futon she lay on, before stilling once more with a pained whimper. Where am I, again?

Dazed, thoughts disappearing into the haze in her mind as fast as she could think them, she forced her eyes open, fighting the immense weight of them with all her strength, finally managing to slit them enough to see. Wincing, she blinked, then tried to focus on her surroundings.

“Wher-” she broke off in a croak, her voice almost unusable her throat was so dry. Eyes falling closed again as she coughed harshly, she missed seeing the person who moved to lift her enough to drink from the cup being held to her lips. Greedily, she sucked down the little bit of water that was allowed into her mouth.

“Carefully, little miko, carefully. You must not drink too fast,” came a deep voice – one that had her eyes flying open in shock and fear.

As she caught sight of her companion, she flinched back as much as she was able, tears of confusion and horror filling her eyes.

“Naraku!” she whispered, her throat still too dry and damaged to produce any louder sound. “What are you doing? Where am I?!”

The hanyou chuckled lightly, putting a finger to her lips as he did so. “Hush, now, miko. You are still very wounded, and your throat cannot handle too much talking at this point. It will take time for you to heal.”

Dazed, she nodded, floundering as she tried to figure out what was going on. Why's he being nice to me? She shivered as he chuckled again at the look on her face, and settled down at her side, straightening her blankets for her. She frowned, taken aback as his chest came into her view, visibly bandaged even through his clothing as though he'd been injured as well.

“What do you remember, Kagome?” he asked finally, after allowing her to run her eyes over him.

Her frown deepened. “Remember?” She cast her mind back, searching almost desperately for any kind of hint, any memory at all, that would tell her what was going on. After a few minutes, she gasped as it came to her.

“Kikyou!” she whispered harshly, still unable to get anything louder out. “She was attacking me... I don't know why. We had stopped for the night, and were setting up camp, when she came out of nowhere...” she trailed off, shaking her head slightly, trying to make sense of her garbled memories.

Naraku nodded, his red eyes pinned on her own. “Yes. And I was chasing her...” he said leadingly, and Kagome's eyes widened in shock as she stared at him.

“You... you saved me!” she choked out. “But... but why?”

He sat back a bit, settling more comfortably before answering her.

“You know I want the shards of the jewel,” he shrugged. “Kikyou wanted to kill you so that I could not use your eyes to find them.”

Kagome almost breathed a sigh of relief at that. Now that made sense, and didn't necessitate a major world shift in her way of thinking. “So you just did it so you could use me.” Closing her eyes for a moment, she breathed in deeply, trying to settle her stomach as the pain in her body made a wave of nausea wash over her. After a few seconds, she opened them again to find the spider hanyou watching her almost curiously.

“Why do you want the shikon so badly, Naraku?” she asked suddenly.

Brow rising into his bangs at her question, he sighed, then answered. “Truthfully? For something I'm no longer even sure that I want.” At Kagome's questioning look, he continued. “At first, I wanted to wish for Kikyou to love me. Now... I do not want her. She is not what I once thought she was – after what happened with you, I am beginning to think she and Inuyasha are perfect for each other.”

Taken aback, Kagome stared at him. “What do you mean?”

“Surely you remember? When Kikyou attacked you, the dog did nothing to stop her. Despite having sworn to protect you, even in front of me, he did not raise a hand to defend you when she attacked.” He flicked a sly glance at her which went unnoticed by the girl who was now searching her memory frantically once again. “He showed his true colors then – as did Kikyou. She is a hypocrite. She claims to be a miko, pure of heart, but she attempts to murder an innocent.”

Heart clenching as her memories assured her that Naraku was telling the truth, that indeed, Inuyasha had stood aside and done nothing against Kikyou, Kagome let out a harsh laugh at his words. “And that, coming from you, means what?” she grated out. “How many innocents have you murdered?”

He shrugged again, even as he raised the cup of water to her and let her drink more to ease her voice. “I have never claimed to be what I'm not. You know where you stand with me, miko – unlike Kikyou and Inuyasha,” he said bluntly. “I am honest, at the very least.”

Swallowing gratefully, Kagome found that she couldn't argue his point... it was, as he'd said, the truth. He'd never claimed to be good. Eyeing the bandages around his chest, she asked, “How did you get hurt?” as she slumped back in the bed, weary, in pain, cold, frightened, and so, so confused.

“Saving you. I was severely injured, little miko, because Inuyasha attacked as soon as I went after Kikyou to stop her from harming you.”

Kagome's heart broke as she took in his poisoned words. Inuyasha...

With a sigh, the spider hanyou stood up. “Your so-called friend has forsaken you, Kagome. It has been weeks since then – you were very near death, as was I, by the time I got us both out of there. Not once has he come looking for you. It would be best for you to accept that, and then forget it, and concentrate on healing. You still have some way to go. Rest, now, and I will return later to change your bandages and we will see then if you are well enough to eat something.” With that, he turned and moved to the other side of the futon, sliding open the small window to let in the warm, scented air from outside.

“Your room faces a small garden, and with as warm as the weather has been, I think it will do you good to have fresh air as you sleep.”

Kagome watched, bemused, as an oddly polite Naraku bowed his head to her and left the room, sliding the door shut quietly on his way out.

Am I dreaming? I'm so confused, she thought, as she drifted off into sleep.

And somewhere near, a spider hanyou chuckled.

Yes... I tell the truth... but that does not mean that I do not slant it to make it appear the way I wish, miko. The truth is always the most powerful weapon of all...

It's one I wield particularly well.

~oOo~

'You will never be strong enough, you will never be good enough. You were never conceived in love, you will not rise above.'

Sibilant whispers followed her through her nightmares, echoes of all the poisoned words Inuyasha had ever thrown at her.

You will never equal Kikyou. You will never be as powerful, as beautiful, as worthy. You are weak and clumsy and useless.

Taunting, bold, the words repeated endlessly as she fled through dark corridors and bloody halls, trying to escape the knowledge that he'd abandoned her, left her for dead in the arms of his most hated enemy. Memories of that last encounter poured into her sleeping mind, called forth by the words of the spider himself, and Kagome couldn't fight them, couldn't deny them, for they scented of truth in all their twisted glory.

It was the truth that Inuyasha had stood aside and let Kikyou attack. It was the truth that he'd always said those things to her. It was the truth that Naraku had defended her, and it was truth that he had an agenda for doing so, just as he'd told her. It was all truth... and she didn't want to believe any of it.

Why, Inuyasha? she cried out into her mind as she fled through her dreams. Why would you do this to me? Why haven't you come for me? Why did you lie to me?

Such a beautiful lie – you said you would protect me... but you didn't.

'Bound at every limb by my shackles of fear, sealed with lies through so many tears. Lost from within, pursuing the end, I fight for the chance to be lied to again.'

Despair began to eat at her, and slowly, she came to a stop, no longer running from her fears and pain in the dreamworld; instead, slumping to the ground and curling into a ball, she began to pray for lies in place of such cold, hard, comfortless truths.

They hurt less.

~oOo~

Blinking in the strong light from her window, Kagome slowly woke once again, for a moment wondering where she was.

Movement from the side of her bedding and a quick glance woke her to her surroundings once more and her heart froze.

“Naraku,” she murmured. She noticed immediately that her voice was stronger, and she hurt less.

“You seem to be stronger, Kagome, this time. The sleep has done you good,” he said neutrally. He held out a hand. “Come, let me help you sit up, so that I can check the wound on your shoulder.”

Hesitantly, not sure what to expect, Kagome gave him her hand, and barely held back a flinch when he gently pulled her up and supported her until she was able to hold herself in place.

“Come, Kagome, why do you flinch? If I had intended to be rough and cause you harm, I would not have bothered with all these weeks of trying to heal you. I am not one to enjoy wasting my time, as I'm sure you know,” he said, dryly.

More truth, Kagome thought with bitterness. I never thought I'd come to despise the truth so much... but then, I never figured I'd ever be in the position I'm in, either.

She nodded and simply sat quietly as he unbandaged her and began to cleanse her shoulder. After a few minutes of silence, she asked, “What happened to me?”

He paused in his ministrations for a moment at her question, then continued. “You don't remember?”

She shook her head. “The last thing I remember is an explosion of some sort, but that's all. My memory goes blank after that.”

“Your shoulder was injured when Kikyou shot you – had her arrow taken you just slightly lower, it would have hit your heart,” he said slowly. “The injuries to your torso and legs were caused by Inuyasha's Kaze no Kizu. That was probably the explosion you remember.”

Brow furrowed, Kagome tried to place what Naraku was saying. She remembered a sharp pain in her shoulder, screaming, and then the explosion, but little else. It was all a jumble in her mind... “Inuyasha used the Kaze no Kizu on you? When?” she asked.

He didn't answer for a few minutes, and she was beginning to think he wasn't going to, and then... “When Kikyou shot you, I attacked her, hoping to keep her from having another chance to target you. That was when Inuyasha attacked. I managed to injure Kikyou a bit, hitting her in her bow arm so she wouldn't be able to use it again, and then, when Inuyasha went after her to get her away from me, I grabbed you from where you'd fallen and managed to fold us into my miasma cloud.”

Kagome froze for a moment at hearing his words. You mean... Inuyasha left me on the ground with Kikyou's arrow in me and Naraku right there, and went to save Kikyou from a minor injury?! She blinked, then blinked again, feeling oddly numb as the knowledge of her abandonment sank in.

“Did he try to come after you after he got Kikyou to safety?” she asked, and he cast her a sidelong glance at her calm voice.

“No...” he said slowly. “He screamed a few threats at me, and demanded I drop you, but that was all. He put no real effort into getting you away from me.”

She nodded, still feeling numb. I always knew he loved Kikyou and not me, but I thought he at least cared for me as a friend. I guess I was wrong about that. I wonder if he bothered to go and tell my family anything?

Naraku checked the bandages on her legs, and seeing no new bleeding, left them alone. Re-covering the quiet miko's lower half back up with the blankets, he sat back and looked at her, red eyes glinting. “Are you hungry, Kagome?”

“I suppose,” she said, with little interest. Watching listlessly as he got up and went to the screen, she paid little attention to his conversation with whatever servant responded to his call, still lost in her morose thoughts. The only thing she really had an interest in at this point was...

“What is it that you want from me, Naraku? My shards-” she touched the necklace that was oddly still intact around her neck, “-and for me to find the remaining ones for you?”

The hanyou studied her for a few minutes before moving back over to sit against the wall in front of her, relaxing back against it. “Of course, I want you to find the rest of the shards, that is a given, wouldn't you say? But... I wouldn't say that's all I want from you.” He looked away, then, staring out the window into the garden. “We two are both in the same predicament, strangely enough. Both rejected by those we chose to give our hearts to. Perceived as lesser by those same people,” he murmured, “and left alone and empty. We can understand each other in that way, can we not, Kagome?”

She couldn't deny his words... they were true, after all. He hadn't been good enough for Kikyou, no matter the reasons behind it, and she had never been good enough for Inuyasha, either. Rejected love rather leveled the playing field – evil or not, unrequited love hurt just the same. It didn't excuse the things he'd done, of course, but she could understand his desire, the reason he'd done those things.

“Your solution to the problem was no kind of solution, though, Naraku,” she said quietly. “If you had to wish for love on the jewel, it wouldn't have been real. False love is worse than no love.”

He chuckled at that, a dry, bitter sound that hurt her ears. “I understand that now, Kagome. It doesn't change the past, though. The things I've done in my desire for the jewel can't be changed.”

She shivered. “You're right, they can't. So... since you've given up on love, what do you want the jewel for now? Power?” she asked sarcastically.

Dark hair fluttering in the breeze from the window, he slowly looked at her and shook his head. “Who said I have given up on love?” After a few moments of startled silence, the hanyou continued. “As for the jewel... I haven't decided what I want to do with it. My offer is this: travel with me to find the remaining shards of the jewel. Once they have all been found, we can decide what to do with it – who gets it.”

“You expect me to believe that you won't kill me the moment the last shard has been found and just take the whole thing for yourself?” she scoffed. “You double cross people all the time, Naraku – I'm not that stupid.”

Amused, he cocked a brow at her, flicking the fingers of one hand idly at her. “Perhaps, miko-” he said, red eyes flashing suddenly with something other than amusement, “-if the jewel was all I wanted from you. But there is something else, as I said before. It would not pay for me to kill you after only gaining part of what I want.”

Confused, Kagome stared at him, head tilted suspiciously. “Well... that begs the question then... what else do you want from me, Naraku?”

He watched her for a while, his gaze contemplative, before he finally spoke. What he said blew her mind away. “I would have your heart, Kagome. I want for you to love me.”

Stunned, she blinked, then blinked again. “B-but... why me? I mean, you, you're evil, and I'm not. Your heart belongs to the dark, and mine to the light. That makes no sense.”

“Doesn't it? Did you know that Sesshoumaru-sama, hater of all things human, desires the same thing from you as I now do?” At her deepening shock, he laughed. “Come, miko. What is it that the dark hungers for the most? Light. Your light draws he and I both – the darkness of our souls yearns to be filled by light – by your light.”

Kagome couldn't take in his words. Naraku would have her believe that not only he, but Sesshoumaru, the Western Lord who was known for his hatred of anything human, wanted her, the quintessential human? No... something was off, here. There had to be.

She began to shake her head, denying him and his words. “No way, Naraku. There's just no way. Why would anyone act so crazy over me? I'm ordinary – nothing. And if you are wanting light,” she snorted bitterly, then, “then I'm sure you could find someone with one much brighter than mine – I mean, I'm probably only a ten watt bulb,” she finished in an aside that wasn't really meant to be heard.

Her words angered him; it was apparent in his flushed cheeks, and dangerously reddened eyes as he sat forward to glare at her. “Now you spout that cretins words, Kagome, and that displeases me. Inuyasha is a simpleton. Do you think I, Naraku, would allow an attraction to develop to a worthless being? Not to mention Sesshoumaru himself. Do not try my patience with this again.”

“And that's another thing! Where in the hell did you get the idea that Sesshoumaru likes me? He'd as soon kill me as look at me!”

In the blink of an eye, Naraku was crowding her back against the wall behind her futon, pressing down upon her with his aura, dominating her. “I watch, Kagome,” he murmured darkly. “How do I always know the things that I know? But his desires do not matter, little miko, for I am the one that has you.”

Cold chills suddenly ran the length of Kagome's spine and fear entered her eyes. “You... you think you can force me and make me love you?” she quavered.

At that, he pulled back and the tension in the room eased; meeting her frightened eyes, he shook his head. “No. I am not so foolish. If a wish on a jewel for love could not bring real love, no more could force do so. I will... what is that term? Ah, yes,” he said, bowing his head almost mockingly, “court you as we travel.”

Bewildered, Kagome just stared at him for a moment, then her face dropped into her hands and she started to cry.

Taken slightly aback, Naraku looked at her for several moments, and then asked, “Why do you cry?”

“I-its...” she hiccuped, “what you want from me isn't love, Naraku – that's domination. I could never be your wife, mate, whatever, because, in your mind, love is domination. And where I'm from, women don't respond to that – we take care of ourselves, and don't need a man to tell us what to do all the time. Don't you see? I could never be submissive enough to be yours.”

Naraku looked thoughtful, then. “I have often wondered about this different time you are from,” he said, his interest clear. “I tried to go through the well, once, but even with my part of the jewel, and my own power, the well rejected me. Tell me about it. Tell me what the world is like in the future.”

Confused by the totally different male that was sitting before her, she tried to reconcile this Naraku, with the one they'd fought so many times before. It was like night and day. Then again... it's probably because I'm not defying him right now, and I'm the only one who can find the shards.

“Well, what do you want to know? I mean, in my time, nothing is like it is now – it's completely different. So, just pick a question, and I'll answer.” Not that it matters much what I tell him, since he can't get through the well.

Looking intrigued, the hanyou's red eyes flashed with restrained excitement. “What is the relationship between ningen and youkai in your time? Is it better than it is now?”

Kagome blinked, then blinked again. Well, and how do I answer that one? Will he fly into a rage when I tell him? “Actually,” she said slowly, “there are no youkai in my time. In fact, no one even believes they ever existed, thinking them fairy tales and myths. Before I fell down the well and landed here, I'd never seen a youkai.”

Naraku's eyes narrowed as he thought about that. It was certainly a shock, but... “That is why you have no training as a miko, then, isn't it?” he asked, immediately putting two and two together. Whatever else you could say about the spider hanyou, he was intelligent.

Kagome nodded. “Yeah. Spiritual powers are also myths and legends. I live on a shrine, and still never knew I had any sort of power until my fifteenth birthday, when I came here.”

He tilted his head at that. “That brings up another question, Kagome. You were fifteen when you first came here, you said?” At her affirmative nod, he continued. “Why is it that you are still unmarried? Is it because you lived on a shrine, and were expected to remain untouched?”

At that question, Kagome flushed and looked down at her hands. “No. In my time, the art of healing is very advanced, and we know pretty much most of how the body functions. We have found that the practice of marrying off a girl the moment she hits puberty is actually a bad thing. A girl continues growing until she's approximately eighteen, and if she's busy having babies all the time, it stunts her growth, and wears her body out faster, meaning she dies younger. Waiting 'til a girl is fully mature means we live longer.”

“I see.” He looked thoughtful for a second, brow furrowing as he pondered that. After a moment, he asked, “If things are so advanced in your era, do ningen live longer than they do now?”

“Yeah. Here, people look old by the time they're forty, and usually don't live much past that. In my time, it isn't unusual to live to ninety or a hundred years old. In fact, there are several people in Japan in my time that are over a hundred.”

Naraku looked surprised at that. “Hm. And what of the Emperors?”

At that, Kagome chuckled just a bit. “They are just figure-heads with no real power. The country is united, and ordered under a Prime Minister, who is the real power, instead.”

“There are no clan wars and uprisings?” he asked, confused.

“No... there are no Lords, or anything anymore – the caste system was abolished. Now, any person, male or female, can rise to wealth and prominence through study and dedication. Having a title pretty much means nothing in my world – to have power, you simply have to be wealthy,” she answered.

He shook his head. “Your time is stranger than I thought, Kagome.”

“You have no idea.”

“I can see now why you are so different to the miko of today,” he murmured. “Since there are no youkai to kill in your time, there was no need of miko, and you weren't taught to hate us on sight.”

“People are people, Naraku. Did you know that there are many races of humans, with different skin colors, as well? And there are so many people out there, that hate other humans, because of the color of their skin. That kind of prejudiced behavior isn't tolerated in my time, though.”

“Ah.” He nodded to himself. “Prejudiced. Yes. That is what humans are of youkai.”

“It's true,” she said, “but think – there are an equal amount of youkai that are just as prejudiced. Look no further than Sesshoumaru.”

He chuckled, and sent her a sly look. “Ah, but I already told you, his hatred is not all that deep – look at the human girl-child he protects. And then, there's his obsession with you.”

Frowning, uncertain why Naraku seemed so sure Sesshoumaru liked her, she asked, “I still don't get why you think he feels that way about me.”

“I've watched him many times as he follows along behind your group. Did you know that? That he stays fairly close during travel, and actually sits in the trees and watches you when you make camp? He has even saved your life several times, you all unknowing that you were even ever in any danger.”

With a deep sigh, he said, “Remember, Kagome. Dark is simply the absence of light. You are light, and I, and Sesshoumaru, are dark. What does the dark covet more than anything? Light,” he reiterated.

“Illumination,” she breathed, suddenly understanding.

He tilted his head in acknowledgment. “That is what drew the wild-thief Onigumo to desire Kikyou. Because, even as a human, his soul was dark. And suddenly, after living in darkness for so long, there was light, and he wanted desperately to keep it. That is why he offered himself to youkai.”

Brow furrowing, Kagome considered his words. But... “But that doesn't make sense. If youkai have dark souls that crave light, why then did you kill Kikyou immediately after being born?”

“Because even then-” he scowled, “-I could feel her duplicitous nature. Onigumo couldn't, but I, as Naraku, could and did see her as she was. Her light was weak and being swallowed by the darkness within her more everyday. She was nothing like you, who shines with a light brighter than I have ever seen. Truly, the kami created you to be the mate of a youkai, to chase away the cold darkness of our souls.”

“Kikyou was...?” she didn't finish, she didn't have to, he knew what she was asking.

“Kikyou was a hypocrite, like I've said before.” He looked at her with amusement shining in the depths of his eyes. “She wasn't even a virgin when Onigumo met her - I imagine Inuyasha enjoyed spending himself in her.”

Shocked, Kagome couldn't help but think on what Naraku was saying – of course, that's what he wanted her to do. He was slowly piling doubt into her, poisoning her mind against the inu hanyou. After all, it was nothing but the truth – Inuyasha had abandoned and betrayed her, leaving her to fend for herself against he, Naraku.

And though he probably felt torn and guilty as hell for his actions, that didn't change the fact that they were his actions. He couldn't take what he'd done back...

Lower lip wobbling a bit as she tried to keep from crying, Inuyasha's abandonment, harsh, hateful words, and constant comparisons to Kikyou, left her feeling like she'd been dragged through briar-filled mud puddles backwards several times.

It hurt.

All her hopes and dreams had come tumbling down, and now she felt adrift in turbulent seas, uncertain of what to do with herself. I'm not needed here...

“Maybe I should just go home. I mean, Inuyasha's got Kikyou now, and she can help him find the shards that are left.”

“Actually, Kikyou can't sense the jewel unless it is right in her face. So... you see, miko, you are needed. They all need you, but I am the one that has you.”

She shot him a half-hearted glare. “And I just bet that if I refuse to find the jewel for you, you'll torture and kill me, right?”

He tilted his head in contemplation of her words for a time, then looked back at her. “No... I will not do so.” He caught the surprised look on her face. “However, do not take that as proof that I am becoming good or any other such nonsense. Were you anyone else, I would do just as you thought. Torture and death-threats gain one a great deal of eager cooperation from normally contentious people.”

Kagome shuddered at his words, unable to understand his way of thinking – and not wanting to, either. She remembered an American movie from a long time back... Silence of the Lambs. She had never been able to watch it all the way through, because its vivid portrayal of a psychopathic mindset was too true, too strong, for her. It left her with nightmares for months – and she hadn't even watched the whole thing.

She had privately wondered if the author himself weren't dancing along the edges of violent insanity.

It seemed, however, that Naraku himself was doing more than dancing along the edges, and she felt frightened almost out of her mind; what was the spider really going to do with her, and how could she get out of it, and away from him?

Naraku had watched her thinking for several minutes, inwardly amused at her disbelief. And fear. He wondered what she would choose to do in the end – help him, or try to go back to the one that had betrayed her?

“Tell me, Kagome,” he asked after a short silence, “what are you really afraid of?”

She had been brushing a lock of hair behind her ear when he spoke; she stopped and stared at him, confused. “Eh? What do you mean, what am I really afraid of?”

He gestured at her. “Do you think I do not smell your emotions? It isn't only inu who can do so, you know. I can almost taste your fear – but it seems to have many edges, and I am curious as to what makes it that way.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose its because there's many things I fear. I fear to lose my family, to never see them again. I fear for my friends here, that they could be hurt or killed, and I fear being alone,” she said, that last part being added reluctantly.

He cocked his head to the side. “Intriguing. In all that, you did not mention fearing death for yourself. Do you not fear death?”

That one, she had to think about for a few minutes, but finally, she shook her head. “No... I'm not afraid to die. That doesn't mean that I want to, mind you, but if Kami will it, then so be it. I think, if anything, I fear the dying part, not death itself. It's the dying that hurts. Well, unless one is lucky enough to die in their sleep.”

She had started to droop again as she was speaking, and was visibly tired; he decided that it was time for her to sleep again. She would soon be ready to travel, and he didn't want to prolong her recovery any more than it had already been.

“Sleep, little miko. Your body is still tired, and needs the rest so that you may finish healing. I will bring you some food again when you wake.” He stood and quietly left the room, leaving Kagome more confused than ever. What is he really after?

With a weary shrug she yawned and lay back, slipping into sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Naraku, and his strange behavior, could be figured out later.

-oOo-

You fool!”

Those words, spoken with such vehemence and spite, caught Inuyasha completely off-guard. Not that he didn't feel that his brother was right – he was a fool for abandoning Kagome. No, what got him, was that it was his brother that was saying it to him.

Frowning, confused, he stared at Sesshoumaru, wondering what dimension he'd been dropped into. He had to be somewhere unknown – a place where his asshole brother actually cared about Kagome.

“Not that I'm disagreeing with you, you frosty bastard, but why the hell do you give a damn what happens to Kagome?” he asked, still not able to get past his disbelief of what was happening.

Sesshoumaru stared at his brother venomously, using every bit of his formidable will to regain control of himself, because if he didn't, Inuyasha, and anyone in the vicinity, would be dead. And that went for that undead bitch of his brother's even more so. He could almost feel her clay neck dissolving in his hand, and the thought brought much pleasure in its wake.

What made that thought so much more attractive, was the idea of doing it in front of an immobilized Inuyasha. He would so relish in the screams of the half-breed stain on the family's honor.

“You promised her protection, and then you broke that promise, you unfaithful little whelp! I should kill you now and cleanse your taint from the family's name,” he snarled.

“I promised Kikyou first, ya fuckin' idiot!” Inuyasha shouted back, the mention of his promise to the little miko weighing heavy on his heart.

Within the space of a second, he found himself against a tree with his homicidal brother glaring daggers at him, and choking off his air supply.

“No, you did not, Inuyasha. You promised the miko while your dead bitch was still in her grave. You had best hope I can find her in one piece and well – or your life, and your bitch's unlife, are forfeit – and Inuyasha, just remember,” he said, eyes rimming red and filling with an evil spark, “I will take great pleasure in making it a slow and lingering death – for both of you,” he almost whispered, allowing his brother to take in what he was saying, before opening his hand and letting the fool fall to the ground.

He stared menacingly down at the hanyou for one last moment, then turned on his heel and strode from the clearing, disappearing as quickly as he'd appeared.

Inuyasha just stared after him, beyond floored. Sesshoumaru hadn't answered his question as to why he was so concerned for Kagome.

The whole incident was just too unreal...

Or it would have been, if he didn't still have Sesshoumaru's handprint sizzling painfully around his throat.

~oOo~

Another week went by, and Kagome was finally up and moving around.

Naraku was most pleased with this – in all the time Kagome had been down, not one single shard had been found, by anyone. Her sight was needed.

Now, it wouldn't be long before he would be able to start his own search for the remaining shards, with Kagome at his side.

If he was lucky, he reflected as he watched her wander in the garden, she would remain at his side by choice after it was all over.

Power was all well and good, and he definitely craved it. But without someone to share it with, it became cold and empty. Oh, not that he meant to share the actual power, but he would certainly be sharing his life with her. He wondered what it would be like to have her light for himself – would it fill all the dark, empty spaces in his soul?

If anything could, it would be Kagome, and if even she couldn't, then there was truly no hope for him.

He thought back to Sesshoumaru's rage when he'd found out what had happened to Kagome, and smirked. As much as Kagome couldn't bring herself to believe it, it was true – the daiyoukai was obsessed with her, as much as he, Naraku was. But it was his own fault that he had not taken advantage of the fact that she was within reach while she had remained with his brother, and now it was too late, because he, Naraku, had no intentions of letting her go.

No, he mused, I will not let her go. I crave her light too much.

He stepped out into the garden, bowing smoothly as he stepped to her side, even as she watched him warily.

You will eventually come to be mine, little onna. It will take some time, but that is something that we have plenty of.

Neither one noticed the sakura blossom that fell to the ground – in a garden that did not contain any sakura trees.

~oOo~

Sesshoumaru watched with enraged eyes as Naraku walked out to join Kagome in her wanderings through the garden of his new stolen palace. He had found the spider quite easily as he followed the traces of Kagome's aura – the hanyou did not realize that the Inu Lord had long ago learned to detect even the tiniest traces of her scent and aura.

And now the woman that the spider so craved, had led his destruction right to him – without even being aware that she had.

But unlike Inuyasha, who would have immediately attacked with no plan, he watched, and waited for the best time to strike – when said strike would achieve not only Naraku's death, but his humiliation, before his death.

He smirked darkly at the preening hanyou – the fool didn't even realize that his death hovered just out of sight, and that he was being watched. No... his attention was all on the miko they both wanted.

Naraku might have her for now...

But he wouldn't for long.

Sesshoumaru continued watching and listening to his nemesis as he planned his downfall.

~oOo~

Kagome stiffened a little as she felt Naraku's presence enter her only safe haven in his palace. For some reason, his miasma had not been allowed to damage this place, as it had all his others. She couldn't help but wonder why...

As he joined her, she asked.

“Why is it that this place is still beautiful, and you haven't poisoned it with miasma?”

He looked a little surprised, but then answered calmly. “If I wish to keep you with me, and in good health, I need a place such as this, do I not?”

She shivered a little at thinking of living in his dark, poisonous previous lairs. “Well, I wouldn't be able to live someplace like those others for long, that's for sure,” she said quietly. “Another thing I've been curious about – where's Kagura and Kanna and Hakudoushi?”

There was a light chuckle from the male walking along peacefully at her side. “They are merely servants, Kagome, and have no need to bother you. When we leave to begin searching, they will accompany us, or be sent on errands, even as they are now.”

She eyed him uncertainly. “Oh...”

They walked quietly for a time, Kagome wondering again at the strangeness of a fate that would place her where she now was. She knew what Naraku said he wanted from her – and she was of two minds about his honesty. On the one hand, she knew that he had wanted Kikyou's love in the beginning, and so she knew that he was capable of needing affection. But on the other hand...

He was, at the bottom line, a sociopath. Violent, dark-natured, and one who enjoyed torture, he was not really capable of real love – only obsession. That, she ruminated, was where he differed from Sesshoumaru. Because as violent as the daiyoukai could be, he still had a heart, though it was deeply buried.

If he did not, there would be no Rin.

So he was capable of love, not just obsession.

She rather wished she'd have been captured by him, instead – if she were going to be a sacrifice to the darkness in someones soul, she'd rather it be someone who at least had some chance of returning the feelings they wanted from her.

Naraku would never be able to.

Oh, he could probably show some mild affection, but it would be an egocentric form, stemming from her actions – if she did what he wanted, he would play nice, but she had no doubts that he could and would hurt her severely if she angered him.

For now, she was being mild and meek, still trying to figure out what she was going to do.

It was clear that she could not return to Inuyasha – Naraku would merely come take her away again, and Inuyasha would let her go. She whimpered inwardly – that thought still hurt so much...

She was pulled from her thoughts by the smooth voice of the male next to her.

“You will be ready to travel soon, Kagome,” he murmured, glancing at her thoughtfully. “One wonders... will you choose to try to escape to run back to Inuyasha?”

Kagome shook her head immediately – she had just been thinking that same thing a moment ago. “Why? So he could abandon and betray me again? No, thanks. Inuyasha's out – I'm not going looking for trouble, and with Kikyou, there surely would be.”

“Then what will you do?” he asked.

“I don't suppose I really have any choice,” she said blandly, looking at him with a quirked brow. “the only safe answer is to say that I'll go with you. At least for now... I still haven't decided whether I believe your declaration to me. About whether I'd be safe with you or not once the jewel is found.”

He nodded slowly, red eyes sparking slightly as the wind ruffled both their midnight locks. “I am not surprised – I would also question anything that I said. It just goes to show your intelligence, which I admire – I cannot tolerate stupid people, and there are far too many of them. Ningens should be more careful of who they breed with,” he finished darkly, a certain look in his eyes that made her shiver.

She could understand him there, somewhat – sometimes, people did some pretty stupid things – like when she had trusted Inuyasha to stand up to his vow of protection. And he had... to the wrong woman. Eyes narrowing, she finally thought to ask...

“In all this time, what have Inuyasha and Kikyou been doing? I mean... you said she can't sense the jewel unless it's right in front of her, so...” she trailed off, curious.

“They are doing much of nothing. Inuyasha was not pleased when he found that Kikyou could not sense the shards like you can. I think he believes if he waits long enough, you will get out of my hold, and return to him, so that you can continue to hunt shards for him,” he replied directly.

Kagome couldn't help the dark chuckle that came from her lips, the sense of betrayal once again rising in her and bringing with it a bit of bitterness.

“Yeah, well, I guess he'll be waiting forever, then, ne? Even if you let me go, I would not return to him. It wouldn't be safe for me, and that's it. I won't go where I'm not wanted, or where someone just wants to use me.”

Naraku didn't say anything to that, but his expression was arrogantly pleased – she was weaning away from Inuyasha most nicely. It wouldn't be long before she would feel nothing but frustrated anger that he had abandoned her as he had.

He ignored her words about being used...

But the daiyoukai watching and listening did not.

He was quite pleased with her words, because of all those around her, he was the only one who did not want to use her for anything.

He simply wanted her.

~oOo~

That last week of rest sure passed fast, Kagome thought, even as she followed Naraku as they left his palace behind. Although, this time, I won't have to do a lot of walking, what with Kagura carrying me on her feather. Boy... is it uncomfortable, though... with her staring at me like I'm going to bite her.

Naraku saw no reason to walk as the Inu gang always had, since he had other modes of transportation available. It was faster, and more economical – it spared Kagome's strength, which was still not at a hundred percent. She was a bit out of shape after being bed-ridden for so long.

Still... it's better than walking that road, she mused, looking down at the boggy mess they were currently flying over. I'd be exhausted five minutes after setting foot there.

She was pretty sure that Kagura was so silent because Naraku had ordered her to be – but she wished he hadn't said anything to the wind youkai – she'd even be willing to be cussed at to get rid of the awkward silence.

With a melancholy sigh, she began to wonder if she'd ever have her freedom again – or would she be forced to stay by Naraku's side forever? She couldn't even imagine such a fate, but if Inuyasha had abandoned her, then she was doomed – Sango and Miroku would try to free her, but they'd never be able to find her, so that was no help, either. It made her miss her mother and brother and grandfather like she never had before. Maybe... if she ever got the chance, she would just go back home and seal the well – then she wouldn't have to ever worry about coming back here to the sengoku jidai.

It was the only hope she could see, and she clung to it – not realizing that her salvation was much, much closer than she thought, and watching her with wanting eyes.

It would not be long before she would be out of Naraku's grasp – and into his own.

The difference was that he would not lose her to someone else.

Several days passed in that manner – wake, eat, search for shards, then settle for the evening, during which Naraku would engage her in conversation. It was strange – for all that he scared her, he was a decent conversationalist. It was at least interesting.

They had found two more shards, though there were several more out there, and Naraku didn't try to keep the shards out of Kagome's hands, going so far as to make a large pouch to keep them in, and gifting it to her. She had been a bit surprised, though she shouldn't have been, if she'd thought about it.

He was trying to work his way into her good graces, after all.

But it would never work – while he was almost sickeningly nice to her, his mask came off when dealing with anyone else, and he didn't seem to realize that would drive her away. It was like he thought that she wouldn't care how he treated others, as long as he treated her well.

That glimpse of self-absorbed naivety startled her at first, but as time went on, she began to understand some of what made Naraku what he was.

The darkness in him was so large that it had swallowed him, leaving nothing behind but a desire for power – and revenge for his rejection by Kikyou. She could understand that, at least, even if she didn't see it the same way, most people would indeed have held a grudge over it.

Not that that excused his behavior, because it didn't, and she became more antsy the longer they traveled, praying for some way out of the mess Inuyasha had left her in.

She certainly hadn't expected it to come in the manner it did – or at the hands of the person that it did, either.

That was her first hint that maybe what Naraku had been saying all along had been correct.

~oOo~

“There's a shard close by, Naraku,” Kagome said quietly, as they rested at midday. “It's not moving, either.” Closing her eyes, she concentrated, then opened them and pointed out the direction for the suddenly intense spider hanyou. “This way.”

Kagura stood up without saying a word, pulling one of her feathers and then motioning for Kagome to get on. Within moments, they were ready to go, and with not one word more, the group moved out in the direction that Kagome had indicated.

It didn't take more than a few minutes of travel for the youkai in the group to feel the shard, as well, though they couldn't pinpoint its exact location, they could feel its influence. Naraku began to move a bit faster, clearly eager to gain it and add it to their collection.

As they broke through the treeline and onto the flats that the shard was somewhere within, they all froze with shock, as did the group of people facing them – they had come across Inuyasha, Kikyou, and the others, and Kagome could do nothing but stare at Inuyasha accusingly.

And despite the fact that she'd thought she would have plenty to say to the hanyou if she ran across them again, when it came down to it, she found she had nothing at all to say to him. So she just continued to stare at him with betrayal in her eyes.

Naraku broke the stunned silence first. “So – you managed to find a shard with that useless bitch, did you, Inuyasha? How lucky. But it is even better for me, because now I get to take it away from you.” With that, he attacked, Hakudoushi helping as Kagura floated her feather further away so that none of the group could get to her, as Sango and Miroku were desperately trying to do.

Kikyou, on the other hand... “See! I told you, Inuyasha – she should have been killed! Now she is helping him!”

Kagome couldn't let that one go. “Not like I have any choice, Kikyou,” she yelled angrily. “Thanks to you, I got taken by Naraku, and there's not a lot I can do about it!”

Before the undead miko could respond to that, Kagome found herself snatched up from Kagura's feather as the wind witch was knocked from the sky by something, and, panicked, Kagome twisted her head up to see who had grabbed her.

She found herself oddly glad to see Sesshoumaru, though shocked, and she relaxed her tense muscles, allowing him to pull her closer to him as he attacked Kikyou.

Breathless, stunned, she watched as the undead miko once more became the dead miko, turning back into dust and slowly drifting away in the breeze. Every soul that she'd taken burst out from the dust of her second death, all but one streaking into the distance - followed by Inuyasha's desperate scream of her name, and Naraku's laughter.

The spider stopped laughing when he caught sight of Kagome being held by the daiyoukai, though. Instantly enraged, he never had the chance to move before he found himself under attack, and the only reason he managed to escape death in that moment was because Inuyasha interfered in his own attempt to kill his brother for Kikyou's death.

Kagome was quick to note his lack of care that she was also in the line of fire. That proved beyond a doubt that the first time had also not been an accident – he had forsaken her entirely, and Kagome could only feel a cold emptiness inside at this final betrayal.

With Naraku and his minions fleeing the field, and Inuyasha attacking, Sesshoumaru had no recourse but to let the spider go, though he had every intention of taking that loss out on his brother's flesh. He had also made note of the fact that he was attacking even with Kagome in the way, and he determined to make his brother pay for that, in blood, as well.

Coming in to land at the edge of the flat, he motioned to something back in the trees, and Ah-Uhn stumped forward. Sesshoumaru strode over to the dragonet, placing Kagome carefully on his back.

He finally looked at her, and Kagome, for the first time ever, didn't flinch at the ice in his gaze – she knew it wasn't directed at her this time. “Stay here,” was all he said, but Kagome nodded agreeably, not arguing at all.

Without another word, he turned to meet the oncoming attack from his brother, and expertly drew the battle away from Kagome. She watched him intently for once, her attention on him, and not Inuyasha.

He really is beautiful, she thought, distantly surprised that she'd never noticed before. Despite the fact that's he's fighting, which is something I hate, I can't even look away from him.

She shifted from her thoughts, to what was happening before her as Inuyasha started screaming at his brother. “You bastard!” he yelled, agony in his voice and desperation in his actions. “Why the fuck did you do that to Kikyou? She wasn't doing anything to you!”

Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed with hatred as he pulled his sword back for another blow, determined to see the end of this stain on his family's name gone forever. He had no honor, and Sesshoumaru could no longer countenance him living. It was time he joined his worthless lover in hell.

“Your tainted bitch is awaiting your presence in hell, hanyou, and you will now be joining her,” he said, voice cold as the windswept mountains of the north.

“I ain't goin' nowhere until Naraku is dead, you fuckin' prick!” he gritted out, barely avoiding a slash that would have taken his head clean off. He looked over to where the fluffy bastard had stuck Kagome, surprised that she hadn't tried to stop this fight like she always had before.

His brother noted the direction of his gaze, and promptly forced it back to him with another powerful blow that numbed Inuyasha's arms. “Seek not to return to her favor, half-breed,” he said acidly. “To do so now after your betrayal of her, twice, no less, is even lower than your previous behavior. You prove your lack of honor with every breath you take, bastard child.”

Inuyasha was beginning to tire, and realized that his brother really was out to kill him this time. He knew he wouldn't last long, but his heart still bled that Kikyou was gone, again. He couldn't stand that thought.

The fight would have ended in just a few more moments if Kagome hadn't ridden Ah-Uhn right into the middle of the battle, and Inuyasha smirked at his brother, thinking that she had come to save him, even after everything – he still had his hold on her heart.

The daiyoukai stared at her for a frozen moment, his eyes demanding an explanation for her interference. With a soft, but firm voice, she gave it.

“The portion of my soul that Kikyou had just tried to come back to me, but I turned it away, sending it to hell where it belongs, Sesshoumaru-sama. So she is suffering for her evil acts now, and will never be reborn. But Inuyasha... he betrayed me, twice now, and I don't think death is the answer for that.”

Sesshoumaru was intrigued; he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes on her. “Continue.”

Kagome looked at a heaving, panting Inuyasha coldly, no trace of warmth in her eyes for him, then turned her gaze back to Sesshoumaru. “He's proven his disloyalty, and I'd say it's time for him to understand what he's done. If you kill him, he can't suffer for his actions.”

The Inu Lord was taken aback at her answer. “You would see him suffer?” he asked. “I had not thought you so... vindictive, miko.”

She shrugged. “I'm not. But that's the only way he'll learn. He needs to understand that he can't betray others and expect to get away with it. If you kill him now, he simply joins Kikyou in hell – which, in the end, is what he wants.”

He kept his sword trained on the hanyou as he thought over her words, then inclined his head curtly. “I accept your reasoning.” He stepped back and sheathed his sword, smiling sadistically at his brother's shocked stare at her. Turning, he motioned for her to follow, and she did without a single glance back at Inuyasha.

Now that the fighting had stopped, Sango and Miroku approached, clearly wanting to know what had happened to their friend in all these weeks. Kagome was positive Inuyasha hadn't told them the truth.

“Sesshoumaru-sama?” she asked, voice tacitly asking permission to talk to her friends, and after a moment, he simply stopped and waited for them to join her in conversation.

“Where's Shippo?” she asked first, before anyone could get a word in.

Sango answered, a little tentatively, even as she handed Kagome her bag, which had been lost when Naraku had taken her, not knowing what had gone on with Kagome, or how she was. “We left him with Kaede. We thought... with Inuyasha and Kikyou, that he would be safer there.” She glanced at the cold Lord that was ignoring them, then back to her friend. “Kagome... what happened to you? Inuyasha just said that you'd gotten yourself captured.”

Kagome cast a scathing glance at a still prone Inuyasha as she settled her bag on her lap. “No, I didn't get myself captured, he and Kikyou got me captured. In fact, as weird as it is to say it, Naraku actually saved my life. I was dying, thanks to Kikyou putting an arrow through me, and Inuyasha using the Windscar to try to take out Naraku, not caring that I was in the path of his blow,” she spat out, angered at the hanyou's manipulation of the truth.

Both Sango and Miroku gasped, though truthfully, they weren't really surprised to hear her words. They'd suspected it was something along those lines.

“Why did Naraku want you, Kagome?” Sango asked.

“The same reason Inuyasha wanted me – to find shards. Although he decided there might be another use for me... he wanted me to love him,” she said bleakly, her mind going back to the dark days as his captive. She'd feared being left in his clutches – a life with him would be horrible beyond belief.

The two that were listening to the story for the first time were shocked, completely caught off-guard at her words.

“He wanted my light,” she continued, gaze distant as she lost herself in the memories of her time in his company, facing his particular brand of madness. “Illumination for his dark soul, he said.” She missed Sesshoumaru's quick glance, those words echoing his own desires – at least partly.

Miroku spoke up after a silent moment. “My question is this. What is it then, that you, Sesshoumaru-sama, want from Kagome? Why did you save her, and where are you taking her?”

The daiyoukai weighed the monk eyeing him, considering whether he should answer. He chose to do so simply so that Kagome would know exactly what he wanted from her. “You ask if I want her for her abilities, correct?” he asked, his voice even colder than before. “My answer is no. I have no need of her shard-hunting capabilities.” He looked smug for a moment, then. “It appears that I am the only one that does not want her for them. In answer to your second question, she is going with me, where she will be safe while I hunt the spider.”

Everyone looked surprised at his words, Kagome not because of its content, simply that he'd spoken so much. He rarely did.

Before Miroku or Sango could argue the point, Kagome shook her head at them. “I choose to go with him, you guys. Naraku will be back for me again – and with Inuyasha, I'm not safe – I might as well hand myself back over to the spider and save him the trouble.”

She was answered by Sesshoumaru. “If Inuyasha had not interfered, the spider would already be dead. Since he is still alive, however, I will say this; he will not be allowed to recapture you.”

That was all he said, but it was enough, and Kagome nodded in acceptance of his words. She didn't need to hear any more than that – she knew that she was safest with him.

With a deep sigh, Miroku nodded as well; he'd watched the daiyoukai, and believed his words – Kagome would be safe with him. He was curious, however, as to why the inuyoukai had gone out of his way to save her. He would have been shocked to learn that Sesshoumaru had set up the whole confrontation in order to get her away from Naraku.

It had worked, too – except where his brother had stopped him from finishing the spider once and for all. Still, the most important part was gaining the miko from him, and that had succeeded. As Inuyasha finally regained his feet and began to stumble towards them, he turned without another word and walked away, Ah-Uhn stumping along behind him immediately, a strangely complacent Kagome still sitting comfortably astride his saddle.

“Oi! Bastard, you killed Kikyou, and now you're running off with Kagome?” he shouted. “When are you gonna bring her back? We need her to find the rest of the shards so Naraku can't!”

Sesshoumaru paused in his step; without turning around, his voice dangerously cold, he said, “I have no intention of returning the miko to you. She will stay with me from now on.” And to the tune of Inuyasha's ranting and threats, they disappeared under the eaves of the forest, Kagome not looking back once.

Inuyasha slumped, suddenly feeling every one of his injuries, the loss of Kikyou, and the loss of Kagome. He'd not meant to ever target her – the times that it had happened he'd been out of his head and lost to all sense. But despite the fact that he'd had no intentions of hurting her, he had, and he knew it, so her accusations of betrayal were justified, and he couldn't deny them, much as he wished to.

He still couldn't believe, though, his brother's intervention, nor the fact that Kagome had chosen to go with him of her own free will.

Once again, he was stymied by the hateful Sesshoumaru's actions over Kagome.

For the Lord that hated humans, he sure was hell-bent on protecting one.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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