I am reposting Second Best as it was taken down by ff.net because the summary was not 'G' rated. Under their rules snippets of dialogue may go beyond polite conversation but do not go beyond common everyday expressions. However, what they don't seem to take into account is that an everyday expression in one country is not the same as what is in another. I am not American, therefore I do not know what is a common everyday expression in America, besides I thought ff.net was for the global community and not just Americans. I have asked ff.net for a list of accepted expressions, but they have not replied (what a surprise) even though I pay for support services.

Anyway, I have taken the opportunity to revamp the story a little. It is now R rated with more .er.interaction. between the main characters ^_^ Hope you enjoy it!

Second Best

by kmf

Rating R

Warnings: Language, Limey in parts

Chapter One

"Get the fuck down!"

Inuyasha shoved Kagome hard, sending her flying onto the muddy ground. The impact stunned her, pushing the breath from her lungs and making little black dots dance before her eyes. As she tried to pull air into her objecting lungs her eyes glanced up to see Inuyasha slicing with his claws at the huge locks of hair that had come so close to impaling her.

Kagome dragged herself to her knees, vaguely aware that Shippo had jumped on her shoulder and was asking again and again if she was all right. She nodded absently, sparing a moment to caress the concerned kitsune with a muddied hand before turning her attention back to the battle before her.

They had come across Naraku sitting in a clearing, swathed in his baboon skin. His appearance had been so sudden that all five of them had been caught unawares. No pleasantries were spared on chat; Sango had unslung her boomerang from her back and hurled it at the demon. He had merely lifted a hand and sent it back with a pulse of power. It impacted on Sango's midriff sending her flying back, bouncing a couple of times on the hard ground before laying completely still.

Miroku had glanced once at the fallen warrior to be sure that she was still breathing, then ran towards Naraku, his staff spinning. Inuyasha was at his side, his face pulled back into a snarl, his fingers hooked and claws extended. But Naraku was ready for battle. As soon as he had redirected the boomerang back to Sango, his shape had begun to change. Black tendrils of hair had appeared through the fur of the baboon pelt, thick and searching for targets. As the tendrils grew longer, they absorbed the skin and swelled so that soon the pulsing mound of hair stood half the height of the surrounding trees.

They all now knew that this was not Naraku, but one of his puppets; Naraku, watching the battle at a safe distance, would be guiding it. Puppets were deadly; they had no fear of getting hurt and every desire to cause as much destruction as they could. At the center of the monster would be a small clay figure instilled with Naraku's magic. Break that figure and the puppet would be destroyed.

Kagome had been concentrating on the huge puppet trying to sense where its power was located when it had suddenly sent a lock of hair her way. She was lucky that Inuyasha had seen it and pushed her to safety, although the look that Inuyasha was throwing at her distressed her. She knew that once the battle was over she was in for the rough side of Inuyasha's tongue.

Inuyasha was leaping and swiping with his claws, shredding hair trying to work his way to the center of the puppet. He yelled a further warning to Kagome as another strand shot out her way. She was faster this time, running swiftly, and it impacted feet behind her sending up fragments of rock pulverized into dust. Kagome, coughing, placed a hand over her mouth as the dust irritated her lungs. Looking over her shoulder she saw that Inuyasha's attention was back on the puppet; this time no angry glances were being sent her way so she knew that she had reacted fast enough to satisfy the hanyou.

Sango was still down; Kagome could see her on the far side of the Naraku puppet. She frowned, she wanted to be sure that Sango was safe but was not sure whether she would be swift enough to make it past the puppet to Sango's side. Pulling on her hair, Shippo reminded Kagome of his presence. She lifted the kitsune down and pointed to Sango.

"Go make sure she is safe," she instructed, confidant that the little demon could run swifter than she ever could.

Shippo nodded obediently and dashed away, evading the writhing locks of hair. Kagome turned her attention back to the battle. Inuyasha had now unsheathed Tessaiga, demonstrating that the puppet was a formidable adversary. The puppet, being instructed of the danger it now faced, sent a lock of hair in Sango's direction. It swiped away Shippo who was bravely trying to defend the fallen girl, then wrapped itself around Sango's waist pulling her up and back towards the rest of the seething mass of hair.

Inuyasha cursed. He could no longer use his sword's attacks for fear of hurting his companion, nor could Miroku use his air void. Kagome could, however, use her soul arrow and to that end she unslung her bow. She was aiming when suddenly she heard Inuyasha snarl.

"Naraku!"

Following Inuyasha's glare she saw that to their right, nearly hidden by the trees, was a figure swathed in what looked like a baboon skin.

* * * *

They had been so loud of voice and careless of step that he had been aware of their approach for some considerable time before they became aware of him. Or rather, before they became aware of his puppet. It amused him to watch them scatter helplessly as he instilled his toy with a fraction of his power, causing it to expand and rise and lash out at the insignificant souls that hunted him.

Only one merited any of his attention; the young miko. That one resembled her so closely that it could only be they shared the same soul. He directed his puppet to attack the others careful that any attacks directed towards her were easily avoidable. He did not wish to harm her.

Not yet.

As the skirmish continued, Naraku found that watching her from a distance did not satisfy his curiosity and he found himself edging ever closer to her. She in turn had moved closer to him and a few well-aimed blows from his puppet caused her to come yet closer. Soon she was so close he could easily discern her face, her eyes, the way her chest rose and fell with her uneven worried breathing.

She was not a perfect copy of Kikyou as he had first thought. Her hair fell with wild abandon about her shoulders and Naraku fancied that even when she had brushed it smooth it would not sit with such elegance as Kikyou's hair did. Nor were her eyes the cool calm cold orbs that graced Kikyou's face. This girl's eyes were full of fire and passion such as he had never seen in Kikyou's; even in the throes of a mortal wound.

Naraku pondered as he leaned up against a tree, his fingers pushing into the bark, his mind only half on the battle. He wondered why it was this Miko drew his attention. Certainly she looked like the dead Kikyou who once he had lusted so badly after. But since becoming Naraku he had lost the wild passions that once flowed through his veins. Or so he had thought until he had seen her.

A strange new feeling had snaked its way into his veins. Not lust. It did not burn as lust once did. Rather it was a deeper feeling; magnetic and compelling. Fascination for the girl drew him closer still until he could almost taste the warm spicy aura that radiated from her, pure and scented. He wanted nothing more than to savour it, touch it, instill himself within it.

He watched as she lifted her arrow aiming towards his puppet. He had witnessed her purity attack before and knew that it would devastate his puppet, but he did nothing to stop her. Rather he watched with fascination as she concentrated on aiming her arrow, her eyes clear and focused on her target.

"Naraku!"

She hesitated in her attack and swung her eyes towards him lowering her bow startled at his proximity. The others focused their attacks towards him making him turn his sight away from that which he most wished to gaze upon. He narrowed his eyes.

He would make them pay for their interruption.

* * * *

The puppet redoubled its efforts, tendrils of hair spinning out to impact the spot where Inuyasha had been just seconds before. Earth exploded upward causing Kagome to raise an arm to shield her face. A small crater bore witness to the ferocity of the attack. Inuyasha and Miroku both were forced to battle the puppet instead of its master who stood still and tall not ten feet away from her.

Inuyasha was swearing loudly, his mouth drawn back into a snarl, his eyes narrowed and determined. Miroku did not have time for words, his face shone with sweat as he swung his staff against the monster that had increased yet again in size.

A shiver passed through Kagome as she felt a sudden touch to her cheek. Her head spun around to see that Naraku was now standing next to her. She stumbled back half a step in surprise and fear, her hands gripping her bow so tightly that her knuckles shone white. The baboon figure was ugly, yet the hand that had touched her cheek was smooth and soft and surprisingly warm.

As she watched, Naraku lifted his hand and pulled away the baboon pelt allowing it to fall to the ground around his feet. He was beautiful and Kagome felt her grip loosen on her weapon. His ebony black hair spilled over his shoulders liquid and silk like. His eyes bore into her own so that she felt that she could not look away. She could see herself reflected within his dark eyes disheveled and untidy, her mouth partially open in her surprise. His lips drew into a small smile and he reached out again this time running his thumb over her lower lip.

Electricity shot through her at his touch causing her breath to catch in her throat. She wanted to pull away from him, but equally as much she wanted to reach out and touch him too, to feel the texture of his skin under her fingertips.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha yelled her name, frantically hacking hair with Tessaiga, attempting to get closer to her. "For fucks sake, shoot him!"

The spell was broken. She stumbled back away from his touch and lifted her bow. He stood still his eyes never wavering from hers. Aiming, she narrowed her eyes trying to dispel the tingle she still felt in her lower lip. She loosed her arrow only to see Naraku momentarily disappear and the arrow fly through the spot where once he stood. She felt partial relief that she had not hit him and more than a little irritation that she could have missed from such a point blank range.

Warm arms encircled her, and turning her head she saw that Naraku now stood behind her holding her firmly in his embrace. He breath tickled her ear and her hands suddenly could no longer hold onto her bow. The weapon fell to the ground at her feet, her arms slack at her side.

"Kagome!"

Inuyasha once again called and she could see him leap through the air in her direction, evading the seeking tentacles of hair. She watched as his eyes widened in horror as before he, Miroku, the puppet, the very landscape faded from her view to be replaced by inky darkness and silence.

* * * *

When Kagome opened her eyes she found that she was in a room. It was large and dimly lit; in one corner lay a folded mattress with bedclothes neatly stacked on top. Next to it was a small set of drawers. Nothing else furnished the room.

Kagome blinked at the sudden change of scenery then became aware of two strong arms snaked around her holding her firmly against a warm body. For a moment she thought it was Inuyasha holding her close and she relaxed in the soothing embrace. Then she became aware that the long hair that tickled the side of her face was black and not white.

Startled from her complacency, she twisted, her head looking up to see that it was Naraku, not Inuyasha, who embraced her. He gazed down at her impassively making no comment although as she did begin to struggle his arms tightened imperceptibly. Kagome, spurred by more than a little fear, twisted out of his hold staggering forward a few steps as she gained her freedom.

Looking around, she quickly saw a doorway and bolted for it, momentarily surprised that Naraku made no move to stop her. When she slammed into a barrier, falling backwards onto the floor, she realized why. The room had been shielded and she could not leave.

She climbed unsteadily to her feet and frantically pushed against the barrier, slamming her fists against it desperate to escape from the demon whom sought to steal the shards from her. As she pounded all she could think of was the anger that Inuyasha would show when he found that she had lost all that they had collected. Tears began to slide down her face as she realized that she did not have the ability to break through and she slid down to the ground trying to hold back the sobs that welled up inside her.

Kagome kept her head bowed and eyes tightly closed as she heard footsteps approach and prepared herself for the attack she thought was coming. When all she heard was silence she opened one eye nervously and looked up to see Naraku standing beside her, his arm extended and hand open to her.

She hesitated for a moment, then pushed herself up onto her feet ignoring his offer of help. Naraku made no comment, merely tucking his hands into the open sleeves of his kimono and staring at her. Kagome again backed a few paces until she felt herself press up against the barrier and she could go no further. Her hand went unconsciously to the little bottle that hung around her neck, which contained the collection of shards so desperately fought for.

"What do you want?" she demanded, pushing back the tears and looking at him.

He stood still and calm and continued to look at her. Once again Kagome felt herself begin to fall under the spell of his beauty. Not a lock of his hair was out of place, his face was placid. His eyes were hypnotic, their dark depths difficult to look away from. They stared at each other, Naraku completely still whilst Kagome breathed heavily, sniffing on occasion from her emotional outburst.

Naraku moved first, reaching his hand out towards her. Kagome clutched her necklace more tightly.

"I will die before I give you these!" she declared, determination colouring her voice.

But Naraku did not try to take the shards. Instead his hand caressed her cheek. A soft, gentle touch that made Kagome catch her breath in surprise. He bent his head towards her, smoothing his thumb along her cheekbone lightly in a sensual movement. His breath tingled against her skin as his mouth dipped to whisper in her ear.

"How sad that you love the dog so much when he loves a ghost."

Kagome could not help the tears that welled up in her eyes at his quiet observation. She blinked hard to clear her vision. When she had, she realized that Naraku had left the room.

She fell again to her knees allowing her tears to well up again now that she was alone. The comment Naraku had made was what she most feared in the world. That Inuyasha would never love her for herself, but would only ever see her as a pale insignificant shadow of Kikyou. That her love for him would never be returned, that she would never find comfort and happiness in his arms. She lifted the back of a hand to her eyes, attempting to rub the tears away.

Movement drew her attention back to the doorway. Kneeling in the entrance was a woman, dressed in a white kimono folded left-hand side first around her body, as a corpse would be dressed. The woman's skin impossibly white, and her swept up hair was silver. She bowed low respectfully before entering the room, sliding the screen door shut behind her. In her arms, she held carefully folded material that she placed in front of Kagome before bowing again, her head this time remaining bowed to the floor between her hands.

Kagome eyed the material suspiciously, before tracing a finger over the fabic. It was silk, soft and warm to her touch. She winced a little as the rough pads of her fingertips snagged the material slightly. She looked to the woman, who remained bowed. Frowning slightly, Kagome stared at her wondering if she was another of Naraku's children.

"She waits for you to undress yourself."

Kagome spun around to the door to see that Naraku had returned. How he had entered the room without alerting Kagome with the sounds of the door sliding open, Kagome did not know. He stood dressed in a plain white robe, untied so that glimpses of his chest could be seen.

"...Undress...?" Kagome repeated, her eyes going wide in fright.

"Your clothes are..." Naraku trailed off, looking at her attire in some disgust. "...in want of some care," he finished.

Kagome followed his gaze and almost smiled at his apparent tactfulness. Her clothes were in dire need of some care; her skirt was ripped and dirt clung to it. Her blouse was crumpled, and soiled with both dirt and blood. Naraku turned so that his back was to her.

For a moment or two Kagome stood quite still staring at his back wondering if she could trust him. Then she smiled. He was a demon, not some adolescent boy who would die for a glimpse of a girl naked. She quickly pulled off her shirt, unzipped her skirt and let it pool around her feet.

Unfolding herself from her kneeling position, the white lady stood and helped Kagome slip on the juban, a plain white cotton top and skirt that served as undergarments. Next she reverently held up the silk kimono, sky blue and embroidered with magnolia blossoms in silver thread. Slipping it over Kagome's arms, and settling its heavy folds over her shoulders, she circled around Kagome once, checking to see that seams were straight. Apparently satisfied, she returned to her position before Kagome and wrapped the right side of the kimono around Kagome's body.

The white lady's fingers were cold against Kagome's skin as she pulled the fabric tight, and adjusted the juban collar so that it showed beneath the blue silk of the kimono. Looking down, Kagome saw that the kimono had settled in folds around her feet. With the elaborate tying of the obi the folds would be gathered up and draped so that the kimono would hang evenly around her ankles.

Next, the white lady bound the koshi-himo belt around Kagome's waist before wrapping the date-jime belt over the excess material of the kimono. Finally, she unfolded the obi, long and beautifully embroidered, and wrapped around Kagome's waist twice, before tying it into an elaborate bow at her back. Kagome almost sighed at the luxurious feeling the silk gave her against her skin.

"You like it."

Naraku had somehow come close to her and breathed the words into her ear, causing tingles to spin their way up and down Kagome's spine. She could not help herself. She shivered. He moved around to her line of sight, one eyebrow raised.

"You are cold?" he questioned, running a hand up her silk encased arm, barely touching her but causing her to shiver again.

"No," Kagome said more firmly than she thought possible, given the situation she was in.

Naraku smirked and pulling back his arm, sat down on the floor cross-legged and easy.

"Sit," he commanded.

"What do you want?" Kagome asked, refusing to do as she was told and wondering how long it would be before Inuyasha would come to her rescue.

Naraku's gaze hardened and he motioned towards her. Kagome felt waves of power spin around her, the very air thickening and pushing her down onto her knees. She tried to resist but the weight of the air was too much. She collapsed to the ground panting with the failed effort of trying to stay on her feet, her hair falling forward to mask her face.

Two strong arms grasping hold of hers made her lift her head and she prepared herself to fight the demon off. But the hands were strangely gentle as they pulled her close to him, and his face seemed to hold no malice in it. He lifted her so that she was sitting on his lap, his hands trailing up and down her arms smoothing any hurt his grasp had given her. She sat still and frozen trying to ignore the feel of his breath on the back of her neck.

"What is it about you that intrigues me so?" he murmured, his hands moving up her throat, trailing into her hair and smoothing it back.

Kagome frowned. She knew what it was. Naraku had known Kikyou. It was her resemblance to the dead miko that had caught his attention, the same as it had Inuyasha. It seemed that she was forever to sit in the shadow of the woman who had caused so much change in those two demons lives.

He seemed to read her thoughts and chuckled a little as he produced a comb and started to work it through her hair, playing with her as if she was a doll.

"You are completely different from Kikyou," he said, working rhythmically through her hair, "Physically you resemble her a little, but your soul is different. It is larger and braver. It is stronger and purer."

Kagome listened as he worked his comb, becoming almost hypnotized by the rhythm of his strokes and his deep voice.

"I wonder how many times that soul has been reborn between now and your time," he mused. "Many times, I think, for it to have altered so much. It has already been reborn once in this era, which in itself is strange. Usually a soul is dormant for many years before seeking a new life. Did you know that the child that wanders with Inuyasha's brother is also one of your incarnates?" He smiled at her disbelieving face, "Obviously you had no idea, but I imagine that others who have met you both have noted the similarities." He shrugged " But your soul is much stronger than Kikyou's or hers. I wonder what your soul has achieved between now and then to make it grow so large," He paused in his combing, bent his mouth to her ear. "You are far more beautiful than Kikyou ever was."

She moved her head away from his mouth trying to distance herself from his touch, but an arm snaked around her waist holding her firm before he started to run the comb through her hair once again.

"It is a pity that you have been forced into this life," he continued, "It is a shame that you are so burdened by the sins of others."

"I broke the shard," Kagome whispered so softly that she was not sure that Naraku would hear, "I am happy to try and fix it."

"Happy?" Naraku questioned, putting the comb down on the floor beside him and trailing his fingers through her now smooth hair, playing with the warm mass. "You don't seem happy when I watch you."

Kagome stiffened again, "You watch me?" she asked.

"I find it.." he hesitated, "..I find it pleasing to watch you."

Kagome could not help but fleetingly wonder if Inuyasha found it pleasing to watch her too. Naraku seemed to sense where her thoughts were going.

"The dog watches you too," he said, "But I wonder what he sees. Does he see Kikyou, or does he see Kagome?" his fingers continued to trail up and down in her hair.

"He...he is pledged to Kikyou. He pledged to save her and I understand that," Kagome again struggled against his grasp of her. This time he let her go, allowing the hair to slip through his fingers as she moved away. She knelt across from him staring at him. "I understand that," she repeated.

Naraku smiled a little. "And what of you when that pledge is completed and he dies to be with Kikyou as he surely will?"

Kagome bit her lip. Naraku reached forward to her again, running his thumb gently against her cheek.

"You need not be alone," he said, leaning his head closer to hers.

Kagome found that she could not turn away from him. It was not a spell that this time kept her still and quiet as he approached; she felt none of the swirling energy that had encased her body before. This time the energy was all within her, tingling in her abdomen as he leaned towards her, her heart beating rapidly as she watched his lips draw near to hers.

"I would not let you be alone," he breathed, his lips brushing hers as he spoke.

* * * *

Inuyasha sniffed the air, his eyes narrowed and his mouth pulled back in a snarl. Kagome's scent was there, faint yes, but there. Which meant that Naraku had not taken her far. He could not help the growl that rose in his throat as he thought about Naraku's arms around his Kagome, how Naraku had held her close and how he had stolen her away. Unfamiliar fright and desperation had welled up in him as Kagome had faded from view, her eyes wide, startled and seeking his, her mouth partially open as if she was calling for him to come and save her.

But he hadn't been able to; he had allowed her to slip away from his reach. If only he had been faster, if only he had seen that the shards had been the object of Naraku's attack. If he had realized it just seconds earlier he could have prevented the shards and Kagome being spirited away. And if she had been paying attention, she could have prevented her abduction by just moving away from their enemy. And just why in the hell had she hesitated to shoot when she had the chance?

He growled again, still sniffing the air trying to sense which direction Naraku had traveled. Naraku's odour offended his sensitive nose; dark cloying scents of decaying triumph woven with an acrid smell of desire which made Inuyasha scowl. Naraku was getting his kicks from stealing the shards from right under Inuyasha's nose. Sniffing again, Inuyasha concentrated on Kagome's scent, warm and light it danced above the heavier notes of Naraku's smell.

Breathing deeply and feeling calmed by Kagome's essence, Inuyasha determined which direction they had gone. Ignoring his other companions, he leapt up into the trees bounding from branch to branch. He could travel much swifter without them; Sango was unconscious from being struck early on in the battle, Miroku was distracted by concern for her and Shippou was only a child. None of them were any use to him; the only thing he needed was Tessaiga.

.

He kept inhaling deeply as he traveled, reassured as Kagome's scent grew stronger and there was no accompanying smell of blood, so no indication that she had been hurt. Yet. Inuyasha could not help the growl that welled up in his throat again. The image of Kagome lying mortally wounded as Kikyou once had been at Naraku's hands came unbidden to his head. He could not, would not allow that to happen again.

Trees blurred to a streak of green in Inuyasha's peripheral vision as he traveled even faster towards the apex of Kagome's scent. He patted his blade lovingly as he traveled. Tessaiga would get both the shards and Kagome back to where they belonged. With him. He grinned; he would get Kagome back and he would kick Naraku's arse to hell and back again for even daring to touch what was his.

And then he would have a serious discussion with Kagome for allowing herself to get into such a situation in the first place.

TBC