Again, many thanks for all the wonderful reviews. I appreciate each one, especially the ones encouraging me to continue. This story wont turn into a long one. At the moment there are just three chapters, but I am seriously considering a fourth chapter ^_^

Hope you enjoy this chapter of Second Best ^_^ Please do let me know what you think!

Second Best

By kmf

Rating: R

Warnings: Language, Lime

Chapter Three

Holding Kagome tightly in his arms, Inuyasha tried to comfort the shivering girl. He could smell her emotions clearly; her anxiety, her desire, her sadness entwined with the cool clear smell of the water he had so recently doused her with, together with the faint whiff of Naraku that lingered on her skin.

He could not stop the growl that welled up in the back of his throat. Naraku had taken her, Naraku had touched her, he had even marked her and it irritated the hell out of him. If Naraku had taken the shards, Inuyasha could have understood. But the demon had told Kagome that he wanted her and to Inuyasha's surprise she seemed to have listened.

When he spoke, he almost winced at how harsh his words sounded.

"Make me fucking understand what happened!" he demanded.

She stiffened in his arms and struggled a little, but against his superior strength she had no chance of freeing herself unless he allowed her. And he was damned if he was going to let her go. She seemed to realise this and slumped forward in his arms. The sharp smell of salt came to his nose and he knew that her eyes were leaking; the annoying human habit that affected him so deeply. He loosened his arms a little, allowing his hands to caress her arms in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. The tears increased.

Quietly, sniffing often to suppress the wetness of her eyes, she started to speak.

"He wanted me..."

Inuyasha, safely behind her rolled his eyeballs. This he knew already.

"And I liked the feeling of being wanted....for myself," she continued.

Inuyasha snorted and twirled her so that she was facing him. Her cheeks were wet, her eyes cast down and her perfectly white teeth were biting her bottom lip so hard that he thought she would make it bleed if she was not careful.

"And what the hell does that mean?" he demanded, confused by her words. "You are wanted, you are needed. We all need you!"

Her eyes flashed up at his, momentarily angry. Inuyasha hid the grin that threatened to break out on his face. This was his Kagome, fiery and determined, not the passive, depressed woman he held in his arms just a short moment ago.

"You don't need me! You need the shards and I am just a means to an end. If I hadn't been able to sense the shards and if you hadn't been restrained by the subduing spell you would have got rid of me a long time ago. I'm second best to you, always have and always will be!"

In her anger, she shoved at his chest pushing him as hard as her weak human arms could. He allowed her to as he tried to absorb her words. It was true that when he had first encountered her nothing would have pleased him more than to get rid of her. She had been annoying and clumsy, and in her ineptitude had shattered the jewel that he had waited so long to get hold of. She had been forever uttering the words to initiate the subduing spell that Kaede had placed in the necklace that sat around his throat; in short she had been a complete pain in the arse.

But as time had gone on she had proven herself time and time again; her miko powers had grown and she could hold her own in any battle they encountered. She had matured; he couldn't remember the last time she had activated the spell (although that might have been because he tended not to piss her off as much anymore). And she was devoted to their small band, loving Shippou as a child, Sango and Miroku as siblings and himself....

He frowned.

"I'm second best to you, always have and always will be..."

He finally understood. Kikyou. He sighed and bowed his head as he felt the anger drain away from Kagome. She had seen the sudden realisation in his eyes and it sapped the remaining strength and anger from her.

"Sometimes..." she said hesitantly, grasping onto his sleeves as if she was scared he would suddenly run from her at the mention of Kikyou's name, "...sometimes I wish that I didn't look so much like her. If I didn't, then maybe you wouldn't compare me to her. If I didn't, then perhaps you would forget her, move on to love someone new..." her voice had become subdued and quiet.

"I'm second best to you..."

He pulled her into his embrace, feeling the way she shivered against his chest, and he stroked her hair in what he hoped was a comforting gesture.

"Stupid bitch!" he muttered and half smiled as her subdued sobs changed into a splutter of indignation.

He placed his chin atop of her head and held her close. So that was what Naraku had thrown at her; his relationship with the reanimated miko that he had known and loved so long ago. He frowned as he held her, wondering just how much Kagome thought about Kikyou to be so affected by Naraku's offer.

Inuyasha and Kagome never talked much about Kikyou, at least not since the time Inuyasha had made it clear that he had pledged himself to saving the older miko. He had thought at that time that he had frightened Kagome off, but she had returned quietly accepting Inuyasha's decision and silently offering her hand in friendship to him.

Ironically, that had been the moment that he had seen his relationship with her as something more than friendship. At the precise moment she had pushed down her desire to have him as more than a friend, he had felt desire well up in him. Not since his mother had died had anyone offered him so much for nothing in return; Kikyou had wanted him to give up his demon half but Kagome accepted him for who he was.

But he had pledged himself to saving Kikyou and he was not someone to renege on an oath. So he had not spoken of his growing feelings, determined to set Kikyou's soul to peace before he could offer himself to Kagome. But even though he had not spoken outright to Kagome, he had assumed that she knew what his feelings were. After all, he treated her as he would a mate, all except bonding with her. He was fiercely protective of her around other males, he provided food for her when her own supplies ran out, he protected her from harm when danger was near, and he provided, on the most part, shelter from the elements when they travelled together. Besides, he reasoned, she was female and ought to have an inherent third sense for his regard for her.

However, given her present state, he had obviously been mistaken.

"Stupid bitch!" he murmured again, this time affection tingeing his voice. His lips brushed the top of her head, his nose taking in her scent. He tried to find the words to tell her that she meant more to him that any person living or dead..or for that matter any one who was the living dead..but the words would not form themselves in his mouth. He was not articulate; he was a warrior not a scholar. His lips trailed down to her ear, his breath catching a little as they sensed her soft earlobe. He would just have to show her rather than tell her.

He nibbled at her earlobe, smiling a little at the way her heart suddenly began to beat faster, and the way her breathing became shallow. Encouraged by her reaction, he moved his lips along her jawbone, nuzzling her smooth skin, relishing in the taste and feel of her. As his mouth finally captured hers, he felt her body lean into his, pressing so close to her so that he felt the gentle swell of her stomach next to his. He could not help the small moan that sounded in the back of his throat as she opened her mouth to his, allowing his tongue to enter and taste her.

Her hands freed themselves from his sleeves and wandered their way up to his hair, caressing and touching and pulling him ever closer to her. When her fingers began to stroke his ears, he growled as a sudden burst of desire flooded his groin. He pulled away, looking down at her. Kagome's eyes were closed, her lips swollen from his kiss, her hair still wet and her kimono falling open slightly. At that moment, she was so desirable all he wanted to do was throw her to the ground and bury himself in her forever claiming her as his. He lowered his head once more to nuzzle her neck, and was brought up short by the mark that Naraku had placed there only minutes earlier. The sight of it marring Kagome's skin brought him up cold and he pushed himself back away from her.

Kagome in a daze opened her eyes slowly and saw Inuyasha staring at her, his eyes focused on her neck. She blushed as she raised a hand to cover the damage that Naraku had done to her skin, her teeth once again biting down onto her lower lip. Again the soft growl welled in the back of Inuyasha's throat as he focused on her mouth whilst wishing that he was biting on her lip, not her.

She sighed once, as she began to turn from him and in that moment Inuyasha knew that she had not understood his silent message and that she needed it from him in words. He grasped her elbow and pulled her back to him once more. He felt her shiver again, though this time it was from the cooling evening air on her wet kimono and hair rather than from his touch alone.

"Stupid bitch!" he said once more as he lifted her off her feet and moved back to the fire which, long neglected had burned low.

Setting her down on a stone, he turned to tend the flames, carefully adding small bits of wood to nurse the embers back into life. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye, watching her closely to make sure that she didn't bolt away from him. It was damn irritating that she didn't understand; how much easier it would have been if she were a demon or even a hanyou. Then she would be able to smell the scents that he gave off whenever she was near to him, she would understand the claim that he had made toward her. And she would understand that he was unable to follow through until the shards were joined, Naraku defeated and Kikyou at rest.

But she wasn't demon. She couldn't pick up on the obvious signs that he could. He would have to explain them to her as he would an innocent pup. He tossed a final log of wood into the fire and turned to Kagome.

She sat where he had placed her, one hand still over the mark on her neck, her eyes staring vacant into the fire. She seemed so lost and alone as she sat there, Inuyasha felt the overwhelming urge to sweep her up into his arms once again. Frowning at his lack of restraint, he instead crouched in front of her. Kagome seemed to stare right through him, lost in her own thoughts. Reaching out a claw, Inuyasha tapped her lightly on the nose, instantly bringing her focus back on him.

He watched with interest as she looked at his lips, a flush rising in her cheeks before travelling down her throat. Absently he wondered just how far down the blush went, before he watched the rosy glow fade. Opening his mouth to speak she interrupted him by lifting her hand to his lips.

"Don't!" she murmured, "I understand. I know that it was a mistake to kiss me," she trailed off. "I know that you are pledged to Kikyou-," she broke off with a little shriek of pain as Inuyasha bit the fingers that she had pressed against his lips.

"Don't start that 'second best' crap again," he growled, grabbing her hand as she tried to pull it away from him. He licked the little indentations his nip caused her fingertips silently chuckling as again her breath caught in her throat. "Yes, I am pledged to Kikyou. I don't deny it, and I won't forsake her. But I am pledged to grant her peace, not to mate with her. And yes, you do look similar to Kikyou, but that doesn't mean that I am forever comparing you to her," he paused, pulling her hand down against his heart. "When I look at you I think of how annoying, overbearing, irritating and bossy you are. And how loyal, devoted and loving you are," he squeezed her hand, his thumb caressing the back of her hand. "I think of how I miss you when you go through the well and I think how much I want this quest to be over so that I can make you my mate."

Kagome blinked.

"You..you want me as your mate?" her voice was slightly disbelieving as if she was unsure that she had heard correctly. "But...Naraku..."

Inuyasha snarled.

"For fucks sake, Kagome!" he said in irritation, "When has Naraku ever told the truth? He preys on human weaknesses in order to get what he wants. Just look at the way he used Sango!"

Kagome flinched a little at his harsh words, her eyes travelling down to the kimono she still wore. She nodded at Inuyasha's words and he was pleased to see that she accepted his words. He let go of her hand and sat beside her, cross-legged on the hard ground, watching the flames. Because she was a somewhat dim bitch when it came to understanding his feelings for her, he decided to tell her once more what her position was so that she knew and understood and would never again doubt him enough to follow after any other male.

"When we have succeeded, you will be my mate. And if you ever stray again..." he paused looking pointedly at the mark on her neck before flexing his fists, allowing his claws to gleam in the light of the fire.

Kagome chuckled at his gesture, throwing him a little. She was supposed to be suitably brow beaten by his dominance, not amused, damn it!

"I guess you really are the jealous type," she said, her face brightening into a wide smile for the first time since they encountered Naraku earlier that day. Her hand drifted across to touch Inuyasha's knee, a gesture that sent a renewed thrill of desire shooting up his leg to his groin. "Arigato, Inuyasha," she whispered, "I will be your mate."

"Feh!" Inuyasha snorted, shifting slightly trying to hide the evidence of his want from her within the folds of his clothing, "Like you had any option anyway!"

She withdrew her hand and stood up, and began to fiddle with the kimono she wore. He felt his eyes widen as she undid the obi, allowing the length of material to drop to the ground, quickly followed by the kimono itself. Her pale body glimmered in the light of the fire, and Inuyasha found himself swallowing deeply as he looked up at her.

He had caught glimpses of her body before, but never this close. He had not realised just how beautiful she was and the primitive need to immerse himself within her rose up once again, burning him with its intensity. She seemed not to notice his heated look, instead she kicked the kimono onto the fire with an elegantly arched foot, and watched as the flames dimmed, then surged as they caught hold of the material.

Inuyasha stood, averting his gaze from her, and removed his haoru. Wrapping it around his woman, he grunted in satisfaction at what she had done. Her act was one of denying Naraku and rejecting what he had offered her. Pulling her close to him, he sunk back to the ground, cradling her in his lap. She was now completely free of the tainted smell of Naraku; she now smelled satisfyingly of himself. Relaxing in his embrace, she rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes exhausted from the events of the day.

He smiled down at her snuggling form satisfied that she finally understood.

* * * *

Naraku observed the kimono he had given Kagome burn in the flames of the camp fire. He frowned. The stupid woman had made her choice, although it was one that surprised him. He had been sure that the enchantments he had entwined around her would have held fast and the desire she had felt for his human form would have made her reject the less than perfect hanyou.

He shrugged, turning away from the mirror whose reflection showed Kagome cradled in Inuyasha's arms, her face soft with a new found inner calm. Maybe he should have made the enchantments stronger, maybe he should not have released her so quickly. A day in his company might have achieved what a couple of hours had not.

Naraku waved a hand across the surface of the mirror, the image Kagome faded from view to be replaced with Naraku's own image. He smiled slowly. She had made her choice and it was a decision that she would have to live with. His smile stretched, revealing perfect teeth. Or more aptly it was a decision Inuyasha would have to die by. Laughter welled up in his throat, echoing around him, as he turned from the mirror and walked away.

And in the distance, Inuyasha's sensitive hearing caught the sound and he pulled his mate protectively closer to his chest.

The End?