I currently have no computer since my brand new pc is in the shop, which is why i haven't posted anything in light years. I'm doing this at work, which is not something that can happen on a normal basis, sadly enough. All my readers of my more known fics, if you're reading this, please bear with me in the interim. I will be back as soon as possible.

Well, I don't even remember how long ago it was that I said I was going to write this fic, but I've finally done it, thanks almost exclusively to my currently dead computer. (It's in the shop…and in really bad shape…gonna cost me a fortune to repair…) Right now I'm at my boring job, all alone in the office, and figured I'd type some of the fics I've written over the past two weeks so I don't have as much catching up to do later when I can finally post them all.

For those of you who don't know, this is part of my "Kuma Arc". It's a story that focuses on an original character, but in spite of that, I promise, it doesn't suck. This particular story won't make any sense outside of the rest of the arc though, so if you haven't, I suggest you give a read to, in this order: "Falling Over You", "After Love", "All He Needs", and "Before There was You". This story, "Love Like Water", is a sidefic to "Before there was You" and if you read this first, it will totally ruin the previous story.

Warning: Character death, but if you read the previous story, you already know this, and it's no one you'll miss anyway.

As always, I don't own Inuyasha or any of its characters, locations, etc. If I did, I wouldn't be working in the most boring office on the planet, that's for damn sure. Any original characters herein, however, are my property, and should you like to use them, I request that I am given proper credit. Blah. (Good, the boring part is over.)

Now, that said, on with the story…

Love Like Water

by: Banshee Puppet

She had a way of loving that was like water; it flowed, expecting nothing in return, but slowly it wore away at you without even realizing it. You didn't realize it either, not until it was too late.

Naraku watched blandly Kanna's mirror. It was the image there of a girl he knew all-too-well, that was the most unsettling. 'Why have you returned to me?' he wondered, 'after all this time.' She had teamed up with Inuyasha and his insipid little friends, appeared to know that irritating miko quite well. 'Why are you still alive?' he wondered. 'And why do you have that?'

Kagura spoke up after a long pause. "Do you want me to obtain the jewel shard from her, Lord Naraku?" she asked.

"No." He said it immediately and with an air of finality. "Let us wait a while and see what happens. I believe it will prove to be quite interesting."

"As you wish, Lord Naraku."

"Leave me," he said. "Both of you."

"Yes, Lord Naraku," the sisters said in unison.

'They are my children, extensions of myself. Why then, is it so different with her?' But he knew the answer. It was different because she was his only true child, his only real daughter. It was different because he couldn't harm her. Even if she had a jewel shard embedded into her heart, even if she ended up destroying him, it didn't matter. She was different because she was the one he couldn't kill. 'And I am weak to you even now, Kuma.'

# It had been nearly two decades ago, when the girl was born. Naraku had, at the time, thought his revenge carried out. Inuyasha was pinned to the god tree by a sacred arrow. Kikyo was long since dead. But there was something like a niggle in the back of his mind, something that told him to become stronger, to not rest, something that told him to be cautious. And it was this niggle that bid him breed with the Cougar Witch, Ajika, to this end.

Nearly a year later, he found a hanyou infant shoved into his arms. "Kill her, Naraku," the witch demanded, and he had smirked and walked off without a word. It was only a small baby. Kill it? There was nothing in the world simpler—or so he had thought at the time.

Looking back now, the fatal moment had been when he looked down into those wide, caramel eyes staring up at him full of curious trust. 'Who are you?' they had asked him then.

Naraku stood, making his way through the castle and to his private quarters. He allowed only Kohaku beyond these doors, and that was only because the child was a puppet who only saw what he let him see. But now, Naraku was alone. He pulled a chest out from the closet and lifted the latch. Motes of dust spiraled up into the air before settling about him. These were his secret things—that which no one was allowed to see.

He lifted a thin yellow blanket in his hands. The left corner was charred. 'Damn you, Kuma. Damn your eyes.' He pulled the blanket to his face and inhaled deeply. Her scent had long since faded from the woven folds. 'Damn you, Kuma. Damn you for making me like this. Damn you for surviving.'

Naraku lifted a dried out daisy gently and stared at it for a long moment. 'Thank you, for surviving, Kuma…my beautiful little girl. I hate you so much that I love you more than anything. You have ruined me.'

# It was Autumn when the baby was born, not warm particularly, but not yet cold.

"How should I be rid of you, hm?" Naraku wondered as he watched the infant tug on a negligent strand of his hair. He lay on his side, idly tracing random patterns over the yellow blanket that covered her. "You're mine, so I'll do it with my own hands. That, at least, I will promise you. Your father will be the one to kill you. No one else is permitted to harm you in any way, only me."

Naraku didn't know what had caused him to make the girl such a strange promise, but he had done it, regardless.

He poked at her nose and she latched onto his finger. 'Kid has a grip like a grizzly bear,' he thought off-handedly.

He freed himself from her death grip and laid her down beside the fire. It was late and time for rest. If she got burned to death in the night, all the better. It would be less troublesome for him. But when he awoke about an hour before dawn to find a wolf ready to make a meal of the girl, he instinctively sent a tentacle through the beast, tearing it to shreds.

Blood splattered about the site and he lifted the baby, putting out the tiny flame that had begun to burn its way through her blanket irritably. Using his sleeve to clean the blood from the infant's face, he said, "I suppose that's enough sleep," and carried her off into the woods. 'Why did I just…' he began to think, but realized he had the answer already. 'Because no one is permitted to kill her but me, that's all. It's not as if I wish to 'protect' her or anything.' His mind spat out the word 'protect'. No, it had nothing to do with protection or love, not even remotely. He was Naraku, after all, and those who are as evil as himself cannot possibly love, at least, that is what he liked to pretend. But the child was his, his own. She rarely cried, always looked at him with wide, curious eyes, a completely trusting gaze, and he had made her, not a part of himself—the child was not an extension of Naraku (nothing like an arm, or a leg)—but a separate entity entirely that was still in a peculiar way, a piece of him.

He did not know what to think about that, even now, many years later.

# Naraku pulled a few strands of gray fur from the yellow cloth. Wolf's fur. The wolves had followed them then. He couldn't say how many he'd killed in those years. The scent of the cougar was yet heavy on the child when she had only just been born, and the grudge between the two youkai tribes was deep and long. As the daughter of Ajika, the witch of Kunukanai, that places the baby in a very dangerous situation.

Ajika had killed the head of the wolf tribe, causing heavy fragmenting as multiple parties vied for power. Civil discord among the wolves was heavy then and had cut the wolves' numbers nearly in half. Yes, the grudge between the two youkai clans was deep, even now they fought for control of the Northern Lands. Naraku did not want to get involved in such things, but involvement is a matter of choice less often than of circumstance.

"Lord Naraku." Kagura's voice. He stuffed the blanket away.

"What is it, Kagura?"

"You asked to be kept informed about that girl. Something interesting has come to our attention."

"What is it?"

"It appears that Sesshomaru of the West has also taken an interest in her."

Unseen beyond his door, Naraku's eyes widened slightly. "Has he? That is interesting. Has he made any move?"

"He follows Inuyasha's group. Beyond that, nothing at this time."

"Hm. I see. Keep an eye on him then. Let me know if anything changes."

"Yes, Lord Naraku."

The hanyou listened to the wind sorceress's footsteps disappearing down the hallway.

"What does Sesshomaru of the Western Lands want with you, hmm? Kuma, is he after your jewel shard, or is it something related to his brother once again?" Naraku wondered. Unlike his younger brother, the quiet Sesshomaru was only easy to understand half of the time. His motives were finicky, and on this new development, an enigma, at best.

Naraku stared down at the tiny daisy, but no, that would be getting ahead of his train of thought.

He ran his fingers once again over the yellow blanket and let his eyes drift closed. To formulate an effective plan of action, he had to have everything clear in his memory.

# It was still Autumn, but edging into winter. Having had a particular dislike of the cold at that time, Naraku decided to spend the season in the South, but he would never get there.

'It is a long trip. I will be rid of the child here,' he decided, rising up out of the hot spring and reaching for the baby. He sank down once again into the water. The heat forced a week-long chill to seep out of his bones. He held the little girl before him, pudgy and naked and found himself transfixed by her eyes once again. It was then that a voice hit his ears. "You have to support the head."

Naraku nearly jumped out of his skin. Had he really been so distracted by the silly child? He knew the answer; there was no denying it. She kept hypnotizing him with her trust without even intending to do so.

"What?" He turned his head. It was a human, a peasant woman of no particular note, not uncommonly beautiful or ugly, come to do laundry. 'There must be a village nearby.'

She blushed and downcast her eyes at his unclothed state, even if he was fully covered by the water. "I'm sorry," she said. "The baby. You have to support her head."

"…oh," was all Naraku managed to answer. Without thinking, he lifted his hand from the warm water to support the infant.

'What am I doing? I should kill the infant and the woman!' his mind hissed at him, but his body didn't seem to feel like listening. The woman kept her distance, her eyes down. "You are new to fatherhood?"

"…yes, you could say that."

"And…if I may ask…your wife?"

"I have no wife."

"Oh! I…uhm…" A single mother was one thing, it meant the woman was either a widow, or a whore, but a single father—this was unheard of.

"That woman has no interest in this child." That was a lie. Ajika was very interested—interested in seeing the baby dead. Naraku mused on the infant for a long few moments. There was no reason to keep her alive, not really; she always needed things, and she soiled herself, and it amazed him how quickly a baby who can't even hardly move yet, could get dirty… …but… but if he raised her, made her indebted to him, that was one more tool to use towards increasing his own power. A daughter and a weapon. The idea was enticing.

"Is there somewhere nearby that I can obtain milk for her?" he stated more than asked.

"Oh! Yes, just come to Tifu Village. Follow the western road. It's hardly an hour's walk from here. Well, take good care of the two of you!" she smiled at him. A plain woman, and kind, she placed her laundry back into the woven basked and stood. Normally, Naraku would snap the neck of a woman like this if it suited him. However…

"Oh, her name?" the woman inquired. "I forgot to ask."

"Kuma," he stated instantly, surprising himself. When had he named her, or decided to? "Her name is Kuma."

"That's…very cute, but an unusual name for a girl."

"She is unusually strong."

"She is an infant," the woman laughed. "They are all that way."

"Oh." 'Are you really only ordinary, my little Kuma? I won't believe that,' he decided.

"But it is a good name. I will see you in the village, mister…uhm…"

"…" Naraku considered a moment. Kindness would not suit his name, and neither would it lend him any further reputation. 'Then I will simply have to see the village destroyed.' "…Naraku."

"Well then, Naraku-san. We will likely meet again. My name is Kagura."

"I will remember it."

# The new moon had passed and Naraku was glad to have his demon strength back. 'This weakness is loathsome.' He reflected on his dream. Kagura. No. Kagura was a woman who he could not possibly forget. Her name had etched itself deeply into his psyche. He thought by giving it to his wind sorceress he would be finally free of it, but as it stood, she only haunted him more for that decision.

"Lord Naraku."

"What is it Kagura?"

"In regard to that girl…"

"Yes?"

"The jewel shard has been removed from her."

'What? How? Kuma, you aren't dead, right? I'm the one who has to kill you, no one else!'

"…and?" He surprised himself with how even and disinterested his voice came off—a pleasant surprise when his chest felt so suddenly swollen and threatening to thud right out of his chest.

"She was attacked by a crow demon. Sesshomaru has taken her back to his palace in the Western Lands. I believe he has a soft spot for her, my lord."

"I see. That is quite interesting. Do nothing yet, but keep me informed."

'I wonder, Kuma, if he will be as fond of you when he learns the truth. But, for now, I suppose you are safe with Sesshomaru. It can't be helped, since your youkai blood has not awakened,' he thought.

# His mind drifted back to Kagura of Tifu Village. When he'd entered the village, she was folding the now-dry laundry, and she hurried over to him. She was a young woman, he noticed now, no more than twenty. "Welcome to Tifu!" she said cheerfully. "My father told me to give you this." She gestured him over to her and held out a baboon pelt. "It looks hideous, I know, but the winters are cold and it will keep you both very warm."

"…Thank you, Kagura-san," he answered politely. Something felt off somehow, like a thousand eyes watching. He knew it must be Ajika and instinctively held Kuma a bit closer to his chest.

"Well, let's get that milk!" she said cheerfully.

Every detail was so fresh in Naraku's mind, even now, that it amazed him.

# "Lord Naraku?"

He silently waited for the wind sorceress's latest update.

"The girl is at Sesshomaru's home in the West. She heals, and he has returned the jewel shard into her possession. Inuyasha's group is looking for her as well."

"Other than that, nothing has changed?" he inquired. 'What will it take to wake you, Kuma?' he thought.

"Lord Naraku?"

"Never mind."

"Yes, Lord Naraku."

# It was late and Naraku decided to stay one night in the comforts of the village. It had been many weeks since he had had the comforts of a futon and a warm blanket.

He awoke in the dark to the cold glow of silver eyes. Haioh. Even Naraku did not have the strength to defeat that hypnotic stare, not then. He was immobilized, cursing his current weakness.

"Ajika would know when you intend to slay the child," Haioh stated.

"When it suits me," Naraku returned coldly.

"I have instructions, Naraku. If you value your sanity and your life…"

"Do not interfere with me," Naraku warned despite his current situation. "She is mine, and I will do what I will with her." And yet, Naraku was frozen in place, unable to move. Damn the witch that he was still so weak.

"I was sent with a contingent. You are not so strong as that, hanyou," Haioh reminded him.

Naraku scowled at him. Of all the nerve. It was only that he and the child were not full-youkai that angered Ajika, but as it was, there was nothing he could do against those damnable silver eyes.

A loud thunk disrupted the silver stare and the nearby splattering of blood made Naraku wonder for a moment just what had happened.

Naraku opened the curtain, unsure of what had just happened. What he found was Kagura lying bloody on the ground with a frying pan, bleeding heavily from the stomach. And, not far off, Haioh curled, clutching at a bleeding wound on the back of his head.

He held Kuma to his chest tightly and stared down at Kagura. "I know who you are, you know," she whispered, choking on her own blood. "They say you're the most evil demon that exists right now, but you love your daughter…so much…I thought it can't be true…right? An evil person can't love. You wouldn't really kill her, right, Naraku?" she coughed again. "Because you love Kuma."

It was a deadly calm that overtook him then. "You are right, Kagura. I love Kuma. I love her so much, that I will not allow anyone to kill her, except for me."

The woman choked on her own gasp. There was something heavy in the hair, something like poison as Naraku left the small shack, and Tifu, with the baby. It was something like a plague decimating the entire village and many youkai from which only two people were completely immune—something that would, many years later, come to be known as Naraku's miasma. It would be discovered later that only a small mirror and his own silver eyes saved Haioh from sharing that grueling fate, as he hypnotized himself into believing there was nothing strange about the air. Illness is one part physical and three parts mental. This would be his only explanation.

In time, a story would pass through the Northern Lands about the village of Tifu, destroyed by a sinister demon clad in a baboon pelt, but nothing would be said of the baby that was carried out in his arms.

# "Lord Naraku?"

"What is it Kagura?"

"About the girl."

"Yes?"

"She has left the Western Lands with Inuyasha's group. Sesshomaru has gone in secret to see a strong sword forged for her."

"Has he now?" Naraku mused. "Perhaps I will pay this sword smith a visit."

Naraku stood. Yes, now was the time to act at last. Away from the castle, Naraku held Kagura's heart in his hand. He added to it three drops of his own blood. "You will make a fine sword, Kagura. My daughter will be well-served by you," he contemplated darkly.

'It will be you, at last, who releases her true potential and returns her to me,' he thought. 'Let Sesshomaru believe this is his gift to you. He will understand soon enough that you are mine, mine alone, and no one else can have you. Don't worry, Kuma, I will protect you. I will protect you because I am your father and I love you and no one is allowed to kill you, except for me.'

# Fighting and running. It was not how he would have chosen to live his life, but he was becoming much stronger for it. The Cougar Tribe hunted them relentlessly and without reprieve, and the child grew quickly, and grew on Naraku with the same speed. She had a way of loving that was like water, and he could not escape her.

Now though, he had a moment of reprieve. Spring had come again twice since Kuma's birth, and it was swiftly leading into the child's second summer. As such, his baboon pelt was stored away and he relaxed under the shade of lotus blossoms as the child ran about the fields. She toppled into his legs and climbed onto his thigh to put a crumpled daisy behind his ear. "Fa," she said, her two-year-old version of 'father'. "Pretty Fa," she announced to him.

Times had changed and Naraku's face had changed with him. He had now taken the visage of a young, dark-haired prince. He remembered the time of his shifting; Kuma had slept through it. But when she awoke, she said simply, "pretty fa."

"You recognize me, do you?" Naraku had stated. The child continued to amuse him. "How do you recognize me, Kuma?" he asked curiously, though he had a feeling he already knew the answer.

"Smell like fa," she had said. His daughter was too young to know that faces didn't change, but at two-years-old she understood that the way something smells is the way something smells and that doesn't change, not ever.

'Grow strong, Kuma, stronger than anyone else. Then no one can touch you, even if you are a hanyou. The stronger you become, the more useful you will be to me, and then I won't have any reason to kill you,' he decided thoughtfully. 'Let us become strong together, strong enough that no one can touch us, and you won't need to leave me.'

Yes, Naraku loved his daughter very much…enough to kill her, if he had to, and enough to let her life, if he could. Mostly, he was a man who didn't believe in promises—but the promise he'd made to her was one that he was determined to keep.

# "Lord Naraku."

"Yes, Kagura."

"The girl. Much has happened in a short time."

"Tell me."

"She acquired a sword for herself," Kagura said. Naraku knew this. 'And she rather suddenly became…different…" Kagura wasn't certain how to explain it. "She…took on the features of a Cougar Youkai."

Naraku smirked to himself. She had awakened at last. "Anything else?"

"She has left Inuyasha's group and now is traveling with that idiot wolf prince seeking someone called the Witch of Kunukanai."

'WHAT?!!?' Naraku's mind demanded, and the word nearly escaped his lips, nearly. He opened the door and walked past Kagura. "Stay here," he stated. "And do nothing until otherwise ordered."

"Where are you going?" Kagura asked."

Without thinking, he glared at the wind sorceress. "I am going to save my daughter from doing something extremely stupid." 'And pray that I do not arrive too late to be of any use.'

# It had been instinct to leap in front of Kuma to protect her from Ajika's blast. He was as surprised as anyone. But, before death took him, he had time for one last memory.

# Haioh and the Cougar youkai were close on his tail from the North. From the East, the Wolf tribe was closing in. The south could offer no sanctuary, and here in the west, he was a man alone. Naraku stared at the hanyou pinned to the Goshinboku and said simply, "if you can believe this, Inuyasha, there is someone in this world that I loathe even more than you, but, I suppose that you're long past caring about that."

He turned back to the open field and walked to the dry well where Kuma was playing with the butterflies.

Sitting her on the edge of the well, she smiled up at him. "Daddy look! Found one!" the three-year-old announced, excitedly holding up a daisy. It seemed to be a favorite of hers.

Offering the child a brief smile, Naraku kissed her forehead and pushed her into the well. "Yes Kuma. It is beautiful." 'Just like you are,' he thought.

He didn't stay to hear her tiny bones shatter against the bottom of the well, her skull smash against the stone walls. He turned, his long black hair flowing behind him in the breeze, and headed away, covering his face with the baboon pelt. The direction didn't matter. He no longer had anything that anyone wanted, and he'd kept his promise. As his eyes took on a deeper darkness than they had ever before known, he thought, 'do you see how much I loved you, my little Kuma? So much that I wouldn't allow anyone to kill you or harm you in any way, except for me.'

# And now, as he looked up into those familiar eyes, he thought, 'you've become strong. But there's still a long way to go. Even so, you'll have Kagura, at least, always. She is my final gift to you, my daughter.'

Blackness edged into his vision, tunneling her features out. He lost all sense of sound, taste, his limbs no longer felt connected to his body in any way. Yes, Kuma had a way of loving like water that had drowned him without his ever noticing, and now she was back, and darkness overtook his withered world, fading into oblivion.

The End

A/N: The "Kuma Arc" will have one more fic, "In Cold Blood". Watch for it!

Well, I dunno, this is kinda shitty because I've always really hated Naraku. When I killed him in "Before there was You" I didn't feel particularly bad about it. I felt kinda sorry for Kuma, but thinking of Naraku, I just thought, "he deserves this." But now that I've reached the end of this story, even though I knew from the start that this was going to be the ending, I feel kind of sorry for the sadistic bastard. Does that make sense? That makes no sense. Haha! Ah well. Hope you liked it. R&R. I'd like to know if I actually have more than one person reading this story!