Author's Note: I have these little snippets of Naraku/Kagome laying around, and the chance of my ever sewing them together into a quality story is unlikely. So I decided to extend Not Like Kikyo into a collection of short Na/Ka stories. You can imagine them as bits of a longer story, chopped up, thrown in a blender, and then served as a shake . . . er, I mean . . . not in order . . . or if you prefer, several short ficclets that have no connection to each other whatsoever.

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or anything original to that series. Only my stories.

Not Like Kikyo

He had snatched her up as a mere accident, not foreseeing the difficulty of getting the shards away from her in once separating her from her companions. He had managed to corner her against a rock face, a skilled predator advancing on prey. She was terrified. He was nearly upon her, he had only to stretch out his hand and take the jewel, when a queer reaction occurred. He was blinded and disoriented by a flash of hot light. The next moment, he heard the tell-tale signs of the damned hanyou following the girl's trail up the mountain.

He was too close to lose his chance. Keeping his cool leverage over the situation, he crossed the barrier between them without hesitation and yanked at the tiny pouch around her neck. Her little hand came around automatically to grasp his, and again, the light flashed. This time, having found a medium, it jolted through his arm and into his body. It didn't hurt him, not really. But it was enough to knock him off balance momentarily.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha cried, making a leaping bound to strike a fatal blow at the back of her perpetrator.

But in the moment between leaving the ground and meeting his target, the blood-eyed youkai snatched up the miko and was away before the seething dog-demon could discern in which direction they'd gone.

For Naraku never lost control.

Somewhere between sleep and waking, she was vaguely aware that she had left the mountain. She was so scared. And she was used to terror. But this, this being alone with the Enemy had been too much for her. Her adrenaline level reached an all time high, and she felt an eerie detachedness, so that when a vague power came out of her to confront Naraku, she had not been astonished, only rather stunned.

I'm going to die . . . was her last conscious thought.

She was unaware of how much time had lapsed when she started to stir. The dim light suggested the pre-twilight evening and made it hard for her eyes to adjust. When she could see better she discerned that she was in an empty room, the corners of which were menacingly bathed in shadows. A few windows on one wall allowed the grey half-light to trickle through. With a jolt of dread, she recalled what had happened.

Animal instinct took over, and she shot up like a bolt and scuttled into a corner of the room, huddling. She automatically felt around her neck for the pouch of Shikon shards, but it was gone.

She felt vaguely ill. An almost tangible, inky darkness poisoned the air, pulsing.

She had no idea where she was.

In fact, her enemy and the main source of her fear had flown to one of his many fortress houses, disposing of her disinterestedly onto the floor upon arrival and removal of the sacred jewel. He had very well forgotten about her. It was his child-spawn, Kagura, who warily reminded him of his fretful guest.

"Do something with her," Kagura urged, then adjusted her tone after a look from her master. Quietly, "Her fearful aura is invading the whole house – I can't think properly. Kill her or something, I don't know . . . ."

Naraku, back to the pretty demoness, played strangely with the pouch of jewel shards in his hand.

"I suppose it can't be helped . . . she's only human, after all."

A strange look crossed Kagura's face and vanished quickly before she answered. "At least say I can do something with her then."

He thought for a moment. "No . . . that won't be necessary." He rose abruptly, and passed out of the room, elegantly, as if he glided right over the floor.

Kagome, shivering in her corner, heard the rice-paper door slide open. The tall man slipped through, draped in silken, embroidered robes like an idol. His twisting black waves fell over his shoulders like limp snakes, and his pale face was masculine and sharp. The poison-red eyes sparkled eerily, framed by dark, ceremonial paint. He smiled faintly at her, a slight upturning of one corner of the mouth. He was beautiful in a haunting, sad way. But when he smiled, he looked utterly wicked.

He approached the raven-haired miko, and as he did, she drew her knees up to her chest and clasped, hugging them like a lost child. Her hair curled in the damp air, and puffs of cloudy air funneled through her little mouth. Her cheeks were rosy from the chill. Amber eyes turned to her hands, as if they were the only things keeping her alive.

Naraku halted a few feet away, regarding her. He had dealt with this woman-child before, if only indirectly, and the power she always demonstrated, when pushed to the limit, was impressive, if not quite unsettling.

They were like this for some time, until the silence seemed to thicken into a liquid. The light fled, and the shadows deepened.

Then he spoke. His voice was deep and smooth, like black water, and his face showed no emotion. "So you are the Shikon no miko . . . what is your name?"

"Kagome," she whispered, flinching at the sound of her own voice. To hear it conversing with his meant, beyond all doubt, that she was really here.

"Kagome," he repeated, and the syllables rolling off of his tongue caused her to flinch again. "Kikyo's reincarnation."

The comment prompted her to raise her gaze to look at him. She knew the story well. He had once been a man, and a man had instincts, and this man had wanted Kikyo. She wondered in the still-functioning part of her mind (where the terror did not numb it) whether some part of him wanted her still. But the Naraku she knew hated anyone and everyone.

Now, she recoiled as he knelt, bending forward to get a closer look. There was somewhat of a resemblance, though this one was not as pretty as her predecessor.

Kagome swallowed, and summoned courage to raise her head and address him. "What . . . what have you taken me for?"

Something low rumbled in his throat and grew, faintly, until she realized that he was laughing. "It may surprise you, my dear," he said amusedly, a cruel glint in his eye, "but you and your friends are not first on my list of things to do."

She furrowed her eyebrows, trying to decipher him. He had paused, seemingly waiting for a response. Why was he humoring her? "I – I don't understand," she said meekly, and she cursed herself mentally for sounding so small and frightened. Though it was silly, some childish part of her thought she could be safer if he thought she was unafraid.

He moved his hand beneath the undermost kimono of his clothing and removed her small suede pouch, the one she kept the shards in. He dangled this in front of her, then replaced it beneath the yards of fabric.

This was meant to tease her; and it worked. At the sight of her shards, Kagome felt a small surge of anger and defiance. How dare he take her jewel . . . .

Though the reaction was well-concealed, and not large enough to make a significant difference in her survival strategy, Naraku sensed her wrath. It was quite pleasing.

"Bringing you here was a mistake," he confided, "and I never make the same mistake twice – if ever."

Once again, he seemed expectant for an answer.

"I – what – er," she spluttered, flustering. She suddenly realized he was playing with her; she was like a butterfly caught in a spider's web. This revelation was followed by a new rush of anger and despair. She wanted Inuyasha to come and get her, but in all likeliness, if she wanted to survive, she was going to have to rely on herself. With a horrible sinking sensation, she wondered what the odds of that were.

"Hm. She's articulate, too," the demon lord mocked

Kagome was hungry and wet and cold. It took everything in her not to cry, but even her stubborn effort could not withhold a few stray tears from grazing her flushed cheeks.

"Well," Naraku said, rising, "I will find something to do with you; you should have no fear of that." He spoke leisurely. It resulted in a rather regal-sounding effect. "Perhaps Inuyasha will come looking for you; perhaps not. Perhaps you will be here waiting for him when he does; perhaps not."

Kagome's anger scorched her cheeks. But her fear, which was more prevailing, silenced her.

Naraku noted her turmoil with slight interest. Unlike Kikyo, she did not have good restraint over her emotions. Unlike Kikyo, she couldn't afford not to.

The free thought of Kikyo swept away his imagination and set his mind running: her cool, graceful movements, her vacant eyes, pouting mouth, her sad, fatalistic acceptance of her fate. Desperately, he grasped for control. Onigumo was still alive and well within him, and whether he wished to admit it or not, remained the core of his being. If he did not keep him safely hidden beneath layer upon layer, he would soon have full reign. Each new youkai he absorbed became another layer. But his humanity was the foundation. And Onigumo was buried alive. He, the great Naraku, was ashamed; which was why he desperately, in his impassive way, desired the Shikon Jewel – to rid himself of this weakness. Only, would there be a self afterwards? The question was not one he addressed, and for good reason.

Kagome, though insightful, had not the senses to perceive this well-hidden struggle. It happened in an instant, and the façade had remained as inexpressive and smooth as ever. Perhaps, if the light had been better, she might have noticed he looked slightly tired.

"If I kill you," Naraku continued, almost casually, "you should know it is not because you are in any way a threat."

"If you let me live," Kagome countered, suddenly filled with a rising courage, "I promise you, Naraku. I will not stop fighting." The thought of unavoidable death has a morbid way of putting things in perspective. Kagome knew then, with Naraku's help, that letting the entire jewel fall into the hands of this hanyou was bad – very bad. And a sense of a higher morality, of transcendent duty, possessed her. Perhaps she would die – what then? Life would go on, other people would go on. What about them?

With these words, he laughed at her, and the momentary sense of a greater cause left her, and she felt tiny and frail again.

"That's easy for you to say now," he drawled. "You're still fresh with memories of love and laughter. You haven't despaired of living, haven't tasted that dreadful desire for death. You're happy world is an illusion, and the sooner you realize that, the stronger you will become."

"No," she said, voice faint but unwavering, "you're wrong. To despair is to be weak, Naraku. When you forfeited your soul and chose unhappiness, you gave in, and now you've forgotten – you've forgotten how truly strong the other side can be."

Suddenly, she perceived that Naraku was gazing intently at her through narrowed eyes. His movements were abrupt but agile. It happened so quickly. Somehow, he had lunged toward her, closing in on her like an ominous storm. She pressed herself violently against the wall, trying desperately to keep her distance. Mere inches away from her, kneeling, he reached out a single hand and grabbed her roughly where her throat met her jaw bone. He forced her to look directly at him.

"You," he whispered hoarsely, in a way that worried Kagome like nothing he had ever done before, "are not like Kikyo."

For an instant, his mind stopped racing. There was no veil between them. He read her openly and directly, not thinking, merely perceiving. It was not a thought. He absorbed her like water, objectively, as if seeing her through a lens from far away: that Kagome was an extraordinarily singular creature.

Then he was gone. Up and away he glided, halting only to direct the sudden burst of flames on the other side of the room. The fire roared up, warm and inviting, bravely though unsuccessfully burning away at the sickly miasma that trailed after Naraku. He whispered through the door and vanished.

Up to this moment, Kagome had not realized how tense her body had become. She relaxed. The blood flowed back into her limbs in rhythm with her quickly beating heart.

What did that mean? That she was not like Kikyo? A little twinge of disappointment fluttered in her chest. Of course she wasn't like Kikyo. After all, that was what Inuyasha always inferred, whether he meant to or not. She was not the perfect protectress or beauty Kikyo had been. She touched her neck softly. Even Naraku had managed to point out her shortcomings in this respect. Kagome bit her lip, subconsciously trying to stop its trembling. She had always had fairly good self-esteem. Yet it was hard to maintain it while shouldering everyone's failed expectations. And she was tired, so tired . . . .

Her eyelids opened and closed like heavy shutters. She sagged to the floor and slept.

Kagome found herself upon waking in a clearing in a familiar part of Kaede's wood. It was late morning. Startled at first, she then thought with a soothing relief that the previous night's events were a nightmare. But upon examination, she discovered bruises beneath her tender face that proved otherwise.

As calmly as she could, she half-ran to Kaede's village, where she was met by warm care and concern.

Naraku watched placidly in his mirror. Through the eyes of his puppet, he could see that the woman-child arrived safely to Kikyo's village. Then he turned aside.

Kagura frowned disapprovingly at him. "Why'd you let her go? We could have gotten something useful out of her."

He glared at her, making Kagura involuntarily step back. She thought – but she wasn't sure – that he looked more tired than usual. "My actions are not your concern." He rose wearily and walked over to a long window. A ponderous minute passed between them. Then, "As it now stands, the woman-child is doing a fine job collecting the shards on her own. Why should I be one to stop her?"

"Then it was a waste of an opportunity bringing her here at all."

"Not necessarily," Naraku said thoughtfully. "I now have a vague idea of why Kikyo so despises her."

Kagura raised her eyebrows in surprise.

Hm. Kagome, Naraku thought to himself, eyebrows knitting. I may have use for you yet.

And deeper still, buried beneath layers and layers of conscious neglect and suppression, another part of him agreed.