Kagome had some thinking to do, as well as some exploring. Although, high up, the cave was very large. The entrance was connected to various parts which interconnected with each other. As she had to bend to get through a small doorway, she realized that there was a very personal touch to the cave, like someone had maintained it and built it.

How does someone build a cave? She wondered. However, she soon got bored and sat down near the entrance. Not too close because her recent near death experience had shaken her enough. Making idle patterns on the ground with her finger, she wondered for the hundredth time what she was doing with her life.

The inuyoukai who was supposed to be her soul mate had driven to her death only to want her once she came back to life. And according to Kazuki, if she didn't mate with him, they'd both die.

Why should I marry someone who doesn't even care about me? Her thoughts were bitter and she knew it. However, she couldn't help herself. Was she that undesirable a mate, that he would have wanted to kill her? Her muscles tensed. Whenever she would recall the way he had practically demanded her back from Kazuki – Like I was some sort of thing, she thought, angrily.

He didn't respect her, let alone love her. And knowing Seshoumaru, he never would. She hated him, she realized, as her eyes widened. She truly hated him and she refused to entrust him with her soul or her heart. If he hadn't been able to take care of them in the beginning, she doubted he was capable of it now.

She couldn't understand why he wanted her now, all of a sudden but something in her refused to acknowledge him. Her eyes unfocused, as she remembered the terror that had struck her heart on the battlefield, when the youkai's blow could have proved fatal for the arrogant inuyoukai. Her miko powers had burned her and something primal had taken over, and in that desperate moment, she had let it. She had been pushed in the background as something stronger than her had made its presence known.

Punish.

It had wanted to punish Seshoumaru, to torture him, like he had tortured her, pushing her past her limits, for humiliating her, for tattering her soul into tiny fragments that she still couldn't find.

For betraying the trust, her soul had had in his.

How could he think she would ever forgive him? How could Kazuki think she could ever mate this inuyoukai when all she had known at his hands was hurt? A part of her was curled up in tiny ball, wary of any affection this inuyoukai would bestow on her. The ache in her chest was a constant presence, so much so, that she would simply overlook it.

Kazuki thought she didn't remember her death and all that followed it.

He was wrong.

She remembered the wrongness of it. Yet, she had welcomed that numb void to the daily pain filled life she had lead. She had been trying to leave when something golden and silver, a gossamer thread, had wound itself around her ankle, stopping her. She had struggled, but the hold on her wouldn't budge. The golden thread had burned brightly, intertwining even more with the silver one. However, she had been successful in loosening it, when a bright hot ball of fire had forced itself on her, making her body heavier. She had fallen, and she had cried, cried when she had realized that there was no escape from this. Her will was being taken from her.

She had fought like a madwoman, but that fire had been persistent, gentle, yet firm. Finally, when she had accepted her helplessness, acknowledged her defeat, she had woken up to Kazuki and Seshoumaru's confrontation.

She leaned her head back against the cave wall and studied the clouds. The peaceful movement of the clouds was in direct contrast to the storm building inside of her.

Seshoumaru's true form was different. More playful, affectionate. Or maybe it was just a ploy to get to her. She couldn't understand. Although, she found herself more at ease with his youkai form, he couldn't possibly expect her to accept him. He had managed to destroy something very fundamental inside of her, and that scared her. If he had the power to do that to her, what would he do to her, once she accepted the bond.

Although Kazuki had told her that to accept the bond, her soul would have to accept his, she found it hard to believe she would ever be able to believe in him to such an extent for that bond to develop.

She pulled her knees to her face and rested her forehead against them. What was Seshoumaru planning by holding her hostage here? She wanted Kazuki right now and the safety only he promised. Closing her eyes, she expanded her senses far and wide to catch any glimpse of him. However, what she found, made herself pull in her aura and tighten it around her to the point of pain. There was something evil outside of the cave and it seemed to be searching for something. Holding her aura close to her, she rocked back and forth, praying for Seshoumaru to come back quickly. An odd sort of fear was settling in her bones and she didn't want to be alone anymore.

Although, she could protect herself, her resurrection had her wary of her own abilities. Hot tears burned her eyes and wiped at them roughly, furious with her. She had cried enough! Trying to calm herself, down, she huddled in a ball, waiting for her captor to return.

She didn't like this new side of her. She never used to be this scared or frightened of her feelings. A sigh escaped her as she remembered the times she used to wear her heart on her sleeve. Inuyasha had been easy to love. His gruff manners and his hidden soft side had formed the path to her first love, but his heart had always belonged to another and she knew she would never be able to compete with Kikyo for his affections.

Once Seshoumaru had joined their group, she had liked spending time with the quiet inuyoukai. He had never minded. Although, they would never talk about anything, the comfort she had felt in his presence had healed the pain Inuyasha's rejection had left in her soul. Of course, then he had turned on her just as abruptly and left an even bigger whole in her heart.

She hadn't loved him.

She shook her head vehemently. Tears once again burned her eyes at the aching loneliness that she could feel in the pits of her soul. However, her stubbornness was enough to overcome it. She refused to trust him. No matter how possessive or protective he seemed to act now. Her heart wasn't ready to accept him.

She wouldn't survive a third time. She knew it. Even now, she was holding on to her sanity by mere threads. As desperation overwhelmed her, a pinkish hue starting entering her eyes.

Kazuki followed the faint trail he had of Kagome. He was furious. Beyond furious. It was bad enough that the woman he loved was forced to mate another, because fate deemed it so, but it was worse that the inuyoukai had taken it in his own hands to force her into accepting the bond.

A mirthless laugh escaped his lips. The inuyoukai knew nothing about mating bonds it seemed. He couldn't force one, no matter how hard he tried. Till Kagome wasn't willing to open up to him, till Kagome hadn't fallen in love with him, the bond wouldn't develop. The inuyoukai's affections also counted and till he stopped seeing the little miko as a thing, nothing would progress.

As the fire elemental recalled the way Kagome had desperately clutched at him when coming to meet her group members again, his heart beat faster in anger, and in fear. She had barely had time to recover from the after effects of the her return and now the stupid inuyoukai had taken her captive. The heat emitting from him drew worried gasps from his travelling companions.

The sunlight was waning and Sango and Miroku exchanged concerned looks. They were both very exhausted. First the battle and now the race to save Kagome from Seshoumaru. They needed to rest. Shippou, who had been travelling on Inuyasha's shoulder, noticed their efforts to keep up. Leaning down, he tangled his fingers in Inuyasha's hair to maintain his balance and pointed out, "Hey, shouldn't we stop to make camp for Miroku and Sango? They look really tired."

Grunting in response, Inuyasha turned his head to look at his two struggling companions. Although they were trying to hide it, he could see that they were pushing themselves. Increasing his speed, he caught up to the elemental, "Oye, Miroku and Sango need to rest. We have to stop."

The glare Kazuki turned in his direction had him freezing in what he refused to call fear. He wasn't afraid of some fire demon!

Through gritted teeth, Kazuki spoke, "Kagome is just as tired and probably in a worse condition than your human friends. She is my concern. Not your human friends."

Taken aback by the clear hostility radiating from the fire elemental, Inuyasha scowled, "Look, I don't know what your deal is, Bastard, but Kagome is with Seshoumaru. He will never harm her. And my human friends are also her human friends, so back the fuck off, asshole."

By this time, Miroku and Sango had caught up to them and they eyed the two youkai, warily. "Is everything okay, Inuyasha?" Miroku ventured.

Before either of them could say anything Shippou piped up, "Yeah. They were just discussing where the best place to camp would be. Any idea, Miroku?"

The monk seemed to accept Shippou's answer and answered with a relieved smile, "We'll take care of it, Shippou. There is a spring just west of here. That would be ideal."

As he and Sango walked away to set up camp, two pairs of eyes turned towards the small kit. Jumping off Inuyasha's shoulder, Shippou looked up at them, not concerned, "I love Kagome too. She wouldn't want us to be fighting." With that, he scampered after the monk and the demon slayer, not wanting to be bopped over the head over his arrogant words.

He, too, was worried about Kagome, but he knew Seshoumaru wouldn't harm her. He had noticed the way, the sliver haired inuyoukai would watch the miko.

Kazuki stared at the retreating kit and frowned, "Saving Kagome is a priority. You may rest with your human friends, however I will go to where the little miko is."

Inuyasha bared his teeth. He was starting to dislike the fire elemental even more so that he did. "Look, you bastard, Kagome is my concern, not yours. I've always looked out for Kagome and don't think just 'cause she's friends with you, means she belongs to you. She doesn't belong to anybody!"

Kazuki lost his temper. How dare he? How dare this mutt try to put any sort of claim on Kagome. His right hand glowing with fire, he threw the ball of flames towards the hanyou. "Kagome turned to me! She has always turned to me!"

Inuyasha jumped to avoid the blast of heat and sneered. This fight had been long in the works, I've known Kagome for five years, asshole. She is in love with me. She can be a bit daft at times, but I'm the only one who has the right to be her protector!"

"Was in love with you, half breed. Both you brothers are the same. She gave both of you such a precious gift and you fucking destroyed it! Both of you belittled her, humiliated her, nearly killed her! Want to know why she chose me as her final protector?"

He felt a deep satisfaction at the impact his words had on the hanyou as he kept dodging his attacks, "Because I didn't just look out for her physical safety, I never hurt her. Not like you brothers did. All of you just use her!"

Inuyasha stumbled and before Kazuki could land the final blow, a golden staff blocked his path. Miroku's face was impassive, "Enough. You have hurt us enough."

Kazuki stared at the monk for a few seconds, before lowering his hand. Kikyo tended to Inuyasha who was oddly subdued and refused to meet her eyes.

Miroku stared at Inuyasha before speaking in a low voice, "There is truth in your words, indeed. We have all used Kagome for our own ends, but," He lifted his head to meet Kazuki's flaming eyes, directly, "We also love her. We care about her. She is the only thing which holds us together. Her 'death' devastated us, most of all, Inuyasha. So, don't take our feelings for Kagome, lightly."

The fire elemental was silent before extinguishing the fire. His eyes fell on Shippou who looked extremely upset, his eyes glassy with tears. Sango was giving him an angry look. Angry with himself and with their mortality, Kazuki turned on his heel and walked into the forest.

Shippou looked at the other before rushing after him, "Kazuki, wait!"

Sango made to stop him, but Miroku shook his head, "Let him go. Kazuki is protective of Kagome. He doesn't trust us. Maybe Shippou will get through to him."

As Seshoumaru hunted for his mate, Naraku summoned Kagura.

The red eyed demoness eyed him warily. Something was off with her Master. More so than usual. His miasma had grown ten times stronger and even she was having trouble breathing through it.

"Kagura, I am hearing rumors of Kagome's death. Verify them and bring Kikyo to me."

As Kagura left, Naraku frowned There had been a blast of very powerful reiki the other day. Too powerful.

A.N: I plan to introduce another love interest very soon. But not for Kagome and not for the person you are thinking. I've been playing with this idea for a while now.