Author's Note: This fic is my entry to week 6's theme of "Shippo" for the LJ community, iyficcontest. Please let me know what you think of it.

Finding Home
by CinnamonGrrl

Home was once a den, snugdark, filled with the knowledge of mother and father and safe. But those had been taken from Shippo, peeled away one by one, until he stood naked and shivering and alone.

He had been alone a long time, he thought, or perhaps it hadn't been long at all. All he knew was that the time between his parents' deaths and joining Inuyasha and Kagome seemed to stretch each time he remembered it, like a shadow in the hotbright sun. Shippo supposed that they were his parents now, since they took care of him as parents did.

They weren't particularly good parents. Kagome cuddlecoddled him, gave him too many sweets and spoiled him too easily and often. Even as a child, Shippo knew that wasn't a good thing to do. But Kagome was nice and smelled good and best of all she loved him, and Shippo forgave her her youth and inexperience and fumbling attempts to raise him. He needed her far more than he didn't need her.

Inuyasha was hard on him, was mean and violent and Shippo knew that if he had been human, he'd have died a hundred times from the headpounding and dropkicking and hairpulling. Inuyasha was jealous of him, was jealous of how Shippo too had lost his parents and yet had found a haven when he had not. Inuyasha had not had a softwarm Kagome to smooth over his orphaned heart with her gentle fingertips, when he was Shippo's age and the scars weren't so toughhard.

Shippo forgave Inuyasha, since he understood him, forgave him and made himself look at the hanyou until he could see the good, instead of all the mean and cruel. Inuyasha was sort of his father now, after all, and he could put up with a lot for a father.

And so he had mother and father back, but safesafe was a far more elusive thing. How could you feel safe when every day was another chance to watch people die again? Shippo would sometimes hope that, if they were all going to lose, he'd be the first to go so he didn't have to see it. Then he'd call himself coward, and wimp, and bad, and rush to Kagome to be convinced otherwise.

It wasn't when they were in battle, when they were fighting for their lives, bloody and desperate, that Shippo was frightened like that. No, it was at night when all was calm and the bluedark sky stretched endlessly overhead that the terror would start, wavelets of it creeprising like the tide. Then, he longed for that little den, that womblike enclosure, that surety.

Shippo hated that he wasn't able to do more to help them, these friendparents, these companions. He hated that he was small and weak, that his magic was only trickery and illusion. He was a burden to them, something else to protect besides themselves and each other, but still he couldn't bring himself to leave no matter how much he knew they'd be better off without him.

He couldn't because he was selfish, and he loved to see Kagome narrow her eyes as she aimed her arrows, and Inuyasha's rare smiles. He loved how Sango's muscles tensed when she threw Hiraikotsu, loved the way Miroku held his ofudas between first and middle fingers. He loved Kirara's coarse fur against his skin, loved the hotsalty ramen for dinner some nights, loved the slipwhisper of Kagome's sleeping bag as she tucked him in and kissed him goodnight.

He told himself all these things when he was scared, and after a while he even believed them. Kagome would curl beside him in the sleeping bag, surrounding him, and he would see Inuyasha watching over them from across the flickerfading fire, and for just a moment safe would sweep over him.

"Go to sleep, runt," Inuyasha would grunt, and then frown in confusion when Shippo would smile instead of bristle at being called a name. He had learned to read Inuyasha, you see, could translate and interpret him and so it didn't bother Shippo much any more.

So, yes, he smiled instead, and closed his eyes and felt the howlcries of fear stay back, back at the edges of his mind where he could ignore them. Home wasn't where any more, but who, and Shippo thought that that might be even better because who could go anywhere you wanted. Where was stuck in just one place, and what good was that, really?