………

Tadpole

………

"Tousan! Tousan!"

"Maa, maa, I'm coming…," Hibashira-Kitsune replied evenly to his son's urgings, allowing the little kit—barely old enough to leave the den—to lead him to the tiny stream near their home. "What was it that you wanted me to see, Shippou-chan?"

"This, this!" A tiny finger pointed eagerly at a swirling cloud of tadpoles flickering under the clear, translucent surface of the stream. Bright, happy sunlight shone down from above, catching the ripples of the water and the darting motions of the tadpoles just so, transforming the simple beauty of the scene into something new and special. "Pretty!"

Hibashira smiled, ruffling his son's soft, wild hair with a clawed hand. It was so different from Hibashira's own, thick and auburn rather than wispy and black. "Yes, they certainly are. They're tadpoles, Shippou-chan. Do you know what they're going to grow up to be?"

"Fwags!" Shippou replied brightly.

"Yes, fwags," Hibashira chuckled, sitting cross-legged on the bank and pulling his son into his lap. Still too young to care about such things as pride and distance, Shippou giggled his baby's laugh and lay happily back, tiny paws sticking up in the air. A pair of big, bright blue/green eyes looked up at him, full of love and trust, and Hibashira nearly melted on the spot, finding it suddenly difficult to talk with any measure of decorum. "…You see, Shippou-chan, one day they'll be able to leave the stream. They'll get bigger and stronger and grow legs so that they can go wherever they want and do whatever they want."

"S'goi…," Shippou whispered, more wide-eyed than ever. "They'll climb trees an' mount'ns an' everything?"

"…I guess they will, if they try really hard," Hibashira replied after a moment, his smile gentle and knowing. "They can do anything if they try. They could climb the highest tree, the highest mountain; they could travel the farthest distance, see the most amazing things…all they need to do is try."

"But wha…wha if it's hard, Tousan? Wha if they can't grow legs?"

To some, the look of deep worry and concern on Shippou's face might have been comical, but Hibashira knew better. Rather than laugh, he gently hugged his son before getting to his feet, holding his child securely in his arms.

"It can be harder for some to grow legs than others. Sometimes something happens, or they're afraid, or it just seems too difficult. But that doesn't matter, not to the tadpoles. See?" Hibashira pointed to the water again, and the gleaming green/silver dots as they determinedly prodded at the bottom of the stream. "Because they're all trying so hard at once, they get the food they need to grow. If it was just one tadpole, he wouldn't be able to get his food and he wouldn't be able to grow legs. But he has all his brothers and sisters, so he'll be alright, no matter what."

"But…but wha if he don't have any?" Shippou murmured, small hands clutching at his father's gi. "Wha if he don't even have an okaasan…?"

Hibashira's long ears lay down on his head at that, the kitsune placing his son on the ground and kneeling in front of him, meeting those trusting eyes with his own.

"If his brothers and sisters are gone, and his okaasan and even his tousan…," Hibashira paused at the look of horror on Shippou's face, placing his slender hands on his small shoulders. "Even if his tousan is gone, he'll never be alone. If the tadpole is strong and kind and good, there will always be someone there for him. Other tadpoles will find him and help him and be just as strong and kind and good as he is."

"Y-you…sure?"

Hibashira smiled again, resting his forehead against his son's, quivering inside from all the emotion the tiny kit could produce in his fragile heart. "I'm sure."

At last, Shippou gave him one shy smile, a faintly-clawed finger poking Hibashira in the cheek.

"…'kay. Time for lunch, Tousan?"

Hibashira's smile widened, his chest nearly bursting with pride and love as he stood once more. "Why yes, it is time for lunch. Shall we go?"

"Haaaaai!"

So they went, father and son walking hand in hand.

…Fin…

Heh, just a little something. Since I didn't know what Shippou's dad's name as (or if he even has one) I picked one that I thought was nice. 'Hibashira' means column of fire, or somesuch; and if that's foreshadowing, weeellll…

Rem-chan, 19th of April, 2005