Disclaimer: The characters mentioned are owned by Rumiko Takahashi.
Usually the warmth coming from Kagome's body and the fleece shield of what she called a "sleeping bag" would keep them at bay. But in the abnormal cool of the night, the disturbing stillness provoked his nighttime fears ever stronger. Little Shippo, try as he might, could not even feign sleep. His sea green eyes were wide and flickering, darting to wherever a leaf blew or a harmless animal sighed.
He fixated his gaze on the dying flames of their campfire. Watching it, he felt a strange sensation of pity as the yellow and orange fingers reached out to the heavens, grasping at oxygen and begging for life unnoticed. He always got like this at night. The black for some reason brought upon him a very depressing outlook on things and if he wasn't careful his thoughts would lead to…to…
The shift in position by Miroku distracted the fox pup. He observed the monk's right hand twitch and stretch before the muscles in his fingers released and went limp. Miroku would never admit it but sometimes Shippo noticed. The wind tunnel was paining him. The human male was an expert at schooling his expressions and keeping his thoughts to himself, but by the simple occasional clenching and unclenching of his hand, Shippo caught the hint. He wondered if anyone else had noticed.
Had Sango noticed? Shippo's eyes immediately trailed to the curled up form of the taijiya. Her arms were wrapped comfortably around her old companion Kirara and her breathing was soft, indicating that, if the time called for it, she could and would spring straight awake at any inclination of danger. Ever the hunter.
Or more so…it was because she and Kirara were accustomed to things attacking them, of things stalking and slobbering and pouncing…of killing…
Shippo tossed the thoughts away and took a deep strangled breath. His chest felt heavy and thick, the chain of emotion squeezing his heart. His eyes began to sting but in the back of his mind, he heard the mocking and vindictive voice of Inuyasha, reprimanding him and his childish ways. So Shippo tensed his shoulders and tried to crumple the mental image of his father and mother sprawled in their mixed blood, the Thunder Brothers standing over them with prideful smirks.
This is what the night air always brought to him. The things he did not wish to remember and had effectively pushed away during the day; they came with a vengeance as soon as the light's chaos whittled down to the gentle snores of night.
Mental Inuyasha snorted and called him an emotional brat. But, though he struggled to be a big boy, Shippo couldn't help but muffle a broken sob.
The kitsune tensed and immediately ignored the voice, trying to calm his breathing so he could sound like he was sleeping. It was pointless.
Shippo swallowed several times, his skin tingling by the intensity of Inuyasha's eyes staring down at him from the tree's branches. He didn't dare turn his head. Oh please, just shut up Inuyasha and go back to sleep.
"Wh—" –he cleared his throat and toughened his voice—"What?"
"Keep the noise down okay?"
Inuyasha's voice was gruff but not groggy, for obviously the half demon never slept as deeply or as satisfyingly as the rest of the group. Shippo felt a weird twisting in his gut at that thought. He was like Sango too. Inuyasha was an effective hunter but more often than not…he was the prey, the hated, the disgusting creature singled out for extermination. Ah who cares, he's never tired and he's a jerk! But the night air intensified the emotion, and all of a sudden the face of his father and Inuyasha blurred and overlapped in his mind's eye; his father didn't sleep much either when he was alive, always watching and protecting.
"O-Okay…s-sorry…" Shippo licked his lips and held his breath, waiting for an indication that Inuyasha would give up and go back to his half-conscious rest.
No such luck.
"What's wrong with you anyway?"
Inuyasha was not the most tactful person nor the most caring, in Shippo's opinion. But that little question, rather contemptuous really, made the want to cry more powerful nonetheless. Of course, it wasn't like Inuyasha cared…not really…he didn't care about Shippo…I'm a nuisance after all.
The nighttime depression grew heavier and sent a lethargic reaction to Shippo's body. Inuyasha would love it if I would just disappear. Especially after the battle today. Kagura had come for a routine visit and Shippo had gotten in the way and almost had gotten killed by her wind attack. Inuyasha had jumped in front of the blow and taken the impact chest first, thus getting dangerously injured. The dog hanyou hadn't been very happy before he passed out from loss of blood. "Shippo you idiot!"
It was all my fault.
"Yo, brat. I know you're still awake. Answer me!" Inuyasha hissed, the sudden jerk in his body sending a pulse of pain.
Shippo winced at the sound. "I…I j-just had…a bad dream…" he whispered, guilt ridden tears leaking down his cheeks. He pulled the sleeping bag over his face to hide the evidence of his inner turmoil. Didn't want to give Inuyasha more reasons to think him pathetic after all.
Inuyasha relaxed back against his branch, as Shippo could tell by the bark's creaking. "Yeah right, you haven't slept at all. I'm not stupid."
Shippo sighed. He couldn't think of anything to say.
A few seconds of silence and Inuyasha snorted and rolled onto his side, touching his bandaged chest awkwardly. "Feh, just keep quiet. I'm trying to sleep."
Shippo took that as a cue to roll over as well. He wiped his eyes and looked up at the group's leader. Inuyasha must want to get rid of him all right. He couldn't fight, hunt, forage, cook, build a fire, or…anything. He was useless. And he got scared all the time.
Fire kindled within his veins, frustration and self-hatred brewing and gaining power.
Yeah, he was useless! Pointless! Worthless! Stupid! Why didn't everyone just kick him out of the group, force him to stay with Kaede or just…leave him behind?
An urge formed in his throat and traveled to his tongue. He wanted to suppress it but Shippo knew it was the right thing to do and if it wasn't done, it would…it could kill him inside.
The hanyou's ears perked and he slowly turned his head. "What are you sniveling about?"
Shippo would not let the harsh words deter him. He sat up and allowed his vision to blur with tears. "I'm sorry…I'm sorry that you got hurt! It was my fault!" Shippo wanted to wail but he managed to keep his voice level low. "Like with father…it was my fault. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry Inuyasha!" Father, forgive me. It not for me, you would have lived.
Shock flittered in Inuyasha's golden eyes but his face, surprisingly, became strangely calm and almost…paternal. He relaxed onto his back. "Shut up, Shippo."
For such a facial expression, his words did not match. Shippo's mouth dropped open. "Wh-what?"
Though what he was saying was meant to be harsh and cruel, Inuyasha's voice was level and warm. "I said shut up. It wasn't your fault. It's my job get it? Without me, you'd guys be done for. See?" Inuyasha closed his eyes. "Just next time, stay back, brat."
Shippo was left in astonishment. His tears had dried and the weight in his rib cage had lightened to the point of being unnoticeable. He stared at Inuyasha, wondering if it was a dream when suddenly Inuyasha said one last thing.
"It was your father's job too."
The dog hanyou then turned back over, his face pointed away.
Usually Kagome's warmth and her sleeping bag shield would keep Shippo's nighttime fears away. But that night, he had needed a little more help.
The pup slept soundly and he dreamed a pleasant dream where he and Inuyasha played in a field of purple flowers while his father stood off and smiled.
EDITED: August 22, 2009