Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters. Which sucks. Because that would be awesome.
Summary: Kagome wishes Inuyasha would be a more positive role model for Shippou. She should have remembered the phrase "be careful what you wish for". Rated for violence towards cute fluffy animals — you have been warned. One shot.
It wasn't until they were setting up camp that Kagome really noticed how low their supplies were getting. Of course, with the amount the group consumed, what looked like a lot of food one day could dwindle to an emergency situation the next. Kagome quickly calculated how far they had travelled from the village and how far they had yet to go.
"I think we'd better have fish or meat tonight," she announced.
"What for?" Inuyasha demanded. "I know there's ramen in there."
"Yes," said Kagome with a sigh, "And if you want it to last, we should eat something else tonight."
The battle between the desire for instant gratification and the need to prolong their ramen supply waged itself upon the half-demon's face for a few moments.
"It would be prudent to save the food Kagome supplies us with until we really need it," pointed out Miroku reasonably. "Who knows where we may find ourselves? Wild meat might not be so readily available."
"If that happens, I'm sure you'll find some fancy house with a 'dark aura' hanging over it," retorted Inuyasha sarcastically.
"Well, personally, I'm sick of noodles," Sango spoke up. "No offence to you, Kagome, but I want something fresh."
Peer pressure being what it was, Inuyasha gave in without much resistance.
"Fine," he said finally. "I'll go track down something. But tomorrow we're having ramen."
He got up to leave the camp.
"Inuyasha, can I come?"
Shippou, who'd been sitting quietly beside Kirara taking everything in, chose that moment to speak up.
"Come where?" Inuyasha asked.
"Hunting," Shippou replied, looking at the hanyou intently.
"You'd scare off all the game, runt," Inuyasha said dismissively. "I ain't goin' hungry tonight."
And he disappeared into the bushes.
Kagome watched as Shippou heaved a big sigh. Apparently she'd missed something of great importance here, but Shippou seemed unexpectedly discouraged. He usually never seemed to take anything Inuyasha said to heart, but right now he was looking troubled.
"Shippou, would you be a big help and find some firewood?" she asked him.
He seemed to perk up. "Sure Kagome!"
"I'll come with you," Miroku said.
"I can do it myself," Shippou insisted with unusual independence, and darted off into the woods.
"Don't go too far," Kagome called after him, glad she'd distracted him from whatever was troubling him, but still trying to puzzle out why he'd been so downtrodden.
"For all the teasing and arguing between the two, I don't think Inuyasha quite realizes how much Shippou looks up to him," Miroku commented unexpectedly.
"What do you mean?" Kagome asked.
"It is clear to me that Shippou sees Inuyasha as an older brother, or even a father figure, in spite of how much he loves to torment our favourite half-demon. Inuyasha, unfortunately, seems quite oblivious to the fact. I suppose we can't expect…"
Miroku's cursed hand, it seemed, had been somewhat preoccupied while he was speaking, and Sango was currently trying to embed her hiraikotsu in the monk's rather abused skull.
"My apologies, Sango," he said smoothly, sitting back up. "It's my curse. I could not help myself."
"I'll show you a curse if you don't keep your hands to yourself!"
"Back to what you were saying, Miroku," Kagome interrupted before there could be any more violence. "I suppose I can understand Shippou seeing Inuyasha as some sort of role model —"
"Especially compared to Miroku," muttered Sango.
"— but what does that have to do with the way Shippou was acting?"
"From what I know of demons, Shippou is at an age where his father, were he still alive, would likely start teaching him to hunt. In the absence of his father, Shippou is looking to the next most likely role model he can find to show him how to look after himself, and he was just dismissed rather callously by Inuyasha. Not that Inuyasha is doing so out of malice. I suppose he didn't have anyone left to guide his development at Shippou's age."
"Poor Shippou," commented Sango. "He's always so cheerful, but you can tell he feels left out sometimes. I bet he'd be so happy if Inuyasha would pay him a little attention that didn't involve smashing him on the head."
"So happy," agreed Miroku wistfully, eyes fixed on Sango and clearly not speaking about Shippou or Inuyasha.
"Maybe if you spoke to Inuyasha, Kagome, he'd consider teaching Shippou," continued Sango. "He listens to you more than anyone."
The sounds of Shippou wandering through the underbrush gathering wood reached their ears, and they started talking about other subjects. When Shippou returned a few minutes later, Kagome watched him carefully. She had to admit that sometimes it was easy to forget he was a full-blooded youkai, since he was so sweet and little, but watching him carry a pile of wood bigger and heavier than his own body, it was clear he wasn't some small, soft human child. For all his playful trickster nature, he was a demon with sharp fangs, high resistance to injury, and ever-increasing demonic powers. His youki flared in her mind's eye like a miniature sun, and Inuyasha had once admitted that the little kitsune, while no taiyoukai, was going to grow to be pretty powerful one day. He used his powers constantly, from illusion magic to his fox fire, changing shapes and using toys to accomplish his goals. And he had recently developed his first personalized attack, the Heart Scar. Sango had told her that the offspring of the more powerful types of demons usually developed some sort of similar minor attack which they would later grow out of as new powers began to emerge.
Kagome supposed Shippou couldn't stay a baby forever. Maybe she should speak to Inuyasha about him.
Inuyasha returned after about an hour with several large fish, already cleaned and spitted, which he set up before the fire to cook. Kagome saw him preparing to leap into a tree to wait, and resolved to speak to him immediately.
"Inuyasha," she said, causing him to freeze in mid-crouch. "I need to talk to you."
"What now, wench?"
She rolled her eyes at his tone and walked away into the trees, knowing he would follow out of sheer curiosity if nothing else. She kept going for a few minutes, aware that Shippou's hearing was particularly acute, and Inuyasha easily caught up and fell into step beside her, for once not pestering her with demands that she immediately tell him what she wanted. When she judged that they had moved far enough away from camp, she sat down on a convenient rock and looked at Inuyasha for a minute. His expression became warier.
"What're you looking at me like that for? I thought you wanted to talk?"
"I'm just trying to figure out why Shippou's so fond of you when you treat him like a pest most of the time," Kagome enlightened him.
"He is a pest and he knows it!"
"You were awfully dismissive of him earlier when he asked to go hunting with you. I think you hurt his feelings."
Inuyasha snorted derisively. "Like I said, he'd scare everything away. The kit doesn't know the first thing about hunting. As it was, I had to settle for fish."
"Who taught you to hunt, Inuyasha?"
"I taught myself," Inuyasha said boastfully.
She knew that tone. It was full of false bravado, and meant stop trying to make me think about things I don't want to remember.
"That's what I thought," Kagome said carefully. "You taught yourself because you'd have starved otherwise. Because you were all alone, weren't you?"
"Shut up, wench," he said with a glower. "I turned out just fine."
"Shippou doesn't have his father to teach him either. But he's not alone. I know you two argue and torment each other, but he does look up to you. I didn't realize how much until Miroku pointed it out."
She got up and walked over to where he stood, his stance growing increasingly tense as she approached. He reminded her of a wild animal sometimes, or an abused dog, unwilling to run away but suspicious of some hidden threat. "All I'm asking is that you consider it. It would mean so much to Shippou if you would just teach him a little. Just take him with you now and then. It's really not that much."
He watched her from behind overlong silver bangs, silent.
"Just think about it, okay?"
She turned and started back towards camp, and heard Inuyasha's near silent steps as he followed a moment later. He hadn't agreed. But he hadn't refused either, hadn't even put up a fight, which meant he was thinking about it. And that was a start.
A couple hours later, with bellies full of fish and the fire burning low, they all turned in for the night. Sango lay near the fire cuddling Kirara in her sleep, while Miroku leaned against a broad tree trunk, snoring softly, cradled between the prominent roots. Inuyasha had escaped to the treetops, and was perfectly balanced on a large branch, rocked by the breeze but never losing his equilibrium even in sleep. Kagome, however, could not sleep. This was mostly because Shippou, curled up against her chest, was wide awake as well. He was doing a poor job of feigning sleep, because although his eyes may have been closed, he was tossing and turning every ten minutes.
"Can't you sleep, Shippou-chan?" Kagome finally asked in a whisper.
Shippou sighed, rolled over again, and tucked his head under her chin without answering.
"You know, I want to thank you for being such a big help today. You must be awfully strong to carry that much wood at once. Maybe gathering firewood can be your special job whenever we set up camp."
Shippou sighed again. Finally he said in a tiny voice, "Inuyasha doesn't think I'm strong. He doesn't think I'm good for anything. He doesn't even like me."
"That's not true," Kagome insisted. "He wouldn't let you come with us if he didn't think you were good for something. Can you see Inuyasha wasting his time with someone he thinks is useless? Hmm?"
Shippou relaxed in her arms slightly, and she knew she was getting through. "Why won't he take me hunting, then?"
"Inuyasha isn't the most contemplative person around. I guess he just thought you were trying to annoy him. You do irritate him quite a lot, and usually on purpose, Shippou-chan."
"That's just jokes! I'm a kitsune!"
"We all know that," Kagome soothed. "Most of your jokes are pretty harmless. But sometimes I think Inuyasha isn't used to people joking with him. And I imagine if people played tricks on him in the past, it was probably mean-spirited."
Shippou burrowed lower into her sleeping bag now, a comforting little bundle curled warm against her belly. He was silent for a minute. "Why do people hate hanyous?"
"I don't know, Shippou. Some people are afraid of what they don't understand."
Shippou's voice was quieter, muffled by the sleeping bag and fading towards sleep. "That's stupid."
"I know, Shippou. I know."
And she drifted off to sleep as well, neither of them aware of the gold eyes watching from up above.
Inuyasha did not mention their conversation again, and Kagome let matters lie as well, knowing that pushing the subject would accomplish nothing. They stayed in a village the next night, where Miroku worked his charms in exchange for lodging and supplies, and therefore it was several days before the matter of hunting came up again. After the mandatory argument about ramen, Inuyasha disappeared into the bushes without any further discussion.
Shippou said nothing, just set about gathering firewood, but Kagome could see the disappointment on his sweet face. Oh Inuyasha. It would have meant so much to him. But apparently Inuyasha had forgotten all about their conversation a few days ago.
Inuyasha was gone longer than usual this time. Usually he would make a quick pass around the area, catching supper if he could find a likely looking animal, and heading to the nearest stream to fish if other game was unavailable. Two hours later, Kagome was starting to get worried. What was taking him so long?
Just when she was starting to think maybe they should go looking for him, Inuyasha appeared in the circle of light shed by their camp fire, looking particularly pleased with himself, a few skinned rabbits swinging from his claws. He passed them to Kagome, who set them up over the fire to cook. Shippou leaned close to smell them.
"Oi, runt! Those aren't for you."
Shippou looked at Inuyasha blankly. Inuyasha reached for left sleeve of his haori, which Kagome belatedly realized he had tightened the strings on, drawing the cuff closed around his wrist. He opened this makeshift pocket now and pulled out a frightened, wide-eyed, live rabbit by the ears.
"Damn thing was kicking me all the way back," Inuyasha commented, examining some scratches on his left forearm carelessly. "Well don't just stand there," he barked suddenly at Shippou, who was still staring at him, baffled. "Do you want to eat or don't you? I thought you wanted to learn to hunt."
He dropped the rabbit. All hell broke loose.
"Don't just look at it, catch it!"
"Don't let it get away! I'm not catching you another one!"
"Grab it! Go for the throat! The throat, baka!"
Shippou gave chase as the terrified rabbit darted around trying to find an escape route. Inuyasha helpfully shouted tips from where he was sitting, which really just served to add to the chaos. Shippou was having trouble catching his dinner, but was keeping it from disappearing into the bushes at least, somehow managing to always be in front of it whenever it tried this tactic.
Kagome exchanged an incredulous look with Sango and Miroku. Sango looked amused, while Miroku just looked dumbfounded. Somehow, this was not what Kagome had pictured when she had asked Inuyasha to consider teaching Shippou to hunt.
Suddenly, as Shippou cornered the poor creature, the most blood-curdling, ungodly shriek sounded throughout the clearing, like some sort of demonic whistling tea-kettle. Kagome hadn't realized that rabbits could scream. Apparently, neither had Shippou, because he froze and the rabbit darted around him. It would have gotten away, but it ventured too close to Inuyasha, who stretched out a long arm and tossed it back towards Shippou before it could run by.
"They do that sometimes. Catch it!"
Kagome watched with a sort of detached horror as Shippou raced around, panting, determined not to let the cute fluffy rabbit get away. The sound of Inuyasha still offering advice on how to kill the poor thing, punctuated by laughter from Sango, who was now in hysterics, made the whole situation seem completely surreal.
Finally, Shippou pounced with a grunt, and managed to grab the squirming rabbit by the fur. Immediately, another problem presented itself.
"Uh, how do I…"
The rabbit continued to kick and thrash as Shippou tried to figure out how to dispatch it. Strong as he might be, his hands were no bigger than the rabbit's paws.
"I usually just wring their necks," Inuyasha said matter-of-factly. "But I guess you'd need bigger hands for that. You could bang it on the head or shake it until its neck snaps."
Shippou stared at his prize for another minute, trying to figure this out. The rabbit, perhaps sensing weakness, suddenly made another bid for freedom.
"Ow!" exclaimed Shippou, accidentally dropping the rabbit as its hind feet kicked his wrist.
At the prospect of his hard-won dinner getting away, instinct finally took over. A heartbeat later, with a hard shake of his head, Shippou was crouched with a limp ex-rabbit gripped in his teeth. He dropped it again, and sniffed it for a minute. He looked at Kagome then, a slightly vulnerable look in his eyes. Seeking approval, she realized. He knew she had a soft spot for cute fluffy animals. After all, there was a reason Inuyasha usually brought his kills back already skinned and cleaned. Kagome knew her next words could make or break the young kitsune.
"Good job, Shippou," Kagome praised. "I knew you could do it."
Shippou's smile could have lit up a whole village by itself. He snatched the rabbit between his teeth again and darted over to her on all fours before dropping it in her lap. "I thought it was gonna get away but I showed it who's boss, didn't I!" he enthused.
"You sure did," Kagome agreed, struggling to maintain her smile. Oh kami, it's still warm…
She was rescued by the strong, clawed hand that grabbed it by the ears and removed it from her lap. "C'mon runt, I'll show you how to prepare it," Inuyasha said. Kagome looked up and was surprised to find Inuyasha looking at her. His expression was casual, but there was a certain look in his eyes…
He's laughing at me!
Inuyasha and Shippou retreated to the edge of the clearing to deal with the rabbit, borrowing a knife from Sango since Shippou didn't have claws equal to the job like Inuyasha had. Kagome tried to ignore their work, but the commentary as Inuyasha directed Shippou with a combination of impatience and attention to detail was hard to miss.
"If you cut right there you can get its fur off it in one piece."
"Watch it, there won't be anything left if you keep on like that."
"What's that?" "That's its heart. It's edible."
Everyone else had finished eating by the time Shippou set his catch up next to the fire to cook, both rabbit and kitsune looking slightly worse for the wear. Shippou was bloody to the elbows, and Miroku took him to the nearby stream to wash while Sango concentrated on turning the rabbit slowly so it would cook more evenly.
"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Kagome hissed at Inuyasha the moment Shippou was out of earshot.
Inuyasha broke out into a smug smirk. "You're the one who wanted me to teach him to hunt."
"Yes, but I imagined you'd take him out hunting with you, not bring poor little rabbits back here for him to kill."
Inuyasha shrugged, his smirk turning into a full-fledged grin. "No use teachin' him to find game unless he knows what to do with it when he gets his hands on it."
Kagome glowered at him for another moment, then relented. "He did well, didn't he?"
"Runt caught on quick. Made a mess of it afterwards, though." They both looked at the sad little casualty roasting nicely over the fire, and Kagome suddenly had to stifle the urge to giggle.
"Thank you, Inuyasha," she said instead. "I know it meant the world to him."
She smiled to herself as the sounds of Shippou chattering to Miroku began to return from the direction of the river. To be honest, she hadn't expected Inuyasha to be so patient with Shippou, even in his usual abrasive way. And even if she hadn't necessarily wanted to see a poor rabbit meet its demise, she had to admit that seeing Inuyasha carefully teaching Shippou had been kind of sweet.
Disturbing, but still sweet.