Child of the Sky
Kocoum caught the way Hiawatha's face paled, but could not for the life of him understand why Shippo seemed to have it out for the boy. It was only after several hours of cringe worthy pranks that Kocoum finally approached Kagome about Shippo's strange behavior.
"Ah, that? Don't worry about it. He means no harm" Kagome hummed, never taking her eyes off the poultice she was grinding. After a long discussion, the demon party had decided that nothing could be determined until Naraku or one of the other men from the ship made the first move. Until then, Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha, and Kagura would continue to monitor the settlers while Kagome and the rest of the village prepared for the worst case scenario. Kocoum had tried to whittle down more arrowheads and prepare his men for a possible fight, but all the ruckus the fox kit was making was nearly impossible to ignore.
Kekata, who sat next to the miko and was grinding up his own herbs, set down his pestle and gazed at Kocoum with those all-knowing eyes.
"He is only showing the boy his place" the old medicine man stated sagely. The sounds of a small explosion, followed by Hiawatha's indignant cry and Shippo's evil cackles, drifted into the hut.
"His place?" Kocoum repeated dubiously.
"Shippo's just making sure that Hiawatha knows where he stands in the pack. Hiawatha might be his temporary caretaker, but Shippo's the one in charge" she explained. She then hesitated, pausing in her work and pursing her lips slightly before saying "Also, I don't think Shippo liked how excited Hiawatha was to see me."
"Foxes have little tolerance for arrogance" Kekata laughed, motioning for Kocoum to sit beside him. Kocoum obliged, plopping next to the medicine man and taking the mortar and pestle from him. "The young escort must have been too arrogant and proud of his task. It is good that the little fox is the one to beat him humble and not the hounds."
The Powhatan warrior nodded numbly as he crushed the herbs with small twisting movements of the pestle. Indeed, even imagining Kagome's two silver-haired guardians whaling away at the young Massawomeck was enough to make Kocoum wince. Regardless, though beating out the excess arrogance was all well and good, the kit seemed to be having a bit too much fun with it. Some of those tricks were overkill.
Kocoum shuddered as he remembered how terribly evil the kit looked, emerald eyes ablaze and hackles on end as a giant top chased Hiawatha through the village.
"Ah! Don't worry, he seems to respect you. If he does prank you, it'll be pretty mild. At most, he'll probably just pop out and shout 'boo!' or something" the miko giggled.
"That makes me feel marginally better" Kocoum grumbled before asking Kekata if the herbs were the desired consistency. At Kekata's negative, he continued his work.
"He's a fox, Kocoum, a natural trickster. What were you expecting?" Kagome snickered.
Memories of those doe-like eyes and sweet, innocent questions were being tainted by the monster running rampant outside. Those little claws that he used to find so cute warped into a set of tiny weapons. That curious mind he loved to fill with small tidbits of information distorted into the brain of an evil genius. That beautiful, pure smile had been bastardized by that crazed maniacal laughter.
"I'm not sure" he sighed, and Kagome grinned at the glum look in his eyes, "Tricks, yes. Just not… I don't know..."
There was another small explosion, closer now than the one before. Moments later thin trails of wispy, gray smoke seeped into the hut.
"...not that" Kocoum finished lamely, jerking a thumb in the direction of the smoke.
"The boy is a demon. A spirit. It is to be expected that his mischievousness follow the tendencies of his other traits" Kekata rationalized, placing a comforting hand on the young man's shoulders.
Of course, Kocoum should have expected that. Super strength. Super hearing. Super pranks. Still, it was difficult for him to lay the image of the trickster before him onto the child he cuddled with the night before.
"Dad! Pa! Kocoum-papa!" Shippo cried, charging into the hut in all of his muddy, dirt-covered glory. He stood in the doorway with his chest thrust out and hands on his hips as if he had just conquered his greatest enemy. All gloominess was tossed to the wind when Kocoum saw the kit like that and the negative emotion was replaced by amusement and for some reason, dare he say it, fatherly pride.
"Shippo! You know better than to step into a home looking like that" Kagome chastised.
Shippo visibly deflated and pouted, guiltily glancing behind him and covertly rubbing at a small, muddy paw print on the hut's pelt door with his tail. The medicine man chuckled and took the mortar and pestle out of Kocoum's hands before motioning him towards the kit. Gratefully, the man rose to his feet and stepped towards the child.
The boy looked up at him ruefully and Kocoum felt his insides melt under the weight of that pitiful stare. No. That wasn't right. He needed to stand firm. Something inside him told him that the fox would take advantage of any leeway Kocoum gave him, and there was absolutely no way the warrior was about to let the kit get the better of him.
...But those eyes...
"Let's get you cleaned up before Kagome yells at you more" he finally muttered, picking the kit up and rubbing away a smudge on the child's cheek.
"I wasn't yelling at him" Kagome sputtered, "and he's a fox! Don't you get caught up in his weaponized baby eyes!" but Kocoum purposefully ignored her and gave Shippo an uncharacteristic wink. Shippo grinned cheekily, knowing that his father figure hadn't actually fallen victim to his 'weaponized baby eyes,' but was simply humoring him. He liked a dad who purposefully let himself get caught. After all, Sesshoumaru never fell for his tricks or even pretended to and that was boring.
Kocoum heard Kagome sigh in defeat as he left the hut and allowed himself a small smile as he carried the boy to the nearby stream. To his pleasant surprise, the village was completely undamaged. Except for a couple lingering swirls of smoke and an exhausted Hiawatha hiding in the underbrush, there were no visible remnants of Shippo's rampage. He eventually grudgingly complimented Shippo for his consideration of the village, which earned him a proud sniff and an even prouder 'heheh. Duh!' from the kit.
Kocoum ignored the coos and the 'awww's of the village women when he reached the bubbling creak and set the boy down. They became increasingly difficult ignore as he crouched near the water, removed the child's muddied top, and began to rinse the grime off the kit's arms and legs. The amount of squeals tripled with every movement he made. Shippo seemed not to notice the amused whispers and soft giggles, instead helping by picking dried mud out of his tail as he excitedly told the older man of his 'epic' battles. Kocoum pretended to gasp when the kit got to the climax of his stories and hum conspiratorially when the fox disclosed to him the 'great secret' behind the 'art of his trade,' egging the boy on so effectively that he passionately chattered away until his clothes had dried and the sun was lowering over the horizon.
Pocahontas and Nakoma watched from the sidelines, heads tilted as they dissected Kocoum's interactions with the newest child in the village. Not long ago, Nakoma had hinted to Pocahontas that Kocoum was the catch of a lifetime, dreamily sighing something along the lines of "Oh, he is so handsome" to which Pocahontas had waved her off and snorted while making fun of his nonexistent smile.
"Bet you regret making fun of him now" Nakoma breathed, watching with fantasizing eyes as he took care of the kit. The smile every single lady in the village used to want to see seemed to be permanently plastered to his face, and oh boy what a charming smile that was.
"He was already Kagome's when you drooled over him last time" Pocahontas teased, earning her a light smack from her giggling friend. Still, though they had known that fatherhood could drastically change a man's personality, seeing the former oh-so-cold-and-dreamy bachelor of the village acting like a proper, loving father was something very few had actually expected to witness.
"It suits him" Pocahontas admitted after a long moment of silence. Nakoma nodded.
"Yeah. It suits him."