Disclaimer: I DO NOT OWN INUYASHA!
Inuyasha jerked awake. He was relatively snug, cocooned in his massive bear fur hide. With it covering his head he could see nothing and smell nothing. True, it left him vulnerable to the various dangers of the forest, unable to smell something coming or see it when it was in front of him, but it was that or have his nose fall off from the cold, and, damnit, he needed his nose! It was because of this, however, that he had no idea what startled him awake.
A blood curdling scream broke through the howls of the wind.
He threw the hide off his head and jumped to his feet, bracing himself against the trunk of the tree he was sleeping in. He sniffed the air and his ears swiveled back and forth trying to catch another sound. There! A scuffling sound a little bit behind him. He secured his hide around his shoulders, unsheathed Tetsusaiga, and ran towards the sound.
As he grew closer, the winds carried scents to him. He scented blood, wet fur, and fear, three of his least favorite smells. Under the howling of the wind, running foot steps could be heard: two beings, one on two legs and the other on four. The harsh breathing of the two beings and the thunderous steps were coming closer. He saw them; a youkai woman was being chased by a colossal boar demon. He caught a glimpse of the he blood he smelled before. It ran down the leg of the youkai woman, pumping from the open gash on her thigh. The boar's blood coated tusks glistened in the moonlight, proof of just where the wound came from. The boar looked fierce as they ran past Inuyasha. Its dark fur was bristled with aggression and backlit by the moon. Its breath puffed out of its nostrils like the smoke of a dragon, over glowing red eyes and poisonous saliva dripped from its gaping maw.
Inuyasha jumped to the ground to run after it, but the snow was quite deep. He could not go very fast in the snow that covered his ankles in some places and reached his shins in others. Ahead, the youkai woman was faltering. Blood loss and a wounded leg tripped her up and she crashed in the snow. The boar took the opportunity and lowered his tusks to the ground and charged. She screamed. The boar was on top of her, impaling her with its poison coated tusks, stomping on her with its razor sharp hooves. She screamed again and the sound mixed with the raging grunts and squealing roars of the beast.
The woman and the boar had gotten some distance on him, the boar pushing the woman still farther with every hit of his tusks, leaving a wide trail of blood in the snow. Inuyasha could not get close fast enough. He raised his sword.
"KAZE NO KIZU!"
The power of the sword raced to its intended target, but Inuyasha was too far. Its normally obliterating power waned with the distance, and though it hit the beast's back, it lived. A solid piece of it flew away, causing the boar to roar in pain. As blood gushed from the wound the boar ran into the night, screaming and grunting in pain and anger.
The cold night air was still and silent. The woman no longer screamed. Inuyasha rushed to the youkai woman. Panting, he approached the figure, curled and writhing in pain. There was blood everywhere, seeping from a massive puncture- probably from a tusk- in her neck and thigh, poison bubbled from the wounds. There were cuts and bruises from the boar's sharp hooves all over her body. She stretched her neck in her attempt to get air and her eyes bugged with fear and the strain to breathe. Her desperate gasps gurgled in her throat and tears ran down her face, her body shacking with fear, shock, and her own effort to breath. Her arms cradled a bundle of blood splattered furs, her knees were drawn up, her back hunched and she lay on her side in the snow, protecting it from the brutal attack.
A wolf demon, Inuyasha noted as his eyes connected with glassy green eyes of the woman, who was quickly drowning in her own blood. Her body, taunt and trembling, soon grew slack, and her gurgled breath shallowed until it too stopped. Inuyasha swallowed hard as her eyes glazed and her arms went limp. The bundle she had been cradling rolled from her grasp until it landed in a depression in the snow. The bundle opened slightly and a small clawed hand rested limp atop the snow.
What the.., thought Inuyasha. He made his way to the small bundle and lifted it, sniffing out its contents. He unwrapped it. Buried within the furs was a small child. A small trickle of blood ran down its forehead. Was it the woman's blood or the babe's, Inuyasha did not know, but it was warm and breathing in his hands.
The woman, Inuyasha assumed the babe's mother, was dead, beyond saving, but the child in his hands was not. He looked at the woman, frozen in place where she used her body to shield the child from attack. There was no way he could bury her, not with the mounds of snow and frozen earth, but he could make sure her babe was protected.
He turned away from the bloody scene, secured the babe in his arms, and leapt into the trees.
Once he found a big tree with branches sturdy enough to hold him and at the right angle so he wouldn't fall out in his sleep, he sat with his back to the trunk and brought his knees up to support the child in his lap. He brought his bear hide over his head and secured it around them so the cold could not get in. It would not do to expose the babe to the cold while he examined it. In the dark under the hide, Inuyasha's demon eyes allowed him to see his charge.
He unwrapped the child from its soiled furs. It was obviously much younger than Shippo, though was about the same size. Its tawny brown hair was short and messily spiked in various directions from its head, the same color as the little tail that protruded from the cloth that served as a diaper. The small male wolf cub - as Inuyasha discerned-, other than the diaper, had no clothes. He turned his attention to the blood on the cub's forehead. Upon inspection, Inuyasha saw that the blood indeed was the cubs, trailing from a small cut near the hairline. Little squirt got caught by a hoof, Inuyasha surmised as he began to lick away the blood.
As he lapped at the small wound to clean it, the cub whimpered and began to stir. He wriggled in Inuyasha's grasp and opened his eyes. Inuyasha watched as the eyes, which were such a light blue they were almost white, wavered and crossed in the cubs attempt to focus. Musta been a good thump on the head, Inuyasha thought, He was padded by furs, and it still knocked him out cold. The cubs gazed settled on Inuyasha and he whimpered and trembled in fear. He did not know this demon. Was he going to be eaten?
Inuyasha bent to the cubs face and licked his cheek in comfort. "I won't hurt ya, squirt. You're alright"
He leaned back and gazed into the cub's eyes, pale and piercing, as the cub gazed back into his own molten pools. A silent bond stretched between them. A funny feeling grew in his chest. Inuyasha suddenly knew then what he needed to do. Well, he was already going to, but now he knew had to. He must protect this cub. He was his to defend.
This was a wolf cub. Inuyasha happened to know a wolf prince. Lucky for the little squirt here, we happen to be relatively close by the wolf's domain. He probably belongs to the fleabag's tribe. Inuyasha would ensure his-no- this cub would get to the Northern Wolf Tribe* that resided in the mountains just a few days journey north of here.
He gathered the cub and tucked him under his chin, resting his body on his chest. The cub uncurled and nuzzled his nose under Inuyasha's chin. The cub instinctually knew to submit himself to this demon, who would be his protector. This demon was warm and gentle and kind. He was also lonely. He reached up further and lapped at Inuyasha's cheek in his appreciation and innocent affection.
"Keh, damn kid, slobbering all over me…" He muttered. He tucked the cub back under his chin and settled back for the night. Despite the cold and dreary surroundings, Inuyasha felt warmth that spread through him, and he stole a secret smile. He was content.
That warm feeling stayed with him throughout the next day, growing as the sun rose in the sky. Squirt, as Inuyasha had taken to calling the young cub, had awakened him as the sun rose, squirming in his lap, batting at the fur that rest over his head. Huddled in a hollow made from the raised roots of a tree, they shared a breakfast of a rabbit Inuyasha had caught. After, Inuyasha licked away the bloody mess that the cub had created in his enthusiastic eating, from his cheeks, hands, and toes. How he got his breakfast on his toes, I'll never know.
In the warmth of the space made of fur and Inuyasha's lap, Squirt wriggled on his back, bearing his belly and yipping happily. Completely ignorant of his canine demon heritage and ways, including modes of communication, Inuyasha had no conscious idea that this was a show by Squirt of his complete submission and absolute trust in the dog hanyou. Instinctually, though, Inuyasha knew he should be happy about this pose. He leaned down and licked the tip of the cub's nose and then tickled the rounded baby belly, and gave a small smile to the delighted giggles of the child.
With that, they had prepared to start their journey to the Northern Wolf Tribe. Inuyasha unwrapped Squirt from his furs, the young cub shivering instantly in the cold. He hoisted the cub onto his back, where he clung with his small sharp claws. Inuyasha quickly covered the cub in the furs and wrapped it across his back, tying it in front of him, creating a warm sling across his back. He draped his long thick hair over the bundle on his back and then covered them both with the big bear fur as added protection against the wind.
The journey was slow going. The snow seemed to have doubled over night, or at least that was how it felt to Inuyasha. It stayed bitterly cold, almost as if the sun had not risen at all, and the skin of his exposed face and knuckles grew red and raw quickly. Squirt, however, felt none of this, kept warm and occupied at Inuyasha's back.
Inside the sling Inuyasha could feel him move about, entertaining himself as only children seem to be able to do. Occasionally he would pop his head out of the sling and Inuyasha would feel the tugs at his scalp where the cub would play with his hair or bite and pull on the collar of his hitoe. A wave of contentment would wash over him when he felt the cub's soft cheek rest on his back as he napped, or rest his chin on his shoulder as he looked out from beneath the curtain of hair.
The best thing Inuyasha had discovered about his Squirt was that he was a delightful conversationalist. At one point, Inuyasha had announced to no one in particular that the winds had changed; a sure sign of an impending snow storm. He was surprised with a responding bit of baby babble.
"What are you yammerin' about back there?" A shrieking giggle was his responds.
From there Inuyasha decided that if the cub wanted conversation, who was he to deny him that? Inuyasha certainly did not mind it, though he was glad there was no one around the hear him blather on to a baby who would answer him with yips, giggles, shrieks, and wordless babbles. In fact, it was relieving to the hanyou, as it was the first conversation he had been able to participate in for months, and much longer still since he had had one that did not include the words "filthy hanyou", "dirty mongrel", or "monster". He talked for hours to the cub about many things, some important, but many not; ranging from just how far up his brother's ass he would like to shove his foot, to the best kind of tree to sleep in- "a big ol' Sugi tree" was his suggestion.
He was, in truth, so engrossed on the subject of most comfortable trees that he failed to notice the angry glowing red eyes that surveyed him from the bushes.
It was while he was in the midst of announcing that they needed to find a place to ride out the encroaching storm, and soon, that he heard the sounds of something approaching from behind them. The winds, which had been steadily building in speed, were blowing against them, roaring in his ears and muffling the sounds around him. The approaching beast was down wind from him and he never smelled it, and only heard it coming as it started to thunderously charge at him a few feet away.
He barely had enough time to whirl out of the way as the beast grazed his side with something sharp. Inuyasha ignored the small scrape as he finally got a look at his assailant. Its hackles were raised and a roar exploded from its mouth, bubbling poison dripping from its sharp tusks. Though mostly healed, there was a noticeable chunk of flesh missing from its meaty shoulder; a patch of its spiky brown hair was gone. Inuyasha recognized this beast. It was the demon boar from last night and it was angry.
It skidded to a halt in the deep snow, realizing it had missed its target. As it swung around to charge again, Inuyasha drew his Tetsusaiga. He raised it above his head.
"KAZE NO KI-" Inuyasha had to jump out of the way as the boar ran by. It was much faster than he thought.
Again the boar skid to a halt and advanced again. This time Inuyasha knew he was too close for the long range attacks of Kaze no Kizu. As the beast got nearer, he swung the sword across, throwing his weight behind it and slashed at its face.
The boar bellowed with a squealing roar as the sword connected and blood gushed from the wound to its eye. Stopped in its tracks, it shook its head from side to side as if to clear its vision of the blood and gore that covered it, but its right red eye was now useless. Its breath clouded in the cold dry air as it steadied its self and focused its remaining eye on the inu hanyou, that was then trying to back him self up in order to put some distance between him and his attacker without turning his back to it.
Inuyasha tried to focus on the boar, but he could feel the distress of his cub. The cub was pawing at his back in agitation, having sensed Inuyasha's raised heartbeat and the scent of his anxiety. Shit! Every time I jump around, the little squirt is thrown around back there. I should've tied this thing tighter! Inuyasha thought as one of his hands gripped the knot of the sling that rest on the middle of his chest. Before he could think further, however, the beast was upon him.
It had somehow maneuvered to his side, coming in from his left. Inuyasha was a fighter who attacked head on, and was at a disadvantage as he tried to swing at the boar. The boar barreled into him and the sword chopped into its flank. Inuyasha screamed as the boar slammed into him, shattering his left arm into, what Inuyasha thought felt like, a million pieces. He dropped to the ground on his right side, careful not to roll on top of Squirt, as the boar stumbled past in pain.
Damnit! he thought, as he tried to breathe through the pain and watched the boar stagger around and face him again. By this time, the boar was bleeding profusely. It seeped from its face wound and gushed from the new gash in its side. It lurched around in pain, but it refused to give up the attack. It charged.
Inuyasha braced him self in the snow. With his left arm lying useless, his took up the Tetsusaiga in his right and braced the large sword on the ground pointing diagonally from the ground and up at his aggressor. The beast hurled its weight behind its tusks and struck. They ripped though Inuyasha, piercing his chest, puncturing his left lung, and pushing out his back shoulder. The barrage was instantly halted, however, as the beast's charge landed it directly on to Tetsusaiga. The boar dropped were it stood, the sword hitting its mark, thrust through its heart with the power of its own attack.
Gasping in pain and lack of oxygen, Inuyasha pushed the body of his enemy from where it had fallen on his legs. Straining on one arm, still clutching his sword, he slowly and unsteadily rose to his feet. Not bothering to sheath Tetsusaiga, he knew he had to get out of there. The body of the boar would attract predators, predators he had no chance of defending against in his current state. The wind was blowing mercilessly and flakes of snow began to drift to the ground.
He began to stumble through the snow in an attempt to find a secure place to rest, warm up, and heal. Within minutes, he started to tremble in the cold, the snow coming down heavier with each passing moment until he could not see but a few feet in front of him. With his left hand broken and useless and his right hand occupied with dragging his sword behind him in the snow, he could not hold closed his furs that where tied at his neck. With his head and front exposed to the winds, he knew he was not going to last very long, and needed to find a place soon.
Through the stinging cold, stabbing pain of his wounds, and the burning spread of the frothing poison, his greatest distress was for Squirt. The cub scratched at his back in distress. He whimpered and whined at his alpha's pain. He could hear his erratic heart beat, smell the fear, distress, and blood. He could feel Inuyasha's shivers. He could feel the muscles in his back jump in pain with every breath. He certainly felt it when his protector collapsed to the snow with a great thump, as the adrenalin from the fight gave out and he could carry himself no longer.
Squirt rolled out of his sling and over Inuyasha's head with the momentum of the fall. The fur, tied around Inuyasha's shoulders bunched over his head and torso, leaving his legs exposed to the cold. Squirt crawled over Inuyasha's head, with in the furs, to find his face, thankfully resting on a bit of the fur and not buried in the snow.
His breath was shallow and was impaired further by the quaking shivers that racked his body. The cub licked at his face, attempting to rouse the barely conscious hanyou. I'm sorry squirt... I failed again. The thought ghosted through his head and the cub butting his nose into Inuyasha's neck, huddling into his face and whimpering was the last thing Inuyasha comprehended before he fell deep into unconsciousness.
A/N: *Just so you know, I am aware that Koga is the leader of the SOUTHERN wolf tribe, but I envisioned the story to be set in the cold, and you can't have that in the south. So I've taken a bit of creative freedom there.