Following Maru was no hardship. Shippou had always been a good tracker. Kagome didn't know it, but Inuyasha had sure suspected, his father had been the Alpha of their pack.

"You have the scent of an Alpha."

Inuyasha had sounded suspicious then and after denying it vehemently, Shippou had once again masked his scent. Another very important lesson. If you look weak and helpless, it gives you an advantage over your enemy. He planned to rebuild his pack once he grew up. It would take quite a few years, but patience was his fortitude. Protecting Kagome came first.

Everything else came after.

Shippou had never thought he would find himself attached to a human female so easily, but Kagome was no ordinary human. She was special. And she treated him like his mother did. At night, his mother would curl around him in her youkai form and whisper sweet nothings to him till he fell asleep. Kagome would hold him close and her scent would surround him. Her scent had the most peaceful aroma to it. It was soft and protective and he could bathe in it for hours and hours on end.

Maru's arrival had ruffled Shippou's Alpha nature.

Kagome had belonged to him! This miniature version of Seshomaru had no right over her, but the miko had formed a special bind with the pup. His aura had entwined with hers. He had only seen that happen with his parents. His father's aura would hover around his mother's aura, protectively. However, Kagome's aura hovered over Maru's and her aura was shielded by the big bad inuyoukai who often stared at Kagome when she wasn't looking.

Seshoumaru had a bad habit of tossing around his mother, Shippou frowned. Although, she gave back as good as she got. Now, he did it relatively less. It seemed that Seshoumaru didn't know how to handle Kagome. He would threaten her, she would retort, and he would go back to watching her in that strange manner. His gaze seemed, almost possessive.

Shippou was torn between irritation and relief. On one hand, he didn't like how some mutt had claimed his mother, and on the other hand, he was relieved that she had such a powerful protector. Because despite, everything, he could see that the daiyoukai was fascinated by his mother and was softening around the edges when it came to interacting with her.

He sniffed and found the pup heading east. Frowning, he followed the trail. He hadn't liked Maru, but there was something deceptively fragile about the inuyoukai. Although, he was a child, he was strong but it seemed that a few words could fell him. He had claimed Kagome almost instantly and seemed to think that Kagome belonged to him. His mother would never understand the claiming instinct of youkai but it was a part of who they were. Kagome belonged to him. He had thought that a long while ago, till he realized that she wouldn't appreciate it. She would feel confined in that bond.

Seshoumaru had claimed his mother, as had the pup. It was strange watching them fight over her. It made him want to snarl. She was a person, not a thing! Once he grew stronger, he would make sure nobody fought over her like that. He knew it upset her.

He stilled, following Maru's scent to a nearby stream.

The pup was lonely and whenever he and Rin would approach him, he would seem hesitant, as if he refused to believe they wanted to play with him. He found it extremely strange; inuyoukai were very affectionate. They lived on touch and family bonds. However, both Seshoumaru and Maru were so aloof that sometimes he doubted that they were inuyoukai.

He spotted the boy sitting on a rock next to the stream. His face was strained, and he kept kicking at the water. Shippou studied him for a while. It had shocked Maru when Kagome had refuted his claim. For inuyoukai that was as good as being told that they were not wanted. And for some odd reason, Shippou's instinct told him that Maru had received this blow one too many times.

"I know you're out there."

He stiffened. How did he -?

Maru looked back, directly in the tree, Shippou had been concealing himself in.

They stared at each other for a few minutes before Shippou jumped down onto the ground and started walking towards him, "How did you know I was there?"

Maru shrugged, "I always know when I'm not alone."

Not knowing what to make of that statement, Shippou sat down next to the boy. They sat in silence for a while before Shippou spoke, "Kagome is not like us. She's human, you know."

A flash of loneliness passed over Maru's face before being concealed behind a mask. He looked at the water with fierce concentration, but Shippou had the feeling that he was listening to him carefully.

He hesitated, before beginning, "She doesn't understand the concept of ownership. Where she comes from, someone can't be owned by someone. That's what makes her so special, you know. She doesn't belong to anyone but herself."

"But I claimed her." The inuyukai's voce was small and he seemed hurt?

"Like I said, she's not like us. You can't keep her if she doesn't want to be kept."

The next words were so soft that even Shippou had to strain to hear them.

"Nobody ever wants to belong to me."

Shippou's eyes widened, and he seemed shocked, "What about your parents?"

Maru kicked at the water, bitterly, "They hurt me a lot when they found out that I had claimed them. They do not like me."

"B-But you're Seshoumaru. You're the most powerful -"

Maru shook his head, "No, the Seshoumaru from your time is the powerful. I am not."

Shippou studied Maru quietly, before asking, "What about friends?"

Maru stared into the distance, "Other inuyoukai pups don't like talking to me." His eyes brightened a little, "The dragon master is nice to me! He tells me all sorts of tales about different places. And he even gave me an egg all for myself. He says that when it hatches, that dragon will be mine."

Shippou smiled, "See, you do have a friend."

Maru nodded, "He taught me how to fly on a dragon. But then Father found out and -"

He became silent as his eyes dimmed at the harsh memory.

"What did he do?" Shippou pressed.

Maru shook his head and said in a low voice, "Now I have to sneak away from the castle to see him. He is still nice to me, but he told me to be more careful."

"I can be your friend."

Maru stilled and turned his head to look at Shippou. He blinked, "What? But you don't like me."

Shippou stared at the ground, "I just don't like sharing 'Gome with anyone."

"But you share her with Rin."

"That's because Rin's also mine!"

"Is Rin ... you friend?"

Shippou glared at him, "Yeah, but she belongs to me."

They stared at each other for a few seconds, neither willing to lower their gaze, till Maru sniffed and turned his head away, "I don't want Rin."

"Eh! What's wrong with her?" The haughty attitude irked Shippou.

The inuyoukai cocked his head, "You just said she's yours. Do you want me to want her?"

"No..."

"Then I don't want her."

Those golden eyes turned slightly dark, "I just want Kagome. I thought she liked me."

Shippou tugged at Maru's sleeve, "She does like you."

The pup looked confused, "But she said -"

"Kagome doesn't belong to anyone, but she really likes you."

Maru's eyes widened, "She does?" He hesitated, "But, I hurt her."

Shippou narrowed his eyes, "Stupid Inuyasha hurts her a lot of times, but she still likes him. Actually," he whispered, "She used to love him, but not anymore."

"Love him? How?"

"You know," Shippou waved his arms in the air, impatiently, "She wanted to mate him, but he was mean to her all the time, and now she doesn't love him anymore."

Maru stilled, "Then does she love Seshoumaru?"

Shippou's eyes widened, "I don't know."

They stared at each other, horrified.

"She cannot love him! He hurts hers."

Shippou made a face, "Yeah. But he also protects her."

"He does?"

Shippou nodded, "Yeah, lots of times. Even when she didn't travel with him, There was that one time when Kagome was attacked by this bear youkai and he was really really big, like," He widened his arms to demonstrate, "This big and he came at her and Kagome was out of arrows and Seshoumaru just cut him in half like it was nothing."

Maru's eyes widened, impressed, "Was Seshoumaru already there?"

"No, he just showed up out of nowhere and saved her. He didn't even say anything to her, he just looked at her and then walked away. He was really cool."

"Cool?"

"You know, like 'cool'."

Maru nodded his head, although he didn't understand, "Yes, cool."

"Come on." Shippou stood up and held out a hand, "Let's go back. Kagome will be getting worried."

"But -"

Shippou grinned and grabbed his 'friend's' hand, "It's okay to thingk Kagome belongs to you. Just don't tell her, okay?"

Maru stared at the hand holding his. Friends.

And a small smile curved his lips.

He had a friend.

They walked hand in hand, back to the others.

"So can I be friends with Rin, too?"

"No!"

"Why not?"

"Cause I told you, she's mine."

"What if she wants to be friends with me?"

"She wouldn't. She knows she's mine."

"But what if?"

"Then I'll burn you with my fox fire."

A haughty sniff, "My poison whip is stronger."

"I can take you and that whip on any day!"

"No you cannot."

A pair of brown eyes watched the two youkai bicker as they walked away hand in hand.

Another inuyoukai? Now this was interesting.

A.N: In the next chapter, Maru loosens up. Seshoumaru starts training Maru. Meanwhile, Myouga shows up with some very interesting news and gets squished like always. Inuyasha has abandonment issues. Kikyou has trust issues. Miroku has Sango issues, while Sango just wants to eat fish. Naraku gets no screen time cause I think he's ugly.