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1925, Alaska, Nome


Inuyasha sat on the steps and put the mug next to himself, stretching his legs out. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes, just listening to people walking back and forth on the main street. There weren’t many of them, the night was coming and they hid in their homes. The wind blew, sending chills down his back, but the air was crispy and fresh, and he couldn’t bring himself to get back to the inn. Not yet. He picked the mug, watching the pair swirl in the wind, and took a sip.

He really liked the feeling of warmth spreading through his muscles from the inside.

His ear twitched, catching the sound of snow breaking under weight. Too light for an adult, to even for a child. Inuyasha leaned forward, glancing toward the far end of the inn, sniffing the air. The musky smell of a wolf was unmistakable. He frowned. In the middle of a town?

The wolf crept forward from the alley between the inn and a house. It moved slowly, looking around, but not overly cautious or unsure. It wasn’t the first time it went to town. It ears moved back and forth, and it ducked down when a sound of a window being shut filled the air. The wind shifted, letting Inuyasha breathe its smell deeper.

Not a wolf, a wolfdog.

It moved onto the street, suddenly more confident. It, he corrected himself Inuyasha, was thin, not starving thin, but thin none the less.

Inuyasha watched him sniff the ground, sometimes digging in the snow, sometimes raising his head to look around. Then, Inuyasha whistled short, sharp sound.

The wolfdog jumped, turned his head to look at Inuyasha, and took a step back, lowering himself, ears lying flat against his head.

Inuyasha propped his elbows on his knees, holding the mug with both hands right in front of his face, and watched the wolfdog. He whistled again.

The wolfdog ears snapped up at the sound, turning his head to the sides, and then gave Inuyasha the doggy version of me? look.

“Come on.” Said Inuyasha, whistling once more. Slowly, he put the mug down and slid down to the lower step. He outstretched his hand, propping the elbow on his knee, and wiggled his fingers. “Come here.” He breathed out, cooking his head to the side.

The wolfdog shifted backward, barely keeping himself from taking a step back. His front paw hung in the air, as he kept staring at Inuyasha, obviously unsure how to act. Finally, he leaned forward, taking the first step, and waited. Inuyasha wiggled his fingers again, taking in the posture, the ears flattened against the skull, the soft trembling of the muscles, ready to jump back at any time.

Step by tentative step, the wolfdog moved closer, his body hanging low over the ground, almost as if he was prowling. He sniffed at Inuyasha’s fingers, his ears raising a little as he titled his head. Slowly, Inuyasha turned his hand and tapped the tip of the wolfdog’s nose. He jumped, sitting hard on the ground, and stared at Inuyasha, with the expression so bewildered, that Inuyasha couldn’t stop the bark of laughter from escaping him.

Shaking his head, the wolfdog stood up and stepped forward with more confidence. He sniffed again at Inuyasha’s hand, but this time more with curiosity than apprehension. He moved between Inuyasha’s legs, puffing clouds of warm air at his face, and Inuyasha smiled, trying to keep the laughter in.

“See? Not scary at all.” He murmured, putting a hand on the wolfdogs head. When he tensed, Inuyasha slowly started stroking his fur, scratching behind his ears. “If I didn’t know better, I never would have told you’re a wolf mix,” Inuyasha said as a matter of fact and didn’t that get a reaction. The wolfdog crouched, wariness back full force, paws digging into the snow for leverage. But he didn’t move from the spot. “Smart one, aren’t ya?” Inuyasha flicked his nose. “Don’t worry, there’s only one wolf I have something against and you aren’t him so you’re good. Gods only know the world doesn’t need a second like him.” He added, rolling his eyes. “Oh, calm down, I’m a half-breed too. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

That caused the wolfdog’s ears to perk up. Inuyasha grinned at him and tousled his ears, and suddenly the wolfdog opened his snout in a doggy smile and was pushing against Inuyasha’s hand, asking for more, tail a smudged blur from all the wagging.

“Hey!” The wolfdog managed to slip past Inuyasha’s hands and climbed onto his thighs, tongue darting forward. “Eww, alright, I’m okay with you being a wolf, but your breath stinks! And the wolf doesn’t help.” Finally, Inuyasha managed to grab the wolfdog around his neck and avert his head away from his face and dug his fingers into his fur, scratching, petting, and keeping him at bay. “You don’t get much attention here, do-“

“SHOO!” An angry voice cut through the air, causing both of them to jump in surprise. The wolfdog reeled back and was kept in place only by Inuyasha’s hands in his fur, as Inuyasha looked around. A woman was stomped towards them, waving a broom. “Shoo, you mutt!”

“I resent that, I have pure royal blood.” Growled Inuyasha, tugging the wolfdog closer, hiding him between his legs. “Not that anyone would agree with me.” He mumbled under his nose.

She stopped a few feet from them, glancing between Inuyasha and the wolfdog, clearly confused yet still holding the broom ready to strike.

“Not you, mister. Balto.” She nodded at the wolfdog, which shrunk back from her.

“Balto?” He repeated, patting the wolfdog’s head to get his attention. “That’s your name?” All he got in return was a whine.

“Mister, it’s a wolf-“

“Yeah, I know, it’s rather obvious.” Inuyasha glared at her and she flinched. He sneaked his hand down Balto’s side, rubbing it soothingly. “And unless he bites me, I’m good, so piss off.”

She sputtered, her face going red, and she opened her mouth to either argue or reprimand him for his language. Before she could, he growled, low in the throat. She glanced at Balto, clutching the broom tighter, then huffed, turned around and stomped back up the street.

Inuyasha snorted, loosening his grip on Balto’s fur and letting him step back. “Humans. Always the same.” He cocked his head to the side when Balto looked at him with something akin to wonder. “What?” He laughed, patting his snout. “Half-breeds need to stick together, there’s not that many of us. Some things just don’t change.” He added a bit bitterly. With one last pat, he picked the mug, drinking the remains of the lukewarm now tea. “Wanna show me where I can find a doctor here?” He asked Balto. “I may not be one but I know a bad cough when I hear one.”

Balto gave him another doggy smile, barked and jumped forward, tail wagging like crazy.

“You sure you’re a part wolf?”