The moon was full and the air was crisp. The leaves making a satisfying crunch under the pads of his feet. The inhalation of cool autumn air making it all the easier to cycle in its fresh essence and push harder—sprinting faster through the forest.
The moon was at his fullest and his pack had celebrated by lighting bonfires and stripping their restrictive clothing from their bodies—allowing their transformative forms to take over. This was the clan’s night to fully submerge themselves into their forms. To play and gallivant about as if they were pups again. There were also some newer members of the clan and this was their first night of transformation. A particularly exciting time as their clan was expanding by the month. The elders had only recently decided to open up the clan’s historically protective walls. Reaching out to others like them and offering a place in their pack.
He enjoyed watching the new and younger members let loose and scamper about from time to time. The younger ones especially since they enjoyed shifting into their wolf forms—allowing themselves run free into the safe environment of the surrounding forest to chase one another through the trees.
Yes—he enjoyed the occasional celebration, but Kakashi was more of a lone-wolf compared to the rest.
He wasn’t much like the others. Finding himself straying from the pack often—especially nights like these. The pack would get rowdy and restless, taking out their heightened energy and ruts by hunting at all hours of the night. Humans were absolutely off limits, and if a wolf from their clan were to ever harm a human it meant immediate exile. Sometimes termination. That was the one rule that held the utmost importance whenever joining the clan.
And the animalistic urges. He had witnessed many a tryst while in the camp and it always gave him pause. An Alpha of his standing in the clan was expected to mate; preferably another wolf of the pack and they were all Betas. His kind consisted of Alphas, Betas and the ever elusive Omegas. Alphas being the top tier of the hierarchy and Betas second. Omegas were at the very bottom but changes brought by the modern era also changed his kind’s viewpoint on Omegas. He had only ever heard stories of them, but from what he heard they were an Alpha’s one true pair. They were specifically made to mate one another and they often mated for life. But they were a distant memory now in the history of wolf mating. They all but ceased to exist.
Kakashi gazed up at the fullness of the moon and inhaled deepy, closing his eyes and filling his lungs with fresh and cool air. It was the perfect autumn night for shifting. He found a nearby boulder and stripped himself of his clothing, unbuttoning his flannel shirt and pulling down his bottoms.
He crooked his neck and stretched his limbs as he felt the power of the moon overtake him. At first he found the transformations painful but after having done it dozens of times in the twenty-seven years of his life—he found it almost second nature. He took off into a sprint, shedding all inhibition and letting his wolf form take over. He was the largest of the pack and had a unique coat that reflected the silvery haze of the moon.
His coat was much like his late father—The White Fang of the pack. He was their former leader before he had committed suicide after being exiled from the group. The clan had informed Kakashi when he was very young that he had attacked a human woman and though it pained him to not have his father in his life, the clan was his family and he knew as well as anyone that the rules were finite. He couldn’t defy his family—even if it meant shunning a part of it.
Shaking himself of the thought, Kakashi sprinted north, raising his snout into the air to see if he could sniff for any signs of humans. It was midnight and these woods were usually free of them, which is why his pack chose to settle there. His nostrils flared as he picked up a coppery and irony scent. The distinctive characteristics of blood. He brought himself to a halt as he sniffed some more, trying to track where the smell was coming from. He could usually decipher whether the blood originated from a human or animal but his breath hitched as he discerned that what he was smelling was in fact human blood.
He carried on sprinting through the darkness, snout to the ground and tracking the scent of the human who was clearly in distress. He could practically smell the fear permeating his nostrils and it caused his heart to beat unbearably fast, desperate to find this wounded human.
Upon entering a clearing he started to hear soft whimpers. His ears twitched as they tried to pick up what direction they were coming and found it was not too far ahead. Picking up up into a wide sprint again, he came to the edge of the meadow—the whimpers and cries forcing themselves louder and louder into his mind.
Then suddenly, a girl had come into view. A very small—very fragile girl. She couldn’t be more than ten, surely. Stuck in a fetal position, hiding behind a log and facing him with her eyes sewn shut. She was shaking uncontrollably and Kakashi winced at her traumatic state. Really wishing he hadn’t shifted because it was obvious that she’d become more traumatized if approached by a huge and intimidating wolf such as himself.
But when she dared open her eyes and took a moment to study him, he could’ve sworn he saw a look of relief in her eyes. It elicited the strangest feeling and he wasn’t sure whether to think she was brave or incredibly stupid. She then reached her hand out and let out a soft. “Doggy…” and the soft tone made his ears perk up. He approached her slowly, observing her tear-stricken face that was marked with dirt and other forest muck. He nudged his snout into her hand and she started stroking it softly. Needing her to trust him if he was going to take her back to camp to clean her up.
He then froze and lifted his head, the moon shifting in the sky and casting its glare further up the girl’s arm. His yellow eyes widened upon noticing a wound on her arm and it almost made him howl in anguish for the girl. For she knew not the gravity of what that mark meant.
Because there on her arm… was a fresh and distinct wolf bite.
It took some convincing and improvisation, but Kakashi was able to convince the girl to climb onto his back and allow him take her to the pack to be looked after. He had to inform the elders of this. If it was one of their own there would be serious consequences. In extreme cases, if one of the pups had done this, the elders would overlook it and assume it was caused by a lack of control due to their first transformation, but this bite looked to be from a fully-grown wolf.
He slowly made his way back to the boulder where he had temporarily left his clothes and gently crouched onto the ground, allowing himself to shift back into his human form. He was holding her on his bare back now and settled her down against the boulder, finding she was fast asleep. He was able to observe her better now and she still looked quite young. He tutted and shook his head, knowing tonight would be a rough night for the pack as the elders would raise hell trying to find who was responsible for this.
He noticed her hair next and found it was unlike anything he had ever seen. It was pink, but not an aggressive pink. It was soft and almost looked white in the radiant moonlight. He knelt down before her and brushed a stray strand from her face, gently cupping it and running an affectionate thumb across her rosy cheek before getting himself up and dressed.
He promptly scooped her back up in his arms, watching her head lull to the side and cradle into his arm and against his chest. He couldn’t believe how weightless she was in his arms and he found himself admiring her innocence. It only made him more sad for her situation. She had been bitten, so it was only a matter of time before she transformed, and she was much too young to even understand what that meant.
He wasn’t far from the camp now and he found himself quickening his pace as he found himself getting closer, desperate to get the girl help since he started to feel her quake in his arms. He began to smell the burning fires and the more steps he took the more he could make out the light emanating from the fires as well as figures dancing and gallivanting around them. He finally got to the camp’s edge and let out an almighty roar, immediately silencing the entire pack.
All members had their eyes on Kakashi and stared wide-eyed upon seeing the fragile and broken girl he was carrying, “Alert the Elders!” he called, “A girl has been bitten,” he said and the gasps from the pack echoed throughout, some shaking their heads and covering their mouths in shock and disbelief.
Just then, Tsunade, the only Alpha female of the pack and long-time leader emerged from her cabin, tying her robe around her waist. She had retired long ago to let the pack roam free on of their own without her watchful gaze. She walked down the steps from her porch and furrowed her brow, confused about what the sudden commotion was about.
“Kakashi, what is the meaning of this?” she asked, making a not so graceful entrance to the middle of the camp and towards the Alpha male. He frowned and assumed she had been drinking again due to her angered state rather than immediately asking about the girl that he so clearly held in his arms. He cocked his eyebrow and raised the girl a bit as if he was going to hand her over, but instead gave her a knowing glance, indicating that something serious was afoot.
She raised her eyebrows and her mouth hung slightly as she slowly approached Kakashi, bringing her hand up to the girl and leaning over her small and dainty form, observing what had made Kakashi’s entrance into the camp so volatile, “We must get to the bottom of this at once,” she murmured and he shook his head.
“Come morning we will, but she needs immediate attention. She’s hypothermic and has numerous wounds besides the bite.” he reasoned and she nodded her head, motioning for him to bring her into her cabin. Upon entering he was immediately met with the warmth of the fire she had already burning in her chimney. He laid the girl down on her bed and observed that she looked relaxed now, allowing himself to let some weight off of his shoulders. He was unsure of what drew this feeble creature to him but he couldn’t ignore the pull he felt to take her under his wing. He shook it off and turned to Tsunade who was mixing some tonics and gathering healing herbs.
“I’ll return in the morning to check on her.” Kakashi said and Tsunade nodded, giving him a knowing smile that reassured him that the girl was in good hands now. He gave her a short wave before making himself scarce, unwilling to deal with the confused glances his way. All he wished to do was take himself to his cot and drift into a dreamless sleep, knowing that was wishful thinking as he knew he’d be haunted by that tear stricken emerald gaze.
Kakashi woke the next morning to a surprisingly still camp. He emerged from his cabin whom he shared with a few of his brothers to a foggy and calm atmosphere. The bonfires had been burned and the air was permeated with a mix of burnt logs, whiskey and fresh pine. He allowed himself to take in the stillness of the early morning before making his way over to the head Alpha’s cabin.
He grabbed a few granola bars and a couple of bananas before he left to bring with him to Tsunade’s cabin, certain that the girl would be hungry after such a harrowing evening. He just hoped she wasn’t too terrified to speak of what happened to anyone. Their priority was to find out who did this to her, then find out what to do about her situation, and time was of the essence.
Just then he heard a loud scream rip him from his thoughts, the shrill and high-pitched noise setting the hair on his neck at attention and his senses heightened. He recognized it as the girl who had just been consuming his thoughts and he broke out into a sprint towards Tsunade’s cabin. He heard another scream and almost ripped off the head Alpha’s door from its hinges, eyes immediately scanning the space to see what had happened. His eyes focused on Tsunade sitting at the edge of her bed with a healing draught in her hands, trying to coax the girl to take it. The girl was cowered at the other end of the bed and pushed herself into the corner, knees up to her chest and arms hugging them for dear life.
Her gaze fell on Kakashi and her eyes widened as she pointed and whispered, “Dog…”. She immediately yelped and scrambled for him, almost tripping over her feet as she threw herself at his legs, hugging her small form to him with a death grip. He stumbled back at the impact and froze, amazed that she had recognized him. Tsunade looked at him slack jawed and narrowed her eyes at him.
“You approached her in your wolf form?” she seethed and he could only stare back, unsure of what to say; still stunned by the little girl who had thrown herself at him, immediately recognizing him outside of his transformative form. He was so sure she was asleep for the entire journey back to camp the previous night.
“I… she seemed more willing to cooperate when I shifted.” he reasoned, bringing a hand to her head to stop her trembling and she brought her gaze to him, horror in her eyes and tears streaming down her face. He shushed her in a soothing manner, caressing the back of her head to calm her down and he felt her slowly stop trembling and relax into his touch. He smiled softly down at her, pleased with ability to soothe her.
Tsunade huffed and handed Kakashi the healing drought, “Well why don’t you take care of her wounds and make sure she eats something while I try and get to the bottom of this,” she said with a grump and grabbed her robe, slinging it on with a look of hell fire in her eyes and trudged out of the cabin. The little girl sniffed underneath him and he slowly knelt down to her, bringing a hand to her cheek and brushing her tears away.
"It's alright, little one.” he crooned and brushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “We’ll get to the bottom of what happened and hopefully get you back to where you came from.” he said with a reassuring smile on his face.
She gave him a confused look and shook her head, to which he returned with a perplexed look of his own. “You don’t want to go back to your home home?” he asked, wondering if she had come from somewhere dangerous and that’s why she was in the unfamiliar woods. The thought made his blood boil and anger flash in his eyes.
She shook her head. “I have no home…” she said in the quietest voice and he almost didn’t hear her.
“What do you mean?” he asked, matching her soft tone as not to scare her.
She shifted her gaze, as if unsure of what to say and it took a few moments for her to respond.
“You’re all I know…” she said, burying her face into his chest and tucking her arms into him. All Kakashi could do was bring his hand to the back of her head, cradling her form against him and rocking her back and forth, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with this information.
“I don't understand.” Tsunade demanded, looking at Kakashi as if she had just had an aneurism.
Kakashi shrugged. “That’s what she said to me. She can’t recall a thing. Nothing from before I found her and nothing from her previous life.” he said, taking a sip of the coffee that Tsunade made for the both of them.
“This isn’t good…”
“No shit.” he scoffed, “she has no memory, Tsunade. Doesn’t know where she came from, hell I don’t think she even knows what her name is,” he said.
“Did she have any ID on her?” Tsunade asked, taking a sip of her own coffee as she looked out to the crowd of people who started assembling outside.
“I don’t think she’s even old enough for an ID.” he said flippantly with a wave of his hand. "She must be—fuck I don't know—ten or so? Certainly acts like it.” he said, silently cursing at how tired he was and how that came out a bit more harsh than he intended.
“Well get used to it because she’s under your care until further notice. You’re the only one she seems to trust anyway.”
Kakashi sighed, bringing a hand up to his temple and rubbing it in frustration. The events of the previous night caused him to sleep very little and he was feeling irritable. The ‘bite’ situation they had on their hands didn’t make things any easier.
"Tsunade." he pressed, bringing his hand back to his side and setting his cup down, shooting her a serious expression and wanting to discuss the real issue at hand.
"I know..." she said, letting out a long sigh and bringing her palm to her forehead. "I know she's been bitten but... maybe this works in our favor; the fact that she can't seem to remember anything before you found her." she reasoned, looking towards Kakashi for his opinion.
He scoffed and shook his head. "Bites never result in full amnesia. She knows nothing of her life before meeting me." he seethed, crossing his arms and casting his glance out the window.
"Then you're all she knows, until we get some answers." she snapped, using the girl’s words against him and bringing her heated gaze towards him. "And this is the beginning of her new life. Quite possibly with you as her guardian."
Kakashi took a few moments to respond, but eventually nodded his head in understanding, knowing that it was the best option for now. But they had to entertain the possibility that even if her memories came back, she may never go home. She had been bitten by a wolf. Not a dog, not some other rabid animal but a wolf. Their kind. And they were responsible for her well-being and bringing whoever did this to justice.
Not only that, but he had to come to terms with the fact that he may very well be her guardian from this day forward, as well as bear the responsibility of showing her what it means to be a wolf.