Inuyasha gingerly raised himself from the ground using the tree he was leaning on as a brace. God, stomach wounds suck, thought Inuyasha, as he pressed his hand into the deepest part of the cut across his belly. Blood began to seep through his fingers again as his movements reopened his slowly healing wounds.
Once on his feet, hunched over and unable to straighten and strain his torn muscles, he continued his journey. He stumbled through the underbrush, grounded by his inability to jump into the trees. He followed his nose, sniffing out a close water source. He hoped to find a suitable place to rest nearby.
It was not just because his wounds were weakening him and he needed time to heal, though that was certainly a big part of it. Inuyasha noticed as he had trekked through the forest yesterday a tugging, an emptiness that opened up inside of him. It was now a nagging, almost painful ache that sprang up in his chest. He fisted his hand over his chest. He knew what this was, though he had never experienced it before. He had finally gone beyond the limit of the bond.
Staggering into a clearing, he came upon a great tree. The tree’s roots gaped at the base, creating a large enough opening for Inuyasha to climb in, stand, and lay out comfortably. It was perfect, as it provided shelter and camouflage.
Inuyasha knew he had to stop there for now. The twin pains were getting excruciating and were wearing him out. He crawled into his tree root shelter, huffing with the effort, and leaned heavily against the walls.
Pressing his head back to rest against the gritty uneven bark of the tree, the bond thrummed within him. He wondered if he had made a mistake. He desperately hoped that his little cubs were not suffering as he was, hoped that they were happier now that he was not there to cause trouble.
This was just one more thing he would have to bury away and try to forget.
But, the sensations were a little more than he had thought they would be. Choshi-baba had never told him how he would yearn for his cubs; how he would feel that he needed to feel them in his arms. He dug his clawed fingers in the dirt beneath him, keeping himself from wrapping his arms around his torso in an unfulfilled wish that they held his pups.
He could not go back, however. He whimpered at the thought; Koga was out for blood. He was out for his blood. He had not thought it had gotten that bad in the caves. He thought he had left before he had caused too much trouble. He had really messed up this time. Time after time he had had it pounded into him not to over stay his welcome.
But he had thought that he and Koga had been friends. He had felt more for Koga than he had ever felt about anyone. He could understand that he might have been upset at how much trouble he had caused in his clan, but he groaned in pain and disbelief that the Wolf Chief actually wanted him dead because of it.
As he slipped from consciousness, he desperately tried to sweep the morose thoughts from his mind. He would think of what to do tomorrow.
Koga was frantic. He had looked everywhere last night, leaving no stone unturned. He sent out the most reliable of his wolves to help him sniff out the location of his puppy. As the moon had risen high into the sky and the sun dipped behind the trees, they had had to return to the caves tired and disheartened. Inuyasha had been nowhere in the vicinity and all they had found was a scent trail that went west, down the mountain side.
He returned to their rooms, alone and dejected, to put his cubs to bed. The cubs, sensitive to the powerful youki of their father, felt his agitation keenly. That combined with the very noticeable absence of their Yassa, left them whiny and irritable. Koga had paced the cool, uneven stone floor all night, trying to comfort his pups. As the night sky began to tinge grey, one by one the cubs, who had gotten about as much sleep as the Wolf Chief, started to howl in despair for Inuyasha.
He waited impatiently for the sun to begin its daily trek across the sky before Koga summoned one of the Omegas to care for his cubs and left the caves in search of his pup.
Running faster than even he had thought he was capable of, the ookami reached the valley before mid-day. He was getting closer. He could smell the ever increasing strength of the scent trail. Inuyasha’s scent was the same musky earthy scent that was laced with a wisp of the sharp perfume of flowers, but underneath it all, Koga was starting to pick up a hint of something else. It concerned him, but not overly so; it was not blood- that would have had him flying through the forest, and it was not sickness either. Still he filed the strange scent into the back of his mind to investigate once he retrieved his inu and took him home where he belonged.
Those thoughts were just a brief distraction from the more distressing ones that ran through his head. Why was Inuyasha gone anyway? Was he captured? Did one of his protesting wolves steal him away when the Wolf Chief had been busy dealing with the argument that had broken out? The only reason he was not panicking, as he raced through the trees, was that he smelled no blood on the hanyou, so perhaps it had not been that. It did not necessarily make him feel any better, as that only meant that it could be something even worse. Could Inuyasha have run away on his own?
Koga’s heart ached in his chest at the thought. Was his puppy unhappy? Did he regret agreeing the join his caves? His family? Koga had thought that they had been getting along very well. The inu was becoming one of his most important people. Was the sentiment not returned?
Koga’s thoughts crashed to a halt as quickly as his feet did when the pungent odor of blood finally wafted up his sensitive nose. The metallic tang of fresh blood blended heavily with the trail the ookami had been following and his heart plummeted to his stomach. Inuyasha had been hurt…badly.
Slowly he crept around the small clearing he found himself in, sniffing the air and sifting through the various aromas. The most prominent scent was that of Inuyasha. He had obviously been in the clearing longer than anywhere else along his journey. Koga stopped cold when he recognized the next most pungent smell: wolves.
Koga growled to himself. There would be some serious discipline when he got back to the caves. He was obviously not doing his duty as an Alpha if his wolves were so out of his control as to attack a member of his House. They must have followed the inu. Koga had not scented them with Inuyasha the whole time he had been on the run.
He inhaled deeply, interpreting the scents around him. Three distinct signatures of wolf scents, sweat, a small whiff of the acrid twang of fear… and something else… it was light, but… another dog demon? Koga let out a bit of his youki. It acted much as his nose did in detecting the youki of other demons. The other demon’s youki returned to him. It was a strong one.
His search drew up short, however, when a sudden blast of that same youki enveloped him. The Wolf Chief spun on his heels in search of the mystery demon only to come literally face to face with the Lord of the Western Lands.
The inu youkai simply stared at the startled ookami, his cold impenetrable gaze hard and unyielding. Koga swallowed hard and backed up a step. As much as his demon howled at the show of weakness, his wolf instincts recognized a more powerful alpha and acted accordingly.
“Lord Sesshoumaru, what a coincidence. I was just looking for your bro-URGH!” Koga’s words were cut short as the daiyoukai struck out and wrapped his fingers tightly around the Wolf Chief’s throat and raised him from the ground.
“Has this Sesshoumaru not made himself clear, ookami filth? That hanyou is no one’s problem to correct but mine,” the Western Lord threw the Northern Wolf Chief to the ground with a solid thud, “You would do well to retrieve the bodies of your incompetent miscreants, return to your territory, and forget about Inuyasha.”
Koga sputtered and rubbed at his sore throat, swallowing convulsively as he stared at the great dog with wide eyes.
“Sesshoumaru-sama,” Koga began as he struggled from the ground. He made sure to keep his head slightly bowed in deference to the great lord and put his considerable diplomatic experience to work, “forgive me, but I think you are under a mistaken impression. I am not here to bring harm to Inuyasha.”
The Western Lord merely raised a silvery eyebrow. “The three assassins sent in your name, tells this Sesshoumaru differently.”
Koga’s eyes flashed, his youkai bleeding his eyes red as he growled deep in his chest. “It may have been in my name, but was carried out without my consent or knowledge. There is much to be dealt with in the Northern Mountains upon my return.” Koga’s voice deepened, becoming gruff and menacing as his demon took hold.
“Why should this Sesshoumaru accept the word of a leader so weak he is undermined by his own people? What would lead this Sesshoumaru to believe you are honorable enough to keep his word to not make injury to what is mine?”
Koga bristled. He ignored the jab at his leadership, instead focusing on the latter part of what the Lord had said. “Cut the crap, Sesshoumaru!” his patients finally snapping, “You dare claim him as yours when you have spent his entire life running him away! Well, now you don’t have to worry about him anymore. He has been taken into my House! He is now my family! He does not belong to you! HE IS MINE!” Koga cried as his teeth elongated and claws shone sharply. He faced the Lord of the Western Lands positioning himself in a battle stance, preparing to fight for his inu.
Lord Sesshoumaru stood silently, his eyes piercing the Wolf Chief, seemingly without emotion from behind his cold mask. He observed stoically as the wolf crouched in the typical wolf fighting stance, as the wolf youkai took on a possessive, defensive look at the mention of his claiming. His powerful nose detected a new scent coming from him, one he was familiar with. It was the piquant redolence of a dominant canine, one who was or about to be mated. Whether the ookami knew it or not, he wanted Inuyasha as his mate.
Mated into the Northern Wolf Nobility? Perhaps my Lord Father’s mistake has made himself not so worthless after all, thought the Western Lord. A part deep inside of him, that even he refused to acknowledge, warmed at the thought that his little brother finally finding his place in the world.
The Lord Sesshoumaru released a blast of his youki. Once again the youki enveloped the lesser wolf demon. Koga’s Demon retreated, the red slipping from his eyes and his more rational side emerged. Still, the ookami did not back down from his position. He would have Inuyasha.
The Wolf Chief quickly deflated in confusion, however, when the Lord of the Western Lands, simply turned and began to walk into the trees.
“Hey! Where you going?” Koga yelled out.
Sesshoumaru stopped inside the tree line. Without bothering to turn around, the great Lord answered, “This Sesshoumaru has more important things to do than become involved in the hanyou’s affairs.” With that he slipped away.
“Hmph,” harrumphed Koga, scratching at his forehead. He was thoroughly confounded, but glad to be rid of the troublesome lord and able to continue his search for his inu.
Inuyasha came to consciousness late the next afternoon, the sun already casting orange rays through the dense foliage. He rolled his eyes around in their sockets. They felt dry and itchy, his mouth like cotton. Sweat beaded at his forehead and trickled down his back. The world appeared a blur of sensations, as he drifted along the edge of delirium.
Damn, the hanyou thought despondently and well acquainted with the feeling, I have a fever. Inuyasha’s wounds had become infected as he had lain in the cool shadows of the great tree roots.
The hanyou laid there, nestled against the moist wood and the cool earthen floor, trying to muddle his way through his thoughts. He needed to wash out his wounds. It had worked the last time he had been injured and alone with fever. He longed for the cool embrace of the nearby stream that he could smell a small distance away. It would be fed by the ice melt from the mountains he had come from and the waters would be frigid and fresh. Not only would it sooth the angry heat of his wound but would also feel wonderful against his fevered skin and wake his hazy mind from the fog that had settled over it.
But the hanyou did not move, for in that moment, he sensed a presence that was intimately familiar to him-- Koga. Koga was approaching from the north. He would pass right by the opening of the tree. Inuyasha would be seen even if he had had the energy to hide his youki, which he did not.
Inuyasha despaired. Koga had to be so upset. His assassins had failed to kill him and now he had had to come and kill him himself. Inuyasha shuttered as a chill ran through his fevered body. He knew he would not be able to defend himself. He was in no condition to swing his sword around. Inuyasha liked to think that he could if he really needed to, he had after all lived through worse, or he could slip away and into the woods before the ookami arrived.
Inuyasha stayed slumped in his burrow, however. The man that had been his former enemy, now considered to be his best friend and most beloved person, wanted him dead. His whole life, up until he had met Koga again and his beautiful cubs, had been spent only on basic survival. There had been no room for happiness only existence. Now that he had had a taste of what living could be, what it was like to love and be loved back, to be comforted when he was scared and protected when he was weakened, he was not sure if he could go back to that life. He had thought he could do it, but if Koga wanted to kill him, he was not so sure he wanted to stop him.
Inuyasha stifled his tears as he felt the Wolf Chief approach. He would not cry. The bark of the tree roots dug into the flesh of his back as he subconsciously pressed deeper into the hole, in an attempt to get away from the perceived danger. He had not truly let himself cry since his mother had died and he had been immediately run out of the manor. He would not cry now.
Soft foot falls could be heard padding on the packed earth, leaves and twigs crunched and snapped as the youkai got closer. Inuyasha watched with bated breath as the long shadow cast by the waning sun appeared in front of the opening. Wrapped feet stepped into sight, followed by bear skin leg covers.
Inuyasha looked back at him with grim, determined eyes; half cast in shadows and sprawled against the back wall of the opening. Koga stepped closer hesitantly, as if approaching a wide animal. He gasped as he neared, finally able to see what his nose had detected earlier; the scent of sweat, blood, and illness.
He rushed to the inu’s side, ignoring the way his puppy flinched upon his approach.
“Aw, you got yourself into a bit of trouble again, didn’t you, Mutt Face?”
Inuyasha looked at the wolf in confusion, but did not bother to fight him away. Without any more words, the ookami gathered the hanyou in his arms and lifted him out of the hideaway.
Inuyasha grunted in pain at being shifted and wrapped his arms around Koga’s shoulders as the wolf began towards the area they could smell water. Running as fast as he could without jostling Inuyasha too much, they quickly found themselves by the side of a small stream.
Koga gently set the hanyou down. The stream was very small, only about a hand deep and as wide as a body lying down, but the clear water rushed over rocks and algae as swift as a raging river.
Koga plucked a handful of springy moss that clung on the side of a nearby tree. Bringing it over to the prone figure, propped against a large bolder, he dropped it beside the hanyou. Reaching for the ends of Inuyasha’s obi, he was halted by a gruff voice.
“Why are you doing this?”
Koga looked up into the hanyou’s deep golden eyes and sat back on his heels.
“Why wouldn’t I take care of my puppy?”
Inuyasha reacted as if he had been slapped, snapping his head back in surprise, before his eyes hardened.
“I know, Koga. They told me,” Inuyasha drew himself up as straight as he was able, bracing to die with dignity, “I know you ordered my death, and I won’t fight you. I deserve it.”
Koga’s mouth fell open and he gawked at Inuyasha with shock and horror. He scrambled on his knees closer to the inu, and grabbed him about his shoulders.
“No way, Dog Breath! Of course I didn’t order any such thing! Why on earth would I do that? And how could you think you deserve it?”
Inuyasha’s eyes widened in shock. Hope swelled up in his chest as he gazed into the beloved face of his wolf.
“But I… they said that they were there on your orders. They said I had been declared an enemy. I… I know I have been causing a lot of problems in the cave-”
His words were cut short as he was enveloped into hug. Koga wrapped his arms around the hanyou tightly, breathing in the scent of him, calming his thudding heart and rising rage. Who had done this to his pup? Who dared-
“Ow!” Inuyasha squawked, struggling in his embrace. Koga’s enthusiasm was doing little to help the pain in his side and stomach.
“Oh, sorry, pup,” Koga grinned in embarrassment and backed up a bit. “Inuyasha… you have not been causing problems-”
Koga huffed, “Inuyasha, it doesn’t matter! You are part of us! No one has the right to run you out!”
Inuyasha only stared at the tinkling water as it rushed by.
Koga sighed, and reached for Inuyasha’s obi again. Untying it, he extracted his hitoe and kosode, peeling it back gingerly from the angry red wounds. Koga hissed in sympathy at the sight.
He dipped the bundle of moss into the frigid waters, soaking it up and lifting it to squeeze over the infected gash.
Inuyasha was silent throughout the cleaning, studying the wolf as he worked. His thoughts whirled around in his head. What was he to do now? Would he be going back? After a lifetime of distain and neglect, he found it hard to believe that he would not be causing trouble by going back, but he wanted so bad to belong and be together with his new found family.
Once his injury was tended, Koga grabbed more moss and submerged it into the water. He crawled around the inu and transferred his head to his lap. He lovingly swept back the sweat slicked tendrils from the inu’s forehead and cupped his chin in his hand. He lifted the moss and squeezed the fresh mountain water into the hanyou’s waiting mouth.
Inuyasha drank greedily and savored the clean taste. Once he had drunk his fill, Koga washed his face and neck with the soothingly cool water. Inuyasha sighed in relief, feeling much better already and able to feel his youki begin to heal the damage.
“You know, the cubs are going crazy at home,” Koga spoke suddenly.
Inuyasha averted his gaze. He had hoped that it would not be so bad for the cubs. He felt guilty and longed to hold them in his arms.
“I was going pretty crazy too,” Koga ran his clawed fingers through Inuyasha’s long silver threads and scratched lightly at his scalp. “Why did you leave us?”
Inuyasha finally met the bright azure gaze of the wolf looking down at him. He blushed at the remembrance of what the wolves had said to him, of what they accused him of.
“You were doing fine without me, and then I come along and your whole clan… I’m causing so much trouble for you. I know. I know when it is time to hightail it out of a hostile situation. I know when I’m not wanted,” Inuyasha’s voice, which had started out sounding lost and small, ended with conviction and determination.
Koga searched his face.
“They have no right. They will know the consequences of messing with what is mine. YOU ARE MINE!”
“Yeah well, take it from me, we can’t always get what we want,” Inuyasha scoffed.
“I don’t want you!” Koga yelled in anger. Inuyasha froze and averted his eyes. Though he raised his chin in defiance, his ears drooped and slicked back against his head. They twitched when Koga continued. “I… Inuyasha, I need you!”
Inuyasha’s eyes snapped back to passionate blue. Hope blossomed in them and mirrored the emotion that swelled in gold.
“Listen, if…if you..,” he huffed in frustration at his inability to form the words, “if you ever want me out just tell me. I… I know I cause a lot of trouble being there. I know that your tribe doesn’t want some half-breed hanging around. I’ll go, whenever you want me to.”
Koga stared at him, heart bursting at the news that his pup will come back with him, but not believing that he could possibly think he would ever send the hanyou away. In an instant it clicked. Koga experienced a paradigm shift. Inuyasha was his. He should do something about that.
When Inuyasha could no longer meet his gaze without fear that those tears that were prickling the back of his eyes would fall, he scowled at the trees in the distance.
Koga took him in his arms.
“This, right here, here with me, with our cubs, here in my arms, this is where you belong. Stay with me, stay with us. We need you. We want you. I want you. I-I-I love you, pup.”
Inuyasha stared in shock. It could not be true. Nobody wanted a dirty half-demon. The gods had made it quite clear to the hanyou that he had been meant to be alone, taking everyone he had ever cared about from him. But there was Koga, a youkai who had never treated him like that, like the monster the rest of the world believed him to be, a youkai who had become the most important person to him.
“Puppy, will you stay with me always?” Koga questioned, his brows scrunched with the intensity of what he was saying.
“Well, yeah. I have to because of the bond.” Inuyasha whispered, not daring to let his guard down and believe the Wolf Chief meant anything more than that.
“No Inuyasha. Will you stay with ME? Be my mate, my life, my Beta?” Koga stroked a calloused finger along the soft, flushed skin of the inu’s cheek.
Inuyasha gazed at him with wide disbelieving eyes. Slowly the emotion contained within the golden depths transformed into wonder, then love, before a scowl marked his face and he shifted under Koga’s loving touches.
“Eh, I suppose so wolf. Wouldn’t want the cubs to be in danger because your too busy chasing after me after all.”