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Samantha stomped down the steps with a fulminating glower on her face as she headed for the front door of the mansion with every intention of going for a nice, long walk entirely alone, and if the rest of her loving, doting, stifling family didn't like it . . . Well, they'd just have to get over it, wouldn't they?
She simply couldn't tolerate it any longer, damn it! After telling her parents that she was moving back into the mansion to be closer to Kurt whether they liked it or not—never mind that she really had said it a bit nicer than that—she'd tried to get in to see him after his training, only to be told that he refused to see her . . . and, of course, her family was more than happy to oblige him in this . . .
And it had been this way for the last three days, too. Every night, she went up to the third floor, and every night, whoever was on guard duty told her that Kurt expressly said that he did not want to see her.
She heaved a sigh as she stepped onto the porch and slowly shook her head. How, exactly, was she supposed to convince the rotten jerk that she was his mate if he refused to talk to her, she'd like to know . . .
Crossing her arms over her chest, she headed down the path that led around the mansion, ignoring the men gathered in the yard. She already knew that Kurt's opponent for the day was Gunnar, and she might have been more worried since Gunnar was definitely no slouch, but Gin was more than happy to tell her how Kurt's training was progressing. According to her, he was learning very quickly, though Samantha figured that was due in large part to the hands-on practice he was enduring every day.
She made a face. Yesterday, Bas had tried to knock Kurt's block off. She'd stood at the window with her claws dug into the sill, biting her lip as she felt the blood leech from her skin as Bas batted Kurt around like a cat with a mouse, holding her breath as she tried not to scream. Too many times, Bas had almost smacked Kurt with Triumvirate, but Kurt somehow managed to dodge most of the blows. By the time it was over, she was sick to her stomach and ready to cry, and she seriously believed that Bas really was going to kill Kurt . . .
Making her way down the steps to the pebbly beach, Samantha stopped short when she spotted Sydnie sitting at the edge of the water.
“Sydnie . . . you all right?” she asked.
“Mm,” Sydnie said without turning around to look at her. “Dodging the all-seeing eyes of the oh-so-mighty menfolk?”
“Just going for a walk . . .” She trailed off with a frown. Come to think of it, she'd been so wrapped up in her own little drama of late that she hadn't bothered to talk to Sydnie despite having noted a bit absently that the cat hadn't been her usual boisterous self lately . . . “Is something wrong?” Sam asked a bit tentatively.
Sydnie sighed and shook her head. “Oh, no . . .”
Samantha bit her lip for a moment. True enough, she had wanted to go for a walk alone, but . . . but Sydnie had always been supportive, and the initial gratitude Samantha had felt when she'd first moved to the States to start working for the youkai special crimes division had grown into a friendship—an honor really, considering Sydnie tended to keep at least a bit of distance with most everyone. “You . . . you want to come with me?”
Sydnie looked like she did, but she hesitated. “You don't want to be alone?'
Samantha waved a hand. “I'd like the company,” she said with a smile. If it hadn't been for Sydnie . . . “I'd love for you to come with me,” she admitted, holding out her hands to help the very pregnant cat-youkai to her feet. Sydnie grunted as she accepted the help Sam offered. The two women walked along the coast for a while in silence.
“So . . . you've been quiet lately, Sydnie,” Samantha finally pointed out as they continued along the path.
Sydnie wrinkled her nose and heaved a sigh as she slowly shook her head. “It's nothing,” she replied though she sounded only like she was trying to keep Samantha from worrying. “At least, it's not important.”
“If it's important enough to upset you, then it's not nothing,” Samantha replied.
Sydnie shot her a quick glance, and Samantha was surprised to see a hint of pinkness filter into Sydnie's cheeks. “I'm fat,” she muttered so quietly that Samantha had to strain to hear her.
“Wh-what?” Samantha blurted before she could stop herself. “You're not fat! Surely Bas didn't . . . didn't say that, did he?”
Sydnie sighed and shook her head. “No, not really. He didn't have to . . . It was kind of implied . . .”
“What . . . what did he do?” she asked. She simply could not get a grasp on whatever Sydnie was trying to say. Bas adored Sydnie . . . he certainly would never have said or even thought any such thing . . . “Umm . . .”
“He won't put out!” Sydnie finally blurted, her face exploding in embarrassed color. “He just won't, and the only reason I can think of is because I repulse him now!”
Samantha stopped short and blinked. “He . . .? Oh . . . oh, oh, my . . .” she choked, covering her mouth with her hand.
“He keeps saying things like he doesn't want to hurt me or the baby, but that's just stupid! It didn't hurt when he put him in there, now did it?”
Samantha snapped her mouth closed, her own cheeks pinking as she struggled to figure out exactly what she was supposed to do with that information, or at least what she ought to say to Sydnie . . . If Sydnie noticed Samantha's discomfort, though, she didn't comment as she plunged on, “Women have babies all the time, right? I mean, all the books say that sex is just fine during pregnancy, and even then, if it weren't all right, why would I want it? Don't you think?”
Samantha wasn't sure how to answer that, either. In fact, she was racking her brain for a viable way to steer the conversation toward a safer topic when the bushes they were passing rustled.
She blinked, realizing a moment too late that there was another youki there—an unfamiliar one, but . . .
But it wasn't big, was it? Whatever—whoever—it was . . .
Sydnie shot Samantha a curious glance but didn't try to stop her as she slowly stepped toward the bushes. Samantha stopped when the tremor came again, and when she leaned forward to peer into the foliage, she gasped. “Oh . . .”
The big, gray eyes stared back at her out of a smudged and dirty little face. The child huddled in the bushes couldn't be more than a couple years old, but she stared back at Samantha as though she recognized her. She whimpered suddenly, her bottom lip quivering as huge tears gathered in those fathomless eyes. “D-daddy!” she wailed, throwing herself into Samantha's arms, burying her face against her chest as she sobbed.
“What on earth . . .?” Sydnie breathed, kneeling beside Samantha as she leaned in to stroke the child's head. “You poor kitten . . . where are your mommy and daddy?”
“Da-a-a-addy,” she wailed again.
Samantha shot Sydnie a helpless glance before turning her attention back to the child once more. Her black hair was all matted with twigs and leaves and grass tangled into her locks in places so thickly that Samantha doubted they could be removed short of cutting her hair off completely. Her little body bore a slew of scratches and scrapes that attested to the bushes and the brambles that she'd obviously crawled through. The soles of her tiny feet were a network of blisters, and Samantha grimaced, feeling the child's ribcage through the thin, torn fabric of the once yellow dress she wore. Diaper sagging so low that it was falling off of her, she tensed her little bottom as Samantha slipped her arm under it to steady her. Clutching Samantha tightly, she cried and whined when Samantha shifted her weight to get to her feet.
“There was a report in the paper about a little girl who ran away from the child social services office a few days ago,” Sydnie remarked. “Do you think . . .?”
“I . . . I don't know,” Samantha murmured as she tried to soothe the child and walk at the same time.
Heading back the way they'd come, Samantha continued to rub the girl's back, uttering soothing sounds as she shot Sydnie a worried glance. The cat-youkai wrung her hands as though she were beside herself, and she looked distinctly like she was about to burst into tears . . . “Just a kitten,” Sydnie fretted as she reached out to touch the child's cheek gently.
The girl squeaked out a scared sort of sob and hid her face against Samantha's chest a little deeper. “Daddy,” she kept mumbling over and over again. “Daddy . . .”
They climbed the stone steps that led into the back yard. Sam glanced over in time to see Gunnar flash forward, smacking Kurt with the broad side of his sword across his kidneys. The taijya grunted as he hit the ground, lying still for a moment as he struggled to regain the breath that the hit had knocked out of him.
The child suddenly shoved against her, clawing, scratching to gain her freedom. With a sharp hiss as her ragged fingernails raked over the still-tender flesh of Samantha's inner arm, she let go. The girl fell on her bottom, and Samantha tried to grab her. The toddler was too quick.
Dashing across the yard, she barreled straight ahead as Samantha ran after her.
“Daddy!” the girl shrieked, throwing herself across Kurt's chest as Gunnar stalked back and forth nearby, waiting for Kurt to get to his feet once more. “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” she cried . . .
Sam stopped short, her eyes widening as she stared. To her utter shock, he sat up slowly, then hugged the child, murmuring something into her ear that Samantha couldn't discern.
“. . . Daddy . . .?” Bas repeated, unable to mask the incredulity in his voice.
“What are you doing here, stinky-butt?” Kurt asked as he heaved a sigh and cuddled the child gently.
“Hurt Daddy,” the girl blubbered, burying her face against Kurt's chest in much the same fashion as she'd just done to Samantha. “No, bad!”
Bas, Gunnar, Morio, and Ryomaru all exchanged darkened glances, and Samantha blinked as all four drew their swords and leveled it at the taijya. “Daddy?” they all repeated in varying tones. Bas sounded irritated, probably because he couldn't understand why the girl would call Kurt `Daddy' when it was obvious that she wasn't his, at all. Gunnar sounded put out since he hadn't gotten to finish the fight. Morio seemed mildly amused—not really surprising—though he did look quite serious for once. Ryomaru was probably the most confused of them all, though, and his sword was the one that Kurt was staring down since he was directly in front of him.
Shoving Morio out of the way, she pushed past her cousins and uncle, kneeling beside Kurt with a shake of her head. “Why is she calling you `Daddy', taijya?”
Kurt sighed again and shook his head. “W-uh . . . S-Samantha, I-I-I can explain,” he told her with a wince. “Where did you find her?”
“Shit . . . he's toast,” Morio muttered. Bas nodded, though he still looked completely annoyed.
“It's not like that,” Kurt hurried on to say. “I mean, she isn't mine.”
“Daddy!” the girl sniffled and whimpered again.
Samantha nodded slowly since she could tell that the child wasn't Kurt's. Still, it made no sense to her, why she would think so, in the first place. “She was hiding in the forest,” Samantha admitted quietly, her gaze on the child. “Who is she?”
Kurt opened his mouth to answer but snapped it closed when the girl leaned away far enough to shove his tee-shirt up, as though she were looking for something. “He-e-e-ey,” he interrupted, pulling her hands away and tugging his shirt back down.
“Tanny?” the girl said, giving Kurt what was probably the most pitiful look, ever.
“What the hell's going on?” Bas demanded, dropping his sword back into the scabbard and draping his hands on his hips as Sydnie slipped her arms around his waist.
“That's a good question,” Cain said as he stepped off the porch and strolled over. “Who is this?”
“Uh, she . . . she wants candy,” Kurt admitted before turning his attention back to the child. “I don't have any,” he told the girl. “I'm sorry . . .”
The girl sniffled and burrowed against Kurt's chest once more. Morio dug into his pocket and pulled out a piece of bubble gum. “Here,” he said, hunkering down to offer the gum to her.
She shifted her eyes to the side but refused to reach out to take it.
“Do . . . do you mind?” Kurt asked, holding out his hand.
Morio dropped it into his palm and stood back up.
“Look,” Kurt said, unwrapping the hunk of gum.
The girl stared at it then leaned toward it to sniff. She must have decided it was all right, because she reached out with a grubby little hand and snatched it, only to stuff it into her mouth in one fluid motion. “Tanny . . .”
“Chew it,” Kurt told her. “Don't—aah! You weren't supposed to swallow it. It wasn't `tanny', it was gum.”
“Maybe you should bring her inside,” Cain remarked.
Kurt nodded and started to rise. Samantha got up and helped him to his feet. He followed Cain with Samantha close behind.
It was only after they'd disappeared to go inside that anyone spoke.
“What the fuck was that?” Ryomaru asked in the stunned silence.
Morio shook his head. “Dunno, old man, but you heard what she said, right?”
Ryomaru snorted as he put his sword away, too. “Keh! She don't smell at all like him!”
“Whatever,” Gunnar complained, wiping his sword on the leg of his black hakama before resheathing it.
“Where are you going?” Bas called out when Gunnar started to stomp away.
“Where else?” he tossed over his shoulder without breaking his stride. “I'll be at the office if anyone needs me.”
Bas shook his head but didn't try to stop him.
“She calls you `Daddy'?” Cain asked as Kurt sat down in a chair across from Cain's desk with the child snuggled in his lap. She stank—really reeked—and she looked like she'd gotten dropped into a mud hole, and on the whole, she looked worse than she had when he'd found her, but if he were to be completely honest, he'd have to admit that he'd missed her—a lot.
Kurt grimaced. He was still trying to make sense of the whole idea that she'd somehow managed to follow him. She shouldn't have. She'd have been better off, staying where he'd left her, but . . . but he sighed and ruffled her tangled and mussed hair. “She's, uh, not mine,” he admitted.
“So I gathered,” Cain replied dryly. “Whose is she?”
Kurt opened his mouth to answer but stopped when someone rapped lightly on the door seconds before Samantha poked her head in. She had a tentative smile on her face, her gaze fixed on the child. She slipped quietly into the room and knelt beside the chair. “Look, sweetie—candy,” she said, holding out a small sucker.
The girl eyed the lollipop dubiously then slowly reached out to take it.
“You poor thing . . . Are you hungry?” Samantha crooned.
The girl crunched the candy then started to gnaw on the stick. Kurt took it away, ignoring her when she growled in protest. “She won't eat real food,” he said as Samantha picked her up and despite the whining that ensued.
Samantha nodded and stood up, and though she whined a little more, she still let Samantha take her, just the same.
Kurt blinked and shook his head, unsure why it bothered him that the child had let anyone take her, even Samantha. When they were traveling, she'd have thrown a fit if anyone else had even looked like they were considering it, but . . .
“It's because she smells like you,” Cain remarked as he eyed Kurt speculatively.
Cain sat back and shrugged. “She smells like you . . . you marked her.”
That earned him a rather marked scowl. “I what?”
Cain acted like he hadn't heard the question, standing up and wandering over to the windows to look outside. “That's normally done in one of two ways: either you had unprotected sex with her—”
“We never—” Kurt blurted, acutely aware of the heat that filtered into his cheeks.
“Didn't think so, or you'd smell like Sam, too, and you don't.” Letting out a deep breath, he didn't turn around to look at Kurt as he went on, “Or you gave her your blood. I take it that's what happened.”
“What? No . . . That's—” Cutting himself off abruptly, Kurt blinked and shook his head. Of course he hadn't done any such . . . Eyes flaring wide, he winced inwardly as the image of her in that damnable human form flickered to life; her skin so pale, so ashen, her lips tinged blue . . . “They almost killed her,” he muttered, as though it explained everything. “They cut her arms to see how fast she'd heal, and . . . and I didn't know what else to do. I'm type O-negative, and . . . and I just wanted to save her . . .”
“So you gave her a transfusion,” Cain concluded. “I see.”
Kurt sighed, rubbing his forehead, not completely comprehending the gravity of the situation, but understanding that whatever had happened, it was important. “She was dying,” he admitted quietly. “She was human, and . . . and I didn't know what else to do for her.”
Cain sighed and nodded, as though everything Kurt had said made sense. “So she's not your mate.”
“My . . . what?”
Cain returned to the desk and plopped down, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes for a moment. “Okay, that aside, this little girl . . . Where did she come from?”
“She, uh, well . . . I . . . I found her.”
“Found her?” Cain echoed.
Kurt nodded. “She was . . . was born in the San Diego facility. Her mother was killed there just after she was born.” He shook his head, figuring that he'd better tell the man all of it, or at least, all of it that Kurt knew about. “When they went to take the infant from her, she attacked the white-coats, and they . . . they killed her.”
An unmistakable irritation flickered over Cain's features. “And her father?”
Kurt snorted as fresh anger surged through him at the reminder. “He was one of the researchers. He's the one that killed her mother.”
Cain scowled and leaned forward. “Is that so?”
“Bastard said that she was . . . was a science experiment,” Kurt growled, unable to keep his emotions in check. “I took the girl with me when I left, but . . . but I tried to leave her with child social services . . .” He shook his head, still unable to grasp the idea that she really had followed him. “I . . . I didn't know where else to take her, given the circumstances.”
Cain heaved a sigh and slowly nodded. “Don't worry about it,” he assured Kurt. “I know of a couple who was looking to adopt a hanyou child.”
Kurt opened his mouth to protest, then snapped it closed again. She was better off with a couple—a family—wasn't she? Besides that, nothing really had changed, had it? He was a prisoner here, and he had no idea whether they'd let him go in the end or not, and even if they did . . . He still had things to do . . . things that a child didn't need to see. “Hanyou,” he repeated quietly. “Like Samantha . . .”
“Samantha's dog-hanyou, but yes, same idea.”
“What is the girl?”
Cain looked rather surprised. “You don't know?”
“How could I?”
Cain nodded, as though that made sense. “I think she's an owl-hanyou . . . but I'm not sure about kind.”
Kurt shook his head as Cain started to reach for the phone. “Owl? Makes sense . . . never did let me sleep at night . . .”
Cain dialed the phone and sat back. “Ben?”
“Morning, Zelig. Do you need something?” the voice came through the speaker phone.
Cain let out a deep breath and shrugged. “Found a little girl—hanyou, about two, maybe two and a half—”
“She's got to be almost four,” Kurt interrupted.
Cain shook his head and shrugged. “Hanyou and youkai children age differently, Mr. Drevin.”
Kurt scowled but didn't reply to that.
“Okay, what do you need me to do?” Ben asked.
“Would you call and talk to the Conor family? They contacted me a while back, looking to adopt a child.”
“I can do that. Is this a rush placement?”
Cain shook his head as he regarded Kurt. “No . . . I think she might benefit from meeting the family and getting to know them first.”
“Absolutely,” Ben allowed. “I'll give them a call then let you know what they said.”
“Thanks,” Cain replied, hitting the button to end the call.
Kurt sat back, scowling at the floor, reminding himself that placing the girl in a youkai home would be for the best, wouldn't it? Who would be better to teach her what she needed to know, understand what she was . . .? They'd know how to deal with her better than he did, right? And . . . and they'd be able to give her the stability that a child should have. It was a good idea, wasn't it? The best choice, really. It'd be better for her to be with them . . . better than staying with a man who never did understand what it meant to be a real father . . .
It was the best thing for her—for the little girl who got her way entirely too easily with him. She'd . . . she'd be better off with them, and that was really what mattered, right?
Of course . . . of course it was . . .
Kichiro held up a clear red sucker just out of the reach of the urchin child who sniffled and pouted while Samantha carefully, gently rubbed her face with a washcloth. “I tell you what, sweetie. You let me look in your mouth, and I'll give you the sucker, okay?”
The child's bottom lip jutted out a little further. He almost laughed. “Wide, like this,” he told her, opening his mouth wide to demonstrate what he wanted her to do.
Samantha let go of her chin and gently grasped her wrists to wash off her hands with a sigh. How appalled had she been when she'd taken the girl into the kitchen and set her feet on the floor so that she could get some food out of the refrigerator? When she'd turned around with some meat and cheese to make her a sandwich, she'd found the child hunkered down beside the bowl that Gin always kept there for Bas' dog, her little hands dug into the dry kibble that Badd hadn't eaten . . . Samantha had hurriedly gotten her away from the bowls, but not without incident as the child cried. Why had she wanted to eat that, anyway?
She sighed. Samantha understood well enough, why the girl would try to do that. Kichiro had told her quickly when he'd strode into the kitchen a few minutes later that Cain had hurriedly explained the situation to him just before he'd asked Kichiro to take a look at her, to make sure that she was healthy enough, and to get a second opinion regarding the child's age.
“I can't believe they'd do that,” Samantha muttered under her breath as she pulled a small piece of ham off a slice and held it out to the child.
She looked confused and shook her head. “B-bad!” she insisted.
Samantha shot her father an upset glance. Had she tried to get her hands on real food before, only to be punished for it? Samantha sighed as she shifted her eyes back to the child once more. Yes, she supposed that she had . . . Why else would she look so frightened? “It's okay,” Samantha reassured her with a smile. “Look . . . mmm!” she said as she ate a little piece and ripped off another. “You try.”
The girl smashed her little hands over her face and sniffled. “Daddy!” she whimpered.
Samantha shot her father a helpless sort of glance. Kichiro's jaw tightened, his ears flicking in irritation.
She stifled a sigh. He really didn't want to listen to anyone about Kurt, did he? He'd rather cling to those things that he thought were true, and while Samantha couldn't really blame him for feeling the way he did, she also couldn't help but feel disappointed, too. She'd never seen her father act so irrationally before, and though she could appreciate his concern, she had to wonder if he ever really would.
`Talk to him about that later, Samantha. Right now, we've got bigger fish to fry,' her youkai pointed out.
Samantha blinked and nodded. That was true enough, wasn't it? The little girl kept squirming—no small wonder since the first thing Samantha had done was to get the saggy, nasty diaper off her, wrapping her in a clean, dry towel while her mother and grandmother ran to the store to pick up some diapers. The poor child's bottom was red and raw, chafed to the point of bleeding in a couple areas, doubtless from wearing that diaper for the last few days. Still, even wrapped in just a towel, the air had to feel better on her skin while Kichiro coaxed her into complying with the quick examination, feeding her the little suckers every so often to keep her satisfied while he looked her over.
It didn't take too long for him to finish up, either. He'd managed to make the entire affair into a little game of sorts, and he'd just handed the girl his stethoscope to play with when Bellaniece and Gin hurried into the room with a couple bags of clothes and supplies and a bag of diapers.
The girl squawked at the sudden intrusion, throwing her arms around Samantha's waist and burying her face against her chest.
Gin clucked her tongue and grimaced, unable to stand the idea that the child was afraid of her. “I'll go draw a bath for her,” she said before she hurried into the adjacent bathroom.
“Poor thing,” Bellaniece crooned, smoothing the girl's hair gently.
Samantha pushed a small piece of ham into the child's mouth. She whined and fussed but chewed and swallowed.
“Well, she's in remarkably good health, all things considered,” Kichiro declared as he held out another sucker. “Her diet could use some improvement, though . . .”
“Daddy said she thinks that Mr. Drevin is her father,” Bellaniece remarked as Samantha tugged the little yellow dress over her head and dropped on the floor.
Kichiro snorted indelicately. “Like hell! He can stay the fuck away from her and Sam, both,” he muttered.
Bellaniece shot Samantha a worried glance as the latter pretended not to have heard her father. “She's so sweet,” Bellaniece commented instead. “Look at those huge eyes of hers . . . She's going to break a few hearts someday . . .”
“Yeah, she is,” Kichiro agreed with a sigh, finally breaking into a little grin of his own.
Samantha scooped the girl up in one arm and the diapers in the other. “We're going to go take a bath now, aren't we?” she said in a bright tone as she smiled at the child.
Bellaniece sighed as she watched Samantha's retreat. “She looks thinner,” she remarked speculatively, unable to hide the traces of worry evident in the depths of her gaze.
Kichiro scowled but didn't reply as his own eyes darkened. He'd noticed that, too, hadn't he? In the past few days since that bastard's arrival, since he'd told her to go away and refused to see her . . . Kichiro had hoped that it was all in his mind since he tended to be overly critical whenever he looked at Samantha these days, trying to discern a hint that something wasn't as it should be, and now . . .
But that couldn't be it, damn it. No, Samantha just wasn't taking proper care of herself, right? Too preoccupied to remember that she needed to eat, maybe. He'd talk to her about that later. Besides, what Zelig had said only served to reinforce what Kichiro had maintained all along. Those two weren't mates. He'd given her his blood to save her, not because he knew what it would ultimately mean.
In a way, he should be a little grateful, shouldn't he? Drevin's resolve would eventually help Samantha to understand what Kichiro had told her all along. Too bad that he couldn't be grateful, not in the least, and even when Bellaniece had pointed out that they could at least thank him for sending Samantha back to him, Kichiro couldn't bring himself to do that, either, not when he was the reason she hadn't come home, to start with . . . and he knew well enough that one day, they'd all thank him for being so insistent, right?
He heaved a sigh, watching as Bellaniece pulled a cute little dress out of a bag along with some diaper rash ointment and headed toward the bathroom, too.
Sometimes it really sucked to be right, didn't it?
== == == == == == == == == ==
iloveanimecartoons ------ CandyEars ------ Firedemon86 ------ oblivion-bringr ------ AtamaHitoride ------ malitiadixie ------ sheastarr334 ------ Dark Inu Fan ------ Sovereignty ------ Jester08 ------ OROsan0677 ------ Usagiseren05 ------ sunshine161820
BobbyJustGotSheared ------ MouF ------ cutechick18 ------ malitiadixie ------ BlkbltVette ------ OROsan0677
Final Thought from Kurt:
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Vendetta): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.