InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Coyote Child ❯ Prologue and Chapter One ( Chapter 1 )
The Coyote Child
By Terri Botta
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha. Sole copyright belongs to Viz and Rumiko Takashi. I'm poor so don't sue.
Rating: R for later chapters.
Summary: Inuyasha and Kagome are asked to adopt a coyote-hanyou baby from Arizona.
Email feedback to: email@example.com
A/N: In this story I use the name Lori Peistewa. Lori was the first Native American woman to die in combat for the United States when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq in April of 2003. She left behind two small children under the age of six. I use her name to honor her sacrifice, as we honor the sacrifices of all our men and women fighting and dying in that far away land.
In the deep of night in the high desert of Arizona, where the temperatures plummeted well below zero, a small hogan made of mud and wood was buffeted by the wind. On the edge of a tiny community of no more than seven hogans and a thirty year-old trailer, the small home was heated by a fire burning in a cut off barrel.
Far away from the modern world, steeped in the native traditions of a people who had lived there for more than a thousand years, a girl barely out of childhood struggled in the throes of labor. She did not cry or sob with pain, but set her mind and spirit to bringing her newborn into the world. The hands of her grandmother, wizened from decades in the sun but still nimble from years of working on the loom, waited to catch the baby and touch him to the ground. With a final push and strangled gasp, the girl felt the new life leave the safety of her body, and heard her grandmother murmuring as she took the infant and laid him on the blanket she had woven specifically for this birth. Even in her exhaustion, she could not help but smile as her baby gave his first cry.
"Grandmother," she whispered, panting.
"A boy," the old woman answered softly.
She spoke the language of the Dineh, "the People", also known as the Navajo. She had never learned English, and had never left the reservation in all her seventy-four years.
"A boy…" she breathed, then lay back on the mattress pallet.
She heard the soft splashing of her grandmother washing her newborn son and his protesting cries, but soon became caught up in the birth that followed the birth: the expelling of the placenta. A short while later, her grandmother placed the blanket-wrapped infant into her waiting arms and she brushed her hand over his soft grey ears.
Her joy was short-lived however, as the peace of the hogan was broken by her father's booming voice.
"Old woman," the man said gruffly as he barged into the tiny hut.
"Stone-Tree," her grandmother answered, her voice cold and neutral. She used her father's Dineh name. They all used their Dineh names amongst themselves and other members of The People.
"Is the child…?"
"He belongs to Coyote," the old woman confirmed.
Her father cursed and turned to her, and she tried to shield her son from his angry eyes. She gasped when she heard the tell-tale hiss of a knife being drawn and she clutched the infant to her chest.
"We should kill it now," he growled.
"No!" she cried, struggling to sit up, her body still weak from labor.
"It's a Skinwalker's spawn! How could you let yourself be tricked by his schemes?!"
"No! Don't hurt my baby!!" she screamed, and outside she could hear the wind picking up as if agreeing with her.
"Stone-Tree," her grandmother spoke, putting herself in his path. "It has been many years since Coyote visited the People. He is powerful and can bring terrible evil to us if we anger Him. We are sure to bring his wrath down on us if we murder His child."
"She cannot keep it! Let us take it into the desert and leave it there. If Coyote wants it, He will take it," the man announced.
"No! He'll freeze to death!!" she cried, the tears streaming down her cheeks.
"It cannot stay in the village! I will not have a witch child here!"
"No!! You can't take my baby! I won't let you!"
The man raised his hand and it looked like he would strike the old woman to get to the infant, but a new figure entered the hogan and stayed his arm. A gust of cold wind came in with him, making the fire in the barrel sputter and flare.
"Father. Don't," the new man pleaded.
"Standing-Moon," she sighed with relief at the sight of her older brother.
He had always been her protector, and she had missed him dearly when he left for the White Man's school. Now he went to another of their colleges in New Mexico, but he had come back for the birth of her baby.
"You can't hurt Sweet-Wind's baby!" her brother insisted. "Coyote chose her! This is no accident! If we kill the child He'll take His revenge on us! Haven't we suffered enough this year with Made-in-Clay's hogan burning down?"
"The evil has come to this village since she gave herself to the witch!" Stone-Tree countered. "The sooner we get rid of it, the faster the evil will go away."
"Grandmother told me Thunder-In-Man performed the ceremony and found no hex on Sweet-Wind! If there is evil here, it is not because of her."
"Two sheep have died this month alone!" her father argued.
"Those deaths are not Sweet-Wind's fault! Those sheep came from the lowlands and were sick when they got here," Standing-Moon reminded.
"It doesn't matter. She can't keep it. It will bring evil to this family."
"My baby isn't evil!" she yelled.
"Shut up, girl! It was your stupidity that got us into this mess in the first place!" her father roared. "If it wouldn't taint the water, I'd drown it in the barrel!"
Standing-Moon joined thier grandmother and put himself between their father and the baby.
"You aren't touching Sweet-Wind's baby," he said with conviction.
Two more men came into the hogan and took Stone-Tree by the arms.
"Please Stone-Tree. If you hurt Coyote's child He will kill more sheep and burn down more hogans," one pleaded. "Already the wind smells of anger. Please listen to us."
"Let me go!" Stone-Tree ordered, pulling his arms from their grasp. "Alright. I won't kill the witch child, but it can't stay here!"
With that he stormed out of the hogan leaving her with her brother, grandmother and her baby. Her grandmother clucked disapprovingly and shook her head.
"He is a fool. He was always a fool. I said so when your mother married him," the old woman sighed. "Still, it is a problem," she admitted, looking at the newborn's fuzzy grey coyote ears and soft grey hair. The baby opened his eyes, revealing amber irises: the color of Coyote's eyes. "It would be best of we hid him when the white men come from the lowlands. They would not understand."
"I will go into town tomorrow and use the phone," Standing-Moon said. "I will call my friend from college. He is Cree and has family in Canada. He once told me of a family of half-dogs living there that the Cree know of. Maybe he can help us."
"Half-dogs?" she repeated, staring into her son's yellow-brown eyes.
Standing-Moon looked guilty. "I admit that I told him about your condition one night when we went out drinking after mid-terms were over. He told me his family in Canada had known of the existence of half-dogs and other Original People who lived near them."
"What can they do to help us?" she asked timidly, stroking her son's little cheek. He'd been very quiet. Since his first few cries he hadn't made another sound. She thought he might be hungry so she offered him her breast and was relieved when he began to nurse.
"I don't know. Maybe they can talk to the half-dogs for us. Maybe they will take the baby and raise him with them."
"Take my baby?" she gasped.
"Father's already said he can't stay here, and you know it's just a matter of time before others join him. He isn't safe here and you know it, Sweet-Wind. It would be better if we found him somewhere else to go. Unless his father…"
"I haven't seen Temeh since the last Gathering two months ago," she admitted sadly.
Her brother snorted and gave a short nod. "I'll leave in the morning then and be back by nightfall."
"I will ask Thunder-in-Man to come bless the child. That will keep him safe for a short time," her grandmother added. "Until the fools decide the Blessing is not enough to keep them safe."
She had nothing to say. In truth a terrible hollowness was seeping into her soul. She knew all too well how superstitious her people could be. It would not take long for the tribe to declare her a Skinwalker herself and cast her out. Her only hope was her lover, and the thin chance that he would come to save her and her baby.
"But these things are for the morning and it is still night. You should sleep, child. No harm will come to you or your baby while you are in my home," the old woman told her.
"I'll stay here and sleep by the door," Standing-Moon announced.
Her grandmother nodded in approval and rooted in an old trunk for a blanket. The old woman gave it to her brother and he accepted it gratefully, lying on the dirt floor in front of the hut entrance. Her grandmother got out two more blankets and draped them over her and her newborn.
"These should keep off the chill when the fire dies," the old woman said kindly.
"Thank you, Grandmother."
No more was said as they settled down to rest. Her baby had finished nursing and was now dozing against her breasts. She made sure he was secure in his blanket before laying back down and curling up with him. He gave her a soft sigh as she tucked him into the curve of her body but otherwise did not stir. Inside her mind was full of turmoil as to what was to come. She didn't want to give up her baby, but she knew he wasn't safe. And as long as Temeh stayed away…
"Temeh please…" she whispered.
Outside the hogan, she swore she could hear a mournful howl on the wind.
Yukio leaned against the driver's side door of the car and enjoyed the sun on his face. Winter came early to Alberta and this year would be no exception. It was only the middle of September and already the temperatures were dipping low at night. He'd grown accustomed to the cold, although he had to admit that the first few winters he had spent in Canada had been a shock compared to the warmer climate of Japan.
'And back then we didn't have things like geo-thermal heat pumps and natural gas fireplaces,' he mused. 'Kid doesn't know how good he has it growing up in this era.'
He was referring, of course, to his little brother Ian who was now the rambunctious age of seven. The pup would be exiting the private school his parents had enrolled him in once he turned five. The school was youkai owned and operated, and the ¼ youkai fit in fairly well. They had discovered that he learned about as fast as a true hanyou, but wasn't as strong or resilient. He was, however, significantly faster and stronger than human children. His senses were also sharper than a human's, but more diluted than a hanyou or youkai's. None of this came as a surprise to any of them. In fact, he was actually exceeding their expectations. It seemed that Inuyasha 'threw' his genes rather well.
Being that it was Wednesday, it was his day to pick up Ian from school. Wednesdays and Thursdays were the days Inuyasha worked at the Edmonton office and would be too far away to pick up Ian. His mother also worked full days at the clinic in Calgary on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so it was up to him to play chauffer. Not that he minded in the least having to pick up Ian. He'd take the pup out and they'd do 'brother things' like go for an afternoon snack or swing by the cycle shop and ogle the new models- much to his mother's dismay.
He never picked up Ian on the bike. He always used one of the cars, usually the Subaru or the Jeep. Neither of his parents believed in spending huge sums of money on cars, so they never owned anything fancier than a Lexus, and his father had traded that in for a 4x4 after the first winter. Today he had the Subaru, one of their new AWD wagons that handled nicely and got great gas mileage on its hybrid engine. He was all for reducing emissions and saving gasoline, and he was glad that the car manufacturers were really starting to catch on.
The scent of his little brother tickling his nose brought him out of his thoughts as the school let out for the day. He never parked in the same place twice in a row, and used it as an exercise for Ian to hone his senses. He wanted the pup to track him by scent and learn to use his brain to figure things out. His own father had devised similar tests when he was growing up, although they usually weren't as safe or tame as simply making the pup pick him out on a crowded street.
He tracked Ian's progress with his own nose, and smiled to himself when the pup caught his scent and made a b-line for him. The seven year-old trotted around the corner a moment later, pausing a moment to sniff the air, before turning in his direction and spotting him with his sharp eyes.
"Aniki!" Ian called and ran over to him, book bag slapping haphazardly on his little back.
"Heh heh. What took you so long?" he teased, picking the pup up as arms were thrown around his neck.
Ian was wiry and nimble, and wrapped his legs around his older brother's waist.
"You were hiding again," the pup complained, pouting.
"No I wasn't. I just wasn't where you could see me. You found me well enough, didn't you?" he answered, pushing a stray tendril of Ian's long silver hair back behind the pup's pointed ear.
Ian tapped his nose. "I sniffed you out."
He set the pup down and rubbed his head. Even though Ian didn't have dog ears like his father and older brother, he still enjoyed a head-rub just as much as the rest of them.
"Where are we going today?" Ian asked enthusiastically.
"Oh, I dunno. I thought maybe we'd get a burger then go…" he began, then stopped as his natural danger sense pinged at the back of his mind.
There was a new scent, a strange scent that was way too close for his comfort, and he got the distinct impression that they were being watched.
"Aniki?" Ian questioned, moving closer.
He put a protective hand on his brother's shoulder and cast around, trying to discern the source of the threat. His eyes fell on a couple standing just down the street from them on the corner where Ian had come from. The hackles on the back of his neck rose when he realized that they were looking right at him. It bothered him because their concealment spells were hiding their hanyou features behind illusions. To anyone on the street, they should look like two Asians with black hair and dark eyes, unless the observer was youkai, hanyou, or had Talent. These two weren't youkai or hanyou, but they seemed to know what he was, at least their body language was suggesting that, and it was making him very uncomfortable.
He could tell they were Native, probably Cree from one of the local reserves. His family had had some dealings with them over the years, but not so much recently. Most of the elders who kept the Old Ways had passed on, and fewer and fewer of the Natives today were all that distinguishable from the Europeans, except for the color of their hair and skin. Now most of the contact they had with the Cree was through their work in Peace River. The Woodland Cree Band had a number of settlements north of the town and they often found themselves working on houses in or near Woodland Cree territory.
These two were dressed in Western clothes: jeans and T-shirts, although the woman wore an ankle-length denim skirt, but it was obvious from their faces and hair that they were Native. Both had long black hair that they had tied into two braids, and the woman had small ornaments at the top of each braid that looked like beadwork or embroidery.
He watched them warily, but they did not move in a threatening manner.
"Aniki?" Ian asked again, softly now, his own eyes following his older brother's to look at the two humans.
"Stay close to me, Ian."
"Un," the pup agreed and hunkered even closer.
He was just starting to relax when he saw the human female cast a glace to something across the street and he turned his head to see two more Natives directly across the road from them. These were two human males and they were dressed slightly differently from the Cree. They were probably from another tribe, but at that point he didn't really care because his protective instincts were kicking into high gear and he was feeling very trapped.
"Ian, get in the car," he ordered.
"Un," Ian answered and began to move around to the passenger side of the vehicle.
He grabbed the pup's shoulder and pushed him towards the driver's side door. "Get in this side and slide across the seats," he corrected. "Do it quickly." :Obey, Beta-male.:
Ian knew better than to question him, and hurriedly opened the door and got in, scooting across the seats. Once his brother was in, he used the remote on his keychain to lock the doors.
"Ian, no matter what happens, you stay in the car, understand?" he commanded. "If something happens to me, you use the cell phone and call Otou-san for help. Got it?"
"Don't unlock the doors for anything."
The two Cree on the same side of the street seemed upset by his actions and the woman ventured a step forward. He snarled a warning and jumped up onto the roof of the Subaru, his hand reflexively going to Kenshuga at his side. Seeing him crouched on top of the vehicle made them back up a step or two, and he whirled to see that the two men on the other side of the street had backed away as well. Turning back to the Cree because they were closer, he eyed them warily, his fingers twitching on the hilt of his sword, and they stared at each other for several moments. Then the woman glanced at the others across the street again and shook her head slightly. He rounded to see that the men had moved closer to the curb and looked like they might be thinking about crossing.
He bared his teeth and growled. "Stay back!"
The men raised their hands but did not step away from the curb. One of them even stepped forward.
"No!" he heard the woman on his side of the street call, but he'd had enough.
He drew Kenshuga, flashing the blade in the afternoon sunlight and earning several frightened stares from other passersby. A number of people began to run and he knew he had about five minutes before the Mounties showed up.
"I said stay back!" he roared, and the man who had taken a step forward scrambled backwards.
He knew his father would know he had drawn the sword. Being that it was made from his fang, Inuyasha always knew when one of the blades was pulled from its sealing sheath. Sure enough, the cell phone in the car began to ring less than a minute later. He heard Ian answer and begin speaking in hushed tones.
"Daddy," Ian's voice said. "No. I'm in the car. Aniki's on the roof. On the roof. Of the car. I don't know what's wrong. Aniki told me to get in the car and not unlock the doors for anything. There were people on the street, Daddy. No. They smelled like humans." There was a pause, then Ian spoke again. "There are four of them Daddy. Two across the street and two on the corner. They look funny, Daddy. They have long hair and smell like leather. I don't know. Aniki!? Aniki, Daddy wants to know what's going on."
He didn't want his watchers to know what he was saying so he answered in Japanese, knowing Ian spoke both Japanese and English fluently.
"Four humans. Watching but not threatening. Don't like it."
He waited, knowing his father would have something to say.
"Okay, Daddy," Ian replied, then answered in Japanese, "Go to Okaa-san's office. Don't lead them to the house."
He nodded even though he knew neither Ian nor his father could see him. It was obvious that his father was worried about the humans possibly following them to their home.
'Good idea,' he agreed. "Okay."
He sheathed Kenshuga and hopped down off the roof of the car, unlocking the door and starting the engine with his remote.
"Stay back," he growled again, then he threw open the car door and leaped in, slamming it shut behind him.
Shoving the car into gear, he spun tires as he veered into traffic and cut off an oncoming truck that honked at him as he screeched away. Ian handed him the phone timidly and he grabbed it from his little brother's grasp.
"What the fuck is going on?!" his father's voice demanded through the speaker.
"I don't know. I was picking up Ian from school when all of a sudden four Natives showed up and started watching us."
"Natives?" Inuyasha repeated.
"Two looked Cree. The others… they were different."
"Cree huh? Okay. What else happened?"
"That was it. One got too close so I drew Kenshuga."
"Where are you now?"
"We're in the car. I'm headed for Okaa-san's office."
"Good. Stay there until I get there. Do not. I repeat, do not leave your mother's office until I get there. Understand me, pup?"
"I understand," he confirmed, ears flattening at being called 'pup.'
"I will call your mother and she will be expecting you."
There was a short pause and he heard his father take a deep breath. "You did good, Yukio."
The praise warmed him from the inside and soothed his earlier ire. "Thanks, Otou-san. All I did was protect my brother."
"I know, but you did everything right. I'll see you at Kagome's office."
"Hai," he agreed.
"Okay, lemme call your mother. I'll talk with you when I get there."
He hung up the cell phone and put both hands on the steering wheel as he sped for Calgary. Thirty minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot of the shopping center where his mother shared her practice with Dr. Maggiano, the youkai fertility doctor who had helped them conceive Ian. The Spell of Normalcy cast on the clinic made the storefront look like a normal doctor's office, and no one who wasn't 'in the know' had any idea that the image was only an illusion.
His mother ran out of the front door as soon as he parked the car, her white physician's coat hanging open over her green dress, and they were barely out of the vehicle before she was grabbing them both into hugs.
"Yukio! Yukio, what happened? Your father said you were being watched!"
He nodded, putting his arm around her shoulders as he ushered both her and Ian towards the safety of the building.
"Hai, Okaa-san," he answered and proceeded to tell her everything that had happened as they entered the medical suite and headed towards Kagome's private office after nodding to the receptionist at the front desk.
She calmed down considerably after he was finished recounting his tale, and her face grew thoughtful. "Hmmmm. I wonder what they wanted," she mused.
"I don't know, but I wasn't about to take any risks with Ian."
"Oh yes, of course. Better to be safe than sorry. If it was Cree we knew, they should have known not to approach you like that, but we haven't had much contact with them since Joseph Talking-Wolf died," she noted.
"Yeah," he admitted, remembering the cheerful old man.
"Anyway, your father will be here soon. You know the way he drives. He'll make the whole 300km trip in two and a half hours."
"He told me to wait here with you until he got here."
His mother agreed. "Yes. In the meantime, I suggest you make yourselves comfortable. I have a few more patients to see before the end of my day. Ian, sweetie, do you have homework?"
"Yes Mommy," the pup answered.
"Alright. Why don't you sit at Mommy's desk and do your homework. If you have trouble ask Aniki to help you, okay?"
Ian gave them both Soulful Puppy-Dog Eyes(TM) that he had inherited from his father so well. "But Aniki said we would go for burgers…"
Kagome laughed and rolled her eyes. "Well, I don't think it would be a good idea for you and Aniki to leave the office right now, sweetie. Why don't you and Aniki pick something out of a take-away menu and call to have it delivered?"
"Mommy, were those humans bad people?" the pup asked suddenly.
Her face softened and Yukio saw her smooth back Ian's silver hair. "I don't know, sweetheart. That's why Daddy had you and Aniki come here."
"So we could protect you Mommy?"
His mother smiled gently. "Exactly, sweetheart."
Yukio rubbed his hands together and sat next to his little brother. "Okay, otouto. I don't know about you but I guard better on a full stomach. What's say we order a pizza?"
Ian screwed up his little nose. "I wanted a burger."
"Here. There's a new delivery service that picks up food from local restaurants," Kagome said, handing him a pamphlet for a business that called itself 'Menus to Go.' "I think Hometown Burgers is one of the places on their list."
"Cool!" Ian enthused, practically ripping the brochure from his hands. "Whee! I want a Super Burger with cheese and onions. And curly fries. And a coke. Vanilla Coke."
"Heh, you don't want much do you?" he mused, smiling.
Their mother snickered and gave him a pat on his shoulder. "I'll leave you to it. I need to get back to work." She kissed Ian on the cheek. "Love you both."
"Love you, Mommy."
"I love you too, Okaa-san."
"Let me know if your father gets here before I'm finished seeing patients."
"I will," he promised.
She gave him a final smile and wave, then left the office. He took the menu from Ian and leafed through it.
"Okay, one Super Burger with cheese and onions. What kind of cheese? Yellow American, Swiss, Cheddar, Colby or Pepper-Jack?"
"Cheddar it is."
"What are you gonna get, Aniki?"
"Hmmmm. I think I'm gonna order their Double Cheeseburger with mushrooms and Swiss cheese."
"Hey, don't knock mushrooms, otouto."
Ian made a face. "They're all squishy and icky. And my teacher tells us they're related to… to… what's the green stuff that grows on trees?"
"Fungus," he supplied, suppressing a grin.
"Yeah, they're related to that stuff."
"Hey, some fungus can taste very good," he corrected, waggling his eyebrows and licking his lips.
Yukio lost his battle and laughed out loud.
Two hours later they were sitting in the office with their mother, office hours were over, the rest of the staff had gone home for the evening, Ian doing his homework, when Inuyasha walked in. He was dressed in his customary jeans, casual shirt, and Birkenstocks and he carried something in his left hand.
"Inuyasha." "Otou-san." "Daddy!" They all greeted at once.
"They followed you," his father announced without preamble, placing the items in his hand on the desk.
An intricately beaded wampum belt and a beautiful hand-tooled woman's silver hair clasp decorated with turquoise and carnelian now lay on the blotter.
"Those were on the windshield of the Subaru, tucked under the wiper," he clarified.
Yukio whistled softly. "Now I am very, very glad I came here instead of going home."
Inuyasha nodded. "You would have led them right to our front door."
Ian picked up the wampum belt. "What are these, Daddy?"
"That's a wampum belt, Ian," Inuyasha explained. "Some Native people make them and use them for decoration or money."
"Money?" the pup repeated. "Funny money."
"The other is jewelry for a lady's hair," Yukio added. "But the Natives around here don't make things like that. Jewelry like that comes from Natives far to the south."
"American Southwest would be my guess. Confirms what you said about two being Cree and two being different."
"Yeah, but why would they leave them on the car?" he asked.
"They're peace offerings. They're telling us that they don't mean any harm and they want to talk. Whatever it is must be important. That wampum is valuable, the beadwork is exquisite, and my guess is this silver is sterling with genuine turquoise and carnelian. Whatever it is they want from us, it must be big because they're willing to give up wealth for it," Kagome answered, picking up the clasp.
"And many of those people don't have much to begin with," he sighed. "Now I feel bad."
"Don't. You didn't know what they were after. They could have been carrying weapons," his father insisted.
"Not firearms. I didn't smell any gunpowder."
"Did they try to talk to you at all, Yukio?" his mother asked.
He shook his head. "Not really, but then again I didn't give them much of a chance to say anything."
"You did the right thing," Inuyasha repeated. "You didn't know them and it was best not to risk the pup."
He nodded. "That was my thought. They weren't particularly threatening, but they weren't obviously friendly either. The two across the street from me wouldn't look me in the eye."
"That might not have been what you thought it was. Some tribes view direct eye contact as impolite," his mother pointed-out.
"Whatever the reason, they made me very nervous. I may not have known them, but they knew me. They knew what I was. I've no doubt about that," he said with conviction.
Inuyasha grunted in agreement and crossed his arms over his chest.
"So what do we do now? Do we talk to them?" he asked, looking at his parents.
"If they're willing to leave their baubles on a car windshield, they're probably watching. If they come out when we try to leave, I want you to come back in here with Kagome and Ian and lock the doors until I call for you," Inuyasha answered firmly.
Kagome looked at her watch. "It's almost seven now. Should we try to go?"
"Yeah. Pup's gonna be tired soon and want to go to bed," his father replied.
"I'm not tired," Ian insisted, but punctuated it with a yawn.
"Of course you're not, baby," Kagome cooed, hugging the pup from behind.
"Besides, we gotta protect Mommy."
Inuyasha reached out and rubbed Ian on the head. "Oyaji's here now, pup. You leave the protecting to me."
Ian grinned up at his father. "Okay."
Taking a deep breath, Inuyasha gave a sharp nod. "Let's go."
Kagome picked up her purse while Ian repacked his book bag, and they headed out. The sun was beginning to set, casting long shadows on the asphalt and sparsely landscaped grounds. They weren't two meters away from the entrance when Yukio stopped and sniffed.
"They're here," he said, casting around to track the direction of the scent. He pointed towards the back corner of the parking lot. "Over there."
Inuyasha came to stand next to him and sniffed as well, his mouth flattened into a tight line.
"Kagome, give me the wampum and the hair thing," his father requested, holding out his hand.
Yukio watched as his mother dug into her purse, pulled out the items and placed them in Inuyasha's palm.
"Yukio, take them back inside. I'll handle this."
He agreed and did as he was ordered, ushering his mother and little brother back into the medical office. They locked the door, but stayed to watch the parking lot through the glass. They saw Inuyasha stalk over to the Subaru and hop up onto its roof, sitting with arms and legs crossed and facing the far end of the lot. A few tense moments later, they saw movement from within a late model minivan parked in that part of the lot and five figures emerged from the vehicle. They waited for a few seconds, then slowly began to approach the Subaru where Inuyasha waited.
'Five. There were four before…' he thought, his brow furrowed. The fifth was another woman and she was carrying something on her back. Beside him, he heard his mother gasp.
"That's a cradleboard," she breathed. "She… she's carrying a baby!"
His mother was out the door before he could stop her and running across the parking lot.
"Okaa-san! Wait!" 'Shit! Otou-san is going to kill me!'
Inuyasha took a deep sniff as the humans got out of the minivan, smelling for anything suspicious. There were six distinct scents: three male, two female and one pup: a hanyou pup that smelled odd.
'Hmmm. Yukio said there were four, and he didn't mention a pup. My guess is the woman with the pup hung back the first time.'
He waited, keeping his body still and his face expressionless, as they approached him warily. It was easy to see which of the five were the Cree Yukio had spoken of, and they led the small party while the others followed, the woman with the pup bringing up the rear. They were just about to him when Kagome blew past him in a blur of green and white.
'What the fuck?' "Oi!"
She ignored him and headed directly for the woman with the pup.
"It's the baby, isn't it?" she blurted, not even bothering with pleasantries or introductions.
The party stopped and stared, shocked speechless.
"Is there something wrong? Is it sick?" she went on, her hands clasped in front of her.
"Oi! Kagome!" he complained. 'Damn woman and her pups!'
His daughter Asame, the psychologist, had once tried to explain Kagome's penchant for pups. She had said that some women just naturally took to child-rearing and motherhood, and had a very strong maternal instinct. Kagome was one of those women and as such, she would always go ape-shit over a pup. Just his luck.
"N… no…" the woman with the pup stammered, her eyes wide.
"Kagome!" he bellowed.
"Inuyasha, they have a baby," she replied in Japanese.
"I know damn well they have a pup with them!" he yelled back in Japanese. "That's not the point! Get away from them now!"
"But the baby might need medical care!"
"Get away from them! Go back inside!"
"No! Osuwari!" she commanded then frowned when nothing happened. "Damn, I forgot that doesn't work anymore."
He jumped down from the Subaru and stalked over, furious. "Damnit, Kagome! Do as I say, bitch!"
"Don't call me a bitch!"
"I wouldn't call you a bitch of you stopped acting like one and let me protect you!"
"What's there to protect me from? They have a baby with them!"
"The pup could be a ruse!" he seethed.
"Who would use a baby as a ruse?" she countered, just as angry.
He blinked at her in disbelief. "Uh, Naraku?" he reminded.
His answer stopped her for all of a second before she was off again. "Besides Naraku? No one's used a baby like that since!"
"It's always smart to be cautious! Besides, that pup is a hanyou!"
She whirled to look at the woman with the pup. "A hanyou? Why didn't you tell me that right away?" she demanded, rounding on him again.
"Because you were too busy ignoring my orders!"
"Your orders?! Since when do you order me around?"
"When I'm trying to protect you, bitch!"
"Stop calling me a bitch, you stupid baka!"
"Baka? Me a baka? Have you looked in the mirror lately?!"
"Looked in the mirror… Oooooo, you rude jerk! Baka! Baka! Baka!"
"Kagome-e-e-e!" he growled warningly.
"Don't you use that tone with me Fushikenwa Inuyasha!"
He snarled, baring his teeth. "I'll use whatever tone I damn well please with you, bitch!"
"Ooooo, what I wouldn't do for a subduing spell right now! I'd sit you so hard, there'd be a hole the size of Edmonton in this parking lot!"
"Well too bad you took it off me! I warned you not to! Tough luck, bitch!"
"Stop calling me a bitch!!"
"Umm. Excuse me…" the Cree male interrupted tentatively.
"What?!" they both yelled in unison, then froze, realizing that they'd been screaming at each other in Japanese for the past two minutes.
Kagome blushed deep red. "Oh. Um, gomen nasai," she apologized.
He took her embarrassment as an opportunity to shove her behind him, placing himself in the defensive position.
"You deal with me," he commanded in English. "Who are you and what do you want?"
"Inuyasha! Don't be rude!" he heard her scold him from behind in Japanese.
"Why not? I'm a rude, stupid hanyou, aren't I?" he shot back, also in Japanese, noting that the Natives were becoming glassy-eyed from all the language switching.
He was certain she would have answered him, probably very colorfully, if Yukio hadn't grabbed her from behind and put a hand over her mouth.
'Oh thank god.' :Good pup.:
"Okaa-san," he heard his eldest say in soothing tones. "Otou-san is just trying to keep us safe. It's only natural for him to be suspicious and wary. If he wasn't, then he wouldn't be fit to be Alpha."
Thankfully, Yukio's words seemed to work, because he heard her settle down. 'That's my pup. You know exactly how to handle your mother when she's in a snit.'
He turned his attention to the humans and crossed his arms over his chest.
"You haven't answered me," he said firmly, switching back to English.
The Cree male held up his hands to show that he was unarmed. "Tansi," he said in greeting. "I am David Papin. This is my cousin Emma Gladue. With us are Michael Etsitty, Billy Redhouse, and Lori Piestewa of the Navajo Nation. We come in peace to speak with you."
"Yeah? What do you want?" he demanded. "The Navajo Nation is down in Arizona. That's a long way to bring a young hanyou pup."
"Hanyou?" David repeated.
"What that pup is. The English words would be half-demon."
"Half-demon. Yes, the child is…"
"Coyote is this baby's father," the woman with the pup interrupted. Lori he thought her name was.
"Coyote?" 'Well that explains the odd scent.'
"Is he sick? Is that why you wanted to talk to us? Did you find out that I'm a pediatric hanyou doctor?" Kagome asked, stepping forward to stand beside him.
The Navajo looked nervously amongst themselves.
"The baby is not ill," Lori replied. "But he is the reason why we are here. We came to ask for your help."
"May I see him?" Kagome requested.
The woman with the pup nodded and turned around so that Kagome could approach the cradleboard. He watched her undo the hide flaps to uncover the tiny pup that lay strapped into the carrying pouch.
"Ohhh… kawaii. So cute…" she started then gasped. "Kami-sama, this baby is so young! He can't be more than two weeks old."
"He was born ten days ago in my village," one of the Navajo men, Michael, explained.
"Ten days?! This baby is only ten days old? Where is his mother? Oh… oh no. Did she?..." She couldn't finish and he knew where her mind had gone.
"My sister is fine. She is still in Arizona," Michael answered.
"In Arizona?You took this pup from its mother?" he barked. "It's too early to separate them. The pup needs his mother's milk."
"Is there a problem? Is he not eating? Is he failing to thrive?" Kagome asked.
"N…no. He eats well and has gained weight since he was born," Lori replied tentatively.
"Let's go inside," he interrupted, uncomfortable with having an unconcealed hanyou infant out in the open, sunset or no sunset.
Kagome readily agreed and began leading the way back to the medical office. "Yes. We should get him inside. It's no good for a hanyou or youkai to be out without a concealment spell."
"Concealment spell?" Michael asked.
"An illusion to hide the hanyou features like his ears," Kagome explained. "All hanyous and full demons living in this age need one in order to blend in."
"Blend in? You mean, you don't look the way that you do?" Billy asked, speaking for the first time.
"Well, I don't have one, but that's because I'm human. Inuyasha and Yukio, however…"
"I can see through it a little," Emma admitted. "They… shimmer. Their hair is… white?"
"Sort of. It's more silver than white. You must have some Talent if you can see through the spell a little bit," Kagome commented.
"I… I don't know," Emma said.
"It's not unusual," his mate reassured her. "Lots of people have Talent in one form or another."
They had reached the door of the medical office. Ian was standing inside the building, his small hands pressed to the glass of the door. The pup stepped back when he reached out to pull the door open, but found it was locked.
'At least they had the sense to leave the damn door locked. Shit, Yukio left the pup alone,' he thought, scowling.
"Damn," he heard Kagome curse. "I left my keys in my office. Ian, honey, open the door please?"
He saw the pup look wide-eyed at the humans behind them and shake his head.
"It's okay, sweetheart. It's safe to open the door," Kagome soothed.
"Oi, pup. Open the door," he ordered. :Obey Leader-male.:
Ian didn't look convinced but obeyed, reaching up to press on the door handle and open it. He slipped his hand into the open crack and pulled the door the rest of the way open to let them in.
:Good pup,: he praised as Ian ran to his side and hid behind him.
"Come this way, please," Kagome said to their 'guests' as she led the way back into her office.
He waited until they were all in before closing the door and making sure it was still locked behind him. Yukio fell in beside him as they took up the rear, and he saw his eldest give him an apologetic look.
:Pup sorry,: Yukio said, then added in Japanese, "She just ran out."
"It's okay," he replied in Japanese. "No one can control your mother when she sets her mind on something."
Once in the rear of the building, Kagome detoured from her office, after picking up her keys, and opted instead to bring their group to the staff lunch room because it was larger and had a table with a number of chairs.
"Please sit down. Would you like something to drink?" his mate asked politely.
"We are fine, thank you," the male Cree, David, replied.
"I'll get water for all of us just in case," she said, opening the refrigerator in the room and pulling out a pitcher to fill with ice water. "In the meantime, I'll introduce myself. I'm Kagome Fushikenwa, and this is my mate Inuyasha, and my sons Yukio and Ian. Ian is the one hiding behind his father."
"We are pleased to meet all of you and glad that you agreed to speak with us," David replied.
"Yes, we are sorry that we caused you distress earlier today, and apologize for anything we may have done to upset you," Michael added.
"It would have been better if just one of you had come at first. We are, by nature, a very protective and suspicious race," Yukio explained.
"That had been the initial plan, however, it didn't quite work out that way," the female Cree, Emma, answered.
"If the woman carrying the pup had come alone, I wouldn't have felt so threatened," Yukio added.
Inuyasha snorted. "What is it with you two? You automatically assume that a pup being present means there isn't a threat! It's the oldest trick there is! Pretend to be something helpless then turn around and eat whatever it is that comes along to help!"
"Hmmm, that's funny. I thought the oldest trick there is was a woman dropping her kimono to distract the man and get him to let down his guard," Kagome quipped back in Japanese as she placed the pitcher of ice water and a stack of plastic cups on the table.
Yukio choked and shook his head.
"Feh!" he sniffed, grumbling.
The one carrying the pup took the carrier off her back and lifted the pup out of it. Now in the light it was easy to see his hanyou features. The pup had puppy ears just like most canine-youkai/human crosses and medium grey hair, and he had big amber eyes that were more brown than gold. The rest of him was hard to see because they had him wrapped up in a multi-colored blanket and what looked like one of those one-piece outfits for newborns.
'Damn, it's tiny. What the hell were they thinking!?'
As soon as he was taken from his carrier, the pup started wailing. The woman tried to settle him but he refused to be comforted.
'Scared. Confused. Missing his mother. These stupid humans haven't got a clue.'
When the pup kept crying, Kagome opened her arms and reached for it.
"Here, I'll take him. I've had lots of practice with hanyou babies," she offered.
The Native woman handed Kagome the pup and she held it close. His heart filled with pride when he heard her bark softly, telling the pup in a language he was born knowing that he was safe and no one would hurt him. The pup responded by ceasing his wails, although he kept up the small, hiccupping whines.
"How did you do that?" the woman asked, amazed.
"All canine-youkai and hanyous are born knowing the basics of canine language. I told him that he was safe and no one would hurt him. He's also missing his mother. Canine-hanyous imprint on their mother's scent within a few hours of birth. He knows none of you are her and that she isn't here. He's understandably frightened and confused," Kagome explained, then frowned when the pup started to root at her chest and mewl pitifully.
"He's also hungry," she noted, giving voice to his thoughts.
The woman… Lori, he reminded himself, rummaged in her bag, and pulled out a bottle.
"We've been feeding him this."
"Hmmm, do you have the original can or jar?" Kagome asked, looking at the milky liquid in the bottle.
"Yes," Lori answered, holding out a brightly colored can with a drawing of a pup on the front.
Kagome took it from her and read the ingredients. "Hmmm. This is no good. Hanyou babies have different nutritional requirements than human ones. This formula has too much wheat gluten in it and not enough protein. It's likely to give him terrible gas as well."
Lori nodded. "He… he has been unhappy."
Kagome nodded. "I'm not surprised. Yukio, sweetheart, could you please mix up a cup of Mammalian Han-i-lac for me? There should be a box of powder in the cupboard there."
He saw his eldest nod, go to the cabinet his mate had indicated, and pull out a box of instant formula for pups. He frowned as he watched Yukio mix the formula with warm water and put it in a bottle that mimicked a teat. Pups should have their mothers' milk, especially ones that young.
"Why isn't the pup with its mother? Why didn't she come too?" he asked, sitting cross-legged on the table.
He didn't give a shit about manners right now because he was putting two-and-two together and he didn't like the "four" he got very much. Ian took the chair behind him, still hiding from view as much as possible.
Once again the Navajos looked uncomfortable, and the feeling that his "four" was really going to make him angry increased.
"We thought it would be better if she stayed at home. We hoped it would help… ease the separation," the one called Michael explained tentatively.
"Ease the separation?" Kagome repeated, feeding the pup with the bottle.
Michael cleared his throat nervously. "Yes. We… we are here to ask you to take this child and raise it."
He sputtered. "Wh… what?"
Kagome echoed him with a similar gasp. "Excuse me?"
"You're taking the pup away from his mother?" Yukio blurted.
"You want us to adopt him?" Kagome asked, aghast. "Why?"
The sudden upset in the room made the pup stop eating and begin to cry. Ian jumped off the chair he was sitting on and crawled under the table. Kagome struggled to comfort the pup and settle him back down to eat. He turned to the one called Michael and glared.
"Explain yourself. What do you mean? Why did you take this pup away from his mother?"
He saw the man swallow hard. "The child is, as you called him, a hanyou. In my tribe, he is a witch child because his father is believed to be a Skinwalker."
"Skinwalker?" he repeated.
"A witch. An evil witch who puts on the skins of animals and casts spells on unsuspecting victims. They can shape-shift and take the form of any animal or person they want," the other Navajo male, Billy, answered.
He snorted. "This pup's father is definitely a youkai. Youkai may have powers but they're not witches."
"You said his father was Coyote," Kagome added.
"Yes," Michael agreed. "But in my tribe there is coyote, who can be a Skinwalker, and Old Man Coyote who is one of the Original People and is very powerful. Coyote can bring both evil and good, but He is a trickster and usually brings more bad luck than fortune. My people go to great lengths to avoid coyote tracks and dens so as not to touch anything that might be His."
"So this mating is not looked on with much favor," Kagome commented.
Michael shook his head. "There are those, like my father, who believe my sister was tricked by a Skinwalker into bearing his witch child. There are others who believe that Old Man Coyote is the father and fear He will bring bad luck to our people. My grandmother tells a tale handed down to her from her grandmother of a… a hanyou child born to the People. The girl's father killed it, and Coyote responded by slaughtering the sheep and burning all the crops so hundreds of the People starved. No one wants a witch child in the village, but they are afraid to kill it. Still, my father almost killed him on the night he was born and he has said that my sister cannot keep him."
"Why us?" he demanded.
Michael looked to David who nodded. "Michael and I go to the same college. One night we went out drinking and he told me about his sister's pregnancy. I remembered that my kin in Alberta told tales of a family of half-dogs that lived there so I told Michael that maybe my relatives could help his sister. When the baby was born and Michael called me to tell me that his father was going to either kill the baby or force his sister out, I contacted my cousins living up here."
The Cree woman nodded. "My grandfather was Joseph Talking-Wolf."
Kagome looked at her. "I thought your face looked slightly familiar. Your grandfather was a good man."
Emma lowered her eyes. "Thank you. He had many good things to say about you and your tribe."
He heard Yukio snicker at the word 'tribe.'
"Tribe? Well, we do have quite a tribe don't we?" Kagome teased him lightly.
"Feh," he answered.
"But there is one thing I don't understand. If I remember correctly, the Navajo trace lineage through the mother's line. Ultimately, the one who would have the power to decide whether the baby can stay in the village or not is his mother."
Michael cleared his throat and Inuyasha knew that another bomb was about to be dropped.
"That is true. However, my sister is only fifteen."
"Fifteen!" Kagome gasped. "Oh kami-sama…"
"Our mother is dead so she can't speak for the child. I know my grandmother would do it, but her health is frail and the baby would only be safe until she died or until the other villagers decided that keeping him is too great a risk."
"Where is the pup's father in all of this?" Yukio asked.
"Fifteen… Was she… was she violated by this youkai?" Kagome interrupted in a small voice.
"No. Tricked, perhaps, but not forced," the Navajo assured them.
Kagome sighed with relief. "Well, that's something at least. Still, what does he think about your father making your sister give up the baby?"
"We don't know. Sara told me she hasn't seen him in over two months," Michael replied.
"That's impossible. No youkai would abandon his pup if it wasn't rape," he insisted.
"At least, not in this day and age," Kagome added. "Something isn't right here."
"What do you mean?" Lori asked.
Kagome looked down at the pup who was now sleeping in her arms. He'd forgotten how content she looked when holding a pup.
"Well, first of all, most canine-youkai clans are monogamous. They take one mate for life and when that mate dies, then they can mate again if they so choose."
He knew she had added the last bit for Yukio's benefit because their eldest had been so reluctant in pursuing another mate since the death of his first.
'Not that I blame him after what Miaka put him through,' he thought dourly.
"I admit that I don't know much about Coyote-youkai but I haven't heard anything about them not being monogamous," Kagome continued. "If this youkai has taken your sister for a mate then he should be very possessive and protective of her. I'm assuming he knew he was going to be a father."
The Navajo looked blankly at each other, but he scowled. "He knew. She wouldn't have been able to keep it from him."
"So something must have happened to the father otherwise he would have been present at the birth," Kagome noted.
"Him or a member of his family so they could lay claim to the pup," he confirmed.
"Lay claim?" Lori questioned.
"That's the other thing that really bothers me about this. If the father couldn't be present, then where is the rest of his family? It's not like any youkai clan to let a hanyou baby go unclaimed."
"Why?" Michael asked.
"Because in this age, babies like this one are highly prized. Many youkai clans are facing extinction and the only way to save their race is to interbreed with humans. There was a time when youkai were more plentiful that hanyous would be hunted and killed, but it's not that way anymore. Someone from the father's family should have come to claim the baby and take him, and your sister, if your village was a threat to them. The very fact that no one has come is highly unusual and makes me very worried," Kagome explained.
"So you think something happened to Coyote?" Billy questioned.
"It certainly seems that way. Something must have happened to keep him from being there when the baby was born," Kagome answered. "Inuyasha, we haven't heard of any youkai being killed in America, have we?"
He shook his head. "No. Not recently."
"Then Coyote or his family must not want the baby then," Michael concluded. "Does that mean you will take him?"
"No," Kagome answered before he could open his mouth.
'No?' "No?" he blurted.
"No?" he heard Yukio gasp.
"No?" the Navajo said in unison.
"No," Kagome confirmed. "No one here has told me what the mother wants in all of this, but my guess is she wasn't given a choice. Just because she is only fifteen doesn't mean that she shouldn't have a say. I won't take this girl's baby without talking to her first. I was sixteen when we got Yukio. He was my first baby. I would have died inside if someone had taken him away from me. No. I won't do it."
It took him a moment to process what his mate had just said because her refusal had come as such as shock to him. Replaying her answer in his head, he had to admit that he shouldn't have been all that surprised. There were too many unanswered questions and no mother should be forced to give up her pup against her will.
"Inuyasha, we should go to Arizona. If something has happened to the baby's father, it's possible that his family doesn't know he had a mate and child. Tetsu's dragon relatives didn't know about him until after we'd adopted him. As odd as it might sound, maybe this baby's father kept them a secret," she announced.
"Or he was a loner or the last of his clan," Yukio offered.
Kagome looked at their son and nodded. "All the more reason to go there and see if we can't figure out what's going on."
He hated to admit it because going to Arizona wasn't on his top ten list of things he wanted to do with the rest of his week, but Kagome was right. It was unlikely that the humans would be able to figure this out without help, and the pup should be given the chance to stay with his mother. He sighed in resignation.
"Okay. Kagome, you take the hanyou pup and the Natives to The Fairmont in Banff. I'll call ahead and tell them you're coming. Yukio, you bring Ian home and pick up an overnight bag for your mother then join her at the hotel. I'll stay at the house and get things ready for the trip to Arizona."
"Okay," Yukio agreed.
"Ah… while we are very grateful for your generosity. We cannot accept your charity…" David began after the others had given him concerned looks.
"Charity? You think I'm being charitable?" he snapped back. "I'm not. It is very obvious that none of you humans have a clue about how to take care of a hanyou pup, and Kagome isn't going to leave him. I, however, am not in the habit of bringing strangers to my home, and no amount of wampum or jewelry is going to make me trust you on the first day I've met you."
He took the wampum belt and hair clasp out of his pocket and placed them on the table.
"I am a suspicious and protective bastard by nature, but it keeps my mate and pups alive so I don't give a rat's ass if it's rude. Since Kagome isn't about to leave the pup, and I'm not about to lead you to where we live, I'm left with two choices: either let her go to wherever you're staying or put you up in a hotel. I choose the hotel because then I know exactly where she is and that she is in a safe place. I am sending my oldest son to be with her and protect her in my absence. And I'm telling you now that, if any of you try anything, he will kick your asses so fast you won't know what hit you."
He saw Yukio stand a little straighter and suppressed a smile.
"Have I made myself clear?" he asked.
He waited as the Navajo talked amongst themselves in their native language, then spoke with the Cree before facing him. They looked resolute but defiant.
"You have given us little choice," Lori replied. "Then again, we Navajos are used to not being given choices. We accept your offer of a place to spend the night. After that, we will decide what to do once we have heard your plans."
He ignored her slight and the thinly disguised bitterness in her voice. "Fair enough," he agreed, picking up the gifts they had given him again. He knew it would be considered a terrible insult if he rejected their offerings.
"Do you have a car seat for him?" Kagome asked.
Lori shook her head and he saw his mate begin to lose her temper.
"You brought him all the way from Arizona and you didn't bring a car seat? Did you fly up with him?" she questioned.
'They wouldn't have flown. They wouldn't have been able to afford it. These people have no money. It probably wiped them out just to pay for the gasoline up here. I wonder if they've eaten. They're probably too proud to ask for help.'
"No, we drove," Lori replied, having the good sense to look chagrined.
He saw Kagome reining in her emotions and knew she was reaching the same conclusion that he had.
"All right," she said with a heavy sigh. "Yukio, when you get back to the house…"
"Pull Ian's car seat out of storage," his eldest finished.
"Yes. And his sling." She turned to the Navajo woman. "What type of diapers are you using on him? Cloth or disposable?"
"There's a disposable one on him now. We were using cloth but…" Lori trailed off.
Kagome nodded. "I understand. Without a diaper service cloth can get complicated. Though as a general rule, cloth is better for hanyou babies. Disposables trap too much moisture against the skin. I have some hybrid diapers that blend the best of both worlds." She handed the pup back to Lori. "Here. Take him while I get some things together."
The Navajo woman accepted the pup and tried to shush him when he started to fuss.
"Talk to him," Kagome suggested. "Canine-hanyou babies are born being able to see and hear. They also imprint on scent. When you carry him, if you must put him in the cradleboard, put something that smells like his mother in it with him. Do you have anything of the mother's with you?"
Michael shook his head. "No."
He scowled as he watched Kagome fluttering about the room. She'd gone to a supply cabinet against the far wall and was selecting items from it. He saw her pick up several boxes of pup formula and three packs of diapers, and put them in a carrying sack.
'Took him away from his mother. Didn't bring anything of hers with them…'
"You can't treat this baby like a human baby," he heard her say softly. "He's not a human baby. He's a hanyou baby. Hanyou babies have sharp senses and strong instincts from their youkai parent. You have to work with that. If you do, you'll find things go a lot easier."
The pup was still fussing and the woman holding him couldn't seem to get him to settle down. Muttering curses under his breath, he stood up and walked over.
"Like this," he instructed, taking the pup by the back of the neck.
He saw the woman's eyes go wide when the pup immediately stopped moving. Then he started a low crooning that came up from the back of his throat, mimicking the sound a dog would make to express contentment, and the pup relaxed. It turned its head and looked at him, and he felt a spasm in his heart.
'Pup's only been out of the womb 10 days and I already feel sorry for it.'
"When he fusses like that, do this and make that noise. That tells him to be quiet and relax," he told her.
She gave him a small nod. "Thank you."
Kagome put two plastic carrying sacks on the table. "Okay, that should do it for a few days at least. Now there's just one more thing I need to do."
She went back to the supply cabinet and took out a roll of mailing twine, then started rummaging on the shelves looking for something, and he realized that she wanted to make a concealment anchor. Yukio must have realized it at the same time he did because he saw his eldest remove the talisman from around his neck.
'The one Kagome's grandfather gave him as a pup…'
"Okaa-san, here. You can use this," Yukio offered.
Kagome accepted the item with a grateful smile. "Thank you, sweetheart," she said, taking the dark stone between her palms and concentrating energy into it. Then she put the charm around the pup's neck and the pup's features shifted to make it look like a Native human baby.
"How did you do that?!" Lori gasped.
"I cast a concealment spell into the stone. As long as he wears it, his hanyou features will be hidden. This is just a temporary one, but it'll do until I can make a permanent one for him."
"That is amazing," Michael breathed, staring at the now dark-haired, dark-skinned pup.
Reaching behind him, he used his claw to slice a lock of his long hair from the base of his neck, noting their surprise when it changed color the moment it was disconnected from his body. His current illusion had him as a middle-aged Japanese man with shoulder-length black hair. The lock in his hand was more than twice that long and shimmered silver in the light. He gave the lock to Kagome.
"Use this for the rope."
She gave him a look that said she knew he was just a big softie despite how rude and crass he tried to be, and he sent her back one that promised slow, painful death if she even so much as hinted at it.
"Thank you, Inuyasha," she said, and put the lock in the breast pocket of her doctor's coat, close to her heart.
"Alright, we're ready to go then. Since you don't have a baby seat, I'd like one of you to ride with me and hold the baby. Or better yet, someone drive my car and I'll hold him."
The one called Emma raised her hand. "I'll drive."
"Okay good. The rest of you can follow in your minivan. Does it need gas?" she asked, taking the drowsing pup from the female Navajo.
Michael nodded. "Yes."
"Okay, mine does too so we'll stop for gas first."
"I'll go home and get things ready for tomorrow. I'll call The Fairmont on my cell," he said.
Yukio coaxed Ian out from under the table and he watched the pup eagerly hop onto his big brother's back.
"I'll take Ian home, get a bag for Okaa-san and join her at the hotel."
"Let's go then," he replied, indicating that they should leave.
Yukio went first, Ian clinging to his back, followed by the male Cree and the Navajos. The female Cree hung back, waiting for them, then walked slightly ahead as he and Kagome brought up the rear.
"Fill their tank and make sure they eat," he said to his mate in Japanese.
"Hai," she agreed. "I'd already decided to do that. They probably spent all their money just getting here."
"They took a big risk, bringing him here. They had no idea what they were getting into," she commented, looking down at the pup in her arms.
"You humans do lots of stupid things when you're desperate."
He smirked when she glared at him. "As if you've never done anything stupid," she snorted.
He put his arm around her shoulders. "Before I met you? Never."
She didn't grace that with an answer as they walked out to their cars. Ten minutes later, the Cree woman was driving Kagome's Saturn with the late model minivan following behind. Yukio was next in the Subaru and he came last in his Jeep. They turned out of the parking lot onto the main street when the traffic light turned green, and headed West out of Calgary.