InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Coyote Child ❯ Chapter Two ( Chapter 2 )
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Because speed limits were a suggestion, and he opted for his Ninja when leaving the house, and because Kagome had stopped for gas and filled two vehicles, he was only five minutes behind his mother and the Natives in arriving at The Fairmont. Kagome was just signing the guest registration form at the "Ruby Club" desk- which was code for a youkai client- when he walked into the hotel lobby. Standing behind her, holding their sparse luggage and looking a little stunned by the grandeur of the castle-like hotel, were the five Natives and the hanyou pup.
"I'm here," he announced as Kagome turned to face the rest of them.
"Hello, sweetheart. You got here awfully fast," she commented. "Did you run every stop light and break the sound barrier all the way here?" she added sweetly in Japanese.
He gave her a wicked grin and raised his eyebrows. "I thought my driving habits were on your list of Things Mothers Don't Need To Know."
She rolled her eyes and slapped a room key against his chest. "Here. We're on the tenth floor."
He giggled as he took the pass key from her. "Love you, Kaa-san."
She snorted. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Then she turned to the five humans who were still looking a bit shell-shocked, and handed them identical pass keys. "We're in two adjoining one-bedroom suites. Here are your keys. I figured we'd get settled in, then order out for dinner."
The humans looked at the keys in their hands but said nothing.
"The elevator's this way," his mother informed them, reaching over to take the hanyou pup from Lori's hands, and leading the way over to the elevators.
Yukio tried to ignore the numerous stares they received from the staff and clientele as they passed through the lobby on the way to the elevators. Many of them saw the humans and their less-than-designer clothes, and looked down their noses in distain.
"My, this place has gone downhill. In my day, filth like that would have been stopped at the door," one arrogant ram-youkai sneered as they passed.
He knew the Cree woman, Emma, had heard him because she flinched very slightly and her scent changed. For some reason, her unhappiness triggered his protective instincts and he whirled to face the glorified goat.
"Hold your tongue or I'll rip it right out of your mouth," he threatened, snarling and baring his teeth.
From the corner of his eye he saw Emma's jaw drop a little bit and smiled inwardly until his mother called his name tersely.
"Yukio. Don't bother with that idiot. He's probably cranky because he hasn't been milked today."
The goat-youkai leered at her and licked his thin lips. "Are you volunteering?"
If he was going to say anything else, he never got the chance because Yukio had him by the throat and pinned to the wall in a heartbeat.
"Don't you dare insult my mother," he hissed.
"Whoa! Sit boy," the goat-youkai choked. "Did someone let you off your leash?"
"I should rip off those puny horns of yours and let you bleed to death right here in this hallway," he seethed.
"Is there a problem?" a new voice interrupted and he turned his head to see Susan, the assistant manager standing there. It took her all of three seconds to recognize him and his mother, and assess the situation of him holding the goat-youkai by the neck. "Oh! Mr. Fushikenwa. I'm sorry. I didn't know it was you at first. And Mrs. Fushikenwa… Was this man bothering you?"
"Not really. He was just showing his poor manners," Kagome replied coldly.
"Fushikenwa?" the goat-youkai squeaked, his eyes going wide.
He grinned maliciously. "Heard of us, have you?"
Susan moved to speak into her transmitter. "I'll call security and have him ejected from the hotel."
Yukio shook his head and abruptly let the jerk go. He fell to the floor in a heap at Yukio's feet.
"Don't waste your time with him, Suz. I don't think he'll be a problem anymore."
"As you wish, Sir."
"Let's go, Yukio. I'm hungry and I'd like to go up to our room," his mother said, turning away.
Casting one last withering glare at the goat-youkai, he followed her, ushering the staring humans ahead of him to the elevator. He knew they had heard what was said, but also knew that the concealment spell the goat had on him had kept them from seeing anything more than a flashy businessman.
"You didn't have to do that. His prejudice is his burden to carry, not ours," the Navajo woman, Lori said softly as they entered the elevator.
As usual when she spoke to him, or was listening to something he was saying, she dropped her eyes and looked away. All three of the Navajo did that, but the Cree maintained eye contact. He had quickly decided that it was a cultural thing, and that the Navajo viewed direct eye-contact as rude the way his mother had said some Native tribes believed.
"I won't tolerate anyone insulting my mother or those under my protection. To give in to him would have shown weakness, and in the youkai world weakness is still something you don't show to a potential enemy," he answered firmly, but gently.
"Most youkai have a propensity for violence," his mother explained. "Some rein it in better than others. That one was a goat-youkai. They're known for being all brawn and no brains."
"Goat-youkai?" the Navajo Michael repeated. "That means one of his parents was Goat?"
"A goat demon, yes," Kagome confirmed.
"So that's what you meant by ripping off his horns," Emma commented.
He nodded. "He had two small ones coming from his forehead. They weren't very big and hadn't started to curl yet."
"Which means he had youth to add to his stupidity," his mother added.
"We couldn't see his horns because he had a concealment spell on, right?" David asked.
"Exactly," he confirmed.
The elevator dinged and the steel doors slid open, revealing the elegantly decorated hallway. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was once known as simply The Banff Springs Hotel and it had been built in 1886 by William Van Hume, one of Canada's great Railroad Barons. Strategically placed overlooking the Bow Valley, it sported breathtaking views of the Rockies from a massive twelve-story Scottish castle design.
"This way," his mother said, turning left and leading the way down the wide hallway.
They were going to a special section of the hotel reserved specifically for youkai clients and their guests; rooms that were never rented to a strictly human client or family. This ensured that the hotel's 'special' clients were kept somewhat apart from the human ones, as much for the safety of the humans as the youkai. They turned a corner and went down to the end of the hall, and Kagome stopped at the last door.
'Hmm, corner unit. It'll have the big French doors,' he thought happily.
"Your suite is next to ours. We'll open the adjoining doors between them and make it one big, two-bedroom unit," Kagome told them, slipping her passkey into the lock to open the door.
He watched as Emma mimicked Kagome's actions and opened the suite next to theirs.
"Once you're in, unlock and open the door to our suite," Kagome instructed, entering the room.
He was just putting his bags down when the door to the adjoining suite opened and the five humans came over to their side. He had already opened the door in their suite so now they had essentially one unit available to them. It looked like Inuyasha had been smart and reserved two suites with two Queen-size beds and a pull out sofa each. Each suite had a separate bedroom with the beds and a small living room with the sleeper sofa. Both rooms were decorated in the style of the great European manor houses, and sported replicas of many antiques. The biggest difference was the unit he shared with his mother had an extra set of French doors that opened to the view of the Bow Valley. There was no balcony per se, just a wrought iron railing that prevented anyone from accidentally falling out of the hotel.
"This parlor is the size of two hogans in my village," Michael commented, looking around.
Billy nodded. "Three families could easily live in this much space."
He agreed. "It is a big room. The huts we lived in when I was a little pup were not even half the size. Even the house my father built my mother was considered monstrous by the villagers."
"It is very grand, but why does anyone need so much?" Billy replied critically. "There is too much value put on things that do not matter."
He nodded. "You're absolutely right about that. Now, I don't know about you guys, but I'm hungry. Pizza?"
Kagome came out of the bedroom carrying the pup. She had changed from her white coat and dress to a set of soft cotton pants and a long-sleeved grey T-shirt his father had obviously bought for her because it said "Life just hasn't been the same since that house fell on my sister."
"If you're going to order pizza, I want white vegetarian with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, green peppers and feta cheese," she said, breezing in, opening the in-room refrigerator and taking out a bottled water.
"No olives?" he quipped with a grin.
"Okay, my mother wants… that. What would you guys like?"
The humans looked at each other and shook their heads. "Whatever you order for us is fine," David replied.
"Well, I'm partial to the Meat Lover's with pepperoni, sausage, ground beef and ham, but that's just me."
"Where would you be ordering from?" Emma asked.
"A little place in Canmore called Mel's," he answered.
"Mel's?" Emma repeated, raising an eyebrow.
He grinned. "Yeah. They make the best pizza in Alberta, and it annoys some of the more stuck-up staff to have a little mom-n-pop pizza place deliver to The Fairmont Banff Springs," he said, placing haughty emphasis on the hotel name.
Emma smiled. "I like mushrooms and extra sauce."
"Okay, anyone else? Chicken? Hot peppers? Pineapple?" His questions remained unanswered, so he shrugged and picked up the phone. "Okay. But if you don't like what I order, it's your fault."
He ended up ordering four pizzas: his mother's vegetarian, his Meat Lover's, Emma's mushroom with extra sauce, and one additional large that was half plain and half sausage. He also got two orders of breadsticks, two six packs of Molson, and a 2-litre bottle of Coke. They were having a special.
While they were waiting for the pizza to arrive, a phone call came in from Inuyasha. The plan as his father detailed it was simple but long. He decided that the pup was too young to fly, which came as no surprise. Inuyasha often complained that if dog pups had to be 10-weeks old before they could be shipped anywhere, the same should hold true for human ones, not to mention hanyou or youkai offspring that were ten times more sensitive to pressure changes and altitude than human pups. As such, they would drive down to Arizona and the trip would take three days. He was already making arrangements for Tetsukazu to fly over from New York and watch Ian because he wanted Yukio to come with them for extra protection.
Another reason for driving was that it was still easier to cross the border by car rather than go through customs in a US airport, and Inuyasha didn't want any trouble over the pup or his family coming into the States. Relations were still reserved between the two countries over the war in the Middle East (which the Americans were still fighting five years later) and the on-going construction of 5 new military bases on the US side of the border, just shy of Canadian territory.
Thank the Gods Tetsu had Seen a glimpse of the events of 9/11 a day beforehand and hadn't been in New York when the planes struck the towers, otherwise he might have gotten caught up in it. As it was, when it happened no one knew that Tetsu had foreseen it and skipped town. No one could get in touch with him, he wasn't answering his home phone or cell phone, and the whole family suffered 24 hours of pure anguish and panic until Tetsu showed up at the Alberta House door, exhausted from driving the entire way without stopping except for gas. He'd crossed the border in New York on September 10th and driven clear across Canada because he knew the US would be closing the gates. His brother hadn't flown because his limited Sight had shown him airplanes but he didn't know which ones were 'safe' and which ones weren't. He'd never been so happy to see Tetsu in all his life, his father even had to wipe away a tear of joy, his mother, of course, had cried enough for all three of them.
The plan was presented and discussed. As it so happened, the Navajos were much happier with the driving plan. They had worried that his family would want to fly to Arizona and that left them wondering what to do with the minivan, which turned out not to belong to them, but to a village elder who had loaned it out. They also did not wish to be indebted to them any more than was absolutely necessary. David volunteered to drive back to the Enoch Cree Reserve where Emma lived and get some things she would need for the trip. Billy opted to go with him, presumably not comfortable staying in a place that was so obviously a statement of over-blown wealth. They would return in the morning about the same time Inuyasha would be getting there.
Plans made, Yukio gave the phone to his mother, knowing his parents would want to have a private talk because they would be spending the night apart. Kagome was just hanging up when the pizza arrived. Yukio grabbed four slices of Meat Lover's and a bottle of beer then plopped down on the floor by the open French Doors to enjoy the cool mountain air while he ate. Kagome ate two slices of her vegetarian pizza then left the rest for the others while the Natives made sizable dents in the remaining two pizzas. Yukio watched David carefully to make sure he didn't have more than one beer because he was driving, but he didn't stop any of the others from drinking. Michael, Billy and Emma all had at least one beer, but Lori refused to touch it.
"Alcohol is the bane of my people," she explained. "It has done almost as much damage to us as the Whites."
He noticed neither Billy nor Michael had anything to say about that.
"You're right, this is the best pizza in Alberta," Emma commented, taking a bite from a slice of vegetarian pizza.
He grabbed a 5th slice of Meat Lover's and another beer. "Told you," he replied, consuming the slice in four bites and took a swig of his beer. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Emma shake her head. "What?"
"That's your fifth slice."
She shook her head again. "Nothing."
"What? You gonna say if I keep eating like this I'll get fat?" he challenged, smirking.
Emma lowered her eyes and looked away, embarrassed. He grinned.
"Keh! My mother has been saying that about my father for years. It hasn't happened yet."
He was careful to say 'years' so as not to allude to his parents' actual age. Since she knew they had been friends of her grandfather's, she must have some idea of their longevity, but there was always that habitual caution. He was reluctant to lie, but that didn't mean he had to tell the whole truth either. Behind him, he heard his mother giggle.
"Your father and his ramen," she said fondly, rocking the pup gently as he nursed from his bottle. "I swear the two of you could eat a whole case in one sitting."
"Just one case?" he jibed back.
Kagome rolled her eyes and smiled. He smiled back, reached over to pick up a piece of her vegetarian, and took a bite.
"Yuck!" he spat, grimacing. "How do you eat that stuff?"
"How do you eat half a dozen danishes for breakfast every morning?" she countered.
He considered her words and shrugged. "Point," he conceded.
"So we'll leave in the morning?" David asked, finishing off the last slice of sausage pizza.
He nodded. "Yeah."
"Inuyasha will be here by 10am. We'll leave shortly thereafter. Check out is at 11am," Kagome added, burping the pup on her shoulder. "Hmmm, he needs changed."
Lori stood and retrieved a diaper from one of the bags that they had brought from the medical office as Kagome got a towel from the bathroom to lay the pup on.
"Is there anything special about changing a… hanyou baby?" the Navajo asked.
Kagome smiled at her as she unwrapped the pup from his blanket and took him out of his soiled one-piece.
"Not really. Just make sure he is clean and dry before you put the new diaper on him. Hanyou babies aren't as susceptible to sores and infections but if there's too much moisture trapped against the skin, he could get a rash just like any baby. You'll find him to be pretty easy to take care of once you understand his instincts. I'd take a hanyou baby over a human one on any day. They're easy keepers, highly intelligent and develop almost three times as fast as a human infant."
Now that the pup was naked, Yukio could see that he had claws on his fingers and on his toes, unlike inu-hanyous who only had claws on their hands. He could also see that the pup was painfully thin, and began to feel some of the anger his father must have been feeling at the pup's situation.
'They didn't know any better. They had no idea what they were dealing with. It isn't their fault,' he reminded himself.
"You said he's gained weight since he was born?" his mother questioned.
"Yes. But he was very small when he was born. He only weighed 6 pounds," Lori answered.
"6 pounds? That's very small for a hanyou baby. Was he premature?"
Lori shook her head. "Not that I know of."
"The baby was born four days after his due date," Michael replied.
Kagome shook her head. "I don't know enough about coyote-youkai, but my guess would be that he's underweight. I'm going to increase the frequency of his feedings and get as much han-i-lac in him as I can. How long did he nurse from his mother?"
"A week. We knew that a mother's first milk is very important for a newborn," Michael said.
'At least they knew that much,' he reasoned, then his heart sank. 'They gave him a week with his mother then ripped him away from her. She must be… in agony.' He couldn't imagine what the poor girl must be going through without her pup and the uncertainty of ever seeing her son again. 'The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the better. I wouldn't be surprised if Otou-san offers to take her in or sets her up in a place where she can stay with her pup.'
His father was a good man who had strong feelings about family and pups. If this one and its teenage mother were in jeopardy, he knew his father would do whatever he could to make it right.
'I know they came to us in order to ask us to take the pup, but this might work out better than anyone ever hoped it could.'
He stood and went into the bedroom, rummaging in the bag he had brought from the house, and returned carrying some clean clothes for the pup that he had taken out of Ian's baby things.
"Oh, Ian's 'Dog-Do Happens' shirt," Kagome said with a smile as he gave her the shirt.
"I thought some of Ian's stuff would fit him."
Kagome finished changing the pup and slipped the shirt over his head. "Fit him? He's practically swimming in it."
She was right, the shirt swamped the poor little pup but the little guy didn't seem to mind. He kicked and gave Kagome a smile for the first time. The smile she gave him back was bittersweet.
'She wouldn't mind having another pup to raise, but she knows he's better off with his mother and father if they can keep him.'
"Billy and I are going to go," David announced.
"Alright. You know the way?" Kagome asked.
"I gave him directions," Emma assured her.
"We'll be back before 10am."
Kagome nodded. "Have the front desk call up when you arrive."
He stood, consolidated the remainder of the pizzas (except for his Meat Lover's because he knew he'd finish it off later) and gave the box to Billy. "Here, this is too much for us."
The Navajo man nodded his head in thanks and accepted the box. "Thank you."
"We'll see you in the morning."
"Yes," Billy agreed.
"Be safe," Kagome said as the two men headed out the door.
Lori picked up the pup and held him. He thought his mother would protest but she didn't seem to mind.
"If this child's father is Coyote, what must we know?"
Kagome smiled and rubbed the pup's ears. "Well, you can expect him to get up to all kinds of mischief. Coyote is a trickster after all."
The pup sighed and closed his amber eyes, seemingly denying Kagome's suggestion that he would be a troublemaker.
"Don't let that innocent face fool you. He'll be crawling his way into trouble before you know it."
Lori smiled softly and brought the pup up to her shoulder. "Don't all children do that?"
Kagome patted the pup's back. "Not like this one, trust me."
Lori chuckled. "Thank you for all of your help."
"It's no trouble. The baby's health and safety come first."
"If only all people believed as you do, the world would be a much better place."
"The world changes one person at a time. If we all do what we can, then we help create the world we dream," Kagome replied.
"You speak like a Medicine Woman."
"I have been known as a miko in the past."
"A priestess of sorts in the Shinto faith."
"Ah," Lori answered, nodding. "I understand."
Kagome gave a chuckle of her own and stood up, stretching. "Well, it's close to ten o'clock and I've been up since 5am. I'm going to head to bed. Do you want me to take him?" she said, offering to take the pup.
Lori stood and handed him to her. "You have more experience than I in these matters."
Kagome nodded and accepted the pup, turning and carrying him into the bedroom.
"I think I will go too," Lori said. "We drove a long way today and spent a long time in the car."
"Okay," he replied.
The Navajo woman bid them goodnight and went through the conjoining door to her side of the suite. Michael went with her, presumably either to retire as well or to talk to her about the trip in the morning.
"How late do you normally stay up?" Emma asked him when they were alone.
He took a moment to really look at her because he hadn't had much of an opportunity to study their new acquaintances. Unlike the Navajos whose skin was sun-wizened by the Arizona desert, Emma's skin was smooth and clear, although it was still the darker complexion of her race. Her hair was black and she had braided it into two braids on either side of her head. At the top of each braid, where the hair met the skull, she had pinned two small round ornaments made of many tiny, colored beads. She wore a long-sleeved, plain white cotton shirt with the top two buttons undone revealing a bone-bead choker at her throat. Instead of jeans, she had on a long denim skirt with a back-slit up to her knee, and there were soft brown leather boots on her feet. Her face was round with a pointed chin and she sported the high cheekbones of the Natives. Her hands were strong but fine, her fingers long and flexible, and her dark brown eyes were gentle.
Yukio decided that she wasn't cover-girl, drop-dead gorgeous, but she wasn't bad to look at either as he shrugged and answered, "It varies. I don't need much sleep."
"Neither do I. College student."
He smiled. "Heh. Say no more."
She smiled back and there was something in her eyes that sent a small shiver down his spine. He recognized it as a sensation he hadn't felt since his courting days before he mated Miaka. There had been a look in his dead wife's eyes as a fresh, young girl that had made his heart twinge and his spirits lighten. Only Miaka had ever looked at him in quite that way and gotten the response from him that she had. Now this stranger had managed to illicit such a reaction from him on the first night that they met. It hit him suddenly, making him flush with an unexpected wave of heat, then cold.
'No. Oh no. I am not interested in a relationship. I'm not. I'm not. I'm not,' he insisted, gritting his teeth as his heart pounded a little faster.
"So, you went to college too?" she questioned, stepping a bit closer to him.
"Ah. Yeah. Numerous times," he replied, stepping back and trying to quell his sudden nervousness, even as his mind betrayed him. 'She is pretty in an Earthy sort of way. No! No and no and no and no and no! Remember Miaka. Remember how happy you are at home with your family. You don't need this in your life right now!'
"Oh? What did you study?"
"Architecture, Finance. Business Management. Stuff like that. What are you studying?" 'Keep her talking about herself.'
"Sociology at Concordia University College of Alberta. I'm in my sophomore year."
'Sophomore. That puts her around 20. Kami-sama, she's three years older than Miaka was when we got married,' he thought, inwardly cringing. "Sociology. That's a good field of study."
"I want to be a lawyer and help my people by becoming an advocate for the tribe."
He nodded. "That's great." 'I need another beer.'
"What do you do?" she asked.
"I work for my father. We design houses." 'All over the world.Maybe we can transfer to the Parisoffice for a couple of months. Ian can learn French.'
"You're an architect."
"That's really interesting," she commented, stepping close again. Her scent wafted into his nose and made his head spin.
'Mayday. Mayday.' The pup's small cry coming from the bedroom was his salvation. "I think I hear my mother calling me. I'd better go see if she needs help. Please excuse me."
"Of course. I'm going to go to bed myself. I'll see you in the morning."
She backed off but seemed disappointed. All he felt was relief.
"Okay. Have a good night," he said a little too quickly and hurried to the bedroom.
"Is everything all right?" Kagome asked as he closed the bedroom door and leaned against it. She was walking with the whimpering pup against her shoulder and patting his back.
"Yeah. The Natives have all gone to bed. I heard the pup. Need any help?"
"I think I can handle it. It's just leftover gas from the formula they were feeding him," she replied. "Are you sure you're all right?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
She gave him a Look and a frown. "Yukio, I know you better than that. What's wrong?"
"It's nothing, Kaa-san," he answered, pushing off the door and going to her.
"I thought we were done with secrets," she reminded gently, making him cringe, but he was saved from answering by the pup's distressed cries of discomfort.
"Here, let me take him. I can make the calming noise better than you," he offered.
She sighed and handed him the pup. "I'll get you later."
He stuck his tongue out at her and turned his back as he bounced the colicky pup and whistled high through his teeth, higher than human ears could hear. Now that he was away from the object of his anxiety, he was calming down and the pup against his chest was a welcome weight. He'd always loved holding pups; their tiny bodies warm in his arms. Every time his parents would adopt a new pup, they had always looked to him as a back-up babysitter and he had leapt at the chance every time they offered.
In the beginning Miaka had found his paternal instincts endearing, but as the years wore on and their childlessness was marked by all of her sisters' babies, her viewpoint had changed to one of impatience and frustration. She resented his eagerness to care for the pups but rejected his suggestion that they adopt hanyous as well. He would have loved to raise some pups of their own. He'd often wished that Miaka had been amicable to it. If she had been, he had dreams of all of them together: his parents, his siblings, Miaka, their pups and himself, raising their families side-by-side. For him it would have been heaven, but instead reality was much less ideal. Much like a woman who was always a bridesmaid and never a bride, he was always 'Aniki' and never 'Otou.'
Reacting to his ministrations, the pup began to settle after about twenty minutes; although it might also have had something to do with the warm pack his mother had placed on the pup's abdomen.
"As always, you have the magic touch," Kagome praised fondly, coming up to rub the pup's back.
"And you had nothing to do with it," he countered jokingly.
"Of course not. It's always all your doing."
"I gave you the bed by the window. I know you like to be close to the outdoors and it's best for the baby to be kept out of a draft."
He nodded, bouncing the pup a little more. "Thanks." He looked down at the soft grey puppy ears poking up from the hair. "Y'know, he is kinda cute. What do you think we'll name him? I vote for Loki. Whaddya think, pup? Are you a Loki?"
His mother smiled and took the pup from him, checking his diaper and removing the warm pack. "I'm not even thinking that far ahead at this point. I'm not going to get my hopes up until after I've talked to his mother."
He lowered his ears at the gentle reprimand. "Of course. Do you think his mother will want to keep him?"
She gave him a look that was both disappointed and anguished. "If this was my son, I'd want him." She rocked the sleepy pup gently. "If this pup were you…"
"I understand," he said, sitting down on the bed closest to the window.
"Now, are you going to tell me what's going on or will I have to ask your father to pry it out of you?"
"Otou-san would tell you to respect my privacy," he countered.
"I know, but I have ways of persuading him. Wouldn't it just be easier to tell me now and save yourself the trouble?"
He sighed heavily and let himself fall back to the mattress, landing with a plop and a groan.
"Yukio…" Kagome pressed.
He feigned a snore in answer and was soon hit by a flying pillow. He'd heard it coming though, so it wasn't a surprise. He took the offending thing and rolled his back to her, squeezing the pillow and murmuring a thanks. A moment later, his mother proved that she hadn't lost any of her touch.
"That Emma girl seems very nice."
He stiffened and swiveled his ears backward. "What makes you say that?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.
"No reason. I just noticed that she seemed to like you. She asked me a number of questions about you while she was driving the car for me today."
'Shit.' "She did?"
"Mmm-hmm. I noticed that you seemed to be a little protective of her as well. That little display in the lobby?"
"That stupid goat insulted them, then you. Was I supposed to just let that go?" he demanded, getting a little defensive.
"Well, your father wouldn't have, and you are your father's son," she replied with some amusement.
"See? Exactly my point."
"I'm just saying that I think she's a nice girl. She's very smart. She's a college student at Concordia," his mother commented innocently.
"She told you?"
He was silent for a while, then said very softly, "I'm just not ready for a relationship, Okaa-san."
He heard her approach then sit down on the bed next to him, one hand gently stroking the back of his head.
"I understand," was all she said.
He sighed and curled up a little more, the ache in his heart growing as he remembered Miaka and the end of their marriage. His mother rubbed his back, then kissed his temple.
"I love you," she told him.
"I love you too, Okaa-san," he replied, relaxing.
He stayed on the bed listening as his mother performed her evening toilet, one ear on the pup she had left on the other bed, and a few minutes later he heard her get into bed with the pup.
"I'm going to turn out the light," she said.
"Okay. Sleep well, Okaa-san."
"You too, sweetheart."
"I'll probably keep watch."
"Mmm. I know."
The light went out and the room was shrouded in darkness.
A couple of hours passed and he found that he really couldn't sleep or even rest. Members of the pack were missing and his youkai side knew it. Like a dog that won't rest until everyone in the family is home, he kept reaching out his senses for the missing scents. He finally gave up all semblance of trying to get any sleep and left the bedroom after making a quick check on his mother and the pup. Both were sleeping peacefully. Back in the parlor area of the suite, he grabbed a beer from the fridge and opened the French Doors to feel the mountain air. His mother had asked him to close them earlier to keep the cool draft off the pup. Standing in the open doorway, he breathed deep and took in the scents of the night and the forest. Above him, the clear night sky shone with stars and a crescent moon.
'Hmm, waning gibbous. It'll be New Moon soon,' he thought, taking a swig from his beer. One of the real plusses of concealment spells was that the monthly change to human for hanyous was significantly downplayed. Now all they had to worry about were those who could see through the illusions.
He heard her, but because he had his nose in the night air, he didn't really smell her. The breeze coming in through the open doors swept back any scents that were behind him, and he was grateful for that. Scent was the strongest sense linked to memory, doubly so for the inu-youkai who practically saw through their noses.
"Is everything alright?" Emma asked him.
"Yeah," he said softly. "I'm sorry if I woke you. I'm restless tonight."
"I don't sleep well in a strange place," she admitted. "I let Michael and Lori have the bedroom, and took the sofa bed.
"Mmm," he grunted with a nod of understanding.
She came to stand next to him in the doorway and he cast a glace down at her. She'd let her hair down from the braids and now it hung loose over her shoulders. The wind blew through it softly.
"Heh, Wind Baby wants to play tonight," she said, as the breeze took tendrils of her hair and made them fly around her face. "Ah, the air in the mountains always smells so sweet."
Looking at her, he suddenly experienced a flash of memory from his days in the Sengoku Jidai. Miaka, a young girl of fourteen, splashing ankle-deep in the river as she washed her clothes, her hair held back with a multi-colored scarf, and her face shining up at him.
'Yukio-sama. Did you come to fish in the river today?'
He winced as the pain seared through his heart and he took a small step forward to put his nose in the wind. Unfortunately, Emma stepped up too.
"I've hiked this valley since I was a little girl, and I've seen this hotel hundreds of times, but I must admit, I never dreamed I'd ever be a guest here."
"We don't stay here because it's nice," he told her, wrapping himself in the wind, letting its coldness surround him with layer upon layer of invisible fabric, cutting her scent off from his nose and steeling his heart from the pain of his past. "My uncle owns the parent company that owns this chain of hotels. The staff are well used to our… unique needs. In fact, the room we are in is never rented to a human client.
"A long time ago youkai figured out that money bought safety in the human world. As humans increased in population and became the governing race, youkai who wanted to survive needed to join them. It wasn't enough to stake out a mountaintop and kill anyone who ventured up there. No, resources had to be gathered: land, investments, identities. To do that in this age requires money, lots of it. Our lives are ruled by secrecy, illusion and duality, but it is how we endure."
"You make it sound like something out of Mission Impossible. Secret lives, codes and disguises."
He turned his head to face her, confident in his defenses' ability to protect him. He knew what she saw when she looked at him: a barefoot Asian male in his early twenties with long, straight black hair and black eyes dressed in low-rider jeans and a sleeveless, white muscle shirt. His concealment spell was attractive to most human females and most hanyou or youkai females found his genuine appearance pleasing to the eye as well. The appreciative light in Emma's eyes as she looked him over told him that she was no exception. He stood up a little straighter, not displaying but drawing himself up as a dominant male assessing a potential female and finding her wanting. Not that there was anything wrong with her per se; it was just that he was resolved to leave his life uncomplicated and peaceful, and that plan didn't include a new mate. He knew that there was a good chance that, someday, he'd be interested in the companionship of a female, but that time wasn't now.
"It is. We live two lives: one in the shadow and one in the light," he replied.
"Like the First Peoples," she mused thoughtfully.
"Our lives are full of duality too. There is our tribal life and our lives in the White Man's world. The two don't always mix well. Our traditions and beliefs are often in conflict with the 'accepted' viewpoints. Even the way we view and mark the passing of time is fundamentally different from the Europeans. Until recently we lived a life of conflict with the world, with each other, and with ourselves."
"Until recently?" he asked, his own curiosity getting the better of him.
She smiled softly. "It became okay to be Indian. With the increased popularity of Native spirituality and culture, our ways gained more attention. The First Peoples were able to rally support for their native traditions in ways they had never been able to before. More and more of our young people stopped shunning our ways and beliefs, and returned to their heritage. We still live double lives but now when we say that we are Cree or Ojibwa or Nunavut or any other native tribe, we are treated with more tolerance and the pressure for us to conform to the White World is no longer quite so strong. There's still a lot of prejudice and conflict, and we still have a great deal further to go, but it's a little better. We are a proud, resilient people, and we are patient. That is how we endure."
She gave him a hooded look and added, "Perhaps our lives aren't so different."
He looked away, reaching out to the wind to keep him calm. Her voice was lulling and his heart took notice, but his mind rebelled and began to kick and scream in protest.
"Maybe. But I doubt it. Your life doesn't depend on humanity never finding out what you really are. Although, I think humanity would shudder to know how many of us there are walking and living among them. As I said, most of us have money and money buys all kinds of power. Few of us are politicians, but many of us hold high ranking positions in most of the Fortune 500 companies."
"Like your uncle," she mused.
"My uncle owns almost everything and I expect him to keep building his empire until he does own everything. I've never seen anyone more ruthless in acquisitions. Well… except for my brother Ryoukan, but his is a different sort of ruthless. Ryou doesn't care who he tramples, and, oddly, Uncle does. But I blame that on my Aunt. She's his heart."
"Like your mother is for your father."
He shook his head. "My father has a big heart all on his own. She just reminds him that he has it."
"And you? Do you have someone who reminds you of your heart?"
'Ah and there it is.' He frowned, Miaka's face appearing before him, at once young and in love with him, then contorting to the bitter, angry woman she had become.
"I did have a mate once," he admitted.
Predictably her face fell then filled with sympathy. "I'm sorry. What happened to her?"
"She chose to die rather than stay with me. Excuse me, I need to go. I think I hear the pup fussing and I don't want him waking my mother. I hope you can get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning. Goodnight."
He didn't give her a chance to answer him as he brushed past her and reentered the bedroom. He hadn't been completely lying. He had heard the pup begin to fuss, but his mother had immediately responded and was already getting up by the time he entered the room. Wordlessly, he went into the en-suite bathroom and turned on the tap for hot water, then he brought a cup of it into the bedroom and mixed the formula in the bottle while Kagome changed the pup's diaper.
"Yukio?" she asked him as the pup started eating. She must have seen his pained face and tense body language.
"I can't talk about it right now, Okaa."
She nodded and wisely dropped the subject.
"Can I hold him?" he requested softly.
She gave him the pup without a word and he held the tiny body close, lifting the bottle so the pup would consume less air when he fed. His pup-scent came to his nose, and Yukio could feel the fast tempo of the little heart pattering against his chest. It felt good to cradle the little one. The pup was the epitome of the future with all its unspoken promise whereas his memories were full of disappointment and broken dreams.
He sat facing the large window, staring out at the inky blackness of the pre-dawn night, and held the pup long after he had finished his bottle and been burped. There was no gas this time so the last of the formula the Natives had given him must have passed out of his system. His mother turned out the light and got back into bed, but did not ask him to surrender his now sleeping bundle. She probably knew that the pup was the only thing keeping him from breaking down, one thin tendril of control he held onto as he counted the beats of the pup's heart and felt the soft breath caress his skin.
There in the darkness, the only source of light being the starlight and the ambient light from the hotel, Yukio sat in silence, cradling the newborn hanyou in lax arms, and tried to ignore the wetness that rolled down his cheeks.