InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Coyote Child ❯ Chapter Four ( Chapter 4 )
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.
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The following morning found them all up early and down in the Holiday Inn's lobby eating the complimentary breakfast before 8am. Yukio had slept well and he felt relatively good when he woke up. During the night, he had retrieved the pup from the car seat/bassinet he had been placed in and cuddled with him in bed. His mother didn't want the pup bonding to her until the situation with his birth parents was resolved, so she had taken to letting him sleep in the car seat. To be separated from his caregivers was unnatural for the pup, especially one so young, and he was fussy and worried.
Yukio, never one to resist a pup's cries of distress, took up the role his mother was reluctant to fill, and tried to see to the pup's emotional needs. It was better for him to do it because he was a male and the pup was less likely to bond with him in the short-term. He knew if the coyote-hanyou did end up becoming brother number fifteen, his mother would raise him no differently from any of the others and would bring him into bed with her for at least the first two years, but for now he was happy to have the warm bundle of pup with him. The infant, drawn to his body heat, snuggled against his chest and his little heart provided comforting background noise to sleep by, although he was awake immediately the moment the pup moved or made a noise.
The Holiday Inn offered a simple breakfast of cold cereal, fruit, pastries, milk, juice, and coffee. There was also hot water and packets for oatmeal, hot chocolate and tea. Yukio made himself two bowls of oatmeal, ate two cheese danishes and chased it all down with coffee while he listened to his parents chat quietly over their own meals. His father was wearing his 'Don't Annoy the Anger Management Class Dropout' shirt, and it was earning quite a number of chuckles. Emma sat across from him, smelling of soap and shampoo, and they exchanged pleasantries as the Cree woman ate a bowl of cereal and a banana. He had very little to say to her beyond emphasizing that the previous night had been a great deal of fun. She once again brought up the subject of The Sugar Bowl in Edmonton and he once again avoided giving her a direct answer by saying he didn't know how busy he would be.
It wasn't that he was against going with her. He knew that an evening out would probably be very nice and they would both have a good time, but he remained conflicted. He acknowledged the fact that there was something about her that drew him in. She was pretty, intelligent and had a vibrant personality. Her sense of humor was dry like his own and she caught most of his obscure references to movies, books and television. However he also knew that the thought of a relationship didn't appeal to him. If it was friendship that she wanted, he was happy to provide company and companionship, but somehow he doubted that just being friends was on her agenda. While not coming directly out and saying that she was interested in a romantic relationship, she was certainly leaning heavily in that direction and he wasn't sure what would be a good way to let her down lightly.
She seemed to be figuring it out on her own, however, because she had toned down her 'feminine wiles' tactics and was now keeping a respectful distance, engaging him in meaningful conversation and speaking to him in a mature, steady voice. She'd also either neglected to or had purposefully chosen not to put on any false scent, but if anything that had only made her more attractive to him because she smelled more purely of her own scent and not of manufactured perfume. He negated the effects her scent had on him by placing his coffee directly under his nose and by training his senses on the pup he had in his lap.
The other Natives sat around them, eating their own meals and the conversations were soft and congenial. It seemed that all of them had slept well and were ready for another day of driving. Kagome was eager to get on the road because she wanted to be in Park City before the stores closed. She still needed to make a concealment anchor for the pup and she was hoping to find some items in one of Park City's numerous art stores. Lori seemed interested in helping his mother make the locus and Kagome welcomed her input. No one questioned the day's travel itinerary or the destination, and they left as soon as all of them had finished eating.
Their early start paid off and they were on the road by 9am. Inuyasha was a little heavy on the gas pedal, and they grabbed lunch when they stopped for gas. In the Jeep, he mostly listened to his mother and Lori talk about power items and locus stones. Their conversation confirmed what he had started to suspect: that Lori was a Navajo Medicine Woman who had come along for spiritual protection.
The drive to Park City took them just over seven hours. Normally it would have taken close to eight but their earlier haste put them about half an hour ahead of schedule, and they arrived at The Grand Summit Hotel just before 4pm. The hotel was a typical ski resort made in the style of a wilderness lodge with lots of wood and open spaces. It was the central hotel of The Canyons resort village and flanked by shops and ski lifts. Guests could ski right up to the hotel from the slopes, although said slopes were closed until the ski season began.
"Ahh, welcome Mr. Fushikenwa," the concierge greeted as they approached the VIP desk. "We are so happy to see you today. I have been instructed to inform you that you have been upgraded to one of our three-bedroom suites courtesy of Mr. Sims our general manager."
"That was very nice of him," his mother replied. "Please thank him for us."
"The suite sleeps ten very comfortably," the man told them. "The master bedroom is outfitted with a king size bed and the remaining two bedrooms have two queens each. There is also a full kitchen and living room with a Queen size sleeper sofa and a fireplace. You'll also find a folding, rollaway twin bed in the storage closet. Will you be needing a crib for your little one?"
"That won't be necessary, but thank you," Kagome answered, patting the pup's back as he rested in the baby sling looped across her shoulder.
"In that case, welcome to the Grand Summit Hotel. Please sign here and I'll give you your pass keys. How many copies would you like for your party?" he asked, giving Inuyasha the guest registration form.
"Four should do, thank you," his mother said.
The concierge programmed four pass keys, assembled the welcome pack with coupons, local information, schedules and maps, and they were ready to go a few minutes later.
"This hotel is very nice," Emma commented as they made their way through the lobby to the elevators. "I can see why your mother wanted to stay here."
"It's also one of my father's designs. He drew up the original plans for the complex. We didn't build it though. Uncle took the blueprints and outsourced it to a local contractor," he replied.
"Oh? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"Good thing. It's better to hire local workers for a project. They know who can be trusted to do honest business and who can't. They know the resources at their disposal and can usually negotiate better deals for materials. Also hiring locals helps the community so they're less likely to resent the construction," he explained.
"That's good then. I'm glad to see that you and your father are so concerned about people. Then again, Grandfather always admired your family for that."
She wasn't patronizing him and he knew it. Her concern for the quality of life of the general populace was genuine and it was one of the things that made her so attractive.
"We lived in a two class society for a very long time. We witnessed first-hand what it is like when only a few have all of the wealth and power while the rest barely survive. The peasants of Japan bore the brunt of starvation, war and poverty while the ruling class enjoyed luxury upon luxury. It led to a great deal of bloodshed and death. The strength of a nation lies not in its leaders but in its working classes. If you support them and raise them up, they can do amazing things."
She smiled at him as they walked down the hall to their room, bringing up the rear of their group.
"You sound like a political science major."
He shrugged. "I just know what I've lived and I've lived through a lot."
Her eyes grew thoughtful and hooded. "I can imagine that you have."
He stopped and indicated that she should go ahead of him into the suite, and she gave him a little nod as she passed.
Once they had settled into the room, they all went downtown to shop. Park City was the home of the Sundance Film Festival and as such there were many eclectic shops and venues that catered to the type of visitor who frequented an 'art town.' Even when the film festival wasn't going on, there were always performances and films and other activities to attend and enjoy. Not to mention the numerous restaurants and bars offering music, food and spirits to a lively crowd. The atmosphere was friendly and casual, and even the Navajos seemed to be enjoying themselves.
His mother was happy to find jewelry making supplies at C & C Indian Art, and Lori helped her select stones and materials that were favorable Medicine for Navajos. At first Lori was apprehensive about making the cord for the necklace out of a lock of Inuyasha's hair because she worried about a 'black miko' getting a hold of the hair and using it to make a curse, but Kagome assured her that her own 'miko blessings' would protect the cord from being used for evil.
The only real damper of the evening came just before dinnertime, when they entered another store that specialized in Native art. One display of pottery caught Lori's eye and she seemed very concerned about it. Billy and Michael saw her examining a pot and something on it made them all very, very unhappy. They began whispering in Dineh, the language of their tribe in hushed, upset voices.
"What's going on?" Yukio asked Emma as David joined the Navajos in inspecting the pottery.
"The pottery is stolen," she replied in a sad voice.
"It is? How do they know?"
She gave him a stricken look. "There are holes, badly patched, on the bottoms of the pots. That marks them as grave goods. The only way they could have gotten grave goods is if they raided a native burial site."
Yukio frowned and a low growl built in his throat. To desecrate a grave was a very dishonorable thing, and he hated the thought of anyone taking something from a burial mound in order to make a profit.
"Oi, what's wrong?" his father asked, coming over the moment he heard Yukio's growling.
"The pottery they're looking at was stolen from a grave," he answered with barely contained fury.
"Oh no," Kagome gasped.
Just then Lori let out a cry of alarm and David dropped the pot he was holding as if he had been burned. It shattered on the laminate wood floor and dark gray dust scattered everywhere.
"Hey!" the saleswoman shouted, stomping over to them. "What are you doing? You'd better pay for that!"
Lori did not answer but continued to let out a keening cry as David turned three shades of pasty white. At the same time he began to smell the unmistakable stench of black magic, and from the look on his mother's face she was sensing it too.
"Oh my god! It's corpse dust!" Emma cried in horror.
He didn't know what corpse dust was, but he could garner a pretty good guess and whatever it was, it was not of the good.
Three things happened next in very quick succession. Lori fell to her knees as Billy and Michael dragged her and David away from the broken pot. The saleswoman called the police. And his mother shoved the pup into his arms as she grabbed a bow and arrow from a wall display and fired a purifying bolt into the center of the gray dust. There was a bright flash of white light and he felt the purifying energy obliterate the black aura from the ashes.
"What was that?" Emma gasped, wide-eyed.
The other Natives were staring too, slack-jawed and stunned. Lori finally stopped keening and stared at his mother in awe.
"Keh, Kagome made a miko's arrow and got rid of that shouki," Inuyasha replied as if his answer explained everything and resolutely moved to guard the broken pot until the authorities got there.
Emma looked to him for translation as his mother went over to Lori and David and touched their trembling hands.
"My mother purified the corpse dust," he said gently.
He nodded. "I told you. My mother is a miko. She has great spiritual powers."
Emma blinked at him. "I know you told us, but…" She glanced over at the others. Lori was crying but the Navajo woman seemed to be more relieved than anything else. "But I've never seen anything like that."
He shrugged. "I don't think that's a bad thing."
"Did… did your mother have to do that a lot while you were growing up?" she asked carefully.
"Sometimes. She hasn't had to in a while though. I'm really glad to see that she hasn't lost any of her touch. She didn't hesitate for even a second and her arrow, if anything, was over-powered."
Emma was silent for a long moment. "You really have lived through a lot, haven't you," she commented finally, her voice soft with realization.
He nodded, casting about the small store for any other threats. His hackles were up and his protective instincts were on overdrive. In his arms, the pup was quiet but awake, his big eyes peering up at him from the baby sling.
:Pup safe,: he reassured the infant, punctuating his statement with a rub to the pup's bottom.
Emma placed herself at his side, her own eyes following his as he scanned the room. Somehow her presence was comforting, as if she was silently telling him that she had his back. It was odd. Usually it was one of his parents or siblings that took up the defensive position next to him in a dangerous situation. Miaka had always screamed and run for cover whenever danger struck, and she had never offered her strength to his.
In stark contrast, the Cree woman now stood at his shoulder, back straight, eyes studying the store for anything he may have overlooked. There was no fear in her scent. Anger, yes. But fear? No. She kept her head high and her expression neutral- a warrior's face and posture, and he was suddenly glad she was there.
'She's lived through a lot too. And her people haven't had the easiest time of it either,' he thought.
He looked at her and caught her eye, giving her a reassuring smile. She seemed surprised for a moment, then smiled back before returning her eyes to the watching of the store. He did notice, however, that she stood a little taller and moved slightly closer to him.
The police arrived but what they had been told was a case of vandalism of merchandise soon turned into a full-fledged investigation of grave robbing and the sale of stolen goods. A representative from the local tribal council was called to verify the claims that the pottery were burial offerings and all hell broke loose from there. Lori was still badly shaken, but his mother's arrow had gone a long way towards making the woman feel safe. She and David had scrubbed their hands raw in the bathroom in an effort to get the corpse dust off of them, and Kagome had done more purification to make sure no shouki lingered.
The tribal representative made arrangements for all of them to go to the house of a local Medicine Man for a cleansing ceremony, and less than an hour later they found themselves in the living room of a Hopi elder named Sun Hawk although everyone called him Tom.
"I want to thank you," Tom said after the cleansing ritual had been completed. "We've suspected that store of selling burial offerings for a while but this was the first time we've been able to prove it. I am sorry that it caused you such a scare though."
"We are glad that we could help," Lori replied shakily. "I should have known the pot was corpse dust the moment I saw it had a lid and warned David not to touch it. I am glad that Kagome was able to banish the curse so quickly."
The Medicine Man turned dark eyes towards his mother and he wasn't sure if he liked the look in them. He and his father had removed themselves from the circle as soon as Tom had completed the ritual, and they now sat on the floor with their backs against the nearest wall. He had the pup with him, but the little one was sleeping. He seemed quite oblivious to the world around him as long as he was fed, dry and warm.
"Ah yes, the arrow. That was quick thinking on your part. Lori tells me you are a Medicine Woman."
Yukio could see the color rise in his mother's cheeks but she answered calmly.
"Yes. I am a miko. From what Lori has told me, that is very similar to a Medicine Woman."
Tom nodded. "If you hadn't acted when you did, the corpse dust could have brought very serious harm to everyone there. Corpse dust is a curse of the worst kind. To find a pot of corpse dust being sold in a store where any unsuspecting individual could have bought it is very disturbing. The consequences could have been dire."
"I only did what felt right. The aura on the dust was very corrupted. I couldn't let it go unpurified."
"And you were right to do what you did. Thank you," Tom assured her.
"So, what brings you to Park City?" Tom asked.
"We're on our way back to the Navajo Nation," Michael replied, but did not elaborate.
Yukio got the distinct impression that the young Navajo had purposefully left the question half answered. Tom looked over at him, the pup and his father and, once again, he felt a little uneasy. The man's eyes were wiser than his years, and Yukio wouldn't put it past him to be able to see completely through the concealment spells. He knew Lori could see a little bit of what they really looked like, and Emma could see flashes in her peripheral vision, but he was pretty sure Tom could see their true forms without any distortion.
"I see," was all Tom said thoughtfully.
"We're leaving early tomorrow morning for Kayenta," Lori added.
"Well, I wish you safe journeys. Have you eaten yet?"
"No, we were on our way to dinner when we went into the store with the stolen pottery," David answered.
"Well, I am sure I can provide you with a hearty meal of beans and frybread," Tom offered, then cracked a huge grin. "Or we could just order out for pizza."
"Pizza sounds good," David agreed.
"You're sure? I could make frybread if you'd prefer."
"No, pizza is fine," Michael insisted as Tom laughed.
Yukio got the impression that the frybread reference was somewhat of a joke and he made a mental note to ask Emma about it later. His father wasn't a big fan of pizza but he would eat it if he had to. Tom had a delivery menu for a local Italian place that made pasta dinners as well as the usual pizza and hoagies, and they ordered from that. Even though there were nine of them, they only ordered three pizzas because Kagome wanted eggplant parmesan and his father ordered a stromboli. He got the local equivalent of Mel's Meat Lovers in a large while the others split a sausage and mushroom and a green peppers, onions and olives. Despite protests, his father insisted on paying for the food and wouldn't even let the others pay the deliveryman's tip.
The pizza was passable, but not better than Mel's. Still it was a decent meal for the money and he had no complaints. His mother liked her dinner and Inuyasha said nothing about the quality, or lack thereof, of his stromboli. Tom asked a couple of questions about the pup while they ate, but he let Michael answer since he was the pup's uncle. His respect for the young Navajo grew as he quickly realized that Michael was trying to truthfully answer the questions without revealing anything about the true nature of the hanyous among them. As for himself, when he had to answer a question, he kept it brief and as honest as possible. They weren't lying to Tom. They just weren't telling him everything. Somehow, he thought the old Hopi knew, however, because he'd get a little glint in his eye whenever they were stammering for the right words to answer another one of his innocently placed questions.
"We thank you again for your hospitality and the cleansing ritual," Lori said after the pizza was eaten and the dishes cleaned. "However we must return to our hotel. We have a long drive tomorrow and we need to get some sleep."
"I'm glad that I was able to help, although in truth your miko did most of my work for me," Tom replied as they all stood.
"Still, your knowledge and company was greatly appreciated," Billy assured him.
"Thank you for helping us catch grave robbers and those who profit from them."
Yukio gave the pup to his mother as they began to file out of the man's small one-bedroom apartment. The pup had made noise only when he needed something and he had to admit that the infant was the quietest pup he'd ever seen. Even though he was not even two weeks old and could barely turn himself over, he was still much calmer and sweet tempered than he remembered most pups. Michael said the pup was taking after Sara because she was a sweet and gentle-tempered young woman herself. The Navajo had told him that his sister's Dineh name translated to Sweet-Wind because of her kind nature and soft voice.
"And this little one," Tom said as they were passing, putting out a hand to touch the pup's chest.
The pup, roused from a sound sleep by the touch, let out a startled cry that had Inuyasha charging to Kagome's side.
"Easy. I don't mean him any harm and I didn't mean to frighten him," the Hopi elder apologized, then addressed the pup in Hopi, speaking gently and softly to him.
The pup turned his small head to face the wizened Elder, his amber eyes blinking slowly at him. He was silent until Tom finished speaking, then he gave a single yip in answer as if he had understood every word the man had spoken. While they were shocked by the pup's reply, the Hopi Medicine Man merely smiled and nodded as if receiving an answer from a 12-day old pup was the most natural thing in the world.
"May you have safe journeys. I hope to see you again sometime when you have more time to sit with an old man and trade stories," Tom commented fondly to him and his parents.
Yukio blinked at him, then replied, "Maybe someday. The next time we're here, we'll look you up."
His father gave him a raised-eyebrow that clearly said, 'We will?' but he otherwise kept quiet.
"It was a pleasure to meet you," his mother said, giving a little bow.
Tom bowed to her. "The pleasure was mine. Thank you."
"Take care and thanks again," she repeated as they headed out the apartment door.
"Keh, c'mon. You were the one who wanted a hot tub," Inuyasha complained, which only meant that he was tired of the formalities because they were making him uncomfortable.
"Inuyasha, don't be rude," Kagome chastised.
"I'm not!" his father insisted.
His mother just sighed and called him a baka under her breath as they entered the hallway of Tom's apartment building. The Natives were ahead of them, walking towards the elevator.
"I heard that."
Yukio was the last to leave and he gave the Hopi man a bow of his own. "Take care."
"Safe travels, Dog-brother. I hope that I will see you again. I know there are many things you can teach me before I return to the earth. Look after the little one. He is very special."
He wasn't terribly surprised to hear the man call him 'dog-brother' but a shiver of old fear ran up his spine anyway and he stared at Tom for a good three or four seconds before nodding. The old man just gave him a knowing smile and wink.
"I will. Thanks," he finally answered.
"Oi! You coming or not?!" his father's voice yelled from the elevator.
Tom laughed and Yukio gave him a little shrug, then hurried to join the rest of them at the end of the hall.
Emma was dreaming. She was in the forest near her childhood home, running along the narrow deer trails like she used to do as a little girl. She was jubilant, free and untamed as the wilderness, and joy surged through her as her feet barely touched the ground. Running just ahead of her, darting in and out of the trees was a magnificent white dog, his full white tail waving like a flag. The dog wasn't fleeing from her and she didn't appear to be chasing it. Rather they were running together and he, for she somehow knew the dog was male, was leading the way.
They ran, she and the dog, following the twisted paths through the trees, over the hills and across the streams, down into the gullies. There was nothing but forest before and behind them, nothing but the earth and the smell of the pines, nothing but the unfettered joy of running free with nothing but the wind at their backs. She couldn't remember a time when she'd felt so light and unfettered. There were no worries, no dangers or responsibilities. There was only her, and the forest, and the dog.
The trees broke suddenly and she followed the dog into a small clearing. She immediately recognized it as an old meeting place where her family used to picnic while she was growing up. Logs had been placed around a central fire-pit ringed with stones and a fire burned low in it now. She could smell the distinct odor of tobacco and white sage wafting up in the gray smoke. Standing on the opposite side of the clearing was her grandfather and she knew he had been waiting for her. Even though he had been dead for eight years, she wasn't surprised to see him. Those who had passed on often used the dream world to visit or relay messages. His face was painted in bright ceremonial colors and he was dressed in full regalia with a fur cap and feathers in his hair. The dog circled around and sat on the edge of the clearing about halfway between her and her grandfather.
"Grandfather," she said, coming to stand an arm's length away from him.
"Forest-Child," he answered, calling her by her Cree name. "You have found him."
She knew who he meant. Years ago he had told her stories of the half-dogs and confided in her their secrets. It was his belief that she would become part of the family by marrying their son.
"He does not want me," she stated simply. It was true. Yukio, if he was the son her grandfather had spoken of, was making it plainly clear that he was not interested in romantic involvement. 'But he spoke of brothers. Perhaps he will lead me to the one I am meant to marry.'
"Do not let his actions deter you. He speaks from his pain."
"I fear there is too much for him to open his heart," she admitted.
Her grandfather shook his head. "The outcome has already been decided. You must stay the course. It is your calling."
"You have told me since I was a little girl that I was destined to join the family of the dogs, but are you sure he is the one?"
"He is with you now. You followed him here. Already you begin to share the same dreams."
'Here with me? The white dog…'
She turned to look where the dog had been and gasped when she saw a naked man crouched in its place. White hair cascaded down over the pale shoulders, brushing the ground, as he raised his head to look at her. She saw his face; his golden eyes stared into hers, and…
She woke up.
Emma drew a deep breath, her heart still pounding in her ears, the paralysis of sleep still making her limbs tingle as it faded. It was dark in the room and she could hear the soft breathing of another occupant, but she didn't know where she was at first. A few moments later she remembered her cousin coming to her for help and the trip down from Edmonton to seek out the family of half-dogs.
'We found them. We're with them now. We're headed down to Arizona together,' she reminded herself as she further got her bearings. 'We're in Utah.'
It took her about ten minutes but she eventually sat up and shook off the last effects of the dream. She remembered only bits and pieces of it, but she knew it was important. Her grandfather had been in it as well as a white dog who had turned into a man. The symbolism was not lost on her.
'He told me to stay the course.'
Quietly so as not to disturb Lori who was sleeping in the other bed, she stood up and reached for her cotton robe. The clock on the nightstand read 2:41am and she rubbed her tired eyes as her stomach grumbled.
'Hmmm, I'm hungry. I always eat when I'm stressed. I have a little money with me. I wonder if anything is open this early in the morning. The welcome pack is on the kitchen counter. It'll tell me if there are any 24-hour places to get food.'
Walking on silent feet, she made her way to the bedroom door and slipped out, closing it behind her with a soft click. The suite was palatial compared to her little apartment on the Enoch Reserve, and the kitchen was huge. She made her way over to the peninsula countertop and noticed that there was a light on in the living room area. A glance revealed Yukio lying on the couch. He was still dressed in his jeans and T-shirt, but he hadn't pulled out the bed in the sleeper sofa. He had the baby on his chest, one hand on the infant's back, while the other held a book. He was looking directly at her so she knew he had seen her. As always when she was looking at him, she saw glimpses of his true form in her peripheral vision, making his concealed form a little disconcerting when she looked at him full on.
'He has white hair, but does he have golden eyes?' she wondered. All she remembered of the man's face in her dream was his intense gold eyes. 'Will he ever show me what he really looks like?'
He was staring at her as she stared at him, a small frown on his face, and she figured that she'd better go talk to him.
"Is everything alright?" he asked her in a hushed voice.
"Yes. I just woke up and was a little hungry."
She watched him mark his place with a bookmark as he closed the book and put it aside. She caught a glimpse of the cover, but it was written in Japanese.
"What are you doing awake?" she questioned.
"Couldn't sleep. Weird dreams," he answered, shifting position so he could support the baby as he sat up.
"Oh? What kind of dreams?"
He shook his head. "I don't remember much of them. Mostly I was running in the woods."
She gulped and tried to quell the butterflies in her stomach. "Was there anyone running with you?" 'Is he really the one?'
"I think so, but I never saw who it was. In any case, I figured I'd read a while then try to get some more sleep."
He raked a hand through his black hair and she saw the flash of white again.
"So, you're hungry?"
She blushed and nodded. "Yeah. It's okay though. I was going to see if anything was open."
He frowned a little. "It's off season, so maybe not. Let me call down to the front desk and see if they're still serving room service."
"There's no need to do that. I can just go down and get something from the vending machines."
"It isn't a problem. Besides, I thought you modern women are always watching what you eat,"
"I don't think a bag of potato chips is going to break my diet."
He chuckled, his eyes sparkling. "Potato chips were one of the first things my mother ever gave to my father. He'd never had them before. He called them himono which means dried food. He still likes them, but he prefers ramen over pretty much anything else. Here, can you take the pup for a moment?"
He offered her the baby in his blanket and she took him, supporting him under his bottom and cradling him against her. She saw the new necklace Kagome and Lori had made for him that evening, then noticed that the talisman Yukio had loaned the baby was now back around his neck.
Yukio picked up the phone before she could protest and called down to the front desk.
"Hi, this is Yukio Fushikenwa in Suite 318, I was wondering if any room service is still available." He waited for the person on the other end to answer. "Uh huh. Hmmm, I don't know. Let me ask." He looked at her, one hand over the receiver. "She says the kitchen is closed but they have pre-made sandwiches that they can bring up if you want one of them. Usually they have turkey, ham and roast beef."
"Turkey if they have it will be fine." 'A sandwich is better than junk food. I'm glad this hotel thought enough ahead to prepare for guests with late night munchies. I guess that kind of service is what makes them a luxury resort.'
He nodded. "Okay." Then he took his hand off the receiver and spoke into the phone. "One turkey and one roast beef. Yeah, that's all. Just charge it to the room. Thanks very much." He hung up and turned to her. "It'll be here in twenty minutes."
"You didn't have to do that," she insisted.
He shrugged. "I'm hungry too and there's no sense in eating alone."
"Hungry? I'm sure you are. You only ate a whole pizza for dinner," she joked. 'Seriously, both he and his father have huge appetites! Both of them should be obese with how much they eat, yet I don't think there's a spare ounce of flesh on either of them.'
"Yeah, I know. I'm wasting away," he answered, patting his stomach.
The baby began to rouse and made little noises.
"Feeding time," Yukio said, holding out his hands to take the infant.
"I think he has your appetite," she commented dryly as she handed him over.
"Heh, I don't doubt it. Poor little guy is too thin. Now that he's getting fed whenever he fusses, he'll start to gain some weight. Right, pup?"
She smiled as Yukio nuzzled the baby then stood up, taking him to the kitchen and getting a bottle ready. Watching him care for the infant, and seeing how attentive he was to the baby's needs, was endearing.
'He loves children, but he didn't say if he had any of his own. When I called him paternal, he said he had lots of brothers and sisters, but never mentioned sons or daughters.'
"You and your wife didn't have children?" she blurted out, then regretted it immediately when she saw his eyes darken with pain. 'Way to go, idiot.' "I'm sorry. It's none of my business."
"No. It's okay. No, we didn't have any pups. Hanyous like me have a lot of trouble siring pups. We need help to do it. It wasn't until fertility clinics and in-vitro fertilization that hanyous were able to have pups. Miaka died long before any of those things were available. My little brother Ian is seven and he was the first hanyou-human cross pup ever born alive."
"I'm sorry to bring up a sensitive subject. Sometimes my mouth runs away with me."
He shrugged as much as he could while holding the bottle for the nursing baby. "It's okay. It's a logical question to ask."
"I shouldn't pry into someone's personal business. Please accept my apologies." 'He's closed up again. Damnit. Can I get any stupider? Grandfather told me to stay the course, but I don't think he meant for me to do it quite this way. All I keep doing is ripping open his wounds.'
They fell silent and she looked down at her hands for a few awkward moments. The baby sucked noisily from the bottle Yukio held for him but otherwise there was no sound.
"I do know how it looks," Yukio said suddenly, breaking the silence.
"Hmm?" she asked, confused.
"Me and pups. I know I'm really paternal. I dunno. I just…" She saw him smile at the baby in his arms. "I just like them. Always have. I was three when my parents adopted my brother Tomo."
"Tomo? Is he… like you?" 'Maybe I can get him to talk about his family and I'll learn more about him. I noticed that he keeps redirecting the subject every time things get a little to close to home.'
Yukio leaned against the counter and a thoughtful look came to his face. "Like me in that he is a hanyou, yes, but he isn't an inu-hanyou. He's a koumori hanyou."
"Koumori?" she repeated.
"Bat? He's half-bat?" She tried to hold in her instinctive laughter as she recalled the numerous stories of the fictitious bat-boy touted on the front cover of American gossip newspapers.
"Half bat-youkai. And not just any bat-youkai, a hyakki koumori, a terror bat. Nasty bastards."
His explanation and clarification sobered her and she nodded.
"His mother was raped by one of them. She came to the village we lived in to have the pup and left him with us," he went on, moving the baby to his shoulder to be burped. "My parents were the only parents he ever knew."
"I'm sure they raised him well."
He gave her a smile that reached his eyes.
'He really loves his family,' she realized.
"They did. He was a challenge because he wasn't as resilient as I was. He was… delicate and fine-boned. Still is."
"Does he look… much like a bat?"
Yukio shook his head. "About as much as I look like a dog."
She blinked at him and he shrugged. "Remember what the pup looked like when you first brought him to us, before my mother made the concealment locus?"
She nodded that she did.
"I look a bit like that."
She was just about to ask him if he also had white hair and golden eyes, but a knock on the door interrupted them.
"That would be room service," he said, handing her the baby and moving to get the door.
A woman dressed in a uniform came in wheeling a cart. On the cart were two saran-wrapped plates with sandwiches and snack-size bags of potato chips.
"I also have an assortment of drinks for you to choose from, sir," the woman said, lifting the lid off a large ice bucket.
"Got Pepsi?" he asked.
"I'll take one of them."
"Very good, Sir. For you, Miss?"
"What do you have that's colorless?" she asked. She hated sodas with caramel coloring. They always left a nasty film on her teeth.
The woman paused and looked at her inventory. "I have Sprite and Ginger Ale."
"Ginger Ale please."
The woman lifted a can of Ginger Ale out of the ice and placed it next to the can of Pepsi on the tray.
"Thank you," she said.
"Will you need any condiments for your sandwiches?"
"Have you got mustard and mayo?" Yukio asked.
"Yes, Sir. I have packets of both with me."
"I'll take one of each."
"Just mayo for me, thanks," she added.
The woman pulled out packets of mustard and mayonnaise from a plastic tub on the lower shelf of the cart and placed them on the tray next to the sandwiches.
"Will there be anything else?" the employee asked.
"No, that's everything. Thanks," Yukio replied, handing the woman a tip Emma had seen him take out of his back pocket and lifting the tray from the rolling cart.
"Thank you very much, Sir. Have a good evening."
"You too," he replied.
The woman wheeled the cart out and Emma shut the door as Yukio brought the tray over to the table. Just then they heard another door open and she looked over to see Inuyasha standing in the doorway of the master bedroom. He cast about, his face frowning and she got the impression that he'd been roused out of a deep sleep and wasn't happy about it. She watched him scan the room until his eyes fell on her and Yukio, then he tipped his head back and rolled his eyes with a derisive snort.
Yukio snorted back, ripped the plastic cover off his sandwich and threw the bag of potato chips clear across the room toward his father. Her eyes widened when Inuyasha caught the bag without so much as a blink and opened it with a soft pop. He gave another snort, shoved a chip into his mouth, then went back into the bedroom and closed the door without ever saying a word.
Yukio shook his head and let out a soft chuckle.
"If he keeps catching us like this, he's going to get the wrong idea," she teased lightly. 'If I joke with him, it might put him more at ease with me.'
"He already has the wrong idea," Yukio replied, slathering mayo and mustard on his roast beef and Swiss sandwich.
"That's funny. Parents make the worst matchmakers, but it's usually the mothers not the fathers that push," she noted, sitting down and putting the baby in her lap.
"Oh I'm sure I'll hear my mother's opinion. My father will tell her we're out here and she'll give me sly looks all day long in the car tomorrow," he answered, going into the living room area to retrieve the car seat bassinet.
He took the baby from her and put him in the bassinet, then put the carrier on the table so they could keep an eye on him.
"My grandfather was the same way," she admitted, inspecting her sandwich. It looked very good. She took off the tomato but left the lettuce and spread mayo on one side.
Yukio nodded. "Your grandfather was a good man."
She sighed. "He is sorely missed."
"I'm sure he is. He didn't trust us at first, but my father brought him around."
"He was the first man who ever went out of his way to keep his word to us. My grandfather told me about the fiasco Wetaskiwin," she commented.
"I remember that. The original contractor was charged with fraud," he said, taking a huge bite of his food.
"And he used substandard materials. Your father took over the project, redid everything properly and renegotiated the contract for less than what the previous bidder demanded. Grandfather said it was the first time he had ever done business with someone who didn't just say he was honest but who actually was honest and fair."
She watched Yukio pop open his soda and take a drink. "My family is very honorable. There was a time when honor was all that we had. Honor is very important to us. It's one of the reasons why we are doing this. There is no honor in taking a woman's pup away from her against her will."
"I agree with you. But I must warn you that it might not be as easy as it seems. Lori and Billy are very worried about retribution. They don't want anything to happen to the tribe and Michael is very concerned about his sister's safety."
He looked at her and his face grew resolute. "I promise you. Nothing will happen to the pup or his mother."
"I know. I'm just warning you that things might not go smoothly."
"Thank you for the warning. We will keep our eyes open and try to be ready for the worst. I am hoping it won't come to that. I am also hoping that we'll find out what happened to the pup's father."
She nodded and took a bite from her sandwich. "His absence is the real mystery here, isn't it?"
"Yeah it is. In this era, no youkai would abandon a mate and pup like this. At least not one with any honor."
"What makes you think he has honor? It is Coyote after all," she countered.
"Because coyote is still canine and canine-youkai value family. We value the Pack above all else."
"But many coyotes are solitary," she pointed out.
"Only when prey is scarce and large prey is not to be found. But you're also making a big mistake here. Coyote-youkai are no more like the animal coyote than I am like a dog. We share behaviors and traits with our animal cousins, but they are distant relatives. Don't confuse coyote with the youkai who bears his image."
It was a gentle rebuke but she felt it just the same and she lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry if I've offended you."
"You haven't offended me. I'm just telling you like it is."
"And you would know better than I in this matter," she admitted, taking another bite.
"In some things, no. In this particular situation, yes we do know better. That's not arrogance, it's just the truth. We know how to deal with other youkai whereas you have no experience with them," he stated simply, finishing off his sandwich.
"I didn't think you were being arrogant. If anything, you have been remarkably plain and straightforward about all of this."
She took a moment to eat her food and offer him the bag of potato chips.
"You sure?" he asked.
"I'm not overly fond of the plain ones. I like sour cream and onion or sour cream and cheddar flavor."
He gave her a grin as he ripped open the bag. "Mmmmm, sour cream and cheddar flavor is yummy."
'He can be so friendly when he wants to be. He is as mercurial as smoke on the wind.' "So when do you think we'll get to Kayenta?"
"If we leave by 10, we should be there by 7. I think it will take around 9 hours. Once we get off the interstate and have to travel on secondary roads, it'll be slower going."
"But beautiful," she added.
"Oh yes, it'll be very beautiful. I'm just hoping we don't get stuck behind a camper."
She giggled and remembered the weapon he had drawn on the first day they met. "You'll just have to draw that huge sword of yours and cut it in half."
"Screw that. I'll blast the damn thing off the road in one blow."
"Where did you get that sword anyway? I've never seen anything like it."
"It's a youkai-blade. It's made from my father's fang. All of my brothers have swords like it."
"From Inuyasha's fang?" 'A blade that big was forged from a tooth?'
Yukio nodded and finished off the chips. "Each of us got one when we came of age. They were made by a famous youkai sword smith and each one is uniquely designed to meet the needs of its wielder."
"It sounds like a very special gift."
"It is. Kenshuga has saved my life more than once."
"Is Kenshuga the name of the sword?"
"Yeah. It means Dog Protecting Fang. My father wasn't very imaginative when it came to naming things."
"Somehow, I'm not surprised to hear that."
He chuckled and finished off his soda just as she finished her meal and drink.
"Well, it's almost 3:30 in the morning and I know my father will want to get an early start. You should try to get some sleep," he said.
"Yes, I should. Thank you for the food."
"It's no problem."
She stood, gathered the plates and trash, and took them into the kitchen while Yukio changed the baby's diaper and held him again.
"So I'll see you in a few hours," she said.
"Yeah. Sleep well."
"You too. Be careful of those weird dreams."
He laughed softly and smiled. "I will."
'How do I win you?' "Thanks again. Goodnight."
She gave him a final smile and returned to the room she shared with Lori.
'Well, that was rather nice,' she thought as she settled back into bed. 'Maybe this isn't as hopeless as I originally thought.'
She closed her eyes and let sleep take her as she went back to the land of dreams, her grandfather, and golden-eyed white dogs.