InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Man In Red ❯ One ( Chapter 1 )
It was a sad day. She knew because Oji and Ojichan couldn't stop crying, and many many strange people came and cried with them.
They wouldn't say anything, but she knew deep down that they were crying for Obachan. The little girl was still scraped up and bruised from "the accident". That's what the grown ups had called it anyway. She didn't know exactly what that meant, she only remembered the bright lights and loud bashing sounds as the car tumbled violently. Also still fresh in her memory was the smell of blood, both her own and Oba-chan's. That was the first time she remembered Oji opening a bottle. All of the sad strangers hand gone home by then. Oji just kept crying and drinking until he had fallen on the couch.
The little girl grew board in the old house without anyone to play with her. Ojichan had gone up to his room for the evening, so nobody noticed that the back door was left open, or when she let herself outside. And certainally nobody realized when she wandered from the relative safety of the shrine grounds out into the woods.
It was great fun at first. The sky was blue and the sun warmed her cheeks. She made friends with a fuzzy bunny as she chased it through the trees, chatted with a squirrel with a bushy brown tail, and fed a family of field mice a few crumbs of cookie she saved in her pocket. She didn't notice that the sun would soon be setting, or that the temperature would drop with it.
She chased her furry friends happily through the trees until she saw a small bunch of early spring flowers. She stopped to marvel at their tiny white petals. Obachan always loved flowers, she remembered with a smile. She picked a few and put them in her pocket, careful not to crush their petals.
She stood up on little legs and decided it was time to go home, but nothing looked familiar anymore. There were nothing but trees in every direction. She sniffed tentatively at the air, but was unable to scent any traces of home. Downy puppy ears flattened against her silver hair in attempt to stay warm.
In a moment her happy little adventure had turned sour. Her laughter turned to fear as she stumbled on, hoping she would find her way back where she had come.
She did not know how long she wandered through the trees. Small children have no true sense of time. It might have been ten minutes, it might have been two hours. To her though, it felt like an eternity.
Tears welled in her eyes, warm and achy. "Oji? Ojichan?" She cried, wiping her nose on her dress."Please?" She begged the silence, but there was only the sound of wind rustling through the trees to answer.
She finally plopped down in a heap on the cold ground and cried. It was getting colder, and her tummy hurt with an achy empty feeling. Her new dress was ripped and dirty, and the sun was setting fast.
That was when he appeared, as if out of nowhere.
At first the toddler was startled, but after a moment of silence she became captivated. His long silver hair flitted in the breeze as he stood there studying her. He crossed his arms over his chest, hiding them inside his red coat. She noticed the triangular ears on the top of his head twitch, and she beamed.
The little girl stood up on shaky legs, and ran to to him. She wailed, her tiny body shaken by loud wracking sobs. He knealt down, engulfing her in the folds of his coat. His expression was stern as he studied her face. Without a word he used his large red sleeve to wipe the dirt and tears from her sweet chubby cheeks.
"What are you doing out here all by yourself?" He scolded gently, picking the little girl up in his strong arms. She sniffled, her tears winding down to soft hiccups. She shrunk away, fearing the punishment she knew would surely come. She had broken a rule when she had left the house alone.
"Play outside." She told him in her broken baby words. He sighed heavily, and traced the bruises on her face with his hand.
"What heppend here?" He asked.
She averting her gaze. She didn't want him to be angry; she didn't want him to know that Obachan was gone.
He pulled the girl close, brushing tangled hair away from her little face. "Let's get you home." He said. "Hold on."
And like that, they were flying. At first the movement startled the child, but it wasn't long before she was squealing with glee. She loved the feeling of the cool air blowing passed her face, and the feeling of strong arms holding her protectively.
Her fun wasn't to last however. After a few minutes the shrine grounds come into view. With one last push of his powerful legs, he closed the distance, landing gracefully on her bedroom window. He slid it open and hopped inside. The room was warm and familiar, painted soft hues of pink and cream. She smiled and hopped down from his arms, running to grab her favorite toy, a stuffed dog handmade from soft grey and red socks. She hugged it tightly to herself, then turned, offering up her toy to the man.
"That's a very nice puppy." he praised.
"Uh-huh! He my favorite!" She chattered, snuggling herself into his chest. His arms pulled her into his lap, and they sat there in silence together.
"I brought you something." He finally said, pulling something shiny and gold from inside his voluminous red sleeves. A golden locket dangled by a chain before her, and she reached for it, holding it between her tiny fingers.
Carefully the man opened it, showing her the picture cradled safely inside. "Ooooh!" She cooed in awe. He chuckled, marveling at her innocence.
"Do you know who that is?" He asked, pointing at the man in the picture.
"Papa!" She answered proudly, reaching up to touch his chin with her soft little hand.
"Yes, that's me. And that is you." He continued, pointing to the baby.
"Who dat?" the toddler asked, pointing at the woman that cradled the baby to her chest, smiling brightly.
"That is your Mama." He answered. His voice was soft and sad sounding to her little ears. She watched as he traced the woman's face with the tip of his claw.
"Haru, where are you?!" Oji's voice called from down stairs. Two sets of ears perked up at the noise. She looked up into her father's face. He smiled slightly and put her down.
"Go on, Oji is calling you." he said, getting to his feet. The child wasn't ready for him to go. She wanted to stay here with him, snuggled in his arms forever. He gently pulled her hands free from around him and pointed toward the back door. "Go on."
"No!" She pouted, her baby face set stubbornly. He smiled a sad smile and touched her soft cheek.
He stood up slightly, still bent over at the waist, leaning over her shoulder. "Get going" he chuckled, giving her backside a gentle swat. Tears of sadness welled in her warm honey eyes. She was worried that she might never see him again. Without warning, she hugged him once more, wrapping little arms around his neck. She planted a soft kiss on his cheek.
"Love you Papa." She whispered.
He cleared his throat. "I love you too." He answererd, kissing the top of her downy head. He inhaled her baby smell, committing it to memory, then he looked up. His expression was serious as he took her hands and closed them around the locket. "Keep it safe." He told her. Then he was gone, as if he had never been there.
That night Haru watched from her window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. She fell asleep clutching the locket in her tiny hands.
Neither Ojichan or Oji had any idea what Haru had gotten up to that day. Not that it would have mattered. When Oji wasn't working at the shrine he was drinking from another bottle, and Ojichan was far too old to play with a toddler properly.
Her life was a little lonelier after that. She didn't have friends, and was far too young for school. Her favorite time was when Oji would take her to the park down the street.
He would sit there on the bench with his stinky drink as she happily played on the swings. She was still much too little to sit in them properly, so instead she would lay down with her belly across the seat and kick with her little legs.
This particular day wasn't any different than any other. Oji had walked with Haru to the park, and she had run off to play on the swings like always.
She hummed happily to herself, playing that way for hours until the sun began to set. They always went home when the sun went down. Haru peeked toward the bench where Oji always sat by himself while she played. Today however, it was empty. Oji was nowhere to be seen. She could smell him though, his stinky drink making it easy for her to track him back toward the house.
The street was busy with people, but none of them bothered to notice the toddler as she walked along, following the scent Oji had left behind on his way home. She hoped he wasn't sick or hurt. Those were the only reasons her innocent young mind could comprehend him leaving her behind. It never occured to her that he had gotten so drunk that he simply forgot that she had been with him, and had stumbled home alone.
Haru knew that she was getting closer to home when the smell got stronger. She could see the trees and the hill where she lived a few streets away, and she smiled proudly at her own progress as she continued onward.
A group of much older boys stood loitering on the corner as she passed by. One of them called out to her but she dutifully ignored him. They looked nice enough, but she was too focused to stop.
"Hey. Hold up a minute little missy." One of them said, grabbing her firmly by the arm. Haru felt a surge of panic in her belly as she stared up at him. Why had he grabbed her like that?
"Lemeego!" She cried, trying to pull away.
"Stop your crying kid." One of the other boys singgered. He took a puff of a cigarette and dropped it to the ground, smashing it under his shoe. "Hey, you bet this is the kid with the silver hair that lady told us about? Your Mommy told us you were missing."
"Yeah, your mommy sent us to find you." The one holding her by the arm echoed. He pulled a knife from his pocket and grinned wickedly.
That was when Haru knew something was wrong. She had an Oji and an Ojichan and a Papa, but not a Mommy. She cried out, doubling her efforts to get away. Home was so close! If she could get him to let go she could run there and be safe!
"Shut up you brat! Didn't you hear what I said—?"
There was a flash of red, and in an instant the boy lay crying on the ground clutching his hand, his knife flung a several feet away.
Haru found herself wrapped in a pair of familiar large red sleeves. She looked up, recognizing her father's face as he held her close. She smiled widely, wrapping little arms around his neck in a bear hug.
"How's my girl doing?" He asked, glaring at the group of boys as they watched their friend clutch his injured arm.
"What the hell man?" one of the other boys yelled. He pulled a kife of his own out of his pocket and brandished it.
Papa smiled, apparently amused. "Put that thing away before you hurt yourself kid." He laughed, patting something at his hip as he turned on his heel and walked away.
Haru cried then, tears of relief and burried her little face in his neck.
"Why were you alone?" He asked her.
"We go to da park, but Oji go home. Maybe he sick." She answered, feeling tears well in her eyes. They ran hot down her cheeks, blurring her vision.
He stopped for a moment, a sad smile on his face, and looked down at her. Her golden gaze was so much like his own. "You got guts for such a tiny kid." He told her as he continued the walk back home. "Just like your Mama. She's brave too."
"Really?" Haru asked, wiping her nose on her sleeve.
"Oh yes." He answered.
"Da big boys are scary." She admitted.
"It's alright. I got ya."
There was a moment of silence as Haru calmed again. "I play on da swing at da park! I can fly!" She announced proudly.
"Can you now?" He chuckled, stopping at the bottom of the tall stairs that led home. "You mean like this?" he quickly leaped into the air, and the toddler squealed with delight.
"Yeah! Again Papa! Again!" Haru cheered, and he made a quick landing before leaping into the air once more.
"Again!" She begged as they landed near the house.
"Maybe later," he offered, his voice suddenly serious. He slid the door open and they stepped inside. "Oi! Old man!" he yelled down the hall.
Haru could hear Ojichan's feet scuffle against the rug as he got up and joined them in the hallway.
"Inuyasha?" he asked, squinting his eyes as he pulled his glasses from his pocket. “What are you—?”
"He took Haru to the park." Jii-san answered. Papa, shifted Haru on his hip and Oji-san gulped, his face turning a pale grey.
Suddenly there was the sound of the toilet flushing down the hall, and Oji emerged, clutching a full bottle in his hand. He smelled of vomit and his smelly drink, and his face was a pale green color. Papa growled low and leapt forward, shoving Oji up against the wall. His free hand wrapped agaist Oji's neck.
"You bastard!" He snarled. Haru had never seen her father so angry. It upset her, and she whimpered, burying her face in her father 's shirt. She hadn't meant to get Oji into trouble.
"Inuyasha! What is going on?" Ojichan hollered.
"I found Haru wandering down the streep by herslef. A couple of punk kids tried to convince her to go with them. What the FUCK is wrong with you? She's only two!"
"Sota, is this true?" Ojichan asked. He sounded absolutely mortified. Oji gurgled a response, and Papa loosened his grip slightly.
"I- I must have forgotten. I didn't mean—"
"Didn't mean to what? Abandon my daughter while you got yourself pissed drunk?!"
"Is she alright?" Oji asked, his voice soft and remorseful. Haru began to cry again.
"She's fine, no thanks to you." Papa snapped. He let go of the younger man and rubbed Haru's back, doing his best to soothe her. But she refused to be calmed. Papa was angry with Oji, and she just knew it was her fault.
"Sorry!" The toddler wailed. "No be angry at Oji, Papa! Sorry!"
"Hey now. It's not your fault." Her father hushed, brushing her hair from her eyes.
"He's right baby girl. It's not your fault. I messed up, and I'm the sorry one." Oji said. "Can you forgive me?"
Haru looked up at her uncle, hiccuping softly through her tears. Of course she could forgive him, he was her Oji and she loved him.
"Haru, why don't you go up to your room and play? Can you do that for me, love?" Papa asked, lowering to the floor. His voice was so soft and gentle that the little girl forgot how angry he had been just a moment ago.
"O-okay." She sniffled, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her dress.
"I'll come up in a few minutes." he said as she made her way up the stairs.
Haru didn't really want to be by herself, so she grabbed her puppy and a blanket from the bed and sat down on the floor with the door cracked. She wanted to hear the grown ups as they spoke.
"I think I'll go make some tea." Ojichan excused himself to the other room.
Papa and Oji were quiet for a moment.
"Inuyasha, look. I'm sorry—"
"Save it Sota. I don't want to hear it."
"I feel terrible."
"You should. You have no idea how scared I was when I saw those boys try to grab her. They pulled a knife for fuck's sake. Who knows what they would have done if I hadn't found her!"
"I really fucked up. I'm just working through some things.”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve found her alone.”
"The day of your mother's funeral. I found her out in the woods not far from here. She was scared out of her wits. I let it go because I knew you were mourning. I never thought you would let it go this far. How many drinks have you had today? You stink to high heaven."
"Yeah, well you'd drink too if your sister was missing and your mother died in a car accident. Suddenly I'm responsible for caring for my sister's baby girl, and running the shrine because Grandpa isn't getting any younger!"
"Then maybe I'll take Haru home with me."
"What? No! That's not what I meant!"
"And what am I supposed to do? Just leave and hope that you'll get your act together before my kid gets killed?"
"Excuse me? I'm doing the best I can!"
"Well it ain't fucking good enough."
"Alright, I've made us all some tea. Why don't we all have a cup and calm down." Ojichan interrupted.
"Gramps, he's going to take Haru back with him." Oji announced.
There was quiet for a few moments. Ojichan sighed. "I have to admit that I would miss having her with us, but Sota we're not exactly equipped to care for a toddler. Maybe things would be different if your mother were still alive, but I think Inuyasha is right. Maybe he should take her home."
"You can't mean that." Oji balked.
"Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow my boy." Ojichan explained. "He is her father after all, and caring for Haru was never meant to be permanent."
"Wow. I thought you'd see things my way." Oji spat angrily.
"Look kid, it's not like —" Papa tried to explain.
"Fine Inuyasha. Just take the only peice of my sister that I have left away." He huffed.
"It's for the best, Sota my boy. Inuyasha would you like to join us for dinner before you and Haru leave?" Ojichan offered.
"I uh— no thanks. It's probably best if we go before it gets too late." Papa answered, there was a tiredness to his voice. "I'll go and get Haru's things."
The sound of her father's feet on the stairs as he made his way up made Haru feel jumpy inside. She quickly wrapped her blanket around herself, snuggling into its fuzzy softness. She hadn't understand most of what had been said, but she knew that something was up. Hiccups still wracked her body as she snuggled her puppy closely to herself. Whatever it was, she would be brave. Papa would never let anything bad happen, she knew that much was true.
"Hey, how's my girl?" Papa greeted, setting himself down on the floor beside her. He lifted the blanket up so he could better see her face.
"Guess what?" He asked, pulling her into his lap. Haru blinked up at him curiously. "You are going to come home and live with me. So why don't we get your things packed."
"Okay." She agreed. Papa nodded and set her down on the bed before getting to work. She watched attentively as he packed a small bag with a few of her things.
Haru lowered herself to the floor and grabbed one of her favorite books, and the locket, dropping them into the bag. Papa smiled, reaching his hand out for hers. Haru wrapped her little hand around one of his fingers as he lead her from the room.
Together they walked back down the stairs. Ojichan and Oji were waiting for them at the bottom. Haru smelled their tears even though they'd done their best to hide them behind smiles. Oji dropped to his knees and opened his arms wide. The tiny girl dropped her father's hand and hugged her uncle as tight as her little arms could muster. She didn't want Oji to be sad any more.
"You be a good girl for your Papa, alright? I love you." His voice cracked a little as he squeezed her tightly.
"Love you Oji." She echoed, hugging him a little tighter. He let her go and she turned to Ojichan. The old man smiled and motioned for her to come closer, and she obeyed. He leaned heavily against his cane as he bent at the waist, bringing himself close enough to kiss the top of her head.
"I will miss you little one." He said, then ruffled her hair with a smile. Haru beamed back and nodded.
"Alright baby girl. It's time for us to go." Papa said as he hefted Haru up into his arms.
"She likes to sleep with her puppy when she goes to bed. She'll cry all night without it. And make sure to ask her if she needs to use the toilet. She won't tell you until it's too late. She's still in diapers at night." Oji explained. "Take good care of her."
"I will." Papa said with a nod before leaping off into the dark.