The Definition of Family

By The Unseen Watcher

Nightwalker and all related works don't belong to me. The storyline is made up and has no deliberate relation to any other. Thank you.

Chapter 2



Suspicions and Worries

------------------



Agent Yayoi Matsunaga of the NOS paused in her typing, stretching her arms above her head in an effort to ease cramped shoulder muscles. No cases of any consequence had crossed her desk lately. She was thus stuck at her desk, filling out reports. She was bored out of her mind and felt like her eyes would dry out completely if she stared at the computer screen a second longer. Besides, she was getting hungry.

Yayoi got up and went over to the office=s refrigerator, weaving through other cubicles as she did so. Pulling out a large brown sack, she meandered idly back in the direction of her desk.

AHey Yayoi, is that your lunch or are you taking out the trash?@ A voice teased from a nearby desk. Yayoi turned to her verbal opponent, her co- worker Aiko, with one eyebrow arched in mock surprise. She was often teased by the other inhabitants of the office. She was used to their comments by now and gave back as good as she got.

AWhy, neither of course. I=m running a sample of Nightbreed residue up to the lab.@ She leaned over the other woman=s desk. AWould you like to smell it?@ Aiko couldn=t help but flinch. Intellectually she knew that Yayoi was teasing her, but the very idea made her turn slightly green. It was bad enough just to see one of the nasty creatures, but the smell could turn the stomach=s of veteran NOS agents.

Yayoi smirked, straightening, and continued her trek back to her desk. Her meals were always large and full of enough protein to choke a carnivore. She ate foods that helped the fast production of red blood cells, and with good reason. She was the main source of nourishment for two very hungry, but moral, vampires. If they didn=t have her they might waste away, for they would not feed on an unwilling host. So she had to keep her strength up.

As she was passing another set of desks, she overheard snippets of the conversation between them. The words Chief Inspector= and vacation= caught her attention. AWhat was that about the Chief?@ She asked, interrupting them and causing them to glance up guiltily. They relaxed when they saw that it wasn=t a supervisor. AThe word is that the Chief Inspector has gone on vacation!@ She exclaimed excitedly.

Yayoi shook her head, disbelief showing clearly on her face. She absently brushed back a lock of her long raven-black hair as she contemplated this bit of news. When her superiors had found out that the private detective she often brought in on her cases was also a vampire she had literally been put in the spotlight. She had been interrogated, analyzed, poked, prodded, and generally been treated like a traitor to humanity for a while.

She had argued in Shido=s defense, stating all the cases that he had helped her with. She recounted a little (but not all) that she knew of him and his character. She had tried to show them how helpful he was to the NOS=s cause and that of all humanity.

It had been a near thing but central had finally come to the realization that having a Night Walker such as a vampire on their side would benefit them more than the effort of destroying it was worth. Yayoi privately doubted that they could really take down Shido. Vampires were among the most powerful of the countless supernatural population. If cornered Shido would fight, especially to protect his friends. Yayoi had made that perfectly clear in her statement to Central=s inquiry council.

The Agency had gone against one or two vampires in the past, and the body count afterwards had always been horrific. The losses were eventually deemed unacceptable and now the NOS tended to avoid further confrontations with the creatures from that point on.

The idea of having a vampire as an ally appealed to enough of the top brass to sway the vote in Yayoi=s favor. In fact, after only a few months of being on a kind of unofficial probation, along with the shunning by fellow agents, she had actually begun to win the grudging support and respect of those around her. They agreed that she had very resourceful to procure such a good contact and she continued her good case record without too much more comment. But some, like the Chief Inspector (she wondered sometimes if the man had a name) were still rabidly against the very existence of a vampire, much less one as an ally. To them, he was as bad as any of the body stealing Nightbreeds they fought against. They had wanted him exterminated immediately. The Chief Inspector was the worst of the lot and had only backed off when he was threatened with demotion for his insubordinate behavior.

He then tried his best to make Yayoi=s life miserable by getting her assigned to inconsequential and uncomfortable cases. But as most often happens when you hang out with a guy like Shido, the weird cases still came to her. She was often the first agent on the scene (and during the scene) so the cases were technically hers. Her irritating superior would have to come up with a very good reason in order to take her off them. That required approval he no longer had with the main office.

As far as Yayoi knew, the man hadn=t taken a vacation since he signed on to the NOS. He was famous in the agency for being his fanaticism in his single-minded quest to rid the world of all Nightbreeds. That he would suddenly decide that now was the time to get away from it all made her more than a little suspicious. Frowning slightly, her dark blue eyes thoughtful, she went back to her desk.

****

Guni watched as Shido fidgeted in his seat. Every twenty seconds or so his gaze would wander back to the clock. It was only three hours until sunrise. When he started drumming his fingers on the desk, the sprite decided that she had had enough.

ASTOP THAT!@ She snapped, her high voice conveying the depths of her irritation.

*

Shido=s restless fingers paused in mid-motion, his attention coming back to the room around him. Where was she? When she was still new to being a vampire, Riho had often stayed away for days at a time. But as she had grown used to her new life she had taken to staying at the office unless they were out on a case.

With the return of Cain, the one who had turned Shido into a vampire all those years ago, she had heeded his requests to stay closer to the office, seldom going home to her apartment. Shido feared more than anything that in his efforts to reclaim his lost protegee, Cain would kill Riho, permanently this time.

With the continued inaction of the past week however Riho had grown bored and had gone for a short walk. Shido had resisted his initial impulse to go with her, knowing that she had to be by herself in order to relax like she needed to.

He now regretted not heeding his instincts as he once again glanced at the now despised clock.

Abruptly he stood up, his recently abandoned slamming into the back wall, causing Guni to squeak and jump midair in surprise. He stalked over to the door, grabbing his overcoat as he yanked the unfortunate portal open, prompting the straining hinges to creak in protest.

Guni quickly flitted after him. AShe better not be getting Shido this worked up for nothing.@ She muttered to herself. Secretly, she hoped it was.

****

Riho sat in a corner of the padded cell, her knees pulled up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs. Her hands were sore from pounding futilely on the door; even her enhanced strength had not been enough to break through. She didn=t know what was happening or why these mysterious people had taken her prisoner. She didn=t even have a clue as to where she was. She rested her head on her knees and sighed. She wanted to go home. Shido-sa. . . Shido would be worried about her. Guni would just be annoyed.

The thought made her smile softly. She drifted off to sleep imagining the little pest=s whiny voice, her slumber dreamless until she was awakened some hours later.

****

Guni quietly watched Shido as he sat on the couch, staring at nothing. He had stayed out as long as he could, looking for Riho. When the sun began to rise he had been forced back to the office, his search turning up no sign of the missing girl. Guni had suggested that Riho was just smart enough to know to take shelter from the sun. Shido had nodded distractedly and continued his staring match with the wall. He refused to get any sleep, but sat in the lounge area of his office, the shades drawn.

*

Shido couldn=t explain the sense of unease he was experiencing. Riho had been gone before and had turned up fine. He knew his paranoia had grown since Cain had returned, but he just couldn=t dismiss his disquiet so easily. Something was wrong. He felt it in his bones. No, not his bones, his blood. The blood he had shared with Riho. She was in trouble, and he had no idea where to find her. The thought kept him wide awake and tensed for battle. He waited impatiently for the sun to set.

****

Yayoi had abandoned the office for a day and decided to pay a visit to the three unhuman residents of the detective agency. When she opened the door her sly greeting died on her lips. In the dimly lit room she could just make out Shido=s form. His eyes briefly locked with hers, then seemed to lose interest and returned to their contemplation of the movement of light on the wall. It was nearly sunset.

Yayoi quietly walked away from the door and went to sit by the obviously distraught man=s side. Looking around, she noted Guni hovering nearby, but there was a conspicuous absence of a certain bouncy young woman. AWhat happened?@ she asked softly, directing the question to Shido although Guni was the one to answer.

AThe resident vampire secretary didn=t come home last night.@ She said, her voice somewhat subdued. She had watched the totally unresponsive Shido for hours after she had finally given up on drawing him into a conversation. The stress was beginning to get to even her.

Yayoi turned a puzzled expression to Shido, watching the outline of his face. He hadn=t moved. AIs there reason to believe that she is in trouble?@ She asked. Guni shook her head. AWe didn=t find so much as a clue last night. She=s probably fine, but try to convince Shido of that.@ Yayoi studied Shido=s profile again and mustered up some encouragement. AI=m sure she=s fine too. Knowing her, she probably found another small animal in trouble. She was just delayed for a bit, that=s all.@

Shido finally showed some signs of life as his head slowly shook back and forth. ADo you have any proof to the contrary?@ Yayoi pressed, her eyebrow raised in inquiry.

ANo.@ He said, but his voice was firm in his resolve. AThe strange thing is that I have absolutely no evidence that she isn=t all right. But neither do I have any that she is. All I have is a feeling. A feeling that wherever she is she is definitely not alright. I don=t know how I know this. I just do.@

Yayoi continued to look at him. The rational part of her mind argued against not substantiating the facts, but she knew as well as any agent or cop the value of hunches. She glanced at the wall in time to see the last rays of the sun disappear. When he got up to leave she followed.

****

Riho was awakened by a loud blare of noise from the hidden speakers. Light flooded the previously dark room and she closed her eyes from the sudden pain of it, her light sensitivity making it impossible to see. Standing up and shading her face she called out. AWho are you and what do you want?@

She had asked that question many times in those first hours, but had received only silence as a reply. This time she got an answer, of sorts. AAll you need to know about me is that I am your keeper for now, little monster. You are here for a specific purpose. To prove once and for all the evil of your kind. All you truly deserve is death, but I=ve decided to keep you around in order to prove this point. Enjoy your final nights of tainting this world with your foul presence while you can.@ The harsh voice cut off, and Riho knew that it would not answer any more questions.

Riho stood there, confusion and hurt showing on her face. Whoever held her captive was obviously quite mad. His statement had made little sense to her and the names and the utter contempt and loathing in his voice had shaken her. She had never known such complete hatred before. There was no reasoning, no getting to know this unknown person to try to change his opinion. His mind was made up and set in granite. Riho had a sinking feeling that she would truly learn to hate the sound of it in the days to come. He seemed to have torture on his agenda for her.

She sat down again, her head bowed, her hair falling freely into her face. She frowned, her hand lifting to touch the crown of her head. Her ribbon was missing, she finally noticed. Riho wondered where she could have lost it.

*****

Yukido woke up in his corner of the small apartment he shared with his mother. He briefly contemplated not getting up, but knew that he would be kicked awake as soon as his mom came to. He had to go out on the streets again, be a provider. *There must be an easier way to get cash.* He thought to himself and paused. Where had that idea come from? Briefly he remembered a girlish voice and a wave of golden brown hair.

Shaking his head and wondering if he'd somehow gotten into his mom=s medicine stash, he got up. He absently stroked his new good luck charm as he prepared to hit the streets..

*****

Shido paced along the sidewalk, the eyes behind his sunglasses continually scanning his surroundings. He had been searching for three nights now without a single clue as to Riho=s whereabouts. He had resorted to showing a picture of her to passerby and locals, with no luck. It was like she had vanished off the face of the earth. Rounding a corner, he came in sight of a butcher shop. The smell was enticing. Yayoi had abandoned the foot search in favor of calling in contacts to see if they had any news. He had not eaten in a while. Added to the fact that he hadn=t slept a wink since Riho went missing, he was feeling slightly ragged. The smell of fresh blood wafted to him again and he found himself turning his steps toward the store=s door.

He stepped in to the jingle of an overhead bell, and had to stand there for a moment, blinking in the strong light that penetrated even his dark glasses. He looked around the empty looking shop, his senses a bit overwhelmed by the meat scent and the lights. Coolers lined the walls and packed dried product filled a few shelves in the middle.

AWhat c=n I do for ya?@ A gruff voice demanded from somewhere among the inventory. A previously hidden man in a stained butcher=s apron stood up from where he had been stocking shelves. His bulky form towered over Shido as he made his way over to the counter near the door where the newest meats were displayed. ABuy somethin= or get out, I haven=t the time to stand around!@

Shido gazed back calmly through his shades. Customer service was obviously not this man=s forte. Scanning the cooler nearest the grouchy mass, he spotted a few containers marked in red. He was surrounded by blood smell, but these seemed to contain a more concentrated scent. He swallowed hard, his mouth filling with saliva as his body reminded him, rather pointedly in the case of his lengthening canines, that he hadn't fed in days. Quickly he averted his gaze, his eyes straying back to those of the butcher.

The look of annoyed bullishness had been replaced on the man's face by a thoughtful one. His gaze darted from the detective to the containers. He leaned forward slightly, studying the lavender-haired vampire. Tilting his head slightly, the gesture making him look like an inquisitive bear, he finally spoke. "Tatsuhiko Shido?" he asked bluntly. Surprised, Shido nodded.

At this the butcher's visage split in a grin, showing a rather uneven row of teeth. "So you're the guy! Well it's great ta meet ya sir. The little miss sure has you described down to the sunglasses." Shido blinked. This man obviously knew of him, but how? Wait, 'little miss?'

"Riho? Do you know Riho?" he demanded, sudden hope welling up in him. The butcher nodded. "Aye, the little thing wandered into my store some weeks ago. Looked pale and shaky. I've been around a bit. You don't live in this city for long without knowing some things if you want to continue breathin.' She couldn't hide the flash of her eyes since she had no shades then." At the other's wary look he waved his hand in dismissal. "I've got nothin' against vampires and such. My motto is that if others leave me alone I do the same for them, and besides. . ." he trailed off, a look of fondness crossing his rough face. "I wouldn't hurt the little miss for nothin.'" Seeming to recollect himself he put on his normal scowl. "Anyways I saw that she was hungry and didn't see the harm in indulging her a bit. I let her sample my inventory," he said, gesturing to the containers that were quite obviously filled with blood. " I keep it around for stews, and other things." He grinned ruefully. "I even have some artists into weird ingredients use it for paint thickener."

Shido nodded, his hard learned wariness of others knowing about him easing somewhat as he saw the obvious affection this man had for Riho. He was clearly a sentimentalist under that enormous craggy exterior. Clearing his head of assessments of the character of butcher shop owners, he got back to the present problem.

"Have you seen her lately? Within the past few days?" He asked urgently, hope in his voice. His heart sank when the other shook his head, frowning. "Nope. She hasn't come in the past week. She doesn't come round that regularly so I wasn=t worried." He paused, his gaze sharpening to match his voice. "Should I be?"

Shido nodded, his expression grim. AShe disappeared about three days ago and I was hoping to find her last whereabouts. Are you sure you haven=t heard anything?@

The butcher paused, his large forehead creasing in thought. He started to shake his head then stopped, a light coming on in his eyes. AWell,@ he said slowly. AThere was one rather strange thing I noticed the other day. Seems the local Yakuza callin= themselves the Dragon Claw had about half their gang lookin= like their faces were redecorated with shovels. When they was asked about it they said they were jumped by a horde of bloodthirsty Onii.@ He snorted. AEveryone thought they were on something. But there was a rumor that they got their butts handed to them by a couple a kids. And one of them a little girl at that. I didn't think nothin' of it till now, but the girl coulda been her. You don't mess with that little one." He said, grinning at the thought.

Shido nodded, excitement rising in his throat. Finally a lead. After getting the location of the gang's usual hangout, he thanked the helpful man for his help and started for the door.

"Wait." The shopowner called. Shido turned, cautious but willing to see what he wanted. The butcher looked uncomfortable for a second. "It's obvious your needin' to feed and don't have the time so. . . " Quickly he took out several of the containers, pouring a bit of the contents from each container into a large styrofoam cup. As an afterthought he took out a clean knife and pricked his thumb, allowing a few drops to fall into the mix. Putting a lid on it, he handed it to the stunned vampire.

"On the house." He said gruffly. "You'll be needin' your strength to help her. You won't be of any use if yer passin' out all over the place. No time to warm it up, just take it and go. And you'd better find her or you'll be answerin' to me." He scowled menacingly, thought the effect was ruined by his obvious concern.

"GO!" He bellowed as Shido opened his mouth to say something. Closing it, he nodded headed for the door once again. "I'd sip it slow if I was you." The not so unfriendly giant called. "The little miss calls it 'The Tingler' fer a reason."

"Well, that was weird." Guni's voice piped up by his ear, as usual hidden in his long lavender hair while in public. "I wonder who else she's been blabbing to."

"I believe that was an isolated case." Shido replied absently. "Riho's a smart girl. She wouldn't endanger us needlessly." The only reply he got was a small huff. Guni had been curbing her snide comments about the young vampire lately. It showed just how worried she really was.

Shido strode down the sidewalk, intent on his new goal. Absently, he brought the cup to his lips. It had no opening. After puzzling over it for a moment, he smiled in realization at what evidently was a little joke between Riho and her large friend. He punctured it with his fangs, tilting the container to sip the contents.

As the mixture hit his tongue it sent a jolt through him. He swallowed, trying not to cough. The combination of so many different blood types and species was enough to give it a kick that to a vampire was the equivalent of a strong fizz. All those cells fighting each other. Shido sampled it more cautiously, feeling slightly light-headed. If Riho drank this all the time she must have a real tolerance. However, he had to admit that after the initial shock he kind of liked the taste, though he would have preferred it hot.

Chuckling slightly, he wondered what else he would discover about Riho's night life. He'd just have to find her and see. His mind returning to the problem at hand, he made his way through the streets.

--------------- All I can do now is ask for your patience. I have a lot of projects ahead of this one. Encouragement will still, of course, be welcome.^_^ Threats are fun, constructive advice is appreciated, criticism ignored after a hurt glance.