To those of you who still care, I am sorry for neglecting this fic. For a good amount of time, I simply had no interest in writing. But now I do. I'm older, wiser, and a little better with words. And so, I will work on this fic once more. I will pick up from where I left off, and that will be that.

Silent Guardian, this is for you.

Here we go again.

The house was a frenetic flurry of activity. Mrs. Ogino was stocking the pantry with various snack foods, and lots of them – chips, crackers, candy, the works. Rin was in charge of preparing Grandma Ogino's bedroom, from making the bed to stocking the fridge with baby bottles of booze. Chihiro worked outside, sweeping the deck before setting the patio table for six. Mr. Ogino did everyone a favor by lounging in a hammock strung between two trees.

As for Haku, there wasn't really anything he could do. He asked, of course, but Mrs. Ogino shushed him and told him to relax. But it was hard to relax when the three Ogino women were strung so tightly. The tension was palpable, tingeing the air with acidic bitterness. Grandmothers were supposed to be soothing figures, a balm for their grandchildren's pains. From what he understood, children loved their doting grandmothers. But Rin and Chihiro seemed to fear her, or at least fear for her.

While the women flew from chore to chore, Haku heard the telltale sound of knocking at the door. That must be her, he thought to himself. No one seemed to notice the noise but him, so he took it upon himself to answer. Unfailingly silent, he walked calmly to the door, still disbelieving of the chaos this woman inspired.

He was never one to hesitate, so he opened the door to invite their guest in. But when he saw Grandma Ogino, he finally understood the girls' trepidation.

Before him stood a generously proportioned woman upholstered in leopard printed velvet and gold taffeta, trimmed with purple fringe and crystal tassels. Her wrinkled, withered face was caked with garish make-up, from glittering pink lipstick to radioactive blue eye shadow. She had silvery white hair that was cut in a wildly spiked pixie cut, like the plumage of an inquisitive bird. Instead of eyebrows, she had ridiculously arched lines painted where her eyebrows should have been.

In her arms was a very large and very fluffy white cat, which snarled and hissed like an egg in a hot pan.

"Hello, dahhhhling."

Oh, he thought to himself.

I get it now.

Grandma Ogino marched into the den like she owned, her hips swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Haku was pretty sure he was going to vomit. He had been asked, more like forced, to carry in the woman's many suitcases. There were several hat boxes, a steamer trunk plastered with various international stickers, and a tote bag just for that demonic feline creature.

"My dears, you're absolutely divine Grand-mama is here!" Her voice was husky and scratchy, like nails on a scratch board, or hornets buzzing around a nest.

Mrs. Ogino was all smiles and politeness, whereas Rin and Chihiro were positively squirming. They hovered behind their mother with identical horrified expressions. They looked like they were about to be executed.

"Hello Zeniba, how have you been?" Grandma Ogino, Zeniba, held out her hand for Mrs. Ogino to kiss, like she was royalty. She certainly was a royal pain in the ass.

"Why, Yuko, I have been fabulous, just fabulous. This delightful young man was kind enough to help me with my belongings, the dear soul." Haku blanched – she made him help her. "Oh Chichi-love, come give your grandma a hug!"

Zeniba held out her chicken leg arms, an obvious trap for Chihiro, who timidly tiptoed forward. "My lovely, eager granddaughter," she cooed as she smothered Chihiro in her ample bosom. From Haku's perspective, it looked like the girl was being swallowed by two dueling waterbeds. "That's a good girl," she clucked as she released the youngest Ogino. Chihiro backed away quickly, slightly green and on the verge of tears. Haku reasoned that she must've gotten a whiff of the perfume that had assaulted him earlier.

Then it was Rin's turn. She had a tepid smile plastered to her face as Zeniba enthusiastically embraced her older granddaughter. "You're almost as beautiful as I was at your age. Almost. Now, be a darling and get Grammy a dirty martini. Don't lace it with sleeping medication like you did last time. We'll save that for later."

Rin practically ran from the room, escaping the torment that was Zeniba. For some reason, that name stuck out. Beneath that gaudy exterior was a woman he would have to keep an eye out for. But she seemed to know the Ogino family well enough. Still, he would make sure she behaved.

Mr. Ogino loped into the house, his arms opened wide for his mother. "Hey there, Ma!"

Zeniba only smacked her son's corpulent stomach. "If it isn't my good for nothing son, Akio. What are we having for supper?"

And that was that. Chihiro, Rin and Haku brought Zeniba's luggage upstairs, Mrs. Ogino prepared something for the adults to eat, Zeniba insulted her son, and the cat peed in one of the potted plants.

Dinner was an interesting affair, to put it lightly. Chihiro and Rin took turns cowering away from their boisterous grandmother, while Mrs. Ogino desperately tried to play peacemaker between Zeniba and Mr. Ogino. Haku had a ringside seat to an event that was giving him the most wicked migraine. They bantered, they argued, they laughed… couldn't they just shut up? He couldn't even enjoy the fact that they were eating ribs, steak and chicken. It was a meat palace, and he didn't want a bit of it.

While they were preoccupied, he decided he needed to escape. He wouldn't fly, but he would take his preferred form. Stress made his skin feel tight, like he was going to fly apart under the pressure. No doubt, he would be careful, but with a little bit of what they called magic, he was able to deduce that there were no other humans for miles.

Things did taper down eventually. Mrs. Ogino and Zeniba engaged in a genteel game of poker, though Zeniba was a bit more passionate about it. Mr. Ogino laid out in the hammock again, smoking a cigar while he sipped brandy from a sifter. Rin disappeared into the den, where she mindlessly watched some teen movie. Chihiro was making use of the swing-set, quietly dodging the antics of her family.

He could sense that would not be missed. And so, without alerting anyone to his presence, he silently sped through the woods, drifting on swift wind. Ultimately, he ended up in a small pocket of free space, a small patch of grass and wildflowers in the forest. From there it was a simple process of freeing himself. Bones stretched and snapped, human skin melted into pearlescent scales, and every sense sharpened almost painfully.

It took him a minute to adjust to such heightened awareness, but when he did, he basked in it. He could hear every piece of grass moving in the breeze, smell the waves lapping at the shore, and see the crystalline stars against him. Without the trappings of humanity, he allowed himself to feel as ancient and worldly as he really was.

Coiling loosely like a lazy serpent, he laid in the grass, letting out a low, pleased growl. The zephyr ruffled his fur like a comforting caress, lulling him into a light nap.

"I was wondering where you'd went."

Languidly opening his eyes, he peered kindly at the slowly approaching Chihiro. She looked small and cheery as she made her way through the forest – she didn't fear him. This was good - he didn't want her to fear him. But a fear of dragons was a good thing to have. He raised his head slightly, his ears flicking back and forth. Within a moment, she was at his side, running her hands over the scales on his neck.

"I told you she was insane," she giggled as she pressed her cheek against his muzzle. He let her indulge in her girly fascination. It wasn't everyday she was able to touch a dragon. Besides, it felt kind of nice. It appealed to his inner house cat.

"Just wait until she starts smoking the marijuana. Then the real fun begins."

Oh yeah, he couldn't wait for that.

"You don't have to growl at me, you know. I was only teasing."

That night, for a few hours, Chihiro got to watch the stars with a dragon. Not many kids could say that.

Alright, it's short, but it's a start.

If I get a good enough response, I'm back.

Goodnight, and good luck.