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.

Pairing: Inuyasha/Kagome

Summary: Inuyasha and Kagome are asked to adopt a coyote-hanyou baby from Arizona.

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Webpage: .net/~

Navajo words:

Hataalii - medicine man

Yah-ta-hey – hello

Hozho - harmony

Author's note: After a long hiatus, I am writing on this again. Here is the next chapter. I hope to finish this story soon. Thank you to all of my fans who have been so patient.

Chapter 15

It was a good thing that Yukio had such a good memory and excellent sense of direction, otherwise he and his mother would have gotten hopelessly lost on the way back to the hogan. As it was, they didn't get back until well after dark, and they found his father anxiously waiting for them about a mile away from the hogan. Kagome saw a flash of Inuyasha's silver hair in the light of the headlamps and yelled a warning, so Yukio slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him when he suddenly popped up in front of the Jeep.

"Inuyasha!" Yukio heard his mother cry, equal parts fear and exasperation in her voice.

"Oi! What took you so long?" his father demanded as he got into the Jeep.

"The nearest gas station was two hours away! Plus we had to do the shopping to get your ramen and food for the ceremony tomorrow," Kagome answered impatiently.

"Keh!" his father snorted, crossing his arms as he sat in the rear passenger seat.

Yukio smiled to himself because he knew his father hated being in the back, then his smile faltered because he remembered how much of a back-seat driver he was.

'Hm, maybe it would be best to redirect him...'

"Why were you waiting for us and not at the hogan? Did something happen?" he asked, starting out again on the nonexistent road.

"Feh. As if anything would attack after the ass-kicking we gave out," Inuyasha snorted.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome chided, but the elder inu-hanyou was unapologetic.

"You know I'm right. Now that those damn bats are gone, only an idiot would challenge us now," his father countered.

"Only if they knew about it," his mother argued.

"Feh! With the gossips on the Council? We'll be lucky if the news hasn't reached China by now."

"True," Yukio admitted, both hands on the wheel as he guided the Jeep down the dirt track. It was fortunate his night vision was so good otherwise he would have had no hope of following the faint tire tracks in the hard soil that marked the path.

"And I have felt a difference in the energy," his mother admitted thoughtfully. "I think whatever spells that were cast over the bats have been broken."

Yukio nodded. He'd felt the change himself. He wondered if that was because the bats were dead or because his uncle had already dealt with the one responsible. His mother had told him that they had found evidence that the high-ranking demon Temeh's father had suspected was behind the Terror Bats was indeed the actual culprit. If that evidence proved to be true, he knew Sesshoumaru would waste no time in exacting punishment.

'If it was Deveran, his body is probably ashes by now or, knowing Uncle, a putrefying pile of mush,' he thought, repressing a shudder. No one ever wanted to get on the wrong side of the Lord of the West.

If Deveran had put any spells on the area to keep the bats in line, those spells would have been broken upon his demise. He couldn't say he could pinpoint the actual time when he noticed that the oppressive energy had snapped, only that he'd noted its absence while they were on their trip to the gas station.

"So what's been happening while we were gone?" he asked.

"The brother came back with that Cree who got hurt," Inuyasha answered.

"Michael got back with David? Did the RN say if he had a concussion?" Kagome questioned.

"How should I know?" his father snapped back.

"Did you ask?" his mother pressed.

"None of my business."

"None of your… Inuyasha, what if we are attacked by a mob tomorrow? Wouldn't you want to know if David could help or if he'd be out because he is wounded?" Kagome argued.

"Keh! He's useless either way. Only one that's worth anything is the miko. And maybe the old woman. She can hold her own," his father replied.

Yukio heard his mother sigh in defeat and smiled. Some things never changed, nor would he wish them to.

But that line of thought led him to another, one that he had been studiously trying to ignore. Away from Emma's scent, he was able to look at the situation more objectively, but he still was at a loss as to what to do. He was still apprehensive and resistant to pursuing any kind of relationship with the Cree woman, but at the same time he knew his own senses were betraying him. The entire time they were gone, his demon side searched for her scent and wondered where she had gone.

He had hoped being away from her would bring clarity, but instead he'd found only more confusion, and it didn't help that his mother did nothing to hide the fact that she thought Emma would be good for him. Hell, even his father had weighed in on the subject. No one wanted him to be alone anymore. He didn't even want to be alone anymore. But he liked his life as it was, and he didn't want the added complications a relationship would bring.

At the same time, he wondered if he really had any choice. If his mother was going to train Emma in her powers, she would be spending a lot of time at the house in Alberta, and unless he wanted to relocate to another one of their homes, he was going to have to deal with at least smelling her around even if he engineered it such that he didn't see her all that much.

'But you have to admit that she's been doing a pretty good job of showing you she's up to the task. She stood by me, and she wasn't afraid to stand up to me. Maybe…'

He stopped himself when he realized he was gripping the steering wheel so hard that he almost broke it.

'I can't think about that right now. There's too much else going on. Maybe once we're back home, I can think about it more seriously. For now… I just can't deal with it,' he decided, then waffled a bit. 'Maybe I'll call and talk to Miroku. He's been dating Ayumi, and it seems to be working out for him…'

"Is everything alright?" his mother asked him, making the hamster wheel that had been spinning in his head come to a blessed halt.

"Yes, Kaa-san, everything is fine," he assured her, offering her a small smile.

It looked like she was going to say something further, but she was cut off by their arrival at the hogan. After that, the time was consumed by unloading the boxes upon boxes of food they had bought at the store – ramen included in spades, of course – and in preparations for the ceremony tomorrow.

At some point while they were away, someone had taken Ben home and arrangements had been made for him to come back in the morning with the sheep. Apparently, the Laughing Party was an all day affair which began with the butchering of the animal and ended several hours later after the food was ready. Yukio had a feeling that tomorrow was going to be a long day.

He worked in silence, hoping to find solace in keeping busy. Now that it was dark, the temperatures had fallen, and the humans had all gone into the hogan to escape the cold. He and his father stayed outside again because it was too crowded in the small home, and they were joined by Temeh who was forbidden by Ruth from sleeping under the same roof as her unwed granddaughter. The coyote-youkai didn't seem to be too happy with the decision, but wisely hadn't fought it.

He and his father took up guard positions against the hogan, but it was obvious that Temeh's long journey and lack of sleep were catching up with him. He tried to sit up and guard with them, but he was nodding off as soon as the adrenaline from the day completely wore off. He ended up lying down, curling up between his two silver coyote companions, and passing out, which was fine with Yukio because conversation wasn't on his list of top ten things he wanted to do with his night, and at least his father could be trusted to respect the silence.

"You wanna rest?" Inuyasha asked him. "I'll take first watch."

"Thank you, Tou-san, but I'm not tired."

"Suit yourself."

"Thanks."

Sitting there with his back against the hut's wall, he looked up at the starry night and smiled.

"What?" his father questioned.

"I'm having a sense of déjà vu," he answered. "Didn't we just do this last night?"

"Feh. At least tonight we won't have to worry about any bats showing up."

"True. And don't worry about me starting any deeply philosophical conversations with you tonight either. I am feeling decidedly simplistic."

Inuyasha snorted, then barked softly, :Pup okay?:

He sighed and nodded. :Pup fine,: he replied. "I just want peace tonight. I've had my fill of upheaval for today."

His father nodded and craned his head to look up at the stars.

"Do you think we'll go home tomorrow?" he asked, not trying to hide the wistful tone in his voice.

"Dunno," Inuyasha grunted. "Depends."

He saw his father jerk his chin towards the sleeping coyote-youkai and understood.

"I'd like to," he stated. "I want to take a long, hot shower, and sleep in my own bed. I want Ian to wake me up in the morning and tell me I have to take him to school even though it's not my day to do it, but he's asking because he wants me to take him on my bike…"

"Keh! Good luck with that!" Inuyasha snorted.

"And I want to smell fresh coffee when I step out of my room and hear Frances singing as she makes breakfast. I want to tease Eri when she complains about the cold in Paris when we have snow in October in Alberta. I want to be able to listen to something other than country & western on the radio, and watch TV, and eat potato chips on the couch…"

"Feh! You want a lot of things."

He shrugged. "But they're simple things. Things you take for granted until you don't have them anymore."

"I would have thought you'd have learned not to take anything for granted by now," Inuyasha chided.

He smiled. "I try not to, but I do admit to having been spoiled as a child."

"That was your mother's doing."

He laughed. "Of course, it's all Kaa-san's fault. You had nothing to do with it," he teased.

"Feh."

He sobered and looked at Temeh snuggled between his two companions.

"But seriously… I am homesick."

Inuyasha sighed and slumped his shoulders a bit. "Yeah. Me too."

The rest of the night passed. He dozed on and off, tucking his face into the thick blanket Ruth had let him borrow to ward off the cold. He didn't think his father slept at all because every time he looked over at Inuyasha, his father looked back. He didn't know what it was that kept Inuyasha awake all night, but he got the impression that his father was merely keeping watch and guarding their rest. It wouldn't be the first time the elder hanyou had forgone sleep in order to make sure the sleep of others was undisturbed.

Temeh hardly moved all night until his two companions got up sometime before dawn. The horizon was just starting to brighten with the first tinges of red when the silver coyotes roused and began to stretch. One nuzzled the young coyote-youkai, and Temeh rolled over with a grunt of protest, but the loss of his fur blankets made him wake a few minutes later.

Yukio watched as Temeh rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around to orient himself. He saw the coyote-youkai's gaze land on him and his father, and he gave the boy a nod in greeting. Temeh nodded back, then yawned and slowly rose to his feet. Yuko saw him head over to the new well, rolling his shoulders and neck to work out the kinks from sleeping on the hard ground, and he splashed his face with cold water from the pump. A few minutes later, they heard the unmistakable cry of an infant, and Temeh swiveled his head around to stare longingly at the closed hogan door.

Not long after Peter's cries quieted, the door opened and the Navajos came out to perform the Dawn Way. Temeh stepped up to take the baby from Sara, a tender smile on his face, then he joined Ruth, Sara and Michael as they greeted the new day. Yukio watched for a few moments before noticing that Emma had come out of the hogan, and she was now standing near him, her arms holding a heavy shawl over her shoulders.

"Good morning," she greeted.

"Morning," he replied, rising to his feet.

"Water's on for coffee," she said.

"Good. That's good," he answered, working out his own kinks.

His back hurt from sleeping upright and his feet were tingling as the circulation was restored. His father was already up and in the hogan, no doubt checking on Kagome. He cracked a jaw-popping yawn, licking his teeth to get the sweaters off of them, then followed his father into the hut.

Breakfast was made and eaten, the hogan and the surrounding area were tidied and prepared for guests, and people began arriving for the Laughing Party a couple of hours later. Ben arrived first, with Lori and a couple of new Navajo women that Ruth knew. They brought a decent-sized sheep with them, and Yukio was shocked at how quickly and quietly Ruth slaughtered the sheep with a very sharp knife, then the carcass was hoisted up and hung from a sturdy scaffolding built just for that purpose.

More relatives arrived, and the women took to skinning and butchering the meat with the efficiency of those who knew exactly what they were doing. He and his father, while being no strangers to killing and preparing their own food, stood out of the way as the Navajo made sure everything was done properly. The meat was cut and cleaned in preparation for cooking, all of the organs reserved. With the Navajo, no part of the sheep was wasted, and everything was used. To do anything less would be to dishonor the animal's sacrifice.

The women sliced up vegetables and started a mutton stew in a pot on a propane burner, while others took the intestines and wrapped them around fat to grill over an open fire. The sheep's trachea, considered a delicacy, was saved for Ruth since she was the one who had done the slaughtering. Within a couple of hours, the feast was in full swing. Someone had brought a large iron trough on legs that was placed over a cook fire built in a hole in the ground, and women were tossing dough into simmering fat to make frybread.

As outsiders, he and his father stayed out of the way, performing tasks as they were given to them, but mostly observing and trying not to be underfoot. Everywhere there were people gathering, speaking in Dineh, the conversation lively and happy. Kagome, of course, dived right into the fray, Emma beside her, and they could see the two of them navigating the crowd, doing their best to keep up with the goings-on. Yukio endured some measure of notoriety by being the one who had made Peter laugh, and he did his best to be gracious and humbled by all the attention.

By mid-afternoon, the feast was prepared and the First Laugh Ceremony was set to begin. Sara and Temeh came over to Yukio as he approached a seat that had been made ready for him. Peter had been dressed in a brightly colored Navajo outfit with a large turquoise and silver beaded necklace (no doubt the child's new concealment spall locus) and little laced moccasins.

"My people believe that a baby will take on personality traits of the one who makes him laugh for the first time. I cannot think of another person who I would be more proud to see my son imitate," Sara told him. "You and your family have done so much to help me and my baby, even when we were strangers to you and far away from your home. Thank you for everything you have done for us."

She offered him the baby in his soft, blue blanket, and he accepted the child, holding the pup securely in both his arms, Peter's little head against his chest. He wanted to refute her, to tell her that what he and his family had done was nothing out of the ordinary, but he couldn't. He understood what they had done, and the affect their actions had had upon the little family, and the entire community. If not for him and his parents, Peter would not be there, and the Terror Bats would still be hunting the reservation, killing sheep and anyone who discovered them.

The knowledge humbled him, and he merely nodded as he held Peter close.

"You are most welcome," he said softly.

Temeh offered him the seat, and he sat down, Temeh standing behind him, Sara sitting to his right and Ruth on his left. Ruth held a Navajo woven basket filled with rock salt and another with little bags of sweets. These were gifts meant to be given out by the baby to insure that he grew into a generous person. Yukio positioned Peter so that he was sitting up and facing the crowd, and the infant looked out calmly from his place in Yukio's lap. The baby was fully conscious and aware of what was happening, and he was already reaching for the sweets and salt when the first person stepped up to greet him. Normally, the adult would be the one to "help" the baby pass out the salt and sweets, but it looked like Peter was going to do it all on his own.

'This should be interesting,' Yukio thought.

The first person was Ben, and he reached down to shake Peter's right hand to welcome him into the community. Peter made a little huffing sound that Yukio recognized as an acknowledgement of a pack member, and then the baby reached for the candy. Yukio hurried to make it look like he was "helping" so as not to attract undue attention to the child, but the hataalii waved a hand.

"Let him be. Let the people see what he can do," the shaman said.

Yukio set his jaw, not convinced that was the best course of action, but nodded.

The next person to greet the baby was a woman who shook his hand and offered a dish of cooked vegetables. Peter gave her a bag of sweets and sprinkled salt on the food. The woman seemed surprised, but Ben was there and said something in Dineh that made her smile. She spoke a few words to Peter, who huffed at her, then moved off to place the dish on the communal buffet table that had been set up for the food.

One by one all of the guests came forward to greet the new child until everyone had been given sweets and all the food had been sprinkled with salt, even Lori who looked uncertain at first, but who relaxed when Peter closed his fingers around hers as she shook his hand. When the last person was through, Ben blessed Peter with a traditional Navajo blessing, and everyone sat down to enjoy a well-prepared meal. Yukio was glad to give Peter back to Sara, and he stood up to go through the buffet line himself to get some food.

"You didn't look too uncomfortable there," Emma commented, coming to stand beside him in the line.

"I've had lots of practice holding babies and hiding my true feelings," he answered, spooning some stew onto a piece of fry bread.

The Cree woman laughed, and he hid a smile before he let it fade. "I just hope they won't expect too much from him. He is just a baby."

Emma nodded that she understood. "For all of their deep spirituality and superstition, the Navajo are a remarkably pragmatic people."

"I'm glad to hear you say that. We need pragmatists."

"To counteract all the hopeless dreamers out there?" she teased.

"Nothing wrong with dreamers. Sometimes you have to dream big otherwise there's no point in dreaming at all," he said as he walked away. Thankfully, she let him go.

Happy to relinquish his front row seat to Sara and Temeh, he sat next to his father who was eating with some apprehension given the amount of peppers used to make the meal.

"I don't think it will be too spicy," Yukio assured him.

"Feh. Hope not. There's no indoor plumbing out here."

His father's gruff reply made him laugh, and he happily tucked into his food.

"Sara told me that the Navajo believe the baby will take on the characteristics of the person who made him laugh," he said.

"Keh! It's a good thing I wasn't the one to make him laugh then," his father replied.

Yukio snorted, but since it was an old argument, he did not comment. The food was good, though not as good as ramen, and there was plenty of it so he didn't feel bad in going back for seconds.

As the afternoon progressed, most of their fears that Peter would not be accepted by the Navajo community proved to be unfounded, and both Sara and Temeh appeared to be pleased. Ben's influence over the other elders, and Ruth's strong standing within the community, appeared to have gone a long way towards earning Peter's place in the tribe. The pledge of the new well and the word of what had happened with the Terror Bats also garnered support for the new mother and her otherworldly protectors. The RN hataalii was one of the guests at the ceremony, and the boy whom Yukio had saved from being carried off was there as well. Several of the attendees were also related to the men who had formed the mob that had attacked the hogan, and they had heard the tale of the battle from their family members. Thankfully, none of them appeared to be upset, angry or out for blood. There were a few, however, who were a little wary around them, but that was understandable.

While it was not plainly discussed, Yukio knew several of the people there were aware of Peter and Temeh's coyote lineage, and a number of them also seemed to know about him and his family, which didn't sit so well with him. His family's secrets were closely guarded, and he did not like so many outsiders knowing about them. But given the circumstances, it would have been impossible for them remain secret once the bats attacked. Too many people had witnessed the fight, and the boy himself had been physically picked up by one of them. It had only been Yukio's leaping after him, and putting his own body underneath him when they fell, that saved his life.

Word spread quickly, even in a remote area like the reservation, and the only way for them to counter-effect the grapevine would be to bring in a youkai with significant powers of mental persuasion or telepathy to make the humans forget what they had seen. If things got bad enough, Uncle might decide such a drastic measure was needed, but for now it was probably best just to deal with things as they came. Messing with people's minds and memories often led to more headaches, both real and imagined.

People began to take their leave as the sun began to go down, but not before plans were made for several water carriers to bring large water drums to fill for the neighbors the following day. The digging of the new well meant a much-needed local water supply had been provided, and the new pump got almost as much attention as Peter did. Several elders took part in tasting the water from the well and declaring it good. Sara and Temeh said good-bye and thanked their guests as the people were heading out, but Yukio's high hopes of leaving for home themselves were dashed when his mother offered his and Inuyasha's help with hauling water in the morning.

'So much for sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night,' he thought dourly.

He and his father had discussed the return trip earlier in the day while they were doing their best to keep from being underfoot. Inuyasha had voiced his decision to donate the Jeep to Sara and her grandmother, provided someone could take him, Kagome, Yukio and Emma to a commercial airport where they could arrange for one of Uncle's private planes to pick them up and fly them back to Alberta. Yukio had voiced his support of the plan, but apparently no one had briefed his mother before she volunteered them as water carriers.

'Kaa-san, I really wish you would learn to ask us first!' he grumbled, but he knew what she would say to that. She would say that they would have volunteered anyway so there was no point in being angry, and she would be right.

He sighed and resigned himself to another night of sleeping outside on the ground.

'I'm a big boy. I can take it… But my back hurts!' he whined to himself.

Once arrangements were made for the next day, the party slowly disbanded until all that were left were Ben and their original group of nine plus the pup. In keeping with their tradition of community and harmony, the area had been cleaned and left in tidy condition with not a bit of litter or garbage to be seen, and Ruth was looking decidedly pleased with herself.

"Well, I do believe that went well," Ben stated, smiling happily.

"Feh! At least no one tried to kill the pup," Inuyasha replied.

"True, and change will come in small steps," the hataalii said.

"We can only hope," Sara added, holding Peter as the pup looked around with interest, then he burbled and pointed a chubby finger at a spot several meters away. A moment later the two silver coyotes who had made themselves scarce for the party appeared from behind a bluff, and they trotted towards them. The one who had been injured was walking much better.

Peter barked a greeting that the coyotes returned even as they sniffed and greeted Temeh with enthusiasm. Temeh knelt down on one knee to pet and speak to them. Food had been reserved to make sure they had something to eat, and Ruth put a battered metal dish down for the two animals. Both gobbled down the meal with gusto, licking the dish clean in a matter of minutes. Sara put Peter down on the ground when they were done, and the two sniffed and licked at the pup as he giggled and reached for them. Soon they had flanked him and were panting contentedly as they fulfilled their pup-sitting duties.

"Kohteh and Kohmeh will take good care of him," Temeh assured them.

"Tomorrow many of the People will get clean, fresh water from the new well. Their lives will be greatly improved by having good water so close-by," Ben said. "Already the child's birth has helped the People."

"Oi, old man, don't forget he's just a pup," Inuyasha reminded, eyeing the two coyotes warily.

"I have not forgotten, but the child's actions today only further prove my belief that he is meant to help us find our way back to hozho," the medicine man replied.

Ruth said something that made Temeh gasp and Sara blush, and all eyes turned to them as the new mother translated. "Ma'sani' says the next gathering should be a wedding. That will help to bring harmony."

Yukio chuckled. "Yeah, good luck with that. Weddings are exercises in chaos. Trust me, I know."

Temeh snorted. "In the eyes of my clan, Sara and I are already married. We have mated for life."

Yukio looked at the young youkai and raised an eyebrow, wondering if Temeh meant that, and if he had gone through the ritual of blood sharing that would bond his blood to Sara's and prolong her life. The expression on Temeh's face, and the lack of blood-scent on Sara, told him that the coyote-youkai hadn't, and he wondered if Temeh had told Sara about that little aspect of youkai-human bonding.

The reminder of the blood ritual brought back memories of Miaka, and the heart-wrenching agony she had put him through when she refused his blood. The wave of memory hit so suddenly and so strongly that it felt like a physical blow, and his stomach roiled. It took every bit of willpower he had to hold back the urge to retch, and even that only lasted long enough for him to excuse himself and retreat to the arroyo where he promptly vomited up everything he'd eaten in the last few hours. The mutton stew didn't taste so good coming back up.

When he was finished, he tried to rinse out his mouth from the stream he and his father had created, but the taste of the water made him throw-up again. He ended up sitting in the damp soil at the bottom of the crevasse, his back pressed to the jagged rocks, weeping as he stifled the howls that threatened to come out. He'd been doing so well, he'd thought. All day he had done a good job of not thinking about Emma or his loneliness or his past. Instead he'd concentrated on the pup, on his duties, and tried to avoid anything that involved thinking about his current situation, Emma included, and to her credit Emma had been doing a good job of leaving him alone. Score one for her actually listening to his mother. But now all his efforts to avoid thinking about what was happening had resulted in him sobbing, alone, at the bottom of a ditch.

As he lay there, panting, tears still streaming down his face, he wondered how long it would take for someone to find him. He hoped it wouldn't be Emma; he hoped that she, or at least his mother, would have the good sense to know the Cree woman was the last person he wanted to see. Who actually did come to check on him was a bit of a surprise.

He heard sniffing, and then a whine, and soon a furry, silver head was peering at him from above. He didn't know which of the twins it was because he couldn't tell them apart, but it didn't matter. The youkai-coyote hopped down into the arroyo and came to press against legs. Yukio threaded his fingers into the thick fur and accepted the comfort that was offered.

"You smell of sadness," Temeh's voice came down to him, and he looked up to see the boy sitting at the top of the chasm with his legs dangling over the edge.

"It's nothing for you to be concerned with," he replied.

Temeh grunted, but did not do what Yukio had hoped, which was go away. Instead the young coyote-youkai jumped down to join him, and he perched on a crag near Yukio's shoulder.

"Does this have anything to do with your mate who died?"

He avoided answering by asking a question. "Have you blood-bound her yet?"

"No. She still has growing to do. So do I. In a few years, I'll do it. Did you not bind your mate to your blood?"

"I did."

He could sense the boy's confusion and didn't blame him.

"We were mated for over two hundred years," he clarified.

"Was she killed by an enemy or in an accident?"

"No. She… she decided one day that she did not want to be mated to me any longer, so she refused new infusions of my blood. It took her years to die, but she finally did."

"You took care of her until the end?"

"Of course. She was my mate. I loved her."

Temeh huffed. "She did not love you," he stated bluntly.

"So I have been told," he replied drolly, rolling his eyes. He was so tired of people telling him that his wife hadn't loved him.

"My uncle tried to kill himself after his pup was murdered and his mate rejected him," Temeh said conversationally.

"I think I would have tried if I hadn't had my family to lean on. My mother helped me through it," he confessed.

"Your mother is a very special woman. Your father is very lucky."

"Yes, we know. Our lives have been blessed."

"My parents are good to each other, but theirs is an arranged marriage. They stayed together after the contract for pups was fulfilled because they liked each other well enough, but it's no great love like your parents have or like I have with Sara."

He wanted to counter that the youngster was a child who had no concept of love, but he kept his mouth shut because he didn't want the argument.

"I knew Sara before I met her. I dreamed about her. I knew she was the one from the moment we met because I recognized her," Temeh explained. "When you meet The One, you know."

He grunted a non-committal answer, and tried not to flinch when the boy put a hand on his shoulder.

"Come back to the hogan. The others are worried about you, and my son is missing his mentor. Come back to the living. It is no good to walk with the dead for too long. It will only bring you more pain."

"I'll be along in a bit. Don't worry about me," he replied.

The fingers on his shoulder tightened briefly then released. "As you wish, but Kohmeh will stay with you. It is no good for you to be alone."

Temeh stood up and Yukio knew he was preparing to leave.

"What will you do now?" he asked.

"The pup has been born, the pact between my clan and the Navajo has been renewed, and Peter has been accepted into the community. All that's left now is to tell my parents."

"When are you planning to do that?"

Temeh sighed. "Tomorrow. I'll call them in the morning. They're due to get back from Europe on Sunday. What will you and your family do now?"

He shrugged. "Go home, I guess. Once we know Sara and the pup are safe."

"They are. I won't let anything happen to them," the coyote-youkai promised.

"Good. We'll hold you to that. My father will be keeping tabs on you, I hope you know that," he warned.

"There are worse things, and it is good to have such a powerful youkai family on our side. While I don't agree with what my mate's brother did, I am glad he did it."

"Yeah, well, I hope it works out well for all of us."

"Me too. Don't stay out here too long."

With that, Temeh leaped out of the crevasse, leaving him alone with the silver youkai-coyote. He stayed in the arroyo for another half-hour, ignoring the damp seeping into his jeans and the growing hunger in his empty stomach. No one else came to bother him, and for that he was glad. When he finally got his emotions and head under control, he left the arroyo and made his way back to the hogan.

It was almost dark. Ben was gone and so was Michael's truck, so he could only assume that the Navajo man had taken the hataalii home. The fire in the pit was still burning, and most everyone was sitting around it, drinking coffee and talking quietly. His mother stood up as he approached, but he waved for her to sit down again.

"I'm fine, Kaa-san. I just need to change clothes. My jeans are wet."

She nodded and gave him space as he retrieved a clean pair of pants from his bag and went into the hogan to change. His eyes fell on the barrel that served both as the heater and cookstove, and he made a mental note to be sure that it got replaced with a much safer, genuine wood stove before he and his family left for home. A fire was already lit in the barrel to warm the hogan, so he put a pot of water on the top to boil for ramen. Again, no one bothered him as he changed clothes, brushed his hair, and ate a solitary meal, but his reprieve didn't last long after that as Sara came into the hut.

"You bleed inside," she said softly. "You grieve too much. The dead hold you. They make you sick."

"I'm fine," he assured her, even as his stomach mildly protested the food. He did keep it down, though.

"Life is for the living, not the dead. You need to let go. If you were Dineh, I would ask Ben to perform a cleansing ceremony to purge you of this darkness."

He sighed. He didn't want to get into a conversation about his dead wife.

Sara went to a rack of shelves that served as a crude pantry, and she began to gather some herbs which she crushed into a coffee mug and then poured boiling water over. She handed him the drink with a serious expression on her face.

"Your family has done so much for us. I want to do this for you. This tea will help purge you of the unwanted spirit, the one that clings to you and keeps you from healing. It is not the same as a true purification ceremony, but it will help. I will speak to your mother and tell her what else is to be done."

He could smell the herbs, and he recognized at least one of them.

"Thank you."

She nodded once and left him alone. He drank the bitter tea because he did not want to insult his host, but oddly he did feel better after drinking it. He finished the tea and his food, and stood up to exit the hogan.

Maybe it was time to re-join the living after all.

TBC