My first foray into the realm of YuYu Hakusho! A Shiori-centric one-shot.

Disclaimer: If I owned it, why would I be writing fanfiction?

Not Mine to Hold

Snow was falling lightly, dulling the sharp edges of the world outside the window in mimicry of the clouds that muted the pale light of early morning. Inside, the room appeared as tidy as always, with the floor devoid of mess, the desk's clutter organized into neat piles, and the bed made with fresh sheets. Strangely enough, the room held no traces of longing for its missing inhabitant.

She opened the door, in the quiet before anyone else had awoken yet, sadly acknowledging that no fan of red hair peeked from beneath a nest of blankets to greet her. It had become something of a vigil for her; she could still see the infant in his crib if she looked hard enough, but the fact remained that her son simply wasn't there. She then proceeded to enter further, bearing a glass of water in one hand, with which to tend to the plants he was so fond of keeping even in the dead of winter.

A few days ago, he had left, but Shiori could still picture it clearly in her mind.

He had come home from school, a little later than usual, and informed her that he was leaving on a school skiing trip. She had acquiesced, telling him to dress warmly and asking if there was anything he needed before he went. He had hesitated, then assured her that he would be fine. A hastily but effectively packed bag was slung over his shoulder a few minutes later as he stood at the door, toeing on his shoes. He had said goodbye and I love you, and she had replied goodbye and I love you, be careful and have fun.

But her most vivid memory was of his smile as he murmured I will, while something deeply longing and mournful lingered in his expressive green eyes. Shiori had held the door open, unmindful of the bitter chill, and watched him his walk away until the snow had swallowed up even his vibrant garnet hair.

And though the wind made water well up in her eyes, she shed no tears for Shuichi.

She had called the school the next day, telling them that her son was ill and could not come. After all, Meiou had never had a school trip of any sort.

The first time Shuichi had disappeared, it had been a few weeks after she had recovered from a long illness. When the school had called wondering why her son was absent, she was alarmed to say the least. But when he had returned, something indefinable in his eyes had pleaded with her to ask no questions. And something inside of Shiori prevailed against her reason— a love deeper than anything else had allowed her to trust him and his silence.

It is said a mother's intuition never fails.

Sighing, Shiori sat down on his bed, absently smoothing a hand across the sheets. In retrospect, it wasn't all that strange to find him disappearing with no truthful explanations. Even as an infant, Shuichi's behavior had been capricious. Sometimes he was an ideal and angelic child— quiet, solemn, and never fussing. In other instances, he seemed to view the world around him with a cold, detached, and precocious air far beyond his childish mind. Yet even then, he could still be found at times to gaze wide-eyed like any other infant, like a stranger in a foreign land.

Though she held him and loved him, though she rocked him and sang to him, though she was a mother with her son, a tiny intuition pervaded and prevailed in the back of her thoughts.

He is not mine to hold.

But I have him now... isn't that enough?

Shuichi had grown older, becoming more beautiful in her eyes every day. He loved her, and would do anything for her, especially with the unspoken bond they shared after 'the incident.' But it was the love of a young man towards a young mother who has taken him under her wing, not the love and hate and bittersweet battles of a true son to his mother. Shuichi was always gentle, careful to never offend her or harm her, taking no liberties that should have been his natural-born right, as if he perceived no bond of blood or family to bind him to Shiori's care despite any circumstances.

A mother's intuition. This formal love, though just as deep, was not the same. He couldn't seem to reveal his true and dirty emotions to her; he always hid them behind a gentle smile to protect her.

He is not my son.

But he loves me... isn't that enough?

Shiori's hands had by now wrinkled the sheets with her anxious fidgeting. Frost clung to the glass of the window, crystals of ice as cold as any woman would surely have perceived her heart to be. Mothers did not turn a callous, untroubled back on their son's unexplained absences. Mothers held their children close with love and tender care, protecting them and shielding them as best as they could.

But it wasn't what Shuichi wanted or needed.

The hardest thing a mother ever learns is that if she truly loves her child, she will let him go. The best way to protect anything it to set it free.

And so Shiori was leaving his room now, shutting the door firmly against her more selfish emotions, keeping her eyes dry. There is a time for everything, but now was the time to make breakfast, to wake Shuichi-kun for school, and to kiss Hatanaka good morning. It was her time to be strong of heart, so that her son could come home with no questions asked, and for her to shed no tears so that he would not be distracted with worry for her.

Shuichi's eyes were unsettling sometimes. Their emerald depths concealed taints of ancient weariness, of sorrow, of tragedy. But Shiori hoped, because it was all she could do. She hoped that every little loving action she took could alleviate a bit of the burden on the path to whatever tragic future might be in store for them. The way one conducts one's journey is far more important than where one finally ends.

Woman, did you know that your baby boy...?

If you had seen the sorrow that lay before you, would you still have followed this path?

If she had, by some chance, been granted sight of the future, she would still have chosen to bear her son. How could she willingly and knowingly pawn off the burden for another woman to mourn over her lost son? How could she deny Shuichi her only gift of unconditional love and aid so that she could be untroubled in the end?

Shiori would be grateful for this experience of life, even if he wasn't hers to hold.

Owari
...

-Windswift Shinju