Inazuma felt the air fill his lungs, gasping it in greedily even though he knew his lungs couldn't possibly hold more. It was the stubborn instinct to survive though, overcompensating for his long stint in the still plane, the Nevermore, where the air was old and stale and one forgot that you were breathing because it changed nothing.
He briefly glanced around from his prone position, oddly not feeling the need to stabilize himself into a defensive crouch from where he had landed doing his exeunt from the still plane.
There was a preternatural fog around him, and a biting electric chill that told him whatever unnatural thing had pulled him here was sanctioned by the Gods. He shook his head to clear it of the numbness being in the Nevermore had settled into him, and he looked up to catch the hazy forms of people in defensive crouches against the strange happenings.
He stood shakily, letting his back cave forward so he could use counterweight to hold himself in some semblance of an upright position, and held a delicate hand to his head to make sure the throbbing was only due to his thoughts and not some external wound he should worry about.
There was no wound, and he blinked his eyes to clear away the headache and adjust to the light weaving through the lifting mist. He was shocked to find a silver inuhanyou standing ready with a gargantuan fang in a defensive position, stunned to see a female taijiya guarding his one side and a male houshi at his other. Confused to notice the elderly miko with a patch covered eye kneeled in the traditional archer's defensive stance before the entrance to a village sanctuary…
But it was the last female, raven haired and in a simple day kimono of a traveling miko, that truly caught his attention. She was bodily shielding something from the fog and his gaze, and as the fog settled and she glanced up cautiously he was caught by her blue eyes- those of a mother.
Eyes he would recognize anywhere.
His mate, as he had fallen in love with her foolishly and ignored the thrashing of his youko and the disgust of his clan, had been perfect- until she became with child. Her eyes were of the courtesans; vain and unforgiving to anything that would threaten that beauty.
As a kitsune one could be forgiven for slight vanity, but kitsune were also lovers of life and intimacy and family. His little jewel had wanted none of it.
As soon as she had birthed and recovered, she had fled.
And it was the clan wise woman that had told him about a woman's eyes, how he would know the honest and loving woman because her eyes would be a Mother's eyes, and once he saw them he would understand what that meant.
And he did.
His mate's eyes had been a hard solid green, jaded and set on goals that were only her own; get a strong mate, ensure her prosperous future, gain another tail, find another power, establish a dominant position over their territory...
But this woman's eyes…they were so many colors of blue that he wondered if the ocean was caught in there, maybe the gods had shed tears and placed them there for safekeeping?, and they lit the air to his kitsune senses- loving, compassionate, protective, gentle, fiery, and Mothering.
But he was distracted from his thoughts and perusal by a small familiar whimper, and his gaze snapped down to meet a strong kit. His auburn hair was gleaming with care, tail fluffed and clean, green eyes wide and healthy, skin tanned and unscarred…
"Otousan…" came a disbelieving whisper before Shippou launched himself into his arms, and Inazuma could only fall to his knees and smile and laugh and hug his son to him.
As he buried his nose in the sweet smelling hair, his eyes were drawn to the stunned woman as her gaze moved from his son to him, a belated realization darkening her features into sadness and fear and rejected melancholy before she smiled bravely and bowed.
And then she turned to walk away.
He sighed in a breath as he watched her gently tug away the Taijiya and the monk, and then cuff the hanyou's head when he refused to move before grabbing his ear and dragging him away bent over like some disobedient and protesting child.
And he could only smile gratefully and settle down with his son.
It was a while later, when the absolute shock and joy had faded enough that they could actually speak more than vague mumbles that Inazuma finally talked to his son.
…Four harvests older than what he had been on that dreadful night.
He was told of his quest to avenge his desecrated pelt, of the kind miko who had taken in a thieving kit not her own because of the stirrings in her heart. He learned of the uncouth hanyou and his damnably immature ways (which made him smile because it was coming from one so young still), of the cursed monk who was perverted and laughing because that was the only way he could deal with his destiny, of the lost Taijiya who was last of her clan and doomed to face the dead come to life, and then of the elderly Kaede who was kind enough to give them hearth and base during their exhaustive travels.
And then he heard of the jewel.
It was cursed, it was blessed, and it was hell and heaven.
And it belonged to the miko. Torn from her body, shattered by her arrow, and sought by her soul; there was no other way to describe the jewel that had come into being and caused so many such harm. He could only think of the guilt that stalked the kind soul of the priestess, and his eyes softened as his son couldn't still his praises for the beautiful woman.
It was much later, as the sun was almost fading behind the shielding bulk of Mt. Fuji, that they slowly gathered themselves up and started the trek back to the village of the elderly miko and the friends gathered around the hearth in wait.
"What exactly did you do this time?!" Came a harsh male voice from inside the hut, and then another male, smoother and more controlled, tried to placate him.
"I am sure that Kagome-sama had nothing blatantly to do with the new arrival, hmm?"
There was a strangled huff of annoyance. "I have told you both that I have as much a clue as you do, stop looking at me like that Inuyasha. And Miroku, just because you can speak more eloquently doesn't mean I don't know that you think I did something too!"
There was a clipped female voice, "I am sure that Kagome-chan is speaking the truth, maybe we should recap."
There was an aggravated sigh from the first male (Inuyasha, his brain inferred helpfully), before Shippou stepped into the hut happily and interrupted the conversation. Inazuma sighed and entered as well, greeted with an openly hostile look from the hanyou, and wary but curious gaze from the Taijiya, a benevolent expression from the monk, and that damnably sad smile from the motherly priestess.
They settled down amidst wary conversation before they were comfortable enough to continue their previous train of thought. He learned that there had been an attack on the village while their traveling group had been housed in their haven, and the subsequent battle had sent her power flaring and it had reacted with his dormant magic in his pelt since it had protected her and his son before.
He watched her blush, as if this was her fault, before she straightened and sighed and smiled. Shippou piped up energetically to congratulate her on how fast she moved to get him out of the line of fire. She laughed in response as a blush rose to her cheeks and she fussed over the child, waving a hand to dismiss the idea of her proposed agility.
Inazuma watched this woman interact with his kit, and he wondered if she was always like this after battle- humble and only concerned with the welfare of others though he could see a bruise forming upon her hand and a scratch at her temple.
The Taijiya approached him warily, eyeing him distrustfully and seeming to judge him before she sighed and stepped up to him for private conversation. "It is nice to be reunited isn't it?"
Inazuma let his eyes curiously rest on her before they returned to watching his son chase a butterfly with some of the village boys.
She sighed in aggravation before turning to him with a fire in her eyes. "Look, I know you are still trying to understand the way things work now and aren't used to me or the group, but I only have one thing I need to ask."
"What would that be?" his voice came out in a low murmur, and he watched the woman take in a steeling breath before her face twisted as she caught something outside his vision.
"Are you going to take Shippou away…from her?"
And then a surprised Inazuma turned to spot the priestess, hands stilled from gathering herbs with a proud smile as she too watched his son gallivant happily around the field.
She looked up as if sensing their gazes, and then she blushed before she resumed her task. Embarrassed that they had caught her staring at something….that wasn't hers.
Inazuma couldn't contain his surprise if he'd tried. The miko had been nothing but encouraging to him as he tried to decide what he wanted with his life, and he would have never thought that she was so attached to his son that she didn't want him to leave. She had voiced support over his decision to reclaim his territory, worried if he was getting restless in the ningen village when he was one of the forests, and smiled when he spoke of starting a new territory far from here where memories lay.
His eyes softened as he admired her blush, the way her fine hands toiled for medicines, and the way she adored his son.
He grinned lightly as he came up behind his mate, arms wrapping around her and resting on the gentle swell of her stomach as she startled and then settled. He could practically feel the proud grin she beamed out into the night as her hands folded over his and the baby kicked to get attention.
"How was the border patrol …Daddy?"
He grinned broader at the endearment from his mate, not ashamed of his chin proudly tilting up because of the joyous reminder, or the fact that he pulled her closer to his body in a selfish urge to bask in her stronger aura now due to her unending joy in motherhood reflecting off the planes of her soul
"Everything was just fine sweetheart."
There was a tired shuffling, Inazuma turning his head just enough to spot his son sleepily weaving his way to them while rubbing his eyes of their stubborn sleep. He smiled as the kit yawned cutely, revealing fangs that had just grown in to replace baby teeth lost while playing.
Inazuma smiled as he scooped up his son with one arm. His other tightening upon his mate as she sighed and turned to their son, "Shippou-chan, it is way past your bedtime."
There was a sleepy murmur as the kit nuzzled into his father's chest before his sluggish movements ended up with him hugging himself to his mother and listening to the strange double heart beat her pregnancy gifted her with. Inazuma could feel the chuckle rumble through her body before she sighed and leaned more fully against him.
He smiled, brushing a hand over his son's auburn hair as he fell asleep upon his mother. He rumbled out his own purr as he buried his nose in her sweet smelling hair, hands once again gentle on her stomach as he nuzzled into her neck.
"Hmmm, Kagome…" she tilted her head and looked at him, her eyes soft with mothering and love… "I love you."
She smiled and replied the same.
They'd be lonely Nevermore.