My Gift To You
A Tale of What Comes After
By Amanda Lever
While it had been less then two weeks since Kusanagi had looked upon the Tokyo skyline, he found that it was a less comforting sight every time he saw it. The last time he had taken flight over the buildings of Tokyo, it had been to give Kunikida Ichiro a view of Tokyo from the clouds. Now, he looked at it from the guest room at the Kunikida's home.
The child had loved it, Kusanagi reflected; he had clung to the young man as he simply lifted up and carried him slowly over the nearby neighborhood. It had been a short trip; Ichiro was only three, after all.
He had never imagined that he might do it with his own child.
He could hear the family moving downstairs; Ryoko's soft voice was a pleasant, background hum, while Ichiro's sharp, child voice pierced it with his questions. Kunikida and Momiji were not there, having gone to pick up Matsudeira and her son. Everyone was going to come over for drinks and dinner tonight, to hear the news from the couple directly.
Deep in his heart, dread gripped him. Brooding, he missed the sound of tiny feet outside the door, and then glanced back as the door slid open. Ichiro; dark haired, dark eyed, with a prominent mole beneath his right eye, wobbled in from the doorway, hands out stretched.
"Kusa!" the child squealed, and walked over without so much as a by-your-leave and latched onto Kusanagi's pantleg. He apparently had just had something sticky: he left a massive handprint on Kusanagi's pants. "Kusa!" he squealed again; he hadn't quite mastered 'Kusanagi', so the first two syllables of the aragami's name was all he earned from the child.
Leaning down, the child was swept up into Kusanagi's arms; the aragami grimaced at the gooey substance. Was that icing? Cream from a cookie? He couldn't tell! However, Ichiro seemed immune to Kusanagi's dour mood, wanting to pat his face and give him a big, sticky hug.
The child was put down post-haste. Kusanagi headed for the door, knowing Ichiro would follow.
Follow Ichiro did, wobbling right after Kusanagi; down the hall, to the stairs. However, he stopped at the room closest to them, and listened at the door.
This was the nursery, where the second Kunikida son lay; down for his afternoon nap. On impulse, he cracked the door open.
It was a room of shadows; none of the brightness that had been lavished upon Ichiro had been spent here. But there had been no point.
Kunikida Eigetsu would never see them.
Where Ichiro had been born healthy, curious and active, Eigetsu has been born too soon, and his eyes seemed incomplete. Simple circles of unfinished, milky tissue, the child had not been ready for the world when the surprise labor put Ryoko in the hospital.
A simple, congenital defect is what the doctors said. It could not have been helped. Those words didn't ease the frustration or the sense of failure for the Kunkidas and it made Kusanagi wonder.
What would they call his child? Would a mitama be a 'congenital defect'?
Ichiro stomped his feet on the stairs, trying to get Kusanagi's attention. He didn't much care for the brother he couldn't touch or play with yet – and might never, really. But Kusanagi went down the stairs before Ichiro woke his baby brother, and tsked gently.
"Learn patience," he admonished the child.
Ichiro pleasantly ignored him and continued on to the kitchen. Kusanagi noted, as he did every time he had walked through the Kunikida house since Eigetsu had been born, that there was not a single sharp edge or unblunted corner in the house anymore. They'd completely rearranged the furniture, preparing to raise their disabled son.
Walking through the house these days was alien to the time he had spent in it after the Matsuri Rite. Everything that he had known was gone. Everything had changed…
Except the people.
Ryoko bounded out of the kitchen with a smile on her face, hair still flopped over one eye. "Kusanagi," she greeted him, "has Ichiro been bothering you?"
"No," he replied as the boy latched onto his mother's skirt much like he'd grabbed hold of Kusanagi's pantlegs – complete with matching, gooey handprints. "Though you may want to scrub his hands."
"Oh! He must've gotten into one of the boxes of sweets," Ryoko said, kneeling down to scoop up her child. She swept him over to the sink, to get a wash drag and begin the arduous process of cleaning off the hands of a squirming three year old – made doubly difficult by trying to keep him on the countertop. By the time she was finished, Ichiro was clean, but her shirt definitely wasn't.
Setting him down, she dabbed at the sticky spots on her blouse and sighed, even as Kusanagi once again found himself a victim of Ichiro's tree-climbing aspirations as he tugged at Kusanagi's pantleg, wanting up. Finally giving in, the aragami set the boy on his shoulders, and said, "You can go change that if you want. I can keep a hold of him."
Ryoko gave a grateful smile, and bobbed her head, heading past Kusanagi and her son to head upstairs.
Tucking his legs beneath him, Kusanagi hovered in the air, amusing Ichiro by floating slowly out of the room; Kusanagi was amused with the glee and the clapping, and idly wondered if his son – or daughter – might fly beside him some day.
The thought was a guilty one; would he want his child to be aragami? Would he want her to have a mitama or eight? Ichiro's brown eyes, fair skin and dark hair were so mundane, so human; would his child have green locks, bronzed flesh, and cat's eyes?
Swinging through the living room, Kusanagi headed slowly back toward the kitchen at a speed that ranked somewhere about 'lazy meandering', giving the boy plenty to coo over while his mother was occupied. Little hands patted Kusanagi's broad chest, and occasionally grabbed for handholds in his shirt when Ichiro felt less secure about his position above the ground.
"You're good at that," Ryoko noted, as she came back down the stairs, a new and stain free blouse on. "Getting in some practice?"
"I hadn't thought of it that way," Kusanagi admitted, "but I suppose so."
Ryoko waited for Kusanagi's feet to touch down and allow gravity to take its natural course before she reached for her son. Ichiro willingly went into his mother's arms, only to squirm to be put down. She reluctantly allowed him down, and then sighed, watching as he beelined for the kitchen. "He's going to ruin his supper," she muttered.
"I think he already did, if his hands were any clue," Kusanagi replied with a slight smirk.
"Just wait till you're chasing your own about, Kusanagi Mamoru. You'll understand what work it can be!" Ryoko chided him They looked through the door; Ichiro was already trying to get to the box of cookies set back against the counter.
"He's always after something," Kusanagi mused as Ryoko trailed after her son to shoo him away from the counter.
"They are. Still learning, though. I mean, didn't you—"
"No," Kusanagi cut off that thought. "No, I didn't."
There was a moment of silence that stretched between them, interrupted only by Ichiro's protest at being hefted up into his mother's arms. He promptly began to squirm; Ryoko was forced to let the subject drop lest her son do just that.
Setting the boy down on the floor, the awkward silence stretched between them, as Ichiro again immediately headed for the goodies he had just been denied. Both adults groaned quietly, and Ryoko again plucked her son up.
"Here," Kusanagi finally offered. "He seems to stop that with me."
Ryoko nodded once, and passed her son to the Aragami youth, before turning to finish the preparations for dinner.
"Down!" Ichiro demanded as he wriggled in Kusanagi's arms.
"No," Kusanagi replied firmly. "You're going to stay with me, Ichiro-kun, and you're going to like it." He hefted the boy up again, and lifted from the floor, hovering there. Flight was no real effort for Kusanagi; he could have simply floated there all afternoon if he wanted.
However, Ichiro was not calmed by the drink his aragami 'uncle' could do; this time he wanted down and he wanted down now. Kusanagi endured his wriggling as he floated over to the couch, before he dropped the squirming three year old to the cushions beneath him.
That earned him a squeal of delight and kicking feet. "Again! Again!"
Kids enjoyed the damndest things.
Kusanagi obliged him twice more, going a little higher for the last drop – but the key in the door interrupted any more playtime. Ichiro rolled off the couch and stumbled toward the door – only to latch onto his father's legs before he could even make it past the threshold.
Kunikida Daitetsu was stopped dead by the toddler wrapped around his legs – however, Kusanagi was not. Regaining his feet, he darted over to catch the box of pastries that Kunikida and Momiji had gone to pick after fetching Matsudeira from the lab.
Thankful for Kusanagi's fast hands, Kunikida let him take the pastries away while he picked up his son. They walked to the landing, each took off their shoes and put on house slippers, and followed after the aragami.
"It's a pleasure to see you again, Kusanagi-kun," Matsudeira called over Momiji's shoulder as she went to relieve Kusanagi of the pastry box.
"And you too, Matsu-nee," he replied; it wasn't really a pleasure for either of them, but polite formalities had their way. After all, Matsudeira was going to help ensure that Momiji's pregnancy went smoothly, so Kusanagi hardly had any reason to be openly hostile.
Secretly hostile, on the other hand, was entirely different.
"Did Kome-chan call yet?" Momiji asked, as Ryoko appeared in the doorway to the kitchen.
"No," Ryoko replied. "They're probably on their way still, or stuck in traffic. If they're really delayed, they'll call."
"Let me help you, then!" Momiji said, as she went quickly into the kitchen.
Kunikida and Kusanagi exchanged looks, simultaneously deciding the kitchen had just become off limits until dinner.
"Was everything peaceful why we were gone?" Kunikida asked, as he sat down with Ichiro.
"Basically, yeah," Kusanagi assured him. "Though your son has fast hands a liking for sweets."
The older man laughed and ruffled the boy's thick hair. "Much like his father," Kunikida admitted with wryness. "Such are the things we give to our children, no?"
"I'll find out, I suppose." Kusanagi said flatly. He was beginning to get tired of this attempt to lure him into pleasant baby-talk; Momiji at least allowed him to adjust on his own time, and ask questions and suggest things as they occurred to him. However, they'd only been at the Kunikida's a day and already he was thinking about throttline one or the both of them.
Sensing his displeasure with the subject, Kunikida stopped short with his next question. The doorbell rang even as the uncomfortable silence began. It was a veritable chime from heaven, and it brought Kunkida to his feet.
"That will be Yaegashi and Kome," he said, voice strained.
"I'll tell Momiji and Ryoko," Kusanagi said.
Both men parted, much left unsaid between them.