“Please, please, please, please, please, please, please—”
Mikio rolled his eyes and tried not to smile as his niece, Jillian Jamison clasped her hands and held them up in front of her chest. “I don’t know . . . Doesn’t his firm have a corporate attorney?”
Jillian wrinkled her nose and glanced at the milling crowd enjoying the wedding reception. “Sure they do, but he’s entirely lazy. Spends too much time getting paid for doing nothing, and now that they actually need him, he’s proving to be completely useless. I’m starting to wonder if he went to law school at all, really . . .” She sighed, pale blue eyes widening as her lips turned down in a pretty moue. “Gavin needs you, Mikio . . . You can’t let him get in trouble for something he didn’t do!”
Smiling wanly as Jillian rested her hand on his forearm, he shook his head. “Well, I’d have to ask Toga-oji-san if he minds if I took a leave of absence.”
Jillian finally relaxed, eyes sparkling as the million-dollar smile broke over her features. “You have no idea how much this means to me!” she gushed, throwing her arms around Mikio’s neck in her exuberance.
“Let me make sure it’s all right before you arrange that parade in my honor,” he warned.
“It’ll be fine,” she assured him, waving off his concern with a flutter of her hand. “Uncle Toga loves Gavvie! Everyone loves him; you know that!”
Mikio rolled his eyes, but grinned. He doubted that Toga would have a problem with it, either, but he didn’t like to make promises before he checked into the possibilities. Maybe it was the lawyer ingrained in him. “Let me go talk to him,” he told her again.
Jillian pressed an extremely loud kiss on his cheek and grinned. “You can stay with us, if you want. We’ve got room to spare.”
“Actually,” Mikio said with a scowl, “if I stay to represent Jamison-san, then it’s probably a good idea if I don’t stay with you. Conflict of interest, you know. Anyway, I’m sure I can find a place of my own. Don’t worry about me.”
“You have no idea how happy you’ve made me,” Jillian went on with a giggle. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you . . . You get a thousand hero points for this!”
“You’re still keeping score?” he asked since she’d been keeping hero point score for years.
She nodded. “Of course I am, and right now, you’re absolutely my biggest hero—my Gavvie notwithstanding, naturally.”
He chuckled, stuffing his hands into his pockets as Jillian hurried away to find ‘her Gavvie’. Gazing over the assembled guests, Mikio shook his head. Evan hadn’t invited many of his rock star buddies since few of them knew who he really was, let alone what he really was, but he had invited a few: namely the head of his security team—a hulking buffalo-youkai with the unfortunate nickname of ‘Bone’—his manager, Michael Murphy along with his mate and daughter, and Bugs, a very flamboyant and very gay rabbit-youkai who had spent the better part of the reception literally sobbing over the idea that Zel Roka, a.k.a. Evan Zelig, was officially off the market. There were a couple others, milling in the crowd, but Mikio hadn’t been properly introduced to them, and, to be honest, he wasn’t entirely sure who they were.
It wouldn’t have been so conspicuous, Mikio figured, if Bone weren’t wearing a ragged t-shirt from Evan’s last tour that proclaimed, “I did V with Zel Roka” on the back along with skin-tight leather pants. Mike, at least, was dressed decently, but Bugs had opted to wear all black to ‘celebrate’ the occasion. Mikio winced. Bugs’ eyeliner and mascara were smudged all over his eyes, and the streaks on his cheeks were quite noticeable, and that the waif-like Bugs was currently standing right next to Sesshoumaru Inutaisho, the current Inu no Taisho? Mikio coughed and quickly hid his amusement as his uncle’s golden gaze lit on him. Nope, the irony in that was just not something that was lost on Mikio at all . . .
Looking away before he laughed outright at the decidedly irritated look on Sesshoumaru’s face, Mikio frowned when he spotted his great-nephew sitting alone under a tree nearby.
Mikio wandered over, tugging on his slacks as he knelt before the three year-old child. The boy tugged on the tie he had obviously been forced to wear. “Something wrong, Bailey?”
“Mama said weddings are fun,” he grumbled, nose wrinkling in obvious distaste.
“Sydnie-san said that?”
He nodded, his dejection growing by leaps and bounds in an instant. “And they’re not. They’re boring, and Daddy won’t let me climb my tree.”
Mikio grinned, still amused at the idea of Bas being a father. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”
“Then he took away the bokuto Jii-chan gave me,” Bailey grumbled.
“Your father did?”
Bailey’s frown darkened, and Mikio blinked in surprise. Sometimes it amazed him, just how much Bailey looked like his father. Maybe it was the scowl . . . “He said I would hit people. I don’t hit people, honest! Not even Livvy, even when I wanna!”
“I don’t imagine you would,” Mikio agreed. He sighed and slowly stood up. “Come on, Bailey.”
“Can you get my bokuto back from Daddy?” he asked hopefully, scrambling to his feet as his eyes grew wide.
“No . . . just thought maybe you’d like some cake—that is, if Cain-onii-san will let anyone touch it.”
There actually was a chance he would. Gin had enlisted the help of all the women other than the bride-to-be and Madison, since she was busy helping Valerie with last minute things, and Nezumi, who couldn’t cook a single thing unless it came in a box and was stuck straight into the microwave oven, but Ryomaru had stepped in to help in her place, and together they had baked the groom’s cake. Rumor had it that Cain had helped Gin decorate it, and Mikio had to admit that he wouldn’t have known the cake was homemade if he hadn’t been shooed out of the kitchen when he’d gone in there to get a bottle of water while the assembled cooks were working.
Bailey sighed, too, but slipped his hand into Mikio’s, following him through the crowd as they made their way to the refreshment table. Kagome hurried over and took the cake plates from Mikio with a bright smile. “Let me carry those for you,” she said.
Mikio clenched his jaw, but didn’t argue as Kagome led the way to a nearby table. “Do you want something to drink, Bailey?”
Bailey nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
Her eyes rose to meet Mikio’s. “No, thank you,” he replied, brushing aside the rising irritation that never seemed too far away lately, especially when Kagome started mothering him in such a way.
Kagome nodded and tweaked Bailey’s nose before hurrying away to get the boy something to drink. “Where do babies come from?” Bailey suddenly asked, turning his questioning gaze on Mikio, who, unfortunately, had just taken a bite of cake.
Sucking in his breath and choking on a few crumbs, Mikio coughed harshly and swallowed. “B-B-Babies?”
Bailey nodded. “Daddy says Mama wants anudder baby ’cause I’m a big boy and ’cause Olivia is stinky.”
“Sh-Shouldn’t you . . . ask your . . . daddy?” Mikio wheezed out, clearing his throat and struggling to breathe between rounds of coughing.
He shook his head. “Daddy says that babies come from Mama, but that don’t make sense.”
Bailey shot him a condescending glance. “‘Cause Mama’s a girl!”
“That’s true,” he agreed slowly, trying to think of a way to distract the child. “But she’s your mama, and you’re a boy . . .”
“Daddy makes the boys, and Mama makes the girls.”
“Who told you that?”
Bailey shrugged as though it were the simplest thing in the world. “I figured it out myself!” he announced proudly. “I came from Daddy, and Olivia came from Mama—I remember.”
Mikio cleared his throat and gratefully accepted the bottle of water Kagome offered him. She poked a straw into the apple juice pouch she’d brought for Bailey and handed it over. “Are you all right, Mikio?” she asked when he coughed once more.
“Just fine,” he assured her, pushing the plate away lest Bailey should spout any more of his little pearls of wisdom.
“And Grandpa Cain says the world will end if Uncle Evan makes babies ’cause they’ll wear his jeans,” Bailey went on.
Kagome coughed, too, and hid a smile behind her hand. “Oh?”
Bailey nodded. “He says Uncle Evan and Aunt Valerie should . . .” he trailed off, face scrunching up as he concentrated on the word he wanted, “. . . adapt.”
“Adapt?” Kagome echoed with a frown.
“Adopt,” Mikio supplied, a smile twitching the corners of his lips.
“I see . . .” Kagome murmured, a small smile surfacing as she stared at Mikio for a moment. “Come on, Bailey. Let’s go see what Jii-chan is doing, shall we?”
Bailey stuffed the last of his cake into his mouth and hopped off the chair, grabbing Kagome’s hand and literally dragging her away. Mikio watched them go, unable to repress the relieved sigh that slipped from him.
Maybe staying in the States for awhile would be a good thing for him. The time away from his parents’ scrutiny couldn’t be all bad, could it? True enough, InuYasha never gave him grief, but his brand of concern was just as stifling as Kagome’s, even if it was in an entirely different kind of way. Where Kagome would hover over him all the time, Mikio couldn’t help but feel that InuYasha was somehow disappointed in him; as though he thought that Mikio’s shortcomings were his fault. Morio told him regularly that he was imagining things. InuYasha had never been disappointed in Mikio, and while he couldn’t say that InuYasha had ever really acted as though he were, Mikio also knew how much stock his father put into physical strength and the ability to fight to protect those he loved. Because of his balance problems, Mikio had never, ever been taught to fight. The closest thing to actual training he’d had was learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, courtesy of his mother, because he could do that while standing still, and later, he’d learned how to shoot guns at his father’s insistence.
“There ain’t anyone alive—man or youkai—who can outrun a bullet,” InuYasha informed him when he’d set the metal case containing a small pistol on the table in front of Mikio.
Mikio blinked, leaning back in his chair as he stared. InuYasha unlocked the box and carefully pushed the lid back. Mikio shook his head. “Papa . . .”
“You’ll learn how to fire that,” InuYasha insisted.
Mikio sighed. “I thought you said that guns were dishonorable.”
“Keh! Dishonorable would be if I let you grow up without having some way of defending yourself.”
Mikio had wanted to argue with InuYasha, but the stubborn set of his father’s jaw dissuaded him. “A-A-All right,” he agreed reluctantly. “I will.”
And he did. The head of Inutaisho Industries’ security team had trained him, and while Mikio might not be a gunslinger, he was quite accurate. Though his mentor, Yasuaki-sensei was youkai, Mikio had never been able to shake off the feeling that he wasn’t quite as good as his brothers or even Gin, really. They’d all been trained to fight, and despite his father’s insistence that it was just a means to an end, he found the training to be quite embarrassing. He’d heard it said more than once—never by his family once he had started his training: there was no honor in shooting someone, no matter what the provocation. Add to that the weight of being the son of the hanyou of legend, and, well, Mikio couldn’t help but feel as though he were a huge disappointment. He’d tried not to let it bother him, and strangely, he wasn’t teased by his nephews or Gunnar for it.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Mikio sat up straight and glanced around slowly, stumbling to his feet when he finally saw Madison standing behind him. She smiled, brushing off the ankle-length skirt of the pale lilac dress. “C-Cartham-san . . . Hello.”
She waved off his greeting with a flick of her wrist. “Just Madison or Maddy’s fine,” she assured him. “What should I call you?”
For some reason, her question triggered a blush. “Oh, uh . . . M-Mikio’s fine—Just Mikio . . .”
She seemed pleased by his answer, and her smile brightened a few more degrees, putting it on par with the afternoon sunshine in Mikio’s estimation . . . “You looked like you were thinking about something pretty serious,” she commented. “Is something wrong?”
“Nope,” he replied, brushing away the memory as he offered her a shy little grin. “Just . . . having some cake. Do you want some? I could get it for you . . .”
“No, thank you,” she said with a small smile.
“You’re sure? Don’t you like cake? I . . . I like cake . . . or, uh, maybe I could get you something to drink? I’m drinking water . . .”
‘Goo-o-ood . . . I sound like a damned baka . . . stupid, stupid, stupid!’
She shook her head and slipped into the chair Bailey had vacated. “That’s all right,” she replied. “I thought I’d make the rounds, you know?”
She wrinkled her nose, violet eyes glowing in the light reflecting off the white satin tablecloth. “Well, since Valerie hasn’t left Evan’s side since the wedding, someone has to greet the guests, don’t you think?”
Mikio shook his head. “But—”
Her laughter was soft, gentle, and he blinked at the surge of warmth that shot through him. “I’m teasing,” she told him, her gaze flittering away as she spotted the couple in question. “They look happy, all things considered.”
Madison waved a hand. “Valerie wasn’t very happy when Evan decided to lop off his hair before the wedding.”
Mikio nodded, scowling thoughtfully as he glanced from the couple to another pair close by. Bas and Cain stood off to the side, both looking somewhat disgruntled. Closely resembling freshly shorn sheep, Mikio didn’t have to be brilliant to know that the obvious irritation was very likely due to the fact that neither man had chosen to have his hair cut off before the wedding, either. “Evan’s always liked to be different,” Mikio mused quietly, “but why did Cain and Bas cut their hair?”
Madison giggled. “Apparently Gin found out about their conversation with Valerie, and she decided that if Evan was going to cut his hair for the wedding, they could, too: a show of solidarity or something . . .”
Mikio grimaced. He’d heard about ‘The Talk’ earlier. Cain and Bas had sat Valerie down and told her about many of Evan’s more colorful escapades to warn her about what she was getting into in agreeing to marry Evan. Evan hadn’t reacted well to the idea that his father and brother —all the men in the family, actually—were trying to meddle, but Mikio had to wonder if the entire affair hadn’t been a more calculated effort to relive some of Evan’s more interesting moments without having to admit out loud that they were amused and even a little proud of Evan’s outrageous antics. “Well, I’d heard about that,” he admitted. He hadn’t sat in on the impromptu-conference, though. No, he’d spent his time, lying in bed and blinking into the darkness, trying to put the image of Madison, bathed in moonlight, out of his mind . . .
Madison’s lips twitched, and Mikio could tell she was trying not to laugh outright. “Gin’s word was ‘bald’, but I just couldn’t bring myself to shave the tai-youkai’s head . . .”
“It just looks . . . strange,” Mikio allowed.
“Hmm, yes . . . and vastly disturbing.”
“It’ll grow back.”
“That’s true, but before the wedding, Valerie insisted that she didn’t want any pictures of Evan without his hair.”
Mikio grinned. “No wedding pictures?”
“He does look really, really different, doesn’t he? Almost . . . respectable.”
Mikio chuckled. “Almost.”
Madison laughed, too. “Can you dance?”
Mikio’s amusement died away, and he cleared his throat, fighting down the urge to blush. “Dance? Me? I, uh . . . no . . .”
“Oh . . .” she said then gave a quick shrug. “It’s a slow song, though, really not much more than swaying.”
“I don’t want to . . . crush your toes or anything.”
She smiled. “That’s okay.”
Stifling the urge to sigh, Mikio scowled at the table and slowly shook his head.
‘Wonderful, Mikio . . . You’re losing points, you know . . . You’re about to end up in the red if you’re not careful, and then where will we be?‘
‘Better than tripping all over my own feet,’ he thought with a grimace, ‘or falling flat on my face . . .’
‘Kami, she’s beautiful,’ his youkai pointed out with a dreamy little sigh.
‘Yeah, she is,’ he agreed unhappily. ‘Gorgeous, actually . . . and way out of my league.’
‘She doesn’t seem to think you are, or haven’t you noticed that yet?‘
‘She hasn’t seen me lose my balance or anything stupid,’ he shot back, ‘and I’d rather that she doesn’t, either.’
“Hey, Maddy. Come dance with the Bone.”
Maddy giggled as she peered up into the leader of Evan’s security team’s smiling face. “What’s that? Slumming, are you?”
Bone snorted, rubbing his bald head and shifting his weight from one leg to the other in a lazy, yet calculated stance—one that Mikio couldn’t even hope to accomplish. “Hardly. You’re the classiest chick I’ve tried to pick up today.”
“Meaning you haven’t tried to pick up anyone else, right?”
Bone chuckled. “Something like that. How about it? Want to dance with the ol’ Bone?”
She started to stand up. Mikio stood up, too. Reacting on impulse, the only cognizant thought in his head was that he didn’t want to see Madison dancing with anyone else, especially someone nicknamed for a state of constant sexual arousal . . . “I-I was going to dance with her,” he blurted.
Bone blinked and stepped back, holding up his hands in a good-natured show of deference. “No worries, man. I didn’t realize you’d already asked her.”
Madison didn’t gainsay Mikio. He avoided her gaze as he slipped his hand under her elbow and led the way to the center of the lawn that had been fitted with a portable wooden platform for the wedding reception. She stepped into his arms, one hand resting on his shoulder as he grasped her free hand, mimicking the stance he’d seen in movies before. Madison smiled up at him, and he could feel heat infusing his cheeks. “So you do dance,” she murmured quietly.
“Not really,” he admitted.
“You’re doing well enough,” she said.
He grimaced. “I doubt it, but thank you.”
She sighed contentedly and shot him a little smile.
He stiffened as she moved in closer. If she noticed, she didn’t react. Relaxing just the tiniest bit, he grinned self-consciously and inhaled the lightly floral scent of Madison’s shampoo. The baser scent of her was a little spicier, reminding Mikio of the little custom tea shop that he frequented back home in Tokyo. The array of exotic blends always lent a certain sense of mystery, at least in his mind. ‘Cinnamon and cloves . . . and a hint of something a little wilder . . .’
“Are those two as happy as they always seem to be?”
Snapping out of his reverie, Mikio blinked and slowly followed the direction of Madison’s gaze. Staring at his nephew, Morio and his mate Meara, Madison’s smile turned a little wistful as Morio held Meara close and leaned down to whisper something in her ear. Meara blushed prettily but smiled at her mate, and the affection in Morio’s expression was apparent to anyone who was looking.
“I think so,” Mikio mumbled. “As far as I know, they’ve never even had an argument.”
She shot him an amused glance. “The perfect couple?”
“Something like that.”
“Didn’t you guys grow up together?”
“For the most part. Morio and I were a little closer, I guess, but yeah . . .”
“Sort of like Bas and Gunnar, you mean?”
Mikio shrugged. “I suppose.”
“And Evan? Were you close to him?”
“Sort of.” He grinned. “Evan used to run off and hide at Kichiro-nii-san’s house instead of training whenever he came to Japan . . . Nii-san taught him how to play the piano. I mean, he learned what he needed to learn from my father, but he never was a fighter like Bas always was.”
Madison laughed. “And you? You’re not a fighter, are you?”
Mikio’s smile faded, and he sighed. “Not really, no . . .”
“I think that’s okay.”
He swallowed hard as Madison rested her temple against his shoulder. “Y-You . . . do?”
“Yes, I do.”
Bokuto: Wooden practice sword. Go figure… lol.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Final Thought from Madison:
Not a fighter, huh?
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Anomaly): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.