Chapter 10 - Kaga & Family
He heard Danielle call to him from the downstairs living room and his heavy footsteps are heard as he descends the stairs to join her. He is still dressed in the dark blue uniform he wore for work as a guard for the local prison, his thick black hair pulled back in a tight braid that hangs to his waist. It only serves to make his facial features more angular, even with the crows feet at the corners of his eyes that soften his face when he smiles. Unzipping his jacket, Kaga moves behind the couch and gives his two sons a pat on their shoulders before moving to stand behind their mother. Danielle leans her head back and smiles up at her mate and he leans down to give her a gentle kiss in return.
“How was work?”
“Incredibly quiet for once. I don’t think some of the new hires get it. When it’s quiet, it’s a good thing.” His gaze turns to Malakai’s closed door and then back to the healer and the rest of his family. “Has he woken up yet? And what in the gods' names is that smell?”
Danielle leans forward and waves a finger at Nakeema. “Oh, he woke up alright. Then this one slopped some heady smelling junk on him and he passed out again after seeing all of us glow in the dark. You are a dangerous woman, Nakeema. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear he was seeing things due to peyote mixed with something else. What in the name of all the ancestral Sunrunners are you growing in that basement of yours?”
Kaga raises an eyebrow and chuckles, the rumbling sound filling the room. “I hadn’t known peyote to make you see things glow in the dark.”
“Yep.” Akela waves his hand at his mother, himself and then his brothers’ door. “Mom, Malakai and I. Apparently Nocona and Nakeema weren’t so fortunate.”
All of them turned to look at the healer who was sitting on her knees on the floor, a huge grin still adorning her tanned and weathered face. “So exciting don’t you think?”
Danielle smirked as she put her hand on Kaga’s where it still rested on her shoulder. “I have a feeling that your idea of exciting and ours are quite different. Please, explain to us why you are so...enthusiastic about his response to whatever it was that happened in there.”
“The poultice was a mixture of just a few herbs. Some hallucinogenic and some relaxing. Mainly because his wolf is in a state of agitation right now which is rubbing off on Malakai.” She chuckles softly. “Hence the snarky bit earlier. It will help the wolf and the boy as I need them both calm until we can figure out a few things.”
“Agitation? He isn’t going to start biting people is he?”
”Is that why he can’t shift?”
”What’s the matter with his wolf?”
“What was with the glowing?”
The questions were rattled off by everyone and she waved a hand at them until they quieted down. “Please, it is something quite intriguing, at least to me. First of all, Alpha. Do you remember what I said about our dreamwalk meetings? About who is allowed in to join us?”
“Of course I do. Anyone who is a member of the pack, whether canine or feline, is allowed to enter your dreamwalk as well as your immediate family members. Why?”
“It is rather interesting that when our unidentified friend showed up, they didn’t hear you. Or me. And yet they were still solid and in the dreamwalk with us.” She shifts her position on the floor and crosses her legs before going on. “If someone enters your dreams uninvited, which is possible as anyone that dreamwalks can do it, they usually remain unseen. They cannot interact with you or anyone else in the dream who is either a part of your dream manifestation or invited themselves. Do you understand?”
“So, in other words...if this person hadn’t been invited personally, by you, we wouldn't have been able to see them at all.” Nocona states as he raises an eyebrow. “I had seen something moving in the trees behind where Rhee and Jasper were sitting. So had Malakai because he took off like a bat out of hell when it moved. I’ve never seen him do something like that before.”
“I will agree with Nocona on that one. My little brother isn’t one for just taking off without a good reason. Usually it’s Jasper he’s after.” Akela rubs on the back of his neck again as he looks at the healer. “But this time, he completely ignored everyone. Including dad. And you even used your Alpha voice too.”
“When we are done here, remind me to get you something for your neck, First Son.” After he nods, Nakeema continues. “You are both correct. Third Son has never been one to just go off without provocation or good reason, although in this case I do believe the human part of him was just along for the ride. His wolf was the one that took off after our mysterious guest, not him. The reason I say this is because of what he said.” She gives a brief pause. “His wolf spoke to him.”
Kaga stands up straighter and both he and Akela share a look with each other before looking at the healer. The Alpha speaks first as his forehead creases in thought. “His wolf spoke? Are you sure of this?”
“Ok, now I’m lost. Why is it so odd that his wolf spoke? Mine never has.” Nocona looks at his father and brother, then to his mother. “Does yours speak to you?”
Danielle shakes her head. “No, she has never spoken directly to me. I know she is there, like another presence. Sometimes stronger when I need her power, other than that…” She shrugs slightly before continuing. “No, she hasn’t spoken. Apparently your father and brother have experienced this, though.”
Akela looks at his mother when he replies. “Mine did when I first saw Lyssa. Hasn’t said anything since. Just said that she was his, or ours, however you want to look at it. After that, he just gets growly and territorial when other males are around that aren’t family or that look at her in a way that he finds inappropriate.”
Kaga nods. “Same. Mine also claimed Danielle on sight.” His gaze shifts from his mate to Nakeema. “Are you trying to tell me that whoever that was in your dreamwalk was claimed by Malakai’s wolf?”
Nakeema’s grin widens on her face as she reaches into a different pocket on her apron. “That is exactly what I am saying.” She pulls out a few photos and sets them face down on the coffee table in front of her. “In fact, I am about to find out if my hunch is correct. Because if it is, he was claimed first, which means our mystery guest was not only his mate, but someone we know.”
Danielle chuckles and shakes her head. “That isn’t possible. Malakai has never shown interest in anyone here. Even when he was younger he preferred to stick with Jasper and some of the other boys around his age.”
“My mate is right. He’s never dated or even suggested that he had a love interest with anyone. Even in school he spent his time in the shop with his friends.”
Nocona holds up a hand. “That and he doesn’t smell different either.” Everyone turns their head to look at him and he continues. “What I mean is, when you get…” He waves a hand as he tries to think of the words and gives an exasperated sigh. “When you are claimed by your mate. I mean, you like...go have sex or whatever and get your scent all over them. When you get claimed, bitten or otherwise, your body chemistry changes. You smell different.”
Akela snorts. “You’re kidding, right? You can smell that?”
Kaga watches as his middle son looks at his brother and deadpans. “No, Akela. You always smelled. Now you just stink like a fruit basket with extra lily flowers decorating it.”
“Looks like the snark has jumped to another brother this time.” He looks down at his fiery mate and raises an eyebrow but listens as she continues. “But on a serious note, Nocona. You can smell the difference?”
“I wish I couldn’t. It’s gotten worse the last few years.” His son leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He clasps his hands together and stares at the floor. “Some days are better than others. Depending on the moon cycle and how...exuberant the night’s events were. But that’s beside the point.” He brings his eyes back up and looks at his father and shakes his head. “Malakai’s scent has never changed. He smells the same now as he did the day he was born. I should know, I was there to help take him home while mom recovered.”
“It has progressed then, hasn’t it Second Son?” Nakeema looks at Nocona and sighs when he nods quietly. “We will work on it later then. Right now, we will need to deal with what is going on with your brother. One step at a time, yes?”
“Of course.” He offers a slight smile that doesn’t stay for long, his eyes wandering back down the floor.
“It seems all my boys are in need of assistance this week.” Kaga goes down and rests his hands on his oldest son’s shoulders and grips them slightly. “I can feel how tense you are. Everything ok?”
“Yeah, dad. It’s ok. Just been a little tough lately. I’ll be alright.” Akela nods at him with a weak smile. He looked exhausted. “Honest. Just worried about my brother.”
With a tip of his head he pats Akela on his shoulders and moves to stand behind Nocona, doing the same with his second son. “I hadn’t realized that your sense of smell was so sensitive. When did this happen?”
Nocona shrugs under his father’s hands. “I’ve always had it. The smells and sounds both. It’s just gotten more...intense. But yeah, at least I don’t see other people glow in the dark. What was the reason for that happening anyway?”
“Ah yes. Well, before we get into these,” Nakeema pats the photos before continuing. “The glow was for those of you who are mated. Hence why you and I didn’t glow.”
“Well that makes sense.” Nocona nods and then stops. “Wait. He said he lit up too. He’s not mated though...right?”
“We are all wondering what is going on with Malakai. I am definitely wondering about this whole glowing thing. He shouldn’t glow since he has no mate.” Danielle speaks up and nods her head towards the overturned photos on the table. “What are those for?”
“These, my dear Alpha mother, are photos to prove my theory. One that I am certain is true, especially in the light of your second son's nose.”
“That couldn’t be more of an elusive non-answer now could it?”
Kaga looks down at Nocona and frowns slightly. He would talk to him later about how surly he was being. Usually his second born wasn’t one to talk this much, or in that tone of voice. He turns his attention to Nakeema and tilts his head towards the photos.
“So what do those prove? I would like to know the answer to this riddle as well, if you don’t mind.”
Nakeema clears her throat and then turns over the first photo. In it was Kaga, standing behind a very pregnant Danielle with his arms wrapped around her waist and large hands splayed across her belly. He had a wide smile plastered across his face while hers was more of a grimace. Kaga smiles as he looks at the picture and his wife sighs deeply.
“Good grief, I haven’t seen that picture in ages. I was so big with him.” She reaches down to take the picture and holds it so that her other sons could see it too. “This was the day I started having very bad contractions. Really strong ones too.”
“Then what happened?” Nakeema asked.
His sons were quiet as they looked up and watched her face twist up as she recalled the events of the day. “There was a small child. A little girl about two years old. Cute little thing too. She came up to me as I sat down outside, trying to breathe through a rather rough contraction. She put her tiny hands on my belly and as she rubbed it, the contraction stopped. She giggled a bit and said something like ‘not yet baby’ and then walked off to join you. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I was just thankful that I wasn’t contracting anymore.”
“I remember her too. She was kinda quiet and didn’t want to talk to us much. At least not me. I can’t speak for Nocona.” Akela turns his head to his brother who shrugs.
“I don’t remember much. Just that mom was trying real hard not to cuss when her belly got all tight.” He shudders a bit. “You have no idea how creepy it was to watch that. Add having it do all kinds of weird waves and motions when he would move. Yeah, no thank you. For a while I thought you had a xenomorph in there, not my little brother.”
“A what?” Kaga looks at his son with confusion.
Akela looks up at his father. “Remember that movie we watched a long time ago with the alien that laid its eggs in your body and then it burst its way out of your chest?”
“Ah yes. The one that you wanted to be for Halloween one year.”
“That would be it.”
“That’s an incredibly disturbing analogy to think of, Nocona.” Kaga gives his son’s shoulders a squeeze before returning to stand behind Danielle.
“I was five and we had just watched it a few days prior. Can’t blame me for making the association with it when it was Akela’s idea to binge watch all four movies in a row.”
Nakeema clears her throat and they all turn their attention to her. “You are correct in saying that she came to me and we walked off together. My sister and I had just celebrated her second birthday the day before bringing her to come spend time here for a while. Her comment to me after walking away from you seemed odd but now it makes complete sense. After she left you and took my hand, she told me, and I quote, ‘He’s coming tomorrow. I made him wait’. She was quite happy with herself.”
It was silent in the room for several minutes. Danielle’s voice was quiet when she spoke. “He was born the next day.” She looks up to Kaga and then to Nakeema. “I know that after he was born, Kaga and I were trying to decide which name we thought fit him. He wanted to name him Hosa and I wanted to name him Takoda.”
“We were both so focused on trying to think of a name that we didn’t realize that she had come in to visit us. He was starting to fuss and I remember you pulling down the cloth to show his face to her.” Kaga’s eyes opened up wide as he looked down at Danielle. “She named him Dani. Not us.”
“Oh gods, she did.” His mate grasps his hand and gives it a squeeze. “After I showed her his face, she leaned in and gave him a kiss and he quieted down.”
Nakeema turns over the next photo showing a small girl with light brown hair that was tied back in pigtails. She had on a little summer dress that was white and covered in rainbow colored butterflies. She was leaning over and giving a small newborn boy a kiss on the forehead while Kaga and Danielle looked on with soft smiles.
“Mom, dad...you said she named him?” Akela looks at both of them and then to the photo.
Nakeema nods and looks at the Alpha and his mate. “I was there too, but perhaps if you said it out loud it would make more sense. Not just for you, but for the boys too.”
Danielle takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “With each name, she shook her head no. Then she took his little fist in her hand and said, ‘Malakai. My...Malakai.’” She shakes her head as she looks at the photo. “I remember being so upset. I thought that she was saying that he was her baby and not mine. I had no idea that she meant...he was her mate.”
“That was quite the argument too. It was the main reason why Nocona had to take him to the house.” Kaga looks at the photo, then to Nakeema. “She wasn't trying to steal our son, she was claiming him.”
“And his wolf accepted. That’s why his scent never changed.” His second son looks up and shakes his head. “Dude, that’s so...that’s a thing? I mean, at birth? How the hell does that even happen?”
“Happenings like this are incredibly rare. As in, I have never seen one in my lifetime, rare. Have they occurred before? Yes, but not in this pack that I know of. I would have to say that this only happens once every hundred years or so. The last known record of it in the states was…” She tilts her head back and forth before speaking again. “1883...if my memory serves me right, to a sleuth up in the Appalachians. So while there may have been another one, it was not with a pack that I am aware of.”
“You mean, this happens with other shifters too?” Danielle leans forward and regards the healer with a curious gaze.
“It does, but as I said, it is exceptionally rare. Each kind of shifter has their own story or legends of fated pairings from birth. The one that was the most discreet was a shifter named Rasputin. Although much of what happened was kept quite secret and out of the eyes and ears of non-shifters. I didn’t even know about it until I was told by one who is a direct descendant.”
“No way! Rasputin was a shifter?” Akela’s eyes were just as wide as everyone else's, although he was the one that spoke first.
“Oh, yes. Rasputin was a panther shifter. It was said that another girl was born at the same time as he and they took their first breaths at the same time. Much of his childhood was kept a secret. The non-shifters have even less information than we do.” She smirks. “Kept it hidden enough that no one knew, but if you think about how hard it was for them to kill him it makes perfect sense.”
“That’s wild. Makes you wonder just how many other people in history were shifters in secret.” Nocona shakes his head. “I couldn’t imagine living like that. Always keeping things on the down low, never being able to be yourself. I mean, I know that we can’t just go out in public and shift, but still...It would make you crazy to suppress your inner...whatever.”
“It did for him too. It was said that he and the girl were found together, in quite the compromising situation.” Nakeema sighs and shakes her head. “They took her away, screaming and naked. He never saw her again. Nothing else was said about it in the shifter archives but it was hinted that his panther completely detached itself from his mind and that is what drove the human part of him mad. Most of his history was kept a great secret with the exception of what is commonly known. There are other records, but those are held by a very secluded family that bore the only pure shifter child, presumably from that one night that he and his mate completed their bond and then were separated.”
“That won’t happen to my son, will it?” Kaga looks down at the still seated healer with concern. “He won’t lose his mind like that?”
“I don’t think so. But there is something else involved in this little tale that might take...a bit more explaining.” The old woman looks at all of them and her smile fades a bit, looking a bit sad. “My great-niece is a...unique shifter. In fact, the only reason I know about our dear Rasputin’s history is because his mate made sure to keep an account of what happened to her and their son. And from there, the family has kept recording all of the sons that were born.”
Kaga looks at Nakeema with a skeptical look. “Are you telling me that you spoke with, and was given this information, by a descendant of Rasputin?”
Nakeema nods. “That is precisely what I am telling you.”
She produces another photo, this one worn at the edges and the color has faded to where it has more of a yellowish tint to it. There are four adults, an infant and one two year old child in the picture. The only woman in the photo is sitting and holding the infant while the others stand, the small child by her has a small hand resting on the infant's head. She taps the smaller of the men, an older gentleman that looks as if he has never smiled a day in his life.
“This one here, an honorable Pride Father from Romania and the descendant of aforementioned secret shifter, decided that his own mate and family were more important than keeping the bloodlines pure. His pride had wanted him to take a panther shifter for a mate. He, as fate would have it, found his mate in a human gypsy. He refused to give her up and he took his pregnant wife with him to France where they lived peacefully.” She taps the image of a young man who looked almost identical to the older man behind him. “She bore him a son.”
“Ok, this is all intriguing but what does this have to do with Malakai?” Danielle perks up and keeps her gaze steady on Nakeema.
“It has everything to do with Malakai.” She taps the woman sitting down with the child. “This woman is my niece. Born of a union between my own twin sister and a human male.”
“Ah, Nakeema.” Kaga’s mate coughs and then shakes her head. “What you’re suggesting isn’t possible.” She picks up the picture and stares at it intently. “You’re saying that this boy, a half human and panther mix,” She taps his profile in the photo and then the sitting girl. “Mate bonded with a half human and wolf mix.” A tap on the infant is next. “And they actually produced offspring.”
Nakeema nods solemnly. “They did. Their daughter is the only girl that has been first born in the history of that family tree. She also carries the ability to not only dreamwalk like her grandmother, but to shift like both of her parents.”
Everyone is silent for several minutes before Danielle speaks up quietly. “She can shift? Into...what? Is she a wolf or a panther?”
“That is why she is unique, my dear Alpha mother. Because she has both bloodlines. Her shifted form is a combination of both.”
“So that means...if Malakai is her wolf mate…” Kaga looks at his son’s closed door and then down at the seated healer. “Then she would need a panther mate too. How will that work?”
“That’s crazy, man.” Akela sits back and rubs his eyes. “I’m not sure I get this. I mean, really? How is she both? Wouldn’t they like...fight for dominance?”
“She never had a problem with it.” Nakeema shrugs. “She spent equal time between my sister and her grandfather.”
“Whoa. Hold up a minute.” Nocona reaches across his brother and holds out his hand. “Can I see that for a second? Please mom, let me look at it.” Danielle hands it over to Nocona who takes it gently and holds it to his nose. He shakes his head and mutters softly to himself before holding it out at arms length and stares at it intently.
“For one, this photo wasn’t printed here in the United States. This was developed in a home dark room, not a commercial one. The chemicals are different.”
Akela leans over and looks at the picture in his brother's hands and nods. “Not only that, but the building in the background isn’t American or French either. I would say it is more Slavic, maybe even Russian.”
“That would explain a few things, but then there’s this.” With a tilt of his head, the middle brother pulls the photo back in and taps his finger lightly on the figure of the child standing by the seated woman. “Look at his eyes and the way he’s holding his hand on the infant's head. That is a protective move. I bet if they tried to take that baby away he would lose his sh…” Nocona stops and looks at his mom with a tilt of his head. “He would be really unhappy. In fact.” He pulls it closer to his face and looks at each individual in the photo. “None of them look happy. And they are all staring at the kid and the baby.”
“That child is the only son of the Pride Father to largest pride in Russia.” Nakeema takes the picture from Nocona and sets it down on the small table.
Kaga lets out a slow whistle. “That’s not something you hear in casual conversation.” He leans over between his mate and his oldest son. “I take it the imposing figure in the back is the child’s father. He carries himself like an Alpha. But why would they all be staring at the two…” His eyes widen as he looks at the photo. “Nakeema, get the photo of Malakai and the little girl.”
She pulls out the photo and sets them next to each other, looking up at Kaga with a knowing smile. “You see what I do, don’t you Alpha?”
Set side by side, the photos resembled each other in the ways the children stared at the infants. The only difference was that the older photo showed how all the adults were looking, albeit indirectly, at the two young ones. Kaga taps the boy in the picture.
“He is her panther mate, isn’t he?’
“I believe so. Now, the only problem is this.” She gathers up all the photos and puts them in her apron pocket after she stands up. “We need to find where the other two are and get them together. And then hope and pray that when we put all three together that the boys behave with each other.”