Gaisen
a 1-hour 'fic by Dot

The rhythmic clicking of the train going over the tracks make it hard to stay awake, but the growing excitement make falling asleep practically impossible.

Tokyo...I'd always dreamed--but never quite dared to hope--I could come back someday. Seeing the familiar buildings loom closer and closer set my hard racing and my palms sweating. Unconsciously, my hand tightens into a fist. It still won't completely close all the way most of the time, and occasionally it's a bit slow to respond to my commands, but three years ago I couldn't even feel anything below the cut in my arm.

Everybody said it was a miracle when I could just barely wiggle my fingers. But that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted to be able to hold a shinai in my hands again, and trained like a demon to accomplish my goal. Everybody wanted me to take it easy, especially my doctor, but I wouldn't listen. I refused to. They thought I was going mad, which I might have been. The desire to succeed consumed me, fueled by my determination and my anger towards Raijuuta. Day in and day out, I would exercise that hand until I collapsed from exhaustion.

Regaining use of my hand was an ordeal worse than hell. Even on "good" days progress was glacial. There were days when I would go to bed and just cry, spilling my despair and my frustration all over my pillow. There were also days where I just couldn't see the end to this torture, of ordering my arm to move and watching it not even twitch. But whenever I seriously contemplated giving up, all I had to do was remember what Yahiko had said to me when I was leaving for Germany.

Finally, after what felt like forever, I could grip with passable strength. I still had wanted to continue with the therapy, but the doctor refused to treat me further, saying that he didn't want to be responsible if I did something rash and rendered myself permanently disabled. Father probably would have gone looking for another doctor, but I began growing impatient for going back to Japan. I wanted to return to that Dojo again, if not to beat Yahiko--because I knew that wasn't even remotely possible--at least to see the look on his face when I charge at him with my weapon in both hands. That would be worth everything.

The train pulls into the station at long last. Shinai in hand, I jump out of my seat before it's really safe enough to, and nearly fall over. Father steadies me with a strong hand. When the train comes to a complete stop, I twist out of his arms and was about to take off when his voice yanks me back into reality.

"Wouldn't it be faster if you took the carriage with me?"

***

"Myoujin Yahiko!" I bellow, standing in front of the gate of the Dojo. "I, Tsukayama Yutarou challenge you to a duel!"

"Yutarou!" I recognize the delighted cry as belonging to Kaoru. "Is that really you?"

I nearly do a double take as Kaoru rushes out with a toddler in her arms. It doesn't take long for me to realize who the father of this boy is; he looks almost exactly like a mini version of Kenshin. I finally remember to bow. "Kaoru-san. Nice to see you again."

Kaoru catches me in a tight hug, and the boy in her arms squeal as he is squeezed along with me. "Yahiko will be so glad when he comes in!"

I make no efforts to conceal my disappointment. "You mean he's not here?"

"No, but he should be back any moment now." Kaoru turns her head back towards the house and shouts as loud as she can. "Kenshin, you were right! It is Yutarou! He came back, just as he promised!"

Kenshin walks out from the side of the house, and I almost don't recognize him. His hair is cut short, and he is wearing a dark blue hakama quite different from the gi I had seen him in a year ago. But the cross scar on his left cheek is still there, probably branding him for life. I never found out how he got it, but from what I remember of what everyone said about him, he used to be some sort of superhuman killer.

Kenshin's face lights up as he comes into view, and it's hard for me to believe those things. "Yutarou-kun!"

We shake, and I notice with pleasant surprise that Kenshin offered me his right hand. "Kenshin-san. Another pleasure."

"Why don't you come in?" He offers.

I shake my head. "I want to wait for Yahiko out here."

Kenshin smiles, understanding. "All right. Then we'll wait with you."

***

I could hardly believe my eyes. Yahiko had changed completely. Not only was he taller and more muscular--more so than me in both aspects, I was a bit annoyed to see--he exuded a kind of confidence that wasn't just cockiness. From the expression on his face, I can tell that he's equally as shocked to see me, and that gives me enough of my composure back to grin at him.

"So, finally decided to show up. I was starting to think that you saw my carriage and was scared to come in."

He flinches a little, but grins as well. "Not in the least."

Kaoru smiles brightly at both of us. "Would you like to come in now?"

"Of course."

***

We stand across from each other, neither moving an inch. As soon as Yahiko recovered from the shock of seeing me hold my shinai--which, I'm sorry to say, was too soon--we got down to business. Or, rather, I suspect that he's just waiting for me to attack, because I'm pretty sure that he had assessed my strengths and weaknesses the moment that he laid eyes on me. I, on the other hand, still hadn't found a single spot where I could even touch him.

Forget this, I think, tightening my grip. I came back to fight him, not stand here and stare. With a yell, I charge him.

It's almost needless to say that he parries easily. I try again, yelling louder this time, and for a second time the resulting sound is of wood against wood. Anger building, I attack over and over.

*THWACK* Blocked. *THWACK* The force of the blow travels up my arm and renders it numb for a few seconds. *THWACK* One of the fresh calluses on my palm begins to ache, but I strike again. *THWACK* We lock shinai this time, but I am the one who is forced back. Finally, I retreat and lower my arms.

"You win," I concede reluctantly. I knew this would happen, and even prepared myself for this moment, but another part of me is seething in rage. My eyes begin to burn and I blink hard to keep the tears from coming out. Damn it, I won't cry. I won't!

Kaoru walks forward and lays a hand on my shoulder. "That was amazing, Yutarou."

The words spill out before I can stop them. "Amazing my ass." Fortunately, what's left of my common sense shuts me up.

"Really, Yutarou," Kenshin says, walking forward as well. "You've gone a long way to get here."

He has no idea, I think bitterly.

Yahiko comes up to me next, and it takes everything I have to keep from screaming. Don't pity me, I want to beg him. Hit me, make fun of me, laugh at me--anything! Just don't pity me! I don't need your pity, and I don't want it!

He takes my right hand and clasps it, hard. "Good to see you back, Yutarou."

And he turns and walks out.

My shinai drops to the ground with a loud clutter shortly after that, and I can no longer hold back.

"I think it's time we headed home," I manage to hear my father say through the tears. (TIME UP) But it takes a while before I can even budge from the spot, and guided by his strong arms, I make my way towards the door.

Kaoru picks up my shinai from the ground and catches up to me before I go. "You dropped this."

I can only nod, so Father thanks her for me.

"No problem," she answers, smiling. "I expect to see you in class first thing tomorrow morning!"

Then the carriage door closes, and Father gives the order to drive away.


Wrote this for the 1 hour challenge on the FFIRC. Unfortunately, I ran out of time before I could complete it (as indicated by the "TIME UP"), but I didn't want to leave the story there.

I really liked Yutarou. (And Soujirou, too. *^_^*) Since I haven't read the last chapter, though, I don't know exactly what happens, but I think Watsuki suggests that Yutarou comes back to teach at the Dojo. (Yay! ^_^)

"Gaisen" is Japanese for "triumphal return". Thought that made a very appropriate title. ^_^


Copyright 1999 by Dot
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