Okay! This is a story about Kage Houshi and her feelings and inner conflicts... I hope it's not too boring, too mushy, too sappy, too slow... it's character development! Yeah! So if you don't like boring/mushy/sappy/slow... you've been warned!
Kage Houshi filled the teapot with water. Soon, the Hanabishi household would come alive. Koganei would probably be the first up, stumbling sleepily into the kitchen, wearing his kawaii little pj's, in search of his favorite sugar-coated artificially-colored cereal. They would have the Tooth Decay Debate, but Koganei would plop down at the kitchen table with his cereal of choice anyways. She had to admit, his fangs looked pretty healthy, and since he brushed his teeth immediately afterwards...
A little bit later, Shigeo would come stumbling into the kitchen, yawning and stretching and scratching, and plainatively calling for his mug of coffee and his cigarette. They would have the Lung Cancer Debate for a few minutes, before forlornly plopping down at the kitchen table with his coffee and a mint toothpick to gnaw on.
A long time later, Recca would come stumbling into the kitchen, scratching and yawning and stretching, rather like a very young Shigeo, although they'd both deny it in a heartbeat. He'd complain that no one had woken him up sooner, and could ka-chan make him waffles? Shigeo would tell him not to put Kage Houshi through such trouble, and to shut up and have a bowl of Koganei's sugar-coated artificially-flavored cereal instead. Kage Houshi would pleasantly interject at this point in time that she didn't want her Recca's teeth to be harmed by such food, and she would have the waffles ready by the time Recca was dressed for school.
Such was the routine, post-UBS.
Kage Houshi set the teapot onto the stove and turned on the burner. It would be a while before the water would boil and she could have her morning tea. She unloaded the dishwasher, alone with her thoughts as she worked.
It was a melancholy kind of happiness which she was now experiencing. She had spent four hundred years virtually alone. She made some friends, but had to abandon them, lest they notice that she never aged. It was hard, living for so long without Someone to be with. Now, she had a family of three to take care of. But she knew from experience that they would all age... and eventually leave her behind. The thought was disturbing. She had waited so long to see her son. Now, she had found him... but once she lost him, she'd never see him again. This generation knew all about the Hokage and her past. But there would never be another generation that she could be so close to. Her three Somebodies would one day leave her behind... alone... alone... alone...
The word echoed in her mind.
She opened a tin of teabags and withdrew one. She dropped it into a mug. Sakura tea. Cherry blossom tea. Her favorite for the last 400 years. Funny how she had learned to love having such constants in her life. There were so few of them... Sakura tea tasted the same now as it did then. Even after Recca was gone, there would still be sakura tea for breakfast.
What a depressing thought. She'd rather have her son with her than her sakura tea. Kage Houshi gripped the edge of the counter with her hands, bowing her head, her teeth clenched and her eyes tightly shut. The children could never see her like this. They knew she was cursed, that she couldn't die. But they had no clue how horribly devastating it was to have such a curse. They had no idea how hard it was, going through life-- and knowing that one was doomed to lose everything eventually.
A pair of arms wrapped around her tightly from behind, enveloping her in a warm, strong embrace. The unexpected hug startled the woman; she spun around, upset. Firstly, that someone had caught her in a weak moment; secondly, that Shigeo had the guts to do something like that when she had never given him encouragement for such a thing. An angry retort died on her lips, however. The best she could do was stammer out, "D-dear..."
It was her Ohka. No, he wasn't Ohka anymore. Ohka was dead. He was Resshin now, but he looked like Ohka did. Back then. Back when they were both human... back when they were both mortal...
"Kagero," he said, smiling softly at her. He held his arms slightly open, and she rushed into them. It was so touching to hear him say her name again. She hadn't realized how much she missed that... how much she had missed him. She had grieved his death, but had learned to cope with it, as she had coped with the deaths so many countless others who had come into her life. She had forgotten the warmth and love in his smile when he looked at her. She had forgotten the feelings that were evident in his voice, even when he was only speaking her name.
Yes, he was certainly warm. Much warmer than when he had been in real life. Not surprising... he was a flame dragon now. One of Recca's ryu--- one of the eight Flame Masters of the past who had died, unable to protect their loved ones. Kage Houshi flung her arms around his neck, feeling warm and safe. Tears slid down her cheeks, and she sniffled, unable to speak. He didn't seem to mind; Resshin held her tightly and stroked her hair softly, making small, comforting noises.
"I've missed you, dear," she said, after a few minutes. She stepped back and took a good, blurry look at him. "You're in human form," she said, brushing the tears from her eyes.
Resshin handed her a dishtowel, and she laughed waveringly, wiping her eyes more effectively.
"Koku wanders around all the time," answered Resshin, smiling at her. "It's more difficult for us others, but if we really want to leave, and if Recca's asleep, we can do so."
Kage Houshi nodded. "I should have guessed," she apologized. Her lip trembled as she added, "I missed you so much." The waterworks went on again as she flung her arms about Resshin's neck. "Where have you been all this time?" she whispered. "I've needed you, and you weren't there..."
He led her to a chair and allowed her to sit with him. They settled down together comfortably, Kage Houshi snuggled up against him and holding him tightly. "I was unable to break the seal," he apologized. "Recca had to break it first, by removing his tekkou. He's removed it often enough so that it's easier for us to escape now. Not to mention, Koku helped me." He kissed her gently on the forehead, then kissed away the new tears which had run down her cheeks.
Kage Houshi smiled weakly. "You're so different than the last few times I saw you... in your ryu form... You were always so stern and aloof... But now... you're back to how you were. How I remember you."
Resshin held her chin gently, looking into her eyes. "How could I stay aloof and stern when I'm with my Kagerou?"
My Kagerou... how she had missed hearing that! Kage Houshi gazed back at him. "How... how often will I be able to see you?" she asked hesitantly.
"It won't be constantly, and I can't stay out for too long, especially at first," answered Resshin, looking unhappy for the first time. "And when I'm able to appear, it will be when Recca's asleep. But as time goes on, I'll be more free... to stay longer..."
"Stay longer," echoed Kage Houshi, smiling at him. A sudden thought struck her. "You're a ryu... You're no longer confined..."
Resshin nodded, a pleased look on his face. "It was hell to die and leave you both alone," he confided. "That's what I was thinking when they killed me... But now, you and I... we're both immortal. Even if they never find the cure for your curse, we'll be together. And if, someday, you're cured... you'll be able to join me."
"What a lovely thought," murmured Kage Houshi, her arms looped around his neck, and still gazing lovingly at him. "Together, no matter what..." She closed her eyes, leaned forward, and they kissed for the first time in four hundred years...
Koganei was the first one up that morning. He stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, wearing his kawaii little pj's, in search of his favorite sugar-coated artificially-colored cereal. Kage Houshi began the Tooth Decay Debate with him, which he won as usual. As he plopped down at the kitchen table to enjoy his cereal of choice, he couldn't help but think that Kage Houshi had a little extra color in her cheeks, a little sparkle in her eyes, and an extra vibrancy to her usual good-natured smile.
But maybe he was just imagining things.