Chapter 12 - Reconciliation
Megumi quickly got used to Neko coming over every day. She didn't mind at all; Neko was quiet and polite, and anyone that devoted to their husband couldn't be that bad. Each morning she would quietly knock on the door, say good day, and then quietly make her way to Kanai's side. Sometimes at night Megumi would walk in and find her sleeping with her head on her husband's arm.
Megumi checked on Kanai frequently. He was going to be fine, she was sure of that. True, he should have woken up by now; however, the boy had been through a lot. All the stress and blood loss had taken a toll on his body and he needed time to recover.
Although she said that every day to Neko, the girl just couldn't seem to fully grasp that in due time her husband would wake up. Of course it could be because Neko blamed herself for the whole thing; anyone could clearly see the guilt written on her face. From what Megumi understood of the story, it had been her gun that Kanai had been shot with, but she had been tricked into going down by the water.
Now, although everything that had lead up to this had been a terrible series of events, Megumi found one thing good in it. Neko wasn't the only one feeling guilty - Kenshin stopped by and would visit Neko. Apparently Kenshin and Neko knew each other from the time before Kenshin started wandering, but Megumi wasn't one to pry - especially when it could be something that would upset dear sweet Ken.
Sometimes he would come alone, other times Kaoru would be with him, and occasionally the whole dojo came. She was sure Sano was tagging along more for the free food he always thought he would get. Of course her meals were never free for him. He could help around the clinic and then he could eat. Those were some of the better days.
Today was not one of those days. Neko was already sitting with Kanai and Kenshin had just arrived. She was greeting him, but before she could start some 'friendly' flirting Neko gave out an unintelligible shout.
Kenshin with his lightning fast reflexes beat hers and he ran ahead of her into the room. From behind his shoulder, Megumi could see Neko sprawled out on top of Kanai and she was crying. Kanai stared up at the ceiling, blinking in confusion. He awkwardly brought up his arm with stiff movements and placed it on Neko's back.
Megumi could practically see a weight being taken off Kenshin as he let out a soft, relieved sigh. She slid her way into the room giving Neko a confident smile. "See, I told you he would be all right." She was rewarded with a puffy, red eyed face with a huge smile on it.
After he woke up, Kanai made a good impression on the doctor. He thanked her endlessly for saving his life. Megumi couldn't help but smile at they way he reminded her so much of Kenshin. Dedicated, polite and not bad looking, either. There was only one major difference between the two; where Kenshin seemed to carry so much guilt and duty to protect everyone, Kanai seemed to only care about Neko. He was a happy man and full of life which made his recovery go by quickly.
Neko perked right up once Kanai woke up. She became a bit chattier, which Megumi enjoyed. Neko had some good stories about lands past Japan and the people from there. Of course Megumi's favorite stories were ones about Kenshin. The very best ones were the ones she told when he was over and he would blush.
Megumi had to admit she was a bit sad when Kanai was well enough to get up and walk around. The visits stopped and the clinic became quiet again. As she watched the two walk back to their inn, she smiled to herself as she thought about how good a couple they made. When they were out of sight, she waited for Sano to make an appearance.
A couple of days passed and Kenshin found himself in a familiar position, bent over the wash tub, his arms covered in soapy water, when Yahiko gave a shout. "Hey Kenshin! Neko's here!"
He smiled. Neko had been coming over a lot as Kanai had gone back to work. Because his business associates were worried about his condition, many of his meetings took place at the inn so Kanai didn't have to go too far or get too exhausted. So Neko made her way to the dojo claiming that she didn't want to be in the way.
"I'm out here!" he called, standing and looking for a cloth he could quickly wipe his hands on. Neko came out before he had the chance and all thoughts of the cloth left his mind when he saw her distraught face. "Neko… what's wrong?"
She looked up at him and stood quietly for a moment, fighting back tears. Kenshin stood, water dripping down his arms, unsure what to do when she finally let out a long sigh.
"We-we're leaving!" she wailed.
Kenshin blinked a couple of times. It was very sudden. "Leaving?"
She nodded, taking a deep breath before speaking to keep the tears away. "Kanai's business here is almost over. He's being sent away." Her arms flew in the air as she tried to collect her thoughts. "Somewhere up north, we're leaving in a few days!"
Kenshin gave a small frown. He didn't know what to say. It was obvious that Neko didn't want to leave, but then again, he couldn't make it so Kanai's business came back to Tokyo.
But he didn't need to say anything, because Neko continued. "Kenshin, I'm scared!"
"Scared of what?"
Now the tears came. "I'm scared! I'm scared that I'm going to leave and I'll never see you again." She choked on her words a couple times. "Scared I'm going to turn around and you'll disappear! You'll just vanish and this time I won't be able to find you again!"
He was shocked. "Oh, Neko. I - it's just--"
Suddenly she raced forward and wrapped her arms around him, sobbing. For a brief moment he was unsure what to do, but soon he wrapped his wet arms around her in a comforting gesture, forgetting for the moment that he must be getting her rather wet.
"I don't want to lose you again!" she cried into his chest.
"You won't, Neko. You won't lose me." He said the first thing that came into his mind. These tears, they were his doing, by leaving her the way he did way back then. This was his fault. What could he say to make it better?
"Neko?" He looked over at Kaoru, who had come to see what was wrong. "Neko, what's wrong?" She ran over, worried something had happened to Kanai or Neko.
"Kanai and I are leaving soon!" Neko moaned. "And I'll lose him again!"
Kaoru's heart went out to Neko; she knew how the girl felt. She knew the fear that she would wake up and he would be gone wandering again, but that fear was long gone. She smiled, gently rubbing Neko's back to try to calm her. "You could write to us and you're always welcome to come and visit."
Quietly, Neko whispered, "But, what if he--"
Kaoru interrupted. "Remember this is Kenshin's home. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to get mail from you." She smiled at Kenshin. "He'll be here to get them."
He smiled back at Kaoru. "That's right," he agreed, pushing Neko away slightly so he could see her face. "You can send me as many letters as you want. I promise, I won't go anywhere without letting you know. I'll be here." He looked at Kaoru, eyes full of life. "So don't you worry."
Kaoru smiled back at him, blushing slightly. Neko rubbed her eyes, trying to calm down, missing everything.
And time moves on…
It had been just a couple years since Neko had last been in the dojo. A lot had happened in that short amount of time. The letters came endlessly and Kaoru was glad for them. Sano and Megumi had left and Yahiko had moved out. She enjoyed opening them with Kenshin and listening as he read them out loud.
"Oro!" he exclaimed one day, in the middle of reading one of the letter.
"What is it?"
He handed the letter to her. "They're planning on coming to Tokyo. They want to know if they can visit."
Kaoru hid her mouth behind her hand and let out a gentle giggle. "Of course she can. I doubt she'd stay away even if we said no." Kenshin agreed with a smile and quickly wrote a response letter.
A few short weeks later Kaoru ran eagerly to the gate when she heard the knocking. "Kenshin! They're here!" she yelled, throwing the door open. "Welcome ba--"
She choked on her greeting, staring at the couple in front of her.
Neko face was shining brightly. "Hello Kaoru!" she cried, shifting the heavy blue bundle in her arms. The blue blanket began to squirm as she said proudly. "This is our son, Reizo."
Kaoru stared at the little face that peeked out at her. "Why… you never said anything in your letters," she said - awed by the little life Neko held.
Neko blushed in response, but Kanai answered for her. "I wanted to say something, but she said Kenshin would just worry and she wanted it to be a surprise." He shook his head in amusement.
Kenshin came up staring, right behind Kaoru. "He's beautiful Neko."
She rocked her son, holding him close. "I know, do you think Reizo minds that we borrowed his name?"
Kenshin smiled sadly, remembering his friend. "I'm sure he would have been honored."
Except for the baby, things seemed to pick up where they had left off. After the initial greeting Kanai ran off, already late meeting a client. Neko, Kaoru, and Kenshin were left to sit and tell stories. They talked for a long time and after a feeding, Reizo fell asleep.
Kaoru tugged on Neko's arm. "Let's go sightseeing!" she proclaimed in an excited - but quiet - voice.
"I would love to," Neko sighed, "but I just put Reizo down for his nap."
Kaoru waved a dismissive hand in the air. "Never mind that. Kenshin will watch him."
"Yes, Kenshin. He'll be fine." She gave Kenshin the best pleading eyes she could muster.
As soon as he saw those eyes he knew he was beaten. "Of course I will."
Neko grinned brightly. "Great! He should just sleep for most of the time, so don't worry, we won't be gone long!"
Kaoru took Neko's arm and soon they were out the door and down the street. "Are you sure Kenshin will be all right with Reizo?"
Kaoru just kept smiling. "Of course he will; he's great with children. Besides," she placed her hand on her stomach. "He'll need the practice sooner or later."
Kenshin watched Reizo as he quietly slept. He was such a cute baby. Bald, but cute. As Kenshin was admiring the child, his eyes opened and Kenshin marveled at them. Emerald green, just like his mother's. He smiled at Reizo, who opened his mouth in an ear shattering screech.
Kenshin jumped back as if the yell was a katana being swung at him. What did he do?! Hurriedly he picked the child up. "It's all right, it's okay. Everything will be all right." He cooed, trying to calm him down, but only succeeding in making the infant scream louder.
What was he going to do? Was Reizo hungry? But Neko had just fed him! Besides, he still needed Neko's milk, how was Kenshin supposed to fix that?! He paced the floor, awkwardly singing to the child as he had seen Neko do, rocking him slowly. The screaming grew louder.
Bouncing! He had seen other mothers bounce their children before! Maybe that would work! He bounced on his legs, trying to carefully bounce Reizo. That didn't work either and he was beginning to panic. Which way had Neko and Kaoru gone? Maybe he could still catch up with them. Or even Kanai; maybe Kanai knew what to do.
While Kenshin was wildly trying to think of who he could run to for help he finally noticed the smell. That awful smell that made him stop all thought. Oh… so, that was why Reizo was upset.
Carefully laying the child on his back, Kenshin removed the cloth diaper. Shrinking back from the odor that emerged and swallowing to gain control over his stomach, he began changing the screaming child.
With a sigh, Kenshin filled the wash tub. The diaper would need cleaning right away. He sat the now clean Reizo next to the tub as he began scrubbing away. Kenshin jerked forward to catch him as Reizo started to tip over with a cry. Sighing at his near miss, he laid the child on his back. With a coo and wide eyes the child started attacking his foot as Kenshin got back to the wash. He decided to not let Neko know he didn't realize her son couldn't sit up yet.
Kenshin hung the diaper up to dry, holding Reizo in his arms. He headed inside as Reizo made gurgling noises and blew bubbles out of his mouth. Kenshin smiled down at him and found a clean cloth to wipe his mouth with. Reizo giggled with delight at the cloth being pressed against his mouth and began to suck on it. It tasted good, until the big man took it away from him. So he did what any baby would do. He cried.
And Kenshin panicked again.
"Kenshin!" Kaoru cried as she walked inside. "We're back!"
"I'm back Reizo!" Neko called, she had missed her son.
The girls exchanged confused looks when no one answered. "Kenshin?" Kaoru yelled again. "Where are you?"
They headed towards his room, but stopped when they passed the dining room. There, slumped against the wall, was a snoring, worn out looking Kenshin. Reizo was cradled carefully in his arms and sucking on Kenshin's thumb. The girls couldn't help themselves and they began to laugh.
Kenshin was snapped out of his doze and blushed shyly at being caught sleeping. Neko came forward and picked Reizo out of his arms. "Did you give Kenshin a hard time?" She playfully scolded. "You should be nicer to him!"
Kenshin stood up and brushed himself off. The kid was named well in that case; he thought back to all the hard times Reizo had put him through - mostly all in jest. He smiled as he watched Neko quietly rock her child to sleep. Out of all the things wrong he had done as a hitokiri, this was maybe one thing he had done almost right. He wondered briefly what would have happened to Neko if she had remained a slave. He shivered slightly - no, he didn't want to think of such things as that.
Neko turned towards him with a smile. The only person he had managed to save, as an amber-eyed angel.
A/N: Yes, that was the last chapter. Don't be excepting anything more from me about Neko as I have no desire to write anymore about her. I do have some other Kenshin fanfics in mind so I will continue writing - but it may be slow going has I have a huge trip coming up and will be leaving the country for a few months. Hehe, I will be writing during then, but I'm going to pestering people, being awed by things, and oh - still attending school there. So - we'll see how it goes!