Edited 8/22/06, just because.
I had inspiration for this story thanks to my adorable, vicious, homicidal, manipulative, cuddly kitten! I'll explain it at the end. On to the story!
Disclaimer: I may not own Rurouni Kenshin… But I own the kitty!

A Lost Cat

The sound of a shoji sliding open woke Hiko. His eyes immediately snapped open, and reached for his sword, using his senses to see if there was a threat. No, it was just his idiot student Kenshin going out for a breath of fresh air. He knew his student would do that on occasion, usually when he couldn't sleep or was feeling down. Hiko relaxed and closed his eyes again. He wasn't worried.
Kenshin took a deep breath of the night air. The sky was almost cloudless and the stars peered down at him. He enjoyed walking through the forest at night. Just enough moonlight fell through the leaves for him to see. Even if he couldn't, Kenshin would have been able to navigate perfectly. Hiko made sure he knew every centimeter of the forest.

The walk through the forest helped relax the redhead, but he still wasn't tired—but he knew he would be in the morning, and his Shishou would enjoy torturing him. The wind shifted direction, and he heard a strange sound. Stopping, Kenshin focus solely on the noise. It sounded like an animal. Cautiously moving toward the sound, the boy moved noiselessly. After a long while, he was able to distinguish more. The animal was hurt, and… a cat? Finally, Kenshin caught sight of the poor animal. Its left foreleg was caught in a hunter's claw and was half-shrieking, half-meowing.

There are hunters in this forest? Kenshin wondered. The animal was still a kitten, white with black marks on its tail, left ear and eye, and feet. Approaching the hysterical animal, it turned its large green eyes up to him, as if asking for help. The boy knelt down next to the trap, taking a look at how it worked. The jawed trap had cut into the poor thing's leg, and if the cat didn't stop struggling, the wound be a lot worse. Looking closely at the trap, Kenshin figured out how to open it. Slowly and carefully, the redhead pried open the trap. The cat still was whining, causing the boy to feel horrible about the pain he would cause it. A part of its leg was caught on the 'teeth' of the trap. As gently as he could, Kenshin pulled its leg free. The cat screamed so loudly, he wouldn't have been surprised if Hiko had heard it.

Now that the cat was completely free, it tried to stand on its own, but collapsed and screamed again. Instantly feeling sympathetic, Kenshin picked up the shaking animal, mindful of its cut. Kenshin had a feeling he would catch Hell for this. He brought the cat to the cottage, its cries now only a soft whimper. He cleaned the wound gently and gave the cat a splint, doing the best he could.
Hiko didn't even bother to open his eyes when he heard someone enter the cottage. He checked to make sure it was Kenshin by his ki, and instantly fell back to sleep. He knew he didn't have to worry.

When Hiko woke at dawn, he knew Kenshin was up. That was unusual for the pre-teen, he usually slept until Hiko yelled at him to get up, and even then he would mumble idle threats and would try to get more sleep until Hiko threatened to take away his food for the day (and even then he was slow to get up). He opened his shoji... and his eyes nearly popped out at what he saw. A black and white kitten was drinking water from a clay bowl, purring softly and being watched over by Kenshin. Kenshin looked up at his master. He knew he was going to get in trouble. For a moment Hiko didn't know what to say, then...

"Kenshin... What is... that... doing in here?" Hiko was not prepared for something like this. He never expected his dumb student to bring home an animal.

"Shishou, I found her last night. She was caught in a hunter's trap." Hiko looked back at the cat. It's leg was in a splint, lifted slightly to keep from hurting it further.

"A hunter's trap?" He echoed. Kenshin nodded slowly.

"Shishou... Can she stay here until she gets better?" Hiko sighed. He knew that question would come. Kenshin might be a perfect name for the boy, but Shinta was just as fitting. Since Hiko hadn't answered yet, Kenshin spoke again, "She broke her leg, and can't walk. She won't survive—"

"All right, Kenshin!" Hiko growled, irritated. He had agreed half because he didn't want to hear the boy whine anymore, and secretly because he didn't like the thought of turning a defenseless animal out on his own. "She can stay with us until she heals. Then, we'll take her to town and get rid of her, understand?" Kenshin grinned widely.

"Yes, Shishou." Hiko rolled his eyes, and reached down, picking the kitten up by the nape of it's neck. The kitten instinctively scrunched up a little and tucked it's tail between its legs. Mindful of its injured foreleg, Hiko held it gently and studied how his student had done the splint. He nodded in satisfaction.

"You did a good job setting her leg. I think a week or two, and she'll be fine. She looks well-fed, so she's probably lost." Hiko gently put the kitten down. The kitten looked up at him with large green eyes, tail lashing. Hiko ignored the feline. "If you're going to feed her, it's coming out of your food."
That night, Hiko was happily asleep... but was awoken by a weight on his chest. Instinctively, he reached for his sword, but stopped abruptly when he saw what it was. For a long moment, he didn't move. Then he sighed, "Cat, you're lucky I didn't kill you."

The feline only purred louder. Hiko snatched it up by the nape of it's neck, brought it to his open shoji, then unceremoniously (but carefully) put the cat down and closed the door in the kitten's face. Hiko always remembered to close his door after that.
As time passed, Hiko grew to tolerate the cat (just barely). It had been about four days, and it had recovered enough to put weight on its injured leg, but not for long. At the moment, Hiko was enjoying sake, taking a lunch break from training. Kenshin called for him, stating that the food was ready. The Hiten Master left the table and took his share, and when he returned to the table... the kitten was drinking his sake.

"CAT!" Hiko's shout made Kenshin come running, and he snickered at the sight.

"Looks like you've got someone to drink with, Shishou." Hiko shot him a glare and Kenshin became silent, but was still smirking. The cat had jumped away from the sake (Hiko had no doubt that it knew she was doing something wrong) and slunk over to Kenshin. The boy knelt down and began to stroke its head. Hiko was still fuming when Kenshin spoke in a half-serious tone.

"Shishou, if you gave her food instead of making me give her my food maybe she wouldn't—OW!" Kenshin jumped up, and glared accusingly at the cat. "She bit me." He whined. A small smile crept onto Hiko's lips.

"You aren't even bleeding, idiot." Kenshin didn't seem to hear him, the cat was looking up at him with it's adorable green eyes, feigning innocence. Stupidly, Kenshin reached down and tried to pet it—only to be bitten again. Hiko laughed at the boy.

"Kenshin, you idiot." He laughed. Kenshin glared at him.

"Be quiet." Kenshin mumbled. Hiko rose a brow.

"Are you telling your Shishou what to do?" Hiko was grinning slightly, knowing exactly what his pupil would say.

"No, Shishou." This response was mumbled and accompanied by a roll of the eyes.

"Good. Now take that cat somewhere before I change my mind about keeping it here." Hiko was still grinning, watching his student pick up the cat (who continued to try to bite him) and walk away.
Kenshin yawned widely. Hiko, he decided for the six thousandth time, was evil. But secretly, he wasn't complaining. Hiko was right. He was fortunate. A soft sound broke him from his thoughts. He rolled over and found himself looking straight into the large green eyes of the cat. She purred loudly and tried to curl up next to him. For a moment the cat laid there, purring contentedly, then it stood and pawed at the covers until it managed to underneath them and curled up next to Kenshin's chest. The boy smiled and gently petted the kitten, and soon both fell asleep.
Kenshin woke to hear rain pattering against his window. The kitten was nowhere to be seen. Sighing, Kenshin got up and got dressed. He knew rain wouldn't stop Hiko from training. As soon as he open the shoji, he knew something was wrong. Hiko sat grim-faced at the table, contemplating his cup of sake.

"Shishou?" Hiko looked up at the boy, his expression remaining the same. "What's wrong?" Hiko stood and walked away, Kenshin knew to follow him. Hiko slid open the shoji to his own room and stepped aside. At first he didn't know what Hiko meant to show him. The futon was folded in the corner and his blankets were in neat stacks... The center of the room. The little kitten lay on a small cloth, sleeping. No. Not sleeping. She was too still. Kenshin did not shed a tear for the kitten he had grown attached to. He did not let any sadness show.

"I found her outside my door." Hiko said softly. It was one of the rare times he heard Hiko speak gently. Kenshin nodded. After breakfast, Kenshin buried the kitten under a tree. Hiko poured some sake on the grave. That day, Hiko did not make Kenshin train so hard.

Many years later, looking back on the event, Kenshin saw a horrible, bitter foreshadowing. He had helped and loved two lost cats, but in the end, he lost them both before their time.

End A Lost Cat

The comment on the 'two lost cats', the other one is Tomoe. In Trust and Betrayal if you watch the subtitled one, she says "I am a lost cat".

As for our little nameless kitten, she died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or so I've decided. For more info on it, go here (be sure to take out the spaces and ()'s):
http (:)(/)(/) members (.) aol (.) com (/) jchinitz (/) hcm (/)

As for the inspiration... One day, I heard my little kitty crying for help. I went to see what was wrong... He had his foot caught on one of those toys that hangs and the cat can attack. It was all wrapped around his foot and couldn't get loose. And once he was free, he promptly forgot about it and attacked the toy. (He's so ungrateful!)

I STILL don't feel this is finished, I think it should be longer, but I have nothing to add. Well, I'll just have to settle for this.

Shoji: Paper sliding door.
Shishou: Old term for "master"
(Ken)Ki: Swordsman's spirit