Disclaimer- I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.
Author's Notes- Father's Day fic. Post Seisohen OVA. Minor spoilers.
The day his son was born, Himura Kenshin was miles away and couldn't spare a single bit of time. There was someone dying that day, and Himura Kenshin didn't have time for the living, only the dying and the damned.
Kaoru didn't mind at all that her husband, her baby's father, was so far away and so unreachable. He was Kenshin, and Kenshin wouldn't have been Kenshin if he didn't do his best to save everyone at the expense of happiness, his or anyone else's.
Kenji was too young to care.
But it marked the first time Kenshin wasn't there.
And naturally, it wasn't the last.
Himura Kenshin always comes through on his actions.
Kenji, no matter what he said, Yahiko thought, or Kenshin believed in his waking hours, did love his father, at least in the beginning. His mother told him the stories, the stories that she had lived and that his father had fought and bled and nearly died for.
Your father is a Hero, she'd say, smiling even as their hero was somewhere far, far away.
Kenji believed. He believed in a man as strong as he was brave, a man who never backed down, who never quit, who could defeat an enemy no matter how strong or frightening. A man who could fight, but who could also love, and whose love defeated more than the sword could.
But when the Hero came home, he was smaller than Kenji remembered, frailer, coughing and tired and only able to smile and ruffle his son's hair, bringing back a trinket or two that Kenji tried his best to treasure.
But this was the Hero, this was Father.
"Play with me, father." Kenji asked, not begged, his eyes wide but not pleading.
"I'm sorry, Kenji." Father would reply, tired and weary.
"Your father is very tired. Can you keep yourself busy for awhile, Kenji? Yahiko is in the dojo, if you want to go play with him." His mother would add, shushing her beloved son as though he were a trouble-making waif and gently pushing him away.
If Father was so great, couldn't he play one game of ball, Kenji wondered.
"What's so great about him?" Kenji asked when he was a little older, a little wiser. "He's always tired and he never stays."
"Your father is complex." His mother smiled gently and kissed him on the cheek, as though forgiving him for some unforseen sin. "I hope one day you see eye to eye with him."
"He's Rurouni." Megumi, before she moved away, would reply.
"Don't say that!" Yahiko, big brother Yahiko, who was always playing and smiling, would scowl and look as though Kenji had committed a sacrilege. "Kenshin is the greatest person I've ever met."
But I've never met him, Kenji wanted to say, but he was always ignored.
"Father?" he asked once. "Can you please play with me? Just once?"
The great, the benevolent, the altruistic Kenshin merely smiled and ruffled his son's hair. "I'd love to Kenji, but I've got to go." His voice was so kind it hurt. "But next time, okay?"
"Okay." Kenji said, with all the trust of a child that wanted to believe so badly that they would die to have it come true.
When "next time" came, Kenji was promised another one.
It was perhaps the most consistent thing about his father than Kenji knew.
Kenji thought he was very good at Kendo, at Kamiya Kasshin Ryu.
So did everyone else.
After all, how could the son of the great Himura Kenshin be anything but a master swordsman?
"You're just like your father," his mother would smile so brightly and so lovingly that he couldn't stand the sight of it.
No I'm not, he'd scream when he was alone. I'm not!
I'M HERE, AREN'T I?
"I hate you." Kenji said softly, his eyes watching his father will all the killing intent of a swooping hawk. He wanted to see this Hero, this great man that he had never known broken and crying at the thought of his own son hating him.
"I know, I know." His father replied simply, still smiling, unbroken, unbeaten, and it enraged Kenji more than anything he had ever known. "But I love you."
Kenji looked away, scowling. "How can you? You don't know who I am."
His father died one day, and Kenji didn't get to see him die.
In a way, Kenji thought it fitting that the man who existed only in stories and memories of others die in someone else's words and someone else's memory.
Kenji didn't care.
He did care his mother died too, holding the man that they said was his father, that they said was a great man.
So he grieved it, but moved on in time.
Kenji was restless, in ways he had never known himself to be.
He was not grieving.
He was not depressed.
But he was restless, because something was wrong, something wasn't there, something didn't fit.
"I don't want to be here." He'd say, determined and sullen like a child who'd lost an argument.
"Then leave. Take a walk." Yahiko said in reply, looking bored.
"It seems to run in your family, anyway."
There came a day, full of bloody red, vibrant orange, and dancing yellow, that Kenji found himself sitting by a riverside. He was bored, hungry, and just about tired of walking.
The speaker's face was young, deceptively so, with rather messy brown hair, and a smile that looked like it had taken years to build.
"How do you know my name?" Kenji asked, hand straying to the sword that they said belonged to his father.
"Ah. You're not Himura's son, by any chance?" the man's smile was disconcerting, for some reason. "You look so much like him..."
Kenji scowled because those words were old, cliche, and unwelcome. His hand never strayed too far. "He was my father."
"Was?" the man's smile didn't dim at all, but the eyes seemed to gather shadowy clouds of intent. "He's dead then?"
"Yeah. My mom too, for that matter." Kenji replied offhandedly. "Now who the Hell are you?"
"I'm sorry, that's my fault." The man smiled still. "My name's Soujiro."
"So how do you know my father?" Kenji asked at last, at an inn that was dirty and crowded but served decent sake.
"He defeated me, crushed my ideals, and proceeded to convert me to his own." Soujiro said simply, his unwavering smile fast becoming an annoyance to Kenji.
"He was your enemy." Kenji said, an almost insistent tone in his voice. The friends of Himura Kenshin were no help, so perhaps an enemy would know this Hero better.
"He had an ideal that I was taught to disagree with." Soujiro corrected. "But he taught me something."
"Because he was a great man, right?" Kenji interjected bitterly, and the sake felt unwelcome in his stomach.
"'Cause his sword hurt like a bitch and broke mine, proving he was right." The other man corrected easily. "You don't really know anything about Himura Kenshin, huh?"
"What gave you that idea?" Kenji snarled, and glared at the reflection in the cup that he knew was his, but was so much like the man they said was his father.
"You know what?" Soujiro said, glancing at Kenji with a light smile on his face.
"You're nothing like Himura at all."
Kenji blinked, quite unsure how to take that.
After all, wasn't Himura Kenshin great, wasn't Himura Kenshin a saint who could do no wrong?
If he wasn't like Himura Kenshin, then who was he?
Soujiro kept smiling. "So don't try to be him, 'kay Kenji?"
"Figure out what you needed?" Yahiko asked, the day he came back.
Kenji shrugged. "Nope. All I figured out was that I'm never going to understand my father."
"That was your mom's job," Yahiko replied offhandedly, arms crossed behind his head. "And even she had some trouble understanding Kenshin sometimes."
Kenji chuckled a little, before realizing that he'd learned a little about his father.
After that, he smiled, but decided that the information really didn't matter to him.
One man's son becomes a father.
But the son does not become the father.