I do not own Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto.

for akumasama

Pairing: Sou/Kotoha, Shiranui/Kotoha, Aki/Koku.


Carrying It On

Version 1

He came back one spring day - as silent as when he had left. For a moment, she stared blankly at him - trying to place the firm jaw, direct eyes and mature face. But his small smile jolted her memory - and she ran forward, clasped his hands and breathed with delight:

"Akizuki-san!"

"Chief."

She tilted her head, blinking tears of joy away adn then drew him closely into a hug.

"It's Kakunojo, remember?"

"Kakunojo -"

She drew back.

"Akizuki-" She sniffed. "We've - I've bee missing you! It's been too long."

"It's been too long," he agreed. "How has everyone been?"

"Well..." She smiled. "We're all older... Come inside! You're in time for our rehearsal!"

He followed her inside.

-

She was right, he thought as he looked around the familiar group of faces. Five years CAN change a person...

But alot of it looks so much the same - right down to the smell of new wood, fresh paint and canvas -

It reminded the swordsman of tha play so long ago -

The one and only time he had... how did those Europeans put it? - ah! tread the planks!

A walk-on part - written specially for him -

And then - he understood what thad been niggling int he back of his mind. The one missing -

Not that Sensei was ever a talker, Akizuki thought. But sometimes - when he wanted to - he could make his presence felt...

"Aha! Look who's come looking for Shiranui!" laughed Kokunojo. "I think someone has forgotten -"

"AHHH!!!" wailed the still charismatic actor. "She wanted me to take care of Sou-kun tonight!"

"Kotoha! Welcome!" cheered Kobako, her inner tomboy warring with a desire to be lady-like now that she was "grown-up".

"Have a seat! There's some food here as well!" Benimaru suggested, stuffing his face with another pork bun.

Kotoha stifled a laugh at the sight of her penitant husband's face and the two squabbling young ones.

"It's alright," she smiled - then paused at the sight of Akizuki's suit and neatly groomed hair. "Oh? This is -"

"Akizuki!" Kakunojo's face brightened with excitement. "Isn't he - so stylish?"

"Stylish?" Shiranui asked skeptically.

"Stylish?" Akizuki blushed.

"Stylish," agreed Kotoha. "I see now why Shi-kun has been diverted. It is good to be with old friends."

"Yes! Yes!" the two children nodded.

And Akizuki wondered if they ever missed the silent invisible force that had been known as Ibaragi Soutetsu.

Half an hour later, supper was decided on -and the tent was filled with the Yuyama Troupe bustling around - setting up tables for the newest actors, the scriptwriter and his young family and several kids who randomly showed up from the neighborhood.

"Where's Sou-kun?" Shiranui blinked down at one grubby child who was carefully digging out chopsticks.

"Outside... reading..."

"Ahh... I see..."

Akizuki told to "relax and not lift a finger", edged out of the tent, feeling very much in the way -

And uncertain.

There's too thin a relationship between us - all those years apart -

What do we have now, I wonder, Kakunojo?

Just memories of those times -

And our future - what can we see?

Outside, it was cooler and quieter - the sun was now at its zenith - and there, in the sound of cicadas, banners flapping and the yells of small children, Akizuki couldn't help but sigh. Lifting his eyes up - as he turned to go back inside, Akizuki paused. There was a boy seated under the tree. He drew closer. It was a young boy - studying a primer.

Reading aloud slowly to himself.

And Akizuki froze.

Then stepped closer...

The boy looked up, rolled up the primer and rose smoothly to his feet.

"You are -"

Akizuki's eyes slowly wandered over the long dark-chestenut hair, cool eyes and firm jaw.

His mother's eyes - but...

"Sou-kun?" he ventured.

The boy's tense stance relaxed.

"You are -"

"Akizuki. Akizuki Youjiro. And old friend of..."

"You know my lady mother?"

"Yes." Akizuki hesitated. "I'm a good friend of Kakunojo and the Troupe."

"I see."

The boy smiled.

"I -"

"Sou-kun! Sou-kun! So- Oh! There you are!" Shiranui ran up to the two. "Don't scare your old man like that!"

"Sorry."

"Hmmm... That sounds pretty fake... I apologize, Akizuki, for any trouble he might be causing you -"

"Oh - no - no trouble at all."

"It's the other way around," Sou-kun sniffed. "He came up to me when I was studying..."

"The way you put it..." sighed Shiranui.

Akizuki chuckled, Shiranui joined in.

"He's so serious!" Shiranui ruffled Sou-kun's long hair. "That's my boy!"

"Stop that..." dead-panned the young child.

"Hm. Sou-kun - why don't you go see if you can give Mother some help? I think Lily is causing trouble again!"

"Okay..."

And Sou-kun descended the hill gracefully, his long hair flying back in the breeze.

Akizuki let out a long, rattled sigh.

"So that's - Sou-kun..."

"Yeah... Sou-kun."

A pause.

Shiranui continued on hesitantly. "Kotoha and I had Lily, two years after."

"I see."

Another pause.

"And Sou-kun is - Soutetsu?"

"Yes." Shiranui sighed. "Like peas in a pod those two are."

"An apple doesn't fall far from the tree..." Akizuki laughed softly.

"Eh?"

"Just a saying - like father, like son."

Shiranui shivered.

"Hmmm..."

"But I'm glad -" Akizuki smiled. "This is a second chance for him - in a way... He is part of the future - this way, his dream will be reached... just as he wanted."

That night, Kakunojo joined Akizuki on the nearby jetty, as he watched the ocean rise and fall in the moonlight. Their hands joined halfway - which brought on a chuckle. And they said nothing for a long while. Until Akizuki sighed with content. Her hand tightened in encouragement.

He looked into her eyes -

"Kakunojo..." he said softly, drawing her close. "Would you like... to see this new future with me?"

"Yes..." she replied simply.


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