Looking Up
By Calger459

Disclaimer: don't own RK, never will, I'm just a slightly obsessed fangirl who can't leave Watsukei-sensei's characters be ;) Some mild spoilers for the Kyoto arc, nothing major. Just some Yahiko/Kenshin WAFF I've been thinking about for awhile. Enjoy!

~***~

Busu's watching me again. "What's wrong, Yahiko?"

I shrug and look out at the yard of the Aoiya. "Nothin', it's just boring around here today."

She gives me That Look and I wish I'd said something else. "Hmm...I think two hundred strokes would fix that, wouldn't you? Or you could help with the Aoiya repairs, or-"

"I get it, I *get* it, okay?! You sure are pushy sometimes, Busu."

Now Kaoru's really mad; she gets up from her sewing and walks toward me, pushing up the sleeves of her kimono. "I'll show you 'ugly', and what happens to lazy students who don't listen to their shihondai!"

"Later, Busu!" I leap to my feet and speed inside as fast as I can go. I can hear her shouting my name and her feet pounding on the floorboards, but I'm still quicker than she is. Losing her for a second, I dart up to the second floor as fast as my feet will take me while still being quiet about it. Sometime I'll have to rope Kenshin into telling me how he moves around so quietly. I swear ghosts make more noise...

Kaoru's given up. Peeking out a window I can see her pacing around the yard with her bokken, striking the air with a vengeance (maybe she imagines it's me). I watch her for a minute; even with all my work she's still better, but I'm catching up quick. I know she notices it...I'd never say it to her face if I could help it, but she really is very strong. Not as strong as Kenshin of course, but then no one can be like him.

I creep down the hall to what has been Kenshin's room since he came back to the Aoiya half-dead almost two weeks ago. More than half-dead actually...I remember how Kaoru panicked when Sano brought him back. She completely lost it; Kenshin's clothes had been in tatters, he was burned all over, and he was covered in blood...blood that was mostly his. I remember that he was all red except for his face. It had looked like a geisha's, completely white, as if he had makeup on. It was horrible. I think we all thought he was dead in those first few seconds, that Sano had brought back a corpse. Kaoru had started to scream, and Megumi had made me keep her back while she examined him. I was scared too...I don't think I could admit it to anyone, but I was scared. What if he had died? I...I don't...

I don't know what I'd do if he died. My life has changed so much since I ran into him on that wooden bridge...how long has it been since then? Only a few months I think. I peek into his room and he's lying there on his futon, asleep. I'm a little surprised no one is in here. There's always someone watching him, or hanging around nearby in case he needs anything. The first several days he was unconscious and wracked with fever. I kind of avoided him while he was like that. I didn't want to see him so sick and weak, I guess because it reminded me that he's mortal like all the rest of us and that he could really die.

I hang around in the door a minute, not sure what to do. The last time I was in here was when Sano first brought him in...I don't want to bother Kenshin, but I've been worried about him all this time. I finally walk in and go up to him. I know that if he were healthy he would have been awake long before now, having sensed me coming long before I was in sight. It's one of the many things he can do that I admire and long for. I want to be a better swordsman; I want to know what he knows. I want him to teach me, and while he's explained his reasons to me I'm still frustrated that he won't pass on his knowledge. Doesn't he realize that he doesn't necessarily need to show me *his* sword style? Can't he just help correct and improve the one I'm already learning? He can be so dense sometimes...

He really doesn't know I'm here; he hasn't moved at all. I can see a tray with medicines and cups by his head, and rolls of bandages. Megumi's drugged him I guess, so he'll sleep better. From hearing Sano and Kaoru talk about him, he's had nightmares almost constantly, and he can only really rest when he's knocked out. I kneel down beside him and just watch his face. It's weird to see him asleep; he looks so young like this, like a kid almost. He's wrapped in bandages, and I can see that the ones around his stomach are red. He's still bleeding from the belly wound Shishio gave him. Megumi said that that was what really had made him so sick. He lost so much blood from that wound, and Shishio's saw blade had done a lot of internal damage that was taking a long time to heal.

He must be in so much pain, not that he'd never admit it to anyone. He doesn't want to worry anybody. He takes everything on his own shoulders. I guess he's always been like that, even when he was a hitokiri. He had believed then that he was the only one who could protect the people and make their lives better. He still believes that; why else would he have gone back to Kyoto? Only because those idiots in the government needed him, to fix their mistakes for them because he's the only one would could...or would. I admire that selflessness him, and the fact that he has the strength to back it up. Of course at the same time, just like Kaoru, I want to whack him upside the head for being such an idiot. We're his friends, and we're strong too! We would have been glad to help, if only he'd asked.

I smile a little. Hell, we'd gone and helped anyway. We'd all followed him to Kyoto. He didn't want to us to worry and get involved, but we'd made it clear that we *wanted* to be involved, that we couldn't just go back to our empty lives and let him suffer alone. That's what my life was before I met him...empty and pointless. If he died, I might have to go back to living like a thief, because I don't think Kaoru could handle losing him. She loves him too much, and I think he loves her too. If he was gone, I don't think my Busu would be there anymore. She'd be replaced by someone broken and empty. I've seen it happen before, and I don't think I could stick around then.

Kenshin sighs a little in his sleep and on sudden impulse, I reach out and take his hand. I almost cringe in embarrassment, but no one's here to see this. I just...need to know he's okay, that he's still with us. I wonder what kinds of things Kenshin's seen and done; even after everything that's happened I still know so little about him. How did he get to be so strong, and is the sadness I always see in his eyes really just from the people he's killed, or is there something more to it?

Battousai...maybe Kenshin's been empty and broken before, too, because that's what I saw in the assassin's eyes in Kaoru's dojo. I'll never forget those eyes...flat and dead, completely devoid of the warmth and emotion I'm so used to seeing in Kenshin. Me and Kaoru had both been so shocked by that fight with Saitou, the way our rurouni seemed to have been replaced by a stranger, all in a matter of moments. He'd been doing so badly in the fight, I guess because he didn't want to fight and also because Psycho-Cop is so much stronger than the thugs Kenshin had been fighting up until then. In an instant, he seemed to forget the wound in his chest, our presence in the dojo and, apparently, his promise not to kill. His fighting skill suddenly improved-a lot-and for the first time I saw the man who'd become a legend for his killing skill and ruthlessness in battle, the assassin I'd heard stories about since before I could remember, the Hitokiri Battousai.

To be honest, when I'd first learned who Kenshin really was I couldn't believe it. This couldn't possibly be the deadly killer of the Bakumatsu! Battousai was supposed to be tall and scary, with fierce eyes and a lust for blood that was matched only by his skill with the sword. *This* was a hitokiri, this short redheaded 'oro'-ing guy who cooked lunch and did laundry and looked like he'd never hurt a fly? No way, it couldn't be true...then I'd seen him fight. But even then, I don't think it ever really sank in who and what Kenshin was, not until that moment in the dojo when the legend came to life before my eyes.

*This* was the ruthless assassin I'd heard so much about, amber-eyed and deadly with a voice as cold as ice. In one perfect move he'd brushed aside Saitou's seemingly invincible Gatotsu and nailed him with the attack that had earned him his name: battou-juutsu. I don't think I'm the only one who realized that if Kenshin had had a katana rather than a sakabatou in his hands, the duel would have been over then and there. Psycho-Cop's head would have been rolling on the floor and Kenshin would have forever broken the non-killing vow he'd worked so hard to keep. Battousai scared the crap out me, but at the same time I was awed by with his strength and skill. He has Kenshin's face and Kenshin's voice but aside from that he seems to be a completely different person...but is he really so different from the rurouni? Wasn't he just trying to protect us, the way Kenshin always does? Aren't they both the same man? What happened to make him this way?

I have so many unanswered questions, but I'm still too childish to ask them. No matter who and what he is though, he's changed my life for the better and given me an ideal to live up to. He has both wisdom and strength...I want to be like him someday. Someday soon I want to be someone Kenshin doesn't have to worry about anymore. I want to be the man he'll want to stand and fight by his side, not someone he leaves behind without so much as a goodbye. I know why he left for Kyoto the way he did but it still hurts, even now.

Kenshin's hand tightens a little around mine and I panic for a second. Oh gods, he'll wake up and see me here! Holding...his hand. I blush furiously and try to pull my hand away but he holds it firmly. His eyes open a little, sleepily, and he looks at me. His eyes are not golden but a deep, warm violet. I'm relieved, though I shouldn't have expected it to be otherwise. He becomes Battousai only when he has to. Our eyes meet and I attempt a smile. He smiles back, and that simple expression gives me a warmth in my chest I wasn't expecting. He's happy to see me...he knows who I am and he's glad I'm here. I smile a little more. "Oi, Kenshin..." His smile deepens, then fades away as he closes his eyes, slipping back into unconsciousness. His grip on my hand loosens and I pull away. "Oyasumi, Kenshin and...be well." I murmur.

I get up hastily and make my way quietly out of the room. As I slide the door shut I remember that Busu earlier had technically ordered me to do two hundred shinai strokes...well, I guess if I want to be stronger I should go ahead and do something about it. I nearly leap right out of my skin when I turn around to find Kaoru standing right behind me.

She smiles gently. "You were worried about him too, weren't you?"

I glare at her. "What are you sneaking around for, you scared me half to death! Besides why should I be worried, Megumi says he's healing just fine!"

She gives me that gentle, knowing look that always drives me up the wall. "It's okay to care about someone, you know. I think it's very sweet, and I'm sure he does too."

I suddenly find the floor very interesting. "Kaoru he'll be okay, right? I mean, he just sleeps all the time and he's still bleeding and..." I trail off for a minute, then the words just come before I can stop them. "I don't want him to die! I want him to be the way he was. He woke up a little and smiled at me," I look up at her, "maybe he really is starting to get better."

She smiles warmly. "He's very strong, right? As long as we're here he can smile at us and we can all take care of each other." She steps forward and give me a quick hug, letting go before I can start to squirm. She knows me too well, I think. "Now go practice, okay?"

I nod and head back down the stairs. Kaoru and Kenshin...they are both my family now; for them I can get stronger. One day I'll be the one to protect them...right now Kenshin I'm looking up at you, but before you know it I'll be able to look you in the eye and thank you for everything you've done for me. Look forward to that day...I know I already do.

Owari

Glossary:
Oi: hey
Oyasumi: good night...though I kinda took liberties here and made it "sleep well" Hey it's my fic, right?
Battou-juutsu: the name of Kenshin's sword-drawing technique
Busu: "ugly girl", what Yahiko always calls Kaoru, a pretty insulting word
Rurouni: wanderer
Hitokiri: job title for an assassin, literally means "Manslayer"
Katana/Sakabatou: Japanese sword/Kenshin's fictional reverse-bladed sword
Geisha: women performers and entertainers who usually wear bone-white makeup on their faces and necks
Dojo: training hall

Notes: Another fic idea I've been sitting on for awhile. This story took me two sittings rather than one, but still went pretty fast. Kenshin and Yan in "An in Inn in Hokkaido" are just not cooperating right now *sigh* so I wrote out this idea instead. I've always been curious about what Yahiko thinks of Kenshin (and particularly of Battousai), since his feelings get so little attention in both the manga and anime. No one really talks about the Saitou/Kenshin fight after it happens, but judging from everyone's reactions during the fight Kenshin's apparent shift in personality was pretty shocking. We get Kaoru's view on things eventually, but never Yahiko's. We especially never hear about his thoughts after Kenshin comes back from the fight with Shishio. By that point in the series Kenshin really has become sort of a father figure to Yahiko, and I know he would have had some thoughts on the matter. I like trying to fill holes in the manga, it's fun and challenging and appeases the fact that the series is over :/ Minor note on the timeline, in the middle of Jinchuu arc Kenshin tells Kaoru that Yahiko's been studying kenjuutsu for six months...which means that the events of the Tokyo arc happen very fast, in the space of a couple months. Poor Kenshin...the minute he stops wandering and Yamagata finds him everyone just comes out of the woodwork. When you think about that, though, it means that Yahiko's only known Kenshin for what, three months? Maybe four? Talk about a life-altering experience. If anyone has the timeline from the Kenshin Hiden artbook and disagrees with my timescale please let me know, but I think the entire manga series only spans half a year. Yahiko's one of my favorite characters in the series and he get so few stories written about him...maybe me and Ranma1517730129 should start a Yahiko support club or something ;) I hope you enjoyed it, please let me know what you think!