This is it, for sure. It's a short chapter, pretty pointless, but I think it winds stuff up nicely.
Standard disclaimers apply
"This stick of a child caused all the trouble?" Saito almost laughed as he looked at the Battousai's son, amazed at the state of the little boy who stood quietly inside the main room of the Aoiya. His arms and legs sported numerous bruises and scratches, and an ugly cut adorned his right brow. "He looks like a half starved kitten!"
"I dare you to pet him," Yahiko stated dryly, half hoping the arrogant police officer would take him up on that offer. By the gleam in Kenji's eyes, it was apparent he disliked Saito and would like nothing more than to kick him or bite him with those sharp baby teeth.
Saito smirked again and glanced at Yahiko, "Looks can be deceiving boy, I'll not fall for such a trick."
The Aoiya hummed with business, a small party being thrown for the safe return of Kenji. The smells of delicious food, sake, filled the room, along with the steady thrum of joyous chatter. People constantly prodded, hugged, and poked Kenji, passing him from person to person. He protested slightly, happy to be back among people who were familiar and friendly, but growing bored of all the attention.
Kenshin talked quietly with Aoshi and Saito, keeping a nervous eye on his son at all times. He would not risk losing the boy again, and his worries ran deep.
"So, Battousai, have you figured out how your whelp made it across the city and into the waiting hands of your master yet?" Saito asked, sipping tea from a glossy green cup.
Kenshin tore his eyes away from Kenji, "No, and we probably won't ever know. All that matters is he's here and safe now."
Saito raised a brow at his former enemy, "Knowing you, you'll have him tied to your waist until he comes of age."
"I don't blame him. Himura chan is a unique child. He's welcome here any time."
Both men sputtered into their teacups as Aoshi spoke freely. The icy former okashira rarely expressed dislike or like of anyone openly, but if he had been heard correctly, the stoic man had just offered to baby-sit for the Himura boy.
"Uh, thank you Shinomori san," Kenshin stuttered, "I'm sure Kenji would like that."
Saito shook his head, "You know Battousai, my children never give me any troubles. It's all about discipline, your son doesn't fear consequences because he has none. He'll grow up to disrespect you if you keep a light hand."
Kenshin could hardly imagine what Saito's children were like, he was amazed to discover the man actually had any at all, but he'd be damned if he was going to take parenting advice from the likes of him. "You don't know Kenji chan, Saito san, he doesn't take kindly to rough treatment." That was an understatement.
Saito scoffed, "He probably hasn't known any. I'm not saying beat the boy, Battousai, just show a little spine. My sons would never run off from me."
Kenshin took a sip of his tea and regarded Saito carefully. "You wouldn't last a week with my child, Saito." He dropped the honorific on purpose this time, to emphasis his point, "You have no idea what Kenji is capable of." Kenshin actually felt a little pride in his son's ability to drive people insane and take years off their life with his antics. He smirked at the idea of his greatest enemy beating beaten by a toddler, his toddler to be exact. "Raising a boy like Kenji requires patience and the wits. I can't punish him the way you suggest, it would only make him angrier. I have to outwit him."
"Humph," Saito huffed, glancing to where Kenji stood. The child was the picture of innocence, his wide eyes watching the people around him carefully, and a blank look hovering upon his face. The former shinsengumi captain found it difficult to believe that this was the same child that caused the massive destruction of a building and fought off the eldest son of one of the most nitrous Kyoto yakuza.
Kenji was growing bored of the party and all the attention he was receiving. He glanced around the room, taking stock of the adults that were present and frowned. He recognized most of them, but there were others that he had no clue who they were. He watched his father sip tea and talk quietly with two other men, one of who Kenji didn't care for too much. He shrugged to himself and wandered out the back door of the building and into the courtyard, hoping to find some source of entertainment outside.
His eyes narrowed as he spied Yahiko sitting quietly next to the porch of the steps, obviously meditating or dozing off in the soft moonlight. Kenji thought about how much he'd missed his dark haired older brother and felt a grin play upon small lips.
Yahiko stalked into the main room and to where Kenshin sat, his clothes dripping wet and a wriggling Kenji held by the back of his kimono in one hand. His dark eyes blazed with an angry fire, his mouth set in a hard line as he threw the squirming boy into his father's lap with more force than usual. He stared at Kenshin for a few moments, biting back the harsh words that roared in his head. Kenji righted himself in his father's lap and bared his teeth at the older boy.
The three men stared at the young samurai. Saito's cigarette dangled from his lips and Aoshi suppressed the wicked grin that threatened to break free of his stony demeanor. Kenshin, completely stupefied, gazed back at the angry boy, afraid to ask what had happened to his clothing. "Uh, Yahiko…"
"Don't ask Kenshin," the boy snapped before storming off in the direction of his room.
Kenji watched his brother leave over the shoulder of his father, grinning wickedly. His adventure had proved interesting, but nothing could compare to the contentment he felt when he was with his family. Things were back to normal, indeed.
Hiko sat on his log, quietly listening to the crackling fire of the kiln and awaiting the arrival of an unexpected guest who was making their way up the trail. He had sensed their presence only moments ago and sighed at the disturbance of his now contented life. Things had been precariously quiet since the departure of his student and family. It took Hiko's shoulder several months to heal properly, a slight infection setting back the mending process, but all ended well except a dark purple scar he would now carry for life.
"State your business." He didn't bother to turn around and greet the intruder. They were of no threat to him.
"Hello to you to Hiko sama," Misao replied acidly.
"What do you want girl," Hiko replied rudely, hoping the oniwaban woman wouldn't stay long.
Misao rolled her eyes at the man's back and dug into her pocket, "I bring you a letter from Tokyo. It was sent to the Aoiya with instructions to deliver it to you." She set the letter down on the log next to Hiko and started back down the trail. She expected nothing less of him, knowing he wasn't likely to offer her tea or something to eat for her kindness. It didn't matter, he was just Hiko Seijuro, it was nothing personal.
Hiko waited until he was certain she was gone and picked up the letter, staring at the messy writing on the front. "Your handwriting is horrible baka deshi. I taught you better than that, I'm sure." He shrugged and opened the letter carefully, studying the words that were scratched onto the parchment:
All is well here in Tokyo. Kaoru and Yahiko continue to teach lessons at the dojo and around the city. I do odd jobs for the police off and on, but am content to stay at home and watch over Kenji chan. He asks about you often and demands I tell him stories. He's decided that you are his grandfather, which would seem fitting since you're the one who raised me, but I imagine he'll grow out of it, so do not concern yourself too much. He has a horrible fear of water now, which is not surprising considering the ordeal you both went through that day, but strangely, he's developed a phobia of mud as well. Kaoru and I are perplexed, but at least it keeps the child clean and out of the puddles. It makes our job easier. He hasn't grown much, but that isn't a surprise, he'll never be a large man. Once he's big enough, I will decide on what he needs to learn, your words will not leave me. Thank you again for your help and caring for my son.
Himura Kenshin and family
Hiko smiled and tucked the letter inside his shirt pocket. He hadn't actually expected his apprentice to send a letter, but he imagined there'd be more later on in the year. It was a short and pointless note to say the least, but as Kenji chan grew things might become more interesting. He grinned as he thought about the child's phobia of mud and made a mental note not to tell Kenshin about the origin of the fear. "Grandfather, huh?" Hiko thought to himself. He didn't picture himself as anyone's grandfather, the thought of it wasn't so bad, but he'd be damned if he'd ever let the boy call him that. It made him feel to old. He'd have to think of a more fitting name for himself. Hiko smiled again and closed his eyes, wondering briefly what his student and "grandson" were doing at that very moment.
Ahhh, the end! I left it wide open for a sequel as you can tell. I like Kenji and Hiko interaction, and I'm certain the two of them could have a lot more fun together in the coming years. Thank you to everyone who has read this fic and reviewed. You're all fantastic and so supportive. I apologize for my horrid spelling, even spell checker isn't good enough to catch them all….Ack!!!! I'm working on it…hopefully, with each fic, I'll get better and better….but who knows….sigh….Take care of yourselves everyone! Till next time!!!