Part Three

The inn never really had a name. Not that it needed one, of course, since it was the only one to be found in the small village. Even without one, it was still a pleasant sort of place with its exposed woodwork and an open liquor cabinet which proudly showcased the local brew. Each and every table had been carved into at one point another, acting as the town registry, and it was at one such table that the old man sat with a glass of wine resting in front of him.

He could still remember the first day he came to this place... all those years ago. Guilt had brought him here back then. Guilt and regret... Guilt for the past and regret for the future. What he did and what he should've done... those were the thoughts that haunted him now, and as far as he could tell, that was just fine. After all, a man couldn't be expected not to make a few mistakes in his lifetime.

With a bitter chuckle, he lifted the glass to his cracked lips. It tasted sweet, and while he never had much of a taste for sweet things, he found he liked it well enough. After all, at his age, he couldn't taste much.

There was once a time when he didn't think about such things, though, especially not growing old. The thought had never crossed his mind... yet though he admitted that, on some level at least, he was afraid of the certainty of it all, he knew there had to be a different reason. He didn't doubt it was something simple, but as to what it was or even could be, he couldn't seem to put his finger on it.

"Grandpa?" He glanced down, his thick brows knitted together over the bridge of his nose, but when he caught sight of the young boy, he couldn't help but smile. Blue eyes and red hair... Who would've guessed?

"Hey now... if it isn't Kael," he chuckled as he ruffled the child's hair. "Where's your old man?"

"You're the only one who's old."

"I ain't old yet, boy," the other huffed, leaning back in his chair and gazing up at the young man who had spoken. "I've still got to keep an eye on you. After all, wouldn't want you to screw up this nice thing you've got goin' for you." Gray only glanced away as his face warmed, but there was still a ghost of a smile lingering there all the same. "So how's your wife doin'? Ain't seen much of her these days..."

"She's alright," he assured him. "The doctor just told her she needs to lay off work until the baby's born."

"And how'd she take to that?"

"Take a guess." The two shared a chuckle, neither one having to say a word about it. "She really should, though... She's been working too hard." He took a seat then, and not a moment after, his son was eagerly waiting at his feet. Without too much thought, he lifted him up into his lap, and the boy smiled- if only slightly since, like his father, he didn't seem to be one for smiling very often. Even so, it suited him all the same.

"Yeah, she's a tough one," his grandfather laughed. "Guess that's the kind of woman men like us need, though." His grandson went to nod, but then he seemed to think better of it.

"What do you mean we?" he challenged, clearly offended by the old man's remark.

"You heard me," Saibara replied before taking another sip from his glass. "We're just a pair of bitter old men." He laughed again, his laughter echoing through the empty bar, but when he caught sight of the small boy still sitting in his grandson's lap, he was quiet again. "Still, I guess you turned out pretty damn good. Not the best... but good enough."

"A lot better than some people." An understanding silence fell between them then, and Kael could only look from one man to the other with a mild look of curiosity as they dwelled in their own thoughts, not speaking a word to one another. After the boy had decided he'd had enough of it, he pulled on his father's work coat and gazed up at the man with wide, pleading eyes.

"Dad, can we go home now?"

Gray looked down at the boy, his gaze becoming soft and warm, and offered him a smile. "Alight," he agreed. "Your mom probably has dinner ready for us anyway." As he stood, he glanced in the old man's direction, and though he hesitated for a moment, he soon found his voice again. "Hey, Gramps... you feel like going with us to the house tonight?"

"Got any turnips there for me?" Saibara chuckled, knowing full well how the other would react. However, while the young man made a face, his son only grinned. "Seems like this one 'ere doesn't mind 'em as much as you did."

"That's cause his mother knows how to wash the damn things."

"A little dirt never hurt nobody," the old man replied. "It builds character." Then, having had another thought, he said, "Didn't I tell you to quit swearing?" Gray only smiled, pulling the brim of his hat over his eyes, and made his way towards the door.

"Yeah... and I still say you just need to shut the hell up."


Author's Note: I'm still convinced that without Saibara, Gray wouldn't become the man he is today, in the fandom or otherwise, and so that was my reason for writing this. Even though I don't think this was my best work by any stretch of the imagination, I still hope I did the two and their relationship at least some justice.