Just a little omake that I've had planned since the fic's inception. It was fun to write, so I hope you all enjoy.
Time heals all wounds.
The saying passed through Hiko Seijuurou's head as he was jolted from sleep by his student's terrified ki. These midnight disturbances were something he had grown used to when he'd first taken Kenshin in, something he'd had to deal with again for several months after they'd returned from Edo. The swordmaster had thought the nightmares had finally stopped. The last one had been in late July, nearly two months ago. What had brought this on . . .
Thunder cracked, so loudly the frame of the small hut trembled, and Hiko che-d softly as he realized rain was beating down on the thatch with unabating ferocity. The mountain had seen a relatively sunny summer and the rain they'd gotten had been soft and peaceful, any thunder accompanying it a mere chuckle in the distance. This sudden fall thunderstorm must have sent his deshi unconsciously spiraling into a pit of ill memories. Time might heal all physical wounds, but it seemed it would be a while yet before Kenshin's mental scars were completely gone. If they ever fully left.
Hiko considered letting the boy sleep it out but when he heard a faint sound liked a choked sob he knew that was going to be impossible. Next would be the cries, and the tossing, and finally the panicked disorientation when Kenshin woke himself from his own shouts and flailing.
Grumbling, Hiko shoved his thin cover aside and stood. Even though it was only September he could feel a cool stream of air drifting across the floorboards, chilling his bare feet. He lit the lantern as quickly as he could and crossed the five meters to the other side of the room with brisk strides.
Kenshin was splayed across his futon, one small triangle of cover draped across a leg while the rest of the blanket warmed the floor. Hiko could see his bangs were dark with perspiration, despite the chill in the air. Maybe he just needed a little shove towards reassurance. That was easy enough to do since Hiko didn't necessarily have to wake Kenshin. Collapsing to sit Indian style, Hiko concentrated on his ki, molding it into a smooth wave before he let it flood the room. Except when he was purposefully sending harsh bursts of intimidation, he never let his ki escape him this much, so he imagined it would be calming−
The response probably had nothing to do with him but the words, sobbed with such beseeching pathos, were still like a fist to the gut. Hiko ruthlessly ignored the sympathy he felt taking hold of him despite his best efforts to stifle it.
Kenshin still hadn't awakened, and now his limbs were twitching violently, as if he were trying to fight some unseen foe. Whatever his deshi was dreaming about, it seemed passive forces weren't going to shake him out of it; he needed more tangible measures. The last time Hiko had tried waking his deshi by shaking him though, he'd received a fist to his cheek. A glancing blow, but a blow nevertheless. Of course he should have dodged, or at least caught that pathetically skinny arm as it headed his way, but Hiko had just been ripped from sleep as well, and he hadn't really expected Kenshin to be able to twist from his grip with such smooth alacrity. All in all, his manner of waking his deshi had been an embarrassing miscalculation on his part. Hiko had spent the better part of fifteen minutes trying to banish the irrational terror that his well-meaning methods had brought about. That debacle was not something he wanted to deal with again, so that left him with one other option.
"KENSHIN!" Hiko's bellow shook the hut almost as much as the thunder, but the close proximity made a world of difference and the shout was enough to shock Kenshin into wakefulness. Legs flying upwards, Kenshin flung his arms out crazily as he jerked to a sitting position. His breath was coming in short gasps, and he was trembling violently. Hiko waited a moment for Kenshin's breathing to even out, giving him some time to get his bearings, then laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.
Kenshin flinched from Hiko's touch at first, muscles tightening accordingly, but he relaxed as his gaze trailed from the swordmaster's arm to his familiar features. The panic left Kenshin's eyes, and after a minute his breathing slowed as well, although Hiko could still feel a slight shake in his limbs.
"Shishou . . . I-I had a bad dream and−and−" The panicked look returned and he dropped his gaze, chewing at his lower lip. "I'm sorry."
"You've done nothing wrong." Hiko offered, wondering at this sudden display. Kenshin had apologized for his nightmares as a young boy but Hiko had finally managed to curb that compulsion. Maybe with all the time that had passed he'd forgotten-
Kenshin shook his head, looking as if he wanted to cry. "I did though." He seemed to get a hold of himself, even though he still looked as distraught as if he'd broken a priceless heirloom. "I-I think-" Kenshin squeezed his eyes shut. "I think− I wet the bed."
Hiko blinked, stunned to silence. Somehow, he'd expected something . . . less trivial. Something more along the lines of, Shishou, I have betrayed all the secrets of our school, or, Shishou, even after your benevolence I decided to abandon my studies.
Not, I think I wet the bed.
Hiko saw Kenshin was staring at him, waiting for some sort of response, so he pushed the surprise aside. "What are you doing just sitting there then?" Hiko stood and motioned Kenshin off the futon. "Set it in front of the door. You can clean it tomorrow."
Kenshin got up slowly, a picture of abject misery as he dragged the futon to the door with slumped shoulders. "Chop-chop, Kenshin. There's no point worrying about your−accident right now."
Kenshin released the futon in front of the doorway, staring listlessly as it settled to the floor with a soft whump. "Yes there is." He faced Hiko with a gaze that was half embarrassment, half disgust. "I'm already eleven! No one wets the bed when they're eleven!"
"It's certainly a stage most people have grown out of by now." Hiko agreed, manner teasing. "But," He added, voice deepening with gravitas when Kenshin's expression melted to complete mortification, "You had a nightmare. When something appears as real as these walls around you, it causes your mind and body to react as such. You were scared, and even grown men sometimes react as you did when they're scared."
"But you wouldn't." Kenshin was being annoyingly obtuse.
"Of course I wouldn't," Hiko snapped, "I'm impossible to scare, and my body is far more disciplined than that of any man you'll ever meet."
Kenshin stood still for a minute, a faint scrunch to his eyebrows as he presumably thought Hiko's words over. Hiko watched him, considering whether or not to ask what his nightmare had been about. He decided against it. Kenshin hadn't volunteered any information, and Hiko assumed he wanted to remain silent on the issue. The swordmaster could make an educated guess as to what it had been about anyway; he didn't have to force a detailed explanation out of the boy.
Kenshin shifted finally, and Hiko gave an inward nod of approval as he made to speak. Maybe he'd knocked some sense into that dense head for once.
"But I'm eleven."
The stubborn reiteration was soft but adamant. Hiko waved an exasperated hand. "Baka deshi, enough already. Put some dry clothes on and get in bed. You're still training tomorrow, I don't care if it is raining."
This seemed to at least stop Kenshin from dwelling on the issue any further, and he moved to the small back room of the hut where his clothes were kept. He reappeared two minutes later, shivering in the chilled air as he pulled a clean yukata over his head. "Shishou," He hugged his arms around himself as he regarded his teacher hopefully, "you won't tell anyone?"
Hiko smothered a grin of amusement. Who the hell did Kenshin think he would tell? The fish-monger?
Now that he thought about it, that would be an amusing story . . . or at least something to hold over his deshi's head. Sometime far in the future, of course.
"No one." Hiko said, keeping his face serious.
"You promise?" Kenshin asked, doubt creeping into his tone.
"I promise. Now go lay down." Kenshin's eyes widened as Hiko gestured towards his own futon.
"But shishou, where are-"
"Oh, I'm not sacrificing my bed for you, don't worry. I'm staying up to modify your training tomorrow, so someone may as well sleep there."
"Oh." Kenshin accepted the explanation and dropped onto the futon, settling into it with a yawn. His eyes rested on Hiko, watching with mild interest to see how, exactly, he would modify the following day's training. All his master did was sit against the wall several feet away from him.
"Are you thinking about what you're going to have me do?" Kenshin asked, voice already drowsy.
"You're not going to write it down?"
"Don't you need to-"
Hiko stared at the far wall, listening to Kenshin's breathing until it became slow and even. It didn't take long. The swordmaster waited a while longer, until he was confident Kenshin's ki was staying as calm and undisturbed as his breath. Satisfied the rest of his night would be peaceful, Hiko snuffed the lantern and pulled the Hiten mantle tight around him before closing his eyes.
He hadn't been lying when he told Kenshin he was modifying the morning's training session. Hiko had been considering a more moderate regimen than usual−Kenshin had been working hard recently, and Hiko wasn't against an occasional taper session−but that was going to be put off for a few days. Tomorrow, Kenshin was going to be introduced to the variants of the basic Hiten Mitsurugi moves, ryuu tsui sen tsumuji and the like. And he would practice them until they were perfect. Then he was going to run the mountain until he dropped. He could finish up with kata, and damned if Hiko was going to except exhaustion as a reason for slow deliveries and sloppy form.
Rigorous, yes. But an exhausted student meant no dreams, and no dreams meant an uninterrupted sleep.
Thunder shattered the silence that had fallen and Hiko stiffened, cracking an eye as Kenshin stirred. His deshi made no further movements though and Hiko relaxed. He sincerely hoped this was a one-time incident, that Kenshin wasn't regressing to the state he'd been in when they'd returned from Edo.
That had been a rough couple of months for both of them. Kenshin was consumed with terrors almost every night for a month, and while some were worse than others, whenever he had them he woke up exhausted and performed poorly at anything Hiko set him to do.
Hiko himself had been in a perpetually foul mood. He was pissed that Kenshin couldn't shake his fears, annoyed that he felt that way when he knew it was something Kenshin couldn't control, more annoyed when he considered that Kenshin shouldn't have trailed after Jisaemon and his cronies in the first place. As for Yoshinobu and Jisaemon, Hiko spent ample time cursing the two bastards who had caused his deshi such distress, usually in the middle of the night when Kenshin woke up screaming.
If Hiko had to deal with that every time it stormed−and the storms would come with increasing frequency as autumn set in−he didn't know what he would do. He'd thought he was past all that.
A swordsman's life isn't easy.
Hiko's mouth twisted wryly as the words he'd told Kenshin came back to him. He was right, of course, the life of a swordsman was far from easy. Whether you were student or teacher, each had its difficulties. Hiko wasn't giving up on his student though. He was confident Kenshin had learned from his mistakes and was prepared to carry on with renewed determination.
Thunder sounded again, farther away than before, and Hiko could hear the rain beginning to let up. The morning would probably be beautiful, the grass carpeted with drops of water that caught the rising sunlight and split it into prisms of color. He'd probably catch Kenshin unawares at least once, casting admiring glances at the spectacle.
A smile slid across his face at the thought. He always marveled how a boy who had seen such horrors in his short life could still retain such innocence, still find pure delight in the simplest of things.
Kenshin . . . the name was undeniably fitting, yet underneath, Kenshin still retained Shinta's pure spirit that had first caught Hiko's attention. An anomaly, that anyone in these times could possess such a spirit.
Don't ever lose that, Kenshin. You may be a baka deshi, but at least you're an honest one.
The lone chirp of an early morning sparrow floated on the air, announcing the encroachment of dawn that had yet to send its pale cast across the mountain. Hiko settled himself more comfortably against the wall. He really shouldn't have given his bed to Kenshin like that. He felt as if this whole Edo fiasco was turning him into a compassionate, overly-sensitive lump of humanity. Utterly unacceptable for a master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. It was high time to take some countermeasures. Starting that very morning.
And with a trace of a smirk on his lips, Hiko Seijuurou the XIII joined his deshi in sleep.
It's finally over! Let me know what you thought about the epilogue. I've always wondered why Kenshin would wet his bed as an 11-year-old (if you haven't read the manga, Hiko states that Kenshin is 11 when this happens, not 9), and I thought this fic provided the perfect explanation.
If you're interested in future fics/ficlets, I have a one-shot in the works that should be coming out relatively soon, and I will hopefully be starting another longer project (maybe 2?) in the next few months (all RK), so keep on the lookout.
Thanks for everyone who's read, thanks some more if you reviewed!
Kate (): Thanks for the complementary review! Glad you've enjoyed the story and the character interactions.
Honeyberries: Haha, Hiko and sweet are definitely not synonymous! He has his nice moments though, for sure.
t42nt42: Thanks for being my most faithful reviewer! I appreciate the time you put in to giving your thoughts and comments. Your reviews were always a pleasure to read, and got me thinking several times. I'm happy you enjoyed the story as much as you did!
I hope everyone has enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed writing it. Until next time, mata ne.