Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. No rurouni's or small children were hurt in the writing of this story.
Ticking Time Bomb Baby
Himura Kenshin had faced many deadly and fearsome opponents in his day – Shishio, Saitou, and Enishi were just a few. But none struck the mortal fear in his heart like the person before him. Sanosuke was a barely living testament to the sheer power of the individual. The ex-gangster was the toughest, physically strongest man that Kenshin had ever met and yet he was hanging onto consciousness by the merest thread. He was bruised, battered, and slightly burned all over. His adversary sat at the tall fighter's feet with nary a scratch and the biggest smile on his face this side of Kyoto.
"Sano, are you okay?" Kenshin asked apprehensively. It really did look as if he was going to collapse. "Where's Megumi-dono?"
Sanosuke gritted his teeth. "She's at home recuperating. Kenshin, take yer kid. I am never ever babysitting for you again!" In a move that almost unbalanced him, Sanosuke booted the red-headed toddler through the dojo's gate and into Kenshin's legs.
Kenshin watched ruefully as the last person in Tokyo willing to baby-sit his son stomped off. Kenji grinned at his father, his blue eyes twinkling innocently. Sighing, the hitokiri picked up his slightly dusty son and headed inside.
Kaoru met him in the yard dressed in a light pink kimono and clutching a small purse. "Oh Kenshin, was Sanosuke here already?" She inquired before pressing a kissing to her squirming son's forehead. "I didn't think the rooster-head could wake up this early."
"I have a feeling that he made a special effort today," Kenshin told her wryly. "We lost another one koishii."
"Mou!" Kaoru exclaimed in exasperation. "At this rate we won't be alone together until Kenji is eighteen. Or later," she added darkly, thinking on her fully grown, live-in first pupil.
"Maa, maa." Kenshin protested. Yet he began to sweat under the collar slightly at that thought. Kaoru's words unfortunately rang true. Yahiko refused outright to care for the little boy anymore and Genzai-sensei was too old to chase around a three year old. Misao and Aoshi lived too far away AND the stoic okashira promised a final showdown between them if Kenshin ever mentioned it again. Hiko left poor Kenji wandering in the forest the last time they dropped him off there. Sanosuke and Megumi had really been it. And like the innocents they were, they had eagerly accepted care of Kenshin and Kaoru's little boy. They wanted practice for when they finally a child of their own, Megumi had insisted. Kenshin could only hope his son hadn't put a permanent cramp in their love life.
"I can't believe we produced such a demon child," Kaoru muttered to herself. "He looks so much like you, who'd have thought it?" Kenshin stared at her and she blushed bright red. "What I mean is that Kenji is so sweet and good-natured like you Kenshin but you must admit he's a handful."
It'd be a lie to say otherwise so Kenshin just nodded but he felt the need to defend his progeny. "Kenji is just a little energetic. He isn't really that difficult to handle."
Kaoru smiled sweetly at him. "Oh really? Than where is he, Kenshin?" During the course of the conversation, Kenji had somehow wiggled out of his father's grasp and disappeared. Kenshin suddenly realized he was holding on to nothing at all and spun around. A quick check of the perimeter showed no signs of the small boy.
"Kenji? Kenji?!" Kenshin cried in a panic. He began running all over the yard, overturning the laundry tub, parting the leafy limbs of the bushes, and peering under the deck. All the while Kaoru stood with her arms crossed over her chest, a smug smile on her face.
"What?" Kenshin asked in distraction. Kaoru simply pointed up. His violet gaze followed her finger to the flying body catapulting off the roof and falling to him.
Even the god-like speed of a master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu wasn't fast enough to catch the live cannonball named Kenji. Barreling ahead full force, the three year old collided head on with his father, knocking the poor rurouni to the ground.
"Ororororo." Kenji only laughed and clapped his small hands as his father groaned and dazedly sat up.
"Again!" The precocious boy cried, scrambling off of Kenshin's chest and heading for the porch. Kaoru hurried across the yard and caught him by the leg as he was scurrying up a beam.
"No, no Kenji. Why don't you go play with Yahiko-niisan?" Kaoru suggested gently, placing him on the ground. Kenji raced into the house. The sound of something breaking and Yahiko's cries of protest echoed from the abused structure.
"Well Kenshin, I'm off to the Akabeko. I promise Tae that I would help her out today." Kaoru told him brightly.
"What? No..." He protested faintly. There were small footprints on the front of his gi.
"And I'm taking Yahiko with me to help out. This will give you a good chance to bond with your son." Kenshin gaped at her.
"Yahiko? Are you coming or not? I'm leaving now!"
"Yeah, yeah busu." Yahiko strode out of the house, stepping into his sandals as he went. His bokken rested comfortable against one shoulder. Kenji hung happily from it, his feet busily kicking the air. Yahiko slung the precious parcel at Kenshin. "You forgot something," he said. Kenshin could only stare in horror as the pair left, Kaoru pulling on her student's ear for throwing her son around.
"We do something fun?" Kenji asked hopefully from his father's arms. The rurouni forced a smile on his face and a positive outlook into his mind. He would have a good day with his son. Alone. Where no one could hear his screams for help...
Kaoru had been gone for ten long seconds when Kenshin decided that in order to keep his son from jumping off roofs or breaking things, he would have to teach him something so fantastically interesting, so wildly entertaining that Kenji's attention would be caught for the rest of the day.
"Let's do laundry!"
"Oro." Kenji agreed. He followed Kenshin as the rurouni puttered around, getting the tub filled and piles of dirty clothes separated. Kenji toted the soap for his proud papa as the water heated. This wasn't so bad. The laundry would get washed and Kenji would learn a valuable skill.
"First we do the whites," Kenshin explained. "Pick a piece of clothing from the pile and stick it in the tub." Kenshin pulled out a sheet and immersed it. Kenji studied the contents of the basket before pulling out a lone tabi. He plopped it in the water and stared at it. Kenshin beamed with pride. "Rub it up and down on the washboard. Make sure you put plenty of soap on it, Kenji." His son applied the soap and enthusiastically plunged his arms in the tub. He began scrubbing at the sock with zeal. Intermittently, he pulled it out of the tub for his father's inspection. When it was spotless, Kenshin pulled his sheet out of the tub, instructing Kenji to do the same. "Now we hang it on the line here..." After pinning up his wash, Kenshin turned around to help Kenji with his.
Sure enough, the little boy was gone and the tabi lay in the dirt.
Kenshin raced around the front, hand on his sakabatou. No child could possibly run that fast. Someone must have snatched him while he was hanging the laundry! But he skidded to a halt when he came within sight of the front gate. Kenji had his shoes and coat on and was industriously pushing at the heavy oaken door.
"I go play with Sano-niisan." He informed his father solemnly. Kenji went back to shoving at the door. Kenshin almost collapsed right there. If he had been just two minutes later, his precious son could be wandering the dangerous streets of Tokyo all by himself!
"No, no" Kenshin scolded, scooping his child into his arms. "Sano is asleep. At home. Where we can't go."
"Because he's tired."
"Because he spent all weekend playing with you." Kenshin explained, his patience beginning to wear.
"Because he wants a baby of his own."
"I have no idea," Kenshin muttered through his teeth. "Lets do something else right now."
"Okay." Kenji consented benevolently. "Let's play dice."
"Excuse me?" Kenshin said in surprise. "Dice?"
"Han and chow." Kenji explained helpfully. "Chow is e'en an' han is odd. I go get dice." Kenji tore into the house leaving his flabbergasted father to follow. Han and chow? Sanosuke taught his son gambling at the tender age of three?!
"Back!" The little boy cried, plopping on the shining wood of the deck. In his tightly clenched fist were a pair of dice which he passionately threw down.
"Chow!" He cried. "I win! Gimme a yen." Kenshin sat in front of him. Sure enough, his son had rolled a six- chow. Where had he learned to count?
"Gimme a yen, please," Kenji corrected himself anxiously. He took his papa's silence as a refusal to pay based on poor manners.
"I don't have a yen," Kenshin finally answered. He would play along with his son's request because he was quiet but he was most certainly not going to give him money!
"Oh." That answer seemed to stump Kenji. Nevertheless, his little face brightened as he reached inside his gi and pulled out a wad of cash. "I lend you a yen and you give it to me." He told his father seriously.
"Oro?! Where did you get that money, Kenji-chan?"
"Sano-niisan is a bad gambler. He loses to a child. Ohohoho!" Kenji crowed, tiny fox ears popping up on his head. Kenshin nearly had a heart-attack. Each time Kenji came back from an overnight weekend, he picked up another disturbing character trait. With Aoshi and Misao, it had been screaming with alarming bouts of silence mixed in. With Saitou and Tokio, it had been smoking. After spending a few days with his Kenshin's shishou, Kenji came back calling his father 'baka otosan.' It kinda made the rurouni glad that there was no one else left to care for his son.
"You roll." Kenji instructed his father. He wanted to play dice like he did with Sano-niisan! He wanted more yen!
Kenshin reluctantly rolled and it came up chow. Kenji was beside himself with joy. Kenshin handed his child a yen from the pile. Fourteen rolls later, Kenshin hadn't won a single hand. His kid had the luck of the gods!
"I'm hungry," Kenji abruptly announced. He stuffed the money back into his shirt and padded into the house. Kenshin was relieved. Preparing meals was his forte. He would stuff Kenji so full of food that the little tike would need a nice, long nap. Yes, it was a devious plan indeed!
Kenji sat at the table and watched as his father made lunch. Kenshin started out making bunny-shaped rice balls. They were the boy's favorites. Maybe, with luck, he'd eat four or five of them and get tired. With a flourish, the hitokiri presented a plate of his best dish. Kenji merely turned up his nose.
"Saitou-niisan makes tanuki rice balls. Can't you?"
"Saitou-niisan..?" Kenshin repeated, crushed. Kenji nodded. "He made puppy ones too. He said I was his Mibu-chan." Kenji giggled and clapped his hands. A dark wind blew through Kenshin's soul. Saitou...Sanosuke...they both couldn't be better fathers than him! It wasn't possible!
"Right... tanuki rice balls...like Saitou," Kenshin gritted out. He took the plate back to the kitchen and began pounding the balls flat in order to reshape them.
"I go to jail?" Kenji queried hopefully as his father began chopping vegetables. Kenshin slipped and cut deeply into his thumb. He remembered the last time Saitou had baby-sat. Tired of Kenji's antics, the ex-Shisengumi had padlocked the boy in a holding cell for several hours. And instead of being traumatized, he had loved it! Kenji asked to go back to jail at least once a week. Between Saitou and Sanosuke, Kenshin's little boy was becoming a regular delinquent!
"No, you are not going to jail. You are going to eat your lunch and take a nap."
"I not tired. I want to go to jail!" As the toddler began to scream and wail, Kenshin fought back the urge to do the same. The noise was so loud and shrill, he had to put his hands over his ears. Internally, the Battousai began urging him to do something...drastic. And the rurouni was tempted. Yes, he was tempted.
"Kenji-chan! Kenji, be quiet!" Kenshin cried. Swiftly, he placed a tray of vaguely tanuki-shaped rice balls on the table before his son. Kenji shut up immediately and dug in. As his son devoured all the food before him, Kenshin began to feel guilty. He had a moment of weakness. The Battousai in him had come out just long enough for him to...
Kenji's head hit the kitchen table and his tiny body began to shake with the force of his snores. During the ungodly howls, Kenshin slipped a few special herbs into the rice balls. Just to help his son sleep, you know. It wasn't because Kenshin wanted to rest. No, siree. He had the stamina of a race horse.
Gathering the child into his arms, Kenshin reveled in the sweet smell babies had. Kenji was so much cuter in his sleep. Pulling off the boy's itsy-bitsy tabi, Kenshin laid him out of his mother's futon and covered him in a blanket. Yawning as he began to clean up the mess in the kitchen, Kenshin reasoned that sitting down for awhile wouldn't hurt. He just had to start dinner for Kaoru in an hour or so. As he settled into a corner of the porch, Kenshin decided that resting his eyes for five minutes wouldn't hurt either. Just five minutes...
Several hours later...
"Kenshin? Anata, wake up." It was Kaoru's voice that came from above him. "Yahiko go check on Kenji." Sounds of feet pattering away. Kenshin forced his eyes open.
"Koishii?" He murmured, stretching lazily. "What time is it?"
"It's well after sunset. I'm sorry we're late. Did you and Kenji eat?"
A tired half-smile spread over Kenshin's face. "Mm-hm," he acknowledged. Yahiko returned.
"Kenji's asleep," he reported. "How did ya do it, Kenshin? I can never get that brat to take a nap."
"it's just a matter of knowing what tires him out." He replied modestly. He really shouldn't be basking in the praises of his family for drugging his son but who was to know?
"Well Kenshin, you've been the most effective baby-sitter yet." Kaoru declared. But her next words sent an icy chill down his spine. "I guess you'll be watching him more often from now on! Good night, dear." She bent to kiss him on the cheek and strolled inside. Kenshin remained riveted to that stop.
"No," he wept, "no more..."
Why you're down here, why don't you review? I want to hear whether you liked it or not and whose baby-sitting misadventure you want next! Sanosuke and Megumi's? Aoshi and Misao's? Hiko's? Saitou and Tokio's? Leave some feedback!