Kekkaishi and its characters belong to Yellow Tanabe, not to me.
Rating: PG, for allusions to canon child abuse.
Written for my one-fic-a-day meme from November 2011, on my LJ/DW. The prompt was given by drakys: "Masamori/Gen, weird displays of affection". I screwed it up. Also, the shipping is barely there, since Gen is 10 years old in this.
The title and quote come from Le Petit Prince / The Little Prince, from Saint-Exupéry (chapter 21).
Ffnet is still butchering my formatting, so if you want to read this without the "oOo"s everywhere, the fic is available on my LJ/DW.
"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . ."
For the first time since you started your own organization, you're at a loss.
It's the kid - what's his name already? Oh, right. Gen. The useless, unwanted, one too many child. The name leaves a bitter taste on your mouth. (Hitting a little too close to home for your taste.)
This little brat you just brought back - you really don't know how to deal with him.
It's not the half-demon thing. You've grown quite knowledgeable regarding demon powers in the last year, and you know how to explain it to the kids. You know how to reassure them, how to relieve the terrible pressure on their shoulders - you're used to children scared of their powers. (You were one, once. Probably still are, though you learned to hide it better.)
You know there's something else.
Usually, half-demons desperately cling to their humanity. They scream for reassurance that they aren't monsters. The scarier their powers or appearance, the louder their cries. You knew something was off with this one the second you heard him do the complete opposite.
Sure, little Gen is scared of his own powers - but his powers aren't what scare him the most. And that's the part that's new, and terribly frightening. The kids you're used to helping only need someone to tell them what they want to hear in the first place. They don't need convincing.
And it makes you sick to think of what these people must have done to him, to make such a young kid scared by his own humanity just as much, maybe even more than by his demonic half.
You feel somewhat guilty for lying to Gen. It's not a healthy way to begin any sort of relationship with a subordinate, even a child. It might very well destroy all your chances of earning his trust if he finds out too soon. You're painfully aware of it.
But what else could you have done? You couldn't let a ten-year-old boy face the fact that his own parents hated him enough to name him "unwanted". Especially not a half-demon with the strength of little Gen. Learning to control that won't be an easy task. And all gods know the boy didn't find much help in his own family. (Only his sister seemed to care. Bless her for whatever parts of the boy aren't twisted yet.)
It was for the best.
Gen seems as uncomfortable around boys his age as he is with grown-up men. He's less afraid of girls, and more afraid for them. And of course, he ends up avoiding everyone. You thank whatever gods inspired you to entrust him to Atora - being a strong woman, she falls in neither category, and Gen seems to be opening up to her. Slowly. One tiny little bit after the other.
He listens to Hatori, too. Maybe there was some truth to these sayings about women and taking care of children. (And no, you are not miffed that Hatori is having more success than you with the brat. Absolutely not miffed. At all.)
Then there's the day Hiba looses his nerve after one too many avoidance tactic.
(Hiba usually doesn't do such a poor job of his relations with the younger members of the Night Troops but then, Gen did butcher his arm rather nastily. Which probably qualifies as a bad first impression. Hiba's not very good at letting go of grudges.)
So he raises his fist to shake it at Gen as he yells.
Gen cringes. Recoils.
And suddenly everything makes sense - his wariness around older boys, the way he keeps lurking, always out of range, the shifty eyes, the anger when he finally decides to face someone.
You think of Yoshimori, of tiny little squares in tiny little hands, of frustrating innocence, and of how unbearable the thought of hitting such a tiny, scrawny little kid was. Apparently the feeling wasn't shared by Gen's brothers. You help Atora stop him and confine him in his room, to give yourself time to calm down.
The anger takes a few hours to subside. The nausea simply doesn't.
You make all the seniors sit down at a table as you talk to Hiba. Then you go visit Gen and try your best to convince him that Hiba wasn't about to beat the living hell out of him. Half an hour of arguing later, you're still not quite sure whether you achieved anything, but you really can't make Hiba wait any longer, so you drag Gen down the stairs and make him apologize.
(And by all gods, the boy seems terribly used to that, too. Not in a positive way.)
And you're so used to acting like a good big brother, you just can't stand by and watch.
Atora and Hatori are doing a fine job, really they are, but Gen needs to be shown that not all men are his enemies, and they can't provide that. The boy needs a true, nice big brother figure. Badly. Problem is, he seems determined to discourage every adult in the Night Troops from becoming that.
It's only natural for you to take responsibility. You're the leader, after all.
You try sweets.
Children like those. Or at least, most children do. It certainly did the trick with Yoshimori - in fact, your grand-father would say that it worked a little too well. None of the kids you brought into the Night Troops ever seemed to mind being slipped a cake or some chocolate before being sent to bed.
Gen does. He stubbornly refuses to accept anything.
Figures. If he were that easy, the others would have managed on their own.
You try smiling.
You know you have somewhat of a goofy smile. As a leader, it can become problematic sometimes, but children tend to like you better when you put it on, and you've used it shamelessly in the past. It's one of the reasons you're so popular among your kids, actually.
Gen screws up his eyes and slowly edges away.
You watch him in (slightly hurt) confusion. Why would he be scared of someone smiling at him?
Then it dawns on you. (The sadistic little fuckers were smiling when they...) You force yourself to stop before your good guy smile turns into a nasty, angry frown. It wouldn't make Gen feel safer anyway.
You try games.
The quiet sort of games. Cards, at first. It's the safest choice, usually - even adults like those, and Gen must have witnessed some of their evening games. He should have realized by now that they're harmless, and would allow him to keep a comfortable distance from the other players.
It's a puzzled stare, though. You take that as a progress.
Then one of the other kids catches chicken pox, and proceeds to contaminate all of his friends one after the other. Gen may not like to hang around them, but with the adults always trying to make them train together, it was only a matter of time. For all of Gen's talent at scaring off other children, he's defenseless against viruses.
He catches it last, when most of his fellow little troopers are already recovering, and ends up all alone in his room. Atora tries her best to nurse him, but most of her pets have a hard time understanding what "sick" implies. She spends more time chasing them away from the boy than taking care of him, and looks relieved when you offer to take over for a while.
You spend your afternoon stopping Gen from scratching his back or rubbing it against the futon. It's not hard, per se - Gen freezes the second you open your mouth, no matter how low or soft you keep it. Still, it's mentally exhausting. You can't get yourself used to scaring a little child every time you move, and every time he jerks because of a sudden move on your part is like another failure. You just don't know what you could do for this boy, and it's driving you insane.
So you do what you do best: persisting like a cockroach. It got you the zekkai and your position within the guild, after all. Surely it'll get you somewhere with Gen.
You change his sheets, carry him to his bath and help smear ointment on his back. You go fetch some soup in the kitchen and bring it to his bed on a platter. You give him his medicine, watch him make faces at his sirup and offer him a glass of milk to get rid of the taste.
He blinks once, twice, and accepts, with a hint of pink on his cheeks.
(You refrain from shouting victory. Atora told you he probably has a slight headache.)
Gen's health gets better.
(Half-demons have a tendency to heal way too quick, as if they barely had time to notice something was wrong with their bodies.)
He doesn't really get better at socializing, though. He keeps avoiding everyone and making enemies of them without ever meaning to. Both you and Hatori have to nip a few arguments in the bud, and a few others get out of hand before you intervene - that is to say, some people feel entitled to physically threaten Gen in spite of your lectures, and Gen reacts by transforming and trying his best to maul them.
You punish the boy as lightly as possible, and make sure he knows you don't hate him for defending himself. He keeps staring at you like you're some sort of green alien, but he never discusses any of your sentences like he did the first time. You're not sure whether it's a good sign.
Your main problem is that the others don't take well to being scolded for trying to put Gen back in his place. Subtle allusions to child abuse go straight over their heads, and you're not sure Gen would appreciate openly being portrayed as a weak victim, either. Oh, the joys of leadership.
It takes a few weeks for you to notice.
(Or, if you're honest, for Hatori to roll her eyes and point it out to you.)
It would seem your attempts have been successful, in the end. Just when you had abandoned all hope, Gen has taken a liking to you. He even shows it, in his own awkward way - which Atora and Hatori find extremely cute, and you find extremely embarrassing.
The boy still won't talk to you or get a single inch closer, but now he's constantly watching you. From his corner of the common room, from under his bangs when he's eating, from the roof when you're training with the elder troopers, from the chink between fusumas. All day long, if he can get away with it. He's not very subtle about it, either. He's blushing, for crying out loud! Thank all gods the others aren't subtle either, or you'd never hear the end of it.
(You must admit, though, it is quite cute. Especially when you catch him looking and he startles, slight blush spreading into a crimson face, before running away.)
You let him do it for a while, waving at him when there's nobody to notice. He flails an awful lot, and starts to hide himself a little better. You take it as a challenge, and make a point to always notice and wink at him - the poor kid looks mortified. You feel a little guilty for having so much fun with this.
Oh well. At least he's taking Atora's camouflage lessons more and more seriously.
You wait a little more, in the hopes that he'll gather the courage to come near you by himself.
So you finally decide to close the gap for him. You ponder it for a few days; where might he feel the most safe? You end up picking the roofs. Easy escape for a half-demon as fast as Gen. Finally, after a day of training with the kids, when you feel the familiar gaze on the back of your neck, you excuse yourself and walk away to a corner of the courtyard. You briefly check that nobody's watching you anymore and use a kekkai to get up to the roof's level. Gen stares at you like a deer caught in headlights. You smile and start walking toward him, slowly.
You're pleasantly surprised when he doesn't try to flee.
You crouch down beside him and watch the other children down in the courtyard. It's a nice observation post he got himself up there, you must admit. Still.
"Don't you get lonely up there?"
He blinks and blinks and blinks like he's desperately waiting for you to change topics. You raise a brow, without adding anything.
"It's quieter," he mumbles, looking away.
You laugh a little, softly.
"Yeah, I guess it is. You're a little young to complain about the noise, though."
He takes a quick peek at you and turns his face away again, groaning and - his ears are blushing.
You can't help it. You reach and pet them, playfully, before ruffling his hair.
He startles, moves back a little to face you again, but he doesn't try to flee any further.
That's when you know you've won him over.
"Come on, Gen," holding your hand out to him, "come down a little. You don't have to hide away. I won't allow anybody to hurt you, I promise."
He barely hesitates before he takes your hand.