Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ The Lost Hatchling ❯ Dinner at Saitou's ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
The Lost Hatchling, a Rurouni Kenshin fanfic by Raberba girl
Chapter 5 - Dinner at Saitô's (ROUGH DRAFT)

The arrest came at a bad time. Kaoru was gone; she and Kenshin had been taking turns going out to hunt for Enishi - it was too dangerous to take the girls with them, and even now neither of them was willing to leave the children in someone else's care. So when policemen appeared on the doorstep, speaking tersely of assassinations by a person who matched his description, Kenshin's hand tightened on the hilt of his sword - but he glanced back at the frightened girls and knew he was trapped. "It wasn't me," he said anyway, glaring at the police chief.

Saitô gazed back calmly, his stance relaxed though his eyes remained sharp. "Five killings in the last week, of key figures pertaining to anti-dragon legislation, despite security measures, done by a person who is very clearly and repeatedly described as a short male with long red hair, blue eyes, and a cross-shaped scar on the left cheek." He did not add the obvious conclusion.

"It wasn't me," Kenshin repeated stubbornly. He was successfully squashing down the sudden wild thoughts clamoring insistently at the back of his mind; this was not the time for emotional, unfounded speculations.

"So you plan to resist?" Saitô murmured, almost idly.

"I will not leave my children."

"That is no longer something you have the right to decide."

Two of the men came toward him; the sakabatô flashed out of its sheath, but then Kenshin paused at the look in Saitô's eyes. He realized that if he lifted a hand against any of these men, whatever help he might be able to expect from their chief in the future would vanish.

The men, however, did not pick up on his hesitation; they shouted in warning and drew their guns.

The girls screamed and clung to him, and Kenshin could feel his eyes burn as they changed color. "Ayame, Suzume," he said, as soothingly as he could while keeping his eyes fixed on the police, "please let go." How could they realize that in their desperation for reassurance, they were making him helpless?

"Daddy," Ayame whimpered, "please...p-please...." She made an effort to loosen her fingers, but could not bring herself to let go completely; Suzume merely clung tighter.

"Think very carefully, Himura," Saitô murmured.

Kenshin didn't move. After what seemed an age, one of the men moved forward and very cautiously took the sword out of his hands and the sheath from his belt. The others quickly clustered around him, still gripping their guns warily. Kenshin hated the sight of those weapons so close to his children.

He did not move until he saw the glint of handcuffs; then he blinked, and slowly knelt down by the girls. They instantly threw their arms around his neck. "Ayame-chan," he murmured softly, "Suzume-chan. Your mother will be back soon, all right? For now...I...." They peered up at him fearfully, and he almost couldn't continue. "You're going to have to be big girls now, and wait for her. All right? Can you be brave for me?"

Suzume's eyes filled with tears. "Yes, Daddy," Ayame whispered.

When Kenshin glanced back at the men, he was a little surprised to see that some of them looked uncomfortable. Not really caring about that at the moment, he murmured again to the girls, "You see that man in the doorway, with the long bangs? He's going to take care of you for a little while."

"What?" Saitô said sharply.

"You're going to go with him," Kenshin said, glaring meaningfully at the police chief, "and as long as he's in charge of you, you will be safe." The two men were glaring deeply into each other's eyes, until they almost reached the minds beneath.

"You're out of your mind. I'm not a baby-sitter."

"I
thought I was out of my mind, to trust them with you - but the fire in your spirit. It is ruthless, cold, but pure. And you are strong. You have trapped me; there is no one else I can turn to."

"You're an idiot. Though...not a murderer, I'm almost certain. The fire in
your spirit balks at shedding blood lightly. There is, after all, another possibility - though it makes no difference at the moment, I'm still going to arrest you. However...."

"I trust you."

"I believe you."

"I need a cigarette," Saitô muttered aloud.

"Daddy," Ayame whispered, "he looks scary."

He turned back to her. "Do I look scary sometimes?" he asked quietly.

"Yes," she answered in a small voice.

"Have I ever hurt you?"

"No."

He kissed them gently, then stood and led them to Saitô, who scowled. "Go. It'll be all right."

Saitô rolled his eyes. "Come on, then." He swept out, and after a moment, nudged by their father, the girls shuffled after him. They kept turning to look back at Kenshin, so that it seemed a very long time before they reached the car beside which Saitô was impatiently waiting. Kenshin was successful in keeping the smile on his face until the car had driven out of sight. Then he let it drop and did not think about anything as the rest of the police moved in.

o.o.o.o.o

Sôjirô did not approach right away. He stood in the doorway for a while, looking at the slight figure hunched on the crumbling porch steps. It was Himura Kenji, his sword tucked into the crook of one arm as he gazed out at the trees.

Sôjirô had been teased (mostly by Chou) about the boy having become Shishio-sama's new favorite, but Sôjirô was not bothered. He knew that their positions were quite different, even if they seemed similar at first glance. True, the other boy had been hidden away for months, and had emerged as a trained killer, now frequently sent on oddly public assignments. The frightened, angry, helpless child was gone; here was now a scowling young man who mostly kept to himself except for the small circle of those he apparently trusted, those who were not afraid of him. The first day Kenji had emerged from his initiation and come among them as a fellow warrior, someone, one of the dragons not numbered among the Juppongatana, had made the fatal mistake of trying to bully him a bit. An instant later the man's head had gone flying, and less than a handful of those watching were alert enough to notice a flicker of the boy's hand as he calmly finished re-sheathing his sword, or the faint click as the blade settled back into place. Only Sôjirô had noticed the momentary pause afterwards - a brief uneasiness that was gone in the next eyeblink. Cool as the boy seemed on the outside, he did not have Sôjirô's emotionless smile.

Still, the boy was a prodigy - to have come so far in only a few months, to kill so cold-heartedly, to fight off the retaliatory horde afterwards without taking any significant damage, to be able to defeat some members of the Juppongatana themselves in one-on-one friendly duels, even with difficulty...surely Himura Kenji's bloodline was clear. It was obvious why Shishio-sama found him valuable. True, his body was damaged, though not to the extent that Shishio's was; and if his skill ever passed Shishio's own, he would not be allowed to live, as Sôjirô well knew. However, locked within Himura Kenji's genes was the key to developing a perfect superhuman specimen. 'Which Himura-san might not survive anyway,' Sôjirô mused thoughtfully.

"Oi." Kenji's tense, irritated voice broke the silence. "I'm not an animal in a zoo, you know. Go stare at someone else."

"Sorry," Sôjirô laughed, coming out at last. He paused beside the boy, so that they were both looking out at the same view. "Pretty, isn't it?" Sôjirô observed after a minute.

"Yeah," Kenji murmured, frowning. "It's...getting harder and harder to find places that aren't paved over and stuffed with cars. Geez, no wonder the real dragons died out."

"They were weak," Sôjirô pointed out cheerfully. "If they had been strong, they would have survived."

Kenji looked up, frowning, and opened his mouth to speak. Yet the words did not come, and a frustrated expression crossed his face. Finally he said, "Yeah, but...I dunno...it's a shame."

Sôjirô arched an eyebrow. "Is it? The dragons of old were simply beasts, after all. It is we who are the powerful ones, taking the strength of dragons and the strength of humans, and casting off the weaknesses of both."

"Yeah," Kenji mumbled. Then he frowned again and glanced at his companion. "Did you come for something in particular?"

"Oh!" Sôjirô laughed, "I almost forgot that I meant to tell you something. Did you know, Kenji-san, that your father was arrested this morning?"

"Huh?" Kenji scrambled to his feet. "Really?"

"It's true. He has been arrested for the murders of Mikage Kagami, Hiwatari Kei, and several others."

"Mikage?" Kenji said in confusion. "Hiwatari? But they're--" He suddenly stopped, his mouth open in surprise. "They think he killed them!" He closed his eyes and burst into laughter. Sôjirô watched, smiling. "Oh, that's hilarious! They think...." After a while, when he was able to bring the mirth and hatred and delight and fury until control, he looked up again. "Seta-kun, where are they keeping him?"

Sôjirô smiled.

o.o.o.o.o

"These are a lot of stairs," Ayame said unhappily. "Mr. Saitô, will you carry me?"

"I want Mommy and Daddy!" Suzume burst out, "and I have to go pee pee!" She burst into tears and plopped down, wailing.

Saitô could feel a vein throbbing in his temple as he looked down at them. 'Himura, I will kill you.' "It's just a little farther," he said shortly. "Tell your sister we're almost there."

"You're not going to pick me up?" Ayame said incredulously.

"You're a big girl," he snapped. "You can handle it."

"Mr. Saitô," Ayame said slowly, staring up at him in disappointment, "Daddy said that you're nice, even though you look scary, but you're not being very nice."

"Your father," Saitô informed her coldly, "said nothing of the kind. He said I won't hurt you, which I won't, and he said I will protect you, which I will. Now bring your sister; that noise is irritating me." He turned back and continued up the steps.

Ayame looked after him for a moment, nodded to herself as if she understood something, then bent down to her sister. "Suzume, come on. He's leaving us behind." Suzume gasped and scrambled to her feet, then clambered frantically after Saitô and clamped her arms around his leg. "Please don't leave! Please don't leave! Please don't leave!"

Saitô successfully resisted a sudden urge to slap her. "I'm not," he snapped. "Look, that green door with the number 304 on it. That's where we're going." Suzume immediately ran up the rest of the steps, reached the door he had pointed at, and began banging on it with all the strength of her fists. "Help! Help! Help!" she screamed. "HELP ME!"

"Be quiet!" Saitô barked, which only set her off wailing all the louder. The door was opened very suddenly by a frightened-looking woman. Suzume stared up at her, open-mouthed and petrified. The woman took one look and held out her arms, her expression dissolving into compassion. "Oh, you poor thing."

Suzume threw herself into the woman's arms and sobbed in heartbroken gratitude. "I want my mommy...I want my mommy...I want my daddy...."

"Tokio," Saitô said in annoyance as he approached with Ayame, "you know better than to just open the door like that."

"I'm not going to waste time when I hear a frightened child screaming," she said comfortably, rocking the girl soothingly in her arms.

"So all an enemy has to do," he said pointedly, "is to plant a screaming child in front of the door and wait for you to walk right into the trap."

"Oh, but you won't let anything bad happen to me, will you, Hajime-san?" she said, beaming up at him.

"Um...ma'am?" Ayame asked timidly. "Are you Mr. Saitô's wife?"

"Yes, dear, I am."

"Oh." Ayame smiled a little sheepishly. "I think you must be a bodhisattva."

Tokio's eyes widened, and then she burst into laughter. "I get that a lot," she said cheerfully, and laughed again at the look on her husband's face.

"Geez, what's all the noise about?" A young spiky-haired boy had joined them, looking distrustfully at the girls.

"Himura Ayame," Saitô grunted in introduction, "and Himura Suzume. They'll be staying here for a few hours."

"Oh, good," Tokio said, standing up with Suzume still in her arms. "So we'll have you for dinner! Won't that be nice, Eiji-chan?"

"I don't care, and don't call me '-chan.' I've told you." The boy stalked back inside and resumed a video game, then was disconcerted a few minutes later to find that Ayame had followed him. "What do you want?" he asked uncomfortably.

"Can I play?" Ayame asked cautiously.

"It's a fighting game. You won't like it."

Ayame's head came up. "I played those before," she said haughtily. "You hit all the buttons, and the people on TV punch each other."

Eiji growled. "I will not play with a button-masher!"

Meanwhile, Tokio was showing Suzume where the bathroom was. "Will you stay with me?" the girl asked tearfully.

Tokio laughed in surprise. "Oh darling, you're a big girl, I'm sure you can manage it yourself."

"No!" she insisted frantically. "You have to watch and make sure no bad people come through the window!"

Tokio's laughter died away when she saw the genuine terror in the child's eyes. "No one will hurt you, sweetheart," she said gently.

Later, as Tokio was cooking, her husband leaned back against the counter beside her, watching Eiji and the girls arguing playfully in the living room. "This is getting ridiculous. First the boy, who was only supposed to be here until a foster home opened up. Now this."

"Oh, it's not so bad," Tokio murmured, eyes on her work. "I confess, Hajime-san...it pleases me very much to have children in the house." She paused deliberately, and from the set of his shoulders she knew that he anticipated what she was about to say. "It makes me wish we could have a child of our own."

"We've discussed this," he said brusquely, eyes still focused across the room.

"Not even to please me?" she said softly. "Not even if I promised you wouldn't have to lift a finger?"

"That's not the issue. Children are a liability." Finally he turned his cold gaze to her. "You know that there might very well come a time when I would have to choose between the safety of my child and the truth I fight for. Himura faces that choice now. If it was me, I would not spare even my own child...which I'm certain you would find upsetting."

Tokio gazed at him, wondering if he realized he was lying. "Since when," she said, carefully provocative, "have you cared about causing me heartache?" They locked eyes for a long time. Then he glanced away. "Fine. If it's all the same to you."

She knew better than to smile over her victory. Pretending to need the salt, she reached across his stomach for it and slipped her hand under the hem of his untucked shirt as she did so, letting her fingers trail along the skin of his belly. "Shall we start tonight, then?" she suggested casually.

"Only if you drug the boy."

"Hajime-san!" she laughed, hoping he was joking.

The children argued no less when they were actually eating dinner, though Eiji was the only one who seemed to be getting worked up - the girls appeared to be under the impression that he was their new honorary brother. Saitô finally got fed up and sternly put an end to it, which had the unfortunate side-effect of frightening Suzume to tears. Tokio was hard-put to keep the overall atmosphere cheerful, but enjoyed every minute of it. 'This house will be a good one for children,' she thought, watching Ayame patting her sister's head and Saitô inconspicuously pushing the plate of dessert closer to Suzume's side of the table.

Afterwards, Tokio happily curled up on the sofa with the three children to watch TV, as Saitô lounged in the easy chair and worked on his laptop. At one point he got up to use the restroom. When he finished, he opened the door again and froze when he found himself confronted with two pairs of small, anxious eyes.

"What," he said in a very low voice, "are you doing?" The fact that anyone, much less two young girls, had stood outside the bathroom waiting for him was making him feel violent.

"You're supposed to protect us," Ayame said accusingly.

"What if bad people come when you're going potty?" Suzume quavered.

Very slowly, Saitô lifted murderous eyes to Tokio, who was watching from down the hallway and obviously trying not to laugh. "They're only children," she reminded him soothingly. "They've been through a lot."

Saitô looked back at the girls. "Do you wait outside the bathroom door at home, too?" he growled.

"No," Ayame said, chewing her lip. "I don't think Daddy goes potty when Mommy is gone."

'Himura, I will torture you first, and then kill you.'

The apartment suddenly seemed to shake with the thudding sound of feet coming rapidly up the stairs. Saitô was already striding forward before the heavy pounding on the door started; Eiji hurried to Tokio, who was trying to pull the petrified girls out of the living room.

Then the shouting began. "Saitô Hajime! I know you're in there! Open this door RIGHT NOW and give me my children, before I roast you!"

"It's Mommy!" the girls shrieked in frantic relief. "Mommy! Mommy!"

"Ayame-chan! Suzume-chan!"

Saitô was maddeningly unhurried as he verified Kaoru's identity and ensured that she had come alone before he finally allowed her entrance. At any other time, Kaoru would have (foolishly) attempted to beat him up, but at this particular moment nothing could have stopped her from dropping to her knees and flinging her arms around her daughters.

The three of them cried and clung to each other for a long time. Saitô, rolling his eyes, stepped outside to make sure Kaoru had not been followed. Eiji watched the reunited mother and children with a dark expression until Tokio compassionately tried to put an arm around him; he shook her off and stormed away to his room.

When Kaoru could speak again, she made anxious inquiries and searched their faces, looking for signs of hurt, but there was nothing but joy at seeing her again. "Mommy?" Ayame asked urgently, "is Daddy okay?"

Kaoru paused, then decided to not frighten the girls. She made herself smile. "He's fine, sweetheart. He...he's going to be away for a little while - you're going to stay with me, okay?"

They were staring at her. "Without Daddy?" Suzume whispered.

"We'll be all right," Kaoru quickly assured her. "Daddy just...has some work to do. It will be all right, he's strong." The girls pressed against her silently, and Kaoru glared up at Saitô. All she said aloud, however, was, "I'm going to take the girls home now. I'll call you later."

"Looking forward to it," he said sourly.

to be continued...

Author's Notes: The unplanned comic relief chapter. It was SO FUN to write Saitô's interaction with small children. XD

I usually don't like the Saitô/Tokio pairing in fandom and didn't think I could pull it off. To my shock, from the moment Tokio flung open the door for Suzume, she made me feel as if I've known her for ages. I really enjoyed writing her as Saitô's wife. Please let me know what you think about how I wrote the Saitô/Tokio pairing, since it's the first time I've tried it.