***I don't own the series Ruroni Kenshin or the characters within***
Kaoru opened the gate to the Kamiya compound and wiped her brow as she strode to the dojo, exhausted from the day's work. She could smell whatever it was her husband had cooking for dinner and her stomach rumbled. Yahiko was still with a student when she entered, so she set her gear down as quietly as possible, and then headed in to say hello to Kenshin before heading to the bathhouse.
She found him in the main room of the house, stirring a pot of rice and careful cutting up vegetables into a stew. He looked up and smiled at her as she leaned down to kiss him. "I'm glad you're home, that I am," he said as he added some spice or other to his concoction. "Once you've had your bath, dinner should be ready."
"Good, because I'm starving!" she said as she flopped down beside him, leaning against him and watching him as he performed his second best skill. "My student today was really full of stamina, almost too much. It's a good thing I'm charging him as much as I do."
"Hn. Well, it's best that you leave your work at the gate Kaoru. We won't trouble you here, at least not as much." He smiled as she closed her eyes. "Did you happen to see Kenji on your way in? Ayame and Suzume grabbed him about an hour ago and I haven't heard a peep out of any of them…" The Himura family had inherited the two girls temporarily, until their next of kin could be located. Dr. Gensai had passed away not long ago, and the girls' aunt was living somewhere on the mainland, which is why they weren't sent to her after their mother had passed on all those years ago.
Kaoru laughed wearily. "That can't be good. If they're quiet it's usually bad news." She sighed and got to her feet. "I'll find them and send them to check in with you, get cleaned up for dinner and all. Then I'm gonna take that bath." She walked out the door and scanned the courtyard, raising her hand to shield her eyes from the setting sun. She saw Yahiko at the gate, letting his student out and called out to him, "Have you seen the kids?"
Yahiko scowled as he crossed his arms in front of him. "Does it look like I've had time to see them, you hag! I've been a little busy, ya know!"
"Shut up! I only asked a question, the least you could do is answer me civilly!" she retorted back. "I thought maybe you might have heard them or some-"
"Mama!" Kenji cried as Ayame and Suzume came skipping out of the storage shed. The sisters held the little boy's hands as they strolled him out into the fading light. Kaoru's face couldn't decide to laugh or scream. Finally, her hands came to her face as laughing won out. "Mama, is I pwetty?" he asked in his tiny voice.
"Hey Kenshin!" Yahiko hollered, grinning. "You might wanna come see this!"
Kenshin came to the porch and stared out across the yard, then after a moment doubled over in laughter. The sight of him falling all over himself only made Kaoru laugh harder, and it wasn't long before Yahiko gave in to his compulsion to chuckle as well. Kenji was wearing much too big geta sandals, a much too large kimono and the girls had pulled his bright red hair up into kanzashi and had even smeared a little pink makeup on his face. The obi was tied sloppily into a butterfly knot, and the girlish pattern on the silk made it appear that Kenji was in essence a beautiful little girl.
"What in the world did they do to you, my son?" Kaoru asked, giggling as she knelt down to get a better look at her baby boy.
"Mama, I pwetty!" the boy said as he smiled as wide as he could.
A fit of laughter nearly consumed her. "Yes, baby, you're pretty!" She wiped his face off with her thumbs, pulled his hair back down, and removed the kimono and sandals to reveal dirty bare feet and his tiny navy gi and diaper. She pulled the tie from her hair, brushed Kenji's mane with her fingers into a high ponytail, then slapped a wooden dagger in his hand. He looked like a miniature Battousai, minus the hakema and the infamous scar. "Now baby is handsome."
Kenji furrowed his brow. "Handsome?"
She nodded as she took his hands and adjusted his grip, then guided him into a simple kata stance. "Girls are pretty and boys are handsome."
Kenji scowled at his adopted cousins as they giggled. "'Ame and 'Ume made me a g'ull? But I a boy, 'at I am!"
Kaoru's heart melted at the sound of him imitating his father's speech pattern. "I'm sure they only did it because they wondered what you might have looked like if you'd been a little girl. They love Kenji just as he is, and would never want him to change, right girls?"
"Of course, Aunt Kaoru!" Ayame said as she bowed. "We were only playing dress up with him. And he was such a good sport about it that Suzume and I decided to really do him up nicely."
Kaoru stood up, offering her hand to her son. "I think it's time for a nice bath. We'll get good and cleaned up and ready for dinner, how's that sound, Kenji?" The little boy lunged perfectly through his stance and into a second one before being hijacked by his mother and toted off to the bathhouse. Yahiko had gotten the girls to wash their hands and faces and Kenshin occupied them by putting them in charge of getting the tea ready to brew.
After dinner was over, and after bedtime stories were told, Kaoru and Kenshin stood looking down at their son, nestled into a futon alongside his cousins. "He's really something. He told me in the bath tonight he wants to be just like you," Kaoru said quietly as Kenshin's hands came to her hips.
"I hope he never becomes just like me. I hope he finds happiness and peace long before I did, and I hope his hands never become stained with the blood of others." He kissed his wife's cheek. "I was rather hoping he'd rather become just like you." He gave a light chuckle though as he kissed her neck. "But then again, if he were just like you, he'd have to be 'pwetty'."
"And personally I'd rather have him as handsome as his father," she said as she turned and kissed him. "Girls and their dolls, I've never heard of anything so silly," she said as they rejoined Yahiko in the main room.
"I knew you weren't a girl," her apprentice commented.
Kenshin smiled as his wife proceeded to beat the life out of him. 'She's more girly than you give her credit for, Yahiko,' he thought to himself. He remembered how Kaoru had dressed him in every outfit he had and squeeed all over at how cute Kenji was when he was an infant. The memory made his heart warm and he said overtop of the loud arguing, "Leave my girl alone, Yahiko… She's had a hard day." He watched as Kaoru gave the boy a smug smirk and then sat daintily beside him, kissing his cheek.
"Thank you for defending me, Kenshin. You've saved my honor and reputation once again." She proceeded to glare at Yahiko as she wound her arms around her husband's waist. "My knight in shining armor, as the western tales say."
Kenshin smiled. 'Girls…'