Title: Shades of the Future
Prompt: "The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." - Barack Obama
Fandom/Series: Rurouni Kenshin
Word Count: 3,010
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s)
Summary: Kenshin and Sano discuss the possibility of marriage and whether or not their pasts should allow them such a pleasure. They discuss the fact that they've both caused a great deal of pain in the past and worry about what kind of fathers they might be.
Shades Of The Future
Kenshin sat outside Kaoru’s dojo, listening to the training going on inside. In the last few years, the dojo had seen an increase in students and was prospering beautifully. Shaking his head, Kenshin smiled to himself, “It is a pleasant life I live, that it is.”
The soft sound of footfalls behind Kenshin had him glancing up as Yahiko came to sit beside him, “I’ve been here almost all my life, Kenshin…And you still sit here and stare into nothing. What are you thinking about this time?”
Kenshin chuckled, “Just about how nice my life has become, that is. You have grown into a fine man, that you have, Yahiko.”
The son of a samurai smiled, “That’s nice to hear. You know, you’re the closest thing to a father I’ve had for most of my life?”
Kenshin glanced at the young man in surprise, “I am touched, Yahiko, that I am. But what brought that on?”
Yahiko blushed and shrugged, “Nothing. You know…Just a thought that came to me."
Kenshin smiled and shook his head, “Yahiko. As you said, I have known you most of your life, that I have. Why do you still think you can lie to me?”
Yahiko blushed even more deeply and muttered something under his breath. Glancing at Kenshin out of the corner of his eye, he made a sound that was half-groan and half-sigh. “You just never give up, do you Kenshin?”
“That I do not,” came the cheerful reply.
Shaking his head, Yahiko submitted, “Alright, alright. You’ve got me. I…I was hoping I could get some advice.” Kenshin sat silently and watched the young man with expectation in his eyes and a growing suspicion. “Well…There’s…There’s a…matter I need help with. I…I was…I was thinking about…taking…taking a wife.” Yahiko blushed even more furiously as he managed to stutter out the words that Kenshin knew were coming.
A massive grin spread across Kenshin’s face when he heard his old friend, Sanosuke, chuckle from behind them. “So. The squirt is finally going to find a girl, huh? Good. I was starting to wonder about you, kid.”
Yahiko sprung to his feet, his face red, “That’s rich, coming from you! What about you and Megumi!? Are you two evergoing to stop playing around and get together, or are we going to have to clutch our stomachs every time you’re in the same room together for the rest of our lives?”
Sano’s face fell, his mouth hanging open in surprise for a long moment before his big, booming laugh echoed throughout the courtyard, “Good one, kid! Ah, I dunno. At my age…It seems kinda silly to take a wife. Not that I haven’t thought about it, of course.”
Kenshin and Yahiko fell silent, staring at the former fighter-for-hire in shock. “I…I was just teasing you, Sano. You’d really marry Megumi?”
Sano shrugged, his neck slightly red. “Well, yeah. Why not? She’s a beautiful woman, she’s a brilliant doctor…Why not? I just have to ask, is all…Truth is…That woman terrifies me,” the enormous man finished in a whisper.
Kenshin and Yahiko stared from Sano, to each other, and back – neither of them entirely certain how to process this new information. At last, a small snigger slipped from between Kenshin’s lips and brought a huge smile to Yahiko’s face. At last, the two caught each other’s gaze and dissolved entirely into hysterics. “Sano is scared, that he is!” Chortled Kenshin, “Never thought I'd see it, that I did not!”
Yahiko leaned heavily on Kenshin's shoulder, slapping his knee as he laughed, “Oh, I knew you weren't the big, tough guy you're always pretending to be! There is something you're afraid of, after all!”
Sano glared at the pair of them for a long moment before tapping the tips of his toes on the deck, “Yeah, alright. Fine. So I'm scared of a woman.”
Just then the front gate opened and a teasing voice called, “Oh? Which woman, Sano?”
A screech that was rather lacking in masculinity bubbled from Sano's chest and nearly made Kenshin and Yahiko's ears bleed as Sano's left leg and both his arms came up in a defensive posture, his eyes wide and staring. This only succeeded in driving Yahiko and Kenshin into another round of hysterical giggles and sending them sprawling with the force of their mirth. “You're not helping your cause, Sano. That you are not,” wheezed Kenshin in between gasping cackles.
Sano shot Kenshin and Yahiko a withering glare, then stormed across the courtyard and out the front gate, Kenshin and Yahiko still snorting and giggling behind him. Megumi stood watching them for a moment before rolling her eyes and heading into the dojo, “Oh, you two are hopeless,” she said coldly but with a smirk on her lips, “I'm just here to deliver the bruise ointment that Kaoru asked me for. You two enjoy yourselves.”
Kenshin and Yahiko were still giggling as Megumi climbed the stairs, kicked out of her sandals, and entered the dojo. Filling his lungs slowly, Yahiko watched Kenshin as he regained his breath, “So, Kenshin...I was wondering something. When are you planning on asking Kaoru to marry you? I mean, you two obviously love each other, so...When is that going to happen?”
Kenshin made an odd sound that was halfway between a gasp and a choke as his eyes bugged out and he sprung suddenly to his feet, “I just remembered...I have errands to run, that I do...I mean, I have...S-S-SAAAANOOO!!!” He bellowed as he scrambled into his sandals and sprinted after the former fighter-for-hire, dust billowing behind him as he went. Sano was already seated and devouring his beef hot-pot when Kenshin caught up to him, fuming. “Sa...no...You...left me...that...you...did,” he accused between pants.
Sano gestured to the seat across from him, “Have a seat, Kenshin. There's more than enough for the both of us. I had this sneaking suspicion that you'd be following me. That kid certainly seems to have some strange ideas in his head these days, doesn't he? So, what was he asking you about? The little Missie, I figure.”
Kenshin's face turned the approximate shade of her hair as he half-collapsed, half-sat in his designated seat, muttering to himself in a most undignified manner. After a brief silence between the old friends as they ate, Kenshin swallowed and sat watching Sano's face closely, “You should just ask her, that you should,” he said thoughtfully. “I think she loves you in return, that I do.”
Sano flushed deeply, “Oh, stop it, Kenshin.” Picking up his sake bowl, Sano took a deep drink and sighed, “There's no doubt in my mind that the woman loves me, or that I love her. My concern is what kind of husband would I be? Or for that matter, what kind of father would I be?” Sano sighed heavily and shook his head, “I just don't know, Kenshin.” Sano raised his hands and clenched his heavily scarred fists, “After the things these fists havce done, how can I open them to gently stroke a child's brow?”
Kenshin put down his chopsticks and laid one of his hands over Sano's much lager ones. Once he had Sano's attention, Kenshin turned his hand over so that his palm was facing up, “Take a look at these hands, that you should,” Kenshin said softly. “After having killed so many, how can I have any right to touch Kaoru's face softly, or to hold any child we may have. I shudder to think of myself as a father, and I fear what I may do.”
Sano's mouth fell open in shock, “Kenshin. How can you say that? You practically raised Yahiko, and look at how heturned out. You’d be an amazing father, Kenshin.”
Kenshin smiled slightly and nodded, “That is what I thought you would say, it is. If you can say that about someone like me, why not about yourself, that is?”
Sano sputtered for a moment before he managed to string together a coherent sentence, “Well…That…That’s hardly…I don’t know, Kenshin. I just…I just feel scared, is all. I’m more scared at the thought of marrying and having children than I was at the thought of facing Shishio. Does that make me a coward?”
Kenshin chuckled, “No, Sano. It makes you human, that it does.” Shaking his head, Kenshin picked up his chopsticks again, “How long do you think it will be before they come looking for us do you think, that is?”
Sano snorted into his beef pot, “Oh, I imagine the little Missie should be barging into our pleasantly quiet meal any moment now.”
As though his words were prophetic, an angry female voice came from the entrance to the Akebeko, “KENSHIIIN,” came the furious voice of the Master of the Kamya Kasshin Style, “What do you think you are doing here? Weren’t you supposed to be doing laundry?”
Kenshin froze in terror for a moment before turning with a charming smile on his face, “Oro? I finished the laundry, Miss Kaoru, that I did.”
Kaoru glowered at him, “Well, then you can be making lunch for me and my students. You shouldn’t be here, wasting my hard-earned money!” She stomped over to Kenshin and Sano, grabbing the both of them by their collars and dragging t hem out of their seats, “Come on, you two. I’m sure we can find something for you to do! No use in you sitting around and getting fat while the rest of us work ourselves to the bone!”
Sano writhed and kicked as she dragged him to the door, “Hey, why do I have to go!? I’m not the one that lives with you! Hey, some on, Missie; the food’s just gonna go to waste…”
Kaoru paused just long enough to glare over her shoulder at Sano, who promptly paled and fell silent, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting. “That’s better,” she said and continued dragging the pair of them out of the Akabeko and down the street, much to the amusement of the locals.
Miss Tae rushed to the front of the shop and stared out in disbelief, “I don’t believe it,” she muttered to herself, “Sano got away without paying again! I swear, that man is going to be in debt to me until the end of his next life if he keeps this up!”
True to her word, Kaoru set Kenshin and Sano to scrubbing the floors of the dojo, much to the amusement of Yahiko. “I remember when I used to have to do that every day. So, what’d you do to make her so mad?”
Kenshin smiled sheepishly up at Yahiko, “We ate beef hot-pot without her, that we did.”
Yahiko blanched, “Well, no wonder she’s so mad at you! I’m pretty put out myself, now. Why would you do that?”
Kenshin sighed, “We had things to discuss, man-to-man, that we did. I think we came to an understanding, too, that is.”
Sano chuckled as he scrubbed at the floor, “Yeah, I think so. The question is…Who’s first? Do you ask first, or do I?”
Kenshin glared at Sano, “You. You should go first, that you should. It was your idea, that is.”
Sano grinned even wider, “Well, I was thinking whoever has been in this situation longer, and you definitely win in that category, my friend.”
Kenshin gaped at his old friend in near-dismay, “B-b-b-but I don’t know how, that I don’t.”
Sano slapped his knee and chuckled, “You’ll just have to figure out a way, won’t you?”
Yahiko stood watching the pair of them toss words back and forth, felling more and more confused by the moment. “What are you idiots talking about?” He burst out rudely, “People listening might think you had gone crazy…Not that there’s that far to go, to be honest.”
Kenshin and Sano stared at the young man for a long moment before bursting into laughter, “Oh, kid. If you only knew how true that was,” Sano chuckled.
“Huh?” Said Yahiko.
“Never mind. Just come over here and help us with this. I’m starving.” Sano chuckled to himself again as he applied himself to the floor.
Yahiko shrugged and set a bucket down beside Kenshin and Sano and knelt to begin scrubbing the floor beside them, “Although...There is something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“The girl from the Akabeko?” Sano smirked.
“We thought so, that we did.” Kenshin chuckled, “You are an easy one to read, that you are. You should just be honest with her, that you should. Just ask her.”
“That's rich, coming from you.”
Yahiko sighed, “But...But how do we know that things from the past won't, you know...come back to haunt us?”
Sano sighed heavily and sat back on his heels, “I wish I had an answer for you, kid.”
Kenshin cleared his throat, “Well, it seems to me that every day we live past yesterday is its own reward, that it is. The future only gives things to those of us who keep going, that it does. It doesn't give anything to people who give up. We don't have a choice, that we do not. If we want any kind of happiness in this world at all, we need to work for it, that is. Sitting still never got anyone anything, that it did not. So we don't have time to sit around and wonder if we should; we need to hurry up and do it, that we do. That is the only way the future will give us anything, that it is.”
Sano sat back on his heels, his head cocked as he considered his old friend, “You know something? You really surprise me sometimes. I think just for that, you should go first.”
“Oro? S-sano…Why would I do that?”
Sano chuckled, “Well, you’re the bravest of us all…Don’t you think you have enough courage to face Missie?”]
Kenshin stared at him for a long moment. “No, that I don’t.” Sano and Yahiko stared at the swordsman with their mouths hanging open in astonishment, and though they tried their best, they could not get him to say another word on the matter.
Later that evening, dinner was an unusually quiet affair; it seemed that all the men had heavy thoughts weighing on them and no matter how Kaoru tried, she couldn’t get them to speak. The soft sound of footsteps signaled the approach of an unexpected guest, though after so many years Kaoru had learned to expect the unexpected. Therefore, when the door slid smoothly open to reveal Megumi smiling down at all of them, Kaoru didn’t miss a beat. “Megumi! What a surprise. Why don’t you join us?”
Megumi smiled all the wider and bowed, “I think I will; thank you so much.”
Kaoru bowed in return, “Not at all. It’ll be a relief to have someone to talk to tonight. It seems like all of our men have been struck suddenly mute.”
Yahiko, Kenshin, and Sano all shifted uncomfortably. At last, Sano sighed, glaring at the other two, “Oh, alright. Fine.” He glowered, “Megumi. I have something to say.”
Megumi’s brought her head up to stare Sano in the eye, her expression alive with curiosity, “Oh? What is it?”
Sano cleared his throat, “We should get married.” Stunned silence met his matter-of-fact statement.
Megumi’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she feigned innocence, “Oh? And why might that be?”
Sano snorted, “Oh, come on. You’re not fooling anything, fox-woman. Everyone knows how you feel about me – more importantly, I know how you feel. You’ll marry me because we’ve both been through hell in this life, but we’re survivors. We keep going because we know there’s no other choice; it’s either keep moving or lay down and die, and neither of us is going to be doing that any time soon, so…Marry me.”
Megumi raised an elegant eyebrow, “And what if I don’t want to?”
Sano stood and crossed to Megumi, yanking her to her feet suddenly. “Then I’d say you were lying,” he responded thickly, his face close to hers. “You want to move on from the past as much as I do, and there’s only one way to do that. Work for it. I’m willing to work for this; are you?”
Megumi paused, her faced flushed and the vein in her neck pulsing madly, “Sano,” she whispered, “What took you so long? Ah!” She exclaimed suddenly, “So I’m the woman you’re afraid of, is that it?”
Sano rolled his eyes and clomped back to his seat, sitting with a most ungraceful thump, “Yeah, well. I don’t know any man alive that’s not afraid of his wife.”
Once the dishes had been cleared away and the others had drifted their separate ways – Megumi and Sano were conspicuously missing – Kenshin and Kaoru were walking quietly by the river enjoying the fireflies. All at once, Kaoru stopped, a sad expression on her face. “Kenshin?” She said quietly.
Pausing to look behind him, Kenshin cocked his head, “Oro?”
“Kenshin…I just…I just wondered if you had anything to say to me?”
Kenshin looked down for a moment, his long, red hair obscuring his face for a moment. “Are you sure?” He asked softly. “You know who I am, and what I’ve done. You know how many I’ve killed, and how many probably still want to kill me. Are you sure?”
Kaoru smiled softly, “Kenshin, I’ve been sure since the day we met.”
Kenshin looked up at her, studying her face for a long moment before he smiled warmly, “Well, that’s it, then, that is.” Crossing to her, Kenshin gingerly took her hands in his own, “Kasshin Kaoru? Will you be my wife until the end of our days?”
Flushing deeply, Kaoru nodded, “Of course, Kenshin.”
The two pairs were married on the same day, a mere three weeks later. Those who attended said that never had they seen two such happy pairs, nor had they seen two pairs so willing to face the future together – whatever it may give or take.