Kenshin received a fist-full of tepid hiyashi chuka and tempura to the face. Kenji laughed and clapped his hands, blue eyes shining with devilish mischief. Kenshin wiped the tempura from his eyes with the back of his hand and stared hopelessly at his son.
"You really don't like me, do you?" the hapless father asked quietly.
If he didn't know any better, he could swear the baby was glaring at him as though to say, "Well duh, stupid."
The food was everywhere but inside Kenji, on his face, on his clothes, in his hair, on the table and all over Kenshin! This was the result whenever Kenshin tried his hand at feeding Kenji. Kenshin sighed, knowing he would need to get Kenji and the dining area in ship-shape before Kaoru got back or there would be Hell to pay. Teeth gritted in determination, Kenshin again attempted to maneuver at least some food into Kenji's mouth.
"C'mon, Kenji, I know you're hungry," said Kenshin as he held up a stray noodle in the chopsticks.
The little boy obstinately clamped his mouth shut and glared at his dad as if saying, "I dare you to try and make me eat that."
Kenshin sighed and put the food down. There was no use in trying to feed a bullheaded child who was only going to make a worse mess.
"Alright, Kenji, you win," said Kenshin, setting down the food and picking the little boy up, holding him at arm's length so Kenji couldn't yank his hair.
First Kenji would get a bath, then Kenshin would have to clean up the dining area. Kenshin carried the food-covered baby out to the bathhouse, where he struggled with the boy to get his clothes off, then removed his kimono so he could bathe Kenji without ruining his own clothes.
Bathing Kenji proved to be as difficult as feeding him. The tot wouldn't sit still. He had amazing strength for his age and succeeded in not only yanking Kenshin's hair while Kenshin bathed him, but kicking Kenshin in the right shoulder as well (the one with all the old injuries). Kenshin gritted his teeth and held Kenji in a vice-grip so he could finish soaping and rinsing the baby.
The bath from Hell over, Kenshin toweled the now-exhausted baby off with a large white towel, then wrapped him in his baby-sized yukata. By the time all this was finished, Kenji was sound asleep. Kenshin wished he could just curl up and go to sleep himself as he carried the little boy to his room, but there was still the matter of cleaning up the dining area and then himself, as he was now covered in food and soap - not a very fetching sight indeed. Kenshin tucked Kenji in his futon and made certain his stuffed rooster was in his arms, then sat back and regarded the little boy for a bit.
'My hair, Kaoru's eyes, a bit of both our personalities,' he thought. 'If I didn't know any better, I'd say a bit of youkai thrown in just for good measure.'
Kenshin shook his head. With a sigh, he got to his feet and left the room without making a sound. He headed back out to the dining area, got the cleaning supplies he needed and went to work. The sauce stains on the tatami mats were the hardest to get, but Kenshin wasn't known as the best house husband in Tokyo for nothing. After a lot of scrubbing, the dining area looked none the worse for wear.
The same couldn't be said about Kenshin though. His right shoulder still throbbed from where Kenji had repeatedly kicked him. He was covered in now-drying tempura and stew, sweaty and exhausted. After putting everything away, he headed out to the bathhouse to clean up. By the time he'd fetched water from the well and gotten the bath heated, he was barely even recognizable.
After undressing, Kenshin seated himself on the stool and poured the hot water over himself. Next, he got busy, scrubbing the caked-on gunk and sweat off his lithe frame. The hot water and soap scouring away the filth were the nicest things Kenshin's skin had felt all day. Once his torso and limbs were clean, Kenshin spent a great deal of time washing and rewashing his gorgeous mane to get every last bit of food out.
That done, Kenshin slowly climbed into the hot tub, sinking up to his nose. His red hair floated out in all directions, creating the illusion of a forest of red seaweed. The hot water felt so good to his aching body. The heat soaked into his bones, loosening his muscles, soothing his joints and chasing away the pain and stress of the day. Kenshin's eyes were only half open and darted lazily around the room, finally coming to rest on his bare legs under the water.
Kenshin felt his eyelids getting heavier and heavier. The fog of sleep was creeping into his brain. Summoning his discipline and will, he snapped his eyelids open.
'Be smart, Himura. You don't want to fall asleep and drown in the tub,' he chided himself.
Kenshin sat up a bit more so his head was clear of the water. He tried to think to keep himself awake, but the darkness of the room and the heat of the water overpowered his will. His eyelids fell shut and this time he couldn't force himself to wake up.
When Kenshin woke up again, it was because the water was very cool and he was shivering. He looked down at his body and saw that his skin was wrinkly like a prune. He'd definitely been in far longer than he'd intended. Shaking his head, Kenshin rose from the water, toweled off and dressed in a sleeping yukata.
Moving mechanically, he refilled the water buckets and fired up the heater again so Kaoru could have her bath when she came home a bit later. She would be home within the hour and the water would be pleasantly warm but not too hot by then.
No longer achy but still very tired, Kenshin made his way slowly to his and Kaoru's room. When he got into the room, he slid the door shut behind him, retrieved the futon from the corner and unfolded it. He gratefully sank down into the covers and was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Kaoru got home at 8 PM, just as the shadows stretched in the crimson light of the dying sun. Sweaty and tired after a day teaching classes, she would be glad to get a bath tonight. First thing was first though, check on Kenji. Kaoru walked through the dining area which she would never know had looked like a battleground earlier in the day. She slid the door to Kenji's room open and peered inside. The little boy lay curled up in a ball on his left side, blanket pulled up to his cherubic cheek, stuffed rooster held close to him. His left thumb was in his mouth and he looked positively angelic.
Smiling to herself, Kaoru shut the door and went into her and Kenshin's room to retrieve a yukata. When she got in, she found Kenshin lying in the futon, curled up in a ball on his left side. The only thing that differentiated him from Kenji was the lack of a stuffed rooster and thumb in his mouth. Kneeling down by the futon, she softly touched Kenshin's hair, feeling that it was still warm and damp.
'He looks exhausted. I hope Kenji didn't run him too ragged today,' she thought.
With a smile and shake of her head, Kaoru got to her feet and retrieved her yukata, then headed out for her bath.
As she sat soaking in the tub, Kaoru thought it might be best if she cut back on the evening sessions she'd been teaching of late. As Kenji was getting older, it seemed he was becoming more of a problem. It was hard to imagine, but the child seemed to have a rather pronounced distaste for his father. He was always good and ate nicely for Kaoru, but Kenshin seemed to have no luck at all with the boy. Kaoru didn't want to put Kenshin through any unnecessary stress. He already did nearly all the housework (cooking, laundry, sweeping, dusting, etc.) not to mention how he still helped the police out with local missions occasionally, though that would end when he retired from Hiten Mitsurugi next year. He had enough on his plate without having to deal one-on-one with a recalcitrant baby.
When she finished soaking, Kaoru got out of the tub, toweled off and wrapped up in her yukata. When she slid the bedroom door open, she found Kenshin lying as she'd left him. He hadn't moved at all. Moving slowly and carefully to keep from waking him, Kaoru slid under the covers and snuggled up to him. Without waking up, Kenshin stretched out his arms and pulled Kaoru toward him.
Kaoru held him close to her, stroking his hair and breathing in his wonderfully unique scent of ginger, other spices and the outdoors. No one on earth smelled quite the way Kenshin did, especially after a bath. Even though she loved Kenji and wouldn't trade him away for anything, Kaoru did miss the days before he came along when she and Kenshin had bathed together every night. One of these nights, she might pay Yahiko or Tsubame to watch over Kenji while she and Kenshin took a long-overdue bath together.
The next evening...
"Thank you so much, Tsubame-chan," said Kaoru as she handed the copper-haired tot over to the young waitress.
"Not at all, Kaoru-san. This will be great practice for when Yahiko-kun and I have one," said Tsubame.
"Whaaaa?" cried the flabbergasted Yahiko.
"You ready, Kenji-chan?" asked Tsubame, ignoring the dumbstruck look on her boyfriend's face.
Kenji laughed and clapped his hands. He loved spending time with Tsu-nee and Ya'ko-nii. They were so much fun!
After the teens left with Kenji in tow, Kaoru went to work and readied the bath for when Kenshin got back from shopping to replenish the supply of food wasted on his futile attempt to feed Kenji the night before.
Kenshin opened the gate and carried in the two heavy buckets and sack of salt. When he opened the front door to the house, he noticed how quiet it was and that Kenji and Kaoru's ki were nowhere inside. Funny, they should both be there.
Putting down the groceries, Kenshin went outside to check, casting out his senses as far as they could go. Ah! From the bath! It was Kaoru's ki. What was she doing in there before he'd prepared the bath?
Kenshin slid the door open to find the bath already prepared with hot water and candles burning throughout the building, illuminating it in shadowy, lambent light. In the middle stood Kaoru, wearing only a yukata, looking seductive and beckoning. Kenshin felt his desire rise in his hakama.
Silently, Kaoru approached her redhead, maintaining eye contact. After reaching behind him to shut and lock the door, Kaoru's hands went for Kenshin's bulging hakama and undid the tie. Kenshin's eyes widened as his pants dropped. Kaoru made short work of his kimono, juban, tabi and fundoshi.
This done, she led him to the bathing area where she gave him a quick once-over with the scrub brush. After the scrubbing, Kaoru removed her yukata and took Kenshin by the hands, pulling him to his feet. She led him to the hot tub and climbed in, motioning for him to join her.
Understanding lit his violet eyes up and he was in very quickly. They hadn't had a bath like this since Kenji was born and it would feel very nice. Kenshin sank gratefully into the water and let it relax his sore muscles. His eyes opened when he felt the water move. Kaoru went over to the other side of the tub and whipped out a jug of chilled sake and two saucers.
Kaoru poured sake into a saucer and handed one to Kenshin, who took it happily and reciprocated for her. The two clinked their saucers in a silent toast and let the chilled sake slide down their throats. After the sake was gone, Kaoru straddled Kenshin and began working all the aches and kinks out of his tiny body.
"Oroooooo," was all Kenshin managed to get out.