March, 1882

Kamiya Dojo

A sad smile playing across his features, Kenshin watched from the engawa as Kaoru bounced a large blue ball back and forth with Kenji. The little boy laughed every time the ball bounced back to him and he'd immediately bounce it off the ground as hard he could back to Kaoru. Sometimes the ball would go astray and Kenji would run after it.

Kenshin wished he could join in the game, but if he did, Kenji's demeanor would change drastically from what it was now. There seemed to be a safety zone around the little boy. If Kenshin stayed at least five feet away from him and didn't attempt any interaction, Kenji was generally good. If Kenshin tried to play with Kenji, pick him up, feed him or anything else, Kenji would turn into a devil child.

Every time Kenshin tried to interact with his son, Kenji would either turn away from him, scream his lungs out or even attack his father, throwing things, kicking, hitting, biting and yanking long, red locks. After the first few bruisings, Kenshin learned his lesson and generally kept his distance unless it was necessary for him to intrude upon his son's space, figuring it better to let Kenji approach him when he felt ready.

Looking up from playing with the three-year-old, Kaoru caught the wistful expression on Kenshin's face as he watched them. She'd given up trying to force Kenji to interact with him, as Kenji's continued rejections only made Kenshin sadder. Kaoru bounced the ball again to Kenji, still watching Kenshin. Because she wasn't concentrating, it went astray, bounced off a tree and landed beside Kenshin.

"Oro?" said Kenshin as he picked up the ball.

Kenshin locked eyes with Kenji, who was glaring at him, silently demanding the ball back. Who was this idiot to interrupt his fun time with Mommy? Feeling the sting of Kenji's glare, Kenshin merely bounced the ball back to his son to show the boy that he had no intention of interrupting their game. Kenji caught the ball and turned his back on his father to rejoin his mother in their game.

'One of these days, Kenji will learn to love you. It'll just take some time,' Kaoru thought to herself.

With a small inward sigh, Kenshin shifted to a more comfortable position to continue watching and hoping.

A mother's prayer...

Though you don't say it, I can see the pain of our son's rejection in your eyes. It hurts me to see you stand there quietly when Kenji throws his toys at you and calls you "baka". Though he's my dear little son, I just want to box his ears when he yanks your hair and says he hates you. Through it all, you're quiet, patient and kind. You have only smiles and gentle words for the little boy who reciprocates with frowns and nasty names. All I can do is pray that one day, Kenji will see how good and kind you are and love you as a son should his father. Until that day, don't give up. Whether or not he admits it, Kenji needs you.