slippy: KHR: Lancia's hand, holding the chain of his weapon. (khr] Ready.)
[personal profile] slippy posting in [community profile] gen_battle

Title: A tender history in rust
Author: [personal profile] slippy
Fandom: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
Characters: Yamamoto Tsuyoshi, (baby) Yamamoto Takeshi
Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Prompt: Any: any, by the sword
Summary: The kid's nearly a year old, and it's still taking Tsuyoshi an effort to come to grips with fatherhood.

Notes: Because I always thought that Tsuyoshi might have had something to do with the Vongola, since his dojo during the Varia arc had a sign on it that said "Clam Team".

Also inspired by a [livejournal.com profile] 31_days prompt: "A tender history in rust", which is a song by Do Make Say Think. (So thank you, [community profile] gen_battle, for getting me to finish this thing I started years ago.) I put a drabble I posted on livejournal into this, so if by chance a paragraph sounds familiar to anyone, that's why.

 

Shigure Kintoki rusted before he held it again.

At the sight of the dulled metal and the instant cold chill of shame it sunk into his stomach, Tsuyoshi wondered how he had thought to avoid his master's sword. He sat on a stool with his back resting against the restaurant countertop, rubbing a thumb over the dusty hilt gripped in one hand and resting the gritty blade in the other. The weight was still as familiar as could be. He tilted Shigure Kintoki like this and like that and pulled his face in pain at the way it barely reflected a gleam onto the wall. There should have been a slice cut out of the shadows.

Takeshi was ignoring all the toys lying around him on the floor in order to watch the dim bits of light, and smiled wider at each new flicker. Finally he laughed and slapped his hands on the floor, rocking off his fat bottom onto his knees to crawl forth at full speed.

Why now? Why take the sword out of the safe now, when the kid was happy and healthy, and the shop was finally all set up? When the cops had stopped coming around for anything but a meal, which they damned well paid for, and perfectly normal regular customers finally outnumbered them.

"We make our own troubles, I tell you," Tsuyoshi said, but Takeshi was too busy trying to pick sparks off the floor to listen.

"I don't know if I'll be able to keep this from you, the way I'm going. Takeshi, I don't think I can put this thing down again."

The baby paid no attention, and Tsuyoshi smiled, and he turned to put the sword down on the countertop behind him. There! Easy. No sense in letting worry take over your life.

Of course, he'd only put the sword down because he had to get oil to polish it. Tsuyoshi stood up ... and pretended to pat dust out of his clothes for a few seconds' delay; but that was cowardly, so he went upstairs to the safe in his bedroom. The door still stood open because he couldn't leave Takeshi alone too long and he'd rushed in fetching Shigure Kintoki after giving in to the urge to take a hold of it again. He rushed again now, even faster grabbing the polishing gear, because it felt not-quite-right to leave Takeshi with the sword and all the memories that came with it.

Back in the restaurant, Takeshi had forgotten all about the little gleams of light and was pulling himself upright against a chair leg. Tsuyoshi held the polishing gear in one hand, and used his other hand and a free pinkie to pull Takeshi onto his feet and allow him to toddle a few steps.

"You'll be running around in no time! I'm not going to be able to leave sharp things on the countertop, will I, my boy?" Best not to think about what might happen if Takeshi pulled it off the counter and onto himself. Too easy to imagine. He walked his baby over to his playthings, and went back to sit down with the business of Shigure Kintoki.

The rhythm of it. It was easy to get back into methodically polishing; he'd hated it when he'd started learning the sword. That was long ago, and not so long ago - it was all part of a life he could have carried on living for years, decades more.

The rust hadn't all come off when he put the sword down again, because Takeshi smelled like somebody who needed a new nappy. Tsuyoshi was halfway through powdering the kid's backside when he realised how casually he'd set the sword aside, like it had no weight and no memory and no duty to it.

"Well!" he said.

Contemplation gave Takeshi the opportunity to wriggle away, and Tsuyoshi grabbed him and finished putting on the nappy. It was nearly sunset by now, and that meant it was past time to get ready for opening the restaurant. He might have to open late... Nah, give a free drink if anyone shows up at the proper opening time, rather than turning anybody away.

Tsuyoshi rushed downstairs, Takeshi held over one shoulder and burbling damply into his shirt. He deposited the baby into the playpen behind the counter, stuck a sheathed Shigure Kintoki and its polishing gear on the highest shelf running behind the counter, and went to get Takeshi's things off the floor and put them in the playpen with him.

Everything was automatic from there. It had taken time and discipline to get himself properly professional with this restaurant business, and as Tsuyoshi set the tables, got out enough rice for the evening, and made sure of the change in the till, pride skimmed across his mind.

A group of friends did show up shortly after the restaurant's stated opening time and before he was quite ready to start, but they cheered when he offered a free round of drinks. He was hearty to make up for the wait, making conversation, and then thought that he could get in a question for his own good. "Hey, Hara-san! You have a young sister, right? When do babies start remembering things, do you know?"

"Eh, are you thinking about your little Takeshi, Yamamoto-san? Everybody, we can't make any off-colour jokes tonight, you hear? Yamamoto-san's poor kid will be scarred for life!"

If Tsuyoshi's old friends and the police hadn't managed it yet, nothing would, and he laughed along with the table. Hara said that her kid sister remembered going to a carnival at age four, and then that her own oldest memory was maybe at age three? And about getting lost in a crowd. Some of the others chimed in with stories about themselves and other people they knew; someone's niece had a memory from when she was two years old.

About an hour later, Takeshi was asleep, and Tsuyoshi took him upstairs where it was quieter. Softly, he said. "Not so long until you're two, really. I guess I can't practise in front of you, can I?" He pulled Takeshi's shirt down where it had ridden up to expose his back and listened to the soft breathing.

Relief. Perhaps he should feel guilty, but mostly he felt relief. He was still a swordsman, in spite of everything - but it was foolish to act as if that would mean he was no longer a father.

 

*

 

Takeshi was a good kid; didn't cry much. Only when he was very hungry - which didn't happen anymore, and which Tsuyoshi would never allow to happen again - when he got kidnapped, when the teething was bad, something fell on his head; that kind of thing. It was more than just not crying too much, though! He was happy a lot, had a really sunny personality already. And strong, adventuresome! He was downright admirable. Could a baby be admirable?

It had to be admitted that the kid turned him into a complete goof. The old people and the mothers around the neighbourhood often pointed it out to him; and these guys sitting around the restaurant now had done the same as they closed the door and moved a table in front of it to keep it shut.

He loved the kid so much it could get worrying, and he wondered if he was going to allow him to date once he hit his teens. His twenties ... thirties. People were only supposed to feel like this about their daughters! "Heartache hurts," Tsuyoshi told him. "You think it's an old man's mutterings, but that's because you're such a little baby brat, you don't know a thing. Not yet. Being alone's not the easiest thing in the world ... by a long shot."

Takeshi squirmed to be put down, but Tsuyoshi hugged him harder and got him happily distracted with hugging back.

"But you're not alone! So it's all right, huh?"

For a few minutes, Tsuyoshi thought of a time when the situation of his own company had been different. Takeshi a lot smaller, and lying on the bed between the two of them, both doting over him.

He sighed as he looked over the restaurant. None of the current occupants had taken him up on his entirely sincere offer of food, and more of them had started to stare at him where he stood behind the counter. "She's going to kill me."

He looked down at Takeshi, still pitching his voice so it wouldn't carry and holding the kid close. "What can I do? I don't like guns! Of course I want to protect you, but I have to stick to doing it my own way, that I understand, that I value. She could've decided to stay too, if she wanted to have more input. And annoying weapons." Takeshi grinned gummily when Tsuyoshi smiled and then began patting him, investigating the feel of stubble. He lured Takeshi's attention away with a finger, and Takeshi gripped with the surprising strength babies had. It was easy to imagine the ease with which the little hand could later grow to hold a gun, a sword.

"I'm going to have to let her," Tsuyoshi told him, resting his forehead against his son's. "Guns would be a quicker way to deal with this, right? Safer in their way."

"Hey! Yamamoto! Put the kid down a minute and come talk to us!" Someone sent a plate into the wall to punctuate the statement. "How much is it going to take until you're willing to listen, and do your job?" And that sounded like somebody had decided to smash a chair.

"I have a joke," Tsuyoshi told Takeshi, rolling his eyes and tilting his head to indicate the whole restaurant set-up, "and I still have these tattoos! How is this place ever going to make enough money for all the procedures to get them off, kid?" he continued, shifting Takeshi to his left arm to show him the colourful designs on the other - and to leave his right hand free for use, and he felt the tension in the room thicken. "Well, it won't help any to let these guys smash everything up, will it?"

So he shifted Takeshi to the right, to keep the best grip on the boy. Like he couldn't beat any of these punks left-handedly? Pah!

He looked at Shigure Kintoki stashed underneath the counter. He fought to suppress a grin, turned to his work surface on the counter, and took up his weapon.

"Talk? No," said Tsuyoshi, looking up to the occupants of the restaurant. Some were still lounging around sitting, but most weren't that dumb. "Right now is when I kill you, boys!"

 

*

 

Old friends who hadn't yet got the hint: he wasn't their friend anymore - they laughed about how he lived, ha! Of course you'd be a sushi chef, slicing fish up. All those knives. Right along the grain, like old times, eh? A regular butcher!

His skill with blades made it a good choice of career, true, and his aptitude for learning and training meant that he had been sure he could pick up the skills even to be a good sushi chef.

Mostly, though, Tsuyoshi had chosen his new path because he had been sure that absolutely no attacker's dignity would stand being defeated by a guy slapping him around with a tuna.

 

*

 

Shamal and Iemitsu never had bothered much with dignity. When they took their turn to visit, that held true. Most people he fought hurried off as soon as they could wobble upright, swearing and spitting, and were too embarrassed to bother him again. These two, they lay on the floor and let him nudge them with a foot. Iemitsu groaned delicately like a bad actress. Shamal crossed his legs at the ankles, put his hands behind his head, and tried to bum a cigarette.

"You're paying for your own drinks," said Tsuyoshi, and they were on their feet, miraculously reinvigorated.

They gave over the money, smirking to each other, and hinted broadly about there being another reason they were there. No doubt he'd humbly hand all the money back once he found out about it, was the implication.

When they told him, he imagined telling Takeshi. A dojo. That's not just for me. It's something lasting, something not intended for only one person. Kid, that's for me and you. Like I'm going to pass the life I left behind on to you, when I left it for your sake! These assholes always did tell bad jokes. Except he couldn't say 'asshole'. Kids could remember stuff from early on, had to keep that in mind. Takeshi could start swearing on his own time, years from now, when he was less chubby-cheeks cute.

"He's not buying it," said Iemitsu.

Shamal shrugged, putting his feet on the table they shared. "We have all night to get convincing. " He'd raised his voice so it could be heard from outside the room. Perhaps - to be heard from upstairs, where Takeshi was?

The chair clattered over as Tsuyoshu jumped to his feet, and then Shamal finished: "Isn't that right, Ninth? Get in here and do your own dirty work."

Tsuyoshi sat back down, staring at the gently smiling figure that appeared in the doorway. Timoteo Vongola waved over his shoulder - keeping the bodyguards outside. Maybe some of them were from local groups, sent on this special duty as a sign of good faith, the way he had once been.

Later, when Takeshi let out a cry - just a quick signal he was fretting for company or a feed - he fetched the kid downstairs without hesitation. It was good to have old friends, after all.

The Vongola Ninth looked like a real grandfather holding Takeshi even though they clearly shared no blood, and it was unexpectedly good to see. Takeshi only had the one grandparent left, though at least she probably couldn't be killed by anything less than a bomb.

"Iemitsu," the Ninth said as he tickled the baby, his tone prompting, and then Tsuyoshi was told about Sawada Tsunayoshi.

For the next quarter-hour there were family photographs everywhere, Shamal whining about it when he wasn't trying to pocket the pictures featuring Nana, and Tsuyoshi thought he should splurge and buy a camera himself. His kid could out-cute Iemitsu's any day! Although to be fair, on a fair number of days it could end in a tie. Look at those big eyes.

"The heir? This kid ... could be the Vongola heir." Tsuyoshi cleared his throat and leaned his elbows on the table, keeping his gaze on a whorl in the wood and keeping his voice as unthreatening as possible. "A lot would have to go wrong before that happened, Ninth."

The Ninth snorted, and Shamal tipped his beer nearly upside down and chugged; the actions carried about equal cynicism. "It's very easy for a lot of things to go wrong," said the Ninth.

"Not all that easy in this particular case of mine, of course," said Iemitsu. "I'm taking measures." Not 'the Vongola is taking measures', or even 'CEDEF'. I'm taking measures. Well, he'd better. "Still, if anyone cared to go deep enough into the Vongola history, genealogy, and all that, they'd have reason to pay attention to my Tsuna."

"And you have reason to stay away," said the Ninth.

Tsuyoshi sat up in his chair, startled. "What, no forcing me into being a bodyguard for the kid and Nana-san?" He looked around at all three, and found no sign that he ought to disbelieve them. "No blackmail at all? You guys are losing your touch." He started to smile, they smiled back, and they all sat there like saps.

"Bribery," said Iemitsu. "You think all former honorary employees get their own dojo? That place is big! Trust me, you'll be impressed when you see it."

He shrugged and dropped the jolly tone. "Keep an eye on them. That's all I'm asking. If you have reason to believe something might happen, if you hear anything, maybe even if I call to ask an emergency favour..." said Iemitsu, and then clapped a hand on Tsuyoshi's shoulder when he nodded. Of course he'd help, if it came to that. He wouldn't even have minded being blackmailed all that much in this case.

"But anything aside from that - well, you've been successful in building a new life," said the Ninth. Takeshi was asleep by now, crooked in the corner of an arm, one hand clinging to the pocket of the Ninth's Hawaiian-print shirt. "You've clearly stuck by your decision, and we're not asking for anything that might jeopardise that. This is just so that you know. A friendly warning about a possible future, in case things become unexpectedly complicated."

He sighed heavily, looking around to take the room in. "We'll hope for the best, but ah, we can't help but prepare for the worst."

 

*

 

The dojo was indeed big. If any one of those three were still in the country, he'd have told them no, he couldn't possibly take it. He couldn't have anything to do with it. Or perhaps, depending on how illegally the land had been bought and the building erected, he could tell them he'd sell it immediately. There was no history to the place; so new and gleaming, there was nothing to be attached to here.

He watched Takeshi stand on all fours, waggling his butt in the air in one of his increasingly successful attempts to stand, his tiny, perfect fingers flexing.

Tsuyoshi crossed his legs and sat in a near-meditative pose on the floor. "It's about winning. Takeshi, let's face it." He slid a hand forward over the floorboards, and Takeshi tentatively propelled himself towards it, feet pedalling. His balance grew precarious and he stopped to figure it out. Oh dear, that could take a while.

"This sword!" Tsuyoshi went on. "The art that I was made to master! Of course it's about winning, and passing that on. What else would it be?

"They say it's protection. Iemitsu, Shamal, you know. Well, Shamal says 'Whatever, give me another drink', but he's a soft touch. Trotted you on his knee and everything, and only pretended to disinfect it afterwards. You could see he agreed with Iemitsu. The Ninth? I think he manages to agree and disagree, all at once. He knows enough about what it's like for anyone to try and leave violence behind."

He scooted back, and that inspired Takeshi to try the scooting again. His hands left lines on the floor, his butt waggled some more, and in spite of himself, Tsuyoshi laughed.

"I should keep my skills up. Because I'm always going to be the man I was, too. I'm never going to be just a father, Takeshi. I'm going to try and do this so that's exactly what you'll think I am, but that's not true. It's never going to be. The Ninth is right when he gets that tired look on his face."

He jumped forwards and rolled Takeshi onto his back - gentle! it only looked rough, though he already knew what kind of tumbles his boy could take - and then sealed his victory by blowing noises on Takeshi's stomach. Takeshi squealed so that it echoed off the corners of the room, chortling and gurgling.

"But if I keep my skills up - it's not the kind of art that dies if you don't let it, Takeshi. It's made for winning, and for passing it on for good use. They were right about that, giving me this place where I can train myself and others. And look at you! Takeshi, a warrior. Already so strong! Shouldn't you get to keep what's yours? Shouldn't you see what your old man can do?"

He lifted Takeshi up and rolled onto his own back, dipped him through the air for a few passes, and then brought Takeshi down close to his face to whisper. "I'll give Shigure Kintoki to you if you ask. You wouldn't ask unless you needed to, right? If I do this whole thing right from now on, you won't."

Takeshi his feet and windmilled his arms, and then grinned open-mouthed that something so wonderful - My Dad! Is Talking To Me! - could happen.

"So don't ask," Tsuyoshi begged.

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