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Unexpected
By: Souken

Chapter 5
Somewhere I Can Belong


Standard Disclaimers Apply.

~~~~~~~~

Soujirou woke the next morning feeling more refreshed than he had felt in a very long time. He remembered what Kaoru had said to him last night.

'You're family.'

That would still take some getting used to. A family. It was what he had wanted for so long. A place where he could belong and feel loved. He didn't know if he could even consider the Juppongatana as a family. The only person who had been somewhat kind to him was Yumi-san, but even she was distant and sometimes cruel. All the rest of them hated him for being Shishio-san's right hand and Shishio-san had felt that treating him with any sort of kindness or care would make him weak. For as long as he could remember, he had been so lonely. He never had any real friends, anyone who actually cared for him. So it had come as a surprise to him that Kaoru had accepted him so quickly. This all was entirely too good to be true.

He could hear the faint sounds of talking and laughing coming from the main room. Laughing. He decided instantly that he liked that sound. There were not many times in Soujirou's life that he had heard it. The people that he had been surrounded by were never really happy, at least not for good reasons. Soujirou got up and prepared himself for the new day. After he was dressed, he walked out into the main room to join the rest of the group. Kaoru gave him a welcoming smile.

"Good morning Soujirou." She greeted, "You're just in time for breakfast." She motioned him to the table. Soujirou stood there, staring at the scene before him. Everyone was seated around the table, with one seat empty. They were inviting him to join them, to share their meal with him. This one simple gesture amazed him so much. He almost laughed at himself.

"Soujirou?"

Soujirou snapped out of his daze to see Kaoru looking at him in concern. "Are you okay?"

He nodded, feeling a bit embarrassed. He took his seat next to Kaoru. Across from him sat Kenshin and Sano, at the other side of him sat a younger boy and an older woman at the other side of Kaoru. Kenshin noticed his questioning gaze. "Soujirou, I'd like you to meet the rest of our little family." He pointed to the young boy, "This is Yahiko. He lives here at the dojo." Then he motioned to the women, "This is Megumi, she works as a doctor down at the clinic. Megumi, Yahiko, this is Seta Soujirou."

"Welcome Soujirou." Greeted Megumi, "It's nice meeting you."

"Hello," Yahiko said, mouth full of food. "So you're Kaoru's brother. How's that possible? You're not nearly as ugly looking as her."

"YA-HI-KO-CHAN!" Kaoru seethed, her voice dropping to an angry growl. Her hand heading dangerously to the nearest rice bowl. Kenshin grabbed the bowl just in time and placing a hand on her arm. "Yahiko, please don't be so rude in front of our guest." He asked gently. "Sorry Kenshin." Yahiko mumbled, then sticking his tongue out at Kaoru when Kenshin turned his head.

"Soujirou, did you sleep well last night?" Kenshin inquired.

"Yes, I haven't slept that well in a long time. Thank you so much for letting me stay here."

"No need to thank us." Replied Kaoru, "We're just happy that you agreed to stay."

Happy that HE stayed. He couldn't understand why they were so happy that he was here. He was nobody. He was a bastard child. He was a murderer. And they funny thing was that these people knew exactly who he was, and they still accepted him. It confused him to no end, but at the same time he felt so cared for.

Kaoru handed him a bowl of rice and a plate of vegetables and fish. When she turned her back, Yahiko leaned in to whisper to Soujirou.

"Just to warn you, Kaoru insisted on cooking this morning. So if it tastes like bird droppings...." Yahiko was abruptly cut off when a soup spoon nailed him right between the eyes.

Soujirou couldn't help but smile in amusement.

*********************************

It was about midday. Megumi had gone back to the clinic and Sano had left for home to do some 'work', which Kaoru said meant that he was going to sleep some more. The rest of the group was seated out on the front porch, enjoying the wonderful weather. No one spoke, each too caught up in their own thoughts.

Kaoru was going over the happening of the past two days. She had a brother. The concept still seemed a bit surreal to her. She already found herself feeling a sisterly affection for Soujirou, even though she had just met him. He was extremely polite and very quiet. He had an innocent and almost childlike appearance, even though he must have been around 20 years old. At the same time he looked travel worn. His hair was shaggy and unkempt and his clothing looked worse for the wear. He was very thin, but he didn't look starved.

She noticed that he had an odd way of showing his emotions. She had only seen him smile a couple times, but she had seen happiness and contentment shining clearly in his eyes. It seemed to her that he just didn't want to smile. She wondered what he had gone through in his life to make him the way he was.

Kaoru heard a small sigh beside her and she looked over. The trimming on the sleeve of Soujirou's kimono had come undone and now he was working to take the whole thing off. She looked closely at his clothing. There were small holes in various places, stitches placed clumsily over the bigger tears. One or two buttons were missing from his western shirt. It didn't look like his clothing could be salvaged for much longer. She wondered just how long he had worn them.

"Soujirou?" She asked, getting his attention.

"Yes Kaoru."

"Is that the only clothing you own?"

He looked down at his sleeve and then quickly hid it behind his back. "Yes." He answered sheepishly. "I had another pair of hakama, but I lost them a few months ago."

"How long have you been wearing that?" She continued.

"Um. Two years I guess."

Kaoru stood up and motioned for Soujirou to follow. "Come on then." Soujirou scrambled to his feet and followed her.

Kaoru led him to her room and started looking through her drawers. Soujirou watched her uncomfortably, wondering what she was up to. After a few minutes she stood and handed him a stack of clothing. "Here, you can wear these." She smiled. "They belonged to father. I kept them to use as training clothes, but I guess I never really grew into them. They're yours now." Soujirou looked at her wide eyed. "Are you sure? I mean, they're your fath...."

"Our father." She corrected him and then smiled at the thought. 'Our father.' "And yes, I am completely sure. Now go try them on. I'm pretty sure they'll fit you, but I want to be sure." She pushed him into his room and shut the door. After a few minutes he opened the door and she entered. She looked at him and smiled. "See, they fit you perfectly." She continued to stare at him for quite sometime. "Amazing." She whispered. Soujirou looked down at himself nervously, "What?"

"You just looked so much like him." She answered, walking a circle around him. "Same hair, same eyes."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I wonder." Kaoru took his hand and led him back to her room. She pulled him over to her mirror and stared at their reflection. She laughed in amazement. "Look Soujirou, you could even see some similarities between us." She pointed out. Soujirou looked at the mirror in wonder. She was right, he was starting to notice the little similarities their faces held. "The shape of our noses." He pointed out. "Yes, you're right." She giggled. Of course, there were major differences in their appearances as well. They both had black hair, but while her's had a more bluish tint to it, his was just pitch black. Her eyes were much bluer than his. But still, those small similarities made all the difference in the world.

They were so caught up in this new discovery that they didn't hear Kenshin enter the room. He smiled at the touching scene.

"Did you find something?"

Kaoru looked at him excitement. "Can you see it Kenshin?" He observed them both, head tilted to one side. He had never noticed it before. By just glancing at them, you couldn't tell they were related, but if you looked close enough the similarities became quite clear. He nodded his head and Kaoru's smile grew wider. Seeing the wonder and excitement in both their eyes brought warmth to his heart.

Kaoru had found a real brother.

And Soujirou had finally found a real family.

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