Life moved on, as it always does.
She slept a lot, which shouldn't really come as any kind of surprise, though she dreamt startlingly little.
The few hours a day she was actually awake were mostly spent inside their home, whether that was spent playing in her own room, exploring the kitchen and living room, or being cared for by her kaa-san.
Then their comfortable routine was nicely invaded.
Kyo woke up with her face pressed into the pillow and slowly pushed herself up until she was sitting in the middle of her bed. Crib? Thing.
The thing wasn't quite a crib, but there were bars, reaching almost to her chest if she stood up. Supposedly to prevent her from falling out of bed, she gathered.
Waiting a few moments, her kaa-san didn't come to collect her, like she usually did.
Considering the virtues of staying put, compared to trying to get out of bed on her own, Kyo eyed the wooden bars keeping her securely in place.
After some contemplation, she grabbed the railing, pulled herself to her feet and then carefully crawled over the edge and slowly lowered herself as close to the floor as she could get. Which meant that her toes touched the floor by the time she finally let go of the smooth wood.
Feeling pleasantly accomplished, she walked to the door. It was lucky her kaa-san always left it cracked open, because she wouldn't have had a chance to reach the handle. Kyo grasped the door and pulled it further open and peeked out of her room into the living room.
Her kaa-san wasn't anywhere in sight.
Pulling the door open enough to let her through, Kyo padded across the wooden floors until she reached the carpet, from where she continued into the kitchen.
Which was also empty.
Frowning uncertainly to herself, Kyo wondered what was going on.
He kaa-san had never not been there, not so far.
She was just a year and a few months old; you weren't supposed to leave children that young alone and unattended, even she knew that.
Wrapping a hand around one of the kitchen table legs, Kyo leaned a little to the side to peer at the door to her kaa-san's room, but it was stood ajar like usual, open just enough for her to get a glimpse of the floor and the far wall, but nothing more.
Kyo wasn't allowed in kaa-san's room, and she'd respected that rule so far. There was probably a good reason, she'd reasoned.
Hesitating for a long moment, she walked in under the kitchen table -and boy was it strange that she barely had to duck to fit under there?- grabbed one of the chairs and pushed it over to the counter.
It didn't make much in the way of sound, because basically all the furniture in the whole place had been outfitted with little fabric cushion-like things on the bottom of the legs, to prevent noise.
That done, Kyo set about the task of crawling... dragging herself up onto the chair.
Being this small was a marvel. Especially when she could clearly remember being tall enough the seat of a chair was situated in the region of her knees, rather than her shoulders. It was honestly more fascinating than annoying, which she found to be a bit strange in itself.
Reaching her goal of standing on the seat of the chair, she could actually see the top of the counter. Yay! Mission accomplished!
Grinning a little at her own thoughts -and success- she realised the next issue.
The were no glasses within reach, which sort of ruined her plan.
Since her kaa-san still hadn't come running, Kyo frowned at the clean, shiny metal sink. Reaching a hand out to touch it, it was cold and smooth and really shouldn't be this fascinating.
Soon enough, she'd managed to position herself so that she was actually sitting in the sink, which she found amusing.
It was a comfortable fit, and she could sort of remember this from Before. Her mother had used to bathe her like this when she'd still been small enough.
Not feeling in the mood to make herself wet, Kyo pushed the tap thing until it was situated over the other sink, and then managed to push up the lever that made the water run.
It was all hard work when you couldn't make your fingers and hands do what you wanted them to, half the time.
Making sure the water was cold, she leaned down and drank straight from the tap. Or, more accurately, from the steady flow of water below the tap.
When she was satisfied, she slapped a hand on the lever to turn the water off and wiped the excess liquid from her face with both hands.
The hands that slipped under her arms and lifted her out of the sink were quite the surprise, and made her let out a small, startled squeak.
Heart beating furiously in her chest, she flailed a bit, making a loud, distressed sound that was almost a sob.
By the time she was brought to a warm, solid chest, she realised she was full out crying, which, was a bit embarrassing. If not very surprising.
She'd had countless episodes of acting like an actual child already, so this was just part of the deal, apparently.
A large hand rubbed up and down her back, and deep voice murmured soothingly at her, and it wasn't until she calmed down that she realised two things.
One, this clearly wasn't her kaa-san.
Two, this person was almost familiar.
Taking deep breaths and trying to make the tears stop dripping from her eyes, Kyo dragged her forearm under her runny nose and blinked up at the person holding her.
“Ah, sorry,” the man murmured quietly, still rubbing her back. “Didn't mean to scare you, Kyo-chan.”
She blinked, taking in the brown hair, the smooth, young face and handsome features she couldn't say she recognized.
“Kaa-san?” She asked, voice wobbling pitifully despite her best efforts.
“She just stepped out for a moment; she'll be back soon.”
Kyo blinked tearfully up at him and he gave a wan, tired smile.
It made her feel a bit guilty for her outburst, to be honest, because he looked like he hadn't slept in a week. At least not anywhere near an appropriate amount, judging by the bags under his eyes.
The man wandered out of the kitchen and into the living room, where he gracefully sank down on the sofa, sinking into the soft cushions in an almost boneless manner.
Kyo settled quite comfortably on his chest, and she tentatively rested her cheek against his shoulder. The sound of his slow, steady heartbeat was calming and doing its best to lull her back to sleep.
Her eyelids grew heavier with every blink, until she found herself snuggling closer to the warm chest, curling up slightly and one hand fisting the soft, well-worn fabric of his shirt.
When her eyes opened again, it was to the sound of her kaa-san's soft, amused laughter.
“Oh, would you look at that,” she teased gently, which was followed by the crinkling of plastic and a thunk of something hitting the kitchen table.
Kyo lifted her head, peering blearily around, trying to determine what was going on.
“Kaa-san?” She asked around a yawn.
“I'm here, now,” her kaa-san assured fondly. “And you were afraid she wouldn't recognize you,” she added, though clearly not directed at Kyo.
“I've been gone a while,” a deep voice responded, originating from the chest Kyo was still mostly lying against. She could feel the vibrations clearly. “I found her sitting in the kitchen sink, Isshun.”
“Hm?” Her kaa-san turned around from where she'd been packing groceries away into their appropriate cupboards. “Well, I usually notice when she wakes up, so she was probably confused when I didn't come get her for breakfast. Is that what happened, Kyo-chan?”
Kyo nodded slowly, blinking up at kaa-san, and mulling over what was quite obviously her name.
Isshun? Sounded a bit weird, if you asked her. Not that they had. Asked her.
“Kaa-san gone,” Kyo said quite primly, in her opinion.
The man holding her snorted softly.
“That's one way to put it, I suppose,” he mused, a warm undercurrent to his voice. “And why where you in the sink, Kyo?”
“Thirsty,” Kyo answered promptly.
“You had to sit in the sink for that?” The man wondered amusedly.
“No glass,” Kyo defended herself with a slight pout. After a brief pause, she grudgingly added, “And fun,” because that was true.
The man chuckled softly, one of his hands rubbing up and down her back once, as if he couldn't help himself, and Kyo hadn't noticed it was still there, like a warm blanket.
“Well,” kaa-san laughed, “we'll let your tou-san sleep a few hours more, and then, if you feel comfortable enough,” Kyo wasn't sure if she said that part to Kyo or her tou-san, “you two can spend the day together.”
“Isshun?” Her tou-san questioned after a slight pause.
Kaa-san turned to finish her task, busying herself by putting away the last of the groceries. “Your mother's been pestering me about spending time with Kyo-chan,” she eventually said.
Her tou-san -and what was his name?- hummed a little, before he rose to his feet with a sigh.
“I suppose I can take a few hours to go visit them,” he said. “What do you think, Kyo?” He asked, looking down to meet Kyo's gaze.
She tilted her head, feeling a bit confused. “Okay?” She tentatively offered. She had grandparents? And her kaa-san didn't like them?
“There you have it,” kaa-san said, sounding vaguely amused.
Tou-san sighed, but didn't say anything about it. “I think someone mentioned something about breakfast,” he said.
“Food!” Kyo agreed, turning her head to look expectantly at her kaa-san.
She was hungry, and kaa-san's food was delicious.
“Breakfast,” her kaa-san repeated, and it sounded like a promise.
A few hours later, tou-san had slept a while longer, disappearing into the room he no doubt shared with her kaa-san, and Kyo had amused herself with some of the toys she had at hand and then eaten again.
“I'm not sure how long we'll be gone,” her tou-san said, standing off to the side and watching kaa-san -Isshun?- putting a pair of tiny shoes on Kyo's equally small feet. “Anything specific I should keep in mind?”
Kaa-san hummed thoughtfully, and Kyo craned her neck to see her face. She looked almost pensive.
“Nothing I can think of. I will most likely not be here when you get back, regardless,” she said, standing up and handing Kyo over into her father's arms.
Kyo didn't mind.
Her father from Before had been nothing like this man; shorter, with black hair and pale blue eyes. Her new tou-san was taller, as far as she could tell, younger, with brown hair and warm brown eyes. Like chocolate.
Looking at both of her parents, Kyo blinked and, for the first time, wondered what she looked like now.
She highly doubted she would look the same; different parents would equal a different appearance.
“You enjoy your time to yourself,” tou-san smiled, and he still looked pretty tired, though nowhere near as worn as he'd looked this morning.
Her kaa-san smiled, reaching out to caress Kyo's chubby cheek. “You two get to know each other better,” she leaned down to press her forehead to Kyo's, who blinked at her kaa-san's dark, almost black eyes. “And, Kou, remember that Kyo's too young to use anything other than the roads.”
And with that cryptic reminder, Kyo and her tou-san were off.
Once they were down on the street, Kyo blinked up at her dad, wondering where they were going.
“You're remarkably agreeable, little one,” tou-san said, glancing down at her before he went back to scanning the somewhat busy street around then. “My sister's son was far fussier the few times I visited,” he muttered to himself.
Kyo tilted her head and patted her tou-san's shoulder before she was distracted by all the people moving about.
She could admit that she was a bit surprised by how at ease she was with this man, whom she couldn't quite remember.
He'd no doubt been around a whole lot before she'd... come back online, so to speak, and that must be what influenced her responses now. The most important thing was; she felt safe.
A world away from her father from Before, at least so far.
She'd withhold judgement on that part, because not all men were the same and until this man did something to terrify her, she'd tentatively classify him as a far better father than her Before one had ever been.
Leaning her head against her tou-san's firm, steady shoulder, she snuggled into his hold and watched the rest of the world from the safety of his arms, feeling perfectly content to wait out the moment and see where they were going.
She wouldn't say he relaxed, because there was still something about the way he held himself that made Kyo think 'tense', but it felt like something in his shoulders slowly unwound itself.
Measuring time had proven a bit difficult, like this, but she supposed he must have been gone several months. And kaa-san had mentioned something about him having thought she'd forgotten about him?
Had he been afraid she wouldn't let him hold her?
Well. It was a well-grounded fear, she supposed, because her little brother had been the biggest mama's boy and had done nothing other than cry and scream for his mum whenever their father had tried to hold him, back then.
Not that it'd been strange; her Before father had worked a lot and the few times he'd actually been home, well. Let's just say it hadn't been surprising.
Eventually, her tou-san turned down a much calmer street, moving away from the shopping district and into what looked like a mainly residential area.
Kyo watched the free-standing houses with some interest, the gardens looking to be relatively well-tended and cared for, sporting everything from flowers to vegetables and what else you could think of.
Soon enough, her tou-san was walking down the stone path towards one of the houses, clearly aiming for the front door.
He shifted his hold on her ever so slightly, and then raised his free hand and knocked.
A moment later, steps approached on the other side and the door opened.
“Kou-kun!” The woman who opened the door exclaimed, her whole face lighting up when her eyes landed on him. “Oh, it's been so long,” she gushed, enthusiastically ushering them inside, not noticing how tense her tou-san got and how uncomfortable it clearly made him.
Kyo leaned more firmly into the man's hold, listening to the woman -her grandmother?- prattle on about what sounded like everything that had happened since she'd last seen her son. Which involved anything from her own daughter, her children and the neighbours' latest projects.
“Kaa-chan!” Kou, her tou-san, finally managed to get a word in edgewise, bringing the woman's steady stream of words to a stop. “Isshun told me you've wanted to spend more time with your granddaughter. Well, here's Kyo,” he said with a small, almost indistinguishable huff, moving Kyo so that she was standing on his thighs.
They'd all sat down by the kitchen table, and Kyo wasn't especially comfortable being put on display like this, but she was willing to bear it if it meant that her tou-san got a bit of breathing room.
“Oh, she's just adorable, almost doubled in size since I saw her last,” the woman gushed, smiling at Kyo, who blinked back. “Such a sweet little girl.”
“Hi,” she greeted politely, trying to ignore the desire to squirm out of her tou-san's grip and duck under the table. Not that she was shy, she was just a tad overwhelmed by the veritable storm of words that had been flung in her general direction.
Was she really being used as a meat shield by her own father?
The woman all but squealed and leaned over the table to pinch her cheek.
Kyo stared, rubbing one hand against her now-tender cheek. No one had ever done that to her before.
She couldn't stop herself from craning her neck to give her tou-san a wide-eyed, slightly accusatory look, because whatever that had been about, she hadn't liked it and she certainly hoped it wouldn't happen again.
The man's gaze flicked to her, and she'd like to think he looked sympathetic to her plight, but he didn't say anything about it.
“How old is she now?” Her grandmother continued to ask, not having noticed anything off about Kyo's reaction. She poured the two adults a cup of steaming tea each, and then seemed to finally settle down properly in her seat.
“Seventeen months,” tou-san said evenly.
“Such a wonderful age,” the woman instantly returned. “I remember when little Kenji was that little, and Kana gave birth just the other month!” She added, as if just remembering. “You must go visit her and Ichirou, congratulate them.”
“Yes, kaa-chan,” Tou-san sighed. “What was it this time?”
“Another son,” her grandmother practically beamed, and should Kyo feel insulted? “They're naming him Taichi.”
She was well aware of the fact that daughters weren't valued very highly in some parts of the world, but she hadn't gotten that impression from either her kaa-san or, brief as their acquaintance had been so far, her tou-san.
“I'll make sure to take the time to pop over and visit them,” her tou-san promised, though Kyo thought he sounded tired.
Thankfully, he took the opportunity to shift her so that she could sit back down on his lap, leaning her back against his front. Which also freed up the man's hands so that he could pick up his tea.
“Are you staying for dinner? I could ask one of Suzume's boys to run over to Kana's and tell them you're here; they'd all love to see you, Kou-kun,” her grandmother said, perking up at the idea.
“Very well,” her tou-san said, perfectly evenly and agreeably, but Kyo felt like he rather would have liked to go back home.
It was the first day he was back from wherever he'd been; shouldn't he be resting? He seemed pretty tired, still, if you asked Kyo.
The two adults chatted a while, but Kyo wasn't paying all that much attention; she'd let her gaze and attention wander when her grandmother had started talking about the family business. Which, apparently, Kana's husband had taken over and was running together with her grandfather.
And then her grandmother said something that made Kyo's attention snap back into focus.
“I've been offering to babysit, but that woman keeps turning me down,” she said, sounding disapproving and looking mildly insulted. “As if she thinks I don't know how to care for children,” she groused.
Tou-san sighed. “You're well aware that's not the case,” sounding like they'd had this conversation several times before.
“I still don't see why you couldn't have married a nice girl from the neighbourhood, Kou,” his mother said, a small frown pulling on her brows. “A nice, sensible woman to care for the house while you're gone, to take care of your every need when you're actually home.”
And wow, that sounded both inappropriate and highly insulting. To both of her parents.
“I'm not talking about this again, mother,” her tou-san said firmly, and for the first time, the woman blinked and seemed to really look at her son.
“I know you've said you're fond of her, son,” she said, almost cajoling. “But I'm sure you can find yourself a woman who doesn't deal with quite-”
“And what if Kyo wants to follow in her mother's footsteps?” Tou-san returned calmly, though there seemed to be a thin, hard edge to his voice as he cut his mother's words off.
Her grandmother looked quietly horrified.
“But surely you must see that that isn't something a little girl should get involved in, Kou,” she stared at her son, who looked supremely unimpressed when Kyo glanced up at him.
“Kyo is my daughter, kaa-chan. Mine and Isshun's. And the two of us decide how to raise her, and any other children we may or may not eventually have,” he said firmly, quite clearly closing that line of conversation.
Other than the fact that she wasn't sure what it was, exactly, they were talking about and kept referring to something they refused to state out loud, which was incredibly irritating, Kyo couldn't help but approve of her tou-san's words.
She loved her kaa-san, and she was quickly realising that that was no doubt true about her tou-san, too.
Seeing nothing wrong with how they were caring for and raising her so far, Kyo was most definitely on their side in this.
Her grandmother looked like she'd tasted something sour, but relented and started talking about something else.
An exhausting few hours later, Kyo was carried home by her tou-san, who walked home with a quietly fatigued sense clinging to his form.
Kyo was draped over his chest, head pillowed on his shoulder, and she was practically asleep.
“Home, now, please,” she mumbled sleepily once they finally left the house of her grandparents.
Her aunt and her two sons, her cousins, had arrived and wow, it had all been exhausting. At least her grandfather seemed likeable enough; quiet, composed, almost withdrawn. But he'd had kind eyes, and Kyo hadn't had anything against sitting on his lap for a while, letting her tou-san catch up with his older sister.
“Yeah,” tou-san agreed, shifting her a little so that she lied more comfortably against him, “home.”
And that was that.
Kyo didn't remember getting back home, and over the next few weeks, tou-san stayed home, spending quite a bit of time with Kyo and her mother.