Light, rapid footsteps echoed down the hallway, followed by a delighted shrill that woke Kaoru from the greatest night of sleep she’d had in several weeks. She blinked and studied her surroundings, only to find herself alone in the bedroom. The brightness of the sun shining through her window said it was sometime just before noon. Kaoru was grateful that Kenshin had gotten up with their youngest child to allow her an extra few hours sleep but supposed she ought to get up and help him, hurrying as she got up to get dressed and put away the bedding. A moment later she heard her husband’s cry, “No, no, Haruka! That’s not for eating, it is not!” His sillouette was a blur, visible through the thin screen of the sliding door as it passed the bedroom.
Kaoru wondered what their teething daughter had found to put in her mouth this time and frowned as she thought about the discomfort her little girl must be going through. None of the tricks they had used on their sons had worked for Haruka, and at nearly one year old it was a miracle that she had yet to get sick from the many random objects she got her tiny hands on.
Kaoru found them by following the sounds of their chatter to the kitchen, where Kenshin was kneeling at the table with a squirming Haruka in his lap, trying in vain to wipe a wet washcloth over the child’s mouth. Her sons sat on the opposite side watching the spectacle, just barely managing to stop their giggles once they saw their mother in the doorway.
Kaoru leveled the boys with her best ‘no nonsense’ stare. “And what are you two laughing about?” She asked innocently. “I see nothing funny.”
“Mommy!” Haruka squealed gleefully, squirming in Kenshin’s arms until he let her go, and scampered over to clutch at the skirt of her mother’s kimono. “Up! Up!”
“Good morning, Love.” Said Kenshin a little too quickly, discretely tossing the washcloth into the wooden laundry bucket by the wall. “I hope we didn’t disturb your rest.“
“I got plenty,” Kaoru assured him, noticing but not commenting on Kenshin’s shifty behavior as she lifted Haruka to her hip. “I just heard this little girl running down the hallway this morning and had to see what sort of trouble she was up to.” She pressed her nose to her daughter’s as she added this, playfully scolding the child, “What did you do for your daddy to chase you through the house, young lady?”
“Bug!” Haruka shouted happily, and Kaoru raised a curious eyebrow and glanced at her husband.
But it was Kenji who answered the unspoken question in Kenshin’s stead. The ten year old boy couldn’t stop himself, grinning as he blurted, “She killed a cockroach.”
“Then she ate it.” chirped Shinta helpfully as though this was excellent information to include, sharing his older brother’s enthusiasm for anything gross.
“Yum yum!” Haruka squealed in delight and clapped her hands as she bounced in her mother’s arms, sending the boys in a fit of laughter with her addition.
Kaoru grimaced at the three of them in mock horror, “You’re all horrible. Tell them how disgusting they are, dear.” She told her husband. They all stared at Kenshin expectantly, waiting for him to pick a side as his gaze switched back and forth between them.