I have an upcoming 1sentence project for this pairing (Yao x Kiku), and that thought gave birth to the fic below.
Despite the strength and intelligence that he was showing, Kiku was only a child.
If Kiku could only read my thoughts, Yao mused, I would have been dead already.
But as the older brother and the surrogate father of the Asian siblings, with his thousand-year wisdom, Yao knew that Kiku, his Ju Hua, was still a child.
Ju Hua was so small, so tiny, and was partly hidden in the bamboo grove like a baby panda when Yao first saw him. His too-big eyes with the color of the earth gazed straight into his, but Yao noticed the slight trembling of the other country's little body. Ju Hua introduced himself with self-confidence and something close to arrogance, but there was a faint trace of uncertainty...and nervousness, perhaps?
For all the things that Kiku has already done at such an age and with such a pace, he was still a child.
Many years later, despite the scar marking his back, Yao would still fondly remember a starry-eyed little boy who learned kanji and poetry, wove silk, and grew to love tea and nature and peace.
His Ju Hua was still the same little boy who refused to show "Niichan" the scratches on his arms and the scrapes on his knees after practicing with a bamboo sword. His Ju Hua was still the same little boy who insisted on walking by himself after spraining his ankle while "playing" with a hyperactive and much younger Yong Soo.
And yet after too much coaxing and pleading and remonstration, Ju Hua reluctantly and shyly showed his bruises and let "Niichan" treat and bandage them, he let "Niichan" wipe his dirty face and carefully check him for more scratches, and he let "Niichan" carry him on his back so as not to further hurt his ankle. He even let "Niichan" wipe his tears and comfort him with warm cups of tea, gentle hugs and soft kisses.
This young man standing before him, feet closed, back ramrod-straight and chin raised up proudly, was still the same little Ju Hua, the little child he had loved more than anyone else and still love even now.
Yao saw, with eyes of thousands of years of wisdom, the clumsily wrapped bandages around his younger brother's arms, well-hidden under white long sleeves, the back stiff from pain, the all-too thin body underneath the crisp naval uniform, the tired lines on an otherwise youthful face, and the eyes heavy with knowledge and grief and pain.
"Ohisashiburi desu ne...Niichan."
And with that, Yao knew, Kiku was still a child, his child.
His Ju Hua was here.
His Ju Hua was still his.
"Okaeri nasai, Ju Hua."