Author: LadyShiin PM
After her mother’s death, Kaoru and her father moved from their village to the city. With the arrival of a redhaired stranger who smells of the sea Kaoru discovers the truth about her mothers past… and her future. FinishedRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Kaoru & Kenshin - Chapters: 3 - Words: 15,888 - Reviews: 103 - Favs: 150 - Follows: 29 - Updated: 06-15-06 - Published: 06-06-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2977622
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Kenshin watched her sleep and tried to sort out his thoughts.
When he had first found her in the City, he had wanted only to help her go back to sea. Selkies weren't meant to live away from the ocean. It had been good intentions with no strings attached. See her safely back to her home, back to the sea and then leave.
His good deed would have been completed.
It must have been her tears, he decided, that had changed everything. The broken hearted keening noise she had made. It had torn through him and his protective instincts had kicked in then.
Hurt, lost and alone… he couldn't have left her if he had tried.
Her reactions to Emer's innuendoes had been amusing. She really was adorable when she was angry. Her cheeks flushed with color and there was a sparkle in her blue eyes. The little growling noise she made without even seeming to realize what she was doing were cute.
Sometime without realizing it, this little lost Selkie had become his little lost Selkie in his mind.
She sighed softly and snuggled closer, pulling him from his thoughts. His jacket really was too big for her. Her hands were lost in the sleeves and it swamped her. Ever so faintly he could smell her scent mixing with the smell of leather jacket and the ever present whiff of sea.
The air in the cave was growing colder. Reluctantly, Kenshin pulled away. He could tell by the air that it was going to rain. He had caught sight of some pieces of wood while they had explored the cave and it was best to collect them before the rain dampened them. Also fish always swam close to the surface when it rained. Kaoru would welcome some food and the heat fire would provide.
Murmuring a light sleep spell over her to keep her dreaming in his absence, he left.
Sometime while Kaoru slept it had begun to rain. She could hear the soft, steady patter of it against the roof of the cave.
There were faint crackling and popping sounds and she opened her eyes slowly. The cave was lit with a soft glow from the fire several feet away.
She blinked. Fire?
Sitting up she caught sight of Kenshin cooking some fish fillets just above the flames.
"You're awake," Kenshin smiled at her.
The picture she made was adorable. Her hair was messed from sleep and her right cheek slightly reddened from being pressed against her arm, which she had used as a pillow. He chuckled softly as she rolled the sleeves of his jacket back several times so her hands were free and then pulled her ribbon out of her hair and tied it back neatly.
"Fish?" Kaoru asked.
"Fresh caught," Kenshin selected one of the pieces and held it out to her.
Kaoru took the stick gingerly and blew on the meat before taking a tentative bite. "Tastes good," she murmured, sitting down cross-legged near to the fire.
Kenshin picked up the remaining pieces which looked to be done now and settled down next to her. He handed her another piece as she was nearly finished with her first and started eating his own. Kaoru sighed softly, resting her head lightly against his shoulder as she finished eating.
"I don't know what I'm going to do now," she murmured. "I can't return to the City and I don't want to stay here…"
"Come with me," Kenshin said softly.
Kaoru's eyes widened slightly. "Why? What obligation do you have to me? You don't even know me."
"You're a Selkie." Kenshin murmured. "Selkies take care of their own. Let me take care of you."
Kaoru blinked and then the tears started to fall again and Kenshin forced back a growl. Hadn't she had any friends? It didn't seem likely. And with her father's death she had been alone, tossed adrift like a piece of wood in the sea. Abandoned in a City that was slowly killing her with no way out and the only thing she had to rely on being herself.
"Let me take care of you…"
Had anyone said those words to her since her mother had died? From what he had managed to gather her father had lost himself in the grief of her mother's death and for the most part let himself forget that he had even had a daughter.
She loved him still and then lost him with his sudden and unexpected death.
Crooning softly he pulled her into his lap. Gently grasping her chin he tilted her head back and lowered his mouth to her face, kissing her cheeks and flicking away the tears that fell from her eyes. Kaoru made a soft sound that caught in her throat and her hands fisted in his shirt.
Kenshin rubbed his nose against her gently smiling as her eyes crossed as she attempted to look at him before blinking.
"I'm taking care of you mo chroi," Kenshin murmured.
Kaoru snorted softly. "Isn't it a bit early for endearments?"
"Course not cara," Kenshin smiled at her expression.
"Amadan," Kaoru retorted softly.
Kenshin laughed quietly and Kaoru sighed tucking her head against his shoulder. He stroked her hair and back and his touch and the sound of the still-falling rain, lulled her once more back to sleep.
He was still wrapped around her when Kaoru awoke. She yawned and rubbed at an eye and stuck her tongue out at him as he smiled in amusement.
"Were you awake the whole time?" She asked.
"Yes," he pressed a kiss against her cheek and chuckled when she rolled her eyes.
"You're cute when you sleep."
"That's a teensy bit creepy," she muttered but her words were soft. "How old are you exactly? And don't try to evade the question."
"Ceithir ceud go leth," Kenshin muttered quickly.
Kaoru quirked an eyebrow, "English please?"
"Four hundred and fifty."
Kaoru stared for a moment. And the slowly blinked… and blinked again… "Four hundred?" She repeated.
"And fifty," Kenshin murmured.
"Ah," Kaoru murmured slightly dazedly. "Immortal I gather?"
"So are you," Kenshin said, "if that makes you feel any better."
"Oddly enough it kind of doesn't," Kaoru replied.
She was still blinking and Kenshin fought the urge to wave his hand in front of her face. At least she hadn't fainted… he quashed that thought quickly in case he jinxed her.
"Kaoru?" He asked after a moment.
"Are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, I'm fine. Peachy…" Kaoru shook her head. "By my reckoning you could've known my seven times great-grandmother."
"Oh," Kenshin couldn't think of what to say to that.
"I mean I know a hundred years or go it used to be quite normal for girls to marry or date guys ten or twenty years their senior… they offered stability that guys their age didn't…" Kaoru realized she was babbling and exactly what she was babbling about and shut her mouth.
She turned her head and for the first time in the past couple of minutes he felt she was actually looking at him. "Four hundred and fifty eh?"
"Yes," Kenshin answered.
"Could be worse," Kaoru murmured. "I mean since we're both immortal…" She blinked. "I've probably stopped aging haven't I? Eternally nineteen forever… I know girls that would kill me for that…" There she went babbling again…
"Kaoru?" Kenshin asked softly.
She had resumed blinking and didn't seem to hear him.
"Kaoru?" He tried again.
She didn't reply. Considering the revelations she was mulling over it wasn't as bad as a reaction as some he'd seen. She was screaming or crying or beating her head against a wall…
Still... Kenshin wished they were closer to the water so he could dump her into it and pull herself out of her shock.
No water handy here in the cave…
"Kaoru?" He attempted for a third time.
No reaction. He honestly hadn't expected one.
He grabbed her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.
That didn't work.
"Kaoru? Cara… c'mon now." He grasped her chin and attempted to get her to look at him. "Chroi?"
"Kaoru…" For a final time he tried. He lowered his mouth to hers, the kiss gentle. The reaction wasn't one he expected. Kaoru went stiff against him and before he could pull away he found she had tightened her hands in his shirt.
Her mouth opened, tongue flicking against his bottom lip and his response was automatic. There was desperation in her kiss; he could hear her whimpering softly low in her throat.
"Kaoru," he murmured as he pulled away.
She was trembling faintly against him, tucking her head against his chest, ear pressed right over his heart and she was silent for a moment. Listening to the steady beat. "Please," her voice was a whisper.
"You don't know what you're asking," Kenshin replied.
"I don't want to be alone anymore," her tone of voice made his heart twist.
"You're not alone anymore. You will never be alone again." Kenshin's voice was fierce.
"I believe you," Kaoru murmured. She raised her head and Kenshin felt relieved to see a small hesitant smile.
He dropped a kiss on her nose and grinned at the expression she made.
"I'm finishing what I started."
"You're a Selkie but you were never taught to Call your skin were you?"
"Um… no?" Kaoru offered.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead and then disentangled himself from her and got to his feet.
"What are you doing?" Kaoru asked when she saw his him starting to lift the hem of his long-sleeved t-shirt.
"Watch," was all he said.
Kaoru's eyes widened when he pulled off his t-shirt.
"Ooh," Kaoru murmured. "Is that…?"
Kenshin ducked his head slightly, "my skin yes."
Across his chest and shoulders and down along his arms were a scattering of… she couldn't call them anything other than dapples. They were reddish in color and haloed by a thin line of gold at the edges.
"That's how a Selkie carries their skin with them," Kaoru said softly.
"Yes," Kenshin replied. "But in the old days it was very conspicuous. If someone saw your skin they would know you for what you were. Most Selkies would discard their skins and stashed them some place safe. It's only recently with the old myths fading into obscurity and the popularity of body tattoos that it is safe to go around wearing your skin while in human form."
Kaoru made a soft sputtering sound when he started to undo his belt.
She raised her gaze to his, locking eyes and doing her best not to look elsewhere. Her blush really was adorable and Kenshin fought the urge to smile. She'd probably hit him for it.
"Watch," he said softly.
And then closed his eyes.
He could feel his skin rippling across him, spreading and the faint tingle of magic. There was the stretch and snap of sinews twisting and reforming themselves, not painful but just an uncomfortable feeling that he had long since grown used to. His face contorted and he could feel a muzzle forming and whiskers tickling. His legs melded together and twisted and he fell slowly to the ground with a thump.
He always hated that part of the shift.
His body shuddered, twitching once more and then it was over. When he opened his eyes he was seeing as a Selkie was. He saw more in this form than he did as a human. The world was a riot of color… the trails and edges and essence of magic that was imbued in every living thing.
Kaoru was edged in silver, glinting in her hair like moonlight. Her eyes seemed to glow in his sight.
She started to giggle her voice lilting and musical leaving trails of silver in the air.
"You're fat as a seal," her eyes were sparkling.
Kenshin would have replied but his current form limited such things as talking.
He returned to human form, the change faster and easier than the one to seal. Kenshin had always wondered what their true forms were. They were born as humans but could take the form of seals and he found it easier to be human than seal. Others were the opposite and preferred to be a seal than human.
Kaoru was still blushing but her face wasn't as red as before. He grabbed his trousers anyway for her benefit since for this he needed her to be concentrating and not distracted.
There would be plenty of times later for her to be distracted.
"Come here," he murmured, sitting down and patting the ground next to him.
"Do I have to be naked?" Kaoru asked.
"It makes the change easier when you're not trying to flounder your way out of clothes." Kenshin replied.
"Ah," Kaoru nodded and tugged off her shirt. She bit her lip, pausing and then undid her bra and pants, kicking them off. She kept her underwear on and he could see her skin reddening as she tried to fight a full-body blush.
He chuckled softly and her glare made her eyes snap and sparkle.
"You're beautiful," he murmured and captured her mouth once more with his. Kaoru tensed and then relaxed against him.
"You need to relax," his teeth grazed her pulse, fluttering against her skin and she made a gasping sound. "Otherwise it'll be more painful than it has to be. The first few changes are never easy."
She nodded soundlessly and sighed. He kissed her again, pulling away only when she went boneless against him a purr rumbling her throat. Carefully he tugged at her panties, sliding them down her legs and tossing them away.
Kaoru tensed slightly and relaxed. He felt her tug at a strand of his hair, winding it through her fingers.
He kissed her lightly on the mouth murmuring a soft endearment in Gaelic that had her eyes narrowing a second later when she translated.
"Ready?" He asked.
She hesitated and then nodded.
Kenshin raked his bangs out of his eyes as he thought for a moment how to best explain it to her. "Think of the sea… Everything about it… how it looks, how it sounds, how it feels… tastes… every little detail you can think of…"
Kaoru nodded and there were faint frown lines between her eyes as she concentrated.
Kenshin tapped the part of him that was magic, the part that recognized her for what she was a Selkie like him and let it see through his eyes. Ever so faintly the edges of Kaoru's form became outlined in silver.
"Good," he said softly. He touched her shoulder gently and felt the dormant magic in her stir as it recognized him. He touched it, a quick stroke meant to coax. It flared and Kaoru shuddered underneath his palm, her skin rippling.
"There," Kenshin said. "Do you feel it?"
"Yes," Kaoru whispered softly. Silver was reflected in her eyes. Rising like bubbles from the depths to the surface and spreading across her eyes swallowing the blue and turning it into pure silver.
Her skin rippled again and she gasped shuddering. Her spine arched and her breath came in quick short pants.
Her skin shifted then turning partially translucent before deepening into silver. Smoke-edged black dapples flowed across her like a wave. The pale-pink of human skin giving way to the mottled coat that was that of a seal.
She was beautiful even now with her human-self wearing her Selkie-skin. Kenshin spared a thought that they would make a fine pair. Him with his skin of red and gold and her clothed in silver and black.
He crooned softly and felt an answering hum from her newly-awoken magic.
Kaoru's eyes widened and she raised a hand and stared at her arm like she had never seen it before. Hesitantly she laid another hand against her arm and then drew back, still staring.
"Beautiful," Kenshin murmured. He took one of her hands in his and pressed a light kiss to the back of her palm.
"It…" Kaoru bit her lip. "It feels good… Right somehow…" Pain flashed through her eyes. "I can understand now why Selkies die when their skins are stolen… to be separated…" she didn't finish the sentence.
"Come," Kenshin got to his feet, pulling her up with him. "We're too far from the sea right now."
"The sea," Kaoru echoed. Her eyes widened and she nodded.
Kenshin squeezed her hand and then led her from the cave, following the path they had taken back to the beach.
Kaoru was silent except for gasping every so often. He watched as she reached out to touch things, trailing her fingertips along the stone wall or piece of moss. Her magic was awakening and filling her and she was seeing with eyes that saw magic and recognized it for what it was for the first time.
She caught his gaze and smiled, it was a brilliant smile full of joy and he felt a mirroring one on his face. He grabbed her quickly, kissed her and spun her around and then set her back on her feet and they resumed walking.
Kaoru stopped mid-stride as they exited the cave and the beach stretched out before them. The rain had stopped and the sun was attempting to peak through the clouds.
"Oh…" Kaoru breathed, her silver-edged eyes were huge in her face. "It's…" Her eyes fluttered close and faintly he heard her hum softly, echoing the siren song of the sea that she was hearing for the very first time.
"Come," Kenshin tugged on her hand, pulling her from her thoughts.
She smiled at him and once more he couldn't help but smile back.
"Let me take you into the sea."
She nodded and walked forward with him toward the sea.
He waded into the water and felt her pause just at the water edge before joining him and wading deeper into it.
At the edges of his sight he saw her magic spreading out and touching the water with silver. His own reached out and stroked her and there was a soft chiming sound as the two met and twined.
Kaoru's eyes widened and her gaze flew to his. He pulled her against him and kissed her gently. "I promise it won't hurt. It'll be uncomfortable – it always is, but it shouldn't hurt."
She nodded and tucked her head underneath his chin, pressing her ear to his chest and listening to the beat for a moment. Kenshin hugged her quickly and then stepped away, holding only her hand.
"Picture a seal," he told her. "Picture yourself as a seal."
Kaoru bit her lip and nodded. Her eyes closed and he felt her tense.
"Relax," he murmured. "Don't force it."
She cracked open an eye and nodded once more and he could see her relaxing slightly.
Ever so slightly he saw her skin ripple, shimmer for a moment like heat upon water. There were faint stretching and twisting sounds and Kaoru gasped, both eyes flying open.
"It's okay," Kenshin said reassuringly, squeezing her hand lightly. And then her hands twisted becoming flippers and she fell against him as her legs melded together becoming a tail. Her ears slid up the side of her head and disappeared and her face twisted and reformed itself as a muzzle. The last thing to remain human of her was her eyes, silver-edged blue that then turned into the deep brown of a seal's.
The look she gave him was a mixture of shock and amazement. He choked back a laugh. Stepping away he let her figure out how her new form worked. She floundered slightly in the water before there was the audible click as she understood what the magic whispering to her was saying.
She gave a strong kick and disappeared beneath the water to reappear a moment later as she surfaced for breath and then dove underneath once again.
He waited for several moments, watching her revel in her new shape before making the change to seal as well.
He located her quickly several feet away and nudged her as he came close, rubbing his muzzle with hers. She swam circles around him and there was the closest thing to a smile on her face.
He gave a strong kick and brushed against her in passing and moved quickly away. Looking back at her he saw her pause before she realized what he was doing and then darted after him.
He swam ahead of her, just letting her within several feet, slowing down only to speed up once again as she neared him. He stopped and she spun in the other direction immediately and he chased.
They did this for a long time letting Kaoru test out the limits of her new body. She was fast and graceful and caught on very quickly when he showed her how to hunt fish in seal-form.
It was only as he noticed her tiring did he nudge her back in the direction of the shore.
The change from seal to human was easier and Kaoru seemed to be more comfortable in her skin this time. She was yawning and not wanting to make the trek back into the cave he simply called his jacket and their clothes. After putting their clothes back on he spread his jacket out on the sand and laid down on it.
With Kaoru curled in his arms, already sleeping, and the warmth from the sun Kenshin fell asleep quickly.
Kaoru woke before Kenshin did. The sun was starting to set now and gave everything a golden glow. It reflected off the water, staining it in the colors of dusk – burnished reds and dark purples and deep midnight blues all edge by golden light. Kaoru could see the faint shimmer and twinkle of magic in the air and almost taste it, gently tingling and reminding her faintly of fresh apples on her tongue.
Kenshin was still asleep beside her, one arm thrown loosely around her waist. Kaoru propped her head up on her fist studying him while he slept. The fading light of the sun brought out the gold and copper highlights in his red hair, enhanced his light-tan and accented his features. He was a creature of red and gold even in his Selkie-skin.
Faint lyrics darted through her head a soft song that told of memories and the colors of red and gold and pain turned into happiness.
She smiled slightly, they were appropriate.
Kenshin stirred and she felt his arm around her waist tighten and then he relaxed. His eyes fluttered open and she caught flickers of gold and violet swirling lazily beneath his lids.
"Hello," she kissed him softly on the cheek and heard him sigh. A contented sound.
He nuzzled at her neck, tongue flicking out to taste the salt left by the sea on her skin and a faint purr rose upward from his throat.
"You sound like a cat," she muttered, her voice affectionate. "I don't think seals purr."
"This one does," Kenshin murmured. His hands settled on her waist and he rolled onto his back, pulling her to rest on top of him.
Kaoru sighed softly and tucked her head beneath his chin, listening to the now familiar beat of his heart. It was soothing. A constant reminder that someone was there with her. Who cared for her.
"What do we do now?" She murmured.
"That is up to you," Kenshin murmured. "What do you want to do?"
"Stay with you." A brief flicker of uncertainty crossed her face, "if you'll let me that is..."
"Chroi…" She twitched slightly at the endearment and he grinned. "There was never any chance of you not staying with me. You're stuck with me whether you like it or not."
She snorted, "oh I like being with you at the moment. Give me a bit and I may decide otherwise. What would you do then?"
"Convince you that being without me a rather silly notion and persuade you to stay with me."
"Oh?" Kaoru arched an eyebrow.
"Mmm," Kenshin murmured. "I can be very convincing." He tugged gently on a stand of her hair and lowered her mouth to his and didn't release her until she went boneless against him and was purring softly.
"Cheat," she muttered softly. "Is that how you're going to resolve any future conflicts between us?"
"Course," Kenshin grinned. "And I may just start a few only so that we can resolve them."
Kaoru snorted and he chuckled quietly.
"So what do we do now?" Kaoru questioned.
"You come live with me."
"Oh? And where is that exactly?"
"In one of the underwater cities."
Kaoru blinked, "underwater cities?" She echoed.
Kenshin laughed at her expression. "Another part of your heritage that was denied you… Selkies live in underwater cities."
"Underwater cities…" Kaoru muttered. "Sounds like something from a Fantasy novel or a Disney movie…."
"They are very much real." Kenshin replied.
"Oh I believe you," Kaoru answered. "Just still trying to process how odd my life has suddenly become…Wonder what it's like to be normal…"
"There is no such thing as normal," Kenshin assured her. "So don't even try. You'll just give yourself a headache."
Kaoru stuck her tongue out at him. "And I suppose that's your age and experience talking?"
Kenshin snorted and she kissed his cheek gently.
"Come with me?" He asked.
"Course," Kaoru murmured.
He smiled, "then it would be best cara that we leave now. It's growing dark and swimming at night is tricky. Our other option would be to stay here for the night and leave in the morning and it will be very cold tonight and I think we used up most of our burnable wood with the earlier fire… There are other ways to keep warm…" She smacked his shoulder and he grinned. "But the city where I live is not that far and for sleeping, I'd much prefer a soft bed to a hard cave floor."
"I would too if I was given the choice," Kaoru replied.
"So it is best that we leave now," Kenshin got to his feet and held out a hand to help her to hers.
"Will we be able to come back?" Kaoru asked softly.
Kenshin nodded, "of course. Anytime you wish it."
Kaoru hesitated and then nodded. "Let's go then."
This time the shift to seal was easier than the one before.
Kaoru had a feeling that in time it would become as natural to her as breathing. Already she felt like she'd been changing from human to seal for forever. It was comfortable, like wrapping yourself up in your favorite blanket or slipping on your most loved pair of shoes.
Together they swam into the slowly darkening waters. Kenshin alongside her, every so often brushing against her to remind her that he was there… he was a steady, constant presence. He said he'd never leave her and she believed it. She'd known him for only a short time and it amazed her how much she'd already come to depend on him.
Yes, she loved him. It felt right to say it. It was right to say because it was true.
She loved him.
And he loved her.
Kaoru knew she'd have adjustments to make in her life. Too much had changed for her not to need to learn to adapt more than she had now. But he would be with her, at her side – coaxing and guiding, soothing, caring, and occasionally provoking her just to get her to lose her temper.
Kenshin paused and touched her muzzle with his.
'Ready?' His voice echoed through her head.
'Yes,' Kaoru replied.
Kenshin nuzzled her once more and then turned away. Kaoru saw his seal-brown eyes flare briefly golden and the water around them buzzed with magic. The water rippled and wavered like the sun reflecting off water and parted suddenly like a curtain. Kaoru blinked.
When she opened her eyes stretched out below them was a city. High-arched glass domes covered and it was a riot of color beneath the clear covering. She could hear the sounds of soft humming and quiet singing. A faint tingle rolled across her skin. It had been present ever since she had met Kenshin and she had stopped paying attention to it. But now felt stronger than ever before.
Others like her.
'Come,' Kenshin coaxed and together they swam toward the underwater city and to Kaoru's new life.
Mo Chroi Gaelic for my dear/ my darling
That's the end of Sealskin. It was meant to just be a short-series (since I'm working on so many long series anyway…) I'm at work at a Sequel that depending how long it goes will be either a one-shot to yet another short (3-4 chapter) series.