Author: Veles PM
One part liquor, one part pride, two parts Fate, and a splash of serendipity...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Kenshin & Kaoru - Words: 3,024 - Reviews: 52 - Favs: 131 - Follows: 19 - Published: 09-16-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3156999
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and all characters therein belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki.
Slender, oddly strong fingers suddenly curled in the front of his shirt and yanked him forward hard enough to make him stumble. Belatedly, he tried to rally his senses to focus on his assailant through the dim lights of the bar, but all he could make out was a flash of dark hair, pale skin, and dark eyes. The features nothing but a blurred jumble when the unexpected and unmistakable feel of soft curves pressed against him from chest to hips. His mouth opened in reflex, although what would have come out would forever remain a mystery as soft, parted lips covered his own.
The jostle and crush of bodies around him, the fast beat of whatever song was playing over the speakers; everything faded into a hazy sort of lull. He'd never thought it possible, even gone so far as to tease the friends who had sworn they'd experienced it. But in that instant, his mind went completely and utterly blank to everything but her kiss.
It wasn't until he felt the cool, silky strands of hair gliding through his fingers that he realized his hand had come up to the back of her head. Almost simultaneously, his other hand curved over her hip, fingers flexing in absent admiration of the muscle tone that met his palm. But even that observation was fleeting as he pulled her closer and tilted his head to put an end to his passive role.
Or at least, he'd intended to until she beat him to it a second time, sliding her hands caressingly up the sides of his neck until she was cupping his face almost tenderly. The tip of her tongue barely grazed the inside of his upper lip before she grew more confident, languidly tracing the line of his teeth. Shuddering at the bold move, he bit down lightly on her tongue and savored the way her unsteady breath passed into his mouth, clearly showing he'd managed to surprise her.
Forcefully getting control of himself before she could figure out another way to get one up on him, he fisted the hand in her hair and all but flattened her up against his body. He finally released her tongue in favor of gaining better access to her mouth, and took advantage of that chance to slip his own past her lips without the slightest hint of hesitation.
He could taste the faint bite of alcohol in her mouth, almost undetectable under the mix of sweet and tart fruit juice and what he was willing to bet was maraschino cherry. Despite himself and the intensity of the heat curling through his stomach, he could feel his lips curling up in affectionate amusement. There was something about the mingled flavors just seemed so… appropriate.
She moaned into his kiss just loud enough that he could hear it over the rushing of blood in his own ears. But he wasn't prepared for the effect that one sound had on him, the sheer strength of desire snaking through his gut and sending tingling jolts down both his legs. Exhaling heavily, he eased her shirt up high enough under his hand that his fingertips brushed over bare skin and took the opportunity to stroke the curve of her spine.
A sharp, exquisite pain spread out through his lip and pulled his focus from exploring the soft skin under his hand enough to recognize the feel of her teeth scraping across his bottom lip. He could feel her smile just before she drew the abused lip into her mouth and gently sucked to take out the sting.
The hands on his face traced back down his throat, lingering across the curve of his shoulders, and over his arms until her hands grasped his wrists. She squeezed them lightly, tugging at his hands until he reluctantly allowed her to pull them loose and bring them to his sides. Leaning back to break the kiss, she audibly struggled to catch her breath in soft, panting gasps that did absolutely nothing for his peace of mind.
She finally looked up at him, freezing as their eyes met for the first time. His fingers curled under the effort it took not to reach for her again as he stared down the short distance to her face. She was trying to keep her expression guarded, not wanting him to notice her confusion. Or, more likely, she was trying not to show him just how deeply she'd been affected. Admittedly, if she felt even half of what he was feeling right now, it was no surprise she was so unsettled. From the way she shivered under his stare, he needed to address that uncertainty before they went back to more mutually enjoyable activities.
He was a patient man.
Most of the time…
However, when she bit down on her own bottom lip, his gaze dropped to her mouth and his thoughts scattered all over again. Starkly reminded of just how skillfully she had been using those teeth on him. Groaning faintly at the overwhelming temptation, he dipped his head and struggled to brush a soft, open-mouthed kiss across her lips when he wanted to do so much more. But, the way her eyes nearly closed at the aggressive move gave her a sultry, inviting look that only encouraged him to take a step closer and try again.
She swayed forward into his touch with a sigh and rose up on her toes just enough to match the pressure he was exerting. At the silent sign of acceptance, he fully intended to draw her back into his arms to pick up where they'd left off when between one breath and the next, she vanished.
The skin around his wrists burned under the sudden absence of her touch, and he straightened in alarm so quickly the muscles in his back twitched in protest. The languid haze that had settled over him shattered in a moment of almost painful disorientation until realization struck. His gaze sharpened, rapidly searching through the oblivious patrons for some sign of where she could have gone.
His brows lowered in a dark scowl when nothing gave so much as a hint to her passing. It defied all logic that she could appear out of thin air, kiss him so damned senseless, and then completely disappear even in a crush of bodies like this. But if not for the heat of her still humming on his skin and the taste of her lingering so strongly in his mouth, he'd almost believe he'd conjured her up from his own frustration.
Relax, he soothed himself sternly, taking in a deep breath to get a better handle on his emotions. He was just as tired, and now slightly more irritated than he'd been when he first arrived, definitely not the frame of mind to be in when he needed to be thinking clearly. There was no way she could have gone through him to get to the exit without him noticing, so she had to be somewhere in this crowd.
Unless she's planning to slip out the back.
The scowl immediately returned.
Shaking off the unproductive thoughts, his turned his narrowed gaze along the bar. First things first, he needed to find Sano and make his apologies for showing up to the "welcome party" he'd insisted on having only to tell him he couldn't stay. Sano could always get his friends together again to introduce him, but there was no guarantee his slippery mystery woman would ever come back to this bar.
In all his years, he'd never experienced anything even remotely close to the explosive chemistry that had sizzled between the two of them from the moment they'd touched. The feel and taste of her had completely overwhelmed his senses, consumed him from the inside out, and he wasn't ready to let that go unexplored.
Resolutely squaring his shoulders now that he had a plan in mind, he slipped easily into the crowd.
"What do you mean that doesn't count!" Kaoru smacked the back of her fist against Sano's chest hard enough to rock him back on his barstool. She could feel her cheeks burning with residual embarrassment, and now to have this idiot brush off what she'd just done to win their bet?
"I didn't see it!" Sano accused, making a face as he caught himself on the bar before his balance could shift enough to land him on the floor. Once he was satisfied he was safe from harm for now, he folded his arms over his chest and frowned down at her. "You were supposed to stay close so I could verify you didn't chicken out."
"I did stay close!" Kaoru hissed at him. "You probably started flirting and forgot you were watching me!"
Sano cleared his throat, reaching for his water to cover that moment of internal awkwardness. Granted, there might have been some potential for truth in her accusation, but he stubbornly kept that to himself rather than lose his chance to come out on top in the argument. So instead, he gestured to the crowded floor to and shot back at her, "It's not my fault you're too short for me to see you over these guys. Why don't you find him and bring him here so you can do it over."
Kaoru's eyes narrowed.
Sano quickly held up his hands in preemptive defense. "Or I can just ask him if it really happened!"
"The point of your idiotic bet was for me to prove to you that I'm not afraid to kiss a stranger with no intention of ever sleeping with him or seeing him again," Kaoru reminded him tightly. "It defeats the purpose if I go looking for him after we kissed."
"Extenuating circumstances." Sano tapped two fingers on the bar to signal for a refill of their orders when Kaoru pushed away her empty glass. "I won't call it forfeit on the bet since it's just for verification."
"Sano," Kaoru growled out.
"C'mon! I want to see the poor bastard you grabbed!" Sano whined as the bartender obligingly set down the two new glasses. Claiming his tumbler and a fresh napkin, he slid that juice and vodka thing she liked closer to her hand in a silent bribe.
Kaoru picked up her drink and took a sip, pinning him with a stern glare over the rim of the glass. "No."
Sano hunched his shoulders at the blunt denial, sulking at having his fun ruined. "At least tell me what he looked like."
"Because you can see so well in here," Kaoru taunted, arching an eyebrow at the demand. She sighed and rolled her eyes when he looked like he was about to start arguing again and twisted to face him. Propping her elbow on the bar, she rested her chin on her hand and grudgingly offered, "He was a little taller than me and he had long hair."
Sano frowned when she went back to her drink. "And?"
"What do you mean 'and what?'" Sano gestured expansively to the bar in exasperation, nearly clocking two of the men behind him. "Do you have any idea how many guys that could be in here!"
"A whole lot of strangers I have no intention of sleeping with or ever seeing again," Kaoru taunted, snickering at the look on his face. "You lost, Sano. Admit it and hand over that key."
"I don't believe you," he grumbled unconvincingly under his breath, knocking back his shot when she stuck her tongue out at him. "C'mon, Jou-chan! Where am I supposed to go when I get locked out if I give you back your key?"
Kaoru snorted at that, "Anywhere but my house."
"I want more details," Sano insisted stubbornly, absently letting his gaze wander to scan the crowd. He was about to go back to poking at Kaoru when he caught a familiar figure maneuver out into the narrow walkway leading up to the bar. Raising his arm to wave and catch his attention, he had started to grin in welcome until he got a better look at his approaching friend.
Sano's eyes narrowed shrewdly, running over the disheveled bangs, the flushed face, but paused the longest on his uncommonly reddened lips. Lips that almost looked like he'd just been-
A niggling suspicion started in the back of his mind that had his brows creeping up in surprise before he turned a sly look down on where Kaoru was doing her best to ignore him. Briefly he debated the best way to explore the potential to his theory, and finally settled on trying to wheedle out more details about the man she'd picked as indirectly as possible. "What color was his hair?"
Kaoru sat up, resting a hand on her hip in growing aggravation. "Sano, really-"
"Dark? Light? You could tell that even in here," he prodded, crossing his fingers behind his back that she'd had just enough to drink to play along until it was too late.
"I don't know, Sano." Kaoru raked a hand through her hair, shoving her bangs up off her face and pinning him with a warning glare. "Brown, maybe?"
Kaoru's brows furrowed as she thought about it, and she shrugged distractedly. "I guess it could have been, I don't know."
Sano snuck a look over her head and covered his mouth with one hand when he saw his friend's gaze swing to Kaoru and stop. At the way he faltered, Sano's little suspicion took a huge leap, and he quickly schooled his expression to keep Kaoru from getting curious. At least long enough that she didn't notice the man currently stalking up behind her.
"How about his eyes?"
"Sano, you're really looking for a way to die tonight, aren't you?" Kaoru reached into her half-empty glass to pull out the cherry. Popping it into her mouth, she sucked the juice off it to make sure it wouldn't drip onto her pants before she felt safe enough to shake it at him scoldingly. "For the last time, I didn't get a good look at him. I thought they were dark, but they looked lighter when I left, so it was probably something with the strobe lights." She waited for him to back off, then took the cherry in her teeth and pulled it off the stem. "Now give me my key."
Sano ignored her, leaning back on his stool and motioning the bartender over to order both of them something a little stronger. At Kaoru's questioning look, he gave her a wink and drawled out, "I think you're probably going to need it in a minute."
"Why?" Kaoru tilted her head to one side in confusion.
"Cause I want to introduce you to my friend, Kenshin." He set the whiskey shot very precisely beside her taller glass before he grabbed her shoulders and spun her around on her stool.
Sano watched her blink once, visibly taking a moment to process the sight of the redheaded man standing less than a foot away from her. But once it had, he had to bite down on the side of his tongue to hold in his laughter at the way her eyes widened and the color flooded her cheeks in startled recognition.
Definitely proved his suspicion was more than just a little too much whiskey and an overactive imagination.
He reached out and clapped a heavy hand on Kenshin's shoulder, almost knocking the smaller man straight into Kaoru's lap. Trying to keep his smug amusement from showing through in his voice, he drawled out, "Kenshin, this is Kaoru. She's a good friend of mine from the gym."
It didn't surprise him in the least that Kenshin's gaze never left Kaoru's face through the introduction, but he continued on as though he hadn't noticed the tension between the two was reaching staggering levels. "Kaoru, this is my friend since way back in grammar school, Kenshin. He's just moved back to our end of the woods and I thought it'd be good for him to come out and get to meet everybody tonight. Help him make friends and settle in so he doesn't feel too lonely, you know?"
Kaoru stared at those pale gold eyes in disbelief. Swallowing around the lump in her throat at the slow, dangerous smile that was curving sculpted lips she knew all too well.
It wasn't until Kenshin's hand dropped to rest on her knee that Kaoru snapped out of her shocked state and tore her eyes away from the man who was supposed to have been her anonymous victim. She turned a furious glare up to Sano's smirking face, looking for any hint he'd somehow managed to orchestrate their earlier meeting. Except, the rational side of her mind pointed out, she had been the one to wander into the crowd all on her own. She had been the one who picked him out.
No, he couldn't have done this, she acknowledged mournfully and felt her anger fizzle out just as quickly as it had come. The fact that her "random guy" was Sano's friend, standing in front of her and looking for all the world like he wasn't intending to move anytime soon was just pure, horrible, ridiculously embarrassing coincidence.
Undaunted by her continued silence, Kenshin reached up and slipped his fingers through the hair framing her face before he tucked it behind her ear affectionately. "It's very nice to meet you, Kaoru."
Kaoru stared blankly at him for another heartbeat of time before she calmly twisted around, grabbed the shot Sano had so graciously provided, and emptied the contents down her throat.