I love Rurouni Kenshin for many things, but mainly for Enishi. I think he is the best anime character ever and I am bordering on obsessed with him. Hence, it was only a matter of time before I wrote something that had him in it. I always liked the Kaoru/Enishi pairing because Kenshin is a sap, although a nice sap, and I think he is too tortured and involved with himself to be a good match for Kaoru. Of course it was totally appropriate that Kenshin and Kaoru end up together and I wouldn't have had it any other way in the official manga, but for the sake of fiction I have to prefer E/K. I was inspired for this by Healthy Alternatives, which the author never finished, but which I felt was a good idea. I had a different sense of inspiration for how it should go, and by no means is this a re-write of that fanfic, but the seeds of this fic started while I read that one. Now, after an inordinate amount of introduction, on with the fiction. The next chapter will be longer I promise.



Disclaimers: All standard disclaimers apply. The characters of Rurouni Kenshin do not belong to me, they belong to Watsuki Nobuhiro. This goes for this chapter, and any following this as well.



Chapter 1

"Midterms are death!" Kaoru crashed down on the couch with a sigh. The lounge in the math building was old and musty, but the benefit was that almost no one was ever there. This was especially true on Fridays, and what with her last midterm being done, Kaoru didn't feel especially like going home yet.

"My brain feels like I just pushed it through a sieve and poured it all back in through my ear!" Megumi rubbed her temples and tried not to let stray worries about equations rumble through her. "Multivariate is the seventh ring of hell."

"It's your fault for waiting so long to take it." Kaoru fished around in her bag from some chapstick.

"Listen. I want to be a doctor, not a mathematician. I'm not going to have to take a derivative when I'm removing someone's appendix. Math requirements are only taking time away from precious biology."

"You're crazy with all that science. I can't imagine why anyone would be pre-med."

"Just because you haven't declared anything yet doesn't mean the rest of us can't have some direction."

"Don't start with me. I refuse to think after performing math gymnastics of the calculus sort."

Picking themselves up, Kaoru and Megumi made their way down the hall and out into the only slightly cold October air. It was a nice day, but the clear days were always the coldest. Kaoru shivered and cursed how cold she was since again she had forgotten to bring a heavier coat, as in her mind sun should connect to warmth. This always happened in the fall, and she cursed it not being cold enough to just use winter clothes. Megumi breezed ahead of her, ready to start the weekend. Kaoru envied Megumi to some extent because at least she could look forward to spending time with Sano, while all Kaoru could do was angst over.

"Kenshin!" Megumi called out ahead. "Wait up, we're about to go get something to eat. You want to come? We can celebrate the dubious state of our academic records together."

"Erm. I think that sounds very nice Megumi, thank you for inviting me. But, I really need to get this form signed so I have a room to present my thesis in." He smiled at Kaoru as she approached them and Kaoru was glad that her cheeks were already red from the cold so that her faint blush wasn't visible.

"Always thinking so far ahead. You should live a little bit. The worry will get to you someday. At least come by and visit later tonight then." Kaoru hoped she didn't sound like an irresponsible ditz. It was a stupid thing to worry about, but she was always evaluating her actions around Kenshin. He was a smart guy, and a good friend, but it would just kill her if he knew how much she liked him.

"I'll do that. See you later." He continued on in a different direction and Megumi and Kaoru resumed their walk home. They were both silent a few minutes.

"You should just tell him you know. It's getting a little bit pitiful the way you pine after him. It's been almost a year now." Megumi had no compassion for Kaoru after hearing her whine about Kenshin for so long. Kaoru got a sullen look on her face and deigned not to respond to Megumi.

"Sometimes I wonder if he knows and just doesn't say anything about it." Kaoru finally said something after they walked in silence a little more. "He's just so far out of my league. If only I were a senior too."

"I don't think that him being a senior has anything to do with you being a coward." Megumi interrupted with a sharp laugh. "Get some guts and tell him how you feel!"

"It's easy for you to talk, Sano was the one who asked you out. You haven't had to face anything that mortifying." Kaoru sometimes envied Megumi because she actually had a relationship whereas Kaoru just wished she did. Even though Megumi and Kaoru were both sophomores, Sano was a junior and quite the activist on campus. He had met Megumi when she was his lab partner in biology last year, (a subject he barely passed) and had decided in his blunt and presumptuous way that they should go out. Kaoru remembered walking in that day to walk with Megumi to lunch only to find her in her 'righteous anger' phase. His dictatorial attempt to win her favor had only aggravated her highly developed sense of feminine empowerment. The volume and rapidity of her words were astounding as she told him off and then left him standing with his mouth hanging open. It would have been funny enough if it had ended there. However, apparently her strong mindedness only made her more appealing because every day for the next three weeks Sano asked her out again and again. only to be turned down. In a moment of pity for the poor guy, Kaoru eventually cornered him and offered to set them up. So Kaoru told Megumi to meet her for dinner at a restaurant and sent Sano instead. As was expected, the evening was disastrous, but for some reason Megumi agreed to see him again. It had just kept going with the same sense of the confusing combination of antagonism and attraction since then.

It was through Sano that they met Kenshin. Some days Kaoru cursed her luck about that. Sano had met Kenshin a long time ago, and had stayed pretty good friends and so whenever Kaoru and Megumi were hanging up Sano would often bring along Kenshin. At the beginning Kaoru was bemused at the quiet and polite Kenshin being Sano's friend. After a while she was grateful for Kenshin's presence because once Sano and Megumi began to get closer then Kaoru had someone to talk to. What a trap that had been, she now thought, how they had grown mentally closer until they were friends too. Now she liked him and she couldn't tell him for fear of losing him. What a rotten rotten thing to be friendzoned. But now Kenshin was in his last year, he'd be giving his thesis in Psychology this year and then leave for graduate school. She would probably almost never see him again, so she might as well go for it. There were worse things. like regretting not telling him for the rest of her life. She would tell him this year, but the need to procrastinate was so tempting that she couldn't summon a feeling of urgency just quite yet.

"Kaoru! Are you listening to me?"

"Yes, yes Megumi, something about a party tonight."

"I knew you weren't listening, it's tomorrow night. And we need to find costumes, it's a Halloween party."

"But it's not Halloween yet. That's a week and a half away." Megumi gave her a sour look. Kaoru, who wasn't terribly thrilled by the supernatural, had never been terribly thrilled by the holiday. But she was always up for a party, so she would dress up if she needed to. "I suppose I could go as..um."

"I'm going as a doctor, of course, and you can go as something that suits you." Megumi smiled. "You could be a raccoon. That would suit you perfectly."

"You can't be my friend anymore!" Kaoru laughed. "You're just too mean!"

*

Sano lazily draped an arm around the shoulders of both Kaoru and Megumi. His lanky frame towered above them as he pulled them in for a hug. Megumi and Kaoru yelped in surprise, and Megumi almost immediately retaliated by smacking him in the arm for scaring them.

"What took you so long? We have to get to a thrift store fast or else we won't have a costume worth wearing!" Megumi wanted immediate action, but Sano sat down and pulled an apple out of his bag. He obviously was in no hurry.

"You're so worthless! Give me your keys and I'll get the costume for you! But we have to go now, and I don't have time for these games." Megumi said it in a half scolding manner, but she smiled as she said it.

"Sure babe," he tossed the keys in her direction. "But I already bought something for you."

"If I hear the words 'French' or 'maid' come from your mouth then wrath will descend upon you from above."

"Er. Have a good time looking for costumes." Sano seemed a bit off put.

As Megumi and Kaoru walked towards the car, they saw Kenshin approaching them from a little ways. He waved at them and they waited for him to reach them before they left. After offering him a ride to the thrift store, which he accepted, they were off to de-stress with some cheap and quick shopping. The thrift store was only about fifteen minutes away, and full of musty smelling things that screamed yard sale even as they were somehow charming in their eccentricity. Kaoru and Megumi came often to look and laugh, and today was no exception. Kenshin seemed to feel a little out of place as they giggled over ugly clothes and odd shoes, and so he wandered over to the books and sports equipment to try to find something.

It was easy enough for Megumi to find some scrubs, and she ended up buying a cheap looking lab coat from the Halloween supplies that were out in full force. She even got a short blonde wig and a plastic saw to make sure her doctor was suitable unreal and funny. Kaoru was clueless as to what her costume should be.

"You're always too unsure of yourself. Just make a decision already! Or I'll make one for you." Megumi ran her hands along the racks. "You could be a Catholic school girl, or a harem chick, or a clown. Yes, yes, I like the clown one. If you don't choose anything for yourself then you'll have to use whatever hideous creation Sano bought me."

"I'm just not inspired by any of this, Megumi." Kaoru looked around and fingered material in a lackluster manner. Peasant girl, prostitute, karate student, vampire. Nothing seemed very special. Maybe that was best. Just be something terribly typical and no one could really complain. "I guess I could be a witch. I'm pretty good at being whiny and evil when I want to be."

"You're sure right about that.. Ow!" Megumi rubbed her arm where Kaoru had smacked it. Kaoru gathered together the appropriate articles of clothing including hat and wig, and they went to find Kenshin. The poor boy was quietly reading when they converged upon him with evil grins.

"We found you the most adorable costume Kenshin. you have to try it." His eyes grew wide as he saw impending doom sweep down.

"Oro?"

*

Sano, in his ninja costume, seemed to be having fun playing around with some plastic throwing stars he had gotten at a supermarket. The fact that he could have lots of cheap plastic weapons was the main draw for his pick of costume. As soon as Kenshin had come downstairs Sano had started laughing so much that he could barely hold it all in. The girls had dressed up the poor, amiable, and uncomplaining Kenshin as Raggedy Andy. His face had been made up a little bit to make him even more doll-like. The big blue overalls and red striped socks protruding from the bottom of his pants didn't help any either. The girls, of course, were only just starting to change and Sano tried to make Kenshin feel better about his ridiculous appearance, but failed miserable by laughing at him with each word. Sounds filtered downstairs from the changing room.

"No. I said no. If you rip it that high people can see.."

". the whole point is to make yourself attractive, not hid behind some bag of a dress."

"It will ruin it though.."

"You paid three whole dollars, I don't see why."

A ripping noise distinctly sounded.

"GAAAHHHH"

"Oh don't be such a baby.." More ripping.

When they finally made their way downstairs, the men were quite curious about just what exactly had happened. Megumi came down first, her scrubs and coat smattered in fake blood, the blond wig in disarray and looking generally like an insane doctor. Kaoru had to be coaxed down, but when she did the men were fairly impressed. Whatever Megumi had done, it didn't look bad at all. The white wig, and black eyeliner and makeup were not done to make her look ugly. In fact she had a somewhat Elvira look to her. The pointy hat drooped a little at the top, reflecting Kaoru's lack of confidence in her appearance. Her black stockings peeped through a dress ripped so high on either side that you could tell the stockings only went to mid thigh. Megumi had cinched up the middle with a large belt so that the dress gave Kaoru more pronounced curves. The sleeves had been ripped so that up to the elbow they hung in tatters. The front had been torn in a ragged V, showing off more skin than Kaoru felt was decent. In defiance to her friend's attempt to make her look sexy, Kaoru had insisted on black tennis shoes.

"Someday your evilness will bite you in the rump my friend," Kaoru said with a grimace.

"You love it, admit it. Now let's go!"

Sano and Kenshin looked a little shocked, but after an open mouthed stare they recovered and escorted the ladies the four blocks down to where the party was just starting to pick up steam. There were people walking in from the other direction and Sano waved at them. They were dressed as gladiators and immediately the boys all started showing off their cheap plastic weapons by fighting one another. Kenshin tried to hide behind Megumi out of shame for his costume.

"You big sissy. You know that every girl at the party will think you're the most adorable thing ever, so get some guts." Kaoru felt maybe she and Megumi had gone too far with dressing Kenshin up. At the same time, she did think he was adorable. But then, she would have thought him adorable regardless.

Abandoning the boys to their stupidity out in front, Megumi, Kaoru, and Kenshin walked on into the party. Grabbing some "punch", Megumi sat down and started to talk with some friends of hers from her science classes. Kenshin took refuge with some cooing girls and a few laughing psych majors, and Kaoru jealously made her way into the kitchen to try and find some water. She was a real lightweight and wanted to avoid drinking for a little while. She didn't even know who was throwing this party; it was more Sano and Megumi's circle of friends. Thankfully, in the kitchen being talked at by an already drunk Frankenstein's monster was Yahiko. Yahiko was a freshman psych major who Kenshin had mentored and he had been hanging out with all of them increasingly. He was nice, but got really intense if you asked him about his subjects of interest so Kaoru just tried to stay away from all that and have a nice time talking to him. He was quite relieved to be rescued from the fragmented conversation with the drunk.

"Kaoru! I didn't recognize you at first. How'd you manage to make yourself even more ugly?" he gave her a smile and a wink.

"You're horrible. I should leave right now, but it's nice to know that you barely recognized me."

"With all that makeup, yeah, you really look different. And the dress."

"Don't start."

"I can recognize an original Megumi when I see one, even though I've only known you all a couple months." He was dressed as a judge, probably because it took minimal effort and he got to carry a gavel.

As they chatted amiably, a pair of eyes followed Kaoru's movements with grim intensity. The target had been established. The plan would go smoothly. It made it that much more pleasant that she wasn't bad looking. Eyes wandered up and down the exposed leg in his vision. Yes, this would be fun after all.

"So do YOU know who lives here at all? I'm a little curious as to the nature of the hosts." Kaoru was a little curious, but mostly was just trying to make conversation with Yahiko. Some hair got in her eyes and she brushed it aside absently.

"Meh. I don't think it really matters. I hear it's some business people."

"I don't know any business majors."

"I'm surprised, haven't you changed your major three times already? And only a sophomore."

"HEY! I have not even declared yet so don't you be pointing fingers just yet." Kaoru wondered in her heart if she would ever find something that inspired her. Her father wasn't going to pressure her to be too decisive but he could only support her through her undergraduate work. He had enough money for that, and after that she was on her own entirely. It was kind of a scary prospect. Then again, maybe graduate school wasn't for her. She forced her attention back to Yahiko who was rambling on about something. Kaoru hoped he wouldn't ask her any questions.

Yahiko said he was going to go find Kenshin, and Kaoru gave him a big smile and waved him on. Really, she didn't want him to go, but she couldn't insist on it without seeming like she wasn't having a good time already. She wasn't, yet, but that could change. Moving towards what looked like the back porch, she noted a chair and sat down with a thunk. A glass of water later she watched the last bit of light be swallowed by the clear night and only then started to notice how cold it was, especially in contrast to how little she was wearing. Darn Megumi. She wasn't sexy, she was ridiculous. A black cape dropped on her lap as she stared at the horizon, shivering.

"I can never resist a damsel in distress." The smooth male voice came somewhere above her, and she looked up to find the unfamiliar speaker. The black cape on her lap was surprisingly thick and already her exposed legs felt a little warmer.

"Thank you." she searched for a name, or a face. The darkness and the backlighting of the party totally obscured him.

"Enishi. Nice to meet you."

"Kaoru Kamiya. I came with a friend of mine who knows people here. I'm afraid I don't really recognize many people." She saw some white hair in ruffled and spiked strands, messy in a way that implied order in the chaos. He pushed at some glasses before he sat down in the chair across from her. He appeared to be in a regular three piece suit, albeit a very nice one. "What are you supposed to be?"

He smiled a toothy grin. Indeed, the fitted vampire teeth seemed to suit him somehow, and contrasted wonderfully with the suit in its respectability. "I'm a lawyer, get it? Better than Dracula, and I look a lot less ridiculous. At least I already owned the suit."

Kaoru gave a little laugh as she wrapped the cape around her. "My roommate foiled my attempts to be something as mundane as a witch. Looking like this was certainly not my idea."

"I think you look good." The statement was flat and direct. If anyone could be completely neutral, Kaoru got the feeling he could be. All the same she blushed anyway, and was suddenly very glad of the dark. Maybe she wouldn't curse Megumi so much in the future.

"So do you know who lives here?"

"Yes." A brief silent patch followed. Kaoru realized he wasn't going to continue with a sense of mild confusion.

"Who lives here?"

"I do, for one. But it's my housemates who are throwing the party. They thought it would be a fun way to celebrate the end of midterms. I think celebrating something so miniscule is pointless." He was still using the neutral tone.

Trying to not let the conversation die too badly, Kaoru tried to change the subject. "So are you a business major?"

"I suppose. I'm just shuffling through until I can get to law school. I'm going through as fast as possible."

"Oh?"

"I started out last year as a freshman, this year I'm a junior. If I prolong things I might double major but I'm not sure yet." Kaoru suddenly felt very inferior and lazy at that.

"Let's go inside, even your cape can't prevent the traitorous piece of clothing I dare call a dress from making me cold." He rose and offered his hand to her as she attempted to rise with a minimum of grace. A blush rose to her cheeks again. She wasn't used to this sort of behavior except for the door opening that Kenshin engaged in, but that was for everyone and not a sign of particular favor. Thinking of Kenshin she started to feel a bit guilty. Unsure as to why, she pushed the feeling away.

As they walked into the glowing light of the kitchen, Kaoru tried to get a better look at her conversational companion. Intense, slightly slanted eyes an improbable shade of light blue green set off his white gray hair. Nothing about him was particularly masculine, that she could tell, but nothing suggested that this person ever could be feminine either. There was an air of quiet control and he seemed perfectly at home in his surroundings. Alpha male, if she could have described him in two words, that would have done it. The earring in his left ear bobbled just a little as he turned to her and pushed his glasses up his nose with one finger. It was so unfair a man could be that attractive.

"Yes?" His voice alerted her to the fact that she was staring at him.

"Is your hair really that color?" As soon as she said it she felt stupid. What a terribly horrid thing to basically go right out and admit she had been checking him out.

For a moment the corner of his mouth seemed to twitch, like he was going to smile and then didn't at the last minute. "Honestly, yes, it is. I started to go gray a couple years ago. It was like this by last year. Amazing really, no one can explain it since my father only had a few stately streaks. I'm told it doesn't look all that bad."

"Oh no, it's quite handsome." Kaoru was having one of those moments where she just wanted to slap herself over and over. She felt she couldn't sound less intelligent if she tried. If fainting in relief were the fashion she would have when music started up in the main rooms and distracted their attentions for a second. At least it was enough to break the tension. Kaoru examined her confusion a moment. why was there tension? Something didn't seem right. She wished she could put her finger on it. The strand of hair she had been brushing back all evening fell in her face again, but before she could push it back Enishi did it for her. His hand brushed her cheek and she shivered. If only she were cold.

Kenshin leapt up in her mind and her eyes grew large. Kenshin, she had to find Kenshin. Kenshin was safe, and familiar, and everything Enishi was not right at that moment.

"Excuse me, I better check on my friends before they think I've left on my own." She gave Enishi a brilliant smile, but her eyes betrayed her swirling emotions and hormones.

"I'm sure I'll catch you later," Enishi said in parting as she turned away. "And I mean that." He murmured in his mind.