Author's note : This is it… The final installment. I'm going to try something different this time around. Yes, there will be action but I'm going to attempt to add… shock… romance.
Seriously folks, each writer has their strengths. WAFF is not mine.
Now before you keep reading, I need to ask a favor of you. Have you ever had a fanfic author tell you they won't post something until they get X number of reviews. Well, that has finally happened to me. Worse though, it's actually a really cool Kenshin fan comic with all the gang in high school (with some funny MegaTokyo stuff stuck in).
Here's a sample page:
Anyway, I think only people with a Livejournal can vote but you will make me real happy if you just click: http://www.livejournal.com/talkpost.bml?journal=battousai_high&itemid=22005 and vote YES!
So I could offer you something in return for doing it but short of writing something, I don't know what it could be. Besides, I know as soon as you read it, you'll be hooked just like me and that should be reward enough. Anyway… on ward with the story.
"So you're sure I'm not bothering you?"
"No, it's not a problem Kaoru. Really, I'm happy you called."
"Thanks so much. I would call Megumi but every time I do all she does is bitch about how it's taking forever for her divorce papers to clear. Poor girl, who knew that a Vegas quickie would take so long to undo? And let's face it Sano isn't the one to ask…"
"So in other words I was your last choice."
"No, Misao I didn't mean that!"
Misao laughed, a melodious little giggle that broke the tension instantly. "Sorry, I couldn't resist."
"Mou, really now."
"Sorry but… I promised Aoshi to get you back for posting that picture of him in Hawaii on the Internet."
Now it was Kaoru's turn to laugh. "It was irresistible. The department hasn't been that happy in days."
"So you're back working full time?"
"For the moment, anyway. They won't let me fly a helicopter anymore."
"There's a surprise."
"Ahem… but, they are offering me a teaching position at the academy."
"Really? That's great!"
"Yeah, I guess so. It's just… well…" Kaoru trailed off. "I guess I should be happy that I'm not in the line of fire anymore."
"Well, I'm sure Kenshin'll be happy."
"Actually he doesn't complain about it that much… well, okay so every so often he just 'happens' to show up at a crime scene."
"Sounds like he hasn't changed a bit. So speaking of the redheaded devil… I believe that was the reason you called."
"Ano…" Kaoru started and began to trail off. "Misao, I need you to tell me the truth…"
Misao's brow furrowed. "Of course."
"Do you think I'm pretty?"
"What?" Misao cried. "Did Kenshin say you weren't pretty?"
"No! It's not that…"
"What did Kenshin say?" a deep voice asked quickly. Misao tried to hush him but it didn't work.
"Is Aoshi there?"
Misao sighed. "Yeah, he's here."
"You should have told me! I didn't want to interrupt…"
"It's okay, Kaoru. Aoshi and I are just… ummm… hanging around, you know."
There was the sound of an opening door and an alto voice announced his return. "Misao, that's him. We're going to go watch Yahiko in the soccer championships."
"Good luck to him then! And call me back later! I think we need to talk."
"Hai! Tell Aoshi I said hello. Talk to you soon."
Misao flipped the phone shut with a sigh. She shot a glare over at Aoshi before noticing he was looking unhappily back at her.
"What did that idiot do this time?" Aoshi asked.
Misao shook her head. "Well, if someone didn't have to be so nosy, maybe I would have found out. When are you going to stop treating Kaoru like she's a teenage girl?"
Aoshi muttered something that Misao could catch. She frowned and pushed him playfully. His footing slipped and he frowned at her.
"Oh, come on!" Misao smiled. "Can't you take a little push?"
"Yes," he said evenly. "I just prefer not to when I'm several hundred feet off the ground."
Misao rolled her eyes and quickly pushed off the side of the building, swinging outward and parallel to the ground. She had a few minutes of air before she fell back in place.
"Don't do that!" Aoshi snapped.
Misao giggled. "Come on, loosen up. At least enjoy the view," she said sweeping an arm out towards the glittering Hong Kong nightline.
"I will… as soon as we are back on the ground."
Misao sighed and looked over at him. "You're no fun, you know that."
The slightest smile appeared on his lips as he prepared a retort. He didn't have to say it, the blush was already forming on Misao's cheeks. They lapsed into silence before Misao found a way to change the subject.
"I thought after this, it might be nice to go home for a bit," she said softly. "You know, see everyone again and… talk to them about things."
She looked over at him, waiting for a reply and smiled broadly at his short nod. She turned back to look at the lights of Hong Kong. Her smile shifted slightly. They didn't glitter even half as nicely at the ring on her finger did.
* * *
Megumi put the red pencil down with a sigh. Five days straight of marking papers. She would be glad when this was over. Who would have thought that being a professor would be more work then being a surgeon?
She looked over to her calendar with a sigh. February was half over and she needed a vacation. Thank goodness winter break was fast approaching. But where to go? She had enough money saved up to go anywhere but she didn't want to go alone. She'd have to drag Kaoru with her, that is if Kaoru could stand to be separated from Kenshin for more than a few hours.
Now, now, no need to be a bitter old woman, her inner voice chided. Megumi bristled knowing that the voice was probably right. She wasn't bitter… she could date if she wanted to. But this whole stupid marriage thing was just causing too many problems. She couldn't risk a scandal if someone found out she was married and dating someone other than Sano.
Megumi's frown deepened. Stupid Sano. This was his fault. If he hadn't gotten her drunk… if he hadn't suggested a walk… if he hadn't said that they should… ARGH!
She looked down, slowly uncurling her fingers from the student's paper that she had just decimated. She sank her head and calmed herself down. It was easy to be angry, easy because otherwise she would have to admit to herself that she had had at least half a part in it.
She picked up the phone and dialed her voice mailbox. It was empty meaning the lawyers hadn't called her back yet. She let the phone drop and stood up, deciding that coffee was better than wallowing in her own misery.
"Mitsu-sensei," Megumi said as her colleague approached. "Is anything the matter?"
He smiled slightly and shook his head. "Not at all. I was looking for you and here you are!"
Megumi raised an eyebrow. "Indeed."
"Where are you headed?"
"For some coffee," Megumi said.
"Ah! Then come with me. We had a conference earlier today and there's some gourmet coffee left from it in the main auditorium."
"That's all right. I just need a quick…"
"Come on!" Mitsu said, grabbing onto Megumi and pulling her away.
"Really, Takani-sensei, you want to drink that tar they have in the lounge when there is a hazelnut mix just waiting for you."
Megumi slowly fell into step behind him. Okay… so hazelnut was one of her favorites. "Well, I suppose a walk would be okay." She looked over at him. "So what did you want to see me about?"
Mitsu hesitated and then quickly cleared his throat. "Actually, to tell you about the leftovers."
"Really? Well, that's very nice but you could have just…"
"Takani-sensei, we've been working together for almost a year right?"
Megumi balked and then nodded. "Yes, just about."
"Well, I feel as if I know nothing about you! I just wanted the chance to talk with you face to face." He paused in front of the auditorium doors and pulled one open.
"Well… okay but there's really nothing about me that would seem interesting," she said with a shrug. She came to a stop. "Where are the lights?" she asked, looking down into the darkened auditorium.
The room suddenly exploded into light and Megumi had to cover her eyes. As soon as they adjusted, she could barely believe what she was seeing. Most of the department, faculty and students, were in the front by the stage. A large table of food and drinks was laid out there and a huge sign hung from the ceiling. "Congratulations!" it said, a sentiment echoed by the crowd.
"What's going on?" Megumi asked softly.
"Well, like I said, Takani-sensei, you don't talk about yourself at all," Mitsu smiled. "So when we heard that you were recently married, we decided it was time you came clean with us."
Megumi turned slightly pale.
"Takani-sensei!" Several of her female students were rushing up to her, carrying glasses of champagne.
"Where did you meet him?"
"Is he handsome?"
"Why did you keep it a secret from us?"
"Can you bring him to class??"
Megumi looked at them and the stage and finally at the glasses of champagne. She made the only choice that she could. She took several glasses and started to drink them in rapid succession.
"Well, before we lose Takani-sensei to took much celebrating," Mitsu said with a smile, "let's give her a gift. Here, this is from everyone."
Megumi paused for a minute in her drinking and looked at the envelope. She took it cautiously and opened it.
Suddenly, it became very clear that all the champagne in the world wasn't going to help on this one.
* * *
Sano sneezed loudly and looked around. Hmph, someone must be talking about him. He stared down at the paper and tapped his pencil against the desk. He paused for a second longer before filling in a circle.
He pushed away the stupid smile that was about to form. That was it! That was the last question on the last test he would ever have to take!! Well, that was if he passed the test.
Of course you'll pass! It's not like you've been doing anything else but studying these past few months.
Che, like that was his fault. Stupid Megumi, ostracizing him from their group just because of a stupid mistake. He had tried to make up for it, footed half the bill for the lawyers and everything! Like she hadn't had a part in it.
Of course not. Miss High and Mighty was too moral to do something as seedy as get married to an ex-gangster in Las Vegas.
Sano frowned. He looked down at the paper and quickly checked over the answers one more time. If all went well then all his problems were about to be solved. He'd already put in the request for a position in Kyoto. That way he'd kill two birds with one stone. Get as far away from Megumi as he could and finally let Kenshin and Kaoru have the place to themselves.
Not that that redheaded baka had any idea of what to do when he was alone with her. Che, how the hell could Japan's best assassin be so terrified of one girl?
"But Sano… I don't want to hurt her."
"Or I'll scare her."
"Oh come on!"
"Or worse… she'll just stop liking me all together."
Apparently, Sano didn't have enough problems with Megumi. The gods had a sense of humor and decided to sick him with a best friend with a self-esteem problem. And he didn't know how to approach that.
Sano closed his eyes and stood up. He walked to the front of the classroom and stared the professor down as he handed him the paper. The professor looked at it once and then took it, sliding it into the reader by his desk.
It should have taken only a few seconds for the machine to produce the results. But to Sano it felt like his entire life was playing out in front of him in agonizing detail. The way he was kicked around in school when he was just a kid. How he had met up with Souzou and the others. How they had all died. All his failures since then moved through his mind as if to prepare him for the inevitable.
And then suddenly, the machine signaled it was done.
* * *
Kaoru put her hands together and blew on her hands. It didn't matter that the large dome had slid into place well before the game started. Winter wasn't giving up easily this time and she couldn't shake the last remnants of cold that she brought from outside.
Next to her, Ayame and Suzume bounced up and down, holding brightly colored pom-poms. Gensai-sensei smiled slightly at the sight and pulled his glasses so he could see the field.
Kaoru looked around, trying to see if Kenshin was anywhere. His red hair stood out in the crowd and she waved him down, letting him now where everyone was. With a large smile, he wove his way to the seats, holding the tray of drinks in his hand.
He didn't quite clear the last seat and small 'Oro' escaped his lips as he bumbled towards her. Kaoru stood up and caught the tray with a smile. Taking it from him, she turned and let the girls pull their cups. She took the last two and handed one to him as he sat down next to her.
"Did you get the marshmallows?" Kaoru asked. Kenshin looked at her unhappily. "You forgot?"
"Marshmallow!" the two little girls cried, after removing the lids from their drinks.
Kaoru looked over at Kenshin with a frown. "That's not funny," she said, hitting him on the hand.
He smiled and caught her hand before it got away. Satisfied with having Kaoru in one hand and a cup of hot cocoa in the other, he settled into the seat and watched the two teams come out.
Yahiko was not hard to pick out, his spiky hair a style not adopted by his fellow teammates. He stood in the goal, smacking his hands together to warm up. Kenshin stole a glance over at Kaoru as she started yelling in support of him.
Two forty-five minute halves later, the game was still tied at nil-nil. There several empty Styrofoam cups by Kaoru's feet, promptly getting squashed as she stood atop them yelling various things at the field as they set it up for penalty kicks.
Kenshin looked over at Gensai-sensei and the older man smiled and shook his head. "Just like her father," he mouthed.
Kenshin smiled and nodded, leaning back in his seat. But a second later, Kaoru pulled on his arm and got him to stand up. She had so much energy, he mused. And this was for her adopted brother. Imagine what it would be like for their children.
The thought made him go pink at the cheeks. Well, he had just fast-forwarded things several years in advance. Of course at the rate he was going, they'd be lucky to share kiss before the next decade.
Yahiko leapt up and blocked a shot, making the score 5 to 4. The crowd went wild as the referee signaled the end of the game. Yahiko disappeared under a flood of teammates and Kenshin was lost in a sea of black as Kaoru leapt into his arms, jumping up and down with happiness.
Suddenly, he heard Megumi's voice in the back of his head. It was from the first dinner he had had in Kaoru's house, while he was still undercover in the Hiten.
"Take my advice. Take this chance. Rewrite your life and let go of whatever haunts you. When you stepped in the door to this house, none of it mattered anymore."
Looking down, he watched as Kaoru disengaged herself from him and turned to dance with the two little girls. Megumi had been right. He was getting a second chance and there was no way he was going to let anything happen this time around.
* * *
"I will kill them."
"There is no argument in this."
"You are still not completely healed. This is a minor incidence. Allow the lower ranks to take care of it."
"Yumi, I will not allow them to undo everything I have worked for. Get the plane ready. We are leaving in an hour."
* * *
"So you'll come?" Yahiko asked as Kaoru unlocked the front door.
"Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world," Kaoru smiled. "How often is it that you baby brother gets to compete in an international championship in Rome?"
"I'm not a BABY!" Yahiko yelled.
Kaoru just rolled her eyes. "Well, considering that your coach as me to come so I could act as a supervisor…"
"Maa maa," Kenshin said quickly, not willing to let the festivities get interrupted by a fight. "I'm sure that Kaoru-dono will make an excellent chaperon and that Yahiko will do very well in his game."
Kaoru smiled a bit. "Yeah, especially with the team manager watching from the sidelines."
Yahiko turned several shades of red and clenched his fist. "Leave Tsubame-chan out of this!"
He instantly regretted it as Kaoru erupted into giggles. "Oh, so it's 'chan' now??"
Yahiko groaned and stomped up the stairs. Kaoru laughed until he was gone and then let out a little sigh.
"You shouldn't tease him so much, de gozaru," Kenshin said closing the door behind him.
"Mou, if I didn't, that ego of his would grow out of control." She smiled a bit and let the silence drag out a bit. "Ne… Kenshin?"
"Would you… ummmm… would you like to come with us to Italy?"
Kenshin blinked and looked at her. Of course he wanted to go but there was no way he could afford a plane ticket. And there was no way she could pay for both of them. She looked up at him with big blue eyes and he knew that no man in his right mind would refuse her. They'd sell a kidney to get the money.
But before he could answer, the doorbell rang. With an apologetic look, he turned around and opened the door.
Megumi and Sano stood waiting there, arms crossed and silent despite having arrived at the same time. Neither looked particularly happy but when they caught sight of the other two, the tension in the air relaxed.
"So…" Megumi prompted.
"They won!" Kaoru said happily.
Megumi clapped her hands and walked into the house. "So where is he?"
"Getting changed," Kaoru sighed. "They're all going out to celebrate."
"Celebrating sounds like a good idea," Sano added, walking indoors.
Kaoru and Kenshin looked at him, watching as the big man shuffled into his pockets before producing a piece of paper. They looked at it as soon as he unfolded it. A second later, they both looked up in surprise.
"You passed?" they said in unison.
"Che, you make it sound like pigs flew or something," he said.
"Congratulations!" Kaoru cried, reaching up and wrapping her hands around his neck. The tall man spun her around twice before depositing her (somewhat dizzy) on the ground again. He grabbed Kenshin and almost crushed the small man in his excitement. Sano finally turned to Megumi and waited for a retort.
"You did well," she said softly. Three sets of eyes blinked. "What?" she demanded looking at them.
Sano decided to not push his luck. "Thanks, Kit… Megumi."
"What happened?" Yahiko said bounding down the stairs.
"Sano passed his final test!" Kaoru related.
"No way! Hey, good job tori-atama!"
"Oi! Watch what you say! I can arrest you know, Yahiko-chan."
"DON'T CALL ME CHAN!!"
A honk outside broke up the fight before it could get much worse. Yahiko stuck out his tongue, promised Kaoru he'd be back by curfew and disappeared out the door. As soon as he was gone, Kaoru and Megumi started giggling.
"What?" Kenshin asked.
"You didn't smell it?" Megumi replied.
"Yahiko was wearing cologne," Kaoru sang, dancing towards the kitchen.
* * *
Several glasses of wine later, Megumi finally unwound enough to come clean. She let out a sigh, breaking the natural silence that had descended on the group. They looked up at her with puzzlement on their faces.
"What's wrong?" Kaoru ventured.
"They found out about Vegas at work," Megumi said, refilling her glass.
"That you were kidnapped?" Kenshin asked.
"That you sang a lounge song in a silver dress?" Kaoru added.
Megumi shot her an unfriendly look. "Not that either." She looked over at Sano and the man gulped.
"Oh…" Kaoru nodded settling back into the seat.
"I thought…" Sano started but Megumi shook her head.
"They threw a party," she said softly. "They served champagne. And… they gave me a wedding present," she finished producing the envelope and throwing it on the table.
Two plane tickets spilled out, a hotel brochure came soon after and then a map of the city.
"Venice?" Sano said. "Isn't that a bit… pricey."
"Yes," Megumi said evenly. "I'm in a very bad predicament now. I can't refuse the gift because doing so would mean that I would have to explain what happened. And…"
"And you can't tell you perfect friends," Sano filled in bitterly, "that you got married to me."
"That I got DRUNK and married to you," Megumi yelled. "God! Why does everything have to be about you?"
"Well I assumed that it was my fault since you haven't said two words to me since we left Vegas!" Sano responded.
Megumi was about to retort but fell short. Fighting wasn't going to solve anything. She needed to figure out a way out of this.
"Then we need to go together," Sano said. Megumi flashed him an angry look. "Calm down. We'll go, take a couple of pictures and go our separate ways. Then you can come back and tell them you found me with some other chick, the papers should be ready by then. Happy?"
Megumi blinked. "But… what will your colleagues think?"
Sano frowned. They wouldn't think anything because he'd be halfway to Kyoto when word reached them of what happened. He just didn't feel like telling that to them now.
"It doesn't matter," he muttered.
"Hey, these tickets are for Rome!" Kaoru said, picking them up.
"Yes, two days in Rome then a train to Venice in time for the Carnival," Megumi said softly.
"And they're first class tickets," Kenshin continued.
"Yes…" Megumi replied hesitantly. "So?"
Kenshin looked over at Megumi. He hated to ask her but this was the perfect way to get to Italy and spend some time with Kaoru. He looked over at her, his violet eyes opening up as he looked at her.
"Oh… crap," Megumi said softly reading his mind.