This piece is basically a spinoff from my Edodale premise, which is why Rurouni
Kenshin characters are (kind of) talking and acting as if they were modern-day characters
from Buffy. If you really need to know more about the setup, hey, "Edodale" is archived
here too. This may possibly end up being an optional chapter for that story, but possibly
not.

In the Forests of the Night
By wombat

"You're a right mess, aren't you?" The man studied Kaoru as she lay in a heap where he'd
set her down. When she made a feeble attempt at sitting up, her hair left a broad
brushstroke of blood-streaked grime on the floor beneath her cheek. She already felt
pretty awful, but felt even worse about making such a mess on the polished tiles of his
entrance hallway. "Jineh never was much of a sport. Bloke never seems to understand
that hostages are only useful when you keep them alive. You all right, then?"

"I- I think so," Kaoru said uncertainly, but when she tried to stand, her knees went all
wobbly and she fell down again. "Maybe I twisted an ankle, but it'll be okay."

"Look, why don't you wash up while I brew a cuppa to get you warm. Make you feel a bit
better, hey?"

She looked down at herself: jeans caked with half-frozen mud, torn-sleeved jacket soaked
with zombie slush, hair trailing raggedly out of her ponytail and sodden with both. "Um.
If you have some clothes I could borrow, that would be great. Can I call my friends first
to tell them I'm okay?"

"Let them wait a bit. Look at you, you're shivering so hard that mud is flaking off you in
pieces. Get on with you into the tub, second door around the corner. Plenty of soap and
towels in there, and I'll see what else I can find."

Plenty of hot water too, and a good thing. She wasn't used to washing in just a tub instead
of a shower, and she had to drain and refill it several times before the water stayed clean.
The cake of soap had a nice, solid feel against her skin, and a pleasant scent of
sandalwood and bergamot. Once she finally felt clean, she settled down into the water,
submerging her head nearly up to the level of her nose and watching the ripples from her
breath. With her ears underwater, she didn't hear his knock at the door, but she was both
too exhausted and too drowsy to be terribly startled when he poked his head in. He
must've had a clear view of her body through the water, but he didn't show much interest
beyond a cursory glance. He left a bundle of clothing on the counter beside the sink and
disappeared again.

She supposed that was a hint. She wasn't sure how long she'd been soaking, but her
fingers and toes had the slightly wrinkled, bright pink look of umeboshi. Still a little
dizzy, she braced herself slowly up on the edge of the tub and climbed over it onto the
bathmat. His towels were nice too: thick and velvety, in a deep shade of teal. When she'd
dried herself enough that her hair was only damp, not dripping, she shook out the
clothing and boggled slightly.

It was a formal kimono set. It was a pretty nice kimono, too- it felt like real silk, in a
pale shade of rose like winter dawn. She didn't know how to put on a kimono by herself,
and she wasn't even sure when was the last time her mother had dressed her up in one for
a festival. Well, he'd taken her own clothing, probably to go stress out his washing
machine, so she'd just have to make do for now.

She didn't feel like bothering with the three different cotton undergarments, or even all of
the belty things, so she just pulled on the tabi socks, wrapped the kimono around her, and
tied it closed with the crimson gauze undersash. The kimono trailed beyond her feet, but
she held the hem up out of her way as she walked out, the rest of the bundle tucked under
her arm.

He was pouring out some tea at the low table in the corner, but when he looked up at her,
he actually laughed. "Crikey, they don't teach girls how to wear things proper any more,
do they?" He set the teapot down and got to his feet to take the bundle from her and
spread it out on a sideboard.

"That's all wrong, you know. Might as well look decent while you're at it. Don't you
worry, I helped my sister for years with the same set you're wearing. Or at least wearing
bits of." He set aside the underkimono as well as the camisole and half-slip that should've
wrapped around her waist beneath it. "Don't even want to bother with the susoyoke to
keep the skirt from flapping open? Oh well. Not like she'll be worrying about water spots
on the silk where she is now."

"Was she-" Kaoru faltered. "Did something happen to her?"

His face was carefully expressionless. "She was taken away from me untimely, let's say."

"I'm sorry."

"'Tisn't your fault, pet. Turn your back and hike up your hem so I can tie your waist up."
Once she had a good grip on the front panels of the kimono, he whipped the crimson
undersash back off, then tied a braided cord around her waist. "Drop the overlap to fall
over the cord, now, and hold onto these bits of padding so I can fasten the waistband over
them. Should ought go under the kimono, but too late for that. All right then, here comes
the obi, so round and round we go." The dark blue brocade looped around her several
times.

"Right, hang onto this end and I'll pop in the padding for the bow, and trade you that obi
end while you hold onto both ends of the undersash again. Bow's all tied up around the
padding back here, lovely red cord around the obi, and now all we have to do is tuck the
undersash into your front. That's better, innit? Here, might as well tie your hair up, too."

Embarrassed by all this attention, she snatched the ribbon, his fingers brushing the back
of her neck as she sidestepped him to tie up her damp hair herself. The ribbon was a
darker shade of rose than the kimono and too narrow to make the kind of big floppy bow
she liked, but there was certainly enough of it to manage her usual ponytail. As a last
touch, he dropped a long shawl around her shoulders, a pale blue-violet like the ghost of
iris petals. "That'll help keep the chill off. Ready for that cuppa now?"

She followed him to the cushions at the table and surreptitiously wiggled around to find a
way to kneel on hers that wouldn't put too much weight on her ankle. The motion made
her uncomfortably aware of the kimono, if that was the right adverb. Its pale silk was
maddeningly smooth against her bare skin, caressing every slight motion she made, and
its liquid flow was accentuated by the stricture of the wide obi, all the way from her hips
over her lower ribs.

"Well then," he said, handing her some tea. "You're tidied up, and I've had a chance to
send more of my blokes after Jineh, so let's have a chat. He's a right bugger and no
mistake, but why was he after you?"

"He wasn't," Kaoru said. "I went after him. Didn't expect him to have that many helpers
around, though, or I would've brought my friends."

"Fierce little bird, aren't you? What do you want with the likes of him?"

She hesitated, but this man had saved her from Jineh, after all, and he hadn't seemed very
surprised by the zombies. His accent and his little wire glasses kind of reminded her of
Hiko, so maybe he was another guy from Okusofodo who'd come to help track down the
hellblades. "He killed my dad and took his sword. It's a special one, made of silver, and I
want to get it back."

"You don't say." He did seem slightly surprised now, but not completely confused, so he
already knew about at least some of what she was talking about. "Seems we skipped the
introductions in all the rush. What's your name, pet?"

"I'm Kaoru Kamiya-Summers."

"You don't say," he repeated thoughtfully. He raised his cup to his face and took a long
sip, letting the steam fog up his glasses to the same pale silver as his hair. He set down
the cup, fanned the steam away, and took her hand. "Think we already know each other
by reputation, then. You're Battousai's little bluebird, not that it's kept him from being too
hungry to take my dove away from me. And you know who I am, don't you?"

She tried to pull away, but while his grip wasn't cruel, it was firm enough to prevent
casual escape. The same was true of his turquoise gaze. "You're Yukishiro Enishi.
Tomoe's brother."

"Too right I am." With an ironic smile, he raised her hand to his lips for a kiss. "So, little
bluebird, what should I do with you now?"

-

She really was a fierce little thing, Enishi thought, smaller than Tomoe or even Battousai.
Easy enough to see where her nickname had come from, too, with those deep blue eyes
blazing out at him from her face, still pink from her bath. After trying to tug free, she
reached for the hot tea with her other hand. Lazily, he leaned across the table to whisk it
out of range. "You weren't thinking of throwing that at me, now were you? Coz that just
might make me cross, and you don't want that to happen."

"Let go of me." Her voice was perfectly calm. No panic or pleading from her, at least not
yet. Oh, this really would be a pleasure.

"So you can go back to being one of Battousai's girls? Does he still play the knife game?
I came up with that for Yumi, you know. Used it on your mum to make your dad give us
the sakabatou." He traced the curve of her cheekbone. "You've your mother's lovely skin,
you know. Didn't scar at all, did it?"

She bit him. In his moment of surprise, Kaoru scrambled up and around him, limping for
the door. Shaking his head, he simply drew his sheathed watou out from under the table
and tripped her with it, then smacked it back down over her body to keep her pinned. He
stood back up with his foot on the hilt, weighting it down.

"My friends know where I went," she said, glaring at him over her shoulder. She still
didn't look afraid, which disappointed him. "They're going to come look for me. That
includes Kenshin."

"Blimey, you're right. Too bad they won't have anything leading them from Jineh's place
to here. Likely enough even you don't even know where we are, unless you sat up to look
through the car window after all."

Now that was a really luscious little growl in her throat. "They'll find some way to figure
out where I am. Eventually."

"Oh, eventually, and then Bob's your uncle. But I just wonder, whatever shall we do until
then?" She squirmed very prettily under the watou, too, enough to blunt his guard with
enjoyment. Just as he was wondering how far she was willing to kick the kimono's hem
up, she got her arms free and shoved the watou sideways into his ankle, knocking him to
the floor as well.

This was even better than he'd hoped. He didn't even bother to get up, leaning back on his
elbows as he watched her stagger to her feet. She was holding his watou, even though it
was slightly taller than she was. He grinned up at her. "Now, what's a little thing like you
going to do with that?"

She loosened the hilt. "Take a guess," she said.

"I guess you're going to have trouble unsheathing that."

Although the balance of the long blade was clearly difficult for her, she whipped it to the
side and sent the sheath flying off. "Guess again."

"Oh, let me think. Ceiling's too low for you to get a really nice overhead swing. Walls are
a bit too close too, unless you're good with your off side."

She wrapped the iris-petal shawl around her hand to protect it before gripping the blade
about halfway down and bringing its point to his neck. "Well?"

"Third time's the charm, they say. I guess you want to kill me." She drove the blade down
through his throat, and he sprawled back onto the floor.

-

Her clothes. She had to get out of this distractingly clingy kimono, find her own clothes
and get out of here, wherever here was. But they'd taken a long elevator ride up and that
should mean they were on top of a tall building. There weren't that many tall buildings in
Edodale. She'd better still be in Edodale.

She left Enishi on the floor with the sword still skewered through him and started to limp
around looking for his laundry machines before a horrible thought occurred to her. This
was a nice place he had, with lots of gleaming woodwork, plush elaborate carpets, and
weird art things scattered around. A really nice place. The sort of place where maids
come in to do all the dusting and polishing, and take away the laundry to be dry-cleaned.
But he hadn't known who she was when he brought her back here, and he'd seemed
sincere enough about helping her, so what would he have done with her clothes?

Finally, she found them further down the hall, in another bathroom. It looked like he'd
rinsed them out in the sink before hanging them up over the shower curtain. He wasn't
nearly as good at it as Kenshin. Well, fine, she'd just bring them with her wrapped up in a
towel and find something else to wear. Maybe she could just cover up the kimono with
the long leather coat Enishi had left by the front door; that might keep her warm enough
while she tried to get away. What about shoes? A wardrobe in the bedroom outside had
more folded kimono visible through the half-open door. That must be where he kept
Tomoe's things, so maybe some of her shoes were still there. She rummaged around,
hoping to find something warmer than geta. And then she heard a throat being cleared
behind her.

Enishi was leaning back against the closed bedroom door, barring the way back to the
hallway. He looked exceptionally pleased with himself, not even with the decency to still
have a hole in his neck. "Forgot about something, pet, didn't you? I've seen the trick you
lot played on my little dove, stabbing her with her own knife to make her mortal again.
But her knife was blooded. My watou isn't. Won't do you a bit of good to poke at me with
it, nor not much else besides the sakabatou."

He caught the geta she threw at him, then simply tossed it aside to pull her away from her
mad rush at the doorknob. His grip around her ribs kept sliding the kimono silk all over
her body, for what felt like forever. Her hair shook loose from the ribbon, falling into her
face. When she stopped struggling against him, it was almost as much to stop the
unwanted arousal as to acknowledge that she couldn't get away. He turned her around by
the shoulders, but she ducked her head, folding her arms tightly around herself. He saw
anyway.

"So that's how it is, is it?" Enishi sounded almost amused, but not quite. He slid one hand
from her shoulder, against the side of her throat, and across the slope of her breasts to a
sharply outlined tip, nudging aside the elbow she'd tried to cover it with.

She made a half-hearted sound of indignation, swaying on her feet. "Don't do that."

"Why not? Got 'Property of Battousai' stamped on your girly bits?"

"No," she whispered. "No, he never- Kenshin's never done anything like this."

"Kenshin." He snorted. "Little bluebird, the only reason Battousai won't kill you is
because of how much he wants you. You telling me there's no reason for that?" Despite
his rough words, his fingers were gentle, pressing and sliding the silk against her in
drowning waves of sensation. She was barely able to wrench free, huddling away from
him in rejection, but he simply tsked. "Not good enough." He pulled her back, crushing
her obi's bow against his body as he held her fast, first to keep her from struggling away
again, and then to keep her from falling faint with desire as he resumed his attentions.

But she didn't want him, did she? She didn't know; she just wanted him to keep touching
her, each silken stroke against her breasts as tender and soft as any caress Kenshin had
ever given her hair, or her wrist, or at most, the hollow of her throat. She choked back
another gasp, but his fingers pressed a little harder. "Come on and sing for me, little
bird," he coaxed.

She couldn't help it; she leaned into his hand, moaning and sobbing for breath. The curve
of his fingers, the sword calluses on his palm, even the rounded ridge of his knuckles
running lightly against the silk- oh, she didn't care any more whose hands were making
her feel this way, as long as they didn't stop.

When they did, she sagged back limply against him. His chest vibrated with a chuckle
against her head, and she felt her feet trail against the floor as he took a few steps
backward with her and sat down on the bed, perching her on his lap and waiting until she
opened her eyes again.

He was studying her again, a bit more broodingly this time. "You look a bit dazed," he
said. "More than Tomoe whenever Battousai did that to her. Either he's lost the knack or
I'm better at it now, though she'd never let me try it on her, and Yumi usually didn't have
the patience. Or maybe this is new to you after all. Did he just do you the way Yumi liked
it, hard and fast?"

"I told you, he never-" She shook her head, unable to say anything else.

"Hm." Enishi's eyes narrowed. "You know, Battousai's taken Tomoe from me twice now.
First he changed her before I could follow, and now he's changed her back. And she
never would with me, you know. Never seemed fair to me that Battousai had his pick of
them both. Not that I ever went wanting with Yumi, but a bloke likes a change once in a
while. And he took back Yumi first anyway, so now I've got no choice at all, have I?"

"What kind of choice?" Maybe she shouldn't have asked that.

"I think I ought to take you away from him, little bluebird."

"What-" She had to moisten her lips. His eyes flicked down to watch her tongue's
nervous flash. "What are you going to do?"

With an easy motion, he stood up, sliding her off his lap, and then sat down again,
nudging her knees onto the bed with his hip and leaning to pin her shoulders down. "Oh,
nothing you need worry about," he said. "Won't hurt you, except for the traditional
twinge. I'll make it as nice as you like, even. But he'll never have your first time now. If
he ever gets around to it, you'll be comparing him to me."

-

(And after this first half or so of chapter 1, the rating veers down to below the belt and
stays there. Decided to put this introductory section back up on ff.n anyway. The rest of
FotN (well, what there is of it so far) is now at AdultFanFiction dot net and MediaMiner dot org.)