Disclaimer:  'Rurouni Kenshin' does not belong to me.  This is because I am but a poor and lowly student who writes too many fanfics for her own good.

Author's note:  I have no idea why I'm writing this, but hey, why not?  Please leave your thoughts, I won't bother continuing this if no one's bothered about reading it.  Fair enough, isn't it?  ^_^

Ice and Chaos First

  I think, if you really keep looking, eventually you'll find something worth living for.  You can start from anywhere, and you have no idea where you'll end up: you can be anything, and by tomorrow, you can be someone completely different.

  A year from now, who knows where I'll be?  I can be anyone by this time next year.  But one thing I'm sure about: I'll still be looking.

  The sun was too bright.  It glared off the road, filling the sky with a honey-coloured haze: too soft, too sweet.  It could have been a photograph of a day at the start of summer, when the weeks stretch ahead, full of possibilities and freedom.

  The breeze felt good.  It whipped in through the car windows, tousling his hair and whipping out again.  It was too fast to be warm, despite the sun, which shone down like a great glowing eye. 

  Aoshi's hair was so black against the bright day.

  And, despite the sun, his eyes were icy.  They stared intently at the road ahead, narrowed and cold and blue.  Tiny glints sparked in the shade of the car.

  He breathed in, letting the speed of the car and the road ahead fill him with a sense of directed freedom.  He was in control.  Nothing could change his course now.

  The sky was so empty that day.  It was as if the world had put aside all restraint and limitations, and said, Go on, do what you want.  I don't care anymore. 

  The car sped on along the road to anywhere.

  The rest stop was pretty empty.  One bored-looking waitress wandered over to his table and stood staring down at him, her hip jutted out with a hand resting there, her other hand holding a notepad.

  "Can I get you anything?" she asked, her voice monotone.

  "A coke.  Thanks," he added coldly.  She sauntered back to the bar with his order.

  He sighed in irritation.  What was he doing here?  This place was as much of a backwater as any he'd ever visited before.  There was nothing here for him.  He stared down at his hands, resting on the table in front of him.

  He was startled by the sound of a shout outside.  He looked out through the large windows, and saw a girl darting past, a bottle of water in her hand, her grinning face looking back over her shoulder.  She shrieked again as two children caught up to her and tossed water over her.

  Her black hair was already dripping, and her scruffy-looking shorts and faded t-shirt, the logo 'pretty in pink' scrawled across it, were dark with water.  Her eyes sparkled, like the drops of water that caught the sun as they flew from her hair.

  She chased the kids back and forth, both of them exchanging splashes.  When she shrieked again, and one of the children grabbed at her, laughing, an older man and woman walked over. 

  The young man in the diner couldn't hear what was said, but he could guess.  The older couple looked a little apprehensive, and gestured to the children- presumably their kids- and escorted them to a car.  The young girl was left standing shaking her head, a wry grin on her face still.

  Just then, she turned her head a little more, and locked eyes with the young man through the glass.  Her face lost its smile, and she looked at him quizzically, tilting her head to one side.

  His eyes stared coldly back.

  A moment passed, and she grinned again and walked up close to the window.  She pressed a fingertip to the glass, as if pointing at Aoshi, tilting her head down so as to look up through her eyelashes at him, a serious look on her face for a second.  Then she laughed, as if at a joke Aoshi hadn't known about, and skipped off out of sight.

  "Here's your drink," said a voice at his elbow.  A glass was placed heavily on the table in front of him.

  Before he could react, the waitress had gone.  He was left staring at his drink, lost in thought.

  Who had that girl been?  And what was so damn funny?

  But she'd been different from other people…  She'd been laughing and playing with a stranger's children as if she just didn't care what anyone thought of her.  It was like everything in life was just a reason to laugh, and nothing could touch her.

  He gulped down his drink and left.

  The sun had long left the horizon, and Aoshi was still on the road.  The drive had been boring and tiring, but he'd had enough to think about to pass the time.  The darkness didn't bother him.  He welcomed it, really.  It hid the world from him.

  As sleep began to pull at his eyes and a tired headache started pounding in his head, Aoshi reluctantly allowed himself to call it a day.

  He pulled over by the side of the road.

  He was in the middle of nowhere.  Empty landscape surrounded him, and when he switched the car stereo off, silence fell like a blanket.  There couldn't have been another living thing for miles, if you didn't count the various insects that started chirring softly in the night outside the car.

  He leaned back in his seat, pressing his fingertips to his temples and running his hands through his hair.  He stretched out his legs as best he could in the cramped car, and, not feeling any better, got out and stretched properly.  The air had long since lost the warmth of the day, and a cold breeze was shifting slowly through the night.  A small glow on the horizon to his left announced a town of some kind, but that was the only sign of life.  The moon was thin and cold in the blackness overhead.

  He opened the door, preparing to use the backseat for a bed for the night.  He froze.

  A girl.  That girl.  Asleep on the backseat of his car.

  He just stared calmly.  How had she stayed there unnoticed til now? 

  He shut the door again, quietly.

  He got back into the driver's seat, lowering it a little for comfort.  It was still a bad excuse for a place to sleep, and he'd no doubt have an ache in his neck when he woke up the next day.

  Aoshi turned in his seat to look at the girl.  He should wake her up, kick her out right now.  But he wouldn't: there was no point.  She had no way of getting anywhere, and he had already decided he wasn't going any further until morning.  She may as well sleep there as outside.

  She drew her knees nearer to her chest, shivering a little.  She was cold.

  He shrugged out of his long coat, and leaned over, with some difficulty, to place it over her.  She didn't wake up, just lay there breathing quietly.

  At the right angle, the rear view mirror showed him the girl's face.  She was young: couldn't be much older than sixteen or so.  What was a sixteen-year-old doing hiding out in stranger's cars?

  The same thing as she was doing playing with stranger's children, presumably.  She was a puzzle.

  A pretty puzzle.  But one to be got rid of soon: Aoshi didn't need someone along for the ride. 

  He slumped down in his seat and closed his eyes.  He'd sort it out in the morning.  Until then, he'd sleep in his car with a strangely intriguing, attractive young girl in the backseat.

  The insects chirred outside.

Author's note:  So do you want this continued?  Click the button and lemme know!