Innocence

An alternate universe Rurouni Kenshin fanfic.

My reflection.

An image of myself.

A mirror is supposed t to reflect things just as they are, without distortion. It has no opinion of its own to add to what it replicates, no mind to judge what it sees. It does what it is supposed to and adds not a fraction more nor takes not an iota away from that which is. It is the materialization of truth itself. If that is so, then I have but one question to ask.

Why isn't the girl in the mirror crying with me?

"Misao-chan! Misao?!"

I sigh deeply, moving my attention to another point on the glass surface rather than bothering to turn around. "What is it Yuki?" I quietly ask.

She moves out of the darkness beyond the bead curtain that marks this space as my own. Her pale eyelids have been dusted with white sparkly eye shadow and her tiny mouth painted the color of ripe pomegranates. She is beautiful by any standard, slim and petite with smooth, pale skin that glows like snow in moonlight. Her voice is reminiscent of the colder months as well. No matter how loudly she tries to shout I am still reminded of the gentle music of icicles blown by the wind when she speaks. She is, as her namesake suggests, a true winter princess.

"Misao," she repeats in that icy tinkling, "There's a group outside that's asking for you specifically."

I smile slightly at her through the mirror, "Is that so?" I say, "What do they look like?"

Her eyes light up like twin stars for a moment, "Well, the one that came and asked for you was really good-looking!" she tinkles, "He's tall and dark complexioned with a great body and the cutest brown puppy-dog eyes! Do you know him, Misao-chan?"

"Unfortunately, yes." I reply, slouching back in my chair. I know exactly who she is talking about, a brash young fellow who came into the bar about a month ago. I can't recall his name, but it was funny-sounding, like a circus performer's. What I do remember though, is the large bill he used to tip me without so much as a second thought to what he was doing. When the surprise showed on my face he simply pulled five similar bills from his pocket, saying I was worth the tip.

"So," Yuki prompts, eagerly leaning forward, "Who is he?"

"Just some rich kid," I answer simply, "Which room are they in?"

"I think Mashiro put them in number seven," she reports, "So you're going then?"

I shrug as I stand up, "Girl's got to make a living," I reply.

As I leave the room I steal a glance at the mirror again. The face that stares back at me is still youthful and fresh under it's layer of paint, a confident smirk adorning its rouged lips. Why can't the mirror see that I don't feel that way? Heaven only knows.

***********************************************

Why did I let the guys drag me here?

It's true that they did it only to surprise me, but even so I can't help but wish that Sanosuke had not convinced the others to come to this place. They on the other hand seem thrilled to be alive, but that can have just as much to do with the alcohol in their systems as it does with their present geographical location.

After a while Sanosuke stands up, or rather, holds on to Shirojou's shoulder for support as he wobbles in place. His umpteenth glass of sake splashes unsteadily in his hand as he extends it in my direction.

"Hear ye, here ye," he drawls with a grin, "As all of you know, tonight we celebrate our dear friend's twenty-first year on the planet "

The announcement elicits a low chorus of grunts around the room as the other guys copy him by raising their assortment of bottles and glasses as well. I blush in embarrassment as I hide my face with my hair. Despite my choice of friends I don't enjoy these things as much as they do. Getting drunk and participating in debauchery just isn't at the top of my list, you know?

Sano grins down at me at the sight of my blush. "Oi, oi, none of that," he commands, "You're a big boy now, big enough to enjoy the show that we've arranged for you birthday boy….legally that is."

The joke ripples across the group for a bit, causing me to blush even harder. The urge to crawl under the carpet and die is extremely overwhelming, but the fact that my legs refuse to move makes the notion just about impossible to obey.

There is a small stage that takes up about half the room. Lights line a white walkway leading up to a silver pole that extends from the ceiling to the floor. This is undoubtedly the place where the so-called show is to take place.

"Lady Jade!" Sano shouts hoarsely to the curtains at the back, "Your loyal subjects await thee!"

The snickers rise again only to be drowned out by the music that suddenly fills the already crowded space. I jump at the sudden harshness of the sound, swallowing forcefully as I cast a nervous glance toward the curtains myself. My eyes widen considerably as a nylon-wrapped leg melts out of the fabric, stretching out to its full length before traveling downward again to pull the rest of the person's body out of hiding.

In one smooth, sensuous movement she rolls her head backward revealing a face that was previously hidden by an unbelievably long mass of midnight hair. Lazily, she opens her eyes to focus on mine, a tiny smile tugging at the corner of her dark red lips as she moves toward the pole with almost painfully slow strides. I must look like a beached fish with my wide eyes and slackened jaw, but I'm too preoccupied with the sway of her hips to be embarrassed about it.

A pair of high-heeled boots stop on the edge of the stage, just level with my nose. I regard them for a moment before traveling upward where a pair of leather garters attach themselves to a red and black, v-necked teddy. I unwittingly linger near the top for a moment before looking upon her face again. Her smile has widened considerably, blue-green eyes twinkling in delight at the fool I am making of myself.

"Like what you see?" she mouths, gripping the pole with both hands. Before I realize what is happening her legs are wrapped around it as well and her face is mere inches from mine as she effortlessly hangs upside down from it. To my further surprise, she moves her hands from the pole, instead gently resting them on either side of my neck as she whispers in my ear.

"You're about to like it a whole lot more."

Her hands grip the pole again, righting herself and swinging around the pole as her mouth moves in time with the music on the speakers.

Sometimes I feel I've got to
Run away
I've got to
Get away
From the pain that you drive into the heart of me
The love we share
Seems to go nowhere
And I've lost my lights
For I toss and turn I can't sleep at night

Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all
Tainted love
Tainted love

She stalks around the pole slowly, her eyes locked with mine as she lip syncs with the music. Her hair falls over one side of her face as she tosses it to one side on a particularly strong beat. She then stands in front of it, gripping it with both hands high above her head as her hips sway in time with the music. I follow as one hand abandons the other to travel down the side of her face, pausing at her lips which continue to smirk mockingly down on me as I lick my own in silent reaction.

 Now I know I've got to
Run away
I've got to
Get away
You don't really want any more from me
To make things right
You need someone to hold you tight
You think love is to pray
But I'm sorry I don't pray that way

Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all
Tainted love
Tainted love

She mounts the pole again, swinging all the way around it once before repeating her first action and hanging upside down in front of me. This time however she chooses not to hover there, instead sliding all the way down to the floor with her legs still suggestively wrapped around the cold metal. She then reaches up to bury her hands in her hair writhing on the floor of the stage like a snake, as her eyes now staring up into mine.

Don't touch me please
I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so
Now I'm going to pack my things and go
Touch me baby, tainted love
Touch me baby, tainted love
Touch me baby, tainted love

She mouths the words suggestively, her legs sliding down to allow her to flip herself onto her knees. I begin to sweat as she slowly crawls toward me. When I think she's going to stop she approaches even further, until we're nose to nose. It suddenly becomes harder to breathe as she smiles and rises up on her knees in front of me, giving what must have been the very best view in all of Tokyo. She seems genuinely amused at the way I can't seem to tear my eyes away from her….assets. She swings her head again to get her hair out of the way, but as she does this a strand of it brushes against my cheek. My eyes slide closed of their own will, forcing me to savor the fleeting sensation.

Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all
Tainted love
Tainted love
Tainted love

The last words of the song come out as a breath of warm air on my upturned face as she leans over, her sassy little mouth moving teasingly a mere few inches from mine. I barely hear it when the others holler their approval, littering the stage with whatever money they can find in their pockets. By the time Sanosuke claps me on the shoulder she's collected her tip and is now disappearing through the curtains again. Her hair has now been pulled over her shoulder, for the first time revealing a tattoo on her upper back. An angel's halo adorned with two tiny horns floats above a pair of cherubic wings while a forked tail curls lazily below them. Oni and tenshi in the same design. The image burns itself into my mind of its own will as the curtains swing back into place behind her.

Twenty-one is a birthday that I'll not soon forget.

******************************************************