Disclaimer – I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.
Chapter 27 – Epilogue
You know what
it feels like to kiss a woman?
Ah Ken, if you say 'of course' you haven't kissed the right one yet.
And you have?
Megumi was the woman for me.
One Year Later: Mid-Summer 2004
"How can you walk in stilettos, Misao?" Kaoru asked, exiting the car with difficulty. Her purse kept slipping down her arm, her tank top was inching its way up her stomach, and she couldn't seem to keep her balance. "I'm having enough trouble in my heels."
"Practice, Kaoru." Misao replied, watching as Kenshin shut his car door and grabbed Kaoru's arm to steady her.
Kaoru flashed him a relieved smile. "Thanks."
"No problem," he said lightly, releasing her to stand on her own.
Misao latched on to his arm. "Aoshi and I miss you now that you're human, Himura, but Kaoru seems to be taking care of you."
"I don't miss him," Aoshi said dryly, walking around the car from the driver's side to join them.
"Well you've been working with him this summer, but I know you missed him during the school year," Misao said cheerfully. The woman really was all cheer, Kaoru had discovered on the infrequent occasions Misao had dropped in to visit her during the past year. The part where Aoshi missed Kenshin, she was probably wrong about though.
Katsu pulled his green Jeep Cherokee into the parking lot a space over from the one they stood in.
"I swear, Katsu drives like the proverbial old lady," Misao murmured as Katsu shut down the engine and he and his passenger exited the car.
"He does. Doesn't he?" Kenshin agreed with Misao, who'd loosened her grip on his arm a bit.
Aoshi didn't comment, but that was fine. If Kaoru was honest with herself, and she was, Aoshi still intimidated her, and if Aoshi resented the fact that Kenshin was human again, he probably blamed her. Irrational, but she got the feeling that might be the case.
"So that's the club? Shinta, you said it was called?" Tsubame asked as she and Katsu walked over, arms linked in a friendly gesture between allies.
"Sure is," Misao answered cheerfully.
They'd all met at the Shinomori apartment a half hour before. Tsubame had flown in from Los Angeles, where Saitou now ruled over what was left of the Juppongatana. After her husband's murder, Tsubame had returned to her first passion: science. She'd found Yumi's notes and was currently deep in the process of re-developing the formula to turn vampires human. Yumi's version of the chemical had died with her, but Tsubame expected to have the new formula completed in a year.
"Remember the last time we were here?" Misao asked Aoshi happily.
Kaoru remembered the last time she'd been here with Kenshin. She wasn't all too keen on going back, but Aoshi had said he had a surprise for them all. When Aoshi Shinomori had a surprise for you, you went along with it. That's why Katsu was along, because he knew the surprise and Aoshi didn't want him to give the secret away to Kenshin on purpose. Kaoru wasn't too surprised that Katsu was in on it. Although he was a member of the Sekihoutai, he worked closely with the ruling vampires of New York City, the Shinomori's Oniwaban.
Why were she and Kenshin along if it was both vampire business and vampire politics? Aoshi had called Kenshin on his cell phone and told him it would affect the work he did for the Oniwaban.
Kenshin had an affinity for languages. Actually, he was a genius with languages. With the help of the Oniwaban, he'd acquired and solidified his new identity as a human, and had the papers to prove it. He'd used the false identification to enroll in the same university she attended, and now he was a year away from his master's degree in international relations. When he finished his degree, he'd act as the head of a new division of the Oniwaban: international relations. Aoshi had apparently felt the need to expand his influence across a couple oceans. This basically meant Ken would be involved a lot of vampire politics.
At first, she hadn't been too keen on the idea, but she'd eventually reconciled herself to the fact that he had lived on this earth as a vampire longer than as a human. She understood he felt he couldn't cut all the vampires he knew out of his life. The hunters, especially Shishio, saw him as a traitor to humanity, but she could deal with that. Shishio had tried to coerce Kenshin into giving him the location of all the vampire safe houses he knew about. Of course Kenshin had refused. Not all vampires were evil creatures hell-bent on converting all humanity to vampirism. Not even most of them. So in the end Kenshin accepted the job. The pay was great and he got to travel. Some people had all the luck. There was also a job open for Kaoru, but she still had one year left until she got her undergraduate degree and then she was going to law school. She figured that was plenty of time to decide if she wanted to work for vampires.
"You and Aoshi go clubbing?" Kenshin asked Misao, trying and failing to hold back a snicker. Kaoru shook away her thoughts and tried to focus on the conversation.
"Yes! What's so weird about that?" Misao asked indignantly.
"Aoshi doesn't seem like the type, that's all," Tsubame said, clearly amused.
"Although he is dressed like a pimp tonight," Katsu pointed out in an attempt to embarrass Aoshi.
Said Aoshi, who had ignored them all until Katsu, turned his head to glare at the shorter vampire. He pressed the lock button on his key chain to set the car alarm on his Benz. Dropping the ring of keys into his pocket, he offered his arm to Tsubame, whom he would be accompanying into the club since Misao was bringing Kenshin.
Katsu offered her his arm. Kaoru was grateful she wasn't going with Aoshi. After hiking her purse up onto her shoulder where it belonged, she took his arm and walked with him towards the club, following a few feet behind Aoshi and Tsubame. Kaoru had no clue why Aoshi was walking around with a cane, and she didn't want to know, but she had to admit, it did make him look sort of pimpish.
If pimpish was a word. Pimped out then.
Misao giggled and Katsu said "Well, excuuuse me." Both Kenshin and Tsubame were silent. Probably trying no to laugh.
Aoshi the vampire was good looking, but Kaoru remembered all too clearly his reaction when Misao had tried to bite her that first night. First impressions and all.
Katsu slipped an arm around her waist and she relaxed a little. Of course he noticed. "You seem tense."
Kaoru sighed. If Katsu noticed, then so had Kenshin, and probably the rest of the vampires. They were very good at reading body language. "It's just Shinta," she admitted. "I didn't exactly have fun the last time I was here."
"Well this time you're armed," Katsu commented, referring to the silver senbon Kenshin had woven into her hair earlier. He was pretty good with hair. She also had some of the firecracker-light-bomb-things in her purse, but only as a last resort. She wasn't in too big of a hurry to be blinded again. No doubt everyone else was better armed than she was. Since male clothing was not designed to be form fitting, the three males could conceal their weapons easily. Kaoru's designer jeans were not hiding anything, and neither was the form fitting tank she wore under her blue crocheted top. A few random necklaces she'd thrown on to look glitzy completed the outfit and weren't hiding much either.
"Armed after a fashion," Kaoru acknowledged. She supposed she could always half-strangle someone with a necklace if worse came to worse, but in the company of the Shinomoris, Katsu, Tsubame, and Kenshin, she didn't it would reach that point.
"So how's Ken adjusting?" Katsu asked as they approached the club. Misao and Kenshin insulted each other behind them.
"He fits into university life better than I thought," Kaoru started, gathering her thoughts, "And he gets along well with this room mate, a guy named Jermaine."
"Does Jermaine have anything to do with vampire culture?"
Kaoru shook her head. "He doesn't have a clue. He's just your normal college grad student, a year older than Kenshin." She shrugged. "They play basketball together a lot."
"How old is Ken?" Katsu asked in a low tone so Kenshin couldn't overhear. Misao certainly could, with her enhanced hearing, but Kenshin's hearing, while still a lot keener than a normal human's, wouldn't pick up Katsu's whisper.
"Twenty-four," Kaoru answered him. They walked past a long line of people waiting to gain admission to the club.
"His biological clock started ticking again just like that?" Katsu asked.
"Yeah," Kaoru confirmed. It still amazed her. God was good.
"The Yumi woman must have been a genius," Katsu acknowledged. "I wish I'd been able to interview her for my newspaper before she was killed." He didn't have to whisper now. The music coming from the club masked his voice perfectly. Probably Misao couldn't hear him anymore. Aoshi and Tsubame stopped in front of two vampire bouncers and another person Kaoru couldn't see.
"Tsubame Myojin. I'm glad to have the honor," a loud male voice said from in front of them. Kaoru peered around Aoshi's shoulder and saw a tall thin man with spiky blonde hair kiss Tsubame's hand.
"My name is Cho Sawagejou. I manage Shinta for the Shinomoris."
"Pleased to meet you," Tsubame said lightly, withdrawing her hand from his grasp.
"My condolences concerning your husband, Mrs. Myojin."
"Thank you," Tsubame said graciously.
"Please follow me," Cho added, turning and leading the way into the club.
Kaoru concentrated on not tripping and embarrassing herself. She'd like to know how Tsubame carried herself like royalty in a skintight, thigh-length dress and knee-high boots. Kaoru was glad Kenshin had let her get away with designer jeans.
Shinta looked the same as it had when she'd come here undercover with Kenshin a year ago. The club was beautiful. Huge traditional Japanese paintings graced the walls, but the dance floor was the central focus of the room, massive and rectangular and filled with people. The smooth wooden floor shone in the dim light and red and black balloons graced the ceiling above the floor, ties streaming down a few feet above the heads of the dancers. Tables were set up along the left of the hall, with a bar in the far corner left corner and one in the corner just to her right. A red carpet wound around the floor and the tables. Private rooms marked by the clinking of glasses and cigarette smoke as thick as fog stretched along the far right of the room.
A year ago, Kenshin had led her to the right along the red carpet and helped seat her at the bar. Now, Cho of-the-long-and-complicated-last-name led them past the dance floor and into the first private room. The room was dominated by a circular wooden table set for eight people. Smaller tables set for four were scattered around the rest of the room. The place was empty.
They took seats at the big circle table while Cho and Kenshin spoke in hushed tones at the door. Then Kenshin took a seat next to Kaoru and an empty chair to his left. Kaoru didn't miss the fact that none of the vampires took the seat closest to the door, where their backs would have been unguarded.
"He's been delayed, but he should be here in a few minutes," Cho announced to the room, but mainly to Aoshi, who was sitting between the other empty seat and Misao.
"The bum's late," Misao muttered next to Kaoru. Katsu, sitting across from Kaoru, winked at her. Next to him, Tsubame uncharacteristically rolled her eyes. Since Aoshi and Katsu were more extensively armed than the women, they sat closest to the door.
"Leave us," Aoshi commanded in a deadpan voice. Cho left, shutting the door softly behind him. The loud music was muffled.
To her left, Kenshin found her hand and squeezed gently. He knew she felt uneasy about visiting Shinta again. But it was silly to be intimidated by a place, so she'd agreed to come to NYC with him. Nowadays, she usually wore a cross necklace, various bracelets with little cross charms, and a new pair of gold cross earrings Kenshin had gotten her for Christmas. There was also her cross anklet, and the toe ring with the cross on it that she wore in the summer. Just in case.
Misao struck up a loud conversation with Aoshi. Tsubame and Katsu began discussing some issue or another together, since they were sitting alone between the two empty chairs.
Kenshin rubbed a thumb across her hand. "You okay? You haven't been talking much."
"I'm fine," she told him. She could be calm and composed for Kenshin. Piece of cake. "Was that Cho guy running Shinta when we came here last time?"
"No. He was living in an alley then. He owes the Shinomoris a lot."
"He owes you too, doesn't he?" Kaoru guessed.
"I've helped him out in the past, yes," Kenshin said, not really telling her anything.
"I hate it when you're evasive."
He smiled. "It's better you don't know much about Cho. So do you want to drive back tonight or stay over at Misao and Aoshi's?" He'd changed the subject, but Kaoru decided to let him. She was feeling generous tonight.
"I vote we stay over. I'm feeling a little guilty about making you drive the whole way up."
Kenshin shrugged. "I like to drive and I know you hate New York traffic and Jersey drivers."
"The Jersey drivers thing got ruined now that most of my friends live there. Now I call them idiots for not knowing how to pump their own gas."
"Very mature, baby," Kenshin said.
"Well I am growing up," Kaoru said. "I can drink legally now, you know."
"And you were drinking illegally before?" Misao asked with interest.
"In some circles, I'm called a goody-two-shoes," Kaoru admitted, "but yes, Misao, I did engage in underage drinking. Kenshin made me."
"What?" Misao said at the same time that Kenshin said, "I didn't make you."
"It was red wine at a beach party," Kaoru confided to Misao.
"What?" Kenshin asked.
"I don't suppose he let you drive afterwards?" Katsu asked from across the table.
"Hey-" Kenshin protested.
"No," Kaoru shook her head. "He drove."
"Well at least there's that," Misao said, glaring at Kenshin.
Kenshin probably would have argued, but the door opened and Cho poked his head in cautiously.
"He's here. Are you ready to see him?" Cho asked.
Cho receded from the doorway and Sano walked in.
It wasn't really Sano, Kaoru realized after an instant of stunned silence during which she forgot to breathe. But this man looked like Sano's brother. His brown hair was exactly the same shade as Sano's, though cut in a different style. His face was the same. Hell, even his expression was the same and he held himself the same way. His eye shape was the same, but the irises were such a deep shade of blue they looked black. Still, the way those eyes looked at the world was the same as Sano had when Kaoru had talked with him in the holding cell. He was a couple inches shorter, and built slender, more like Kenshin than Sano.
The man grinned and Kaoru looked at Kenshin, because this felt impossible and she didn't know if he could take it. He'd been miserable when Sano had died.
"My name is Zanza, fighter for hire," the man said. Kaoru's eyes shot back to him of their own accord because his voice was the same too.
Aoshi stood and shook his hand. "You're late."
His grin slipped a little towards the sheepish side. "Sorry. Bad first impression for your interview board, I know. I apologize."
Listening to him talk was fascinating. A miracle.
"You've met my wife, Misao," Aoshi continued. Misao stood and shook hands with Zanza.
"Hello again, Mrs. Shinomori," he said smoothly.
"Aoshi won't kill you if you call me Misao in front of him," she said just as smoothly. Misao had known about this and hadn't told her? Kaoru could hardly believe it. And what was this about Aoshi's interview board?
"Skip the personal introductions and come sit by me," Tsubame said. "There'll be enough time to get to know each other later." She patted the empty seat between her and Kenshin. Zanza obeyed her and sat.
"Battousai," Aoshi said, "In one year, you'll become an integral part of vampire society in the United States. Knowing this, I judged it in my interest to recruit a body guard to accompany you as long as you continue working for me."
"We know you can take care of yourself, Himura," Misao put in. "But a human isn't much of a challenge for a vampire, so when we found him we figured two humans would work better. Zanza is like backup. We'll pay his salary, so you don't have to worry about money."
"Why are you hiring him now?" Kaoru asked when Kenshin was silent. It looked like he'd gone into shock. She couldn't really blame him.
"You don't have to talk about me like I'm not here," Zanza said, looking a little irritated.
"Sorry-" Kaoru started.
"Because he looks so much like Sano," Katsu exclaimed.
"Don't tell me you don't see it?" Misao asked.
"And he acts just like him too," Katsu added.
"And he's human," Misao exclaimed.
"Hey, who's Sano?" Zanza asked.
And suddenly everyone was talking at once, even Aoshi, but Kaoru didn't mind because out of the blue Kenshin was talking to Zanza. He was looking a little lost, but Zanza looked a little lost too, and Kenshin looking lost was a lot better than Kenshin looking smug all the time. He still looked smug and sure of himself way too often.
"Hey, Missy," Zanza said to her. "How do you fit into all this?"
Once, Sano had called her Missy.
easy. Poke him in the stomach.
When he jumps up to take a shot, just poke him in the stomach. After a couple times, he'll be scared to shoot around you.
Isn't that a foul?
Kid, this is street ball. He's not going to stop the game because you poked him in the stomach.
What if I hurt him?
I said to poke him, not to use your finger as a knife and jab him in the stomach.
Two Years Later: Late Summer 2005
"Kaoru," Chihiro said, poking her head in the door of the waitress' locker room. "He's here."
Kaoru flashed her a smile. "Thanks. Could you tell him I'll be there in a minute?"
"Sure," Chihiro said, clearly happy to have an excuse to talk to Kenshin. Everyone at Tae's loved him. They probably liked talking to him more than her, Kaoru admitted to herself as she finished tying her running shoes. For the two summers Kenshin had been coming to pick her up after work, whatever time she got off, her popularity with the other girls had increased. Maybe by fifty percent. It wasn't that they didn't like her, or at least that's what she told herself, it was just that Kenshin seemed to be growing more and more handsome as he aged, and he'd had over two hundred years to practice his charm. And then there was the fact that he enjoyed life more than anyone she'd ever known, probably because he'd been a vampire for so long. He loved sunlight. He woke up annoyingly early to watch the sunrise.
Shoes tied, Kaoru stood and grabbed the backpack she'd stuffed her work clothes into. She hadn't bothered to fold them, so they'd be wrinkled when she pulled them out again. Oh well. Today was her last day of work anyway. Glancing around the locker room one last time, she blew it a farewell kiss and left for the restaurant proper.
It was easy enough to spot Kenshin. He was standing near the checkout counter, surrounded by Tae and almost all the waitresses currently on duty. It was a good thing she'd got over being jealous of other women a long time ago.
As she stepped closer, she wasn't sure that she was over it after all, because Kenshin was practically glowing. He was really happy about something. The man did not glow on a regular basis. It had better not be because of all those waitresses.
Kenshin turned and finally spotted Kaoru coming towards him from the back of the restaurant. She looked a little grumpy, but he had news that would cheer her up. All of a sudden he grew impatient to be rid of the waitresses and alone with her. Partly because she was Kaoru and partly because he couldn't wait to tell her. Her eyes softened when she saw him looking at her, and she smiled. Life was good when Kaoru smiled.
"I'll miss you, Kao," Tae said, throwing her arms around her former waitress in a hug. "You're one of the most dependable waitresses I've ever employed."
Ken watched Kaoru say her good-byes, not that she wouldn't be seeing all these women again in a week. Chihiro and another waitress named Karen were actually crying. Kaoru had tears in her eyes. Women. Kaoru had cried at graduation too, and again when she'd moved out of the apartment she'd lived in with two other women for the last two years of her undergraduate career.
"You two are going jogging again?" Chihiro observed once things had died down and no one was crying anymore.
"Everyday this week so I can fit into the dress," Kaoru said cheerfully. She'd run track in high school and kept in shape during the four years since then.
"You're beautiful. You'll fit," Kenshin said. And if she didn't he'd fit her into it somehow. Kamatari had designed it for free, so there was no way he was paying for another one.
Kaoru shot him a grateful look.
Tae suddenly noticed the lack of service the customers were receiving. "Oh my God, the customers! See you later you two," she said and hurried towards a large couple seated in a booth. "Ladies," she said sharply to the waitresses.
Kenshin slipped an arm around Kaoru's waist and took her backpack as the waitresses walked away after a last whispered flurry of good-byes and smiles.
"Thanks," she said softly before she kissed him. He resisted the sudden urge to grope her in public by concentrating on the feel of her mouth and not her body pressed against his. Nope, not that.
"The park?" she asked as they broke apart and started walking out of the Akabeko, hand in hand. "We can leave the car by the lake, jog out a mile or so, and be back at the car in time for sunset."
He held the restaurant door open for her and the heat from the late summer sun hit him. "I'm going to be soaked with sweat by the time I'm done, aren't I?"
"You know I like you hot and sweaty," she said, shocking a conservative looking married couple with two kids as they entered the restaurant. The wife gasped and placed her hands over her son's ears, glaring at Kenshin as if he were responsible for the words that came out of Kaoru's mouth. Kaoru didn't seem to notice. She spotted his car and started towards it.
Kenshin caught up to her and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. "You can't say that and then walk away from me," he said in her ear before he kissed her neck.
Kaoru giggled and tried to keep walking, but Kenshin leaned against her and they wound up weaving across the parking lot to where his jeep was parked in the shade.
"You're a ridiculous man," she told him, giving up and twisting around to face him with difficulty. "It's too hot to hang all over me like this."
They both knew she didn't mean it.
"I must be subconsciously trying to make you hot and sweaty," Kenshin said as she slid her arms around his neck and pressed close to him. He could feel her breasts against his chest. Wonderful feeling that was. "Let's skip the jog and make out in the car instead." It wasn't like she needed the exercise anyway.
"Kenshin, you said you'd take me to the park," Kaoru protested, clearly not feeling the make out vibe. He kissed her and she melted against him, which was fine with him.
Kaoru jumped and Kenshin realized they were standing in the middle of a parking space and some idiot who wanted to park there was beeping his horn at them. Kenshin flicked them off for ruining it.
Kaoru didn't notice and started dragging him towards the car again. "That jerk! I've never been beeped at for standing in a parking lot before. It's a free country." Kaoru took it personally when other drivers beeped at her. She didn't take criticism about her driving very well. "Who does he think he is? He's lucky I'm in a good mood, or-"
Kenshin tuned out her tirade until they reached the car. He was content watching her walk. Her jogging shorts were navy blue and very short. He could see the outline of her sports bra against the white of the t-shirt she wore. Sensible running shoes and ankle socks completed the outfit, except her hair was still up in that bun Tae made all the waitresses wear. Tae probably thought the bun said perky and willing to serve, but it did nothing for Kaoru but make her look older than she really was at twenty-two. Not that he'd ever tell her that.
They arrived at the car and Kaoru stopped, waiting for him to unlock the door. Instead, he reached out, pulled the tie from her hair, and watched it fall down her back in slow waves.
Kaoru turned to face him, grinning. "I forgot you hate the bun. I need it in a ponytail for running anyway," she said, gathering her hair up to the top of her head with her hands. He took over, since he still held the hair tie, completing the ponytail. He loved touching Kaoru's hair. Kenshin stepped back to admire his handiwork.
"It's not too tight is it?"
"It's fine. Thanks, hon," Kaoru assured him as he unlocked the passenger door and held it open for her. "So what did you want to tell me? You looked really excited back inside."
Seeing Kaoru had made him forget. "Oh yeah," he said, closing the door behind her and walking around to the driver's side. She'd buckled her seat belt and was staring at him expectantly by the time he opened the door and climbed in the jeep.
He tossed the backpack to her and shut his door. "Tsubame developed the formula."
Kaoru's eyes widened, a slow smile dawning across her features. "Did she test it yet?"
He nodded. "It works. The results are even better than Yumi's. Quicker recovery time after the blood transfusion, a well developed immune system, and less risk of skin cancer."
Kaoru leaned across the gear shift to give him a jubilant hug. "Tsubame's a genius! Did she and Aoshi agree on how to distribute the chemical?"
"They're still working it out, but Zanza thinks the negotiations are going as quickly as can be expected. I agree with him."
Kaoru let out a high pitched sound that was close to a squeal. "This is great, Kenshin! I know how much that chemical means to you. Tsubame's still coming next week, right? I haven't talked to her in a couple weeks."
"Yeah. Now that it's a major political thing, she couldn't miss it if she wanted to." Kenshin decided to plow ahead with what he had to say next. "She's bringing Saitou as her date."
"That man annoys me. Isn't he married?"
"It doesn't matter." She said after a moment. "Next week is about you and me. Saitou's probably pissed that he has to come anyway. But Tsubame really got it? She really got the chemical to work?"
Kenshin nodded, relief and tired contentment flooding him. "She called me on my cell a couple hours after I dropped you off at work." He put the key in the ignition and started the car.
"I'll have to call her and congratulate her," Kaoru said, sitting back properly in her seat with a huge smile and fishing around in her backpack for something as he backed the car out of the parking space. "The drive's short. We don't need air conditioning," she decided, leaved her window rolled down and punching the dial for the radio. A rhythm and blues song permeated the car and drifted out the open windows. Kenshin had learned that Kaoru liked listening to male voices best. If he'd thought there was the slightest chance of her actually meeting one of those voices, he'd have been jealous. Luckily, Kaoru didn't have connections in the music business.
"She misses Yahiko so much. I hope this'll cheer her up for a while," Kaoru said wistfully. She found a headband in her bag and slid it into place. "I can't imagine how it'd be without you."
"You can't just imagine me away, you know," he teased, pulling out onto the road. He was tired of seeing Kaoru sad.
"I know. I know. You're like my personal leech," Kaoru accused, perking up.
"And you're my personal tapeworm. You eat all the food I cook."
"You can't actually expect me to eat the food I cook."
"It doesn't taste that bad."
"But I have to work so hard to get food to taste good," she protested. "You do it effortlessly. So I'd rather be lazy while you cook than waste all that effort."
"And you'll make it up to me how?"
"I shall bless you with my presence," Kaoru said imperiously, as if she were royalty.
"Not good enough." Kenshin said dryly.
Kaoru sighed. "Fine. I'll let you touch me once a month."
"Baby, you must have gone out your mind."
"I'll let you use disgusting pet names like 'ickle love monkey'."
Kenshin burst out laughing.
"How about 'smoochy muffin' or 'fluff bunny' or 'snookum pookums'?" she asked seriously. He had to give her credit for keeping a straight face. He was lucky they were at a stop light or he'd probably be weaving across the road.
"I think I can tolerate them unless you call me 'tickle tum' or 'cuddle butt' or something equally distasteful," Kaoru continued, mouth quirking.
"Where do you get this?" he asked when he could breathe normally again.
"The internet," Kaoru answered without a beat.
Pick up line challenge.
I'm a love pirate and I'm here for your booty. Arrghhh!
… Fair enough. Baby, if you were words on a page, you'd be FINE print.
I'm fighting the urge to make you the happiest woman on earth tonight.
The only thing your eyes haven't told me is your name.
Here's a nice one. Excuse me, I just noticed you noticing me and I just wanted to give you notice that I noticed you too.
I bet you twenty dollars you're gonna turn me down.
Clever. See my friend over there? He wants to know if you think I'm cute.
Nice dress. Can I talk you out of it?
Do you have a map? I keep on getting lost in your eyes.
Is there an airport nearby, or is my heart taking off?
… You win.
Soujiro picked up the phone and held it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Souj? It's Atsuko."
"Oh hey! How're you?"
"I'm good. How's your summer job going?"
"Great. My boss wants to hire me after I get out of grad school. She's a nice woman. How's your husband?"
"Oh Enishi's good too. He's on vacation for the next two weeks, so we're headed for a road trip, but I thought I'd let you know before we left so you didn't get worried."
Soujiro's family had flown straight to Los Angeles from Japan when he'd been catatonic two years ago. He'd recovered quickly after their arrival, so his family had decided to spend the rest of their vacation in California. Enishi had stuck around to protect them against any vampires with a grudge against Shishio. Somewhere in there Atsuko and Enishi had fallen for each other. They'd gotten married a few months ago and both lived and worked in southern California.
"That was nice of you," Soujiro commented, sitting down at the kitchen table and idly paging through one of his mother's gardening catalogs.
"So are you going to the wedding next week?" Atsuko asked. He'd known she wanted to ask that.
"But Kaoru and Kenshin invited you right?"
"Yeah. But I'm not going."
"I thought you were over her."
It was the truth. Two years ago, Suzume had also accompanied the Seta family around California. Since her aunt, Ayame, was a vampire, it was a nice show of loyalty between the hunters and the Juppongatana that she and Enishi got along. Soujiro had briefly gone out with Suzume, but it hadn't lasted, and they'd both moved on. He'd taken a break from dating and studied abroad in Spain his junior year of college. He'd lived with a Spanish couple who had a daughter his age named Claudia. She became his closest friend in Spain. Before he'd left to go back to the States, their relationship had developed in a romantic nature. He'd never thought things could get better than the time he was with Kaoru, but surprise surprise. He was happier with Claudia than he'd ever been with Kaoru. In the fall she was going to grad school in the states at the same university he'd be attending.
"I don't want to ruin their wedding, Atsuko. You know Kaoru still feels guilty about dumping me."
His sister sighed on the other end of the line. "I know. I guess I just wanted someone to talk to at the wedding."
"What about Enishi?" Soujiro reminded her.
"He and Kaoru get along so well, he'll probably leave me the second we get there and flock off to see her. If only she wasn't so nice I could hate her."
Soujiro couldn't help smiling. "Don't waste your time hating Kaoru. She and I are better off without each other."
"I'll believe that when I meet Claudia," Atsuko said lightly. "Mom and Dad are going to the wedding, right?"
"Yeah," Soujiro confirmed, stifling a yawn. "Kaoru's still grateful to them for breaking the truth about vampires and hunters to her parents, and Mom's practically in love with Kenshin, so of course they were invited too."
"Alright. Is Mom there? I need to talk to her."
"No. She went to buy a present for Kaoru's wedding shower. Want me to tell her to call you back?" Sou asked.
"Yeah. On my cell. Enishi and I are leaving as soon as he gets back. Any plans for tonight, Sou?"
"Nah. Just sleep. Working fulltime is wearing me out."
"I hear that," his sister agreed. "At least we don't have to study for finals anymore. College sucked like that."
"Speak for yourself. I'm going to grad school, remember?"
"Yeah, but you'll be there with Claudia." Atsuko said her name in a sing-song tone. "I can't believe you two are renting an apartment together. What were our parents thinking?"
"We're both twenty-two, Atsuko," Soujiro defended both his and Claudia's parents. What had they been thinking?
"You better not break up with her. It'll be hell living with a woman you dumped. Oh, Enishi's back," she said, sounding rushed. "Remember to tell Mom to call me on my cell, okay?"
"I will. Say hi to him for me."
"Okay. Love you. See ya."
Soujiro pushed the off button on the phone and stood up from the table. He yawned and hung the phone back on its rightful spot on the wall. Padding out of the kitchen in his slippers, he headed for his bedroom. He really was tired.
I have dog hair on my tongue!
"I'm exhausted," Kaoru declared, sitting down beside Kenshin on their couch and practically burrowing into him. Not that he minded.
"At least there's air conditioning," Kenshin stated on the favor of the positive side, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "And the cable works." He continued flipping past a pre-season football game and the eleven o'clock news. They'd finally finished moving the last of the furniture into the modest house they'd been able to afford on the money Kenshin had saved as a vampire and Kaoru had earned all the years she'd worked summers at the Akabeko.
"I can't believe I'm starting law school in a week," Kaoru said. They'd pushed back the honeymoon until her Christmas break. He didn't mind. Sex with Kaoru was great no matter where he was.
"Don't remind me. I have to start work in a week," Kenshin replied. He'd saved up enough money for them to live on for the rest of their lives, but that didn't mean he was retiring at twenty-five.
"Speaking of work, do you think this Kachina Carolina is going to be a problem?"
"Zanza told you about her?" he asked, wishing Zanza hadn't told his new bride anything. There was no reason for Kaoru to worry about a vampire up in Newport, Rhode Island.
"Yeah," Kaoru confirmed what he already knew. "He said she's turned unwilling humans."
"It's a rumor. Aoshi's always been on good terms with her. Nothing's happening any time soon." And if something did happen with Kachina Carolina to confirm that she really was turning unwilling humans into vampires, there wasn't much he could do yet anyway. Aoshi had not yet reached an agreement with the Juppongatana over the distribution of Yumi's chemical, which Tsubame had dubbed YM2.
"Zanza made her sound dangerous," Kaoru said. There was a troubled tone to her voice as she shifted to get comfortable against him.
"He's exaggerating," Kenshin said, even though Kachina Carolina was dangerous. "Let's not talk about work." He sat the remote down and drew her into his lap. "I still can't believe you married me."
She smiled, the shadows flitting from her eyes. "I guess we can talk about work later." She leaned forward and kissed him. By now they'd kissed a million times. Cherry kisses and root beer kisses and pizza kisses and wine kisses. Chocolate cake kisses and ice cream cake kisses and marble cake kisses and cheesecake kisses. Nowadays, kissing Kaoru ranked number two on his top ten list. Number one was rather obvious and also involved Kaoru. In fact, numbers one through ten all involved Kaoru. Sano would have laughed. He was probably snickering with Megumi in some corner of heaven that very moment.
Kaoru slid off him and onto the couch with a soft plop, television remote in hand.
"Did you kiss me to get the remote?"
She threaded an arm through his, eyes focused on the television the whole time. "I hate it when you take forever flipping through channels, so I'll pick."
"I can't believe you kissed me just to get the remote."
"Well I also like kissing you, if that makes you feel any better," Kaoru offered, settling for a kung fu movie and tossing the remote to the other side of the room, presumably to keep it away from him.
"I guess it does," Kenshin admitted.
She kissed his cheek. "I love you."
Kenshin settled down to watch kung fu on his TV with his wife on his couch in his house. Actually their TV, their couch, and their house. But all the same, his wife, and that was really the most important part.
normal vampires don't need deodorant.
Are you saying I smell?
No. Just that normal vampires don't need deodorant.
'Silver Cross' Time Line
1777 – Kenshin Himura is born
1800 – Kenshin "Battousai" Himura is turned into a vampire at the age of 23
1851 – Sanosuke Sagara is born
1876 – Sano is turned at the age of 25
1923 – Megumi Takani dies
1956 – Sano and Ken meet Ayame
1976 – Ken, Sano, and Ayame split up
1980 – Ken and Sano split up; Sano joins the Sekihoutai
1983 – Kaoru Kamiya is born
1985 – Sekihoutai begins monitoring the 'dark one'
1988 – Ken begins covert operations for Katsura, not knowing he's the 'dark one'
1992 – Sano dies; Las Vegas convention; Ken discovers Katsura is the 'dark one' before Katsura disappears forever
2003 – Ken meets Kaoru; Silver Cross takes place
2004 – Kenshin and Kaoru meet Zanza
2005 – Kenshin and Kaoru are married
A/N – I loved writing Silver Cross, partly because I love writing, and partly because I love having an impact on other people, making an impression in their lives. I hope Silver Cross made a good impression. Each and every reviewer inspired me to finish this story, including my first flamer at chapter one, and the favorable reviews were better than chocolate after a break up.
I can hardly believe it's over, but I think it's time I left this couple alone. This means no sequel. Life certainly promises to be interesting for those two.
Until we meet again,