A/N - Well this here's my other Kenshin fic that I started before the vampire one actually. I just wanted to get a feel for what college was like before I went posting it on the internet. Hope you enjoy it. It's rather more lighthearted than my Kenshin fic called 'Silver Cross', but action will be happening. You can count on that. Hope you like it.

Disclaimer - I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.

Quondam Mistakes

"Are you going to join the kendo club, Kaoru? Your little brother mentioned you were really good. Since you're a slacker who doesn't do any sports, you need exercise."
Kaoru rolled her eyes and decided to ignore the slight. "Yahiko said that? He doesn't understand why I stopped for a while. Maybe I'll join, but not right away. I want to get used to college first."
"You won't tell me why either." Misao muttered under her breath. She scoffed as she inserted her key card in the door lock, "Isn't that what all that orientation was for, getting used to college? I am definitely not going to orientation next year. No wonder only freshmen were dumb enough to come."
"You don't have to go next year. It's only for freshmen, smart one," the other girl laughed. "Well the job fair was useful anyway. Remind me to head over to that building to get a work permit, would you? I'm not 18 yet." Kaoru murmured, following Misao inside their dorm room.
"Don't be such a bore. Why do you have to get a job anyway?" Misao whined, throwing herself down on the nearest bed, Kaoru's, and staring up at the ceiling. "That cuts down on the time we'll be spending together."
"Because I'm not rich, unlike you." Kaoru said, shutting the door behind her. "And that's my bed you're laying all over, not yours," she rolled her eyes again and sat down at her laptop to check her messages.
"Don't be so territorial about your space; we're roomies after all. But I don't mind your eccentric ways." Misao said dramatically in the tone of one with long suffering ahead of her who plans to bear it humbly. The effect was abruptly ruined when she rolled onto her stomach and almost fell off the bed. "Jeez. I had a much bigger bed at home," she muttered after a quick glance at Kaoru, who hadn't been paying attention to her at all. "Anyway, aren't you glad that orientation's over and real classes start tomorrow? I'm sick off all this settling in junk and places I have to be." She suddenly bounced up and sat Indian-style on the bed. "Let's go out and explore the town! I don't have a class until 11, we can sleep in!" she suggested excitedly.
"Nah," Kaoru said, hopping from her laptop to the fridge and grabbing a cold juice and back. "My first class is at nine and I can barely wake up in the morning with ten hours of sleep."
Misao made a discontented face. "Yeah, you're right about that. We've only been roomies for, what, a week, and boy do I know that. I didn't think you would be like this when we talked online."
Kaoru grinned. "Why? Did you think I was preppy or something? 'Cause I thought that you were," Kaoru admitted as she took a sip of her juice and read her last message.
"Hey!" Misao said in a semi-hurt voice, trying her hardest to look injured. She gave up and let the smile conquer her face once again. "Yeah, I did think you were one," she admitted.
Kaoru glanced at her, wondering if she'd hurt the other girl's feelings.
Misao caught the worried glance and grinned even wider. "You are such a sucker, Kaoru. So nice. You wouldn't have lasted a minute in New York."
Kaoru scoffed. "Oh please. You're from the 'burbs. My school was way tougher than yours, and I was in the suburbs of Philly. You're nothing but a big baby. You haven't even had a boyfriend." She teased, logging on to her email account.
"So!" Misao said defensively. "I had the Oniwaban! And besides, I'm too wild to settle for one guy. They're all afraid of commitment anyway. And you never told me you had a boyfriend. Did you guys break up because you were going to different colleges?" she asked, eager for a bit of gossip.
"Nah. My last one goes here. He's one year ahead of us, but it was more because we were friends for so long that we hooked up and broke up. But the one before that was cool. We just kind of drifted apart because he was jealous of Sanosuke. To be honest, I've never had a really serious boyfriend."
"So you're still a virgin?" Misao asked.
"Yes. I don't know if I should be answering that rude question though." Kaoru said in a scathing tone, opening an email from one of her high school friends.
"See!" Misao yelled triumphantly. "You are a prude!"
"I am not!" Kaoru denied. "I came close once!"
"With this Sanosuke guy?" Misao asked quickly, trying to get the information out of her while she was angry.
"It's none of your business! Besides, we're just friends again. His parents moved next door to me for God's sake!"
"So it was Sanosuke . . ." Misao said thoughtfully. "So if you liked him then he must be an okay guy. Mind if I take a shot at him?"
Kaoru scoffed, typing a reply to her uncle rapidly. "Be my guest. I don't think he's really your type though. Besides, he's got a basketball scholarship. He was the star of the team at our high school. They went to states his senior year and won it. They'll be a lot of girls after him already. And anyway, I haven't seen him since he went goofing off across the country with his room mate in August. From what Sanosuke says about him, the guy's pretty cool. Probably a total slacker like Sano though." Kaoru snickered.
"I think you're just bitter that you two broke up. Who dumped who?" Misao asked.
Kaoru sighed. "I brought it up, but it was mutual, okay? Now stop grilling me about it," she said, irritated.
"Okay, fine. I'll just take a quick shower - " Misao began, cut off by the sound of the room phone ringing. She flounced sulkily over to the phone. "Hello? . . . . Sanosuke?" Kaoru snapped away from the computer screen and swiveled in the chair to face Misao. "We were just talking about you. . . ." Misao laughed at Kaoru's angry expression and handed Kaoru the cordless phone.
Kaoru waited until her room mate left for the bathroom down the hall before answering the phone. "Sano?"
"So you were talking about me, Missy. I'm not surprised, what with my good looks and great personality," his drawling voice came over the phone.
"That's not why, Sano. The topic was past boyfriends who weren't good enough." Kaoru said scathingly, getting up from the computer chair and plopping down on her bed.
"Ooh. Harsh, Missy, harsh. Anyway, I got your room number from Yahiko 'cause I lost your cell. I was wondering if you want me to show you around. Me and my room mate just got back from our trip, but I could do it tomorrow at lunch. How about it?"
Kaoru would have liked to see Sano again, but she remembered her class schedule, which sucked. "Sorry, Sano. My classes go straight through lunch everyday except for Friday."
"Nah. First b-ball team meeting then. I see you're already into the college life, Missy. Musta been that orientation I told you not to go to. Maybe I'll see you at a party or take you out some weekend. I'll call you sometime, okay?"
Kaoru laughed. "I'll see you in a couple months when you remember, aight, Sano?"
Sano's low, slow laugh came across the phone. "You know me too well, Missy. Hey, and you should take up kendo again. You're pretty good and we've got a nice club here."
Kaoru tensed. "I'll think about it, Sanosuke."
Sanosuke heard the tension in her voice. "Okay, Missy. Wrong subject. I'll be seeing you though. I promised Dr. G I'd watch out for you."
"See ya, Sano." Kaoru said, standing up and walking over to the receiver.
"See ya, Missy." Sanosuke said, hanging up.
Kaoru frowned and then hung up as well. Why was everyone trying to get her to do kendo again? She just didn't feel ready, not after what happened. She knew it wasn't really her fault, but a tiny part of her blamed herself. Kaoru shrugged it off. College was supposed to be a new beginning, tomorrow was the first day of classes, and she was going to start it off right.

A month later Kaoru had plenty of practice trying to balance studying with friends, her work study job, free time, and alone time. It was really too bad she was such a procrastinator, or everything might have worked out perfectly. As it was, she could only congratulate herself on the fact that she hadn't been to too many parties. But no matter how much she kept busy, she felt that something was missing. And no it was not a guy. It was . . . kendo. Kendo had been such an important part of her life that she felt guilty not practicing the Kamiya Kasshin style every day like she'd grown up doing.
She filled that part of her life with jogging, lifting in the weight room, and goofing off with Misao, who insisted that it helped her keep her volleyball skills sharp until it was time for the season to start. Her roomie was determined to make the team when the season stared in early November. Kaoru was even kept well fed on the days she missed lunch. In the beginning of the year, she'd signed up for a mentoring program, and her mentor just happened to be a junior named Tsubame who was a culinary arts/business major. She brought Kaoru samples of her cooking to try every day they both had free time. Kaoru only hoped she wasn't gaining the 'freshman fifteen' from Tsubame's cooking.
As Kaoru was walking to Bigbites, a store on campus, in early October she reflected that all in all, college was turning out well. Sure Sano hadn't called more than one other time to get her cell phone number, but then again she hadn't really expected him to. Yahiko was coming to visit for her birthday and she knew he would want to see his hero. She wished Sano had at least left her his cell phone number. It appeared that he never checked his email. She sighed. Would the boy never learn? To her surprise, she spotted a head of spiky brown hair atop a tall frame. It could be none other than Sanosuke, leaning casually against a tree talking to a taller man as if he had not a care in the world. Kaoru's anger flared. She marched over to Sanosuke and hit him over the back of his head, a stretch, but hey, she was up to it.
"Ahhh! What the hell?" Sanosuke said, cringing and turning around to face Kaoru. "Missy! What'd you do that for!?!"
"Why haven't you called me like you said you would, Sano? I've been trying to get in touch with you and you didn't even leave me your number!" Kaoru fumed.
His tall friend laughed. "Is this one of your girlfriends, Sanosuke?"
Sano turned red.
Kaoru turned red.
"As if!" Kaoru fumed.
"This is Kaoru Kamiya, Anji." Sano said sheepishly. "And she's not one of my girlfriends, though I bet she wishes she was." Sano grinned at her, the typical toothpick in his mouth.
Kaoru's eyes narrowed and she whopped Sano upside his head with her text books. "I do not!"
Anji just laughed again. "Nice meeting you, Kaoru Kamiya," he nodded to her. "See you around, Sano," he added, turning and walking off with a smirk on his face.
"Now you've gone and scared off Anji, Missy. What did you want to talk to me about?" Sanosuke asked, rubbing his injured head gingerly.
"Yahiko is coming to visit. You know how much he looks up to you. I want you to be there when he comes."
"That's all?" Sano asked incredulously.
"All! Yahiko thinks you're the greatest guy in the world and I'm not having you disappoint him by not showing up. He's coming for my birthday the Friday after next."
"Your birthday? Oh yeah, I forgot. You're not 18 yet either, are you? I'm gonna get you something really nice for the occasion, Missy. So if I come you'll check out the kendo club, right?" Sano asked casually.
"Fine! Now that I'm used to college, I my as well start again." Kaoru said with a defiant toss of her head as her heart sank faster than the titanic. 'I didn't know I loved Yahiko this much,' she thought. 'Darn little brothers.'
"Way to go, Missy." Sano grinned. "There's a meeting tomorrow night at seven. I would make sure you showed personally, but I have basketball practice, first day and all. My room mate is in the club though, so he'll watch out for you, Missy."
"Alright. I'll finally get to meet the guy you've been talking about for a year." Kaoru said, trying to cover up her trepidation at the prospect of taking up kendo again.
"Yeah." Sano said, reaching out and giving Kaoru a pat on the back. "Don't worry, Missy. I think kendo will be good for you. Maybe you'll meet a guy. You look like you need some."
Kaoru could not believe he'd said that. Her eyes turned to slits and her cheeks darkened to a shade of red that resembled a plum. "Pervert!" she yelled, whacking him once more on his head and stomping on his foot with the heel of her shoe. She stomped away, head held high.
The people around the two had snapped to attention when they heard Kaoru yell 'pervert'. The male half of the population grimaced, watching Sanosuke hop around on one foot, tears in his eyes. It was really too bad for Sano that the girls laughed.
He looked up grinning, "I'm okay."
'The only way to get that girl to do anything is to make her mad. I know it was for her own good, but did she have to be wearing heels today?' He shrugged. 'Ah Fate. How cruel art thee! She better thank me for getting her back into kendo later.' He grumbled as he limped off to his dorm hall to salvage his wounded pride.

Kaoru's mind didn't want to start kendo again. There were too many memories. It was too bad her heart did. She knew that Sano and Yahiko both wanted her to start again and that they thought it was for her own good, but could she help it if she couldn't get rid of the guilt? So here she was, warring with herself in her jogging clothes outside of the school's athletic complex. To go in or to keep running. . . Keep running, she decided. She was already a half hour late anyway.
'But I can't run forever. . . Suck it up, Kaoru,' she tried to boost her confidence. 'You've never run from anything before. Don't start now. Have a little respect for yourself, girl. You'll never get over it if you don't go in there right now. You know it's the right thing. It's what Dad would've wanted. Okay, I'm ready then. No looking back now, hon.'
Decided, Kaoru pushed open the double doors and walked in. She was quite surprised to find that the place was much bigger than it appeared from the outside. Walking to the mall style map, she located the kendo gym on the next floor up in the far side of the building. Heading up the stairs, she hooked a left, a right, before she stopped, realizing she was lost already. It wasn't her fault she'd gotten lost, but she did wish that would stop happening; getting lost in the King of Prussia mall that one time had not been very fun. Luckily, she spotted a guy with a bokken coming down the hallway and stopped him as he was walking by.
"Excuse me, could you tell me where the kendo gym is?"
The guy looked surprised at first, probably because she was a girl, but he recovered quickly and smiled at her. "Sure. It's just down the hall, take your first right and then the door's the first one on the left."
Kaoru nodded. "Thanks." So she hadn't been as hopelessly lost as she'd thought. Maybe she was getting better at this map reading thing.
"I haven't seen you before. Are you going to join today?" he asked curiously, sizing her up.
"I'm thinking about it. Thanks again." Kaoru said, hurrying off down the hall. She didn't want to make a commitment to something she wasn't sure she could handle, even if it was to a total stranger.
He looked thoughtfully after her before shrugging and continuing on.
Now that she'd decided to go through with it, she was getting a panicky feeling. She knew she'd be okay if she just walked in and saw the students practicing and smelled the polished wood of the bokkens and the shinai. The door was there, just as he'd promised. Kaoru could hear the sounds of a sparring match and the gentle murmur of voices. After a slight hesitation, she pushed open the door and slipped in.
A good many people were doing warm up drills and a few were sparring, but a certain guy caught her attention as soon as she walked in the door. He and his partner were such skilled fighters that she could follow their movements only half the time. The man had long red hair that swirled gracefully in the wake of his attacks, parries, and blocks. His sparring partner was almost equally as talented, with short black hair and a constant smile on his face. They were both clearly enjoying themselves. They looked as if they belonged in another age, one with samurai and wars fought close range, without guns. She could almost picture them fighting each in a gi and hakama, instead of sweat pants and t-shirts. And then the moment was gone. They had stopped, laughing and praising each other with the ease of familiarity, and walked away in opposite directions, the black haired one towards the water fountain she was standing near and the other, the fascinating one, to talk to another fighter.
The black haired fighter nodded at her, took a long drink from the water fountain, and smiled at her. "Hey. I don't think I've seen you around before. I'm Seta Soujiro." He introduced himself in the old Japanese way with a slight bow and offered his hand. "Call me Soujiro."
Kaoru bowed back and smiled at him. He had such an infectious smile that she couldn't help but smile back. "Kamiya Kaoru. Call me Kaoru," she replied, shaking his hand.
"So what brings you to kendo practice, Kaoru?" Soujiro asked, releasing her hand.
"I was thinking of starting up again, and a friend of mine convinced me to check it out. You and that other fighter are very skilled. I watched the end of your match." Kaoru offered a bit shyly.
Soujiro blushed. "Oh he's really a whole lot better than me," he laughed.
"Still, you're a huge step above me," Kaoru insisted. "I think I'd like to join."
"Great. We need more women," Soujiro said in a pleased tone. He waved and caught the redhead's attention, and the redhead began to walk towards the two. "He's our club's captain. He'll get you started. If you'll excuse me, I'll start my warm-down exercises now."
Kaoru nodded. "No problem." She rather wished Soujiro would stay and introduce her though. The redhead looked cuter and cuter the closer he got. "Nice meeting you."
"You too," Soujiro nodded, moving away with another smile.
Kaoru had only to wait a few moments until the redhead was within hearing distance. She smiled at him, he smiled at her and held his hand out and she took it.
"Hi, I'm Himura Kenshin."
"Kamiya Kaoru."
They both let go.
"I came because I'm interested in joining the kendo club. Sorry I'm so late. First impressions being what they are, I wouldn't want you to get the wrong one." Kaoru said calmly, though she was feeling nervous.
"Don't worry about it. Oh, and call me Kenshin. It would be great having you in the club, we only have three women so far this year; you'll make the fourth." He smiled reassuringly.
"Really? Well that was easier than I thought." Kaoru smiled back. "And you can call me Kaoru." He really was cute, to die for. He probably had a girlfriend though, the cute ones always did, or they were complete jerks, or they were gay. His eyes were a weird color too, was it blue? Not quite. With flecks of . . . gold? She shook her head slightly. Why was she staring into the eyes of some guy she'd seen for the first time not five minutes ago?
"Cool. Alright, let's see what you can do. Are you ready to spar now?" he asked.
"Now? I guess. I'm probably rusty though. I've been slacking for an embarrassingly long time," she confessed, tearing her gaze away from his with a little effort.
"That's okay. We won't kick you out or anything," he joked. "We're not that serious."
"Excuse me, couldn't help overhearing," a serious looking girl that vaguely reminded Kaoru of her cousin, Ayame said, striding over. "Welcome to the club, Kaoru. I'm Shurra. Would you do me the honor of sparring with me? You don't want to go against Himura your first time."
Kaoru smiled. "Sure, Shurra."
The woman flashed her a smile and tossed her a bokken. "How long do you need to get warmed up?"
"Just a few minutes."
"Well tell me when you two are going to start then. I wanna see," Kenshin said.
"Wouldn't let you miss it, Himura. You are the captain an' all," Shurra promised. "Now let's leave Kaoru to her drills. Sae sent me over here to get you anyway." She grabbed his arm and led him away.
Kaoru was left alone. Finding the closest empty mat, she started her drills. They felt as familiar as if she'd been doing them just yesterday, as if she'd never quit. She wondered if she could beat Shurra. She doubted it. The woman was too experienced. She had a dangerous aura around her when she spoke of sparring and she moved too quickly. Kaoru thought she might be able to beat her in a few months, once she was back in the Kamiya Kasshin groove. She was startled to realize that she'd decided to start kendo again. She found that she wasn't surprised, not really.
She lost to Shurra, but not by much, and she congratulated herself on the fight she'd put up. It felt great to be doing kendo again, especially against an opponent she could learn from. Kenshin and Soujiro each watched, praising both the girls afterwards. She basked in the glow of their approval and Shurra's respect. Most of the people in the club introduced themselves to her as they were leaving and she and Shurra were doing their warm-downs. By the time they'd both warmed down, the gym was empty. Shurra waved goodbye before leaving with a couple friends in the opposite direction. As Kaoru was walking down the hallway from the locker rooms and towards the stairs, she was surprised to see Kenshin come rollerbladeing out of a locker room.
"Hey Kaoru. How'd you like your first meeting?" Kenshin asked, skating up beside her. She knew Kenshin hadn't missed her little jump of surprise, and chided herself. Drifting off into the past and losing touch with the world around her was not one of the kendo principles.
"It was a lot of fun. I think I'm going to like your kendo club," Kaoru answered enthusiastically.
Kenshin smiled. "Cool. Mind if I walk you to your dorm? I'm sure it's dark now, wouldn't want you to go back alone," he offered as they descended the stairs.
Kaoru wondered if she'd heard right. He seemed too cute to be real, he could roller blade and actually look cool with all those pads on, and now he was offering to walk her back to her dorm room. Well, she'd be walking. He was even talented and experienced enough to blade down the stairs like a pro. "Um. Sure, that would be great, unless it's out of your way. I live in AMR one."
Kenshin made a face. "Really? I lived there freshman year. Don't worry, it's on the way and I need the exercise anyway."
Kaoru found that hard to believe. "You? I saw the way you moved when you were sparring with Soujiro. Who are you trying to fool?"
"So I don't really need it." Kenshin shrugged and flashed a grin as he held the door open for her, watching her as she walked through. "That match was no biggie, just a bit of fun between the two of us. We weren't serious or anything. So you're a freshman, right?"
"Yup. You?" Kaoru asked.
"Oh, that reminds me. My friend said I'd meet his room mate at the club's practice. Do you know who Sanosuke Sagara's room mate is?"
To her surprise, Kenshin chuckled. "That's me. How do you know Sano?" he asked curiously. He wondered if they were going out. Girls usually loved Sano, especially when he did the whole 'bad-boy' routine. He wondered why he was wondering if they were going out.
"We went to the same high school. When he went to college last year his parents moved next door to my house, so I saw him last summer too, before he went driving across the country with his room mate. How was that? He never told me," Kaoru asked with a laugh. She wished Sano had introduced her to his room mate back then. He seemed too perfect to be one of Sano's friends.
"Fun. We saw all the sites and went to even more clubs." Kenshin made a face. One particular memory of a drunk Sano amidst four hookers threatened to invade his memory. He decided to change the subject. "You must be the girl he used to talk about in the beginning of our freshman year." Kenshin wondered if Sano was the reason she'd come to this college. She didn't seem like that type though. She didn't seem like Sano's type either. He hoped they really were over.
Kaoru blushed. "Really? Well it was a mutual break up. I thought he would've gotten over it quicker than I did. Sano's a ladies man. But I'm sure you know that." She smiled, hoping he didn't think she was still stuck on Sanosuke.
"Don't I," Kenshin agreed. She didn't seem to like Sano, and she had asked about her 'friend', Sanosuke, not her boyfriend. But he was jumping the gun here. He'd just met the girl an hour ago! She'd stood there talking to Soujiro and he'd been trying to think of an excuse to talk to her, but then Soujiro had waved him over and walked away from her. He'd given his younger cousin mental points for that one, even though he was sure Soujiro hadn't done it to hook them up. Sometimes being the captain of the kendo club did have its pluses.
She'd watched with those wide blue eyes as he'd walked towards her, then smiled just for him. He'd fallen for her right then. Damn it, love at first sight was not supposed to exist. God, she was hot. He was dismayed to find that they were almost to her dorm hall. He couldn't quite get the guts to ask her out. What would she think of that anyway? He made a mental note to ask Sano about her without revealing anything. Sano would likely spill it all to her the next time he saw her if Kenshin confessed that he liked Kaoru as more than just a friend.
"Sano was all over the girls at the tourist attractions we stopped at," Kenshin continued. "But he's changed a bit since we got back. He met this junior named Megumi and he's completely head over heels for his 'Meggie'." Kenshin confessed, doing an exaggerated imitation of Sano's endearing phrase.
"Really?" Kaoru asked, giggling at Ken's impression of his friend. "Sano?" She stopped, picturing what Megumi must look like and Sano calling her Meggie. That particular mental picture prompted a full laugh before Kaoru resumed walking. "I have to meet her sometime. Think she can handle him?"
"I don't think he has much say about anything in that relationship. They haven't officially gotten together, but anyone can tell they're going to eventually. She's really serious about med-school and he's caught up in being a basketball star, well he wants to be one this year, so they're not steady enough to start a relationship real soon, but they'll hook up. I just think it's going to take a while."
"That's so funny. Well thanks for walking me back, Kenshin," Kaoru offered as she slid her key into the lock and pulled the door open with a yank. "It was nice meeting you."
"No problem. I'll be seeing you around then," Kenshin said, casually slipping his hands in his pockets and turning in an arc to skate away. He wished he could've got the guts to say something more. He admitted to himself that he was a wimp.
"Kenshin!" Kaoru called. 'Stupid. Stupid.' Kaoru mentally scolded herself. She'd forgotten to ask when the meetings were. He'd probably think her a dunce for not asking before.
He turned, wondering what she wanted.
"I forgot to ask you, when are the meetings?"
"Oh, that's my fault. They're Tuesday and Thursday at seven o'clock. There're extra ones if you want to compete in a match with other schools. Just tell me if you do. Sano doesn't sound like he's been keeping in touch with you, so. . ." He took out a scrap of paper and pen from his jeans pocket and scribbled something, then bladed back over to her. "Here's the number for our dorm room and my cell number in case you feel like bothering him or talking to me," he smiled as she accepted it.
"Thanks, Kenshin. I'll see you Thursday," Kaoru said lightly, entering the dorm hall and letting the door shut softly behind her. Guys who had girlfriends didn't just randomly hand out their cell phone numbers to girls they'd met hours ago, did they? Still, he was the captain of the club, so it was probably not unusual for him to give out his number to members. Still, Kaoru really wondered if he had a girlfriend.

"Your dorm room is pretty cool. It's too girly for me though. So where's Sano?" Yahiko asked two weeks later.
"He's at basketball practice. I guess we could take you if you want to see him that much," Kaoru said, bemused. He had too much energy sometimes, almost as if he was a little kid again instead of a tall sixteen year old.
"Really? Let's go!" Yahiko said, opening the door and jetting out.
"We?" Misao asked dryly, looking up from her text book.
"Yes." Kaoru noticed the look on Misao's face. It was looking like she was going to have to beg. "Please, Misao! I don't want it to look like I'm just going to check out the basketball players," Kaoru begged.
Misao sighed. "Can't you take some one else from the house?" Kaoru just stuck out her bottom lip and did her best version of puppy dog eyes. Misao rolled her eyes, but acquiesced. "Okay, but only because it's your birthday. And let's make it clear that the only reason I'm going is to check out the basketball players," she agreed with a grin, pulling on her jacket and grabbing her purse.
"Thanks, Misao. You need to get off your butt and to the gym more often anyway. I thought you were going out for volleyball," Kaoru reminded her, slipping into her jacket and grabbing her purse as well.
"Yeah, I am. I practice while you're at kendo practice. By the way, how are things going with you and Himura? I was talking to this girl in my Calc class, Jenna something, and she said that he's the hottest civil engineering major in his graduating class! She's got a huge crush on him, a little obsessive there. He went out on a date with Jenna's friend last year, and she said her friend said he was the sweetest guy, but he didn't ask the girl out a second time."
"Really?" Kaoru asked, pulling the door shut behind them. Well that proved Kenshin was a gentleman, even if he didn't end up asking the girl out a second time.
"Yeah. So what's the deal? Details, girl," Misao prompted as they followed Yahiko down the stairs.
Kaoru sighed. It didn't look like Misao was going to give it a rest unless she told her something, so she my as well confess all. It would be nice to talk to someone about him. "Not much is going on. I mean, he's really nice and he's great at kendo, using that Hiten Mitsurugi style of his, but I just don't know if he likes me. To be fair, I've only known him for two weeks, and that's what, four kendo meetings? I don't really know the guy, but I bet he is the hottest civil engineering major," Kaoru finished dreamily as they walked outside into the October air.
"What is it? The hair? She said he's got long red hair and funny color eyes."
"Yeah. His hair is pretty cool on a guy. And his eyes are violet. I thought they were blue at first, but I was thinking about it and they have to be violet. And they've got these gold flecks. . . He's only a little taller than me. I'm 5'4", so that makes him, what? 5'7"? And he's got a crossed shaped scar on his left cheek and it's just the way he carries himself and all this other stuff that I can't describe," she finished, waving her hands in the air a bit aimlessly.
"Come on, Kaoru!" Yahiko said impatiently from ahead of them, "Where's the gym?"
"Hold up, Yahiko!" Kaoru said, irritated he'd snapped her out of Kenshin fantasizing mode.
"Practice just started. We won't miss him."
"Aww come on, Kaoru! I want to finally see Sanosuke too!" Misao put in. "I can't believe you haven't introduced him to me after all this time. Let's go, Yahiko! I know the way!" she said brightly, picking up the pace to a fast jog.
"That's more like it!" Yahiko agreed, jogging after the petite girl.
"Guys!" Kaoru protested, finding her self alone. She grumbled something about traitor room mates before heaving out and irritated a sigh and she sprinting after her errant friend and brother. They whipped through clusters of strolling students, not caring what anyone thought for the moment. Arriving at the athletic center in just a few minutes, they slowed the pace and Misao led them to the basketball gym. They slipped in, Misao, eager to check out the players, leading the way with a reluctant Kaoru bringing up the rear. Kaoru was relieved that they weren't the only ones taking in the practice. Quite a few females and also a few guys were sitting in the one section of bleachers that had been pulled out. She followed Misao and Yahiko to a seat at the end of the bleachers.
"Look! There's Sano!" Yahiko said excitedly. He stood up and began to wave furiously. Kaoru and Misao looked the other way, embarrassed. A couple of players nudged Sano. Seeing Yahiko, he waved back, and jogged over.
"Hey, Yahiko, how's it going?" Sano asked, casually. Several people sitting around them stared. Kaoru rolled her eyes. They didn't know what they were thinking if they deemed Sano someone to be in awe of. "Hello ladies. Will you wait for me after practice? I've got your present, Missy. Happy birthday."
"Thanks, Sanosuke," Kaoru said, grateful that he was acting so natural about the visit and didn't mind their presence.
"How's it going, Sano? Kaoru hardly tells me anything except that you're working the basketball team," Yahiko said loudly.
Kaoru grimaced. She hoped Sanosuke was working the basketball team or he might get in some trouble with his coach who happened to be marching over, looking none too happy.
Sano let out that slow laugh of his and looked at Kaoru with interest. "Has she? Well there's no way to tell until the season really starts."
"Sano your coach is coming over here," Kaoru informed him.
"He is?! Uh oh. See ya'll later then," Sano said, sounding a bit flustered and discretely jogging away in the opposite direction of the man.
"Hmm. Sano is cute," Misao said to Kaoru across Yahiko. "Is that why you went out with him?"
"No. I liked him. That was all. We tried it, it didn't work. Can't you get over that?"
"Ewwww! Don't talk about that in front of me!" Yahiko exclaimed, covering his ears and sticking out his tongue.
"I can get over that, but I don't think I'll be able to get over him in a hurry!" Misao pointed.
Kaoru looked where she'd pointed at a tall, dark haired guy. "He's okay."
"Okay!?!" Misao said, offended.
"What? You should be grateful I don't like the guy. He's all yours," Kaoru defended herself.
"I know him! I saw him on TV last year," Yahiko put in.
"You do!?!" Misao asked, "Who is he?"
"Shinomori. First name's Aoshi. He was pretty good last year too."
Misao sighed dreamily. "Aoshi Shinomori. I'm gonna marry him someday."
Kaoru sighed. It was a long practice for her. She spent it daydreaming about Kenshin, wondering what he was doing while she was watching tall sweaty guys run back and forth chasing after a rubber ball. When it was over, they waited for Sano to emerge from the locker room in the sweaty basketball hallway. Misao spotted Aoshi leaving and ran over to introduce herself. She called to Kaoru over her shoulder that she'd meet them back at the dorm room. Kaoru rolled her eyes, but she had to admit that the girl worked fast.
Kaoru bickered with Yahiko until Sanosuke finally emerged from the locker room, a little relieved when Yahiko ran over and jabbered to him about his game. He'd actually almost won the argument. She had to give it to the kid. He had done some growing up while she was away in college, or at least his vocabulary had. Sano smiled at Kaoru over Yahiko's head and gestured towards the exit. Kaoru rolled her eyes and started the walk out of the gym, confident Sano and Yahiko would follow her eventually.
"Mind if we head over to my dorm first, Missy?" he asked. "I've got your present stashed in my room."
"Sure, Sano," Kaoru said absentmindedly. She wondered if Kenshin would be there, or if he was out on a date.
"I think Kenshin will be there." Sano added casually with a wink in Yahiko's general direction.
"Really?" Kaoru asked eagerly before catching herself. "Why would I care?" she asked, narrowing her eyes and looking from Sano to Yahiko suspiciously.
The two fairly giggled.
"Because you think he's hot and his eyes are violet with gold flecks and all this other stuff you can't describe," Yahiko quoted deviously.
"Yahiko! You were listening!" Kaoru accused, trying to attack him. Sano could barely hold her back.
"Only because Sanosuke called and asked me to!" Yahiko defended himself.
"Sanosuke!" Kaoru yelled, giving up on the attempt against Yahiko and going for Sano's throat.
"I just wanted to know! Kenshin's a great guy! He'd be good for you!" Sanosuke said, cringing away from Kaoru. "How could you rat on me, Yahiko-chan?" he said, emphasizing the 'chan'.
"Hey! Don't call me chan!" Yahiko yelled, jumping on Sano and biting his head.
"Don't go blaming this on Yahiko! It's all your fault, Sanosuke Sagara!" Kaoru accused, punctuating each syllable with a hard punch to his midsection.
Sano backed away from her at a frantic pace as he spoke. "Harsh. Look, Missy, I just wanted you to be happy, and Kenshin too. He really likes you, but the guy's shy around you for some reason. I know he likes you! He tried to ask casual questions about you so I wouldn't find out that he does, but it didn't work. Come on, Kaoru, please forgive me." Sano begged, shielding himself from her swings.
Kaoru sighed and lowered her fists. She couldn't find it in her heart to stay mad at the pair for much longer, especially since they'd given her hope that Kenshin liked her, although she wasn't sure how much she could trust Sano's evaluation of Kenshin's feelings. "Okay. You're forgiven. But don't go behind my back again, Sano."
"Sure, Missy," Sano agreed, crossing his fingers behind his back.
"Or you, Yahiko," she added sternly to her younger sibling.
"I won't," Yahiko said innocently, crossing his fingers behind his back as well.
They were relieved when Kaoru looked satisfied. She merely sighed, wondering why they thought they could trick her when their hands were so obviously out of her view. She wasn't dumb. The rest of the walk was completed in silence as Sano and Yahiko both feared angering the young woman and Kaoru refused to let them off the hook.
"Well here we are," Sano said in his best cheerful voice, glad to break the silence at last. He took out his ID card from his back jean pocket and swiped it through the card lock of his dorm hall entrance. He held the door open for the two smaller people to pass through.
"Lead the way, Sano," Yahiko encouraged once they were all inside. "I want to see what your room looks like, I bet it's really cool," Yahiko prompted enthusiastically.
"Really cool," Sano remarked in a bemused tone. "Well it would be a bit messier, but Kenshin's a neater person than me. He has been slacking off a little lately though," said Sano as he led them up the stairs. "Ever since he met Missy."
Yahiko snickered.
Sano snickered.
Kaoru held her head up serenely. "I am not going to let you two get to me. And if you say anything to Kenshin about this in front of me, you'll die a slow and painful death."
"Wow, Sanosuke, you can really get to her. It's even worse than when I call her ugly," Yahiko said, impressed.
"I know. It's pretty cool, isn't it?" Sano smirked.
"Sanosuke," Kaoru said in a quiet voice. She had to warn them. They were like two eight year olds gloating over a fish they had caught and were poking cruelly on the banks of the river while it flopped around helplessly, searching for water.
"Well we're here!" Sano said cheerfully, praying Kenshin wasn't studying at the library or something. He needed his room mate's presence to distract Kaoru from laying in to him. She was most dangerous when she used the quiet voice. He threw open the door and thanked the Lord when he saw that in fact, Kenshin was home, typing away on the desktop computer they'd sprung for together last year. "Hey Kenshin!" I love you man, Sano wanted to say. He settled for the simpler sentence that was less likely to prompt strange looks: "I brought some visitors."
Kenshin looked up, surprised. "Hi. What's up?"
"It's the little missy's birthday today, so her brother came up. This is Yahiko. I brought them up here after practice to get Kaoru's present. Yahiko convinced Missy to take him."
"Oh. Happy birthday, Kaoru. I wish I'd known it was your birthday. And nice to meet you, Yahiko," Kenshin put in, standing up and shaking the taller boy's hand.
Yahiko sized him up. "You too. What are you doing over there?" he gestured to the computer.
"Oh, just answering my emails," Kenshin answered. "You wanna get on? I'm done now."
"Sure. I have to check out some basketball stats and see who's winning the game," Yahiko agreed, hopping over to the desktop and going to NBA.com.
"So what are you doing for your birthday?" Kenshin asked as Sano ignored them to rummage around in his closet.
"We're just going to find a restaurant. My uncle's here too, with his two kids."
"Your parents couldn't come?" Kenshin asked curiously.
"They're dead. Yahiko and I have lived with my uncle for the past four years."
Kenshin grimaced. "Sorry. Bad question." Smooth move, kid, he scolded himself.
"That's alright. I don't mind," Kaoru answered. "Could I sit?"
"Oh, sure. Sorry," Kenshin murmured apologetically, gesturing to his made bed. Thankfully, he'd felt like cleaning that morning and had actually bothered to make his bed. He grabbed a chair and plopped down backwards in it, facing her. 'Why am I so nervous? Great. I'm turning into a hormone challenged teenager. Again.'
"So how old are you now, nineteen?" he guessed to cover his nervousness.
"Nope. Eighteen. I can finally bid work permits goodbye," Kaoru answered, wondering if he knew how great he looked in that casual pose.
"Wow. Didn't know you were that young. Skip a grade or start school early?" he asked.
"Started early," Kaoru answered.
Sanosuke cursed in the background. "Where the hell did I put that? I can't have lost it in the closet," he muttered.
"So when you're thirty, I'll still be young and vibrant in my twenties. Wait, how old are you Kenshin?"
"Twenty. I just missed the cut off date back in elementary school. My birthday's in late September. Enough about me. May I suggest a good Japanese restaurant?"
"Sure. None of us are from Baltimore, and I haven't really been exploring yet. I don't know if Sanosuke knows any places I can take little kids to. Hey, you should come with us! That is, if you're not doing something tonight," Kaoru added with a slight blush. She shouldn't just assume he had no plans. But then again, she hoped he didn't.
"Oh no, I wouldn't want to intrude. I mean, it is your birthday and all," Kenshin protested, wishing he'd said yes instead.
"Aww come on, Kenshin. It'll be a whole lot more fun with you there," Kaoru prompted. "I'd really like it if you were," she finished earnestly.
"Well, okay, as long as you're sure?"
"That's great!" Kaoru said enthusiastically. A whole evening of being with Kenshin suddenly opened up in front of her. The possibilities were endless. Well not really, with her family and friends around. But she'd take what she could get.
"Here it is, Missy!" Sanosuke said triumphantly, emerging from the closet with a big box that looked like it could hold a small TV wrapped in Christmas paper. He presented it to her, before sitting down on the bed and staring at her expectantly, waiting for her to open it.
"Wow. You never got me anything this big before," Kaoru said. "It's even wrapped."
"Really?" Yahiko asked, jerked from the cyber world of basketball statistics by her statement. "I wanna see," he whined as he stood up from the computer and moved to wait between Kenshin and Sanosuke.
"Hey. Now that I'm in college, I actually have money. When my parents pay the school too much because of scholarships, I get the check." Sano shrugged.
"So you bought it with their money?" Kaoru asked.
"Nope. I was playing cards with some of the guys with my parents' money and got lucky. Go ahead, open it."
They all laughed at that. "Fine," Kaoru gave up pursuing the topic and found a spot in the wrapping paper that was taped together and started to rip.
"Where'd you get the Christmas wrapping paper, Sano?" Kenshin asked with a smirk.
"It's none of your business who my connections are, Kenshin. And anyway, it's her Christmas present too."
"That's nice of you," Yahiko muttered darkly. "Hey! It's rollerblades. Cool!" Yahiko exclaimed.
"Yeah, you need a quicker way of getting around and a bicycle is way too big and not cool. Kenshin here can teach you before or after kendo practice." Sano reasoned.
"Thanks, Sano," Kaoru said, setting the box on the floor and giving him a hug. "They're not the cheap kind, are they?"
He forged Kaoru his best wounded stare.
She laughed and patted his arm. "Just kidding. I really like them."
His hurt expression vanished in a blink. "Glad to make you happy, Missy."
"We better get going, so we don't keep Dr. G waiting," Yahiko put in, glancing at the wall clock.
"Oh yeah, and I still have to get Misao," Kaoru remembered. "We're meeting them at the visitor's parking garage. My uncle rented a van that seats ten for the drive down, so we should be good."
"Yahiko will carry your present for you, Missy," Sano volunteered, picking up the box and shoving it in the arms of the sixteen year-old.
"Hey!" he protested, then stopped abruptly, remembering it was Kaoru's birthday. "Fine. Just this once I will," he agreed sullenly.
"Good, kid. Kenshin and I'll meet you there."
"I'm not a kid," Yahiko muttered.
"Alright," Kaoru agreed, standing. "See you in a few then. Be there by seven, okay?"
"Sure, Missy," Sano urged, herding the siblings out of the room.
"Bye," Kenshin called.
"Damn. What's wrong with you?" Sanosuke asked once Kaoru and Yahiko were gone.
"What do you mean?" Kenshin asked, not quite meeting Sano's eye. He stood up, walking over to the computer to close the windows Yahiko had left open and starting the shutdown process.
"I mean before whenever you liked a girl, you asked her out, she said yes, and that was that. Why don't you just ask Kaoru out sometime?" Sano demanded.
"I don't know. Hmm. Maybe it's the fact that you used to go out with her," Kenshin said sarcastically.
"Oh please. It was only for four months. We broke up mutually. Didn't I moan about it enough last year? And anyway, you know I'm stuck on Meggie now. I don't care about you going out with her. In fact, I'd rather she ended up with a guy I knew. She's like my sister, Kenshin," Sano explained.
"You don't go out with your sister, Sano and what do you want me to do about it?" Kenshin asked, a little angrily. "Just waltz up to her and say 'Sano would really like it if you'd go out with me. Wanna hang out sometime?' It's not like she'd even say yes."
"That's not what I'm saying, Kenshin. Missy's old enough to take care of herself. I'm just saying that she likes you and I don't want her to get hurt because you're too scared to tell her you like her too," Sano said, a bit hurt. "Just forget it man. I wasn't the one that invited you to come with us tonight anyway, it was Missy."
Kenshin sighed. "You're right, Sano. It's just something about her that throws me off. She's all little and delicate and she goes around whupping up on Shurra and Sae at kendo," Kenshin smiled at that memory "I just can't figure her out, even after talking to her for a while, she's still a mystery."
Sano grinned and clapped him on the back. "That's how it's supposed to be, man. We're not allowed to probe into the depths of the opposite sex. By the way, you know I never had sex with her, right?" He teased.
"Yeah. Well I never even kissed her." Kenshin added ruefully. He grabbed his jacket, stuffed his wallet into his pants, and headed for the door.
"I have a hunch all that'll change soon. And if it doesn't, I may have to butt in again." Sano threatened, glancing at the clock. "Oh shit, we're gonna be late if we don't hurry," he worried, following Kenshin out the door. "I wouldn't want to set a bad example for the kid. Yahiko looks up to me."
"Why?" Kenshin asked. "You'd think he'd have better taste."
"Shut up. Nah, it's because I was the first guy hanging around after his parents died besides the doc, and he's not around all that much anyway, what with his job."
"Oh. How did their parents die anyway?"
"Car crash. It was winter, snowing, dark back roads. Kaoru never gave me many details. I am really glad she started up with kendo again though. Maybe she'll talk to you about it once she gets to know you better. She needs to talk."
"About her parents or kendo?" Kenshin asked, confused.
"Both. But it's none of my business, I guess." Sano said casually. They walked the rest of the way to the parking garage in a thoughtful silence.

A/N - Hey.
Well I hope you liked this chapter. Give me a little feedback, please, so I can figure out if I'm going to try to juggle two Kenshin stories at the same time. Hope you enjoy it.

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