Disclaimer: I do not own the characters borrowed from Rurouni Kenshin, that I do not.

- Romance / Fantasy - Alternate Universe -

Summary: All it takes is one choice to change your entire destiny. Her decision sent her into the arms of a man with no past, who could never be in her future...

Rating: R for adult situations, language, and to give me freedom.

Things to know before reading: It's Alternate Universe. Things are subject to change by whim of the authoress. This might turn into one of those sickeningly sweet romances. Who knows! Depends on how I feel while I write... I kind of miss fluff. Mm, fluff. Anyway...

Pairing(s): A mystery at this point... [Kaoru x Aoshi], most likely.


~`~`~`~`

Anything For You - Part I

Fate's Helpful Hand


~`~`~`~`


I can't believe this! She kicked at the snow angrily, venting her frustration on the innocent white fluff catching at her feet and chilling her skin through the soft leather of her boots. They promised... they promised! And now they're telling me that I have no choice? She ground her teeth together, a habit her mother abhorred, both for the fact that it meant her youngest daughter was Not Happy and that no gentile lady did such a disgusting thing.

Despite the brisk, freezing wind, she was not by any means cold. She was too furious to notice her body temperature. "Really," she muttered, "You would think they wouldn't be so old-fashioned. Everyone else my age gets to choose. My sister got to choose."

Kamiya Kaoru grimaced and came to a stop, crossing her arms over her chest and shivering slightly. Well, maybe she wasn't quite furious enough to ignore the cold. But it was pretty close. "It isn't fair," she announced to the wind, which immediately moved off with the sound of her words. Very faintly, a tug of guilt pulled at her heart, but she squashed the feeling quickly. If her family worried because she'd stormed off, well, they only deserved it, after springing the unexpected surprise on her.

She glanced around, finally aware of her surroundings. She'd made it to the beach, a surprising distance from her home. Her eyes landed on the thick packet of ice leading into the dreary horizon, before flitting off to something -

Eh? She blinked. It looks like... a path? Very slowly, the young woman moved forward, squinting. The image didn't fade. The snow-covered ice seemed to lead in a straight line somewhere, though where, she wasn't certain. Curious, she stepped nearer, pausing just out of reach of the waves gently lapping against the shore. Not a good idea to walk in freezing water, even if it's only going to go up to your calves, she thought, looking wistfully at the natural bridge. Her natural sense of adventure urged her to walk on it, see how thick and sturdy it was. And maybe have some fun and see where it led. The only place she could think of was the island -

A plaintive mewing cut her thoughts short. Her eyes widened as she spotted a fluffy ebony dot, far ahead and stranded on the thing that had caught her attention so easily. "Oh, no!"

Without second thought, she was wading through the water, teeth chattering as cold pierced her ankles and lower legs. It was with great relief that she stepped onto the floating bridge and hurried her way to the poor animal. "Hey kitty," she crooned, stepping carefully toward the orphan. The mewing stopped as the cat stared at her with wide eyes, before turning to run in the opposite direction. At least this seems to be pretty thick, Kaoru thought as she quickened her step. She would feel ever so guilty if the poor thing died of starvation and cold.

She clucked gently as the kit finally paused again, looking over her shoulder suspiciously. "Hey there," she cooed sweetly, slowing her steps to a near crawl. The animal tilted its head, staring at her without blinking. She smiled and continued to croon soothingly. Her endeavors were rewarded when the stranded little orphan took a few hesitant steps toward her, not cringing as she held out a hand. A cold, wet nose prodded at her fingers as the cat sniffed curiously.

Finally she managed to take the shivering dear into her arms, holding her securely. "Come on, sweeting, let's get you home, shall we?" Kaoru murmured. She was answered with another mewling cry from her small, new pet. If it was fully grown, it was a small cat, seeming to be more of a kitten than anything else.

She turned, intending to return to shore, but that idea was immediately doused as she saw that the bridge behind her had disappeared.

She blinked a few times and was assured for the second time that day that her eyes were not, in fact, deceiving her. Then she glanced at the ice below her feet, noting that it was cracking slightly.

With a sharp cry of fear, she began to run, hoping desperately that the path would lead her to safety. Oh please, oh please, oh please... she prayed, one hand lifting her skirts to aid her in her flight. The kitten snuggled closer to her, oblivious to the danger as it purred happily against her chest. As her feet contacted the shivering layer keeping her from the ocean, the strength of the bridge weakened.

Please, please, please, she continued to beg as land loomed in her sight, seen through clear patches of fog. Hope beat frantically in her heart as she neared. Just a few more seconds, she thought, just as the entire structure collapsed beneath her.

She gasped in a breath of air before falling under the water.


He was not a man to act on impulse. And so he waited calmly, in the shadows of the trees, watching as a drenched figure made her way to shore. Questions ran through his mind - who would enter the ocean during winter? Who is this? - and he observed in an attempt to find answers. He could only hope that this newcomer would not be in need of assistance.

Idle disappointment swam lazily through his veins as he watched the stranger fall to the ground, cuddled protectively around something. After a quick glance around, assuring him of their isolation, he made his way to the person collapsed on the beach.


She shivered violently, and felt the answering shudders from the kitten, who had somehow managed to crawl into the top of her dress to curl up next to her skin. You need to get up, Kaoru, she snapped at herself viciously. If you don't, you're going to freeze and die. Move!

Unfortunately, her body seemed completely unable to listen to her brain. Her eyes fluttered closed as a shadow was cast over her. Help...


A woman? That was a surprise. He knelt before her, noting how she had gone suddenly slack, as though having lost consciousness. He would have to carry her to shelter. He reached for her, pausing when a small sound caught at his ears. It almost sounded like a cat.

When bright gold eyes peered at him over the top of her bodice, he realized it was a cat. The question was, why were she and the cat in the ocean?

He'd have to wait to get answers. For now, he lifted the sodden woman into his arms and headed toward his cabin, casting a thoughtful glance at the sky. It would storm tonight. Of course it would; the inconvenience of having this stranger with him just wouldn't be enough to ruin his day. Now the Fates had to laugh as well.


*`*`*`*`*`


Her spine stung with cold, the backs of her thighs pricked with several needles. Despite that, her arms were wrapped around something very hot, as was the rest of her. She shivered and snuggled closer to her source of heat, murmuring soft appreciation as something pressed against her back, chasing the chill away. If she didn't know better, it had been a very warm hand, which was now running from neck to the base of her spine in long, soothing motions.

Kaoru's eyes fluttered slowly open to the sight of someone's chest. A very nice one, despite all the jagged scars puckering the skin. Her hands were splayed over broad shoulders, pale against bronzed skin. Her brow furrowed slightly. How odd. I've never had such fantasies before...

Curiously, she ran her index finger gently over the pulsing beat in the side of his throat. She raised her gaze then, wondering who her fantasy man could be.

Definitely a nice face. Narrow and sharp-edged, tanned from the sun. Her father would say it was a strong face. Ebony hair fell over his forehead, grazed his cheekbones. She disentangled an arm to run her fingers gently over his jaw and firm mouth. I've become shameless, she thought with a slight blush, though she didn't stop touching him. Very gently, she rubbed a fingertip over his eyebrows. Faintly, she wondered why his eyes were closed, when it was her dream.

Just as that thought floated through her mind, they opened, revealing dark aquamarine orbs. She stared up at him soberly, feeling an embarrassed blush color her cheeks. Then she snatched her hand sharply away from her face, mortifyingly aware that she'd been touching him as he slept. Even if it was her fantasy, doing such things was...

She shivered.

Subtly, the hand on her back pushed her closer, inviting her to partake of his warmth. She managed a shaky smile, before it stiffened as recent events flashed through her mind. The odd bridge, the cat, the panicked run for land, falling into the water and swimming desperately to shore. She couldn't remember much after that, though it was obvious something happened... because she couldn't be dead if she was dreaming. Assuming this was a dream. And that she wasn't actually naked in the arms of some stranger she'd certainly never met before.

She whispered, "Please tell me I'm dreaming," and flushed again as her voice came out in an embarrassing croak.

No muscle on his face flickered, though he shook his head slightly. She closed her eyes then, deciding that she was going to die, then and there. It was much better than being humiliated for the rest of her life because she'd...

She realized she was trembling, which was probably why his hand was still gently rubbing her back. She pushed away from him abruptly, sitting up and taking the blanket with her, wrapping it around her bare chest. Azure eyes snapped open, and she stared at him.

He continued to look completely unperturbed as he stood. Some of her acute mortification faded when she realized he was still wearing trousers. So he had been trying to keep her warm. Well, that was better than a lot of other scenarios. "I - uh," she stuttered to a stop as her apology faded on her lips. He gazed at her calmly, waiting for her to finish her sentence. Biting her lip, she finally muttered, "Thank you. For, um, helping me."

He nodded slightly, reaching for his tunic, which had been carefully folded on the ground. She took the time to tear her eyes from her silent savior, glancing around the small room. A fire crackled merrily in the hearth, illuminating the very, very bare chamber. The only piece of 'furniture' seemed to be the mat she was resting on, and a small tray to her left. The remnants of a multicolored candle rested there. She sniffed delicately, noting the odd, soothing aroma gently wafting through the room. Scented wax.

She glanced up and realized that he was watching her coolly, seeming so distant in manner. She managed another smile, before blurting out, "Where's my clothes?" Her embarrassment went a long way to being soothed when he seemed unlikely to speak about what had just occurred. Which was probably not an unusual occurrence for him anyway.

He made an odd motion that she interpreted to mean that they were behind her. Turning her head over her shoulder, she finally caught sight of them, carefully laid out over an odd, long object. It reminded her of a coffin in length, though it was obviously some sort of chest, judging from the locks gleaming on it. "Oh," she mumbled, realizing that her trembling had yet to stop. She sneezed.

"You need to rest." His voice startled her; it was deep, clear and even. It suited him.

"Oh," she said again, for lack of anything else. He nodded out the window, which distracted her for a moment. It had been so dark outside that she hadn't noticed it was a window, blending into the shadows as it did.

"Snowstorm. You'll be here for a while." At her sound of dismay, he added, "It should be over in the morning."

Her expression lightened immediately. Mother and Father are going to be so worried. Then she frowned. But how am I going to get home? She would need some sort of transportation. "Do you have a boat?" she asked tentatively. His eyes shuttered immediately, his gaze turning faintly speculative.

"No."

"Oh..." she repeated, shoulders slumping. "I don't know how I'm going to get home, then." She ran her fingers through her hair in agitation. "I live on the mainla - oh, no." Her eyes suddenly widened in horror.

That was right. The only place this could be was the south island. No one ever went there - here, that was - and for good reason. She let out a little groan, closing her eyes tightly, as though by doing so the truth would simply disappear.

Of course she was on a cursed island. After everything she'd gone through, Fate surely wouldn't be so kind as to keep her stranded on a normal island. No, she had to be set on a deserted island that had been cursed for the past fifty years. Not even the most strong-willed of men wanted to come near.

"No one's going to come looking for me here!" The words burst from her without warning, though the man simply stood calmly. If he was startled or otherwise affected by the impassioned statement that followed, he didn't show it. "I'm stuck here! For the rest of my life!"

"I'm certain someone will come around eventually," he pointed out, the epitome of reason. She shook her head violently.

"Don't you know where we are?" That explains the empty room. Perhaps he's some sort of pirate, a lost one who never came around here before. No one would be here because they wanted to be.

"Enlighten me." He spoke so coolly that she flinched. Her limbs began to tremble again, shivering with cold.

"Could you turn around first?" she asked hesitantly.

"Your clothes aren't yet dry."

"I noticed that when I saw the water dripping from them," she snapped, turning bright red. "I want to... move. And you need to turn around so I can stay decent."

He gifted her with another long, steady stare - she was starting to become used to them - before he turned to present her with his back. Breathing a soft sigh of relief, she pushed herself to her feet, wrapping the warm blanket awkwardly around her and leaning down to pull the mat closer to the fire. Why it hadn't been placed there in the first place, she didn't know.

His hand immediately appeared, grasping the pad and pulling it before the hearth, with enough room between it and the flames for safety. She blushed, wondering how he'd known she needed help. "Thank you," she muttered again, sinking to her bed, making certain to keep herself very firmly wrapped in her makeshift clothing. He gave a slight, acknowledging nod before sitting on the floor. She was surprised to note that he sat as though meditating, back straight and hands gently resting on his knees.

"We're on the cursed island," she finally explained nervously, unreasonably intimidated by his cool distance. His eyes flickered slightly. She interpreted it to mean disbelief. "It really is cursed. Fifty years ago..." she fiddled with a corner of the somewhat ratty fabric. Despite being old, it was wonderfully comfortable. She coughed suddenly, and raised a hand to her throat to rub gently. "That is, fifty years ago, people say that there were smugglers here. They, um, were cursed by a witch they stole from, to live on the island for eternity, as spirits. Because they were so angry with her, they killed anyone who stepped foot here..."

She faltered to a stop as he continued to watch her placidly, without the slightest change in expression. That is, without any expression. She flushed a little and reached up to impatiently brush her bangs away from her forehead. "I know it's silly, but any ships that came near were always sunk, and no one ever came back. So no one ever comes here anymore..." she paused. "Except you." Her eyes narrowed slightly then. "Who are you?"

He inclined his head slightly. "As I am your host, and have saved you from certain death on the beach, I believe the question is, who are you?" His tone gently rebuked her for her rudeness. Kaoru bit her lip and turned her gaze to the floor.

"Kamiya Kaoru," she mumbled. He seemed to be waiting for more. She shifted slightly, realizing what he probably really wanted to know. "I ran across the ice bridge. It kind of fell apart when I was a little ways away from shore, and I had to swim the - the kitten!" Her eyes widened as she surged to her feet, looking around frantically. "Where is it?"

He gifted her with an odd look, before nodding his head slightly in the direction of the hearth. She peered around, finally noticing the black fluff curled to the side of it. The only reason she did was because of the wide tawny eyes blinking at her. "Hey, kitty," she called, gingerly curling back up on the mat. It was not a good idea to run around with a blanket that threatened to fall at any moment, though she dearly wanted to run over and check it for injuries.

The little orphan seemed to realize her thoughts, for it stood, stretched, and padded agreeably toward her, pausing twice to sneeze. Finally it curled up in her lap, buzzing happily with bone-shaking purrs. Kaoru gently stroked the silky fear. "Poor dear," she murmured.

"He recovered quickly," her savior commented brusquely. She frowned suddenly, realizing he still hadn't answered her question. Catching the expression flickering across her face, he muttered, "You may call me Shino."

"You may call me", indeed, Kaoru huffed. It sounded so... arrogant. Though he didn't seem to mean it in such a way. After a moment, she nodded. "A pleasure to meet you, Shino-san." She waited, before it dawned on her that he was not going to elaborate further. Prodding gently, she asked, "How did you come to be here?"

"I don't know," he responded curtly, before closing his eyes. She opened her mouth to push further, but suddenly snapped it closed. It wouldn't do to be rude to the person who had, though it sounded rather melodramatic, saved her life. Pouting a little, she turned her attention to the kitten, scratching his ears gently.

"Now, what shall we name you?" she murmured, rubbing the velvet tips. Immediately the purring increased. She grinned. "I think I'll call you Fate. Because she's certainly laughing at me right now, after I put myself into this mess. All because of you, I might add." One golden eye opened to give her an extremely haughty feline look. She made a face. "Don't you try to pin this all on me. You're the one that was crying for help when I just happened to be passing by!"


He tuned out her chatter, clearing his mind of all but the facts. She'd claimed to run over an ice bridge that collapsed beneath her. That couldn't be true, despite the sincerity in her words; there had never been any sort of connection between the island and the mainland. He had to feel a grudging admiration for her tale; it had been a perfect, if odd, reason for her to have been in the ocean. And the lies of the island's curse had come from a very imaginative mind. So what was she really doing here?

If she were truly innocent, she would be in his way, hindering his ability to complete his mission. If she wasn't... then he'd found the link to the pirates. Either way, however, he needed to let her believe that he knew nothing of the island's secret. Faking amnesia was the first idea to come to mind, and he wasn't about to discard it. It would be... useful, to ask questions with seeming innocence. That might be able to gain him some information.

The faster the mission was finished, the earlier he and the other Oniwabanshu could return home.

His thoughts were interrupted by her soft voice calling his name. "Shino-san? Shino-san?"

He turned toward her, subtly changing from his meditative position. At his adopted listening posture, she blushed and looked away, still toying with the cat's ears. The little animal had fallen asleep in her lap. "Ah... I was wondering how you came to find me."

"I was wandering when I saw you stumble onto shore."

"Oh..." There was an inflection in her voice he couldn't decipher. After a moment, she yawned. "I'm sorry," she apologized immediately. "I just seem so tired."

"Rest. Your body has been through much stress." He turned his gaze to the fire, once more relaxing as he calmed his mind. With her having taken the only blanket and his sleeping mat, he was not going to dream well tonight. Instead, he would attempt to solve the mystery of this Kamiya Kaoru.



*`*`*`*`*`

CJ's Blurb: Have fun ^_^; Note: This is not something I'm concentrating fully on, though I am NOT giving up on this -_-


02/13/04: Revised for Format