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): [Kaoru x Aoshi]


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Anything For You - Part III

Cooking, Cleaning, and Dreaming


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It wasn't long before they fell into a sort of routine. Three days, and they were settled in and comfortable with each other. At least, Kaoru was comfortable. Shino seemed to have a lot on his mind, which she could very well understand. He'd told her of his loss of memory after waking up alone on the island, with no idea how he had arrived in the first place. It must be very hard for him to deal with life when his mind was so empty of his own. So, she tried her hardest to help him out. She'd even managed to cook something edible the first night. And the second. At least, he hadn't made any comments about it, and even she'd enjoyed her fried fish. Of course, he'd helped her, by putting it into terms she could understand.

...

"Think of it as a dance with swords," he'd explained, handing her the poached fish. "You only need to exert so much force and pressure in a fight, correct? Well here, think of the force and pressure as the height and length of time placed in the fire. You should be fine then. The same with spices, as well - the force is anything that's put into the soup, or rice, or anything else you make. The pressure is how long and how well it cooks."

...

Once he'd said that, it hadn't been too hard for her to get into the habit of cooking. She still insisted he watch over her just in case, though, and he did. Really, it wasn't nearly as hard as it had been at home. Then there were the other things - she kept the fire going, and brought the wood in from outside, after he'd cut it. He'd never thanked her even once, but she knew the help was appreciated. And he did so much... going hunting and fishing. The job of finding vegetables and fruits to eat was hers, one she greatly enjoyed. There wasn't much - after all, it was winter - but she'd found a mild sort of root after digging around, and it went well with the fish. He'd arched his brows at her find, but hadn't said anything. Though she'd noticed that he'd eaten the majority of them last night.

He would go fishing in the afternoon, when she would begin to clean their little one-room home. It wasn't much, and it didn't get very dirty, but it kept her occupied. Then she would hunt down roots and - of course - practice her swings with a large staff-shaped branch she'd found the first day she'd hunted down edibles. Her father had taught her the way of the sword since she was a child, and it made her feel a little closer to home to practice the downward swings that always helped ease her tension. It was the only time she allowed her mind to dwell on the fact that she was far away from home, far from her family. She hated being melancholy, and knew that it wouldn't help Shino at all to be that way, so she kept all such thoughts firmly in the back of her mind. Instead, she let her thoughts dwell on him (which was probably why she liked him so much).

Kaoru smiled at the laundry in her hands, in a wonderful mood, despite the chill of the water and the fact that the soap would so constantly slip from her grasp. She hummed happily, once again scrubbing at the stubborn stain on her skirt, completely uncaring that it was far too cold to be outside. Especially when she was clad only in Shino's meditation robes, which were... well, they were quite comfortable, but they were also skimpy and too thin for the winter weather. Not that it mattered to her. For one, they were his, and for two, she was... too happy to consider such mundane things.

And why was she in such a good mood? Well, who wouldn't after waking up in the warm embrace of possibly the most beautiful man she'd ever seen? Kaoru sighed dreamily, knowing that she was somewhat enamored of Shino. Which was natural, being so close to him day after day, and being the only two humans on the island. Of course, he didn't seem to reciprocate her feelings at all (though every morning she woke in his arms), but that was fine. It was good that way - less complicated. And she could stare dreamily at nothing, thinking of him, with no fears of having to confront him with her burgeoning feelings.

Of course, that wasn't getting the laundry done...

Kaoru shook her head and laughed quietly at herself as she dunked her skirt once more into the large bucket. It hadn't been there the first day she'd awoken from her fever, and she hadn't asked where he'd gotten it. It had probably been outside. After making sure the suds were thoroughly rinsed from the coarse fabric, she snapped it, smiling as water droplets flew everywhere, including on her. Her humming rose a notch in cheer as she re-entered her new home, carefully setting the last of the laundry on the long chest for it to dry. "There we go!"

She laughed as her voice echoed in the room, before skipping out to dump the water and place the bucket to the side of the door inside the house. A glance at the sky told her that Shino wouldn't be home for a while yet; he was probably still fishing. "Well, I already got the roots earlier," she told the air, "so I suppose I have nothing else to do." She'd cleaned the house that morning while he slept. Indeed, it was odd that they simply sat in the mornings, saying nothing and sharing the task of making breakfast, which was normally nothing more than some odd, dried fruit-like... thing that he'd had in his chest. It wasn't bad, though it was rather sweet for her tastes. This morning, he'd slept a little later than normal (and she'd savored those moments in his arms), and she'd swept the floors as he did so. He'd woken just before she left to hunt down dinner essentials, and went fishing without a word, not even an explanation for his overlong rest.

"He was probably tired," she decided, leaning against the door, still smiling that silly smile that never left her face these days. "He works hard out there, after all." Her eyes widened. "Oh! Of course! I could bring him some lunch." She twirled and ran to the chest, fumbling with it awkwardly. She'd watched him open it before, but never realized how heavy it was, even simply to open. "Ah-hah! I knew I could do it," she murmured as it finally snapped, allowing her to hunt through the contents. "Where is it, where is it, where is it..."

She was completely unaware of the new presence in the doorway, still and stiff as he watched her. Shino's eyes narrowed slightly. So she is one of them, he thought grimly. A vague, faint feeling of disappointment coursed through him. Over the course of the past few days, he'd hoped he'd been wrong... she'd been so warm and open toward him, working hard to help him in anything he did. And the look on her face when she'd made dinner had been priceless. A combination of awe and delight that had made him want to hug her. And he never hugged people. Then there was the way she snuggled up to him in her sleep, making those soft, comfortable noises that had him scrabbling for control. That couldn't be feigned, all her innocence. But it must be...

"What on...?" He stiffened as she raised one of his kodachi for inspection. "I didn't know he had these. I wonder why he doesn't take them to hunt..." she placed it carefully back in the chest. "I know they're in here somewhere! He gets them every morning! He must be hungry, since he didn't have breakfast today..." her words became muffled as she poked her head into the depths of the chest, still muttering to himself.

Breakfast? What is she talking about?

"Ah-hah! Found you!" She held up the small bag triumphantly, opening it to pull out two of the dried fruit-meat. His eyebrow twitched slightly as relief touched him. She wanted to get me food? he thought in disbelief. He'd known that she put him before her as much as she was able, but this... it was... sweet. And kind. Things that he could barely remember anymore.

She closed the lid happily and turned, only to let out a startled shriek upon seeing him there. "Sh-Shino-san!" Kaoru placed a hand to her chest, feeling her heart thud rapidly against her ribs. "When did you get back?"

"Just a moment ago," he lied, stepping into the room and closing the door. His disapproving eyes swept over her legs; they were a telling red from the cold. "Were you doing laundry outside again in just that?" he asked reprovingly.

She gave a slight shrug. "It wasn't so cold when I was out there," she protested, moving forward to place the food into his hand. "Here. Eat. You didn't eat a bite this morning before you went off to catch dinner." Speaking of which... her eyes flickered over him. He didn't have any fish, and his pole was leaning against the wall. "No luck today?"

"I have a rabbit outside," he explained, absently pocketing the dried fruit.

She stepped away from him with a stern look. "You caught it, you skin it."

About to protest, he thought better of it when she crossed her arms. "Exactly what I was thinking," he said smoothly, noticing the now-familiar glint in her eyes. Her 'Don't-Even-Think-About-Crossing-Me' look. It was oddly endearing. "I'll just go do that now."


"Shino-san?"

He twitched slightly, tearing his gaze from her fingers. Watching women eat wasn't normally his favorite pastime, but he was always watching her tear little bits of food from her fish, or in this case, the rabbit. And licking her fingers. She was prone to doing that, which made him only want to meditate more. He hadn't done so since she appeared.

"Yes?" At least his voice was normal; completely calm and cool, devoid of any inflection.

"Have you..." she shifted uncomfortably, frowning down at her share of dinner. "Well... remembered...?"

Remembered what? Oh. Right. She thinks I have amnesia. "Nothing I haven't already," he said truthfully, noting the blank confusion in her eyes. After a moment, she shrugged it off.

"Oh. Okay." She looked disappointed for him, and tried to hide it by chewing on another piece of succulent meat. She hadn't done bad at all roasting it, though he'd been behind her the entire time. She sighed a little and sucked the juices from her thumb in an absent manner. He shifted slightly.

"Shino-san..."

He arched a brow, inviting her to continue her thought. Kaoru blushed.

"I was... I was wondering if you've seen any ships lately? Perhaps..." The longing in her voice tugged at his heart. She missed her home. She can't be one of the smugglers. Not with how open and honest she is. Kamiya Kaoru is too... innocent.

"No," he replied with genuine regret. "None."

"Oh..." She fiddled with her dinner, looking so suddenly downcast and saddened. Then she forced a bright smile to her face. "Well, I suppose that means we'll just be here for a while longer!"

"Not many like to sail in the winter," he soothed. "More will probably come with the spring thaw." Though the smugglers should be here. I have yet to find any sign of them, and the others are growing more anxious by day. They have to be certain to keep from her sight.

"Have you seen the ice bridge at all?" she asked anxiously. He blinked. Ah, yes, the infamous bridge. She seemed to believe in it wholeheartedly, but he knew such a thing was impossible. Which meant that she had to have some sort of guilt in her, though he wasn't sure exactly how she had anything to do with the smugglers. And something inside him was screaming that she was completely innocent, but...

"No." It just made no sense.

Shino frowned as his companion began to look around the room, a faint look of worry crossing her face. "Uh... Shino-san?"

"Yes?" His response was downright surly this time. He was getting annoyed with her terribly polite 'Shino-san's.

"...Where's Fate?"

He glanced around. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen the little furball since he'd woken up that morning and the kitten had wrapped himself around his ankle. "Wasn't he with you?"

"No..." she frowned. Well, that wasn't quite true. "He disappeared a little bit before I did the laundry. Where is he?"

Kaoru pushed to her feet and darted out the door, glancing around quickly. Her heart drooped when the familiar little kitten didn't magically appear. "He might have gone out wandering and got lost," Shino voiced dubiously, casting a thoughtful glance at the horizon. It was getting dark. "Either way, you shouldn't go look for him right now. We'll take a look tomorrow morning."

She bit her lip. "But he might be scared..."

"Get back inside, Kaoru. We'll start looking for him when it's light again. He has a better chance of coming home than we do of finding him."

Her shoulders slumped. "But..."

"Inside, Kaoru."

She glanced outside longingly once again, but obediently re-entered the house. "Promise we'll look for him as soon as we can, Shino-san..."

"He'll be fine." A glance at her strained face, and he added softly, "As soon as it's light."



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CJ's Blurb: Short, I know, I'm sorry ;_; But I thought it was cute. Anyway, sorry for the long wait for this chapter, and I'm sorry to say there'll probably be another few days before 4 is out. Grr, I can't seem to write long ones for this story; I'm trying, but it's not working so well. I think it's my muse. Well, at least it's better than writing nothing at all - I'm slowly getting over my minor writer's block! ^_^


02/13/04: Revised for formatting