Title: Addiction Author: Eeevee Beta-reader: Fyyrrose Genre: Romance/Angst (good Lord) Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer: I don't own Misao, Aoshi, Megumi, or anyone else mentioned in this fic. I don't own the Aoiya. Shoot, I don't even own my own patch of opium poppies carefully hidden from the cops among a bunch of harmless plants.

Misao eyed the distant table with misgivings and determination. The dull ache had set in again, this time far more fiercely. She knew if she didn't do something now the pain would build and transform into something far less tame. It would manifest into a burning sensation that tore through her nerve endings and screamed torture in a high wail.

But there was a problem to all of this. Her salvation lay just out of reach, placed there by an over-cautious doctor. He had given her restrictions, a time limit. He didn't understand; no he couldn't. She needed it before the pain became so terrible she couldn't breathe. It hurt too much. The simple intake of air became as arduous as dragging a lit firebrand across the inside of her ribs.

Her eyes unfocused for a moment as she tried to drag back her strength and energy. She knew they were hiding some place. She would find them, grab them, and proceed to beat the tar out of them for deserting her when she needed them most! But who was she kidding, she didn't have that kind of strength. What she really wanted was her little friend.

Smiling painfully at that thought, she considered how much effort it would take to drag her broken body over the medication. Once she got there, she wasn't entertaining any other option, she would have to at least kneel. She wasn't sure her body could do that all things considering. It would have to, she decided. Then she would have to uncap the brown bottle and pour the correct amount. What was it again? Her fuzzy mind couldn't bring up the exact amount and she decided that swigging it couldn't be too bad an option. Then she would have go back to her futon.

A daunting task.

Her inner self advised to wait for Aoshi-sama's return. Oddly enough, despite his withdraw from the rest of the world, he insisted on taking over the majority of her care. It warmed her and gave her false hope, which she hated him for. But there was that hope right? The hope that he wasn't completely lost to her, that like a wayward sheep he would come home to his flock.

Even as he cared for her, he did it the same way he did everything else that involved her recently. Distant and impersonal. Still, it was the best care she could ever receive, minus the caring part. No tender loving care here, just cold efficiency. Bandages changed on time and to perfection, medicine administered the same.

Which is why he wouldn't be there when she wiggled her mangled little body over the smooth, cold floor to her forbidden passion.

Maybe she would look like a lithe, sleek little weasel then, and that jerk Saitoh would be right. She bet if she made advances on him; he wouldn't ignore her. He seemed like a passionate man. what was she thinking? Bad Misao. It was the medication; it was messing with her mind. Which didn't lessen the gnawing hunger that possessed her to simply chug the bottle.

Carefully, she rearranged her limbs to minimize the shocking pain and rolled. Her whole body hitched with pain when it reached the hard floor. She craved it, needed it. The pain would eat her if she didn't have it.

Inching at an agonizing pace she thought about her injuries. Of course, it was stupid. She was so stupid sometimes. It was amazing she was still alive, she growled wryly to herself. I bet that's what Aoshi says too. I bet he gets tired of me, and saving me, and me being stupid and inferior.

As she chanted that in her mind her body was going closer to its goal. Relief, blissful relief. Not only did the magical liquid kill off the pain like a conquering hero, it helped her to sleep. The doctor warned that it might be addictive and to not let her have too much. What did he know? She had wanted Megumi anyway. Himura's lady doctor friend was completely trustworthy and knew her stuff. Not like some jerk doctors who gave the medication, but wouldn't let you use it when you really needed it.

Her fingers curled around the smooth leg of the small table and she allowed a victorious smile. She had won. No stupid doctor could tell her no and Aoshi wouldn't return for another twenty minutes.

If her mind had been in better working condition she might have realized that shaking the table to gain her feet wasn't the greatest of ideas. The brown glass bottle twisted and danced on its foundation before doing an elegant swan dive over the edge to the unchanging sea of wood below.

The resulting crash made Misao flinch and cover her face with her hands. She opened her eyes quickly after though and crawled towards it. No.no! She.that was all of her medicine for the week. The doctor wasn't giving anymore, not after last time. Oh no, not after last time.

Whimpering, her hands brushed futilely against the glass shards, trying to capture the escaping liquid. Despair setting in, she almost ducked her head and licked it up. Except a warm, large hand grabbed her chin and forced her outstretched tongue outward at a horizontal angle.

"Misao." There was a note of long suffering patience in the cool voice. She growled and watched the dark spot fade into the wood from the corner of her eye. Suddenly there was a vertigo feeling that made her want to hurl and burning warmth where skin touched skin. A few weeks ago she would have swooned to be in her beloved Aoshi's strong, buff arms. Now she was contemplation biting him. "Misao, do not bite me again."

He settled her back down and Jiya popped his head in. He looked concerned, but that seemed to be the model expression around her these days. She pouted, not being able to do much more.

"Is everything alright?" He asked nervously. His eyes landed on the shattered glass and widened, "She didn't!"

Hello, the 'she' was still right here!


"I'll send Okon in to clean it up. My poor little Misao, it must be terrible for you, but you shouldn't have done that!" He admonished, shaking his finger. If that were in range she would have bitten it too.

"Don't bother. I will do it after I fix her hands." Aoshi said curtly: dismissively. He was already effectively digging through the first aid kit retrieving bandages, salve, and tweezers. She wrinkled her nose thinking moodily, nice ass.

He returned and took her hand. She swiped it back. She was still mad at him for taking her away and not giving it to her. He gently, but firmly dragged it out not minding the blood or her fingernails piercing his flesh.

"Misao, you need to uncurl your fingers."

She did so, suddenly feeling drained. The dull ache had already claimed her whole body and it was changing. She would feel it warp and mutate within her flesh, ready to hatch a full-blown monster of everlasting pain. And without her medication there were no weapons to fight it with. She sighed hopelessly and watched despondently as Aoshi's long, strong fingers diligently chased down stray slivers. Even this new pain was better than the feelings her insides made without her 'friend' to hold her down. She silently wanted this moment to drag on.

She started to feel warm and woozy again. Almost content. Maybe it was all a bad dream and she had just had the medication, but didn't remember. The pain went back to a dull roar. Maybe she shouldn't have been thinking such mean thoughts. After all, her Aoshi-sama was only doing his best to help her. She should be grateful and stuff. She almost opened her mouth to say so, but her words died halfway out of her throat as the content feeling vanished leaving the predator prowling.

Someone had tricked her. Only made her think that she had her medicine, that the pain was beaten. It had been a cruel, careless thing to do. Who? Who had done such a hideous thing to her? She would kill them! No one should ever do that to her or anyone else.

Her vision was red with murderous, homicidal thoughts while she groped around for her steel weapons. She didn't have her liquid one. The one used to fight the pain and beat it back. But she did have the physical ones still. And she planned to use them on the culprit. She would make him pay, oh yes. Pay and pay dearly for such a devious, vicious trick. They would beg, no scream, for mercy. But she would give none, oh no. None for such mean people. None at all.

Her clouded emerald eyes roved far and wide. Or not so far in fact. Aoshi, that bastard, he did it, he had to have. Look at him! All hunched over and pretending to care about her, while really, secretly plotting with Jiya against her! The two of them had done this. They had set her precious liquid, her irreplaceable painkiller out of reach. On purpose no less! They had made her spill it and for that they should get their just desserts. She would ensure that.

Lunging suddenly in ways her muscles protested to, she grabbed Aoshi by the throat and latched on. She didn't actually have the strength to throttle, so she hung on and went limp. Her dead weight dragged at and constricted his throat. Idly, she wondered if he would actually turn blue.

He stared down at her with the oddest expression. She expected him to acknowledge his wicked ways, to have a look of horror and repentance. Instead, he was looking down with a slightly arched eyebrow and just watched her.

With a few deliberate motions, his hands went up around hers and he disentangled her vice-like grip with his fingers. He set her hands back down at her sides. She was disappointed. Not only did he not atone for his evil doings, but he didn't turn blue either.

"You are done." Damn that man. Always statements, not questions! Did he question anything? "I will clean up the mess and go to the doctor to get more. You need to stay in bed."

Misao grabbed his arm and hugged it for all she was worth. She knew, she had always known, that without a doubt her Aoshi-sama would be there for her. He was loyal and worthy, getting her more of her amber desire.

With weary patience he peeled her off his arm and set her back down. With a stern look he added, "I mean it, and I'm having someone check on you in ten minutes."

She gave a cheery smile and snuggled in to prove that she loved him and would do what he said. The moment he was gone she was plotting. This wouldn't do, not at all. Her body was weak still, even after a month of healing. What was it the doctor said? She was lucky to even be alive, let alone in one piece. Most people who were run over full body by a carriage couldn't tell such tales. But now, he wanted to take her liquid. Figured she didn't need it anymore. She did of course. Any idiot could see that she did and they were just being cruel when they deigned her.

She needed a constant source, but she would have to be patient. Her body trembled at such a horrid thought. Imagine, taking the prescribed doses at the right time, not before or more. That would be sheer hell, but she was tough, she could take it. Meantime her body would strengthen and she could then walk. Then she would get a constant supply, oh yes she would. After the suspicion had died of course. Yes, only after. It wouldn't do to have the traitor Jiya catch her. Maybe Aoshi-sama would help her. He was so nice to her all the time. He was bringing some back right now.

No, she couldn't trust him. Not with something so life-important. She would simply have to do it all herself. And that involved getting better. A shiver ran through her at the daunting process. It soon progressed into the shakes and chills. Her blankets shifted and slid to the side where she couldn't reach them with ease. No matter, they weren't what she wanted anyway. Her body rocked and she stared at the ceiling. The only way to stop this was her painkiller. The bitter liquid would sooth away all the cold feeling and aches, bringing a kind of nirvana. One she wanted right now. Where was that man anyway? It didn't take this long!

She dozed fitfully before she heard voices outside her door. Blinking sleepily and ignoring the mind numbing pain, she tried to concentrate. One was most definitely Aoshi-sama, but the other was puzzlingly familiar. It was female, but she could tell it was not Okon or Omasu. Besides, it was the middle of the day. They wouldn't be here, they'd be working busily.

"She has gotten worse. She attempted to strangle me with her bare hands." Aoshi-same explained. Turncoat! He was telling a stranger about that? When he was the one who was keeping her treasure all to himself?

"You should have brought me here in the first place." The female voice chided, but without conviction. "Any friend of Ken-san's is a friend of mine."

Of course, Aoshi-sama asked Megumi-sensei to come. Probably days ago considering how long it would take her to clear her schedule and then get on a train. He did care. Megumi was a great doctor, she would see right off that Misao needed that liquid, oh yes she did. Very much so.

Aoshi didn't respond, so the woman doctor continued, "What exactly was prescribed to Misao? Can I see it."

There was a slight noise as something changed hands, a gasp, and a shattering sound.

What? Shattering! Misao felt like jumping up, finding her steel, and making a pincushion out of everyone in sight. She actually tried before falling back down with a thump.

"You gave her that? Didn't you learn anything as a bodyguard to Kanyruu?" Megumi-sensei screamed in outrage, "Products made of poppies are extremely addictive! Opium taught me that. Yet you allowed her to take this? No wonder you have a problem. Get rid of it, I don't want to see anymore of that!"

Okay, that merited a sever demotion. No more -sensei for her. In fact, Misao was rather miffed, murderously so. Now she wanted to take away her love? That was blasphemous. Inexcusable, and certainly not forgivable.

"No, no, I don't mean all together." Megumi amended, somewhat calmer, "You'll need it to wean her off or she will go homicidal on you. Lucky, only the neck shattered, most of the liquid is still in there."

There was more noise out in the hall before Megumi swept into the room. Misao, even fuzzed up as she was, couldn't help seeing the dark shadows that lurked in the doctor's eyes. She had a very good idea why Aoshi-sama hadn't called her in the first place. The woman couldn't look at him without thinking about her prior hell, the one Himura liberated her from.

"How are you feeling?" Megumi asked as she knelt down and started to unpack her things. It struck Misao that she was a brave, brave woman. Not only because she could come back and face her past so selflessly, but because she dared to be in the same room alone with Misao after breaking the precious bottle. Or was that stupidity?

Misao nodded, eyeing the insole of her wrist. One quick slash.

"Let me explain this to you, no interruptions all right?" Megumi looked at her seriously and she tore her gaze from the arteries and focused on her face. She gave an earnest nod and looked attentive. "You are addicted to your medication. From what Shinomori-san claims, severely. It is very bad for your body and your mental capacity to be so. You really need to cooperate with Shinomori-san and I for you to recover. It will be a lot easier, I promise, but only if you work with us. Working against us, or even trying to kill us, won't get you anywhere."

Misao considered this suspiciously. The lady doctor sounded sincere and she had always been nothing but professional when Himura had been so seriously injured. But she was talking like Misao had a problem, which she didn't. As long as she had her medication everything would be perfectly fine.

Megumi gave her a hooded look and sighed backing up a few paces, "I can see what I just said hasn't completely gotten through. I'll put this simply then. We want to make it so you have no need for your medicine. At all."

"What!" Misao bolted up, shrieking. She lunged at Megumi, cursing the woman's foresight to say that after moving out of reach. Her nails quested to tear open delicate skin at the wrists. The woman's face was too high up, she'd never reach the eyes.

Then, again, she was hefted midair and deposited back on her futon. Except this time there was far less care involved. Her whole body screamed in pain and fury. Not only was she long over due for her treatment, but she had been manhandled!

"Shinomori-san, she cannot recover if you heft her around like a sack of potatoes. Be more careful." Megumi said while she rubbed the scratched, irritated skin where hard nail had met soft skin. "Misao, I have other painkillers, I am going to give you one now. I can imagine you are in a lot of pain. Don't shake your head and lie, I can see it. Your whole body is flaring with signs."

Misao glared at her back as she pulled out some medication and handed it to Aoshi. He didn't seem to enjoy being an assistant, but he didn't say a word of complaint. Instead he seeped it in the hot water as instructed and carefully measured in a teaspoon of sweet amber honey.

When it was done Megumi took it and asked Aoshi to hold her upright. He moved silently, with the same expression on his face as usual. With efficiency he propped her up against his chest while he kneeled.

This might have been a position she enjoyed except for the fact that Megumi was trying to pour that unwanted drug down her throat and Aoshi was pinning her arms snuggly.

He gently slid her back down, probably keeping Megumi's admonishment in mind. Her body took on a numb cast by the time Megumi returned with a familiar brown bottle. Her hands waved futilely in the air reaching. When a small amount was given she was too happy for the fix to be nitpicking about the amount. She drifted off abruptly with a silly smile plastered on her face.


Megumi watched with satisfaction as the girl drowsed off before gathering her things. She would have to stay here until Misao could safely be pronounced cured. A prospect she didn't exactly enjoy. The hospitality would be flawless she was sure and everyone polite. Even so, her clinic beckoned from far away. It would survive without her, to think that it wouldn't was pure nonsense. Would she do without it?

Captive again, her mind thought and she shuddered reminding herself that she was free to leave whenever she wanted. Her captor wasn't Aoshi this time, but her sense of duty to a patient and friend.

"Will she recover properly?"

Megumi considered the question for a moment with lips pursed. It really depended. Misao had a strong, stubborn personality, which could be an asset. It could also be a serious barrier, depending where the girl placed it. If she sided with the poppy-based drugs this could be a long, bitter struggle.

"She could, if she wants to." The female doctor replied, not looking at him. Even so she could feel the cold disapproval and practically could see the frown on his serious face. "You do need to be more careful."

His brows furrowed as he considered justifying his actions. He changed his mind and nodded in understanding. "I would not want to hurt Misao anymore than I already have."

"She may not want to however. That's what I'm worried about. She seems like the sort of person who might be not only physically addicted to a substance, but mentally as well. She may act cruel, selfish, and I feel it's only fair to warn you. Also," Megumi rubbed her wrists slightly, "Keep sharp objects away from her."

Aoshi put a hand up to his neck where a faint purple had spread and nodded in understanding. He didn't have to ask what she meant. Instead he politely led her to her room.


Misao's conscious tugged at her, saying come back. She let out a muffled moan and tried to flop over. Pain shot through her body, and she felt a yelp tear from her throat. The raw, dry flesh protested vigorously at the abuse making her dry cough, which only hurt all her bruised muscled and knitting flesh.

Cool water was proffered and without opening her eyes she took a sip. The bland liquid slid quiet and soothing down her throat. Her coughing had stopped.

Cracking an eye, she couldn't help but feel so much better. She had the medicine and all was well. It wielded itself perfectly against the enemy, against her pain. If she hadn't coughed she wouldn't have felt anything at all.

"Aoshi-sama." She beamed. He gingerly placed the teacup down as if expecting her to suddenly bounce up like an over-active puppy and start licking him. If she wasn't still riding cloud nine from her fix she would be annoyed.

"Are you feeling better?" He asked cautiously. She propped herself up only slightly wincing. After such a restful slumber she was back to her cheery old self. For the moment anyway. Her mind insisted that she plan while the medicine still had its effect.

She had to go along with it, she didn't see any other way. That meant getting better as soon as possible so that meddling vixen would go away. Once she was gone then Aoshi-sama would go back to his old routine and pay no more attention to her than he did the ants on the walkway.

Part of her hissed that he had been taking excellent care of her, he must at least care for her. If he didn't he could have just as easily left her recovery up to one of the others. And he got Megumi, something he would avoid if he felt it wasn't necessary.

The other part sneered that care and love were two separate issues. You cared for a cute, lost kitten, but you didn't fall in love with it. At least not in the way she was hoping for. She was tired of being looked down on for her youth. She wasn't sure if Aoshi-sama thought her the same child he raised and couldn't see past the fact that she wasn't nine anymore. Or if he couldn't get over the fact that their relationship used to be more father-daughter and doing anything now felt like incest. Possibly he was just a cold-hearted bastard with no interest in her affection. Just an egotistical man who wished to be alone with his thoughts, never mind her or the rest of society.

She slit open an eye when she heard his soft, measured footfalls leaving.

Who was to say her reasons for loving him weren't equally foolhardy? Besides a nice butt and gorgeous eyes he didn't have much else to offer. Did she feel like she needed to take care of him, protect him from himself? To fix him. That if she wasn't around to be perpetually cheerful, happy, and hyper he would implode in a dark vortex of his penned emotions. Did that make her feel needed and powerful? Perhaps it was even more superficial. He was a living link to the best times in her life? Carefree as only a young, well loved child could be surrounded by friends and family. Never in need for affection or a shoulder to cry on when she hurt herself.

She briefly considered the possibility of a childish crush, but dismissed it. If it was a crush, then its lifespan had exceeded all expectations. Infatuation. Now that was a possibility. She could be, she supposed. But that seemed so shallow.

With a silent scream of frustration she grabbed her head and proceeded to tug at her blue-black hair fitfully. Thinking about such things was not only painful, but incredibly boring. Why not just slap on the label 'biological attraction' and leave the stupid thing be. How did Aoshi-sama manage to be with his thoughts for such long periods? It would drive her bonkers!

Not to mention this was so not working, oh no, not at all. Perverted little thoughts intruded, thoughts of the little brown bottle she knew to be hidden in the folds of Aoshi's worn trench coat.

So what else could she think of? That nice kimono she had seen in the market, visiting her friends in Tokyo, eating some of Okon's cooking, plotting a way to get more of her stuff.

Stunned at how that last thought wiggled in she shrugged. If she did that it would keep her mind off the drug at least. She would simply use the exercise to occupy it and the mischief it could cause. After all, it wasn't like she was planning to actually go through with anything. She wanted to get better, right? Better with the bottle.

She smiled and considered how to go about it.


"Thank you so much for coming to help me Megumi." Misao said with what she deemed an appropriate smile and an enthusiastic hug for the lady doctor.

Aoshi-sama was far more reserved, only giving an inclination of his head.

"Now Misao, remember what I said." There was this pause, like she considered adding, or you won't get better. Instead, she gave a hopeful smile and probably what she considered a private look with Aoshi-sama.

Misao had never bothered reading people's faces before. Well, with Aoshi- sama, it hardly seemed to make a difference anyway, since his face rarely changed. When it did, it was so subtle you'd need to have lived around him for years just to even notice it. Which she had. Now, due to the paranoya that was lodged deeply inside of her; she had a very good grasp of what Megumi's silent message was about. 'Watch her'. Maybe with a 'closely' at the end to top it off.

The dark steam from the engine billowed across the platform and with an ear- piercing shriek the dark mechanical beast was chugging off laboriously. With luck Megumi would be home in Aizu before dusk.

Aoshi watched the engine for a moment before turning to head back to the Aoiya. He wasn't wearing his trench coat or western clothing, which Misao thought was too bad. Even his kodachi were stashed safely in his room. Did this mean the man was finally healing enough inside to feel safe to walk the streets without a weapon?

"Aoshi-sama, wait up!" Misao cried, realizing she was still on the platform and he was rapidly being lost by the crowds. Weaving and shoving and practically jogging, she caught up to where he was waiting. Wait a moment here. He was waiting? For her!

For the first time that week all thoughts of her precious medicine flew straight away.

"You waited for me." Misao said somewhat in awe. This was an unprecedented event. He raised an eyebrow silently, but she just gave a flashy smile and bounced her way down the street in front of him.

The rest of the day was innocent enough. She helped around the place and even managed some practice with her kunai.

She scowled at that one last stubborn throwing knife refused to stay in the target before flouncing over and retrieving them. She knew why it wasn't embedding deep enough into the painted wood. Being at the tail end of her throw and launched by rolling off her two smaller fingers it wasn't getting enough power. What she didn't know was how to fix it.

Grunting with effort she let fly again, this time with some anger in the mix. The other knives flew straight and true, but the last one tipped the board before falling down with a clatter to the training floor.

A sharp pain rippled through her side and she clutched at it. Squinting up at the sun, she realized that she still had two or three good hours before Aoshi would even let her touch her medicine. That thought made her annoyed, more so than she was before.

"Stupid weapons," She scowled and added, "Stupid Aoshi."

She retrieved the wayward weapon and its fellows before turning on her heel and slamming straight into someone's strong chest. She had a fairly good idea who it was too.

"Eh- a, good afternoon Aoshi-sama!" She practically yelled while turning red with embarrassment. She knew that he had most likely been standing there for a while and also had heard her comment.

"Good afternoon Misao." He replied levelly, giving no hint to if he had heard or not.

She shoved off his chest slightly shamed to have been thinking such bad thoughts out loud. He caught her wrist gently, stopping her.

She tried to jerk it away, pleading, "Aoshi-sama, I have to train!"

He considered this with the same face he used for everything else. Reluctantly his fingers uncurled and he nodded. Silently he retreated a few paced and settled in to watch.

That just ruined everything. She couldn't concentrate when she was being watched, especially when he was the one with his gorgeous blue eyes latched on her. Besides, no matter how hard she tried, that last missile simply wouldn't do as directed.

She growled to herself and went to gather them. She really had been getting much better, maybe she was just using too many at one time for her level of skill. With a sigh, she considered how much easier it would be if someone would just teach her. No more fumbling in the dark.

"Misao," Before she knew what was happening she was engulfed in a pair of strong arms. Aoshi-sama's torso was pressed firmly against her back and his legs mirrored hers in stance. One hand slipped down to her hip to readjust her stance while the other corrected the angle of her wrist. He stepped back and her body shriveled slightly as the heat went with him, "Try that."

She ripped her mind away from how close he had just been and how soft, gentle his fingers were. With skill that only seemed to grow with a lot of practice she cleared her mind of everything but where she wanted her steel to go. Remembering to keep things aligned the way Aoshi-sama had set up, she let fly.

There was a soft thump as all the knives reached their destination mere seconds from each other. Even that last stubborn one was firmly lodged in the wooden target, not kissing the cold ground.

With glee she performed an energetic victory dance that turned into a dance around the stoic Aoshi-sama. A tiny curve came to his lips as he watched her apparent ecstatic response, pleased.

Abruptly she stopped as her body protested vigorously to the activity. She doubled over, clutching her sides and gritting her teeth. With such great victories, over the throwing knives and her Aoshi-sama, she had almost forgotten not to over do it. How wonderful her body was to remind her.

"Aoshi-sama, I need it." She pleaded, screwing her eyes shut with concentration. A burning pain washed through her body making her sway. He didn't answer and she wondered if he had abandoned her again. It would be in pattern after all.


Misao grabbed the small cup, practically tearing it out of his grasp and threw the contents down her throat. Choking and coughing, she barely managed to live through that surprised. What she had been gulping so desperately was one of Megumi's bitter concoctions.

"I apologize, there was no time to add honey."

Her fingers curled in agitation. That wasn't what she wanted, honey or no. Biting her lip hard enough to draw coppery blood she slowly uncoiled her body. The painkiller was fast acting if nothing else.

"Misao, you're bleeding." Aoshi-sama said hesitantly and she wouldn't meet his eyes. Turning on her heel she snarled over her shoulder, "Leave me alone!"


She crept out of her hiding place feeling bitter and despondent. Aoshi must really hate her. Hate her so much to with hold the medicine from her!

Dusting off her knees and rump she wondered if one of the two older women had thought to leave a bit of supper out for her. It would be cold by now, but since she hadn't eaten in several hours, Misao didn't think her stomach would mind overly much.

Creeping along the dark garden she was careful to skirt the koi pond, not caring for a midnight swim.

Hiding for so long had been murder on her patience and her body would tremble for the substance. She simply couldn't think of a way to get past Aoshi to what she wanted. The man was too good for her. He was far more experienced, stronger, faster, and had the advantage of knowing she would strike. Not when, but that she would. That robbed her of surprise, her greatest weapon.

"I'll just have to get it from the source." She muttered to herself as she let herself into the darkened Aoiya. Sliding the door shut behind her and making sure she wouldn't slam into anything with her shins, she started for the kitchen. It was a boring journey.

Slipping around seeing nothing but black was no problem. She had grown up here after all. Unlike the hall with its flower displays and low tables, nothing in the kitchen moved. Ever. It was unchanging.

Trailing her fingers over the countertops she let her nose lead her to her meal. By the smell it wasn't much, but she hadn't expected much. They probably all thought her a sulky child, none of them understood the desire.

Eating in the dark proved an interesting experience.

Just as she was slipping out she realized someone was in the room with her.

Rather than shriek, she decided that taking the intruder out would be easiest.

Training her ears on the intruder's breathing she executed a flawless kempo kick. Too bad a pair of hands caught her foot and twisted it. Her leg followed the motion and in turn so did her hips then her chest and head.

She knew better than to tense up. Landing wouldn't be a pretty picture anyway but at least rolling with it would leave less bruises.

To her surprise she was not only caught, deposited, and rebalanced, but also shoved in the direction of the doorway.

"Aoshi-sama," She growled, wondering how she had missed his presence before. "Am I not allowed to eat either? Is that bad for me too!" A new thought struck her, "You knew where I was all day, didn't you? And when you saw me come out you followed me here to make sure I wouldn't rifle through your things!"

If she had been thinking while she was talking she would have wanted to slit her own throat. Not only did she berate the man for watching her, something she would normally love but she accused him of suspecting her. With was something he had every right to do, considering she spent an hour trying to deduce a way to get into his room without his consent or knowledge.

He didn't answer her. Like she expected he would? Well, maybe a scolding. Uh-huh, that was something she had experienced a time or two before. Instead his voice sounded from her opposite side.

"Go to bed Misao. You require rest."

How touching, she needed rest. That wasn't what she needed; she needed her medicine. How was she supposed to sleep without it?

"Do you need me to hold your hand." Again with the statements, not the questions!

She flushed an outraged red at his suggestion, but she had obviously snapped the man's legendary patience.

Without a sound he scooped her up. She stiffened with outrage before starting to thrash like a mad woman. She had the presence of mind to not scream. Wouldn't this just make a precious scene? Aoshi carrying her like an errant kitten back to her room while she did her best to tear his eyes out even though she couldn't see a dang thing.

Rather than put her down like her actions demanded he hugged her to his chest. Grunting, she tried to wiggle out. She had two perfectly good legs!

He dropped her gently on her unrolled futon and lit a candle. The yellow flame flickered eerily as he peered at her. She crossed her arms, narrowed her eyes, and glared back.

"You missed your evening dose." He said in a low voice. "It must be clawing at you by now."

"What must be clawing?"

"Your addiction." He said simply, pouring out the amount and handing it to her. She sniffed it suspiciously before sipping.

"What would you know about it?" She growled, wishing he would go away.

His eyes looked haunted for a moment and she resisted the urge to hug him. She was mad at the man. Instead she pushed away the blankets and sat down with her arms wrapped around her knees.

When he didn't answer her question she fumbled around for her hairbrush. Cursing and sputtering while he watched she undid her braid she wanted to strangle him. It was a mess from where she had crawled under the porch and she could feel the dried bits of mud. With swift, cruel strokes she yanked the bristles through the long strands. They gave before her violent assault.

He took the brush from her and she glared. With careful, measured strokes he ran it down her hair after seating himself next to her. She tried to inch away, not sure what game he was playing now.

But Aoshi-sama didn't play games, did he?

When he was finished with his silent ministrations he handed her the brush back. The silence that followed was one of expectance.

Misao's mind was whirling much to fast to even pay heed to that. What did this all mean? Aoshi-sama hardly went out of his way to see her or even talk to her. So why was he now lavishing time and attention? Was it a trick, was he really just using her affections to keep her away from the bottle? It seemed plausible, too plausible.

As if sensing her train of thought, Aoshi spoke up, having made himself comfortable for a long stay.

"You asked what I knew of craving, of desire." He started, gaining her undivided attention. He never divulged things about those years he had disappeared. Whenever they were mentioned he would withdraw with shadowed eyes. She probably wouldn't even have the gist of anything if Himura hadn't told her. "Your desire is materialistic. Mine, it's ideal."

He wasn't making sense here.

He patted the futon next to him in invitation. She was utterly confused. Was he really asking for her to sit next to him? Hesitantly she crawled over and leaned her body against his. He stiffened before relaxing.

"My desire, my craving is intangible. Yes, is. I doubt I will ever be free of my personal demons you must understand this by now. Time only fades, it does not heal."

She listened avidly as he explained all that had transpired. He confided his fears, drives, and goals. There was an outpour of emotion she never even guessed he had in him when he described their friends' brutal deaths. She shivered when he told of his time with Shishio amazed at what drove him, yet getting a glimpse into why he was so scarred. So terribly scarred.

When he was about to finish she interrupted, "Why now? Why tell me this now?"

"You are able to understand now, you were not before."

"So you're just helping me because it makes you feel better?" She prodded.

He smoothed her hair idly. After the initial contact he seemed to relax into her so that their bodies molded together. She had slid her arms around his stomach and rested her cheek against the top of his shoulder in response and was thrilled when he allowed it.

"I am helping you because I can and because I want to."

He abruptly untangled from her arms and sat up. She sighed and retreated. Maybe she had been misreading the signals all along. Perhaps his motives were purely geared towards her recovering so he could again retreat from the world.

"Misao," He started hesitantly before gathering his words carefully and laying them out, "I am not a man who puts much stock in words. I am sure Himura and his friends believe me to be mute. I say what is necessary and I believe this is the case. I love you."

He drew the bottle out setting it before her and she could see that it was still a third full with the bitter liquid she craved. The way he had placed it she had to look at him if she took it. Her fingers trembled and she dug her nails into flesh creating half-crescents of blood.

Uncurling them hesitantly she reached forward dragging the tips across the smooth glass in a caress. By then her whole body was shaking and her mouth was dry with anticipation. This was it. Aoshi-sama had given her victory!

Her large emerald eyes roved over the bottle almost tenderly, but they caught on Aoshi's large, folded hands. A mistake. She had to look up and see the deep disappointment, the hurt. He had trusted her to make the right decision, had given her everything he could. She could almost read his depressed thoughts about how he wasn't good enough and lost her to a drug.

Swallowing hard she forced herself to put the bottle down. This was it. She could follow the poppy-based drug into oblivion and let it rule her. Or she could grow up and take charge of her life. Her was offered a chance she would have pounce on before, yet she had almost scorned it.

She considered the options again and felt anger. With one swift motion she had swept up the bottle and shattered it on the wooden floor.

There were more important things in life.

A/N: And my constant, loyal readers are going WTMFH?!! Eh-heh. This was not originally supposed to be like this. The main character for this story idea was either going to be Sano or Kenshin (but it occurred to me today that Shishio would have been ideal, damn). Fyyrrose suggested Misao and I was like okay, haven't used her as a main character much. Um, I know, I said I would never do an Aoshi/Misao (really, I shocked myself!), but here it is. And it's romantic (sort of) no less! People people it was an honest effort, don't say it sucked. It also wasn't supposed to be 18 pages long -__-' It could have been a ton longer, but I'll just say this: The pair of them will seriously wish she hadn't smashed that bottle later on X_X Even when you get whatever substance out of your system, that doesn't mean the addiction goes away. After breathing in second hand smoke for 12 years, I still will have a serious craving if I catch a whiff of someone smoking, even though I haven't been around a smoker for 7 years.

Aoshi's talking: Yes, the man does talk. Actually, he's quite fluent! He and Saitoh were getting chatty there when Kenshin and Shishio were battling if I recall correctly. He simply strikes me as a man who speaks only when he has something to say and is very plain spoken. Also, I just can't see him as the touchy-feely type. There are five languages of Love: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch (non- sexual). Aoshi hardly strikes me as a man who would use the words 'I Love You' or be touching all the time. There's my logic for the way I wrote this. Hopefully it made some sense!

Beta Reader:

Okay, EEevee, what were you thinking?! First I had to puke my guts out at all the romantic BS you shoved in there in the end. But nice going, I'll be perpetually a shade of yellowish green! Normally most addicted drug abusers would take their substance over their loved ones, but you managed to make a fairy tale end. At first I was thinking that this portrayal of a drug abuser is largely hyped up. Then I look back to, and I realize that yes, all of this is surprisingly accurate. Even the large vocabulary and the philosophical thinking that Misao does. I highly doubt that on a normal given day she would be this profound, but mind altering drugs do funny things. And I don't mean funny as in ha-ha funny, but they give you another perspective to life. She was lucky. I've known many friends that have abused the substance, and I still see them once a year, when I visit their graves.