Title: To Love Again
"You did what?" Sano's outburst caused his brother-in-law to become tense.
"Keep it down," Kenshin hissed. He glanced at the porch to see if his sister had heard the commotion. "It's no big deal," the redhead's expression looked slightly glum as he explained his situation. "This way mom and Meg will leave me alone."
Sano looked a little dissapointed with this declaration, yet he remained silent.
"She'll probably just say no anyway," Kenshin reasoned. He moved to sit in front of the jets that heated the water. This was always his favorite spot in the pool. The young man enjoyed the feeling of bubbles rushing over his skin until the area turned numb. Funny, that he didn't enjoy the feeling when it came from the inside.
Tomorrow was Monday, and Kaoru should be back with her answer. Naturally, he had mixed emotions about what he wanted the answer to be. If she said no, things would be less complicated. He would honestly be able to tell his mother he had tried to bring a friend and it didn't work.
Besides, no one said he couldn't go alone if he wanted to, which he didn't. And if Kaoru said no that blurring line between friend and professional might begin to sharpen a little. That was something his sanity desperately needed.
Yet, he had to admit, even the possibility that she would say no stung him. He wasn't used to people saying no to him, and such a response was sure to be a blow to his ego. Even if he was prepared for it.
No, he had to admit the reason went deeper than that. If she declined the invitation, it would feel as if she was rejecting him and his friendship. And if he wanted to be completely honest with himself - something Kenshin wasn't wholly sure about - he hoped for even more than friendship. But the young man had to consider how dangerous a step that would be when he was so confused about his feelings for Kaoru. He still felt as if entering into a new relationship would be a betrayal to Tomoe. It wouldn't be fair to ask Kaoru to devote even more time and energy to his little family when he couldn't commit to her.
There was also Kenji to consider. Kenshin's son was accustomed to having his father's sole attention. Would the boy be able to adjust if his time was divided with another person? The latest object of the young man's thoughts entered his reality with a splash.
"Look at me dady!" The young boy demanded. "I'm a whale!" To demonstrate his new identity, Kenji proceeded to gulp a mouthful of water and spray it all over his father.
"Hey, that's pretty good," Kenshin laughed, grateful for the distraction. "But I can show you how to do that with your hands."
"Really?" Misao squeeled and locked her friend's body into a death grip. "That's so awesome!"
"Misao-chan, no one says 'awesome' anymore," Kaoru chided as she attempted to wriggle out of her friend's grasp. "And before you get too excited, I'm not even sure if it would be a good idea to accept his offer."
Misao contorted her face into a scowl. "Figures you'd say that," she mumbled. "Can you give me one good reason why you shouldn't accept your very cute boss' generous offer?"
"Exactly for that reason. I'll admit that I have a crush on him," Kaoru browsed through a rack full of shirts, attempting to remain non-chalant despite her flushed face. "Accepting Kenshin-san's offer would only complicate our relationship, at least in my mind. Besides, can you imagine the innuendos people would make when they found out I work for him?" The young woman asked with a grimace.
"Well, I suppose those are good reasons," Misao agreed reluctantly. "But he wouldn't have asked if he didn't want you to go with him. I'm sure nobody will say anything to your face." She flashed Kaoru a grin that was intended to be supportive, yet turned out looking cheesy.
"Misao-chan, you're missing the point!" Kaoru threw her hands up in exasperation. "I like my life the way it is now. It's simple and secure. I have good friends. Why should I jepordize all of those things for one little party?"
Misao fiddled with her purse straps as she contemplated what she wanted to say next. "Do you know what I think Kaoru-chan? I think your life with Soujiro-san has made you too timid. You used to be so assertive and self-confident. Now you seem to be content with the scraps life gives you."
"Well I'm sorry I strike you as such a pathetic creature," Kaoru snapped bitterly.
"Wait!" The petite girl grabbed her friend's sleeve before she could storm away. "You're putting words in my mouth and you know it."
"What give you the right to jdge me anyway?" Kaoru suddenly exploded. "Not to even mention the life I endured with Soujiro-san, I've been forced to live in a country that expects me to adopt customs I don't understand. I've had unstable sources of income until recently and even that job isn't guaranteed to last. I have to live in housing standards below that which I used to have. I'm sure that sounds petty, but I assure you it is a stress. All of that I have had to endure without the support of my family.
"You may see a pale shadow of I once was, but I have freedom now, and self-respect, and even dignity. As a friend I ask you not to disrespect my achievements so lightly." By now Kaoru's hands had begun to shake and her anger caused her to become naseaus.
A gulit-racked Misao stretched her hand out to stop her friend's departure.
"Apologies would feel forced right now," Kaoru warned off the petite woman. "I'll call you later," she promised. Kaoru wandered toward the exit, gulit and anger waging a fierce war inside of her. Misao had meant well, she always did. Kaoru knew this, yet she wanted her friend to understand her situation.
Really, she had no reason to feel guilty. Perhaps her tone had bordered on hostile, yet Kaoru felt she had remained reasonably civil. The young woman sighed. Maybe it wasn't right to talk herself out of feeling guilty? Perhaps she should tackle this business of apologizing now so she could set about the task of pretending to forget about this incident while secretly obsessing over it?
As Kaoru's emotional turmoil increased to the point where she wanted either to cry or throw something, an oblivious Sara greeted her, causing the young woman to jump in surprise.
"I didn't mean to scare you," the older woman apologized. "Are you alright?" she peered at Kaoru. "You look tense."
"It's nothing," Kaoru denied a little tersly. "Thank you."
"Oh... well I'm glad I ran into you. I would like to ask you over for supper tonight."
"I don't think I would be very good company," Kaoru attempted to excuse herself from the invitation.
"I'm returning home tomorrow. I'd like a chance to spend more time with you before I leave," Sara attempted to persuade her.
Kaoru couldn't imagine why the other woman felt that way, but she did enjoy spending time with her. So she accepted, and left Misao behind.
"Is that you, mom?" Kenshin asked from the kitchen when he thought he heard a noise. He hoped it was only his mom, otherwise it meant there was an intruder in his house.
"Yes, and I brought a friend," Sara answered as she and Kaoru entered the room.
"Anyone I --" Kenshin's voice faltered as he saw the answer to his question. "Kaoru, I wasn't expecting to see you so soon." A cold knot of anxiety formed in his stomach and rapidly spread throughout the rest of his body. Now, all he could think about was that silly question he had so impetuously asked.
Kaoru, her mind still concerned over her argument with Misao, could not understand his seeming animosity. "Neither was I," she replied, upset that he made her feel unwelcome. "Your mother invited me."
Kaoru's cool voice tightened the knot in his stomach. "Yes, well ... supper's ready. If you'll have a seat, I'll call the others." Kenshin walked with slow, distracted steps as he returned from gathering the rest of his family. He could only guess Kaoru's unusually cold attitude meant her answer was no. He had thought his earlier contemplation of the subject had prepared him for this moment. Apparently he had thought wrong. Already he could feel a depressing gloom wrapping around him.
Kenji squealed when he saw his nanny sitting at the table. "I swam today and scraped my feet on the bottom of the pool." He hopped up in the seat next to Kaoru and showed her his bright red feet. "They feel funny now," he added.
The only real conversation that night existed in the easy chatter between the two boys. Sara talked with her daughter after failed attempts to communicat with her son and guest. Kaoru gave polite replies to the older woman's conversation when necessary but never expanded on anything. Kenshin merely grunted or nodded - and then only when he even bothered to appear as if he was still listening. Most of his supper was spent staring at his plate.
"I'm afraid I wasn't very good company tonight," Kaoru apologized as she prepared to leave.
"Perhaps we can try another time," Sara suggested.
Kaoru stood silently for a few seconds, neither accepting nor denying the invitation. Instead she continued weighing the pros and cons of accepting Kenshin's earlier invitation. She had meant what she said to Misao. She was desperately afraid of losing everything she had worked so hard to attain. She was very attached to all of her new friends, especially Kenji. If she forgot her place as subordinate to his father, she could risk never seeing them again.
Yet a part of her wanted to accept his invitation. It would be a chance to wear something pretty and have fun with people she liked. Kaoru couldn't remember the last time she had done that. And surely - as Misao had said - Kenshin wouldn't have invited her if he didn't truly want her to go with him.
"Kaoru?" Sara touched the young woman's shoulder in concern. "You've been so quiet tonight. Are you feeling sick?"
"No," Kaoru assured her. "I was just thinking I would like to accept that invitation." She broke out in a cold sweat and her heart sped up as she struggled to utter the next words. "Maybe ... maybe we could meet again this summer. At the Benefit for the Hospital?"
There was a crash as the plate Kenshin was rinsing fell from his fingers. The two stared at each other in surprise before Kenshin turned his attention back to the dish. "These things are too slippery when they're wet," he grumbled. Yet Kaoru could noticed the corners of his lips had curled into a more amiable expression than he had worn throughout dinner.
She smiled in return, already more confident with her decision.
Not at all the way I meant to end it. -.- I was also hoping since I spent a longer time writing this, the chapter would be longer. It looked so much longer on paper! ):
I'd like to say I'll be faster with the next update, but, sadly, I'll doubt that will be the truth.
Recommended Fanfic: Caught in His Web by Via x Infinito
It's been quite some time since I've read this story, but I remember it was very dark (for those of you who like that). It also had a lot of high intensity emotions. Yet, there was something rather touching about it. I enjoyed it, except for all the swearing. -.-
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