Chapter Seven: Questions

Kaoru stared with wide eyes full of concern as the young girl lurched out of Aoshi's office. Her cheeks were stained with tears, and her knees were wobbling uncontrollably.

An older woman stood up from her seat and hurried to the girl. She muttered something, catching the teenager's attention.

Kaoru reached for a box of tissues on her desk and approached the mother and daughter.

"Would you like one?" she motioned to the box. The teenager graciously yanked several tissues out of the compartment, but Kaoru didn't mind. It was the least she could do. She hated being useless, especially when there was someone who was in need of comfort.

"T-thank you," the girl stammered, sniffling a bit into one of her tissues.

"Come on, honey," the older woman coaxed. "Let's go home and we can talk over dinner, okay?"

The girl sniffled again and nodded, her mother leading her to the elevator. They boarded it and then they were gone, but Kaoru's sympathy for the teenager didn't fade.

'How many times does he do this?' Kaoru asked angrily to herself. She quickly scanned the now empty waiting room. It was Saturday, and this would be the last day of Kaoru's first completed week of her new job.

Although she was grateful for her new occupation, she was disheartened by how often Aoshi's patients would leave his office in quiet frustration or in tears, or on some occasions, both.

She stood in front of his door, realizing that it was still open. Her blue eyes peeked through the small crack to find Aoshi, head bent over notes as his pen scribbled diligently on the paper. Kaoru took a moment to notice the dark circles under his eyes and the weary look on his stoic face. Even if he was aloof, Aoshi was still a human.

'He looks so exhausted,' she thought. Her considerate nature taking over, Kaoru went back to her desk and rummaged through her purse. She found some spare yen and headed to the elevator.

* * * *


He looked up from his notes and saw his secretary standing at his door.

"Can I come in?"

He nodded, returning to his work. He heard the shuffling of her heels as she came nearer, but he paid no attention.

Suddenly, a green aluminum can materialized before him on his desk. Examining it, he saw that it was product of a brand name tea company. He then looked to his secretary, who had a similar can in her grasp and was already drinking its contents.

Kaoru smiled at him. "I thought that you could use something to drink. You look like you've had a long day."

He took the can into his hands, his skin absorbing the heat that emanated from it. "You can say that."

Aoshi drank, the warm green tea sliding down his throat. He then looked at Kaoru again, and saw that she was staring at him, worry etched on her young face.

"What is it?"

"That girl...the one that just walked out of here..."

"What about her?"

"Is she okay?"

"She will be," Aoshi replied, his tone neutral.

Kaoru bit her lower lip, her concern for the patient still apparent. "She was crying when she left."

"It's best to forget about her," he stated coldly, "and don't bother to pay any mind to the rest of them who walk out of here upset."

Her concern altered to disgust. "How can you say that?"

Aoshi set his drink down, ignoring the heightened pitch of her voice. "Thank you for the tea. If you don't mind, I have work to do."

"How can you say that?" she repeated. "They're your patients, and you don't even care whether or not something's wrong with them?"

Aoshi said nothing, and only the writing of his pen was in the pregnant silence of the office. Perhaps if he just ignored her, she would give up and leave.

Instead, Kaoru walked over to his desk, anger swirling in the depths of her eyes.

"Well?" she asserted. "Don't you have anything to say?"

"And what should I say, Miss Kamiya?" Aoshi snapped, his patience wearing thin. "Better yet, what do you expect me to say? That I'm sorry? That I regret making that girl cry?"

Kaoru glared at him, but failed to say anything.

"What would it matter?" he continued. "Nothing I say afterward can make her or any of my other patients feel any better."

"But you're their psychologist!" she interrupted. "They come to you for help."

"No, they come for reassurance," Aoshi sullenly answered, and he rose from his chair. He walked over to his window, his back turned at her as he regarded the dark night sky hanging above the bright glow of the city lights. "A lot of them come in hopes that I hold all their answers. They anticipate me to tell them that everything will be all right, that the world will accept them despite their differences..."

He watched a plane hovering soundlessly over the metropolis. "They come to me so I can tell them what they WANT to hear."

Gradually, Kaoru's anger began to subside. Without knowing it, she walked over to her boss's side at his window.

"But I tell them what they need to hear," he stated unemotionally, "which isn't necessarily what they want to hear.

"I can't tell them that the world will accept them for who they are. I can't tell them that all of their problems will be solved eventually, or that everything will work out in the end."

Aoshi sighed heavily, feeling his secretary's stare on him. "I can't lie to them. It isn't what I'm paid to do."

Kaoru gave him a sympathetic look, but Aoshi's gaze didn't meet hers. There was something about the way that she looked at him that unnerved him.

" don't believe that their problems will be solved?"

Her soft voice compelled him to answer, but he gave none.

"Do you think that no matter what, your patients will never be able to be happy?"

His indifferent countenance faltered at the question. Propping up his hand onto the cold glass of the window, he leaned forward and bowed his head. The obsidian strands of his hair spilled over his blue-gray eyes as he let out another sigh.

"I don't know," he answered. "And I probably never will."

* * * *

A loud ringing broke the silence of the morning. Kaoru groggily opened her eyes and automatically pressed her hand on the top of her alarm clock. After a few seconds, a second ring sounded.

"Stupid clock," she muttered, pulling herself out of bed. She threw the device a cranky stare, but then she realized that she hadn't even set it the night before.

Today was Sunday, her first day off. Why would she even think to set her clock to wake her up at seven in the morning when she could sleep in instead?

A third ring brought her back to her senses, and Kaoru shifted her attention to the phone on her other side. She hurriedly picked it up and cleared her throat. "Hello?"

"Good morning, Kaoru-san!" an energetic voice of a hyperactive teenager greeted. "Are you awake?"

"I am now," she replied, her exhaustion hiding her grumpy mood. "How are you, Misao?"

"Great!" Kaoru could easily imagine the smile beaming on Misao's face. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go where?"

"Kaoru-san hasn't forgotten that today is Sunday, has she?" the younger girl asked fearfully.

The realization hit her that Kaoru was to accompany Misao to the mall today. Laughing warmly, she said, "No, I remember."

"Good! Well, come on out and we'll go!"

Bewildered by her last sentence, Kaoru was about to speak until her brother's exhausted face popped into her room, his brown hair scattered crazily about his face.

"Jou-chan, since when did we have a limousine?"

* * * *

"Kaoru-san, let's go to this store next!" Misao exclaimed, tugging at Kaoru's arm while her free hand held all of her shopping bags. The older girl had no choice but to follow her enthusiastic friend. She didn't want her right arm yanked from her body.

They entered another clothing store. Pop music played from the speakers while customers, mostly teenage girls, roamed the racks and shelves excitedly.

"This is my favorite store," Misao commented, and she squealed when she spotted a particular outfit. "That's so cute!" She ran over to it before any other girl had spotted it and decided to claim it as her own.

Kaoru ran after her; getting lost in a clothing store full of posh high school girls wasn't her idea of fun.

"You would look good in this!" Misao remarked, holding up a white dress that was supported with two thin straps. A pink rose floral print adorned the silky fabric beautifully. Not being one that was interested in fashion, even Kaoru had to admit that it was pretty.

"Try it on!" Misao cried impatiently, pushing Kaoru into one of the empty dressing rooms. Her eyes twinkled upon seeing a pair of white platform sandals. "Oh, and these would go good with it!"

Misao grabbed the sandals and pushed them into Kaoru's hand. "Come out when you're done!" she chirped, and shut the door to the dressing room.

Blue eyes blinked, but Kaoru decided that it was best to go with it. Even if her companion was hyperactive, Kaoru couldn't deny that she was having a good time. It was like she was back in high school again. Misao was a fun person to be around, and it had been a very long time since Kaoru had socialized with anyone of the same gender. Other than Megumi and Tae, she didn't have any other friends that were women. Perhaps it was the fact that Kaoru was a tomboy that kept her from associating well with other females.

Whatever the case, Kaoru was having fun. Despite her overexcited behavior, she could tell that Misao was a good person who didn't care whether or not she was ladylike.

Slipping out of her flared jeans and sleeveless blue blouse, Kaoru changed into the form-fitting dress. After fastening the sandals on, she studied her reflection in the mirror. The dress had fallen a little above her knees, and slightly hugged her hips. Although she wasn't used to wearing something so feminine, Kaoru thought that she didn't look half-bad in it.

Remembering Misao, she stepped out of the dressing room and into the store. The high school student clapped both sides of her face with her hands and let out another squeal.

"Wow, Kaoru-san!" she cried in astonishment. "You look so pretty!"

Her cheeks pinked, but Kaoru managed to smile. "Thanks." She looked around the store to find the piercing glares of the other female customers waiting outside of the dressing room.

'They certainly don't look happy,' she thought.

"Don't mind them," Misao said, as if she could read her mind. "They're just jealous." She stated loud enough for the rest of the young women to hear, and they promptly stuck up their noses or looked elsewhere.

Kaoru's fingers lifted the price tag, and she nearly gaped at the amount that was printed onto the paper. "That's so expensive!"

Misao caught the troubled look on her idol's face and examined the price tag. She broke into a grin after reading it. "That's it?"

Kaoru stared at her. "Misao, what do you mean? That's pretty pricey for a dress, don't you think?"

"No, that's standard here," the girl explained. "But Kaoru-san, does this mean you're not going to buy it?"

"With the cash that I have, I might be able to buy one of the sandals on my feet," Kaoru joked.

"I'll pay for it."

Kaoru's eyes went wide at the younger girl. "I can't let you do that!" she protested. "It's so expensive—"

"Don't worry about it!" Misao cheerfully replied. "It doesn't cost THAT much."

Kaoru shook her head stubbornly. "Absolutely not. I appreciate you being nice, but—"

"Kaoru-san, please," Misao insisted. "My allowance can cover up for it without a problem."

She was about to protest again, but Misao interjected. "And besides, that dress looks too nice on you to let someone else buy it. I did all the shopping today. It wouldn't be fair if you went back home with nothing!"

Before she could say anything else, Misao shoved the girl into the dressing room. "Now change! There are other people who need this dressing room, y'know?"

Leaning against one of the walls, Kaoru sighed exasperatedly. There just was no getting through to the girl, at least not here. She would simply have to pay her back when Aoshi gave Kaoru her paycheck next week. For now, it was best to just go along with Misao.

When she was changed, she carried the white dress and sandals in her arms. Misao took them from her gently and smiled.

"I'm kind of hungry. Why don't we get a snack at the food court after I pay?"

Seeing how it was a small chance to repay her, Kaoru nodded. "Sure."

After the dress and sandals were purchased and put into a bag, the girls headed towards the food court. Both decided on frozen yogurt cones, which Kaoru was more than happy to pay for. She bought the treats form the vendor and then handed one to Misao.

"Thanks!" she said and happily sat herself on the edge of a bench. Kaoru did the same and began to eat contently. She was joyous that she finally had the chance to sit down and rest her tired feet.

"Kaoru-san, today has been fun, ne?" Misao asked, hoping that her idol would agree.

"Of course!" Kaoru complied reassuringly. "I'm having a great time."

Misao's doubt was washed away and another merry grin tugged at the corner of her mouth. "Good! I'm happy that Kaoru-san is having fun!"

Kaoru smiled, and ate a bit more of her frozen yogurt. She watched as the people passed by her, their arms weighed down by heavy shopping bags. The sound of multiple conversations and laughter filled the lively atmosphere, and sunlight streamed into the area from the huge skylight on the ceiling. It was a beautiful day outside, but Kaoru didn't mind being where she was.


She turned her head to Misao's direction. "Yes?"

"That dress...I would like you to think of it as a gift from Aoshi- sama and me."

Kaoru almost choked on the vanilla flavor of her yogurt. "What?"

"I mean consider it something from him and me. Think of it as our way of saying 'thank you'."

"But for what? I didn't do anything."

Misao giggled, holding her sides with her arms. "Kaoru-san, you're really too modest."

Arching an eyebrow, Kaoru was quiet, silently gesturing the girl to explain herself.

"You've done something," she began. "You might not notice it, but you have."

Kaoru stared at her, ignoring the fact that her yogurt was beginning to melt.

"Grandpa talked to Aoshi-sama last night," Misao said as her feet began to rock back and forth against the bench. "He said that he looked different."


"He said that for once in a very long time, Aoshi-sama looked sad."

Remembering the conversation that transpired between her and her boss, Kaoru's curious mood was overwhelmed with guilt.

"I made him upset?"

Seeing Kaoru's regretful expression, Misao waved her hands frantically. "You didn't do anything wrong! It's just that...well, it's been a while since Aoshi-sama looked concerned. For all the past years that we have known him, he always seemed so indifferent, like he didn't care about anything at all."

The lively shimmer in her eyes softened to a contemplative gaze as Kaoru observed the younger girl. "For a very long time, Aoshi-sama always hid his feelings from us. He would never show us if he was angry, happy, or even if he was sad. Grandpa was so worried that he thought that Aoshi-sama had forgotten how to feel at all. Even I was afraid of that, but now I'm not..."

Misao turned to her idol, a compassionate smile playing on her lips. "You helped him, Kaoru-san."

"What are you talking about? I've only been working for the guy for a week!"

"That doesn't matter. I'm not sure what you two argued about, but it changed him. I think he actually feels sorry."

The high school student looked at her almost pleadingly. "I know he seems mean and uptight at times, but Aoshi-sama is a really good guy. He's just been through a lot."

Her fingers twiddled with the end of her long braid contemplatively. "So if he says something cruel to you, he doesn't mean it. I think out of all the secretaries he has had, he probably likes you the most."

A laugh escaped her lips. "That's good to know. I couldn't tell whether or not he wanted to kick me out of his office by how quiet he is."

Misao giggled. "That's just how he acts. But really Kaoru-san..."

Kaoru listened intently, the frozen yogurt forgotten in her hand.

"...thank you. Thank you for everything."

* * * *

Aoshi pushed aside the finished documents that Kaoru had set out for him earlier and began on a new pile of papers. It was a Monday night, and as usual, he was swamped with his patients' files and appointment schedules. His secretary had said nothing after Saturday night, but he wasn't the least surprised. By now, she probably would never talk to him again until the day she decided to quit. That was what happened with all of his other secretaries, and it wouldn't be different now.

Kaoru probably hated him. She probably thought that he was an inconsiderate and coldhearted bastard who did nothing but listen inattentively to distraught teenagers. He was probably just an indifferent psychologist who cared nothing more about anything else except for the money in his wallet.

She would stick around the office for a few more weeks, and then she would quit. Aoshi knew it, too. Employing new secretaries was an endless cycle for him.

The door opened and he heard a shuffling of heels against his floor. He didn't look up from his papers; Aoshi already knew who it was. He proceeded with his paperwork as she drew nearer, pretending to be absorbed into the fine print on the white papers.

Something was set on his desk, and he looked to see a green plastic can. His eyes lingered on it a bit longer, and then they shifted to his young secretary.

"Thought you were thirsty."

Aoshi did nothing at first, but then took the heated drink into his hands. "Thank you."

There was an uneasy silence in the cool atmosphere of the office as the two sipped their drinks wordlessly. Aoshi caught a glimpse of the girl, who was doing her best to not make eye contact with him. He wasn't surprised at this gesture, however. He knew that it was always uncomfortable for a person to quit their job after working for only a week...

"Why did you become a psychologist?"

The question was simple enough, but unexpected nonetheless. Aoshi gawked at her like she had said something profane.

However, Kaoru didn't take notice. She looked back at him, patiently waiting for an answer.

"Why do you want to know?" he asked skeptically.

She shrugged her shoulders. "I was just curious."

Aoshi's face remained stoic while he leaned his back into his chair. "No special reason. I excelled in human behavioral science classes at my university, and I felt that this would be the best career for me."

"But why?"

Wondering why she was unsatisfied with his answer, Aoshi grew suspicious. "It's simple enough to understand, isn't it?"

"...I guess."

"Then what is this really about, Miss Kamiya?"

"I just wanted to know why you keep doing what you do," she replied truthfully. It's not surprising that you know how to do your job. But why have you put up with it for this long?"

"I don't have a choice," Aoshi answered firmly.

"Yes, you do," Kaoru persisted, "but you choose to stay here anyway."

Not knowing what she meant, the psychologist remained silent.

"You once said to me that you tell your patients what they need to hear. Why, Aoshi?"

She had used his first name. The conversation had taken a turn to something more personal. Instead of a secretary and a psychologist, there were now only an eighteen year-old girl talking to a man of twenty-five years of age.

He rubbed his forehead sorely and sighed. She was different; he had known that since the time that he interviewed her. So the logical thing to do was to answer her truthfully, or else the stubborn girl would stay there until he finally gave her a response.

"Because I was once like them."

Kaoru noticed the depression in his voice, but she was quiet. She figured that after hearing the problems of his countless patients, Aoshi would need someone to listen to him for once.

"I was insecure, hopeless, short, I hated myself. When I was younger, I used to want the same thing they wanted: comfort."

She stared at him attentively, but he couldn't bring himself to look at her. There was something uneasy about the situation. Aoshi was a reserved person who didn't show his emotions, and there she was, watching his confidence slowly slipping away.

But the pain was too much. He couldn't shut it away this time.

"When I was fifteen, I finally realized that there was no such thing. My father was constantly away on business trips, my mother drunk out of her mind...where was I to find comfort anywhere else when I couldn't even find it in my own family? I came to terms with the fact that I could never count on other people for strength or support. In order to continue with my life, I comprehended that I was the only person that I could ever trust.

"So I became a psychologist to make them understand what I had a long time ago. I don't want them to waste their lives depending on people to reassure them of what they fear most. In the end, it all comes down to them to figure out their own problems. They can't leave it to others to do it for them."

Strangely, he felt a heavy weight lift off of his shoulders, but the tension still remained. After hearing what he said, he didn't doubt if Kaoru decided to quit within the next week. Who could really blame her?

"...but they're just teenagers," she said, her voice in the form of a small, but clear, murmur. "They'll be adults soon, but they're still kids, Aoshi."

She walked casually to his desk and unceremoniously dropped her empty can into the wastebasket. Kaoru then settled onto the leather couch that his patients would usually sit in during appointments.

"You're right when you say that it's up to a person to solve their own problems," she started, "but that doesn't mean that they can't get help."

Her fingers unconsciously brushed back a few strands of her from her face, Aoshi watching her as he listened.

"Think about it for a second. It must be really hard to be in high school and have so many troubles in your life. To a degree, wouldn't anyone in your patients' places need to be comforted?"

"...I can't lie to them like that," Aoshi interrupted. "They can't be dependent on other people—"

"But wasn't everyone dependent on someone else at one time?" Kaoru cut him off. "When you were little, didn't you count on an adult to pick you up when you fell, or help you reach places you couldn't reach?"

He was astonished at the slightly heightened level of her voice, and the emotion that seemed to drip from every word was startling. Whereas the secretaries before her wouldn't even give him so much a second glance, Kaoru had given him a drink and an argument to boot.

"I'm not telling you to lie to your patients. But don't stand there and do nothing when they start crying."

The memory of the girl's tear-stained face crossed her mind, and Kaoru's heart stung at the image. " there for them. You don't have to say anything, but the least you can do is cheer them up a little."

She offered him a small smile. "Besides, they're only human. Right?"

Aoshi stared at her in silence, but then his lips curved upwards in a genuine smile. "When you put it that way, I guess so."

Kaoru stood up from the couch and stretched her arms. "Well, I better get home."

She approached the door, but Aoshi stopped her.

"What do you plan to do after college, Miss Kamiya?"

Kaoru turned around to face him. "I don't really know yet. I was kind of thinking about teaching. Why?"

"I was just going to say that you could be a decent psychologist or a counselor."

She laughed. "No, I thought about being a guidance counselor but my brother convinced me that I wasn't cut out for the job."

"I guess he would know," Aoshi said dryly. "Sanosuke did spend a lot of quality time with the guidance counselor at our high school."

Kaoru's eyes widened at the comment. "You were in Sano's high school?!"

Aoshi grimaced. "Unfortunately, I had to spend all three years with him in my classes," he said, taking one last sip of the green tea Kaoru had given him. "He's the reason why our principal was constantly searching for new teachers."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"You never asked."

He was amused by Kaoru's inquisitive nature as she bombarded him with questions about her brother. To tell the truth, Aoshi saw a little of Sano's stubbornness in her, but he didn't mind. At least Kaoru didn't blast deafening rock music or make bets with his patients as her brother did with his classmates in high school.

For some reason that night, Aoshi was relieved that he wouldn't have to hire another secretary for a long while.


Okay, I know that there wasn't much of Enishi in this fact, I don't think I mentioned him. You could hate me if you want, but I promise that the next chapter will practically be devoted to him. I just wanted to show Kaoru's relationships with the other characters, and I felt really bad that I barely wrote about Aoshi. Plus, I liked writing the mall scene. I apologize for any small errors: I was in a rush to post this. I'm sorry if this was boring, but the next update will be better. Really!

And as for those of you who want to know about Kenshin, I don't plan on adding him very soon...but who knows? When I do, things are bound to get really interesting.

Have a good weekend, and thank you so much for the reviews! I'm really happy that you guys are reading this!!!