My mind forced me to. . .  so you get this one shot.  Bah.  Like anyone reads one shots.  Especially mine which get so sickeningly long.  Someone told me once a short story should be like a thousand words, and mine end up about ten times that long.  I have brevity problems now to add to my editing troubles and my lack of giving things good intros. . . heh. . . a triple threat.

This ended up a lot, well, tamer than I thought it would.  Bah to PG-13.  And longer.  Guh!  This is what happens when you write too many lemons.  I guess I burnt out on them for a while.  Ok, next time I write an E/K I'll be sure to make it R-ish.  There.  I made a promise to myself.

Oh, and this world actually ended up being quite detailed and rich.  I didn't go into people's backstories for reasons of this being a freaking long one shot as it was, so if you really feel like this needs more explanation or a sequel then I'll give it consideration.  Honestly, this was just a distraction from the Harry Potter fic and Gundam Wing fic that both need finishing. 

Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin!  I don't even pretend to!



Enishi's hands clenched and released the handle of the coffee mug as if it were one of those resistant stress release balls popular with those who were in stress therapy.  However, it was important and to be noted that Enishi was neither in therapy nor was he ever in possession of one of those balls.  Random inanimate objects would have to do for his aggressive impulses.  It seemed like a good idea at the time to go out and get coffee at the random corporate shop that was going through a promotion highlighting their new late hours.  A snatch of flyer had stuck in his brain and his subconscious had popped it out while he had been lying in bed, restless, and wondering if maybe he'd ever get a good night's sleep again in his life.

There was no real reason that he should feel upset.  Or so he told himself.  Nevertheless, his dreams disturbed him and life itself took on the quality of one long dastardly dull nightmare of paperwork and conferences.  There was no escape.  And he had tried everything, just about, short of psychotropic drugs and a few of the more exotic antidepressants.  There was the vacation he had taken, when he realized that the days would expire if he didn't use them, (pointed out by his doctor who very forcefully recommended he take them rather then yet another sleeping medication) and he had only just returned from a week in some quaint little nowhere looking at stupid souvenirs and wondering if everyone at work was doing ok without his guiding hand.  He had cut the vacation short when he realized he had just about as much interest in his choice of vacation spot as he did in just about anywhere so he decided to go home.  It wasn't as if the dreams had stopped.

Now all he had to look forward to was two more weeks of television, an email inbox filled with spam, and, apparently, late nights at a chain coffee shop watching college students frantically type papers and chronic night people make their ghostly appearance.

If only Tomoe. . .

He clenched a little too hard on the delicate stem of the mug and it snapped off with a muted crack and his own small intake of breath as he felt it slice his skin.  This just completed the night for him.  Really it did.  How could life possibly get any better?  There was a brief moment when his anger flared and he considered hurling the fractured mug at the window in hopes of causing as much damage and chaos as possible.

The tap at his shoulder startled him out of his contemplated vengeful action against the wounded mug, but actually more at the world in general, and he turned around to focus in on a smiling face.

"What?"  He was not prepared for his self pity to be interrupted, and he almost bit the girl's head off.

"I couldn't help but notice. . ."  She nodded at the mug.  "I have some glue in my bag.  I mean, otherwise they'll just make you pay for it, so you might as well save yourself some money.  No one will know."

Enishi didn't assent to her suggestion but she took his stoic silence for approval and gently forced his fingers to open with her own as she drew out the handle and shuffled around in her purse presumably to find the glue.  The small exclamation in the back of her throat announced her success and she applied the glue carefully, holding the handle close to her face with a serious expression.  When the handle was pressed back into place and the girl seemed satisfied with her work, she regarded Enishi once again with that kind look in her eyes.

"It will only take a few minutes to dry."  Her smile made her face light up and her eyes squint a little.  "You're bleeding you know.  I have a bandage too, if you like.  But they are rather. . . girly."

"Listen, its fine.  I'll just take care of it later." 

"You're sure?"

Enishi waved dismissively.  This was just getting distracting all around.  What did she care?  He would rather be alone.  The sour expression he wore was usually enough to warn off even brave individuals.

"You know, if you drink coffee this late, you'll never get to sleep.  Next time try some warm milk."  She began to turn away, but Enishi's natural paranoia forced him to respond.

"How did you know I was having trouble sleeping?"

The girl gave a smirk, not as illuminating as her smile, but still lovely.  "You haven't looked in a mirror recently, have you?"  Enishi felt somewhat affronted by this comment.  He knew he was an attractive man, and the idea that this girl didn't agree made his vanity prickle defensively.  She just laughed as his face puckered and his eyes narrowed.  "I didn't mean anything by it, but you did ask.  The dark circles are very obvious though.  I know. . ."  She leaned forward and pointed at her own eyes, and sure enough he noted the bruised looking color of her skin beneath.

After the wash of camaraderie Enishi settled back down into his embittered state.  "That's a shame.  I'll think about the milk next time."  He tried to put a sense of finality into the sentence, as if the granted audience with him had been subtly ended.  The girl either didn't care or had something more in mind, because she only scooted closer and stuffed the book that had been on her table into that bag of hers.

"Actually, I rather wanted to talk to you.  The mug just provided me with a convenient excuse.  Do you think that's odd?"  Enishi nodded.  "At least you're honest.  I promise you, I'm not trying to pick you up, if that makes you feel any better.  I just want to talk."

"About what?"  Clipped words.  He didn't want to speak to anyone, and this girl was becoming more alarmingly presumptuous.

The girl moved the tea cup over from her table now and took a seat across from Enishi.  "You looked sad.  Sometimes it helps to talk.  I'm just a random stranger, guaranteed not to know you or probably anyone who knows who, and you most likely won't see me again.  I like listening to others, I really think you should give it a try."

She had to be some kind of escaped mental patient.

"Look, miss, I'm sure you mean well, but you can't expect me to share something personal with a total stranger."

"What if I start?"

"Absolutely not.  This is ridiculous."


Enishi thought a moment.  "If I really wanted help from a stranger, I would go to a professional and at least have a confidentiality agreement."

"But talking to me is free.  And I promise not to tell anyone else."

He sighed.  She was a tenacious one.  "I don't even know you, why would I trust your promise?"

The girl held out a hand.  "Kaoru Kamiya.  If you don't trust me still, I can show you my driver's license.  Though I know all the information by heart.  I'm not a minor, I don't need glasses to drive, and my eyes are blue.  Need any more?"  Enishi shook his head.  Wasn't the glue dry yet?  "Look, I know you must think I'm a crackpot, and I understand why, but honestly I think you'd feel better if you talked to me and you'll never know unless you try."

He must be crazy too, he thought, for even considering her suggestion.  Then again, maybe if he told her something, anything, then she would go away and he could have his precious peace back.  "I'm just having a dull week because I'm on vacation and there is nothing to do in this town.  Every place is basically the same.  I might as well just have ignored the days off and stayed at work.  Is that enough for you?"

"I think you'd be the judge of that.  Is that why you were crushing your mug?  I've never been so bored I needed to destroy coffee cups."

"Then you're lucky.  Look, Miss Kamiya. . ."


He pushed at his glasses, sliding them further up the bridge of his nose.  "Kaoru.  You need to stop going up to random strangers and just opening yourself up to any old creep.  I am not a danger to you, but how did you know I wouldn't be?  Maybe I was mad because my drug deal hadn't gone down, or I had just killed someone?  You are far too trusting in a world that will chew you up and spit you out given half the chance."

Kaoru gave a little delighted clap.  "That's much better!  I told you it was easy to talk to strangers."  She scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to him.  "Here's my number.  If you change your mind about talking to me, then call me.  I'll even provide character witnesses so that you know you can trust me, if that makes you feel better.  I'm usually awake most nights, so call whenever you feel like it."

She picked up her empty cup and her bag.

"What's your name, if I may ask?"

"You weren't this bashful about asking anything else."  His acidic remark simply rolled off of her.  Enishi rolled his eyes.  "Enishi Yukishiro."

Kaoru tossed her bag onto her shoulder with a flick of her arm and waved as she walked towards the exit.  "I hope to hear from you sometime Enishi."

Before he knew it, he was waving back, and then guiltily dropped his arm onto the table.  Clearly he should throw away the piece of paper.  A blood stain blotted the edge from his wound that still oozed.  Yes, he definitely needed to throw it away.

But then again, this was the first thing that had actually sparked his interest in a long time.  Perhaps this could take his mind off of things for a day or two.  When did life ever offer him any sort of enduring happiness?

With a baleful look at the mug, he snapped off the newly glued handle.




Three days later, Enishi was picking up his phone for what felt like the millionth time, ready to dial this mysterious Kamiya nutcase.  It was an ongoing battle for him to decide whether or not to do this because to him, logically, there was no reason to and this would be a waste of his time.  At first he had dismissed the whole idea, after he woke up from a few hours of sleep and remembered the incident last night.  He had thrown away the number and taken a shower, checked his mail, went for a jog, sat down, and watched T.V. before finding that after he had gotten a drink out of the fridge he was eying the wastebasket.  He literally had to search through scrap after scrap of paper to find the blood stained note.  What harm would it do to call?

His hands had even reached for the phone, but then coolly he shook himself out of the dazed trancelike state he seemed to have entered and speared the number on a message holder by the phone rather than throw it away again.  Every time he passed by it, he thought about her.  Something about her face, the color of her hair. . . he didn't know.  Kamiya made him think of his sister.  Maybe it would be worth it to see her again, just to pretend that it was Tomoe looking at him again.  Forgiving him. . .

There was no way he could forgive himself.

The first ring had passed before he felt his heart clench and decided to hang up instead and hope that this Kamiya woman didn't have caller I.D.  He watched the phone with suspicion for the rest of that first day and when a telemarketer called that evening, Enishi hung up with some anger but mostly certain and heavy disappointment.  The second day was even worse.  The morning jog was filled with worry that by being out of the house somehow he would miss Kamiya's call.  He didn't even know if she knew his number, and already he was obsessed with the idea of talking to her.

In some ways this preyed on his fears that perhaps he didn't exist to anyone at all.  Not as a real person.  He was a boss, a moderator, an advisor, a nemesis, but he didn't know the last person who had considered him a friend and until now it hadn't seemed such a remarkable way to live.  Tomoe had been enough.  But she had been gone for so long that the human experience was almost feeling distant now.  That had been his choice, he knew, but now he wondered if maybe it had been the wrong one.

So he slept on it again, all two and a half hours of the tossing that he called sleep, and the next morning he finally dialed up the house.  After a few rings, in which Enishi tried to formulate some sort of answering message to leave should the eventuality arise, a young male voice answered and ended his rather tortuous limbo.


"Is a Miss Kamiya there?"

"We don't want any, thanks."

"No, Miss. . . Kaoru told me call.  A few days ago."  He didn't want to have to explain anything else to a perfect stranger.

The voice was silent a moment.  "I'll go get her.  Just a second."  In the tried and true method of many a youth, the boy covered the phone imperfectly with one hand and yelled in a loud voice.  "KAAAAOORUUUUUU PHOOOOONE!!!"  There was a scuffle as a soft voice said something and the phone changed hands.

"Who is this?" her voice sounded less dreamy and a lot crankier.  No matter, Enishi had come this far.

"This is Enishi Yukishiro, you might remember me from the coffee shop a few nights—"

"Of course!  Oh boy, I was really out of it that night.  Sorry if I seemed a bit off.  I'm glad you called, anyway.  What's on your mind?"

Tomoe.  "Nothing.  I suppose I was simply curious what sort of a person gave out her number to perfect strangers."  He mussed up his hair while he talked and paced about like a caged animal in front of the windows that lined one side of his apartment.  Regret was already taking shape over this whole calling stupidity.  "Anyway, it's clear to me now that I should probably just forget about it. . ."

She didn't let him finish once again with his thought.  "Have dinner with me.  I need to get to work right now, pretty quickly in fact, but I don't want to seem like I'm trying to get rid of you.  Please?"

Enishi didn't know what to say.  So he didn't say anything.

"Here, I'll make it easy for you.  I'll give you a place and a time.  You can come if you like, and if not then I won't think anything of it."  She rattled off the name of a little restaurant that he had never heard of before even as the strained sounds of preparation caused the volume to rise and fall with a certain level of distraction.  "I was going there tonight anyway, my friend Tae runs the place.  Six thirty, got it?"  Her farewell was almost breathless, and he fancied as he hung up that he could see her run out the door.

Again she had left him with an open ended invitation that he could readily refuse.  He hadn't even had to do much of anything.  The goal of the day had been accomplished.  This, as mysterious and silly as it was, was a fun prospect and diverting enough in its own way.  He would be at this Akabeko at six thirty, if for nothing else than to see what this Kamiya girl would throw at him next.




Kaoru rubbed her eyes and stomped her feet.  Doing temp work could be hell, but it brought in some extra money and soon enough she would be sending Yahiko off to college so she needed to be saving up.  Even though Yahiko was in a good position to get a scholarship because of his strong performance in fencing, (this year's state title for his age was enough to turn some heads) Kaoru knew that she would still be expected to contribute.  She wanted to open up the world to Yahiko.  Then again, she tended to feel that way about most people.

It was always those good intentions and a chronic problem with insomnia that led her to meeting people who needed more help than she could realistically provide, and then the inevitable end of her using every resource in her power to help them anyway.  With every success her confidence grew, and so did her monetary debt.  Sano was trying to help, but he had only just gotten a job as a bouncer at a rather nice nightclub and it would be months before the former gangster had a paycheck that wasn't going to paying off his own debts.  Aoshi sent some every now and again, even though she had told him not to feel obligated, but the money allowed for luxuries that otherwise she and Yahiko would have done without so she was glad in many ways that he ignored her protests.


She jumped, realizing that she had just been staring down at the copier for a few minutes.

"Take a break, girl, you look dead on your feet."  The lady waiting for the copier behind her spoke kindly this time and Kaoru gave a weak smile before finding the water cooler and draining a few cups down her dry throat.  Somehow constantly filing and making copies made her feel dry as a desert.  Plus she was always covered in paper cuts.  This was no way to live; she needed to find a real job.  Of course, she hadn't been able to hold down a job for the last year because of the wretched insomnia which sapped her awareness and inevitably ended in her performing rather poorly only to be let go with the next round of "downsizing".  She couldn't throw her extra energy into work, so she threw it into people. 

Maybe Aoshi knew someone who wanted to rent out a room. . . ever since he had left three months ago she realized how much she needed the income. . . Tae might be a possibility too.  She might know of someone who needed a place.

Kaoru's mind keyed back to the morning and the enigmatic phone call from that Enishi guy.  That night was just a foggy memory in her head.  She had driven aimlessly so far in her car, waiting for her buzzing mind to come to some sort of rest, and instead had stopped into a coffee shop where the lights blazed over normally dark streets.  The hot tea had helped her peace of mind, but she had been so quickly distracted by the man who had come striding in with a wide scowl on his face and familiar bags under his eyes.

At first she had thought he was an old man, because his hair was so shockingly white-grey that she felt no one younger than sixty could possibly have such hair.  But the face was too young, and the voice, as surly and cantankerous as he made it sound, was not gravelly with age.  He had just looked so sad sitting there that she couldn't help but want to make him feel better.  It was that mother/sister complex that had developed over the years of taking car of Yahiko, as few as those years were.  She felt like she could play mother to the world.

It had been foolhardy to give out her number, but at the time it had seemed like an acceptable thing to do.  She wanted to talk more, but she really needed to get home so she could attempt to get some sleep before her job that day even if it was only a few hours.  Even if the job was mind numbing and the pay only slightly compensatory.  Even if she would rather have talked to him some more.

No matter.  She had followed her instincts and given him a time and place.  It was public and there was nothing to worry about.  It wasn't as if it was a date or anything.  This was just yet another example of her taking a wounded bird into her nest, so to speak.  She had done it enough literal times before, why should this time feel any different?

The day sped by far too quickly for her uneasy mind.  Five o' clock arrived with the green flash of the copier light on her eyes, blinding and unwanted.  She needed to go pick up Yahiko from school and drop him off at the practice hall, and with a wave to the superficial friends she had made that day she took off at full speed to hurry into rush hour deadlock.

At six Yahiko bid Kaoru goodbye, with a slam of the car door and a backwards yell of what he wanted for dinner.  He barely even gave her an insult anymore.  She almost missed the days when he called her ugly and she would chase him around the house, stalking him with a broom in her hand and a pretend scowl on her face.  Her father had only just died and she had found Yahiko on the streets, trying to pick her pocket while she had been distractedly walking away from the fresh grave and instead of money getting a good thwacking over the head and a long lecture about responsibility.  That was when he was twelve and she had been twenty.  She had told him to come back the next day and pain her fence, and then she would give him some money.

And he did.  So she did.  And a meal too.  When he didn't finish the first day he came back a second.  Then somehow he fell asleep painting so she brought him inside and cleaned out a room. . . and then suddenly she had a little brother and the house wasn't quite so empty anymore.  The battle for guardianship had been a long one, but near his fourteenth birthday she remembered when they went out for pizza and ice cream (his choice) to celebrate the legal recognition of Yahiko as a Kamiya (also his choice).  And now he just started his senior year of high school and Kaoru wondered where the time had gone.

Oh shit!  The time!  Why was she sitting around thinking such sappy thoughts when she needed to get her butt over to the Akabeko?!  Kaoru focused in on her driving intently.  Her heart fluttered a bit at the thought of meeting a perfect stranger, but there was always the chance he wouldn't come so there was nothing to worry about.  If he did come and she got 'serial killer' vibes from him then she would just quietly slide out the back and hide until he left.  There, she had a plan.

The restaurant was only starting to pick up and become busy.  That's why she had come early.  Friday nights were always hell for getting a table in this place.  Thanks to her tendency to speed and a series of green lights, she was actually a minute or two early.  A waitress recognized her and waved; Tsubame was a nice girl.  Kaoru knew just how nice because whenever she brought Tsubame around Yahiko he would get uncharacteristically serious and silent, so she knew that it was only a matter of time before her charge made his move.  Until then she would just keep an eye on things.

"Miss Kaoru, would you like your usual table?"

"That would be great."  They walked back to a somewhat private corner booth.  "Tsubame, could I ask you to keep an eye out for a guy with white hair.  I promise you you'll know who I'm talking about.  He might be coming to meet me."

Tsubame smiled meekly and looked away. "A date, Miss Kaoru?"  The young waitress had never gotten the hang of calling Kaoru by her first name, but after years of work at least she had stopped calling her the very embarrassing Mrs. Kamiya.  Kaoru hated that—it was her mother's name so far as she was concerned.

Kaoru went white in the face and then colored slightly.  "No, just a friend."

"Then I have to tell you that we passed him already.  He's been here for thirty minutes back at table five."  Tsubame tilted her head to indicate the location.

"Why don't you take me to him, then.  I don't need to sit in the same place all the time, I guess."  Actually, the prospect of confronting this Enishi man in a place other than 'her' table made the experience that much more frightening.  Not that she'd let that show.

As Tsubame directed her towards Enishi, she saw him check his watch and then tap it.  Oh boy, she thought to herself, there's a Type A personality if I ever saw one.  This is all just a big mistake.  Her feet attempted a rebellion and she nearly tripped in the confusing moment where they tried to turn but she kept directing them forward.  But all that showed on her face was a big smile as she approached and he noted her with no change from his neutral expression.  He rose as she arrived and offered her the seat across from him, which she accepted with matching politeness.

With no one there to mediate the uncomfortable silence, Kaoru forced herself to speak first.  "I wasn't sure if I had really talked to you or not.  Sometimes those late night trips of mine turn out to be dreams. . ."

"Were you hoping this was one of those times?"  His eyebrow arched and he wiped a finger down the condensation on the outside of his water glass.

"Maybe a little.  They say that when you're tired it's a lot like being drunk.  Explains a lot I guess."  She laughed a little, but it sounded forced and soon died off in a cough before she took a drink from her own water glass.  "Why did you decide to call me back, do you really want to talk to someone after all?"

Enishi wasn't sure.  Now that he was here with the girl again she seemed less like his sister, despite the somewhat similar looks.  His sister was a collected and dignified woman, or she had been, and this Kamiya girl was simply neither of those things.  She was a bundle of energy waiting to move in some direction.  Though some of that might be from being nervous, and he could understand and forgive that since this wasn't exactly a normal situation for either of them.

After the long pause in which he stared at her for most of it Enishi finally answered.


Kaoru sighed.  When was Tsubame coming to take their orders?  "Then why come here at all?"  She let her hair down and then retied it into her conventional ponytail.

"Listen, I suppose I was just bored.  It isn't everyday that a young lady accosts me in a coffee shop and presses her number into my hand.  By the way, why do you have glue in your purse?"

"It's good to be prepared."  Her shrug spoke volumes.  "Why don't you tell me when your insomnia started.  That's something I can sympathize with."

Safe enough, and it would eat up some time in this awkward situation.  "About eight months ago.  It was after,"  His voice faltered but it was only a blip in the flow of his sentence. "After my sister died.  That's all.  Obviously it's just stress.  It will pass."

"I'm sorry."

"We all have stress, it isn't exactly uncommon these days."

"I mean,"  Kaoru emphasized her point by leaning forward and catching his eye.  "I mean, I'm sorry about your sister.  I can't imagine losing my Yahiko."  The way she spoke the name made Enishi feel a peculiar prickle as if he was irritated by the loss of her immediate attention. 

The biting feeling carried over to his words.  "So is he your son?"

She looked at him as if he had pointed out that she was sprouting tusks.  "No!  Well. . .  I mean, not really.  Legally, I suppose, but not by birth.  I would have been, er,"  she did some quick mental calculation.  Math wasn't her strongest subject.  "Eight I think.  Yeah, I would have been about eight if he was my son."  She looked off into the depths of the water of her glass and then brought sharp eyes up to meet his.  "But tell me more about your family."

"Tomoe was it."  Technically, she was the only blood relative he had known, so that was not a lie. 

"Sounds like me.  I lost my father, and I thought I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.  And then Yahiko just sort of appeared and moved in, and then Aoshi, and then Megumi, and then Sano. . . and I guess Sano never really left."  She actually laughed to herself in a real way, a private way, and Enishi felt a spurt of jealousy for her happiness and perhaps for something more.

Before he could pursue any more lines of questioning, Tsubame appeared and asked them for their orders.  By the time she had left, conversation turned to the various sleeping drugs on the market and their various side effects as well as alternative methods of getting the rest both of them so sorely needed.  Kaoru turned out to be pretty knowledgeable but fairly skeptical about the drugs, but despairing over all the alternatives that she had attempted over time.  Their conversation lasted well past when they had finished their meal.

Enishi found that he felt surprisingly, well, good.  That pain at the back of his left eye was gone and he hadn't checked his watch since they had started talking about insomnia cures.  Even the annoying laugh of the woman who had sat behind them, and the way that a small child had screamed for a blue crayon for twenty minutes had only been passing moments of recognition before he had focused back in on Kaoru.

"Oh shit!"  Tsubame came over with Yahiko's wrapped dinner and Kaoru leaped out of her seat like something had stung her rather hard in a sensitive area.  "Yahiko is going to absolutely kill me.  He's been waiting for me for twenty minutes already."

Kaoru threw some money at Tsubame and Enishi more calmly paid before finding his dinner partner in question kicking and repeating mild expletives at her car in the small parking lot next to the establishment.  All he wanted to do was perhaps arrange to meet her at least once more.  Naturally, she wouldn't hold his interest much longer, but it seemed as if they still had things they could discuss.

"I left my lights on."  Kaoru kicked a tire once more unenthusiastically.  "I don't suppose I could. . ."

"I don't have jumper cables."  The poor girl looked defeated.  A voice that leapt from the back of his mind to his mouth formed words he never normally would have said.  "Would you like a lift?"  The urge to smack himself was overwhelming.  Kaoru's shining eyes told him the answer before she vocalized it.  This girl really was entirely too trusting and she was lucky—very lucky—that he wasn't some murderous psycho.  Although why she should trust him was still shockingly mind-boggling to him.

It turned out that the place wasn't too far away, and the only thing Enishi had to endure besides Kaoru's constant twitching worry was a constant stream of proud tales of the boy's prowess with a saber and foil.  All it did was heighten Enishi's interest, since he had done martial arts for many years, and he wanted to compare sword styles with this young prodigy. 

The spiky haired, dusky skinned boy who suspiciously regarded Enishi was nothing like what he had expected Yahiko to be like.  The kid was pretty short, maybe only a little taller than Kaoru, and wiry as anything.  Even so, he was trying to stand taller and place himself in between Kaoru and Enishi at every opportunity during the first introductions.  With an internal smirk, Enishi made his body language more open towards Kaoru.  She didn't seem to notice, but the teen bristled.

"Is this why you were late?"  Yahiko rudely pointed at Enishi.  "One of Sano's friends?"  At the mention of this Sano again, Enishi felt much less joyful at his little game of egging the teen on.

"No, and you should be nicer to Sano.  He's gotten a lot better."  She grabbed Yahiko by the shoulders and forced him closer, within hand shaking range.  "This is Enishi Yukishiro.  Enishi, this is Yahiko."

They grasped one another's hands, and Yahiko seemed to start to put pressure on his hand before thinking better of it and sullenly withdrawing.  "Nice to meet you."  He said ungraciously.

"Don't be such a crank.  We'll get you some food, and you'll feel better.  Maybe you can even catch the end of Tsubame's shift and walk her home. . ."

"She can walk herself home!"  Yahiko stomped forward, until he realized he didn't know which car was Enishi's.

The way to Kaoru's house was more uncomfortable with Yahiko there, but Kaoru made the best of it by telling stories about the funniest names she had come across in her filing or the various snippets of gossip that happened to come her way about the various corporations that had hired her in the past month or two.  Enishi wondered if people like her worked in his buildings. . .

"Take a right here, and just park anywhere.  It's at the end of the block.  Gotta love dead ends.  No traffic noises at all down here."  The house Enishi found was large and old in a Victorian style.  In the dark it seemed somewhat scary, but Yahiko leaped out of the car as soon as it was no longer moving and darted up the steps.  With the turn of a key he was gone.

Kaoru was suddenly very conscious of being left alone with Enishi in a way that earlier she hadn't noticed.  The polite thing to do would be to invite him in, but that might be taken wrong.  Then again, he knew that she lived with other people so maybe it wouldn't be taken wrong.  Worst of all, why should she worry so much about what he thought about the invitation?

"Would you like to come in?  I could give you some of that powdered root that I tried.  It didn't work for me, but maybe I'm just cursed."

"I don't think that that would be. . ."  Enishi tried to make himself refuse despite his instinct that wanted to pounce on her invitation with a quick yes.

Kaoru blushed for no reason she could see and pressed again.  "I insist.  I feel like I owe you something for being so nice to help me.  I don't often play the damsel in distress."

"I suppose.  Just for a moment."  The way she was wringing her hands endeared her to him before he steeled his reaction and discarded it as unreasonable and anomalous.

They made their way in together, a still nervous Kaoru leading the way, and were greeted with simply a look of disgust by Yahiko who retreated back into the kitchen to reheat his dinner in the microwave.  Kaoru told Enishi how the house had been in her family since it had been built and that with any luck it would stay that way, then she too repaired to the kitchen to get them something to drink.

"I'll finally use up more of that stuff that says it is supposed to help insomnia, but really just cost a lot because I bought it from some scary old woman who waved some sort of dried intestinal thing at me for good luck.  I don't even know if she was speaking a real language at me."  Kaoru's voice was interspersed with the clink of glasses and the opening of drawers.  She shared some sort of conversation with Yahiko in low tones, and the boy's voice rose and fell in a more normal manner.  They were so comfortable together. . . and Enishi could already feel the envy begin to seep into him.

A man wandered by in a white bathrobe, scratching at hair that seemed to scoff at gravity and clutching a box of crackers.  He didn't even seem to see Enishi there in his position on the couch.  Instead he wandered into the kitchen, there was a shriek and a crash.


"Hey Jouchan, what's for dinner?"

"I don't know, what did you buy?"

"That's cold. . ."  A pause.  "Hey, kid, gimme some of that. . ."


Kaoru came out with a couple mugs of some steaming substance that Enishi fully planned not to let pass his lips.  What he was much more interested in was this Sano person.  Who was he, and what was he to Kaoru?  The prominence of the second question almost forced him to ask it, but he thought that it would be too much like prying.  Obviously, if he lived with them, then there was most likely a romantic attachment.  His stomach churned just a little, and he wondered if the food had turned.  Maybe some tums would be in order when he got home.  He popped those things like candy due to the acidity of his stomach and the danger of ulcers anyway.

"Don't mind Sano.  He's just an idiot and a sponge!"

"Hey!"  The yell came from the kitchen.  "I resemble those remarks." 

Kaoru laughed at the lame joke.  Enishi tried to not roll his eyes.  He should just make up an excuse and leave.  This was truly a much bigger waste of his time than he thought it would be.  The Kamiya girl was clearly not as interesting as he had expected her to be and this Sano character somehow made him feel aggressive.  Enishi knew himself well enough to realize that they were two very different people and that both would try to posture if they encountered one another.  And speaking of which. . .

"Who are you talking to out here?"  Sano wandered out, but on seeing Enishi the friendly sparkle in his eyes became something more curious and evaluative.  This jolly idiot had some judgment at least, as he quickly came to a decision that Enishi was not a harmless person and put a hand on Kaoru's shoulder in an instinct to protect her.  It amused Enishi to pick up on these unconscious signals.

"This is a friend of mine, Enishi.  Enishi this is my friend Sano.  He's renting a room from me right now and works as a bouncer downtown.  In fact, you'd better hurry up or you'll be late for work. . ."

"I've got plenty of time."  Sano hovered above Kaoru as if she were about to topple over and break.  Really, if all the men in her life were like this. . . although he had been just the same around Tomoe.  The reassertion of his sister into his mind was like a guilty jolt, and he felt like he needed to leave more than ever.

"But I'm afraid I don't.  I really think that I should get home and take care of some things.  I'm sorry I imposed upon you like this."  Enishi rose and looked over at the kitchen where a black spiky head of hair slid back to hide just inside.  He smiled to himself, thinking about the ways he had been similar to Yahiko when he had been younger.  Much younger than Yahiko was now, since he had been forced to grow up faster.

Much faster.

Yahiko had probably not worried about being beaten by his foster father, or watched his sister be stolen away by some baby faced redheaded bastard. . . he needed to calm down.  The anger was rising again and Kaoru was giving him a funny look.  With little else to say, he just walked out and made a path straight for his car.


Why had he just gone in there and acted like a complete weirdo!  He couldn't even exit like a normal person.  Somehow he had lost all his social skills, carefully cultivated over the years, and the polished front he prized was showing cracks.  It was all that girl's fault.  He needed to avoid her at any cost.

"Wait!"  He had the urge to just turn the key and peel out before it was too late.  A screech of rubber and some tire tracks and he could be gone.  She didn't even know his number.  He could make a clean break of it all.  But something made him stay, and it wasn't the package of anonymous herbs she clutched to her chest to give to him as she had promised.

But he still waited.

The flush to her cheeks, the way the hair of her bangs stood out at an odd angle when she brushed it back, even the stain in her shirt where some of the noodle dish she had been eating had dripped a bit during dinner—Kaoru was so vivid somehow.  More real than anything else in his waking world.

"Here.  I didn't want you to run off.  I feel like I should apologize.  The boys aren't always that rude. . . Yahiko is sure going to hear an earful from me when I get back in.  Sanosuke too."  The dangerous bite to her tone told him that was going to be one unpleasant conversation.

"Some men get very possessive of their girlfriends.  It was understandable."  Did he sound bitter?  After he commented he realized he just might.

Kaoru leaned on the open car window, earnestly biting her lip.  "Sano isn't my boyfriend!"  She realized she had said it a little too emphatically, and then tried to cover up her eager response by explaining more.  "He's been seeing Megumi, a friend of mine, for a few months after she moved out and. . . yeah. . . we're not that way with one another."  It was a lame way to end, and her voice trailed off.

Enishi felt the way his heart tried to leap out of his chest at the news and became oddly conscious of how close her lips were.  He started to lean up towards them when his seatbelt locked and pulled him back.  Kaoru hadn't seemed to notice, she was intently looking down at her feet mentally cursing her stumbling speech.  When Enshi realized what he had been about to do, it became all the more imperative that he leave.  He cleared his throat.

"Oh, yeah, sorry.  I won't hold you up anymore."  She detached herself from the window and Enishi started the car.  "So, do you think. . ."  He knew what she was getting at.  Why not, since he didn't really have anything else to do with his time.  The reasons for his change of heart had nothing to do with the fact that the man in her house was not her boyfriend.  Not at all.  He firmly reminded himself of this before giving her one of his rare smiles, really more of a lopsided grin.

"How about we meet at the coffee shop tomorrow around three or four?  Or do you work weekends?"

"Not usually."  Her eyes wandered up and she smacked herself on the side of the head.  "Where is my mind?  Yahiko has a tournament tomorrow.  If you are willing to wait for me, it should be over around sevenish.  Can I meet you then?"

Enishi nodded.  He almost asked to go the boy's tournament, but as much as he found being irritating fun there was no way he was going to let that mess up the boy's concentration.  That would just be inconsiderate.

As Enishi pulled away finally it occurred to him that even though the word had never been said, he was thinking of this with the same nervous twittering that other people might ascribe to the dreaded word: date.  It wasn't like that.  He was just marking time until he returned to work.


For the first time that evening, when the nightmares came, they were followed by visions of a lady in purple who woke him up with her provocatively hard to hear whisper.  Whatever she had said, he had wanted to hear it very badly, and the tantalizing wisp of vibration lay just out of his grasp.  When he tried to remember what it was she had said he came up with nothing but his own echoing curse to the empty and darkened room.




Kaoru hurried to go congratulate Yahiko.  She was more than proud of him.  The last match he had been terribly outclassed, but then he had been fighting someone much older than he, a man who had been training for the Olympics for some time now and would probably soon make his bid.  The fact that Yahiko got far enough to face him was remarkable.  Megumi, who had promised to attend and who she had been chatting with about Enishi, followed behind at a more sedate pace.

When Kaoru was about ready to jump on her almost brother, she noticed the red faced young man talking to a gently laughing Tsubame.  That was interesting.  She hadn't even known that Tsubame was there.  It was rather cute to see them like that.  Yahiko hadn't seen her, so she would walk slower and give the two some more time.

"So what are you wearing for your date?"  Megumi caught up to her stationary friend.

"It isn't a date; do I need to remind you again?" 

"Right right.  And you've just been talking my ear off about this person because it is so very interesting that you both have insomnia.  This is a date, you silly tanuki."

Kaoru rolled her eyes at the nickname which she was sure she would never shake.  Just because she had chosen a random name when they had Japanese together in high school. . . she had just opened up a dictionary and pointed. . .

Megumi examined her nails and picked at the side of one critically.  "Men don't make friends with women because they like platonic relationships.  When are you just going to face the facts. . ."

"What about Aoshi?  Or Sano?  They are my friends and there is nothing romantic between us."

With a pucker of her lips, Megumi tried to rebut.  "They are like older brothers.  It isn't the same thing and you know it."

"There's nothing wrong with treating your friends like family."  Kaoru glanced over again at Yahiko and saw him manage to turn even redder as Tsubame put her hand over his to say something.  He looked like he needed to take a breath before he passed out.

Megumi stuck her head in Kaoru's line of sight, needing to be paid complete attention to when she spoke.  "But do you want this Enishi character to be your brother?"

Kaoru 'hurumphed' and left Megumi behind to laugh in that superior manner she so enjoyed.  That happened to Kaoru a lot around Megumi, and she had learned to live with it even if she didn't really ever learn to take it in stride.

"My little Yahiko, all grown up!"  Kaoru hugged Yahiko and made every attempt to make the boy feel embarrassed in front of Tsubame as if she could punish Megumi through Yahiko's pain for making a point she didn't want to concede to.

"Don't call me little!"  Yahiko actually did have a bit of a 'thing' about his height.  He struggled out of the hug, and then tried to reclaim the last shreds of his dignity.  "What are you doing here, anyway, I thought you said you had to go somewhere."  Ah Yahiko, always so subtle with his hints.

Right about then, Megumi showed up to provide just the information Kaoru was hoping she would keep to herself.  "Yes, Kaoru, you had better get home and change before you meet this Yukishiro man.  Can't go looking sloppy on a first date.  Or would this be the second?"  A lacquered nail tapped against her lip reflectively.  Kaory shot a killing glance at her big mouthed friend while Yahiko began to inflate with angry righteousness.  Best not to be there for the ensuing explosion, the 'talk' that they had had last night about her trusting strangers too easily had ended in door slamming on both their parts.

"See you later!  I'll be back by a reasonable hour.  Just don't think you can take advantage of me being gone and stay out all night."  Megumi cheerfully saw her off while Yahiko sputtered and collected his thoughts.  It was mean of Kaoru to leave the young people with Megumi who would no doubt tease them until they didn't know themselves if they were a couple yet or not, but maybe it would force Yahiko to take action for once and realize he liked the girl.  Besides, Megumi had promised to take Yahiko home for her and now it would be less of a chore for her friend who so liked to make sport of people.  But at least Megumi knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to get it.

If there was nothing else Kaoru believed in, it was seizing the moment.

Which is why she was seizing the moment to rush home and change her clothes.

By the time she got to the coffee shop (which had taken a while to find, and then discover a parking space in the crowded downtown area), she was a full twenty minutes late but she looked about as good as she could make herself look in ten minutes of total fashion panic.  She was glad of it when she saw Enishi, who was looking more than handsome in a white dress shirt and nice black pants.  In a moment of weakness, she realized that not only did he look very good, but she wanted more than anything for him to think she looked just as good.  Her only regret was not choosing a shorter skirt.

"I'm so sorry," she gushed as she nearly collided with his table in her haste, heels were not her usual footwear and she had forgotten that, like car breaks, you needed to halt your momentum well before you reached your destination.  "I looked a total wreck after sitting in bleachers for four hours.  I had to contain the damage.  I'm usually quite punctual."

He gave her a devastating glance, the bags under his eyes pronounced but not detracting from the vivid aqua of his eyes through the glare of his glasses.  "That's fine.  I have a lot of time on my hands."  The liquid quality of his voice made her shiver.  That did not sound like the voice of someone who was fine.  It sounded like the voice of the boss before last she had had who had found a transcription error on a memo that had been sent out and then, in that same tone, had lectured a rookie secretary until she had burst into tears.  Kaoru was made of sterner stuff, but it was still scary.

"I'll make it up to you!"  She pulled him up by his arm and his hooded eyes widened.  "We'll go do something fun.  My treat.  And I know just the thing. . ."




"You have got to be kidding me."

"Why would I?"

"This is juvenile."

"Lots of things are.  Arguably most of life is."

"I'm not doing this."

"I promise you, it will be fun."

"Not mini golf.  I refuse to handle a filthy putter or knock a ball into a lizard's mouth."

"That lizard is Godzilla, I'll have you know, and you will golf with me."

Kaoru handed Enishi a putter and grabbed each of them a ball before securing them a place at the first hole.  Enishi rolled back his sleeves and examined the hole.  It was just a straight shot to the pocket at the other end of the fake grass.  It even sloped a little to help the ball along.

"How about this, the winner gets to hear the most embarrassing story of the loser.  That way there is some incentive to win."  Enishi seemed to be pretty intent on the putter, which he gave an experimental swing.  Kaoru had second thoughts.  "If you really still don't want to do this, we could probably just leave right now and get something to eat.  I don't know what possessed me. . ."

Enishi swung his putter at his ball with a flick of his wrist and it arced gracefully into the hole.  Suddenly, Kaoru wondered if maybe she should take back her suggested penalty for losing.  She remembered exactly what her story would be, and she couldn't be anything less than honest.

"This is fine.  I accept your challenge."  Enishi gave her a wolfish smile and Kaoru swallowed visibly.

Halfway through she was internally into her fighting mode, slowly burning with a vague anger that he could be so good at something he cared so little for.  Even though he was under par for every hole and she usually only just made it, at least their scores were not so very far off.  She had a chance open up in the 16th hole, the one featuring Godzilla, where random chance happened to drop Enishi's ball off to the right of the tail and Kaoru's right in the pocket.  That nearly caught her up.  He looked liked he wanted to hit the grimacing plastic monster, but forced a shadow of a smile when Kaoru jumped up and down after getting her hole in one.  The way she threw her arms around him and pressed up against his body was. . . distracting.

Perhaps that explained why he was one over par for the 17th hole. 

By the time they made it to the last hole, they were neck and neck.  Some teen boys were messing around near the little fake pond and waterfall, quite in the way, and Kaoru asked them to leave politely and received a rather rude gesture for her trouble as well as an insult to her looks.  Enishi was about to step in when Kaoru herself rolled up her sleeves and actually grabbed one by the ear and began to tell him that if her son did something like that then she would do exactly what she was doing now.  Did he know what that gesture actually meant or how he presented himself when he did things like that?  Did he know he was loitering?  Did he have anything better to do on a Saturday night than annoy people on a mini golf course?

By the time the girl finished her tooth grindingly sharp lecture, the boys looked shocked.  Kaoru didn't look that old after all, but in that moment she had sounded a terribly lot like a haggard old fishwife.  They might still have made trouble, but the way Enishi cracked his knuckles behind the girl who still regarded them with hands on her hips, they decided to think twice about talking back and instead ran off from the scary couple.

"I just can't believe people sometimes. . ."

"Hey, old lady Kamiya, you ready to finish this game now?"

Kaoru turned on Enishi as if she were going to continue her tirade right under his nose, but then suddenly became very self conscious and instead backed up and tripped on the low guardrail that separated the pond from the green.  A complex series of actions followed.

Enishi grabbed Kaoru and spun so that he was falling backwards and she forwards.  Then, with a heave, he pushed her in the opposite direction, which was enough to stop her from falling into the grungy water.  Enishi, however, fell flat on his back only to be swallowed up a moment later by the dyed green water.  When he emerged, his nice white shirt looked slightly sickly and his hair looked like grass a dog had rolled in.  He took off his glasses and held them away from his body as he stood up in the calf deep sludge.

"It will be a miracle if I don't die from all the. . . substances. . . that no doubt infest this liquid.  I don't dare call it water."

The bruised posterior and vague plastic grass burn on her knee that Kaoru had gotten away with seemed a good deal by comparison.   Enishi squinted a little as he peered through the filmy lenses of his glasses.  Between the pinched look on his face and the thin line his lips made as he climbed out of the pond, Kaoru suddenly realized how very terribly humorous the whole situation had become.  Of course when she fell over laughing, that didn't persuade Enishi at all that he too should join in.  Instead, he stood over her and dripped until she jumped up to get out of his way.

"I need to go get new clothes unless you want to give up on tonight."  He was not used to being laughed at, and he didn't much like the sensation.  But of all the people to laugh at him, and he was hard pressed to remember another person who had laughed at him who hadn't then been visited with some sort of violence on their person (mostly when he was a lot younger and kids made fun of his hair), Kaoru made it the most palatable.

"No."  she gasped through the tears and hiccupping giggles.  "Let's call this a draw and get you changed."

They made their way out of the place, getting stares from other golfers (most of them high school aged) and a glare from the manager who refrained from commenting as he looked at the storm front clearly smeared all over Enishi's face.  The next person to cross him would regret it, but Kaoru seemed generously oblivious of this fact.




When she had suggested he get changed, she didn't think she'd end up standing in his apartment and feeling dwarfed by the high ceilings and expansive view.  Approaching the somewhat new looking building slightly east of downtown hadn't seemed particularly imposing.  When Enishi had asked her whether she wanted to wait down there or go up with him, similarly, the decision had not seemed all that momentous.  It was the ride up in the elevator, when Enishi had unhesitatingly pressed the button for the top floor, when Kaoru started to feel that maybe her decision had been less than wise.  She was going to be alone with him in his apartment.  Suddenly, Megumi's warnings that it had been a 'date' coupled with her sudden awareness that Enishi was picking at his slowly drying shirt and she remembered how long it had been since she had been in an intimate situation with a man.

It had been. . . a long time.  Maybe not since college?  The years had escaped so quickly somehow.  It just hadn't been important.  Was she presenting the wrong idea of herself?  It seemed now that her skirt wasn't long enough now to suit her.

"I thought when you said you built things,"  She lightly pressed against the glass and peered down tens of stories to the sidewalk. "You meant that you worked on a construction site, like as a foreman or something."

From the room, she assumed the bedroom, where he had retreated she thought she heard a snort.  He was pulling on another white shirt when he walked out, undershirt sticking to his chest giving her enough of a glimpse of his body to know that he worked out far more than she did.  This is not a date.  She reminded herself.  I'm not oogling my new friend.  I'm just not.

"Do you just have a whole closet of those things?"  Now that she had noticed her attraction again she was afraid that it just radiated from her like a scream in a cavern.

He tilted his head to the side as if he found the question quaint.  "Isn't that the most direct approach?  I don't need anything else."

Kaoru leaned against the glass, pretending that she really wasn't so far off the ground after all lest she get unreasonably scared that she fall through the glass and onto the pavement.  Squish.  "You could have colors. . . like blue or orange, or something."

"Technically, white is a color.  It's black that is the absence.  I do have black shirts as well.  Should I put on a black shirt?"  Even though his face still wore that neutral smile, something in his face cued her to the fact that he was actually making fun of her.  He was rewarded with a shy smile.  Somehow it acted as enough of a signal for him to lean over her, hand against the window pane near her head.  The icy temperature of the pane wasn't enough to curb her rising body heat.  Kaoru hoped it was just a blush, because the alternative held more implications than she wanted to deal with at the moment.

At that moment, at their most charged, her stomach had the nerve to growl.  Loudly.  And for a long time.

"Would you like something to eat?  We could just order some takeout and watch a movie.  I don't feel like braving the crowds.  I'm not exactly. . . a people person."

"Sounds fine to me.  I'll have whatever you're having.  I'm not a picky eater. . . truly. . . you've never tasted my cooking.  I had to live off of it for a few years solely, and trust me, I never want to inflict anyone with that again.  Mainly because I just don't want to hear the complaints anymore."  He was still there, so close, too close, and she fingered a strand of hair that had escaped the bun.  With a sigh that brushed her cheek, Enishi turned away and picked up the phone.

"The T.V. is down there.  The movies are in the cupboard beneath it.  Choose one if you like, or just pick a channel."  He wandered into the kitchen in the way people often have of securing semi-private places when they speak on the phone.

Kaoru found her way into a sunken section of the apartment where a couch and T.V. dominated.  It was an enormous set and when she looked at the table in front of the couch she was confused by the array of remotes she had to choose from.  They all looked black or silver with sleek green or red on and off buttons.  It took a few tries before she just gave up and walked over to the T.V. to turn it on.  There was a channel running with stock quotes and some news.  She flipped channels using the cable box until she settled on the cooking channel.

A girl could dream.  Even if she couldn't make this stuff, she could admire the skills of others.  Looking at that food was just a perk, and her stomach growled once more to remind her that she needed to feed it.  Instead, she just rubbed it and wished that it had better timing.  She settled down on the couch, sinking down into a cushion and curling up a little to wait.

Enishi, in the kitchen, hung up after he had placed the order and given the address.  In some ways this seemed already unreal to him, as if he had entered his unstable dreams and soon it would be snatched away prematurely like everything he emotionally invested in.  He couldn't deny to himself anymore that he was interested in Kaoru as more than a distraction, as more than a reminder of his sister, and even more than as an object of lust.  The last was being rather more determined to drive him to action.  It was an unexpected development.  Every time Kaoru had bent over to get the ball from the hole. . . he wanted to slap himself for looking, but wasn't it perfectly natural in some respects?  Now it was a mixed blessing to have her here in his space where he felt more comfortable and the entire situation was more private.  How would she act if he made a move. . .

Hypothetical question.  He couldn't let himself do it.  There was a certainly vulnerability that hung around her.  To take advantage would be. . . sinister.

But then again, he was no saint.

"I ordered the food.  It will be about forty minutes."  She jumped when he put his hand on her shoulder from behind the couch, reaching down from his surprisingly graceful looking crouch.

"You are trying to give me a heart attack, I just know it.  How can you be so quiet?"

Enishi vaulted easily over the back of the sunken down couch and next to Kaoru.  "I did watoujutsu from about the time I was 12 until. . . now I suppose.  Though I don't practice very often anymore."  He stopped himself from mentioning swords.  Sexual innuendo would not sound right at this juncture, and he didn't know if he could make a statement about them that didn't sound suggestive.

They continued to watch the food network until there was a knock at the door.  It was a welcome intrusion since Enishi was going through the terribly middle school sort of dilemma of whether he should put a casual arm around Kaoru's shoulders.  He felt much too old to feel this stupid about a girl.

It was after dinner, and while watching a random martial arts action flick that he owned that Kaoru fell against his shoulder.  Taking it as a signal and no longer agonizing over touching her casually because of it, Enishi lifted his arm, but only to have the no longer supported Kaoru fall head first into his lap.  Before he jumped up or made some sort of wry comment born of surprise, he examined her face and noted the slight flare of her nostrils as her even breathing notified him of her resting state.

Only 11:30 p.m. and his fellow insomniac was asleep.  He was extremely jealous.

"Kaoru."  He shook her once his leg began to fall asleep.  She batted at his hand and began to roll about in his lap to get into a more comfortable position.  Ok, that had to stop right now.  Enishi lifted her up in stages and once she was bundled into his arms he carried her to his room where he placed her in his bed and then went about putting away the extra food for lunch tomorrow.  It was when he covered a yawn with his hand after another hour of television that he glanced back into the bedroom longingly.  He didn't really want to spend the night on his couch.

This second shot was even less successful to wake her up.  The gentle rolling simply got her to lie on her back, mouth open a little, and fingers flexing.  Oh boy he wished he were more of a villain.  How could she just lie there as if she were safe at home?!  His little Goldilocks was causing him all sorts of trouble this evening.  Inane activities, a soaking in a chemical bath, and an evening doing things at home that he could have done just as well alone.  But somehow her mere presence made it better than it would have been. 

Enishi picked up her hand and tried to shake her arm a little in an attempt to wake her one last time.  Instead of waking her, he only managed to entangle his hand with hers.  She refused to relinquish it.  Eventually, rather than fighting anymore, he laid down next to her in all his clothes and fell asleep.  He didn't bother to set an alarm clock.  He would be up in an hour or two anyway.

Furtively, after checking to make sure she was really asleep, he leaned over and kissed her very gently on her parted lips.  They were pillowy, soft, and tasted faintly of soy sauce.  He licked his lips as if trying to discern her flavor from the soy.  He had wanted to do that for hours, and even if it wasn't such a licit way to get what he wanted, he couldn't bring himself to feel bad about it.




The skylight and its glaring rays of light were what woke Kaoru up the next morning.  After an understandable moment of disorientation, she put together what had happened as she sat up with a stretch.  She went to Enishi's apartment, there was food, and then a movie. . .

Wait a minute here.

Whose bed was this?

What room was this?

How did she get here?

Gah!  Who was it that had their arm wrapped around her and their hand cupping a very sensitive and rather squishy area of her upper body?

She took quick stock.  All her clothes were on.  So were his.  There was minimal chance that anything inappropriate had happened.  Things were ok.  This was just a fluke.  Ha ha.  Life is like this sometimes kind of karmic joke.  She finally got a full night of sleep and it had to be in the arms of this near stranger. . .

Who had a picture of a very beautiful woman on his nightstand.

Now she felt a little bit less charitable.

"Wake up."  She pushed at Enishi and he groaned.  Kaoru poked him and he groaned a little louder.

"Just ten more minutes."

"Only if you promise to move your hand."

"What?"  He opened one eye and then the other.  Equally groggy he seemed to process the situation rather more efficiently than Kaoru had.  His hand was removed in a cautious way that one might attempt when around a dangerous animal.  "When did it get to be morning?"

"When did I end up in your bed?"

Enishi sat up and scratched at his head.  Hair was matted down and sticking up at odd angles.  He blinked a couple times and stretched one arm, then another.  "I put you in my bed after you fell asleep on the couch.  Then you wouldn't leave it, or let me leave either."

"I see."  Her puckered lips made her look even more prudish than she felt.  This was an unacceptable situation to have landed herself in.  She'd never be able to convince Megumi that nothing had happened.  Hm.  Megumi. . . Sano. . . Yahiko!  Oh no!  Yahiko!  She nearly bolted from the bed.  "Where's your phone?  I need to call my house right now!"

Swinging his body off of the side of the bed and righting himself, he pointed back into the main living area.  Kaoru jumped out to find the telephone while Enishi made his way into the shower.  He couldn't stand another minute of his hair, still crusty from the water yesterday and greasy from sleep.

Kaoru tapped the window with her nails as she looked down at the sparse Sunday morning crowds on the sidewalk.  It was getting towards noon.  Churches would be letting out soon and there would be more people around.  The dial tone reached the voice mail and she hung up and tried again.  This time the call went through.

"Aoshi?"  Yahiko's voice sounded impatient.  More so than usual.


"Kaoru!"  There was a yelp in the background and an audible struggle for control of the phone with some loud swear words.  Sano was the next one to speak.

"Jouchan I'm going to frikkin kill you!  Where have you been?  When you didn't come home we were sure you were murdered or something and then we called up Megumi and we only just got through to Aoshi who was trying to find out this Yukishiro guy's number. . ."  She heard his exasperated voice and felt much worse than she already did for worrying her family.  "The guy is unlisted, except for his workplace.  Did you know he was some big time architect?  He owns like three apartment buildings and builds stuff all over town!  We didn't know where to call!"

"Listen Sano, it is all ok.  I'm fine.  I just fell asleep watching a movie.  That's it."

Yahiko had somehow gotten the phone back and had heard the last bit.  "You expect me to believe that?  I know you don't sleep!"

"Well I did last night and I don't appreciate that tone you're taking with me.  I'm not your responsibility."  She felt a bit snappish now that they were both coming down on her as if she were some wayward teen.  "We will talk about this when I get home.  One hour.  That's all.  And then we will have this discussion in person."

She turned off the phone, not allowing any more to be said since no more really needed to be said yet.  This was a very stressful thing to have to deal with first thing after what should have been a day of rejoicing.  It was as if her life were in total chaos emotionally just as she was displaced physically where she normally found herself.  Enishi found her after his shower, her head bowed into both her hands, sitting on the floor by the small kiosk that held his phone.  She looked like she was about to cry.

"Could you take me back to my car?"

"Of course."

They didn't speak as she gathered up her purse and put her shoes back on.  The silence was even heavier as they rode down in the elevator and walked to the car in the clear autumn sunshine.  It made Kaoru ill to think that she had to face a long and unpleasant chat with Yahiko and Sano when the day was so nice.  It should at least be grey and terrible to match her foreboding feeling.  As they sat there, across from the coffee shop, Kaoru finally came to a decision.

"Who was girl in the picture by your bed?"

Enishi sucked in a breath and then exhaled as if he had been punched.  "That was my sister.  She died of cancer."  As if it was ripped from him, the words kept going.  "I was so angry at her for leaving me when I was younger.  I didn't go back.  I never said goodbye."  His knuckles were white as they attempted to strangle the steering wheel.

As Kaoru's hand slipped over one of his, Enishi looked away from the street and at her instead.  He didn't know if he was giving her this information, the first thing she had ever asked of him, as an attempt to stem the bad news he knew she was going to give him.  She would leave him too.  At least he could tell Kaoru goodbye.  The time had been too short.

"Enishi,"  The soft tone of her voice was soothing, a lullaby to his senses.  Maybe love didn't have to happen at first sight.  It had only taken him a few days to realize that he had never felt so right in the presence of anyone else; he wanted so much more of her than the mere taste he had gotten so far. "How about we talk about it next time?"

Against every expectation he had, Kaoru leaned over and kissed him.  He lips moved under his, pulling at his mouth with only enough pressure to allow him to feel comfortable with something a little more daring.  His hand went to the back of her head and pressed her hard into the kiss as his tongue slid over her teeth until she opened for him.  The hand behind her head slid down to her shoulders where the other one joined it in a hug that was awkward over the stick shift, but which he refused to give up for such a petty pain.  They broke away after a long moment, both sucking oxygen back into their lungs.

"Yahiko and Sano will just have to accept this.  It wasn't as if I planned it right?"  She leaned over and gave him another peck on the cheek.  "Give me a call tomorrow night, or some night when you have time."

"What else would I be doing?  I'm still on vacation after all." His smile was less viciously sarcastic and mellower now.

Kaoru opened the door and stepped out.  "Maybe you could sleep over at my place next time then."

Had this been under different circumstances, he might have thought she meant something other than sleeping, but he found that even without the promise of sex the offer was tempting.  Now that he knew what he wanted, he wasn't ever letting Kaoru go.  She could take whatever pace in this relationship that made her comfortable.

"I'd like that."

As he pulled out of his parking space, Enishi thought about how he got home he was throwing away his sleeping medication first thing.  With luck, he wouldn't ever need it again. 

All he regretted at this point was not scheduling more vacation time.