A/N: This fic is my first attempt at humor in the RK world and, I hope, successful in achieving its purpose. This incident DID actually happen to me (well, sorta) and was inspiration for this one-shot. Please review after you've read, as I have several other humor fic ideas in mind and would like to know what I should work on when writing the next one. In terms of my characterization – I was not going for OOC – merely emphasizing certain traits of each character until it became absurd. Or at least, that's was the desired effect.
Also – this is sorta my compensation fic for not updating "Through Your Eyes", as I will be on vacation starting tomorrow. Enjoy!
Flight of the Bumblebee
Kenshin hummed softly to himself as his hands deftly slid the linens off the laundry rack, before folding them carefully into the basket at his feet. No doubt anyone passing by would be shocked and a little disturbed to know that the redhead who was so docilely folding the sheets had once been a former hitokiri, and no doubt once the shock wore off, they would have a healthy laugh at his expense, much like Yahiko and Sano had done the first time he had done the wash. But as soon as Kaoru commanded them to scrub the floors, they realized just how envious of Kenshin they really were.
What had started as a substitute for paying rent at the dojo soon became one of Kenshin's favorite jobs; he even requested to take care of it when Kaoru offered to relieve him of the task on occasion. Perhaps it was because this menial labor was so thoughtless – merely squatting in front of a washbasin, sudsy, cool water caressing his hands and forearms as he scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed, until all remnants of filth dissipated. A duty that allowed him to soak in the outdoors, while applying minimal effort, and allowed him time to merely be alive, a rarity for one like him, who had so much to atone for, and so much pain in his past that such a simple act was quite frequently a burden. But the laundry allowed him a small moment of peace and tranquility, much as farming in the mountains with Tomoe had done. Now – now he washed laundry for Kaoru.
Finishing the task with the tiny smile he always wore, he bent to pick up the full basket of glowing white cloth, making his way to the linen closet inside the dojo. Usually he did not hum, but the afternoon today was so beautiful, as late August often was, hinting at the coming fall with the cool dryness in the air, but the sun still holding its fiery warmth as it began to ease down the sky toward the horizon. He blinked for a moment as he stepped inside, waiting to acclimate to the dimness of the indoors that contrasted sharply with the glaring sunshine outside.
Putting down the basket with a quiet deliberateness, he opened the closet and shuffled several piles around to make room for the freshly laundered stack. Sounds of Yahiko and Kaoru sparring diligently for the young boy's afternoon lesson echoed throughout the room, the only sound that broke through the peacefulness, save some birds perched in the cherry trees twittering back and forth. With his chores almost complete, Kenshin would have some free time to rest in the tranquility of the waning daylight – a pleasant thought.
Alas, the fates did not smile upon the slight rurouni on this day, determined to deny him the small satisfaction he would derive from sitting on his favorite spot of the porch, sakabatou in a relaxed hold between his palms. No, today our hero would face a trial much more demanding than any opponent he had encountered in his journeys and life at the dojo.
Unaware of the danger that lay so near, he reached for the next folded piece of laundry, before he heard that telltale noise, coming from the basket.
Bzzz. Bzzzzz-zzzzzzz. Zzzz.
The rurouni froze, instantly growing pale as recognition of the situation became clear. There was… a THING… in the laundry. A thing… with wings that now, thanks to his bumbling ignorance, was inside the dojo.
His blood immediately ran cold, his heartbeat quickening. The tingle that ran up and down his spine was quelled with a forced swallow, his hands tightening on the sheath and hilt of his sakabatou in anticipation of what was to come.
With a steady hand, the former hitokiri pulled out the reverse blade in the ensuing silence. Great care must be taken not to soil the remaining laundry. He would have to be rid of his foe in another way – one that involved the winged creature, whatever it was, being far, far away from the freshly washed linens.
Leveling his sakabatou, he prepared himself mentally for what was undoubtedly to come. He lamented that there was no Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu technique that applied to this situation, regretted that his god-like speed would not give him any perceptible advantage, and feared the unexpected action his foe might take. But, it was he who had brought such a threat into the realm of the dojo, his fault that Kaoru and Yahiko would be endangered. If only he had never stepped foot inside these walls…!
First, he would have to locate his adversary, and there was only one way to do so. He set his feet, closing his eyes to concentrate… but to no avail. The creature was deadly, hiding its ki below the detectable range – a more lethal foe than he initially thought!
Taking great care not to damage the precious linens, he reached towards the now silent basket with his sakabatou. Using the blunt side of the tip, he began to drag his weapon very lightly over the cloth – eventually, he would stumble upon the demonic creature, and unveil its hiding spot! No one could escape him!
The method, while ingenious, was perhaps a little too effective. Upon hitting a certain lump in the fabric, the terribly loud buzzing commenced, and a tiny bulge began to move, ever so steadily towards the edge of the fold that would lead to the outside world. Kenshin steadied his grip, prepared to strike the moment the THING exposed itself.
He did not have to wait long. First one, then another black, spindly leg appeared from the stack of laundry, before a round little body emerged, complete in all its fuzzy horror.
Good mother of fresh tofu.
There was only one thing to do now.
Run. With god-like speed.
x x x
Kaoru heard the cry first. Her concentration broken, she turned at the noise, knowing instantly who the voice had belonged to. What she did not know what that Yahiko was already too far into his attack to stop the shinai aimed at the top of her head.
A great silence filled the training hall as Kaoru craned her head back to her student, eyes glaring dangerously.
Shit. He was done for.
With a ferocity the boy didn't realize existed, Kaoru managed to thwap, kick, and punch him, shouting all the while. Asking him why he was so stupid that he didn't have the brains to stop sparring when it was so obvious something was wrong and telling him that if he really wanted to make himself useful instead of being such a pain, he would have gone, just as she was about to, to see what was going on!
A slamming shoji interrupted her tirade, much to Yahiko's relief, and with a concerned "Kenshin?!", Kaoru broke into a run in the direction of the cry. Rubbing the side of his head and cursing under his breath at the busu, the small samurai skulked after her.
Kenshin stood with his back to the shoji, breathing heavily, his eyes wide with a look neither Kaoru nor Yahiko had ever seen. Fear.
"Kenshin?" Kaoru stopped a few feet away, unsure of how to act.
"Those eyes… so… dark… and the noise!" He covered his ears, unaware that Kaoru and now Yahiko were standing in front of him, watching nervously. "This unworthy one has failed again… but… how, how could I win against such a demon? The unpredictable nature, the speed that rivals my own, the aerial movement created upon demand, the immediate reaction time…my Hiten Mitsurugi techniques are no match!"
"Kenshin?" Kaoru had closed the gap between them, and was standing at his side, tugging on his sleeve. "Are you alright?"
"Kaoru-dono… forgive me! This unworthy one could not protect you… I am sorry… I bring you nothing but hardship and pain –"
"Kenshin, what are you talking about?!" Kaoru's hand went to his pale forehead, feeling the thin, beaded perspiration that had begun to gather. Was he feverish?
"Yahiko!" Kaoru cried out, frightened by the state of her beloved rurouni. "You have to run to the clinic and get a doctor! Something's wrong with Kenshin!"
"U-uh, okay!" Yahiko stuttered, nodding at the command. Seeing his idol in such a state of uselessness was disheartening, to say the least, and scared him shitless, to be blunt. Despite lacking the infamous swiftness of the hitokiri, the boy sprinted out of the dojo at a breakneck speed to get to the clinic.
x x x
Sanosuke was not a man who hurried, worried, or did anything that required an effort outside of sleeping, eating, gambling, and the occasional ass-kicking. A firm believer in the conservation of energy, he allowed the world do all the work for him. Or at least he avoided expending the effort until someone else sighed, exasperated, and, giving up on him, did it themselves.
Yet, strangely enough, Sanosuke was, in fact, wasting his precious energy as he walked down the street. For a good cause, he rationalized to himself, so long as Kenshin's cooking.
Watching with interest as Yahiko burst through the dojo doors and scrambled off down the street, Sano sighed and shook his head. The kid would never learn – the times that required such haste were few and far between, and this slow, lazy afternoon was definitely not one of them. Just because someone SAID you had to hurry didn't mean you actually HAD to. Then again, if it was Jou-chan… well, that could put a knot in the rope.
Poking his head in the doorway, the dojo seemed to be as it rarely was – quiet. No Jou-chan running around with her bokken high, no apologizing, oro-ing rurouni, no bratty kid ready to ambush him and gnaw on his head – well, obviously not, he was just barreling down the street a second ago. Still, a pleasant greeting for the street fighter who was rarely welcomed in any way – aside from a glare full of daggers accompanied by the "Stop leeching offa me!" battle cry that Jou-chan emitted upon sighting him. Now, if she wasn't cooking, he would have to go play dice later – because that would prove today was his lucky day.
"Oi, Jou-chan? Kenshin?" He meandered towards the entrance to the practice hall and saw the two sitting on the porch steps together. Oops – well, he hadn't meant to interrupt, but damn it, where else was he gonna eat tonight?!
"Jou-chan, you cookin' supper?" He bent over and plucked a piece of grass to chew on – it would keep his mind off food. Well, no, on second thought, it would probably make him hungrier, but that meant that the food he finally ate would taste ten times better, right? Just a precaution, in case SHE was the one slicing up the daikon…
"Oi, Kenshin, you alright?" The street fighter finally noticed his friend was oddly pale, quietly rocking back and forth, his sakabatou clenched, knuckles white.
"Kaoru –" Sanosuke's tone was now completely serious. "What happened to him?"
The girl shook her head, her confusion and concern evident.
"I don't know. I was training with Yahiko when I heard some noises and I found him like this…" Kenshin rocked steadily, repeating the same words over and over…
Sanosuke frowned, cursing under his breath.
"There's… something inside, Sano. I sent Yahiko to get a doctor for Kenshin, and I didn't want to leave him here… but I know there's something in there!"
"K'so!" Sano punched his right fist into the palm of his left. "Whoever did this to Kenshin… I'm gonna royally FUCK THEM UP!"
"Sano, be careful…" Kaoru looked at the slowly moving Kenshin, continuing to whisper under his breath.
Sanosuke nodded, watching his best friend shudder slightly. This was going to be difficult, to say the least. If whatever was inside had reduced Kenshin to such a worthless state, it took a morbid imagination to conjure up images of what HE would look like after spending a few seconds behind the shoji. A mere street fighter was nowhere close to the level of skill Kenshin had, and walking inside was like signing a death warrant.
Well, if it had to be done, it had to be done. No one fucked with Kenshin like that and got away with it! Truth be told, no one HAD ever fucked with Kenshin like that, but Sano decided that was beside the point. Now was the time to set precedent, and he would make an example of this sick bastard!
Letting his ki flare about him, he deliberately marched up the steps and slid the shoji open.
The room was silent. So, the enemy was lying in wait, eh? Sanosuke could not detect any presences, which was a small comfort. Quite possibly, it meant he was so far outmatched that he had no chance. No – he would not allow himself to believe that. Close the shoji, and let the show begin!
Examining the small room carefully, he noted that only one thing lay out of place. The laundry – which Kenshin was usually so anal about washing and folding, lay in the basket, task unfinished. Logic, something Sano rarely indulged in because it went against his law of conservation, told him that if he wanted any clues as to the enemy's location, it would be found by the remnants of the chore.
Creeping as stealthily as any ex-gangster would, he inched his way towards the scene of the crime. But he had not, could not, prepare himself for the sight that was to greet his eyes.
The offending creature sat smugly, a black blob on the white linen, wriggling its fat little ass contentedly, mocking the man who had once carried the feared name of Zanza.
Well, he'd be damned. This was indeed going to be difficult, his toughest opponent yet. But he, Sanosuke Sagara, would prove he was worthy of taking Taichou's name, worthy of defending the honor of the Sekihoutai, worthy of fighting alongside a man such as Kenshin! The time had come to fight, and, if necessary, die for the sake of those he deemed important!
"Come and get it, asswipe!" Sano fell back into his stance, ready to pound the six-legged thing into next week as soon as it budged. There was only one miscalculation in his plan…
The insect didn't move.
So, the evil creature thought it could be tricky and outwit Sano, huh? Indeed, it had been unlikely such a fiendish being would fall into such an easy trap. But there was more than one way to fillet a fish. Damn it, to think he'd gotten himself into this mess just because he was hungry…
While Sano debated his next move, the bee lazily lifted its wings, and drifted over to the light coming in from one of the rice paper windows, nefariously buzzing and humming the entire time. Blatantly ignoring the imposingly tall man in white with the red bandanna, which was fine with him. Now that the bug had migrated from its spot on the laundry, there was nothing to fear; Sanosuke could go all out, without ruining the carefully folded layers of cloth in the basket. He was no domestic guru, and shuddered to think of the irreparable damage he would have undoubtedly done to the neat folds had he tried to attack the thing at its previous location, resulting in a screeching Jou-chan and an incensed Kenshin. Most definitely a more intimidating thought than his current nemesis.
The insect flexed its wings slowly, soaking in the warmth from the outdoors, calmly fidgeting with its legs, rubbing them back and forth. Apparently, the little pest had let down its guard; now would be the optimal time to attack. So attack Sano would!
Charging with a ferocious yell, he thrust his fist at the creature with all the power he could muster, and the aftermath proved it. The paper in the window tore – Jou-chan was gonna have his head for that – and there were a few splinters of wood that shattered upon the contact. Yet he had missed his target!
Spinning on his heel, his gaze darted about the room, searching for the elusive adversary, his ears finally alerting him to where the intruder was – loudly buzzing in the corner of the room, hitting up against the wall and promptly bouncing off, in that odd manner that flying insects were capable of. In fact, it struck Sano as so strange that he watched, mesmerized by the masochistic nature of his opponent. It appeared that the street fighter had at last met his match – someone who could take a hit, or in this case, about fifteen, to the head and keep going. Admirable stamina, this creature, but in a battle of endurance, Sanosuke was sure he would prevail.
With his next approach, he was sure to keep his mouth shut, in case the vocalization of his movements had somehow put him at a disadvantage previously. Plus, the bee was in motion, making his full concentration necessary.
One miss, two, left kick, right punch, damn it, that was the wall. Where did the bastard go?
Sano became slowly aware of a prickling sensation on his skin. N-no, it couldn't be. His stomach flipped involuntarily as his eyes drifted to his right hand. Calmly flapping its tiny wings back for forth silently as it sat on his wrapped wrist, the bee waddled about a bit, looking for more comfortable location to rest for a moment. Clenching his other fist, Sanosuke knew this was his moment of triumph…
"IT-T-T-TAI!" he roared, cradling his surely bruised arm. Damn it, that had NOT been a good idea… but if the bee had stayed on his arm, then it would now be no more than crushed exoskeleton and oozing bodily fluids. Unfortunately, the sonuvabitch had moved. Again. Damn it, how could a fat thing like that move so fast?!
The violent attempts of the street fighter to crush the bee were unrequited, as the insect obliviously wavered throughout the air, flying about the room with no apparent destination or purpose. Sano's language grew in harshness and variety, as the man threw every move, punch, kick he knew, even going so far as to attempt a head butt on his opponent. Nothing connected.
At this point, Sano knew he was in trouble. He was getting warm from the exertion, and the closed shoji was cutting off any air circulation to refresh him. The bastard creature was wearing him down before it made the final move to finish him off!
Sano was panting, leaning over with his hands resting on his knees when he caught his breath. The loud buzzing sound seemed dangerously closer, zooming by his ear before going behind him. Then, the familiar prickly sensation of tiny legs poking across the bare skin on the back of his neck.
Mother of stale sake.
The thing was crawling down his shirt.
"O-oi!" Sanosuke protested, trying to claw at his back, attempting to convince the bug to vacate its location on his spine. The bee, not heeding the man's request, quite possibly because it was not fluent in Japanese, merely continued its journey, evoking yelps and squirms as the streetfighter swore, dancing about the room, hoping the movement would persuade the creature to abandon its mission.
It did not.
Sanosuke's face paled drastically when the bee reached the waistline of his pants and did not stop crawling downwards.
x x x
Megumi and Yahiko, panting desperately, had no sooner ran into the courtyard when the shout burst from the inside of one of the dojo rooms, followed by a frantic Sano trying to scramble outside to safety.
"K'soooo!" Sano howled, beating at his back and limbs as best he could, attempting to rid himself of the horrid sensation of those bristly legs against his skin and the furry little body rubbing…
"Get it off, get it off!" Like a horse with colic, the lanky man rolled about in the dirt, hands still inflicting self-abuse, legs thrashing. Megumi paused, catching her breath, immediately feeling her anger begin to accumulate.
"Did you call me out here… for THAT!?"
At the sound of the female doctor's voice, Kaoru's head turned.
"Megumi-san! Quick, it's Kenshin-!"
The older woman turned her attention away from Sano to the struggling rurouni, and, seeing his condition, hurried to the redhead's side.
"Ken-san! What happened?!"
"Well," Kaoru softly injected. "He won't say, and I didn't see what happened, but…"
Yahiko, by now quite recovered from his speedy travel, poked Sano with the tip of his shinai.
"Oi, roosterhead, what's wrong with you!"
Stopping long enough to glare at the little samurai, Sanosuke spat out,
"Don't call me roosterhead, BRAT!"
"What scared you so bad you pissed your pants?" Yahiko stuck out his tongue, incensing the older man until the street fighter jumped to his feet, forgetting his illusionary discomfort.
"Don't make me shut your face for you!"
"Mou!" Yahiko sighed, heaving his shinai onto his shoulder. "Never send a rooster to do a man's job!" And with that, he stalked towards the cracked open shoji, determined to display his prowess and skills as a samurai. Setting his feet, his shinai ready in his hand, he slid the door open so hard it hit the end of the track with a "thud". Unfortunately, the movement disturbed the bee which had been resting on the back of the shoji, and it buzzed with an apathetic whine at being disrupted. As the insect flew directly in front of Yahiko's face, the small swordsman pulled back in surprise, falling on his posterior with a resounding thump. His heart raced at the sight of the creature so close to him – a near-death experience! The boy slammed the door back shut and spun around, crawling to the steps on his knees.
"Feh, not so tough now, are you, brat." Sanosuke sat cross-legged, eyeing the youth who had so blatantly mocked him seconds before.
"I'm allergic!" Yahiko tried to defend himself, angrily, but his wobbled descent from the porch clearly indicated his attempt at a cover. The street fighter merely snorted in response.
"Sanosuke! Yahiko!" Megumi's voice cut through their banter with a professional coldness. "Get me some fresh cold water and a cup. And… a piece of paper or two."
Eager to escape the insults of his cowardice, Yahiko had already bounded off to draw water at the doctor's request, leaving Sano with the curious task of retrieving a cup and a piece of paper. Now, the man did not pretend to know about medical procedures and the newest advances in science, but for the life of him, he could not understand what the fox-doctor would want with paper. Towels and cold water, that would make more sense when it came to helping an ailing man. And the towels were… oh. They were in the same room as the THING. Forget that – paper would do just as well.
Megumi watched the two scamper off to follow her bidding, and eyed the shoji carefully again. While she had been listening to Kaoru, Kenshin's symptoms were quite clear. He did not have a fever and was not sick – his signs pointed to a mild case of shock – so her mind and eyes began to wander while her ears remained slightly alert. She had seen Yahiko open the door, witnessed the monstrosity that had reared its ugly head, and her intuition told her that it was the key to locating the cause of Kenshin's mental paralysis.
The two returned with the promised items, and she nodded her thanks, taking the cup and paper from Sanosuke as Yahiko set down a bucket filled with well water.
"Stay with him," Megumi directed to the nervous Kaoru, as the doctor rolled up her sleeves, turning to make her way to the blocked off room. Something in Megumi's resoluteness kept the two others who had already approached the room, silent. Her figure dissipated in the darkness, and a silence beset the dojo.
The seconds seemed like hours, slowly ticking by, until the doctor emerged, holding the paper underneath the cup. Sanosuke and Yahiko let out a sigh of relief, glad they did not have to pretend to be brave and run to the rescue of their friend. As she approached, however, their feelings of liberation quickly dissolved into the familiar threads of fear, as a recognizable buzzing accompanied her advancing form. The two whipped their heads back and forth, trying to see where the bastard bee was going to come from next, as Megumi knelt in front of the hunched Kenshin and the troubled Kaoru.
When the noise finally ceased, Megumi carefully lifted the cup, seeing her prey was not on the paper still. Turning the cup upright, she peered inside, satisfied her quarry was calmly sitting in one place.
"Ken-san…" Megumi took on the most professional tone she could with the mentally decimated rurouni. "Does this have anything to do with your current state?" The question was superfluous, she was really only interested in his reaction. And lifting the cup and tilting it in his direction definitely produced the results she wanted.
"KAORU-DONO!" Kenshin cried, pushing her to the ground, his movements shaky – but at least now he was moving. And speaking clearly. "Accept this unworthy one's apologizes for failing you, Kaoru-dono… failing to protect the dojo from this fiend!"
"Kenshin?!" was the only response Kaoru could find, at a loss as to what was occurring between the doctor and patient.
"Ken-san," Megumi began, her voice carrying a tone of exasperation as if she was scolding a little child. "Bumblebees don't sting."
"…Oro?" The rurouni blinked, watching the bee lazily pick up its feet and drift away through the air as though nothing had transpired.
Sighing quietly, the doctor shook her head. Well, it couldn't be expected that he would know – it was a common mistake among all people, and she only knew the difference in anatomy because she had studied such things to become a doctor. Even so, he was a hitokiri at one point, and a mere bumblebee cowed him?!
"That was a common bumblebee. They can't harm people."
Kaoru looked back and forth between Megumi and her rurouni, at last putting things together. Sano's shouts and yells… the thumps and thuds she had heard from outside were his attempts at squash… a bug? And Kenshin was fine, merely immobilized by his inherent fear of… bumblebees?
The red-haired man found himself sopping wet, as icy cold well water trickled down his face and off his clothes. Shortly after this interesting revelation, he felt a painful sensation on the side of his head, noting that a wooden bucket, incriminatingly waterlogged,was now rolling at his feet. His ears were immediately assaulted by the ferocious cry of Kaoru, accompanied by her shaking him violently.
"YOU HAD ME WORRIED ABOUT YOU BECAUSE YOU FOUND A BEE!? MY WINDOW IS BROKEN NOW, KENSHIN, AND I AM NOT GONNA FIX IT! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU, FRIGHTENED BY SOMETHING LIKE THAT-"
A/N: (again) I love the characters – despite beating up on them a little in this fic. For those who were wondering what part actually happened to me – I brought in a bee with the laundry the other day, and, hearing it buzz, poked about the shirt the noise was coming from with a pen until I found the felon. When I at last got it to crawl out, I sucked it up with a vacuum. Don't get me wrong, I think bumblebees are cute – so long as they're OUTSIDE ; However, I've had to use the cup and paper (you put a cup over the bug, then force them to slide over onto a piece of paper till you can carry them outside) method when vacuums were not available. (Can we say winged insect half as big as my hand on bookshelf in dorm room. Yea, THAT wasn't fun.) And the idea just struck me when I saw the bumblebee of how our favorite rurouni would act if the same happened to him. Hope you enjoyed, and don't forget to review!