A/N – This short story was inspired by my dog: skunked four times and counting.
Disclaimer – I don't own Rurouni Kenshin, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Courage the Cowardly Dog, or Crate and Barrel.
Women and Dogs Walk All Over Me
Beautiful, strong, funny, kind, intelligent, sexy, all your typical adjectives, plus stubborn as a frickin' mule on a hot day: all of these words describe my wife.
I love her.
I admire her virtue, her patience, her talent, and all the qualities and mannerisms that make her Kaoru. I wouldn't have Kaoru any other way, but it does get on my nerves how she manipulates me that she's got me protesting a chore one moment and begging to do it five seconds later. That's women though. Kaoru constantly ragged on me to get over my weakness for the opposite sex when we were first married, but I think she saw it was a hopeless case right away. My mother beat that philosophy into me when I was little – to treat the opposite sex with the ultimate respect, as if their bodies and hearts were made of glass, and I'm an accident prone kid dribbling his basketball in 'Crate and Barrel.' I still grimace at the image that particular analogy brings to mind. As a result, women walk all over me. Needless to say, Kaoru wasn't too happy with me when I confessed that was how I felt about her. She doesn't like being thought of as delicate. Boy did she help me get over that misconception in a hurry. I still remember that night. Stop the lecherous thoughts, Kenshin. Stop the lecherous thoughts.
The dog always wants to go outside at the worst times. Ten o'clock at night by my watch. You'd think he'd come outside with me during the day now that I'm off from school for the summer, but no, it's too hot for him or something. We should have gotten a white dog. Or better yet, we should shave off his fur. Kaoru would never let me do that though. The last time I suggested it, she gave me the argument that he might get sunburned if I did that to him. Oh please, he's a dog! But she turned a deaf ear to all of my arguments and that was the end of that.
"Kenshin, could you take Shishio out? I have to finish making this test."
Kaoru is a math teacher at the local high school. Her students don't know how good they have it, being given the privilege to stare at her for a whole period. She has the rare talent of actually being able to communicate with her students and earn their respect enough to teach them a thing or two. I'm not blessed with those skills to the same high degree; that's why I teach at the college, where the students are more mature and I can also do research.
"Sure." I watch as Shishio acts as pathetic as possible, whining and scratching at the door to get our attention. I see you, dog, I see you. "I wanted to shoot some hoops anyway."
As immature as it may be, I couldn't resist having a basketball hoop installed on one side of our driveway before we moved in. It turned out to be a smart decision in the end. The guys and I have had some great nights shooting around out there in the few years Kaoru and I have owned this house. Kaoru and I have had some even better nights out there too. She seems to like watching me make a fool of myself on the court with my average basketball skills, and if I beg long enough, she'll usually play a couple games with me.
"Come on, Shishio," I call the dog after I've retrieved my basketball shoes from our room. Not that I really need to call him, he started watching me like a hawk as soon as I appeared with shoes on. But even dogs would rather be invited than expected to come, I suppose. It's hard not to smile at him when his tail starts wagging as soon as I utter the magic word, 'come', and he looks up at me with his huge adoring brown eyes. What can I say? That dog idolizes me.
"See ya," I say as I kiss Kaoru on the cheek. She just nods and doesn't look up from her test. The woman is beautiful when she's focused like that.
A walk down the stairs, a left turn, a trail through the second living room, a stop by the door to pick up my basketball, and we're outside. Shishio immediately switches from cute, happy, 'I love you bestest, Kenshin,' mode to sleek, alert, 'Ignore the presence of the human' mode. Traitor dog.
The odor of honeysuckles wafts through the air to my nose. It's a perfect night to play basketball. There are no clouds, and the moon is full so I can actually see the hoop without having to turn on lights and attract bugs. Kaoru hates it when I inadvertently let them in. Let us emphasize the word inadvertently because it's not like I do it on purpose. I don't know why she gets so angry with me when it happens. Women.
Shishio promptly imagines he hears something in the brush and darts off. Damn dog, now I'll have to yell at him to get him back. What was I just saying about traitor dogs? No matter, basketball is waiting. Shaking away thoughts of Kaoru the bug hater and Shishio the traitor dog, I jog to the hoop and fire a few warm up shots. These are intended to fire up my imagination. Slowly, slowly, the shadowy figures of various star basketball players start to form around me. The court elongates and I'm in a real professional stadium. There are ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. The score is tied. I'm up to the line to shoot two foul shots. My team is counting on me. Can I do it? 'Don't mess this up, Himura!' the coach yells.
There's the first one. Can I do it again?
Two points for the team.
Somewhere around the time when I'm about to score the winning shot, thereby winning the NBA championships for my team, never mind the fact that it's off-season, and proving myself to my coach, a dog starts barking. Now what the heck is a dog doing in a professional basketball stadium? I glance to my left and here comes Shishio running through the fan with the poster that says 'Marry me Kenshin Himura' and then right through our star point guard. Their solid forms become transparent and swish away like ghosts. Damn dog. There goes the championship.
What is that behind Shishio? It's probably just the neighbor's cat chasing him again. You'd think he would have learned to leave it alone by now. But the neighbor's cat isn't black, and Shishio seems a little more alarmed than usual. He's cowering behind me and –
What is that smell? It's like burning rubber and rotten eggs and – skunk! No wonder the dog's running away. At times like these basketball fantasies are best left forgotten. I think a short sprint is in order. The tree thirty meters away will soon be awarded the wonderful privilege of holding an all-star basketball player in its arms. Branches. It's lucky I was in track in college and that I've climbed this particular tree dozens of times before. Too bad Shishio can't climb trees, but it's every man, and dog, for himself.
Shishio must have seriously pissed that skunk off because it's been chasing him around this tree so long I'm starting to grow faint from the noxious fumes. But I will not let go of this branch, I will not let go. In retrospect, I'm lucky it doesn't have arms, or I would have cut off its circulation long ago, causing it to drop me into the path of an angry, probably rabid, bloodthirsty rampaging skunk. You'd think Kaoru would have heard something by now with all the barking and hissing going on, but I guess she's still hard at work writing up that test for tomorrow. Next time I'll have to remember to bring my cell phone to the game with me.
Could it be? Yes! The skunk has finally exacted its revenge on Shishio. He's gone! Shishio lies down by the tree in front of me, the poor dog's exhausted. And he stinks! Damn! Guess who's going to be the one giving him a bath?
Ah, my lovely wife, Kaoru has come to save the day.
"What are you doing up in that tree? And what is that horrible smell?"
She must have come over while I was panicking. I didn't even see her come out the door.
"Be careful, there's a skunk out here."
She wrinkles her nose prettily in the moonlight. Yes, she had me completely under her control by the end of our first date. I believe the guys referred to it as 'pussy- whipped.'
"Ick, that smell is strong!" Then, the situation dawns on her. She's a bright child. "Oh no! Don't tell me Shishio got skunked!"
"Probably. The skunk was chasing him around this tree!"
She looks at me strangely. "Kenshin, skunks don't chase dogs around trees."
"Well this one did!" I insist, starting the delicate process of climbing down from the tree.
"It must have been rabid," she pronounces thoughtfully. Gee, you think? "I'll call Animal Control tomorrow." All of a sudden she jumps back. "Eww! Kenshin! Did you get sprayed?"
Oh no. Oh no. Please God, tell me I didn't get sprayed. "I don't think so," I manage to say calmly, in spite of the direction this conversation is going. "I was in the tree the whole time."
"Skunks can spray up to fifteen feet. You weren't that high up. You have to burn those clothes, Kenshin."
What? Burn my clothes? This is my favorite shirt. My mother gave it to me. I stink? What about Shishio? I cast an angry look in his direction, a few feet away and behind Kaoru. The dog's smart to hide.
"And you are not coming in the house. You'll have to sleep in the garage."
My mouth drops open in shock, but she doesn't see because she's turned around to examine Shishio. "Ugh! He stinks too. It looks like you've got yourself a sleeping buddy." She turns back around to me. "Just be thankful it's summertime and you won't get cold. Go wait for me in the garage with the dog. I'll bring you some clean clothes." She starts walking back to the house and I have no choice but to follow her, my mouth still open in shock. "It's lucky there's plumbing in there. You'll have to wash up in the sink. I'll bring you the clothes and a sleeping bag to lie on. Tomorrow I'll bring some tomato juice for you to wash up with. Isn't that supposed to work? Go to the garage, Kenshin. I'll be right back."
With that my beautiful, kind, caring wife shuts the door in my face and disappears into the house. I finally remember to close my mouth. I've been kicked out! This is much worse than sleeping on the sofa. And why? Because of Shishio and a stupid rabid skunk! Fuming at the world, I stomp over to the garage and go in, calling once to Shishio who trots along happily behind me; some sleeping buddy.
The garage is not the ideal place to spend the night. Because Kaoru's car is parked outside, there's plenty of floor space for me to lie down, enough room for a sleeping bag, but this definitely won't turn out to be the best night of my life. With a sigh I flick on the lights, shut the door and head over to the sink. Kaoru keeps soap, towels, and wash clothes in here for me to wash up if I'm tinkering with one of the cars. It would be best to be washed up before she comes back, so with a sigh and a glare at Shishio, who has curled up on his favorite rug that we'll now have to burn because the smell will never come out, I start stripping.
Hand-washing your whole body in a small grimy sink in your a garage is neither fun nor warm, so by the time Kaoru comes back in, I am finished in record time: dry, relatively clean, and shivering in my towel.
"Here're your clothes and a sleeping bag, Kenshin," she says, tossing me a big bundle. Her voice is different. I wonder why until it dawns on me that she's trying not to breathe too much. I must be getting used to the smell. Not good.
"You're really making me sleep out here?" I ask, incredulous. After all, it's my house too and I make more money than her if we have to get technical.
"Well you're not sleeping in the bed!"
Great, now she's angry.
"If you come inside the whole house will smell like skunk. Is that what you want, Kenshin?"
"You're exaggerating. I'm not the one that got sprayed! It was Shishio!" I defend my self. No one likes to be told that they stink.
"Sure, blame it all on the dog. Kenshin, honey, I'm sorry, but you are not entering our house until that smell is gone or there will be dire consequences, and I do mean dire. Do you understand me?"
Shit. Now she's gotten all preachy and scary. Her eyes are narrowed and that one vein on her forehead that starts pulsing whenever she gets really mad is starting to show.
"Do you understand me?!"
I guess I didn't answer fast enough.
"Yes, Kaoru," I finally manage to squeak out. Not very manly at all. The guys would laugh so hard if they could see me right now, not to mention my students. Just wait until they get married, then they'll know what I go through everyday.
"That's what I thought. Good night, Kenshin." She's so mad at me that she's skipping the good night kiss! I can't help but groan. Kaoru gives some superb good night kisses. I've gotten used to them over the few years that we've been married. It doesn't feel so hot to have to go to sleep gypped of one. She slams the garage door and I hear her footsteps fade away. I listen to be sure she gets inside the house safely. She does, and even locks the door.
I look back to my room for the night. There's my car and the motorcycle I was working on for Kaoru's father. And there's Shishio, the dog who started it all, lying on my clothes, luckily the ones I was wearing during the skunk episode and not the new ones Kaoru brought. I walk over to examine what she brought me, still wrapped tight in my towel. She gave me the old sleeping bag that I was supposed to throw away last year and my old work clothes with paint blotches on them! She must really be pissed then. Women. With a sigh and a withering glare at Shishio, who I know will probably snuggle up next to me in the night, I start shrugging into my skunk-free clothes. It's going to be a long night.
She is dreaming. Kaoru has always been the type of person who dreams about the past, and this night is no different. She is dreaming of the day she met Kenshin.
She's at the Yoder farm and she's dropped by the Amish family's stand for some fresh fruit as she often does after a long day at her summer job. As she stands in line, she's watching the puppies playing in the pen with the 'For Sale' sign a few feet away. She had a dog once, when she was a little girl, but it died in her freshman year of college. Then she vowed never to own a dog again if she couldn't take care of it, if she couldn't be there for it. She still blames herself. Maybe if she'd been there he'd still be alive. Watching the puppies in their innocence makes her long for one.
"Yeah, we've been having beautiful weather," a masculine voice says from behind her in answer to a comment. Kaoru wonders why his voice broke into her thoughts, but she's not complaining. She resists the temptation to turn around to see what he looks like. Knowing her luck, he'd probably be looking in her direction and catch her staring.
She's paying for her fruit when it happens. One of the small Amish children bumps into the puppies' pen and they escape. Laughing, Kaoru turns to watch as the eight puppies wreck mayhem on the fruit stand. One red haired man is so surprised that he drops his keys, only to have them picked up by a particularly mischievous puppy. He's cute, the man, not the puppy. Not that the puppy isn't adorable as well. The expression on the man's face is cute as well, as he watches stunned that the puppy has picked up his keys and run away with them. Then he's jolted into action, weaving through the small crowd after the puppy. Kaoru loses sight of him for a few seconds, before he pops up close on the puppy's trail a good distance away. He's a particularly fast runner, but the puppy is exacting evasive maneuvers.
"Hey, you! Stop!" The Amish woman behind the stand shouts. Kaoru looks her way, wondering if the woman's talking to her, but realizes she's yelling at the man who's chasing the puppies. "You'll fall!" the woman calls again.
Kaoru is slightly confused. The man looks completely in control, even though he's chasing a small puppy in the hopes of retrieving his car keys. She can't imagine him falling. And then he does. The puppy reaches the rise in the land and lunges to the right too fast for the man, who has no choice but to keep going over the rise. And then he's gone. She blinked and now he is gone.
"What happened?" Kaoru asks the world in general. She is already making her way through the crowd of people trying to round up the puppies and towards the place where the man disappeared. The rebellious puppy he was chasing sits panting on the hillside a few feet away from the rise.
"He fell," the Amish woman mutters. "Would you mind making sure he's okay?" she calls after Kaoru. "I'm going to get my husband to get him out."
"Sure," Kaoru replies, starting off up the rise at a comfortable jog. The day is beautiful, a warm July evening. The blue sky is marred only by a few clouds drifting across the setting sun on the western horizon and the streaks of purple, pink and orange. The puppy half-prances, half-rolls down the slope towards her, the car keys still in his mouth. Kaoru bends down and calls to him.
"Hi, puppy. How are you today, huh? Did you steal that man's keys? I bet he wants them back. Be a good–," Kaoru pauses to check the sex of the dog, "-boy and give them to me."
Surprisingly, miraculously, against all odds, the puppy trots to her and drops the keys in her waiting hands. He is a cute puppy, a little black mutt with brown markings over his eyes that look like eye brows, paws that seem too big for his small body, and ears that stick up and are currently pointing in her direction. She gives him a pat on the head and a tickle underneath his chin before continuing on up the rise with the puppy now following at her heels.
When she reaches the top and looks down, she's surprised to see that the hill doesn't slope gently down into a field. Instead it cuts off like a cliff. A couple feet below her is an open dumpster. And in that dumpster stands the man. He hasn't noticed her yet. He's too busy making faces and trying to come to terms with the fact that he's shoulder deep in garbage. He's also grumbling something about dumb dogs. Kaoru crouches down on the edge of the grassy cliff and clears her throat.
He looks up at the sound and she greets him, "Hey, I got your car keys from the puppy." She dangles them in her right hand so that he can see she's telling the truth.
"Thanks," he says warmly to her. Then he glares daggers at the puppy when it comes up to sit beside her and pant down at him. "How'd you do it?" he asks, clearly embarrassed to be standing in a dumpster, covered in Amish trash.
"I sweet-talked him. I've always had a knack with animals," Kaoru explains. "Are you okay? I didn't get the impression that you were expecting that fall."
"I wasn't. I'm fine, though," he answers her, still glaring at the puppy, who doesn't seem to care.
"Well let me help you out," Kaoru offers, leaning down belly first on the slope and reaching her hand down towards him.
"Thanks," he says gratefully, sloshing through the garbage towards her hand. "If only the Amish used garbage bags," he complains.
"They don't believe in plastic," Kaoru informs him.
He stops for a moment and blinks at her.
"I've lived around here my whole life. I should know," Kaoru explains. He continues towards her again. "You're obviously not from around here."
"No," he agrees, searching for something to stand on so he can hoist himself up onto the side of the dumpster. He must have reasoned that there's no way she can pull him up without him doing part of the work. He's definitely heavier than her. He'll need to support his weight on something and hoist himself up. Suddenly he makes a disgruntled face, "I don't even want to know what I'm standing on," he mutters, reaching up to grasp her wrist.
Kaoru gets a healthy wave of the garbage smell the man is coated in. As soon as she pulls him up, she's going to hightail it out of there and head back to her car. God, he stinks! Lucky for her, he's athletic, and has no problem jumping up with her yanking on his arm until his feet are standing on the edge of the dumpster. From there, she hauls him up and onto the side of the cliff, only to have the Amish woman's husband run up and ask her if she's alright. She lets him haul her to her feet.
"I'm fine, I'm fine. Thanks." She can tell that he's genuinely worried. How sweet.
"So then you're not going to sue my family?" he asks. So much for sweet, kind concern for his fellow man.
"Shouldn't you be asking me that?" the young man that fell in the dumpster asks. Neither Kaoru, nor the Amish farmer has helped him stand up for obvious reasons. He's covered in garbage, his clothes are soiled, you can smell him coming a mile away, he has something brown smeared across his knees, and to top it all off, the puppy's barking at him.
"Sorry, sir," the older Amish man says. "I'll have my wife get you some garbage bags to line your car with, and some free fruit."
The young man only nods and resumes his glares towards the puppy. Kaoru's actually grown attached to him by now, the puppy, not the man. And he seems to like her back as they all walk down the slope in the midst of an uneasy silence. Occasionally, he yips at the man covered in garbage, but mostly he runs around at her heels, despite chastisements from his owner. Kaoru wonders where her fruit got to in the confusion, but the problem is solved when the woman from behind the counter hands her a bag of fresh fruit. Kaoru thanks her and heads for her car. Dropping the fruit in the passenger side, she walks to the driver side door, the puppy at her heels. She opens the door and sits in the seat, legs still on the dirt shoulder of the road.
"I'm sorry, doggie. I have to go now. I can't take you with me."
"Please take him, as a thank you for helping that man." It's the Amish woman. "He's a rascal, I have to tell you that. But he's taken a shine to you. You can have him for free."
A puppy for free. Hadn't she been thinking about buying one?
The woman reaches into her apron pocket and pulls out a few papers. "Here's his registration and proof he's had his shots from the vet. I always keep them handy in case someone wants to take a puppy home."
In spite of herself, Kaoru finds her hand is reaching out and taking the papers. She smiles up at the woman. "Thank you, but are you sure?"
The woman laughs. "Yes. Take the puppy. He's even house trained already. He belongs to a litter of eight. We've got plenty more to sell for a profit."
Just then the puppy solves the dilemma by bounding into Kaoru's lap. She laughs and holds him firm against her by instinct.
The Amish woman waves and turns away.
"Hello," Kaoru says, turning her full attention to the puppy and staring into his big brown eyes. "I guess you're coming home with me after all. But I can't have you stealing people's car keys and making them fall in dumpsters, can I?" The puppy merely pants up at her, the picture of innocence. "What's your name?" She places the puppy in the seat next to her, shuts the car door, and rifles through the papers the woman had given her. "Shishio? Well Shishio it is then," she tells him as she reaches over and places the papers in her glove compartment to retrieve later.
"Excuse me, miss."
It's the man from the dumpster, looking slightly more ridiculous wrapped in white garbage bags from the tops of his shoes to his neck. At least the garbage bags seem to have controlled the smell.
"I thought the Amish didn't believe in plastic," is all Kaoru can think to say.
He smiles wryly. He actually doesn't have that bad a smile. Scratch that, he's a total hunk, or would be if only he wasn't wrapped in white plastic. "Apparently they keep some around for situations such as these." He leans down so that he his level with her open window and holds out his hand.
Kaoru notices he's washed his hands. Now she can shake them without having to worry that her hand will come away smelling like rancid milk.
"Kenshin Himura," he introduces himself.
"Kaoru Kamiya," she replies.
He glances by her, surprised. "That's your dog!" he exclaims.
Kaoru has the grace to blush. After all, Shishio is the dog that caused him so much trouble. "No. The Amish woman gave him to me as a thank you present. I'd been thinking about getting a dog anyway, so why not him?" Kaoru explains, wondering why she feels the need to explain.
Violet eyes settle on her. "Why not?" he asks sarcastically. "What's his name?"
"Shishio," the man repeats, rolling the name on his tongue. Shishio perks at the man saying his name and bounds into Kaoru's lap to sniff at the man's hand, which is now resting on the side of her door. "It fits."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing. Anyway, I just came over to thank you for hauling me out of that dumpster and to ask if you still have my keys."
"Oh my gosh! I totally forgot. Sorry," apologizes, fishing in her pocket and coming up with the keys in question. She promptly hands them over to him as if they're stolen diamonds and he's the FBI come to arrest her. "That would have been horrible," she exclaims, a thousand implications of what she'd almost done coming to her mind.
He waves off her apology. "No problem. Um." He looks a little nervous now, and the tone of his voice is not quite as sure. "I know I'm a guy covered in trash and wrapped in garbage bags, but I was wondering if I could take you out this weekend."
Surprised, Kaoru blushes and looks him over again more closely. Red heads have never been her style, but she could make an exception for this man. He isn't too short, nor too tall. He has fine features that are almost startlingly attractive. If his voice weren't so deep and if he wasn't plainly all muscle underneath the garbage bags, the trash, and the clothes, he could pass for female. But there is an undeniably masculine air to his bearing, and with that, he can never be mistaken for a woman. What decides her are his eyes. She's never seen anyone with violet eyes before, and this pair of violet eyes are practically begging her to stare into them, which she discovers she is doing.
Blushing, she decides to accept his invite. "I'd like that," she replies with as much grace and dignity she can muster, while inside all she can think is 'score, the hotness of Kaoru Kamiya strikes again!'
She likes his smile. It's genuine quality. That, and the fact that Shishio is now licking his hand mean that he can't be that bad. Kaoru has always believed that dogs are good judges of character.
"Can I have your number so I can call you?"
In a haze of victory and a little nervousness, Kaoru recites it.
"Can I call you tonight?" he asks, "Around ten?"
"Sure. I'll be home." Kaoru manages to answer casually.
"I'll call you tonight then. I guess Shishio stealing my keys wasn't such a bad thing after all, or else I never would have had the guts to ask you out," he comments, staring hard down at the puppy and stroking Shishio's head.
Kaoru is stunned. This man was too nervous to ask her out? Is she that intimidating, she wonders with more than a little dismay.
"Bye, Shishio," he says, his eyes still on the dog. He raises them to meet Kaoru's. "See you, Miss Kamiya."
"Call me, Kaoru." His eyes are stunning, paralyzing. Does she still remember how to drive? Can she make it all the way home? Darn, Kaoru groans inside. Now the second nine-thirty comes she'll be waiting by the phone on the off chance that he might call early. He's not the type to say he'll call and then never do it, is he?
"Kaoru then. You can call me Kenshin."
Despite herself, Kaoru blushes again. Is she out to set the world record for blushing or something? Treacherous face, blushing all the time!
"I'll call you tonight, Kaoru."
He waves and turns away to walk back towards his own car. The Amish are currently loading it up with fruit, probably to pay him back and make sure he doesn't sue them, Kaoru thinks darkly as she lifts Shishio from her lap and starts the car. Driving off, she blushes again at the memory of the moment when Kenshin asked her out. Stopped at a red light in her town, she laughs out loud at the mental image of him covered in trash. Even if he doesn't call, that image is priceless.
Kaoru smiles in her bed, and rolls over, mind moving on to another dream.
Kenshin rarely dreams of his memories, but perhaps because she's not sleeping by his side, Kenshin dreams of Kaoru.
Butterflies flutter in his stomach. Kenshin hasn't felt this nervous since the fifth grade school play, where he was Peter Pan, and thanks to some twisted script-writing from his teachers and fellow classmates, he had to kiss Wendy. He's nervous because this is his second date with Kaoru, it's Thursday, and he's taking her to the amusement park an hour's drive away. Maybe this date's not romantic enough? He's made it a surprise and told her to dress comfortably, but women are known to prefer picnics alone in the park to loud, crowded, places where small children run wild and occasionally throw up on you, and you always get stuck behind the annoying people in line. What if she doesn't like rollercoasters?
Shishio bounds up to him. The puppy is fun to play with, but Kenshin's still having a hard time forgiving him for the dumpster incident a week ago. And last weekend when Kenshin came to pick Kaoru up for their first date Shishio peed on his shoes, much to Kaoru's dismay and his embarrassment.
Shishio tries to pee on Kenshin's shoes again, but this time he's smart and jumps out of the way just as Kaoru rounds the corner of her small lawn.
"Hi, Kenshin! Oh no! I can't believe he tried to do it again! Shishio! Bad dog!" Kaoru practically shrieks, rushing towards Kenshin and her dog where they stand at the bottom of the front steps. She's dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt.
"I'm sorry, I was just taking him for a walk before I left and got distracted talking to my neighbors in the backyard when I realized he was gone," she explains, grabbing Shishio by the collar and leading him towards the house. Because she's bent down, Kenshin has quite a nice view of her rear, although he's sure not to be too obvious, in case the neighbors she mentioned are watching.
"It's okay, it's okay," he reassures her, waiting for her at the bottom of the steps. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah, I'm ready. I'm just going to grab my purse and we'll go. Bye, bye, Shishio. I'll see you later. Be a good boy and don't chew up any shoes. And don't jump on the furniture, okay? I'll be back tonight and that nice little girl is going to come over and check on you and give you your food, and take you out on a nice long walk around the block. If you're good she'll even give you a treat. See you, Shishio!" Kaoru calls as she backs out of the house and locks the front door.
She turns to Kenshin. Woah! Big blue eyes. Kenshin always was a sucker for big eyes of any color. It's only better that hers are blue, his favorite color. He realizes he must have it bad if he's thinking about the color of her eyes. Men don't think about the color of a woman's eyes or the way the sun shines on her skin unless they've got it bad.
"So are you going to tell me where we're going now?" she asks as she descends the steps to stand next to him.
"As soon as we get on the road," Kenshin replies as they start walking. He realizes he's about to step in the patch of dog piss just in time to sidestep, unfortunately into Kaoru, who is caught off balance. Kenshin stretches his arm out and manages to arrest her fall. She's staring up at him, surprised.
Shishio has done it again. Stupid dog, you make me look bad, Kenshin finds himself thinking in a crazy imitation of Eustace from 'Courage the Cowardly Dog'. Maybe it's not too bad this time though, because she's straightened, but is still standing in the half circle of his arm around her waist. Kenshin remembers that he hadn't kissed her when he'd brought her home after their first date, their only other date. It had felt too typical. She'd looked a little disappointed, but damnit, he hadn't wanted the relationship to start out typical. So he hadn't kissed her. He'd only smiled and walked back to his car. Besides, he hadn't quite mustered the courage to kiss her then. But now, standing here frozen, staring down at her, knowing the neighbors were watching, he has that courage. And then he kisses her.
In the garage, Kenshin rolls over and wraps his arms around the warm object lying at his side. Shishio, the warm object aforementioned, licks his master's face.
"Admit it, Kenshin. Missy has had you pussy whipped since the first date," Sano Sagara drawls.
"What are you talking about?" Kenshin asks a little angrily. "She's not the boss of me. I'm still an independent man."
"She made you cut your hair," Aoshi Shinomori observes dryly from his spot on the couch on the other side of Sano. "You swore you were never going to cut it."
"Yeah, well I like it better this way," Kenshin admits. "And it was just a trim," he defends himself.
Sano snorts and takes another sip of his beer. "Whatever, Kenshin. She's making you take care of that demon dog, Shishio. You told us you were going to make her get rid of him. Now he'll be living in your house with you."
"I never said he was a demon dog."
"Don't lie to yourself," Sano rolled his eyes. "You told us how he was the one who made you fall in that dumpster. Plus the dog has pissed on your shoes numerous times, left his crap in the driver's seat of your car, thrown up on you when you picked him up, eaten a dead squirrel and then licked your face, stolen your car keys again and dropped them in the toilet-"
"Shishio's a great dog! He didn't mean to do any of those things," Kenshin said, surprised to actually find him is defending the mutt from Hell.
"Kenshin, for once I have to agree with Sano," Soujiro Seta states from the opposite couch.
"See? Even Seta here agrees with me," Sano declares.
"What did happen when you told Kaoru to get rid of the dog?" Hajime Saitou asks from his seat next to Soujiro. He's smoking again. Kenshin hates when he smokes. He only invited the man to his bachelor party because Kaoru forced him to, since she is friends with the man's wife.
"She laughed," Kenshin mutters, wondering if he is drunk already because he's actually admitting the truth.
Even Aoshi chuckles. A little.
"Pussy-whipped," Sano says again, shaking his head and throwing down his hand. "Four of a kind, boys."
Everyone except Sano groans.
Sano grins. "Pussy-whipped," he repeats again as he collects his winnings.
"Well if I am pussy-whipped," Kenshin starts in a loud voice, sure now that he is, in fact, drunk, "then I'm happy to be Kaoru's mindless zombie sex slave," he announces.
Laughter rocks through the whole room as Kenshin passes out. Dimly, the last words he hears are Sano's.
"He didn't even make it to the half-naked woman we ordered to pop out of the cake."
I've been awake for ten minutes and I'm still shuddering. I woke up with my arms wrapped around Shishio instead of Kaoru, passionately kissing the front of his nose. I can only hope I didn't try French-kissing before I woke up. I've seen some of the things Shishio likes to smell, and none of them do I want anywhere near my mouth. Right away when I woke up and recovered from my initial shock, I noticed I didn't smell anything but the garage. It's probably because I've gotten used to the skunk smell. Is this my fate, to live my life hidden away from human eyes in my garage because I smell too horrible for the world?
Shishio whines and scratches the door. He wants to go outside for his morning ritual: pee, sniff, stink, sniff, pee again, etc. It's always the same. I don't know why I tolerate that dog. Sighing, I open the door. He rushes out, once again switching from cute, adorable, 'I love you bestest, Kenshin' mode to sleek, alert, 'Ignore the presence of the human' mode.
Kaoru is outside standing by her car, about to leave for work. A hot stab of hurt goes through me. Was she going to leave without saying goodbye to me just because I stink?
She sniffs Shishio cautiously as he walks by her, intent on starting the first step of his morning ritual no doubt. She sees me and waves, walking towards me as I walk towards her. "Morning, Kenshin. I was just about to come and say good-bye before I left for work."
In spite of myself, I feel better. She was going to say bye to me after all. I'm still kind of mad at her for kicking me out of the house last night. No doubt the nosy woman with the night vision goggle/binoculars living a couple doors over saw Kaoru making me sleep in the garage last night. That old biddy sees everything. They should put her on a Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial. I bet she'd see the cinnamon flavor swirling in every bite, or whatever it is the kids on the commercials are always going on about.
"Good morning," I reply.
She's reached me now, and curiously enough, she's sniffing me. Well, considering the fact that I had a close encounter of the third kind with a skunk, not so curiously.
"You don't smell!" she exclaims.
"I don't?" I ask, raising an arm to sniff my armpits. Hey, you never know.
Kaoru laughs. "You don't! You must've only walked through the cloud of spray or something," she concludes joyfully, looking at me expectantly.
"That's good." Well I'm happy I don't have to hide away from the world after all, but what does she expect me to do? Jump up in the air and yell 'yipee'?
Kaoru solves the problem of what to do by literally jumping up and into my arms so that I have to link my hands together under her butt to hold her up. Then she reaches her left arm behind my neck so that her palm is against my back for balance, wraps her legs around my hips, and tilts my face up with her right hand so that our lips meet. Not a bad way to kiss. I'd like to see the shocked looks on the faces of her students if they could see us right now. I'd even settle for the look on the face of the old biddy who is more than likely watching us right now.
"I missed you last night, honey," she says once we've run out of air. "I even dreamed about the first day we met."
I groan. "Did you have to bring that up? I swear the damn dog made me fall in that dumpster on purpose."
Kaoru laughs. "It's not like he pushed you in. Shishio was only a puppy back then. I'm surprised you didn't catch him quicker. Then you would never have fallen in." She pauses for a moment. "Aren't you going to say you missed me?" she asks.
"Not until you promise never to make me sleep with Shishio again. I woke up kissing him."
Kaoru attempts to pout for a few moments before dissolving into giggles. "I promise I won't make you sleep with him again. Did you really wake up kissing him?"
She's too good for me sometimes. What other woman would want to go out with me after I fell in a dumpster? "Don't worry, I washed my mouth out with soap as soon as I woke up."
"Good. Now tell me you missed me last night," she demands playfully. She knows I did. Hell, I tell her I missed her every day when she comes home from work as it is.
"I missed you last night, Kaoru."
A/N – I hope you enjoyed this. It took me the summer to write, off and on. What the hey, I my as well dedicate it to my dog, without whom, this story would not exist, and to my sisters, Michelle and Maya, who helped me edit and pick the title. And also, to all the dog lovers out there. Review please!
"Dear Lord, help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am."