Author's Note: The idea for this little one-shot came to me while driving my dumpy jeep this afternoon. I actually originally started writing it as a song-fic, but decided the lyrics clashed with the story instead of improving it. So, I threw them out.
This one-shot is in no way related to my other Rurouni Kenshin fanfic. It's just a short little peek into Kaoru's alternate universe life. Heh. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I had fun writing it!
Kaoru's memories are expressed in italics.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
Revised Feb. 5, 2005
special thanks to Triste1
Walking confidently down the hallway, shoulders straight, a friendly smile pasted on her face, Kaoru sighed in quiet relief. Finally, it was over. She pushed open the large wood door barring the entrance to her glass-encased office and slid her light beige suit jacket over the back of a black chair facing the front of her desk. Stepping around the edge, she fell into the cushy leather chair behind the desk and let her posture slump. God, how she was tired.
The last couple of months had been spent tirelessly on a phenomenal presentation her advertisement group proposed to the board of directors not an hour ago. An exciting experience Kaoru fervently wished to never experience again in her life. Thankfully, she did not think she would have to. Her family had been patient enough with her recent absences the way it was.
Kaoru slid her aching feet from the beige pumps she spent the last five hours standing in and rubbed the sole with the pad of her thumb. Oh, that felt heavenly. The ache slowly started to dissipate while her eyelids closed over exhausted sapphire eyes in contentment. Kaoru leaned back into the chair and let out a breath of air to blow the small slip of black hair that brushed against her nose out of her face. The tight knot of hair she had fastened at the nape of her neck that morning was coming loose.
A brunette head peeked through the crack between her door and the doorjamb. Kaoru opened her eyes and peered at a young bubbly face belonging to one of the young interns in the advertising group she was the head of. The young woman waved her hand in a friendly flourish of farewell.
"Bye, Kaoru," she said, her dimples flashing. "See you on Monday. Have a great weekend."
Kaoru returned the girl's smile. "You, too, Melissa. Be good to that new husband of yours," she teased with a wink.
Melissa grinned and giggled. "I'll try," she replied and slipped out with as much grace as she entered with, leaving Kaoru's homey office quiet once more.
Looking out the window, admiring the fluffy clouds that swam through the dissipating day, Kaoru cocked her head to the side and decided it was time she left the office as well. Surprising her family with an early arrival brightened her countenance and rejuvenated her bone-tired body. She stood up from her desk, gathered miscellaneous items she wanted to take with her on the journey home and put them inside the chestnut brown briefcase that had been a birthday present from her parents. With a wince, Kaoru slid her feet back into the constraining prison of her pumps and moved around the desk to grab her suit jacket. She draped it over her forearm and pulled the key to her office out of the breast pocket.
She flipped off the light, dipping the room into pale shadows, lit only by the soft beams of afternoon sunlight that peeked through the half-opened blinds. Clicking the key into the lock, she secured the door and turned to mingle with the traffic of fast moving co-workers who were consumed with ideas of weekend pleasure.
But, unlike them, Kaoru's thoughts were only on the night to come - the night she'd spend with her wonderful family. Months had passed since she'd been able to rest lazily in front of the fire-place and bask in the magical household resonating with deep love. A secret smile curved her lips as her cheeks flushed prettily at the thought.
She'd finally be able to spend an uninterrupted night with her gorgeous husband and bouncy daughter.
Stepping into the partially full elevator, Kaoru let her mind fall backwards to the fateful day she first laid eyes on the love of her life. As the elevator descended to lower floors of the building, Kaoru slipped into the hazy world of blissful memories.
Kaoru hurried down the icy path of the brick-walkway, clinging to the books she held tightly to her chest. A wave of nerves skittered through her rapidly beating heart as she sucked in a frigid breath of winter air. Her panicked eyes scanned the buildings surrounding her as an overwhelming air of hopelessness filled her numb mind. Her class started in less than fifteen minutes and she still had to find the building it was in. Transferring to this university was starting to seem like a very, very bad idea.
Her feet shuffled to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk as she pulled a campus map out of the pocket of her light lavender jacket. Kaoru unfolded the ragged slip of paper and let out a groan of frustration when she realized she had stupidly wandered to the opposite side of the campus that she needed to be.
In a blind move, she whipped around quickly, throwing herself off balance and catching her toe on the lip of an uplifted brick in the path. She let out a startled shout as she pitched forward head first onto the ground.
Embarrassment swept through her body as her forehead rested against the hard bricks. She vaguely heard some laughter behind her. Whether they were laughing at her or some other random amusing event, she didn't know. But, it sure didn't help alleviate the raging rush of mortification seeping up her spine to her flushed cheeks. Kaoru moaned softly and placed her hands palm-down to push her torso up.
"Are you okay, Miss?" a soft voice to her right asked.
She froze and cringed. That answered her question as to whether anyone had seen her graceless flop.
"Um," she replied, avoiding the person's gaze, "Yeah. I'll be okay." Kaoru sat up and started to gather her fallen books together. Some were going to be slightly damaged from sitting in the inch of snow which blanketed the ground.
A hand held one of her books under her nose. Unable to avoid eye-contact any longer, she gently to the book from the stranger, and then turned her head.
A pair of concerned violet eyes stared at her. Her breath caught in her throat. Dear God, he was beautiful. A young man maybe a little older than herself crouched down in front of her. One arm rested on the thigh of his left leg, while the other was still outstretched from handing her the book. A forest green beanie covered his head, though a small peeking of red bangs slipped from underneath the wool brim. Falling snowdrops landed in his eyelashes, accentuating them. He retracted his outstretched hand and cocked his head to the side, silently questioning her.
Sense flooded her spinning thoughts and she jerked, dropping the book again accidentally. She stuttered as she scattered to pick it up and stood hurriedly, whipping her head around nervously checking for forgotten items.
He stood up with her, smiling quizzically. "Are you lost?" he asked quietly, aptly reading her tense and uneasy body language.
Kaoru snapped her eyes back to his. "Uh, I…well…" she mumbled, "Yes. I am." She nibbled her bottom lip with her teeth and scanned her mind for the name of the building her class was in. "I'm trying to find Wilmington Hall, but I seem to have gone the wrong way…" she trailed off, giving him a sheepish smile.
His kind visage cleared and he nodded, grinning. "I can take you there, if you want? I don't have another class for a few hours so I have the time." He studied her face. "Is that okay?"
Relief wrapped her shivering body like a warm blanket. "Oh, yes," Kaoru breathed, her eyes smiling, "That'd be great."
He turned to a beautiful dark-haired girl sitting on a bench directly behind him, her nose buried in a bright blue book. "Tomoe?" he called. Either she didn't hear or she was too involved with the written words to bother with his interruption, because her head remained bowed, eyes scanning the book's pages. "I'll be back in about half an hour. I'm going help this girl find her class." He paused a second, obviously waiting for her response. She lifted a hand covered by a bright red mitten and waved him on.
He turned back to Kaoru, and motioned for her to follow him. She fell in step beside him, and walked easily with his idle gait. He pulled the green beanie off his head, jamming it in the back pocket of his black jeans, and ran a hand through his messy short-cropped red hair. Smiling friendly, he said, "My name's Kenshin, by the way. Himura Kenshin. That girl back there is Himura Tomoe. My twin sister."
Kaoru felt her lips curve in response to his introduction and ducked her head shyly. Her voice whispered through the cold air as she replied, "I'm Kaoru."
The ping of the elevator declaring the destination broke Kaoru's thoughts, jolting her back to the present just in time for her to exit before being trampled by impatient people. Her pumps clicked on the glossed marble floor as she reached inside the front pocket of her briefcase for her car keys. Kaoru pushed open the glass door and stepped into the dim parking garage.
She hurried over to where her navy blue Land Rover was parked. Clicking the automatic remote control attached to her keychain, she snapped open the locks. Kaoru settled into the comfortable driver seat, locked the doors, then jammed the key into the ignition. The SUV purred to life when she turned the key, humming as cool air filled the car from the air-conditioning vents. Kaoru slid the car into reverse and backed out of the parking spot. She waved at the guard standing in the mouth of the parking garage and steered onto the busy street.
Kaoru moved to grab her cell phone to call home, but stopped herself with a shake of her head. Berating herself for her weak self-control, she puffed out her cheeks with air and frowned. How would her early arrival home be a surprise if she called now? Kaoru fidgeted in her chair, remembering her promise to call when she was on her way home. It was getting to be hard to stop herself from the itching temptation. Kaoru deflated and sighed.
For distraction, her thoughts returned to her college days. After the day she'd met Kenshin, she somehow kept bumping into him at random places - the cafeteria, dorm hallways, the library, restaurants, and walkways. It turned out they even had a class together. With time, she'd grown close to both Kenshin and Tomoe, for Tomoe was never far from Kenshin's side. The twins had an unusually close bond, even for siblings. Closer to each other than any other person in the world, they stuck together like peas in a pod. Kaoru eventually found love with the red-headed man and sisterhood with the quiet woman. Soon, their trio was interrupted by another. A man named Akira. At first Tomoe tried to avoid him. Apparently, he knew the twins from a previous acquaintance. After time, though, Tomoe warmed to the man and started spending more time with him than she did with Kenshin. Kenshin found it odd, but turned to Kaoru. Their relationship blossomed during that time, their love growing with tender strands of bliss. Though, her heart had almost shattered when Kenshin announced his plans to study abroad for a year.
Kaoru pushed the brake pedal of the car and came to a halt in front of the red light. Cars passed in front of her in the horizontal lanes of travel through the busy intersection.
The day Kenshin had left for that year abroad remained clear in Kaoru's mind to this day. Kaoru's eyes bore into the billboard illustrating an airliner soaring through a breathtaking creamy sky. She sighed and closed her eyes, placing herself in the body of her younger, emotional self.
Kenshin slung the heavy carry-on bag over his shoulder and turned to face his girlfriend and sister. Kaoru stood beside Tomoe, her hands clasped together in front of her, her eyes trained on the runway outside the large windows. Beside her, Tomoe cleared her throat and stepped away from Kaoru to wrap her arms around her brother's shoulders. She clung to him for a long while, sucking in a deep breath. When she stepped away, there were tears in her eyes. She let out a small laugh and wiped a finger beneath her right eye, brushing away the wetness.
"Be good, Kenshin," she said affectionately, punching her fisted hand against his shoulder. He smiled back at her, saddened by her sorrow, but happy she was taking his departure better than he originally thought.
"I will," he responded with a small smile, patting her upper arm.
Tomoe turned slightly and lifted her hand in a gesture of temporary farewell. "I'm going to go get some coffee. I'll be back in a second."
Kaoru absently watched Tomoe trot away to a Starbucks stand and halt at the end of a long procession of infatuated coffee fans. Kenshin reached out and grasped Kaoru's wrist, bringing her attention back to his concerned face. He reached out his other hand and brushed the loose hair away from her face. Kaoru leaned her head into his palm and closed her eyes to ward off the tears swimming in her moist eyes. A shaky breath exited her mouth, hinting at her tender emotions of sorrow.
"It's alright, Kaoru," he reassured her in that soft tone of his. "I'll be back before you know it." He took a step closer to her. She reached up and grasped his hand on her cheek, cradling it between hers. Kaoru opened her eyes.
"I know," she whispered. "But, that doesn't make it any easier." Kaoru lowered their hands to her side, and managed, somehow, to smile. It was a weak smile, but it at least lightened the worry clouding Kenshin's eyes. "You better write and call me when you get the chance," she said.
He chuckled and squeezed her hand. "Of course."
Her eyes scanned his beloved features, etching the lines, dips, grooves, and slopes of his face deep within her mind, forming a strong mental image of his features. Kaoru reached out a hand and slid her fingers through his shaggy red hair. "It's growing longer," she stated about the glossy locks that fell an inch above his shoulders. "I like it this way."
"Mmm…never got around to get it cut, did I?" An idea lit his eyes with a mischievous twinkle. "I promise not to cut it while I'm away. It'll be a surprise, huh? See how long it grows."
She giggled in response. "Something for me to look forward to, right?" she stated with a smile.
Tomoe came up behind Kaoru, blowing on the hot coffee she held in her hand. She slipped her free arm through Kaoru's and grinned at her brother. "If you keep dotting around, you'll miss the flight."
He sighed and shook his head. "What would I do without you, sister?" Kenshin leaned forward to give Tomoe a last one armed hug and winked at her. "Watch over yourself, okay? I won't be here to bail you out."
She raised a brow and answered sardonically, "Oh, yeah. Me the wild child."
Kenshin laughed and turned to Kaoru. He leaned in and pressed his lips to hers for a tender kiss, reminding her he'd return. She soaked in the love he exuded and memorized the feel of his soft lips against her own. He pulled back, tapped her on the end of her nose and turned to board his flight. Both women watched as he departed. When he was no longer in sight, they left together. Kaoru and Tomoe grew closer during that long year. They lived together as roommates, leaned on each other during hard times and laughed during the good times. A year later, they returned to the airport and welcomed Kenshin back.
A horn sounded behind her, drawing Kaoru out of the past. She waved behind her as an apology and pressed the gas pedal to move the car forward. She drove at a lazy pace, the sun's fingers drawing streaks of brilliant purple and orange in the sky creating a dazzling canvas of melting colours.
Ten minutes later, she turned the car into her sloping driveway. Kaoru halted the car behind a green Jeep Liberty parked in front of the light blue garage door. She withdrew her keys from the ignition and opened the car door. Opting to leave her briefcase in the car for the night, she slipped out and pocketed the keys. She walked quietly down the paved pathway leading to the front door of the white clapboard house. Not too large, or too small, it stood two-stories high and slid into the ground to form a convenient basement. Her husband's garden flowers peppered the lining of the pathway and filled the many flower beds cloaking the house. Blue, marigold, pink, and violet swayed with the gentle breeze that brushed its placid hand against the soft petals. Vines wrapped their narrow arms around the front post of the porch, intertwining with the gate lining the wide terrace which was decorated with two adult rocking chairs and a small white chair for a tiny person.
Kaoru walked up the stairs, but stopped before she reached the large, welcoming front door. She turned and walked over to the small flower bed attached to the porch railing. It held four flowers. A blue one for her husband. A purple one for herself. A magenta one for her small daughter. And a warm yellow one for the unborn child she carried within her womb. Kaoru placed a hand on her belly and let a veiled smile crease her full lips.
Two arms wrapped around her from behind, hands intertwining with hers over her precious stomach. Kaoru leaned back against the steady chest and let the tension ebb from her body.
"Welcome home," Kenshin whispered in her ear, nuzzling her tenderly behind her ear. His warm breath heated her neck, causing her to tingle with awareness. A little body streaked past her parents, her voice raised in an exhilarated squeal. Grabbing her fallen dolly from the porch floor, the small girl giggled with childlike glee. She toddled over to her mother and latched onto Kaoru's leg, rubbing her cheek against her mother's calf affectionately. Kaoru reached down her empty hand to sweep her fingers through her daughter's fine red hair.
Kaoru let the happiness shroud her body, filling her heart with love. How she adored her small family.
"It's good to be home," she replied, snuggling into their warm embrace.
Author's Note: That's it. Short, but sweet, I say. The one good thing about writing a one-shot is I don't have to worry about updating. Sigh.
Drop in a review and tell me your thoughts. It always brightens my day to know someone enjoyed something I wrote. Well…let's all hope you enjoy it. (wink)