Author's Note: The third and final installment! Hope everyone likes it.
Part 3 takes place about three years after Part 2, so don't be confused.
Mimi-san: So glad you're enjoying it so far. I hope you like the way I ended this little fic. Thanks for your great review!
Ame no Neko: I always seem to miss stories as well, finding them only when they're almost done. Though, that's not all that bad. I don't have to wait as long for the end. (grin) I'm happy you like it so far. Hope you like the conclusion.
Megumi Readman: Don't worry about not reviewing the first chapter. At least you reviewed this one, right? Laundromats are interesting places…a little random for a story's settng, I admit, though not impossible. Guess you'll get to see what's been in my head from the start of this fic. Hope you enjoy it as much as I had fun writing it! Thanks for your review.
duDe: Thanks for your really nice review. Hope you like the end!
person: That's awesome you're liking this so much. Really brightens my day. Hope you like this chapter…hope it fits in well! Thanks for your awesome support of my writing. It sure means a lot.
Triste1: Once again, I thank you for your thoughts on my writing. It's great to see a fresh view. You leave such a well-rounded review, it's awesome. Thanks for your helpful and encouraging thoughts. They are muchly appreciated.
Aine of Knockaine: I'm glad you weren't disappointed. I hope you like this last part as well. Thanks so much for reviewing.
Irulan 24: Ah, I know not all physics majors are nerds…I happen do be in the group of scientifically minded individuals, though my specialty isn't physics, it's biology…an absorbing subject. Though, I am taking physics at the moment for my core requirements. It's really fascinating to see the array of people taking the class. But…I've honestly never actually decided where they lived or what university they are attending. Though, if it would help you, let's say Vanderbilt…in Nashville, TN. Great city…great school. I know a couple of people who attend classes there. And, after I finish writing these responses and update this story, I plan on working my butt off on my other works to get out some more chapters in a nice, quick fashion. (grin) Thanks so much for your review. It's great to hear people's thoughts!
scythe195: Here's the end! I hope you enjoy as much as the rest. Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts!
someone: Sorry about the shortness of the last chapter, though this one isn't much longer, if not the same length. In average, my usual chapters are longer…this story just demands short ones, I suppose. Frustrating, isn't it? And I am currently writing two more ongoing Kenshin fics…just click my name up above to go to them. Tell me if you like them as well! Thanks so much for your review!
erica6060: Yeah, Kaoru seems to have bad luck. I'm happy you like the story. Hope you enjoy the end. Thanks for reviewing.
Prince Aoshi: Here's the end. Hope you like it! Thanks for leaving your thoughts. (smile)
scorpion's lady: I'm so glad you love my story. I hope you enjoy the end. Thanks for reviewing!
Imana: (laugh) I hope you fall in love with it for a third time! (grin) I'm so happy you're enjoying it. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
Three years later…
Eyes twinkling with revealed mirth, Kaoru tugged anxiously on Kenshin's hand, pulling him roughly down the sidewalk through the throng of walking people. He followed her with an exasperated, yet accepting look on his face as he carried two large canvas bags bursting with dirty clothes.
"Hurry, hurry, hurry!" Kaoru muttered under her breath, sending Kenshin a frown. "We're going to hit the rush of people if we don't get there soon!"
Kenshin sighed, his ever-present patience shoving the nagging irritation from his mind. "Kaoru, I don't think it's going to matter whether we get to the Laundromat in thirty seconds or in one minute. The only way the Laundromat could possibly be filled to the brim with people so soon is if a huge bus decided to unload its passengers. Which is, in fact, highly unlikely."
Kaoru's steps faltered, her grip on his hand loosening somewhat, finally allowing him to walk beside her instead of behind her. Sighing, Kenshin slipped a hand underneath one of the bag's annoying straps digging into his shoulder to ease some of the biting tension. He let out a breath of relief at the momentary ease of pressure.
"I guess you're right." Kaoru turned her head to gaze at him and brushed her hair from her eyes. "You always are, it seems."
"Is that a bad thing?"
Kaoru studied the teasing tilt of his mouth and shook her head slowly. "Nah. I've gotten used to it, seeing as how I've dated you for three whole years now," she responded as they walked up to the door of the Laundromat and pushed it open.
Kenshin grunted in disproval, a brooding look crossing his features. "Dating? I wouldn't necessarily call it dating," he muttered to himself. "We're practically living together…," he trailed off as he watched her walk over and open the lid of an operating washer, utter a small 'oops' with widened eyes and trail off to another row.
"What's that you said?" she asked him when he came to a stop beside her as she opened the top of an empty washer.
Kaoru turned her eyes to his, confusion lurking in the sapphire depths, also accompanied by flash of irritation. "Nothing?"
Dropping the bags on the floor, Kenshin nodded and stooped down to open them. "Just what I said. Nothing."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"Yeah, right, huh?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I asked you first!"
Kenshin stared at her blankly for a moment as he pulled out a pair of wrinkled blue jeans. He stood, stuffed them inside the washer, then turned back to face his glowering girlfriend.
"We aren't dating," he stated with a frown.
Kaoru reared back, her face sharpening with befuddlement. "We are, too."
He sighed slowly, blinking at Kaoru with frustrated fortitude. "We stopped dating two and half years ago. Our relationship has evolved since then."
Snatching a small yellow towel from his hands, Kaoru shoved it into the washer with jerky motions. "You know what I mean, Kenshin." He watched her fiddle absentmindedly with the belt loop of her jeans and shift her feet uncomfortably. "I wasn't trying to…downplay our relationship."
The edge of his lips curled upward in a small smirk as a mischievous glint sparkled in his amethyst gaze. Brushing his long bangs from his vision, Kenshin handed Kaoru a pair of blue jeans, but held onto them when she tried to take them.
Tugging on the jeans, Kaoru sent him a bewildered look when he wouldn't let go.
"You ever going to let go?" she asked as she raised her eyebrows in question.
"Thinking about it."
Watching his face, Kaoru gave him a perplexed smile. "Work tiring you out? Not thinking straight? Being a full time researcher at the lab might not have been such a great career choice for your already muddled brain after all," she teased.
Kenshin chuckled and cocked his head to the side as he studied her clear, makeup free features. The years had matured her subtle teenage beauty, sculpting her smooth features into a vision of pure exquisiteness. Her expressive sapphire eyes stared at him now with uncertain humor, daring him to speak.
"They have been giving me extra research assignments," Kenshin stated with a grin, closing the gap between their bodies with his hand, running his fingers across her forehead through the silky strands of her bangs to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
"Maybe I should go talk to them?"
Kenshin stifled the urge to laugh. "That's okay, honey. I've got it handled."
"Are you sure? I mean, I could really give them a piece of my mind," Kaoru started with a teasing tilt of her head. "I'm going to be an elementary school teacher, so I should buff up on my disciplinary skills."
"Uh, these people aren't five years old."
Jerking the jeans from Kenshin's hands, Kaoru gave him a pointed look and stuffed them inside the washer. "I know. Just trying to help."
She took some more clothes from him, filling the washer almost to the point of overloading the poor machine. Kenshin dumped in some detergent, slipped the coins into it and pressed the start button. Kaoru stepped back as Kenshin walked forward, kicking the second bag with his foot. Stopping in front of an adjacent empty washer, Kaoru frowned as she watched Kenshin unzip the bag and pull out a pair of purple shorts.
"Did you ever hear back from that guy who wanted you to go to Boston for a meeting with your research group's sponsors?" Kaoru asked, taking the shorts from him. Kenshin looked up as she folded it inside the washer, and watched her pull up the sleeves of her long-sleeved shirt.
"Yeah. I told him I didn't want to go if I had a choice. They're going to send Aoshi, instead," he said.
"Why don't you want to go?"
Smiling up at Kaoru, Kenshin reached out and wrapped a stray arm around her lower leg and winked. "Wanted to stay here with you, of course."
Pleasure bloomed in Kaoru's chest as she watched the redhead turn back to the brimming bag and let go of her leg.
"Ah," she replied softly.
Closing his fingers around the waist band of a pair of tattered jeans inside the bag, Kenshin stood and held them out to her, his mouth curving upside down into a slight downward slope. Kaoru took them from him and started to put them in the washer, but Kenshin stopped her with a gentle hand on her bare forearm.
"Can you check the pockets of the rest of the jeans? I can't remember if I left anything in them. Last time we washed our clothes, I ended up ruining a twenty dollar bill." Kenshin shook his head in disproval and pointed behind him. "I'm going to run to the restroom."
Kaoru nodded slowly and gave a noncommittal sigh of approval as she watched him stalk off to the small labeled room in the back of the Laundromat. She lowered her gaze back to the jeans and stuffed her hands into the pockets, finding them both empty. She found the same results with two more pairs, but on the third pair, her fingers encountered something…odd. Wrapping her fingers around the small, cool object, Kaoru scrunched her eyebrows together as she pulled it out.
Her heart thumped heavily in her chest as she stared at it. Swallowing, Kaoru sucked in a deep breath and leaned weakly against the metal washer as a wave of astonishment swept over her.
Was this an…engagement ring?
Kaoru's eyes widened as she licked her lips nervously. The shiny silver band was smooth, circling around and cradling a solitary, amethyst colored stone wrapped in the embrace of several sparkling diamonds. The jeans she held fell limply onto the floor with a thump as Kaoru continued to stare at the ring, the surrounding activity of fellow occupants in the Laundromat blurring in an unrecognizable haze.
Clearing his throat nervously, Kenshin placed his hands on the lip of the porcelain sink inside the small restroom of the Laundromat. Staring at himself in the somewhat dirty mirror, Kenshin fervently hoped that he had not just made a huge bumble. With a last sigh, he stepped away from the mirror, turned the knob of the narrow bathroom door, and stepped through the doorway into the busy mass of people who converged in the small building to do their laundry.
His eyes landed on Kaoru's back as she started the washer's cleaning cycle and placed her hands triumphantly on her hips. As he made his way over to her, she bent over and picked up the two large bags they had brought their laundry in and set them on top of the washer. Turning, Kaoru smiled happily at him when she noticed him walking back over to her.
Eyes scanning Kaoru's figure, her hands, and her face, Kenshin's heart anxiously skipped a beat when he noticed her expression and her body language remained unchanged from when he left to use the restroom. Everything seemed frighteningly normal. Coming to a stop beside her still form, he managed to smile weakly. Oh, he hoped she hadn't put the ring into the washer.
Kaoru slipped her arm through Kenshin's and poked him playfully in the stomach. "You look a little green. Are you feeling okay?" she asked.
Kenshin sucked in a few rapid breaths and slipped his free hand over the one Kaoru wrapped loosely around his arm, intertwining their fingers.
Ignoring her question, he raised tentative eyes to hers. "Did you, uh, check all the pockets of my jeans? I could have sworn, I left…," he trailed off in a whisper, "something."
Kaoru flashed a cheery smile and tugged him over to a small section of empty orange chairs. He followed her stupidly, his mind spinning in a delirious daze. He couldn't think straight.
The ring was in the washer.
The ring he had spent a bundle of money on.
The perfect ring it took him two months to find.
Fate must really hate him.
Really, really, really hate him.
Slumping in the chair Kaoru pulled him down into, Kenshin bit the inside of cheek hard, internally berating himself for the insane idea to put the ring in his pants. He now realized the humongous flaw in his plan. A little too late, though.
Biting her lip, Kaoru watched the play of emotions on Kenshin's face. She had tortured the poor man long enough, she reasoned. Kaoru slipped her hand into the pocket of her jeans and pulled the ring out. Placing it on the tip of her thumb, she held it up in front of Kenshin's nose and wiggled the digit mischievously.
Kenshin's eyes focused on the familiar ring, and he frowned. His eyes widened and he turned his startled gaze to her smiling visage.
"I forgot," she said softly. "Found this in your pocket."
Reaching his hand out to gently take the amethyst ring from her thumb, Kenshin held it carefully between his thumb and forefinger, his eyes captivated by the ring's perfect glow. Shifting his gaze to Kaoru's face, his stomach fluttered nervously at the calm, questioning shimmer in her eyes.
Taking her left hand in his, Kenshin loosely wrapped his fingers around hers. Staring deeply into her eyes, he sighed.
"Will you marry me?"
The smile was slow to form, curving in an achingly slow pace. When she finally smiled fully, it not only brightened her countenance, but her whole body glowed with happiness.
Intertwining her fingers with his, she replied…
It was miraculous how good it felt to hear that simple word escape her lips.
Kenshin pushed the ring slowly up the ring finger of her left hand.
"You tricked me," he whispered.
"I know," Kaoru replied with an impish smile, winking at him.
"I'm going to get you back some day."
"Well, you do have the rest of your life to come up with something wicked, you know."
Chuckling, Kenshin replied, "True. Very true."
Kaoru leaned forward and pressed her forehead against his, reaching up to run her fingers through the long strands of his red hair.
"I think the first washer just stopped."
"Huh?" Kenshin replied stupidly, mesmerized by her.
"The washer stopped," she repeated.
"That's nice" he said, leaning forward to silence her with his lips and erase any stray thoughts from her mind. Smiling happily against his lips, Kaoru wrapped her arms around his neck in response, leaning into his comforting frame.
Damn, it felt good to be engaged to someone you loved more than life itself…someone so essential, you couldn't imagine life without them.
Kenshin pulled his new fiancé closer.
It felt damn good.
Author's Note: Ah, the end of this little story. Hope everyone enjoyed reading. It's been a joy to write it.
I broke it into three parts because I wanted the meeting, the conversation/initiation into dating, and finally the beginning of their new life together. Hopefully, I pulled it off well.
Make sure to leave a review and tell me your thoughts. They are all greatly appreciated.