A New Era: Prequel Part 1 -- That's the Trouble with Confrontations
Rurouni Kenshin: A New Era -- Prequel

Disclaimer All rights and privileges to Rurouni Kenshin belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki, Shuiesha, Sony Music Entertainment, and associated parties. The characters are used without permission. This is a work of fiction and not written for sale or profit.
All characters I create belong to me.
Notes:
Thanks to Angela-sama for the edits, again!
Revised on 12/10/98
Yoko-chan (ardith@hanabatake.com)
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A New Era Prequel part 1: That's the Trouble with Confrontations

Kaoru sighed again, wiping her brow with a languid hand. The heat of summer felt like a blanket. Her every pore seemed to be stifled by the hot, thick air. She blew her bangs away from her face in frustration. She wanted nothing better than to have some shaved ice and sit in the shade, but she couldn't stop to do that. Not today.

Megumi had ordered her to come over to their house. It was time to initiate "the plan". She was nervous enough already without Megumi making it seem like a mission. According to Megumi, the time was just right to put everything into motion. Everything.

"Kami-sama.... I'm ready for this, aren't I?"

******************************************

"Kaoru-chan, we have to talk." The tone of Megumi's voice was serious, almost grave.

"Heh? Megumi, what is it?" Megumi cradled Shinnosuke against her. The infant had finished gorging himself on milk, falling asleep bonelessly against his mother's breast. At 5 months old, Shin-chan was the very image of Sanosuke.

Megumi had on her "older sister" face. Kaoru knew that she was in for some kind of lecture when Megumi had that look in her eyes. She sighed and prepared herself. "I think this has gone long enough, don't you? You have to do something about this situation."

"This situation? Megumi, what are you talking about?" Kaoru blinked owlishly at Megumi. She couldn't mean....?

"I'm talking about you and Kenshin. Don't you think its time for you two to stop kidding around and get together and do it already?"

"G-Get t-together? D-Do it? Wh-What are you talking about?! Megumi!" Kaoru had a sinking feeling that she did know what Megumi was getting at. She felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment.

"Kaoru, really," Megumi said, her tone full of patience. If she didn't interfere, Kaoru and Kenshin would just continue to dance around each other forever. If anything, they would never be as happy as they could be. She wanted them to be happy. "You'll have to make the first move."

"B-But-"

"But nothing! If you want him, you have to go out and get him."

"But-"

"Kenshin is great, Kaoru. He's sweet, sensitive. All of that and more. But men can be dense about some things. You have to show them the way," Megumi explained. "No matter how great they are, that's their nature."

"But-" Kaoru tried to speak, but Megumi was on a roll. It seemed Megumi had spent a long time sorting Kaoru's plight out in her head.

"Do you know what Sanosuke finally pried out of him yesterday? That man thinks he's unworthy of you. Kenshin! The ideas that men get in their heads. You, it seems, are too pure and innocent for him. What rubbish!"

"Not worthy? Too pure? But-"

"Kaoru-chan, the only way that you two will be happy is if you are together the way you were meant to be. Now you have to go and-"

"Mou! Me-gu-mi!" Kaoru interrupted. She lowered her voice in deference the slumbering Shinnosuke "I understand! Okay, I got it."

"You do?"

"Yes. I do." Kaoru fidgeted under Megumi's gaze. Her face was turning pinker with under her scrutiny. "But are you sure? I mean, its been almost three years since we all met and he doesn't seem to-"

"Kaoru-chan, don't be an idiot."

"I-I know he cares about me.... But what if it's not that way? He may just love me as a sister." She looked away from Megumi to stare at the closest wall. That was her secret fear. That Kenshin didn't really want her.

"Don't be stupid. You just don't see how that man looks at you sometimes, the way he watches you."

"Watches me?"

"Yes. Like a man who wants you. Kaoru. He loves you that way. Now we have to make him see that you two can be together." Megumi smiled, remembering her own courtship with Sanosuke.

Megumi knew that she wasn't the one for Kenshin a long time ago. She had liked Kenshin from the beginning. But she realized almost from the start that Kaoru had always been the one that he wanted.

After the events in Kyoto and Enishi's plan for revenge against them, Megumi realized something that shook her. Though she loved Kenshin, she was not in love with him. During their battle with Enishi's group, she found herself worrying over a certain street thug.

She didn't know when it happened, but she realized that she was in love with Sanosuke. It was probably something she felt from the beginning. They had been fighting way too much. She should have realized that it was just a cover for the attraction she was experiencing. She tried to hide her feelings. But Sano knew her better than she realized.

She didn't want anyone to know. Sano acted like he didn't even like her sometimes. Megumi didn't know if she could take his rejection. And she didn't want anything to change between them. So, she changed everything. >From that day on, she studiously avoided him, keeping temptation out of reach.

Sano quickly came to realize what she was doing. He finally cornered her in the clinic late one night to confront her. He just would not leave her alone. Megumi smiled at the memory.

******************************************

"What the hell is wrong with you?" He stalked into the room, slamming the door closed behind him. His eyes glittered with anger.

"Sano? What are you doing here? It's late, you shouldn't-"

"You've been avoiding me for weeks now."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, her voice shaking a little. She turned away from him. She couldn't look at him and say what needed to be said. She couldn't talk the way that she used to with him anymore. Why couldn't he just leave?

"You. I'm talking about you avoiding me. What's wrong? Dammit! You don't even want to look at me." He turned her face up so that he could look into her eyes. They were filling with tears. "Gods. Megumi, what the hell is the matter with you?"

She couldn't speak. She couldn't. She shook her head. The tears fell, streaking down her face. Sanosuke rubbed them away. His fingers felt rough against her skin. Megumi shivered.

"Megumi. Gods. Don't cry. Dammit," he roughly whispered. "Shit. I didn't mean- Please. I don't want to see you cry." He brushed her hair away from her face. "Don't cry, baby. Don't...."

She couldn't speak. She couldn't even breathe. He was staring into her eyes. They were so brown and deep. Dark. She felt like she was drowning in his eyes.

"Don't cry," he whispered roughly. He cupped her face in his hands and began kissing the tears from her face. "Megumi, I just want..." He kissed her mouth, then.

His lips.... Megumi had fantasized about kissing his lips before. Imagined his warmth, his taste. None of those fantasies compared to the real thing. She sighed and leaned into him. This was what she wanted. This was what she always wanted. He was what she wanted.

"Megumi?" He gazed into her face. She had stopped crying. She looked so beautiful. Her lips were swollen from his kiss. Her cheeks flushed. The scent of gardenias floated up to him. He breathed deeply. Megumi.

"Sanosuke. I...." Megumi had always prided herself with being honest, at least with herself. She pulled him down to her and kissed him again. She sighed and leaned into him. "Sanosuke.... I'm sorry." She looked up at him then pushed him away, turning swiftly out of his arms. He was stunned, hitting the wall. He never knew that she could move so fast.

Megumi ran. She couldn't believe that she had let herself go like that. How could she let her control slip? How could she give in to her...her lust like that? How could she...how could she....? Oh Kami-sama. And now...now she was running away like a coward.

"Kami-sama...," she whispered, whipping the tears from her eyes. "I'm such a fool." She wanted to just get home. She wanted to get away. She.... He.... They ruined everything! Nothing was going to be the same again.

"What the hell was that about, Megumi?" Sanosuke growled from behind her, just as she reached the door. He wasn't even winded, she thought with more than a hint of resentment as she panted for breath.

"Sanosuke? How did you-" He opened the door to her apartment and pulled her in behind him before she could answer him, closing the door and barring the only way of escape.

"It's time to stop playing around, Megumi." He forced her to sit down. "Now, talk."

Talk? She couldn't even think, let alone talk....

"Megumi?" Sano squatted down on his haunches, his hands gently moving her inky black hair away from her face. Sano suppressed a sigh. That kiss...

He had wanted her from that first moment when she barged in while he gambled, running from the Oniwabanshu and her past to some sort of sanctuary. He didn't want to want her. Not then. Even now, he struggled against falling, but there were things about her that drew him. She tried to put up this front of being invincible, of being mature. But she was so vulnerable.

AND she had wanted Kenshin. Not him. He shook his head. She was still silent, but he waited for her to talk. To say something. To explain why...why she kissed him back. He needed to know. He wanted to be sure. She made him feel....

Why would she want him?, a voice in his head asked cynically. He used to brawl on the streets to earn his keep. He was so far below her, class wise, that he wouldn't even have been considered a servant for her family. Megumi was, at heart, a real lady. She should be living in some mansion with a troop of servants. She had an education. What did he have? Hell, he didn't even have a real job.

He knew that he should just leave. He should just walk out that door and forget about what happened. But he couldn't. He couldn't do that. He needed to know if there was a chance. If he had a chance....

But she wasn't even looking at him. Maybe she needed to work things out for herself. She had to come to realize that they had something between them. What he was feeling could not be one-sided. Could it? How could she kiss him like that if it was?

He tucked another stray hair behind her ear, then got up. He was going to leave her alone, then. For now.

"Fox, I'll come back when you're feeling a little more talkative. Then we can talk about how stupid all of this is. I've decided that you get a reprieve now, but you can be sure that I'm coming back." He started to walk towards the door when a soft sound stopped him.

"Sanosuke," she whispered.

His name whispered from her soft lips made him pause. He turned around and walked towards her. She wasn't crying. No fresh tears on her beautiful face. She smiled, as if she just had a amazing revelation. She was smiling like an angel.

"Yeah, Fox?" He grinned down at her. He just knew it must have been a stupid little grin, but he couldn't stop when she looked up at him like that.

"What the HELL do you mean by YOU'VE decided that I get a reprieve? What are you talking about?" Her voice shook with anger. Her angelic smile was gone. Sanosuke backed up, a gamin look on his face. He always knew what it took to rile her up. She definitely did not like men to be high handed about important decisions in her life. She had come to a decision. She was definitely going to take what she wanted, to take what she needed.

He loved the fire in her eyes when they argued. He loved her. It was his turn to move fast, pulling her into his arms. He smiled down at her, his eyes twinkling. It didn't matter if he was a rascal ...he needed her.

"I was giving you time to realize that you, Fox, are mine. But I guess that you figured that out already." She looked like she wanted to say something about that, but he kissed her before she could reply. And then, she forgot what she was so angry about.

******************************************

"Sanosuke made me realize then that he wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him, Kaoru. Even then, at first he felt that I was better than him. Of course, I made him see the light about that!" Megumi shook her head as she remembered how long it took to get him to tell her everything about his past. To tell her about what happened to him as a child. Because he loved her, he gave her all he could. Together, they were so much stronger, so much more alive.

"Kenshin has to realize the same thing. You have to show him that you're not fragile or too innocent or pure for him. You, Kamiya Kaoru, must seduce him!" Then she smiled that angel's smile, "Or at least start the seduction. I'm sure Ken-san knows what to do from that point on."

With that pronouncement, Sagara Megumi began to explain what Kaoru had to do. Kaoru blushed as Megumi acted as older sister/mother and told her all about the goings on between men and women. It was not as if Kaoru didn't know ANYTHING.... Okay, so she didn't know the exact details, but she had heard things about.... Anyway, now she knew and that was what counted. She made her decision. It was time.

That was a week ago, though. She had time to reconsider. And her toes were definitely getting chilled. She hurried to Megumi's, bolstering her courage with her new mantra. "I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this," Kaoru chanted to herself. "I'm going to-"

"Are you ready, Kaoru?" Megumi asked, a half-smile on her face.

"Yes." Kaoru too a deep breath and stepped forward. I'm ready for the beginning, she thought. The new beginning....

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