Author's Note- As everyone may or may not know; Things Left Unsaid has been nominated for an RK AWARD at Meiji Tales! If you enjoy this story, and you also enjoy voting and participating in these sorts of things, please, go there. Because every year they always have a great collection of tales, and if nothing else, you may find a great read that you haven't seen before.
Things Left Unsaid
Analyzing the Situation
Misao sat hunched over her desk, her long unkempt hair hanging in tangles over her face and back. She had taken a shower earlier and hadn't bothered to even comb through it. Still damp, it hung heavy and limp, the water adding extra weight and strain. Although she had used conditioner, she could feel the snarls and kinks setting in stubbornly. Usually even the thought of having tangles made her squirm, but tonight it just didn't seem important. Dressed in a long t-shirt covered with Pluto the Disney dog and matching shorts, she stared blankly through the curtain of her hair at the magazine she had borrowed from her roommate. The newest Cosmopolitan, she had been paging through it for the last half hour without taking in a word. It was rather unfortunate, considering that she really needed the relationship advice.
Her roommate was fast asleep, and the dim light of the television lit up the otherwise dark room in a soft barely-there light. The volume was on its lowed setting, and the sound filled the room with a comfortable background murmur. A late night infomercial praised the advantages of a seven layered strainer. It was her third time watching it tonight. Bleary eyed, she focused her gaze on the alarm clock propped up next to her unmade bed. It was past four. Misao rubbed the back of her hand across her face, wishing that she could snuggle under her covers and fall asleep.
She'd tried that already. From twelve to two she had tossed and turned, pulling on both her comforter and sheets. After that long, she'd tried a shower, hoping the hot water would be soothing. The water had been as hot as she could handle, and when she'd climbed out of it her skin had been pink and raw. Unfortunately, the warm water hadn't calmed her rampant thoughts. It was much later now, and Misao's mind was still so twisted she could barely think straight. She felt like she was being put through the wash, like her heart had been stomped on by a herd of cows.
Shutting the magazine with a sigh, she hunched forward until her head was resting against the cool surface of the desk. Her eyes closed in reflex, and beneath her lids swarmed a plethora of color. Misao stretched her legs out beneath her; the muscles were cramped and stiff with tension. Her entire body felt tight with worry, and even though she'd taken three ibuprofens, her head was still throbbing. The coolness of the desk beneath her helped with the pounding. She wished again for drowsiness.
It wasn't her fault though. At least, she was pretty sure it wasn't her fault. Her legs kicked reflexively as she sat up again. Who was she kidding? This was a huge knotted insane mess she was wrapped up in, and it was her fault as much as it was his. Perhaps even more. Blinking her grain filled eyes; she banished the sudden image of a tall lanky man with cool eyes and a hot touch.
Pushing her chair back, Misao stood on shaky legs. She didn't want to think about it, she'd been thinking about it all afternoon. Him. With his cold then hot personality, good looks, and the incredibly confusing scene he had been a part of earlier that day. She still wasn't sure what to think, what to feel. Biting at her fingernails, Misao tottered toward her dresser. She needed to find her comb. Needed to focus on something else that wasn't Aoshi or his perplexing words.
The battered piece of furniture was covered in lotions, old movie stubs, comic books, hair bands, text books, and somewhere…a comb. Peering under her worn copy of her English MLA Formatting book, she spied the pink end of it. Pulling it out while barely disturbing the surrounding objects, she sat on the edge of her bed and attempted to pull the comb through her hair. It was so snarled that when she jerked it, she felt herself tear up. Sucking in a deep breath, she mercilessly dragged it through her locks. Her head burned with pain, and she could feel the strands twisting and breaking under the pressure. However, it was a distraction from the confusion filling her mind.
She was stupid to think that things could keep on going the way they were. Her mind conjured up the picture he had made earlier today. When Aoshi had gotten back this morning, he had been ferocious, merciless, amazing. A shiver spread from her toes to the tip of her head. Her cheeks warmed, and she touched her neck unconsciously. She'd need more than a couple of turtlenecks to hide all of the marks he had left. Misao had never been the focus of so much…want. He'd taken and taken and taken, until she thought she had nothing left to give. And still he had taken more from her. And she had wanted him to take all of her. She had wanted to disappear inside of him. To become a part of him, because she had known that all too soon he would have to leave her again.
She still wasn't sure what had happened to make him suddenly so desperate and needy. Something had altered him, and it had happened between when he'd left and then returned to the hotel room. Unfortunately, she had no idea. He was always in control of his emotions, aware of his surroundings. Aoshi this morning had been anything but. And she had loved it, loved seeing all of him and showing all of herself. He had been stripped bare; she'd seen it in his eyes. The desperate desire that had looked like love. And he had stripped her equally bare beneath him, peered into the core of her as she had him. Now she wondered what he had seen inside of her. What had she unintentionally given away?
She winced at a particularly tough knot. And then he'd apologized. Apologized for finally showing her the real him beneath his icy exterior. Misao had seen glimpses, knew different parts of him…but this had been so much more. That he could think she would feel anything but deliciously tired after such an ordeal was beyond her. It had been unnerving to see him so uncertain over his actions. It had also been strangely, cute.
But then, then he had said… Setting her comb to the side, she lay back and tucked herself into bed. She stared blankly at the bottom of the top bunk. Then he had gone and ruined everything by asking her to move! Her arm rose to cover her eyes, as if by blocking her sight she could shut out the images. She had known, known that a long distance relationship couldn't continue. But, still… Misao rolled to her side and pulled out her stuffed bear- the one Aoshi had given her.
Putting it under her chin, she breathed in the smell of Aoshi. She had obviously been embarrassed receiving it from him…and she would never admit to sleeping with it as some sort of substitute for him. And she had no idea how he'd even known that something so silly would make her so happy.
Now the poor bear was worn from hugs and snuggles, its dark brown fur faded, and the red velvet ribbon around its neck frayed. He had stopped by once to pick her up, and had seen it sitting on her bed. Tattered, he had picked it up while she rummaged around for a clean pair of socks. She had been so uncomfortable she'd ignored him and the bear that betrayed her intense affections.
And now…now she might never have that sort of couple moment that they'd shared again. One way or another, things were changing. And she didn't want them too. She didn't do well with change, she never had. He wanted her to move. She had thought originally that he was breaking up with her. She snuggled closer to her stuffed bear and sighed. It had hurt, more than she thought possible. When she'd thought he was dumping her, every one of her fears had spread uncontrollably. He didn't want her, didn't care for her, he had just needed a warm willing body. She would never fit into his daily life, he could never see her in any more than a 'fuck buddy' situation. Misao remembered feeling as if the floor had dropped out from under her, and she'd wanted so badly to just leave. It had been humiliating.
But then he'd said he needed her.
He'd looked bemused first, then fierce in his proclamation. It was hard to know what to do.
She rolled to her other side and reached for the remote. The first infomercial had ended and now one on a magical blender played. Ignoring the chattering host, she flipped it off and left the room in stillness.
Aoshi had seemed more than sincere. He did want her with him in New York. The question was, why? To continue dating? Exclusively? That she supposed was the first question. She wasn't even sure if they were exclusive right now. Misao knew she was. She had no desire to see anyone else besides him. Did he feel the same way? And if they weren't really exclusive and she moved…what then? Did they become exclusive, or did this… this, whatever this was, continue?
She pulled her pillow over her head and let out a frustrated sigh. Why did she have to overanalyze everything? It wasn't fair! She needed Aoshi, but she just couldn't believe that he really needed her. How could he possibly need her? She wasn't like him, so unique, so special, so extra-ordinary. She was just…Misao. Tomboyish, skinny, annoying Misao.
And if she did move to be closer to him, would he finally see that? That was it. That was the biggest question. The gut wrenching fear. Would he finally see her for what she was? Just like everyone else she had dated or wanted to date. Why would he date her when there were so many others that were…anything but her? She knew that she trusted him, that wasn't the question. But this was more than trust to her. Could Misao trust him to take care of her as long as they went out? Could she really believe that he could see her everyday and still want her with the intensity he did now?
She wanted to say yes.
And if his intentions were everything she hoped they were, then what? Was she willing to move for him, pick and go? Oh God, if this was for real…she couldn't let him leave. Misao knew what her friends would say. That she was still so young, that a person should never give up everything for a boy; that she should shop around for other boys. She buried her head into the teddy she was holding. Aoshi wasn't just any boy though. Moving would be hard, but it would hardly be a sacrifice. After all, she'd always wanted to travel. Her family was small, but their closeness wouldn't be put in jeopardy by her leaving. She had come to crave him. His dry wit, smoky eyes, and quiet personality were an intricate part of her daydreams. She didn't want to shop around, didn't want anyone else. Why couldn't anyone around her see that? Misao wanted Aoshi. Just Aoshi, day in and day out.
Her hand slowly came down from her eyes. This was why the talk had been long overdue. She didn't know what they were; what he wanted from her. He'd said he needed her. She needed to know for how long, and in what capacity.
So…Misao took a deep breath and half sat up. She would finally really think of everything, really put herself out there and admit that there was a problem. This was a relationship, and not thinking of the problems wouldn't make them go away. A shaky breath escaped her lips.
"Things are not okay."
She smiled self depreciatingly. Saying it out loud was a big step. Hopefully she could keep up this self honesty up until tomorrow.
Yahiko glanced out of the taxi window, his eyes swollen and raw from the lack of good sleep. They burned with dryness, and he craved a bottle of Visine and five to ten blissful undisturbed hours of sleep. Although he had changed at the bus station, the clothes he had put on still felt dirty and un-kept. The worn jeans hung low on his hips, and the equally tattered shirt was soft from multiple washings and wearings. They were both perfect for traveling, but lacked the fresh clean feeling he wanted. He would have killed for a hot long shower. Hell, maybe he would be able to fulfill both of his desires once he got to Kaoru's. Rolling his shoulders, he glanced out of the window at the approaching apartment complex.
The early morning light had just begun to wash over the city, making the practically empty streets glitter despite the filth that covered them. It was still too early for rush hour, and he silently thanked his luck. It had taken hours to get there, and even though he was absolutely physically miserable, he was still glad. Kaoru. A younger version of his sister flashed in his mind and he smiled softly. He had been trying to think of some excuse to visit her for months. But she was so god awful stubborn, that if he'd even suggested it she would have thrown a hissy fit. She'd done it before.
He wanted to be a part of her life, part of his nephew's life. His head rolled back in his seat. That still shocked him. Yahiko was an uncle. A freakn' uncle. His sister, the girl he'd teased and poked and prodded, was a mother. And a damn good one at that. The things she did for her son, the hell she put herself through for him. Not that she would ever say so. The last time he had visited he'd seen the way she was slowly coming apart. She just couldn't cope. Supporting Kenji, relying on no one, and hiding from a past even he didn't know. She was floundering. He wanted to take some of the burden off of her. More than that, he wanted to be what she needed. And when he watched her he knew that it wasn't him she required.
Fuck Kenshin. He hated the guy. The red haired man had come by the house just after she'd disappeared, when Yahiko was still so sure that she would show up at any moment. He'd always been so good to his sister, always been so kind to him. It didn't matter to him now if Kenshin rescued a bus full of children. The only way he could possibly redeem himself was to fix this mess and fix his sister. And until then, Yahiko didn't want to even think about him.
He'd do what he could instead. The young man knew it was impossible for him to make things the way they were, but he sure as hell could come see her when she called.
Yahiko glanced at the equally creased man next to him. A strong shadow covered his jaw, and with his equally messy hair he looked like a cross between a biker and a homeless person. His eyes were partly closed and he kept jerking as if he were fighting sleep. They opened completely after a few seconds and took in Kaoru's neighborhood. His hand covered his mouth as he yawned before moving to ruffle his already chaotic hair.
"We're almost there, finally."
Sano's voice sounded like he looked. Like shit. Yahiko nodded his head in agreement.
He didn't know if Sanosuke coming was a good idea. Sano was a big personality, and he didn't know if he was what Kaoru needed. Maybe she would have preferred just him. No, that wasn't true. Yahiko wanted to be there for his sister. Himself. Even he would admit it. He didn't ever get to see her or Kenji. He'd depended on her for so much of his youth; he just wanted to be there for her. It was selfish and small minded of him, and he hated himself for it. He didn't want to share her, not when he saw her every six months or more. It was stupid, and he knew it.
He pinched at the bridge of his nose and added a third item to his wish list. On top of Visine and five to ten hours of sleep; he wanted four aspirin. He did not need to have his own self-centered childhood hang-ups making an appearance today. Kaoru was in some sort of trouble. Yahiko would do what he could to help her, and maybe he'd convince her to let him come up again soon and see her. He couldn't do anymore. And it pissed him off to no end that he was able to do so little.
The taxi stopped and Yahiko pulled himself out of the vehicle. Standing made him perfectly aware of how long he'd been sitting on that blasted bus. He turned and twisted, shaking his legs out as he did so. The pins and needles feeling slowly faded, but didn't completely disappear.
Pulling his bag out from the trunk while Sano paid the driver, Yahiko let his full attention fall on the building across the street. The sun seemed to highlight each crumbling brick and piece of litter. Every time he saw the place Kaoru was living, he resisted the urge to yell at her. She and Kenji shouldn't even have to look at such a rundown building. Instead, he knew that she had to save and live thrifty just to pay the rent for her excuse of an apartment. It was ridiculous and idiotic. Yahiko took a deep breath through his clenched teeth.
Setting off across the street, he ignored the grumbling man following a few steps behind him. He crinkled his nose at the heavy stench of pollution and garbage that permeated the air. Entering the old building, he tried not to smile as he let go of the door at the most opportune moment.
"Hey!" Sano groused; catching the frame before it could smack him in the face, "Watch it you pip squeak!"
Yahiko ignored Sano, inwardly laughing at the older man. He loved picking at Sanosuke, the two of them were at their best when they were annoying each other. It was also a great stress reliever. Even he would admit that he was wound too tightly. The tension running through his frame had only grown since he had spoken with her. There was just something about his and Kaoru's conversation that he couldn't let go. It had set him on edge. Her voice had wavered, nearly crying, and it had torn into him. Yahiko could not stand his sister so apprehensive.
He worried that his premonition had finally come to pass. Kaoru, strong as she was- had finally broken down.
"Whatever Sano, it was an accident."
He spoke in his most insolent voice.
Adjusting the bag on his shoulders, he examined the hallway with a critical eye as he traveled farther into the building. Approaching the door, he glanced down at his wrist watch. At nine o'clock in the morning he wasn't sure yet if his sister would be up. It all depended on her rambunctious son.
Sanosuke stepped up next to him and raised an inquiring eyebrow. Yahiko gave him a blank look. Shrugging his shoulders, the taller man rapped loudly on the door before leaning against the door frame. He stifled a yawn.
Waiting a few seconds, Yahiko covered his own exhausted yawn with the back of his hand. Growing impatient he nearly knocked too before he heard movement on the other side of the wood.
"Who is it?"
The childish voice was barely audible to him. Kenji. Yahiko felt a real grin on his mouth grow.
"Hey bud, it's your uncle Yahiko. Is your mom around?"
An excited gasp came out from behind the door and he heard the deadlock being undone. Yahiko knew he should be upset that Kenji was letting them in without looking through the peephole to check. Then again, the boy couldn't reach the viewer even if he wanted to. Unless his nephew had grown exponentially since the last time he'd seen him. He grinned at the thought. And where was Kaoru? She wasn't one to let her son answer the door independently.
The worn wood swung open, and a small red head peeked out. Large eyes peered up through thick bangs, and a wide smile split Kenji's face. Stepping forward he wrapped his arms around Yahiko and made a squeaking noise.
"Yahiko Yahiko Yahiko Yahiko!"
The small boy jumped up and down in glee, his voice repeating his uncle's name over and over again. Laughing, Yahiko brought his hand down and ruffled the younger boy's hair. It was still messy from sleep. The boy had grown, the last time his uncle had seen him he'd been unable to correctly pronounce 'Yahiko.' It had come out sounding closer to 'Ya-ko.' Kenji giggled, his laughter ringing in the otherwise quiet hallway.
Sano's voice cut through, in its most 'tough guy' teasing mode. Kenji laughed even harder, his attention moving to Yahiko's companion.
Sanosuke blushed and scratched at the back of his head as Kenji moved to hug him too. The tough brute looked both embarrassed at the nickname, and pleased at Kenji's memory.
"It's Sano, Kenji."
Yahiko snickered. He wasn't sure when Kenji had started calling Sanosuke, Sanono- but he sure as hell thought it was hilarious. Sano glared at him while Kenji started repeating 'Sanono' over and over again.
"Hey Kenji," Yahiko kneeled down, "Can we come in and see your Mom?"
Kenji nodded his head enthusiastically before turning and heading into the apartment. The footie pajamas caused the boy to swerve and stumble in his hastiness. Yahiko followed, Sano shutting the door behind them. Kenji bounced through the room, obviously thrilled at the unexpected visit. Yahiko eyed the apartment critically, taking in the disintegrating wallpaper and old furniture. He tried to push it out of his mind.
Bringing a hand up to his head, he tried to flatten his dirty hair. It was hopeless. He turned his attention to Kenji when he didn't see Kaoru in the kitchen or living room.
"Hey bud, where's your mom?"
Yahiko was certain that Kaoru would never leave her son unsupervised in the apartment. But was she changing? Sleeping? In the bathroom? Cleaning? Kenji eyed him as he pulled playfully at Sano's hand, chortling with amusement every time the older man pulled him up to his tip toes. His pajamas were so cute they made his teeth hurt.
"Mom's sleeping." The boy was suddenly whispering, "So we have to be very very quiet."
Kenji was in the best no-nonsense voice his youth would allow. Yahiko nodded in solemn agreement, and watched Sano do the same thing. If Kaoru was sleeping, there was no way that he wanted to wake her. She worked way too hard, and if he could help watch Kenji so she could catch up on some much needed rest- he would gladly.
Twenty minutes later and they were sprawled out over the living room floor. Colorful blocks of all shapes and sizes littered the area, a half formed block mass covering much of the available floor. Sano lay on his stomach, more asleep then awake, a ridiculous line of drool starting to pool on the arm beneath his head. At least he wasn't snoring. Yahiko eyed the man with envy and wished longingly that he was able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Sanosuke had been snoozing within the first five minutes of settling himself onto the floor. Yahiko was not so lucky.
He sat next to Kenji, running a hand over his eyes every few minutes in an effort to wake himself. The luke warm cup of coffee next to him hadn't helped him in the least. Kaoru's coffee maker produced some of the weakest, most awful tasting coffee he'd ever drunk. Kenji sat next to Sano, so enthralled by the blocks and his guests that Yahiko was having a hard time following the boy's one sided conversation. The boy chatted in a quiet voice that grew louder and louder as time passed. He didn't even seem to remember that his mom was napping only a room over.
After putting each block in place, Kenji would turn to Yahiko and ask him what he thought before moving onto the next one. So far Yahiko had done his best to respond in an excited voice. However, he wasn't quite sure how to react when he had no idea what the boy was making. So he nodded in what he thought was an appropriate way, and tried to add what he could.
Kenji added a bright blue block to the top of a curved wall….thingie…
"Kenji? What are we making again?"
He hoped his nephew wouldn't be offended.
The red haired boy looked at the blocks quizzically. Chewing on his lower lip he turned his head up toward Yahiko. Kenji's face was completely serious.
"An impenin…inpentrible fortress."
Yahiko fought a wide smile. Impenentrible indeed. It was so sweet he was sure to get cavities.
"Yeah!" Kenji's voice was trembling with animation, "We have to be ready for when the ninjas come!"
Yahiko knew, without needing a mirror, that a puzzled expression covered his face.
He couldn't remember Kenji mentioning them earlier.
"Yeah, they are hiding under that mountain."
Back to a whisper soft voice, Kenji pointed a knowing finger at Sanosuke. The man's arms were shiny with drool.
"Ahhh, that mountain."
Yahiko's smile grew wildly. He wished he had a camera.
They continued working, the mess of a blocks slowly coming together into a building of sorts. When Kenji declared the project 'done,' Yahiko's back had a crick in it from bending and reaching.
Stretching his arms over his head, his stomach growled in protest. He hadn't even noticed until now how hungry he was. He eyed Kaoru's bedroom. Would it be rude of him to cook and eat breakfast without her? Five minutes ago he could have sworn he heard someone stirring in there, but he didn't want to bother her before she was ready. Besides, he could still fondly remember his sister's cooking…half done eggs, stringy chicken, luke warm soup…he repressed a shiver. Poor Kenji.
"Hey bud? You hungry for breakfast?"
Kenji jumped so high, he nearly tipped over what he'd just built. Yahiko brought a hand forward to steady him. The boy had a serious case of the wiggles. Completely ignoring what he'd just assembled, his nephew jumped over the sleeping Sano and tore through into the kitchen. Yahiko stood up slowly, and half kicked Sano as he stepped over him. The man didn't even bat an eyelash.
In the kitchen, Yahiko opened and closed cupboards, looking for something quick and easy. Seeing only frozen dinners and dry cereal, he turned to Kenji.
"What would you like Kenji? What do you and your mom usually have for breakfast?"
Looking through Kaoru's kitchen, he truly was curious. There was nothing here that he found the least bit appropriate for an early morning meal. He supposed that later today he'd go grocery shopping with her. Frozen meals were not his favorite. And Sano could probably eat five in one sitting.
"Me and Mom and Kenshin had pancakes!"
Yahiko nodded his head while opening the freezer and half listening. Seeing nothing, he shut it and turned back to Kenji. The boy was digging through a lower shelf full of dry goods. Well, if they usually had pancakes….wait…The words Kenji had said made his mind standstill.
"Kenji? When was Kenshin here?"
His body went cold with apprehension. His breathing seemed suddenly loud and fast in his ears. The conversation that Yahiko had had with Kaoru came rushing back. How her voice had wavered, how she had needed to see him. If Kenshin was here, if Kenshin had approached Kaoru…Shit. Shit. Shit. His fists clenched painfully. She had stayed away from New York and her family for a reason. He had found her?
Goddammit. Yahiko's gaze strayed down to his oblivious nephew. If Kenshin was here, then he was aware of Kenji. His sister must have nearly had a heart attack.
Kenji seemed thrilled to discuss his new friend.
"He was here… and he was sooo cool! And the pancakes he made were so yummy, and," Kenji's voice dropped again, "Mommy and him are having a sleep over so we have to be quiet."
Yahiko felt his jaw go slack. A sleepover? Kenshin was here? Now? With Kaoru? Had he been here since last night? That motherfucker. Yahiko was not going to let Kenshin step all over his sister. Not this time. Kenshin had wrecked Kaoru's life already once before. If he wasn't fixing the mess he'd started, he could get the hell out of his sister's room. Not thinking, Yahiko turned abruptly back into the living room.
Walking up beside the dozing Sano, he kicked the man. The hard move knocked the tall man onto his back. Sano jerked awake, mumbling and wiping at his mouth. Although hilarious, Yahiko was no longer in the mood to laugh. He was pissed.
Sano blinked several times before fully waking. Grumbling he turned his scowl filled face up.
"Yahiko, what the hell?"
The younger man leaned down and helped haul his friend to his feet. They both nearly tripped over Kenji, who had managed to wedge himself between the two of them.
Yahiko leaned in and tried to ignore Sano's atrocious breath.
"You are never going to be-"
Kaoru's bedroom door opened, and Yahiko's words halted. Both he and Sano found their eyes gluedto her. She stood within the doorframe, her hair tousled and tangled. His sister looked exhausted, tired, and at the end of her rope. Dressed in only a shirt, a rosy flush stained her cheeks and a look of both surprise and horror crossed her face.
She shrieked before shutting the door with a loud thump.
Trying to recover from the unexpected noise, he watched Sano rub his ears.
"What the hell is her deal?"
Yahiko had no time to warn his friend that Kenshin was there and the core of Kaoru's problem. He heard the door click open again, and in a blur of red saw Sanosuke eat carpet.
AN: Wow, that chapter got so unbelievably long., but I just couldn't leave it off anywhere else. I know you were all sad about the lack of KK…but I'll do what I can next chapter. By the way, please feel free to leave a review. (wink wink)
Next Time: Kenshin apologizes to Sano about the carpet eating; Yahiko gives Kenshin the 'Don't mess with my sister' talk… and Kenshin feels a little deflated and irked.