Alright. Well, I wasn't going to post anything until I had finished either Amber Linings or Twisted, but I decided I wanted something to work on that would get posted that wasn't in Meiji Japan. So this is what you get. About as far away from Meiji as a girl can get. This should be an interesting story, probably a bit lighter than some of my other stuff, but one never knows where the muse will take her. I hope you all enjoy.
Note: My wonderful beta edited this for me so it has been re-posted!
Warning: I do not own RK characters. Also, this story starts out with some heavy lime and other content. Deal with it.
Sixteen year old Kaoru had awoken with a pounding headache, a splitting pain shooting up her ankle, and a strong gag reflex. A sane person would have been sitting on the bunk they had awoken in, waiting to see who had kidnapped them. They would have been planning on several ways to beg for their life or negotiate how to get out of the situation.
A sane person would probably also have been gutted by now. Pirates were notorious for kidnapping pretty girls from the docks, raping them brutally and then leaving there bodies to rot. Or, if they were particularly gruesome they would tie the carcass to the front of the ship like a demented figurehead of decaying female flesh. Preferably a young female body; Kaoru figured it was because she was so tiny in stature that she had gotten grabbed as it was. Her clothing was designed to hide her figure, and she could pass as a young boy or girl several years younger. Most demented men preferred there girls young.
Kaoru held perfectly still, clinging dangerously to the small, wooden handles built in to the side of the softly rocking ship. This was where running had seemingly gotten her. She was dangerously aware of her bare feet brushing against the edges of black, freezing water, of the dark bruises forming along her bare shoulders. There was a long, dangerous rip down the front of the red, clinging gown, displaying a large amount of her cleavage. In fact, Kaoru had never seen so much of herself exposed unless she was in a bathing house, and her face was dull red with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.
If she hadn't had as much exposure to ships before and since her father's death, she might not have known about this particular means of escape. As it was, it was the skills taught to her by her fellow street-rat bartenders that had gotten her out of the damn cabin. The Pirates on this ship had seriously underestimated her. Thank God. However, it didn't aid her any when it came to how to get onto the dock without dumping herself into the freezing British harbor.
This was all Sano's fault and he could pay for the damages done to her. If she was correct, her ankle was probably badly twisted from the fight, and her left wrist seemed to be a bit tender. Stupid, chicken-brained, useless man; this was entirely his fault. If he would keep a better eye on his barmaids so that they weren't kidnapped and molested, then this would never have happened. It was his responsibility to make sure they weren't grabbed out of the dirty, stinking tavern. Granted, the only reason she put up with it was because he didn't demand other privileges from his girls, and for that she was thankful. She wasn't a virgin; not anymore at least, but she didn't relish the idea of being raped.
Kaoru hated the fact that the docks were so dangerous to woman. She knew there were gang rapes, kidnappings, and that the women who randomly disappeared off docks into ships were rarely seen again, but the ocean and bustle was a beautiful thing. However, things like the hell that was happening to her, which explained a good many things about her current situation, did little to curb her need for the open seas. The fact that she was clinging to the side of a ship, her fingers burning with splinters, her torn dress allowing the chilling wind to caress her skin, leaving her now unbound breasts aching; that did curb it.
Kaoru kicked off the side of the boat, attempting to keep her balance as she gingerly set a foot on the spray-slick wood. Once she got her feet under her, wincing as she did so, she shoved as hard as could and landed hard on her ass. Kaoru swore in the bright, colorful, and degrading language she had learned from Sano as her slender form crashed into the stacked crates that she had been hoping to avoid. The breath was knocked clean from her lungs, and her ass smarted with the fact that she had hit something hard and more than a little unforgiving. Her left wrist sang its protest in a bright flash of agony, and she knew she had sprained it just a little. Looking up she desperately tumbled out of the sharp edges and cutting splinters. The sounds of voice and muted cursing had her bare feet pounding silently against the water-softened wood. The racket she had made had alerted her captors to the fact that she was free. Fuck.
The sound of splashing as the ladder hit the water urged her to run faster, but the limping gate that she had adopted did nothing to help her speed up. Besides her limping, she had to avoid several things: broken glass, blood, vomit, an assortment of rusty blades broken or whole. Kaoru stopped like a breaking branch, her body shivering in the cool, damp night. She needed to find a way out, and she needed to do it soon. Buying time or giving the impression of disappearing…
Kaoru hissed between her teeth as she took precious seconds to examine her location, noticing for the first time the sultry woman on street corners and the dark, lusty looks sent in her direction. Her eyes scanned around, desperately, until they alighted on the group of men coming out of a bar. Her eyes slid right over the tall one, she couldn't reach him. The shaky plan her brain was piecing together had the potential to go very, very wrong, but if she pulled it off right…
His companion stepped into the light, and a flush of hot hope tore through her cold body. He was only a few inches taller than her, and seemed to be wavering slightly. She hoped it was alcohol, and that her actions wouldn't really register in his brain. He was just the right size for what she needed. The fact that the dim light painted him as pretty didn't take away from what she wanted; no, needed. He could have had the face of a gargoyle and she would have done what she had already decided to do.
Sprinting forward just as footsteps reached her ears, Kaoru slammed her small, slender frame into the solid form of the man and drove him into an alley. Her shoulders screaming in protest, but she gritted her teeth and kept her whimper of pain to herself. The man swore under his breath, surprise lighting his features just before her desperate mouth clamped over his, the shadows darkening the color of her dress. Her back hit the wall of the alley as she yanked him into her, pulling his hard body against her young curves. Kaoru heard the sounds of footsteps approaching and dug her hands into his hair and took aggressive measures, taking advantage of his surprise to tangle her tongue with his. She had to keep him from calling out; to give the impression of a man taking advantage of a cheap whore.
Kaoru soon was only absently aware of the men searching the area, especially when his hands slide down her spine and yanked her closer. He took control of the kiss with a skill that left her almost boneless in his arms, and she willingly slid into the heat of his embrace, the fact that his personal hygiene was slightly better than that of the wall slipping into her mind. Someone calling a name, Kenshin...that yanked her out of her state of heated bliss. Something clicked in her brain, something she had been attempting to ignore. Kaoru gave an exclamation of surprise and jerked back, her mind registering a nasty detail. There was no alcohol on his tongue.
Attempting to tear away, Kaoru gave another start when strong fingers yanked her back. She yelped in surprise when he pulled them further into the shadows. There was a possessive hold to his hands, and Kaoru winced. Apparently he was taking her for a dockside whore, which was probably what she deserved. However, it was going to take some fast thinking to get out of this situation.
"Where do you think you are going?" His words were delightfully shadowed, dark and heady to her senses. Kaoru raised wide, startled eyes to his face. His hair was red, dark and blood-hued. His eyes were golden fire, and a blood ruby sparked in his left ear. She was in the arms of a Pirate. Her mother had once announced that her carelessness was going to get her tossed from the pan into the fire, and she wondered if this wasn't one of those times. Fleeing from Pirates to getting trapped in the arms of another; someone upstairs had a sick sense of amusement.
"Let go." Kaoru tried, desperation echoing on her tone. She could hear the voices again, and it was likely he would toss her back into the other dark place. The iron clasp of his arms held her tight, and she thrashed against him, not expecting him to pin her to the wall as the men tore by again, his mouth hot against the pale skin of her neck. His tongue flickered against her skin, and a mewling noise fell from her mouth before she could stop it, and his mouth curved against the hollow of her throat.
She was having a hard time breathing, like she had been swimming for miles and miles and couldn't find the shore. He raised his head and moon-glow gold stared at her from lashes as black as the night. "Your name."
Kaoru jerked slightly in surprise at the demand in his tone. A name. Something that could be used to find her; he would know if she lied. She could see it in his eyes. What had she thrown herself into? The arms of a demon? "Let go," Kaoru tried again, struggling against him. Even as his mouth pressed headily against hers, the way his tongue dominated her mouth sending her knees into soft porridge, as if he could demand it from her body by his touch alone. This simply would not do...
Reacting in the manner Sano had drilled into her since she had met him, Kaoru sent him to his knees. Her knee came up, since he had pulled back slightly to demand something from her again, and she watched as he stumbled. There was something there protecting him from the worst of her blow, so she fled while she had the chance. She flew down the alleys she knew so well. She couldn't risk going back to the Tavern this night, and probably not for another few days; she would have to assume both parties looking for her would search there first. The hoarse shout of barely controlled anger and something else added an ounce of speed, and she disappeared into the night.
It didn't take long to find the cleaner alley systems, to slip into old paths used by others to confuse her tracks. Gods above, she hated the docks. When she got her hands around Sano's neck, she was going to wring it like the rooster he was.
Kenshin watched as his men finished loading the last of the supplies, his body still pulled as hard as a bow string. His body was still uncomfortably aroused from the little pixie's attentions on the dock. For a cheap whore, she had been unquestionably sweet, and that made him wonder. Most whores tasted of cheap ale and opium. She tasted like wild honey and her skin had a distinct taste of vanilla and cinnamon. For all that she was in a dress ripped and filthy, she had smelled clean, like someone used to bathing.
Serious contradictions; perhaps she was a brothel girl going for kicks? They had the tendency to be cleaner than the dock prostitutes. Kenshin sighed, dragging a hand through his bangs and frowned at the slight scent of jasmine he could still catch on his skin. His mouth turned down, and he glared at the people who were loading cargo as quickly as they physically could. He felt something dark shiver through his skin at the idea that he wasn't going to be able to search for the girl. He was in a bad mood, and his crew knew it.
"Hey! Kenshin!" A voice straight from the past called, and Kenshin turned in surprise to see a friend of his who he had thought would have gotten himself killed years ago. "Sanosuke, what are you doing here?" Kenshin asked, some of his temper dissipating in his surprise. Sano had grown into his lanky frame. He had to be what…twenty or twenty-one now?
"I need a favor." Sano said, walking over in his nonchalant way. His mouth held the familiar fish bone, and his shoulders were set in a line that led you to think he was slouching, but really he was just giving you the ability to think he was smaller than he was. There was wistfulness in his brown eyes that surprised Kenshin.
"You know I owe you one." Kenshin replied, thinking back to the violent and disastrous way they had met. "What can I help you with?" There was a faint note of curiosity in his voice. It wasn't often someone managed to track him down, he had made sure of that.
Sano turned and gave the lingering darkness one more, wistful glance before turning back. "I need a way out of Europe. You can drop me off on any port you want, but I need to get out of here for a while." There was something flickering in his eyes that Kenshin recognized and he nodded slowly.
"In trouble again?" Kenshin asked, his arms lazily crossing across his chest, his brow arching upwards without his really thinking about it. "What did you do?"
Sano shrugged, chewing absently at the fishbone. "I helped a friend out of trouble. I was hoping she was going to show up, but apparently she isn't coming. You look like you're going to head out soon."
Kenshin nodded. "Within the hour; you can store your stuff in the bay with the rest of the men. I will drop you off where you need to go, but I have needed an instructor in the hands-on fighting department. Most of the men don't have a background with close fighting, and someone who can show them how to use and counter some of the dirty moves they might encounter would be good. Think about it." Kenshin offered. It wasn't the first time he had made the offer, but he hoped his time Sano would accept.
"I might just do that. I was hoping Jou-chan would make it." Sano mused. "If she doesn't, then I will be happy to accept a position." He smiled. "Besides, the pay is probably better anyway."
Kenshin raised a brow. "What have you been doing?"
"Believe it or not," Sano drawled as he headed to the gangplank. "I was managing a Tavern…"
Kaoru slipped back inside the Tavern, heading to gather her things and then to track down Sano and find out what she had missed the past week she had been gone. The women kept giving her funny looks, and she needed to find him fast. She had finally found someone who was willing to take them off this damn cold island and get them somewhere warm and neutral. Kaoru smiled brightly as she skipped in with her borrowed clothes.
The pants were a little big, but they had been hemmed and straightened and tied up as much as possible, and the large shirt had been cut down as well. For now it would work. She would need to find a few more things like it, since a ship didn't allow for dresses. The wind would pick up a skirt and toss it to the winds and then where would she be? She had spent the past week remembering how to braid her hair so tight it would give her a headache, and locating what she would need to help survive on a ship of cut-throats. She didn't really mind. She could always maim them in ways that would leave them hurting for hours in locations they would probably hate to be reminded existed.
Kaoru dug through her stuff, prying up the board under the mat she slept on and dug out the golden locket her mother had given the night the boat went down. Those were vague memories, the sounds of cannon fire and the smells of gunsmoke predominate. There was a golden hind with an apple engraved in loving detail, and she secured it around her neck. She frowned slightly at the unfamiliar sight of a leather bag that jangled with quite a bit of coin when tossed around. Prying it open her mouth dropped at the sight of nearly a dozen gold coins and a piece of a receipt with what appeared to be Sano's messy scrawl. She frowned and opened it.
The coins feel from nerveless fingers and she stared at his writing like she had never seen it before. The messy scrawl was hard to decipher around her tearing eyes, but she bit down hard and did so.
I got us a ship. It leaves tonight, they're planning on sailing with the dawn tides. I will be keeping an eye for you if you want to catch a lift. It's dock 51.
Underneath it was the messy date that looked hurried, as if he had almost forgotten to put it. Her fingers traced it lovingly, her eyes blinking the crystal drops away from her eyes. He had sailed a week ago. Without her, the bastard, probably thinking she had changed her mind about leaving. Anger set in as quickly as her emotional outburst of waterworks.
Taking a deep breath and quickly gathering the coins before someone decided to investigate the noise, she shoved them into the bag and then shoved that into the little place between her breast bindings and her chest. The confined space would keep them from rattling, alerting muggers and pickpockets that she had gold on her. Quickly, she tossed her few good clothes into the knapsack and left the rest to the girls left to divvy up. There really wasn't anything else worth keeping, not here at least. Kaoru took one last look at the place that had housed her for the past two years and tossed the knapsack around her shoulders and headed back down the steps to the hustle and bustle of the town.
Tae was moving to some sunny isle in the Caribbean to open up a brothel. Her girls were being mistreated here, and she wanted them someplace warmer with less chance of dying in the arms of some man on a dark street. So she had hired a privateer to take them, and had offered Kaoru a place with them. Kaoru would have to come up with her own gold, but at least she could go. She had been willing to offer herself as a mender of clothing, or cabin boy, but the gold Sano had left would pay her way instead. Much safer to use it for that, too; gold would get her raped faster than prancing around naked, and that was saying something.
Kaoru went and rand down the streets, the slightly over-sized boots scraping against her sensitive calves and ankles. However, it was better than getting cut by something rusty. She didn't trust the idea that Gohei and his goons had left, and it was best if she wasn't seen. She had taken the risk of coming back because Sano would have been going back with her, and she needed that locket. It was the only thing she had left of her family, and she would risk more than a possible rape to get it back. Besides, even if she was followed she knew these alley-ways better than they ever would. She wasn't compared to a rat for nothing. She knew all the nooks and crannies and hide-holes like she knew the back of her hands.
Kaoru was panting when she made it to the dock Tae had told her to meet her and she had already dug out the coins she would need. A man had given her a very strange look when he caught her fishing into her shirt, and then leered when she was forced to loosen some ties. She hadn't really cared; as long as he kept his distance and stayed away from her then he could get a free peep show. It was worth it. She was getting off this island and getting away from these people.
Away from whatever it was that had her hunted.
Kaoru stumbled into the home that Tae insisted was theirs and looked around. Windows. High and wide, with open ceilings and wide spaces; the heat had forced the clothing to stick to her body. It was humid and bright, gods it was so bright, and beautiful. The water was warm blue instead of frigid black, and if not for the lemons Tae forced her to smear her body with over and over, her skin would hold a pale tan.
Instead, between the lemons and the wide brimmed hat she had been forced into wearing, it was still a pale white,. She had learned early that she burned easily in the hot sun, and Tae refused to allow her to accumulate the tan she had as a child. Which wasn't much of one, because she was naturally fair-skinned. Sighing, she looked around. Tonight she would look for work and see what options she had in this place. She wasn't even sure exactly which Island they were on, just the assurance that it was neutral in the Pirate wars. Kaoru pulled her thick braid off her neck and decided to keep her hair long if only because it was easier to keep off her neck if there was enough of it to tie up.
She wished Sano was here. He would love this place, with its bright sun and exotic people. Already Tae had arranged for someone to come in and finish the language lessons she had forced them to take on the ship. A translator had agreed to teach the girls for a price, and Tae had agreed. Kaoru was getting the benefit of that, because she had offered a sort of protection for the girls on the way. Sailors had been attracted to the idea of free sex, and there had been more than one that had suffered from her emphasis on staying away. She had done nothing besides break a few fingers, but for a sailor, nothing was more painful. By the end of the trip she knew most the crew by name and had earned their respect, but she knew which ones to toss a bucket of ship-water onto after they drank too much ale. Many of the girls had to be taught to drink, because on a ship, the ale was in better shape the water.
Water lasted only so long before it wasn't drinkable, and you had to learn to handle stiff ale or rum. Kaoru had learned a long time ago to handle her drink, and had given those lessons to the girls. Simple things like offering a piece of stale bread to them at dinner to absorb the worst of its effects. How to nurse it carefully and what foods would help them keep the drink of choice down. She had held the bed-pan many nights while they emptied the dregs from dinner from their stomach. Then the sea-sickness had hit and she had dug into the stash of chamomile they had brought to clean there hair to brew a tea that had made them choke and gag, but at least they kept it down.
Kaoru sighed. It was going to be a long, very long time before she became used to the rhythm of this place, the bright colors, the splash of fire in the food. Her mouth slowly began to curve into a smile as she spun about in the empty room. Maybe she would be happy here. It wasn't so bad, once you got used to it. Perhaps here the ghost of a family she could remember no more of than her mother's smile would fade away and leave her alone.
"You have been broody since we left." Sano commented as he leaned against the railing, looking at his captain in concern. "Something happened back there in the fog of Britain?"
Kenshin looked at his friend and snorted. "Have you forgotten who is Captain on this boat?"
Sano grinned, plucking the fishbone from his lips and twirling it between his fingers. It had been six months since they had left Jou-chan behind, and he wondered how she was making out. He hoped she would forgive him, but time had run out for him, and he had no intention of dragging her into it. He had done what he thought was best, but she would have loved it out here. One the high seas and fighting against the Spanish; hauling cargo around and living off the seas and trade; the Trade Winds were just one of the many they set their fates on. Currenlty they were docked in Barbados to pick up a doctor Kenshin had dropped off.
Their next stop was China, and the pirates there were well known for their dangers. Kenshin had thought it prudent to pick the man up. "Of course I know, but I don't like to see you like this."
Kenshin sighed. "Nothing is bothering me, Sano. At least nothing new." Six months was nothing new. Six months dreaming of vanilla/cinnamon, honey and jasmine and the mix of those three things wrapping around his brain like an endless cycle. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. His temper was snappish, because he couldn't sleep. His eyes narrowed slightly as he watched the sun begin to rise against the morning sky, and he knew his eyes were shooting sparks of agonizing gold fire. He was a man with obligations that had nothing to do with a little whore. They had gone back once, three months ago, and there had been no signs of her. Sano too had been searching for someone, his beloved Jou-chan, and both men had come back with dark expressions.
The trail was cold, and she was probably dead and broken somewhere, her hot little mouth cold with death. He would let her go, and he would not think of her anymore. This was not a game he would play. Shifting his weight, he moved away from the rail. "We sail at noon."
Sano watched him go, wondering how he could find out what was eating his captain alive. There was something lingering in the back of his eyes, and it made him wonder exactly what he was missing. A woman, perhaps? Only a woman could drive a man to such distraction. That thought made him frown as he thought about Kaoru. She hadn't been there, and there hadn't been anyone he knew to ask about her. He hoped, wherever she was, that she was okay. He had left her every shred of gold he had, some of it stolen that very night, and he hoped that it had been enough to get her on her feet.
Otherwise, whenever he died, there was going to be a very mad Raccoon waiting for him in either heaven or hell, and probably ready to kick his ass. The thought made him smile and he moved to help the men who arrived with supplies load them all up in the bay. Things were never boring around her. Once they got onto the high seas it would be time for the lessons he taught three times a week.
Maybe he would run into Kaoru soon enough. She was full of surprises, and he knew that fate wasn't done with her yet.