Trading Places

By Shirou Shinjin

Disclaimer: I have not, do not, and most likely will never own Rurouni Kenshin, or its characters. They belong to various evil corporations, and the wonderful Watsuki-sama. I'm just going to borrow them for a bit, k?

Kaoru was bored out of her mind. She had clambered out of bed that morning to discover that her one and only student had gone off to the Akabeko to "work" (which these days was synonymous with "flirting with Tsubame"), Sano was off losing all his money under the pretence of gambling, and Kenshin had gone off to the market to buy vegetables.

Slipping into her training clothes, she had made an effort to work off her boredom by practising, but without Yahiko's ever-present taunts, she simply wasn't in the mood. She dragged herself around the house and dojo for a while, idly inspecting the woodwork, or studying the faint patterns in the shoji doors before finally coming upon some drying laundry.

Her otherwise unoccupied mind processed the fact that Kenshin must have done the washing fairly early for most of it to be dry by now, but since this was of only academic interest she promptly discarded this and started fingering his gi.

Under her fingers, she could feel the various patches that had been sewn onto the abused garment over the years. She was impressed that Kenshin had done such a good job of not only making the innumerable repairs hard to see, but actually managing to find matching fabric.

Kaoru giggled as she recalled Kenshin's adamant defence of his choice in clothing. "It is magenta," he would claim. "Sessha does not wear pink de gozaru yo." For a man who seemed to think nothing of sleeping outside, doing household chores, and rolling around in the mud playing with children, he was surprisingly sensitive about the colour of his gi.

She pulled the gi from the line and began running her hands through the soft fabric. It wasn't the nicest fabric she had ever seen, but after its many years of use it had developed that distinct "favourite old clothes" feel that only comes with age and constant, repeated abuse.

As she ran her hands through the brightly coloured garment, she idly began thinking how much nicer it would've been if Kenshin had been wearing it. Blushing, she held the gi to her chest and wondered where that had come from.

It'd be even better if he was in it right now…

She held Kenshin's gi out in front of her and glared at it. Apart from the hair, the cross-shaped scar and his sword, the gi was something of a trademark of Kenshin's. Maybe that's why she was thinking of him so much. Little did she realise that at that very moment, Kenshin was watching her in rapt fascination…

He had returned from the market laden with tofu and miso, carefully setting them down in the kitchen, and had gone out in search of Kaoru when he found her hugging his gi. He felt a bit silly peeking out from around the corner like a recently scolded child, but he couldn't help but wonder why she was clutching his favourite gi to her chest.

Despite Kenshin's almost fanatical devotion to the laundry, the thing only got washed about once a week. Today he was wearing his other gi, which was older, even tattier, but a rather attractive shade of dark blue. Kaoru had once commented that it made him look a little more… masculine, but it was so close to simply falling apart he didn't particularly care.

He suddenly noticed Kaoru holding his gi out in front of her, and she seemed almost angry at it for a moment before she blushed, giggled, and ran off towards the house. Craning his neck around the corner he watched as she looked suspiciously from side to side before ducking into her room and shut the shoji.

'OK, this is weird. What is she going to do with my gi?' he wondered, raising an eyebrow. He then remembered the various occasions where Kaoru had suggested he get a new gi. "This one's falling apart!" she would exclaim. "You should just throw it away and get a nice new one… maybe even one that isn't pink."

He had of course vehemently denied wearing anything pink, asserting that his gi was quite clearly magenta. However, at the moment he was more worried about what Kaoru would be doing with his gi within the confines of her room.

"Masaka…" he muttered under his breath. Kaoru had sometimes told him that she'd always wanted a nice pink ribbon…

Uncontrollable fear for his beloved gi took over as he stealthily made his way to Kaoru's room. With the stealth of a cat, and the gnawing terror of a two year old in a thunderstorm, he listened for the sounds of a defenceless gi being hacked to bits.

He heard the sound of fabric rustling inside, but no scissors cutting material. Then he heard her giggle. Was he already too late! Gripping the side of the shoji door, he pulled it open in a desperate attempt to save his clothing…

Of course, Kaoru had never even considered cutting up his gi. While old, tatty, and quite possibly the worst colour an ex-assassin could have chosen, she knew it was (for reasons beyond her understanding) dear to Kenshin. Instead, she'd suddenly remembered all the times that Kenshin had been mistaken for a girl, and off-handedly wondered if a girl could be mistaken for Kenshin.

She blushed as she realized that she was considering playing dress up with Kenshin's clothes. Of course, she didn't have red hair or a distinctive cross-shaped scar, but she was awfully bored, and she would be sure to get a laugh out of it. Her mind made up, she rushed off to her room, giggling in a manner not becoming of a shihondai.

She quickly removed her gi and hakama, and pulled on Kenshin's. It was, unsurprisingly, a little too big for her. The sleeves hid her hands completely, and the excess from their difference in height pooled onto the floor. Undeterred, she pulled her hakama back on, and tied the sleeves back slightly with some string. She then messed up her bangs (for a more authentic look), and retied her ponytail down low at the base of her head. Satisfied, she looked in the mirror and once more giggled to herself.

Suddenly, the shoji door slid open to reveal a very distraught-looking Kenshin.

Kaoru wasn't sure if she should be furious that he barged into her room, or thoroughly embarrassed to be caught wearing his clothes.

A cicada chirped in the yard.

The look of shock on Kenshin's face slowly gave way to an impassive, impossible to read mask. He slowly walked up to a still shocked Kaoru, then stood looking her up and down for a moment before he finally pulled his Sakabatou from his obi.

"Here," he said as he offered the sword to her, "Sessha thinks the outfit is not complete without this de gozaru."

Still surprised that he wasn't upset with her, she gingerly took the proffered sword and slid it into her obi. Kenshin's mask gave way to his customary smile as he turned her shoulders to look at herself in the mirror.

"Much better, but there's still one more thing missing…"

He walked to her writing desk and came back with a brush and inkwell. Motioning her to sit on the floor, he dipped the brush in the ink and bought it to her face.

"Kenshin… what are you doing?" she asked the now (evilly?) grinning rurouni.

"Oh, just completing the effect de gozaru. Shinpainai, Kaoru-dono." With that, he drew the brush carefully across her left cheek in two smooth strokes, before putting the brush and ink back on the desk.

Kaoru stood up and looked in the mirror. If you ignored the colour of her eyes and her hair colour, she was now a dead ringer for Kenshin; complete with Sakabatou, pink gi and cross-shaped scar.

She turned to Kenshin with a wide smile on her face. "Well, what do you think Kenshin-dono, de gozaru ka?" With that, they both burst into laughter at the sheer silliness of the whole thing, Kenshin closing his eyes and holding his stomach. She felt like an idiot, but seeing Kenshin laugh was well worth it.

When she finally managed to stifle her laughter, she looked at Kenshin, and broke into a wide, and very evil grin. "Ne, Kenshin?"

"Hai, Kaoru-dono?"

"Don't you think it's a little unfair that I'm, ano, Sessha is the only one dressed up, de gozaru ka?"

Sano never could quite get the hang of Thursdays. There was something inexplicably difficult about Thursdays. They always seemed to be associated with a sense of helplessness and loss, although that was probably because he went gambling on Thursdays. And almost always lost. Badly.

This probably explained the amount of sake he usually had on Thursdays, not to mention why he never had any money.

On this particular Thursday, he was striding back to the dojo to see if he could get some lunch, as was his routine. Gamble, lose, drink, lunch. The "lose" and "drink" steps had been done with particular gusto that day, and he was looking forward to an equally memorable lunch.

He came up to the dojo gate and went inside. He found it odd that he couldn't hear the almost omnipresent sound of Kaoru and Yahiko's arguing.

He walked around the dojo towards the house to see if he could find Kenshin and ask what was for lunch. He found him alright, but had to blink several times to make sure his eyes weren't playing tricks on him.

There stood Kenshin. With black hair, and what were most definitely blue eyes. Next to him stood Kaoru, except that she had scruffy red hair, and seemed taller somehow.

The seconds ticked by as he stared at them, his brain trying vainly to come to terms with what he was quite clearly seeing, but refused to believe.

Kaoru and Kenshin had not swapped clothes. Besides, the red-head had no visible scar on his… her… their left cheek, and the other one did. But then how do you explain the hair…

"Oro? Oh, hello there Sano. Come for lunch de gozaru ka?" the not-quite-Kenshin asked him with what he assumed was a rurouni smile.

"Sess… ano, I hope you haven't come to free load again, Sanosuke!" the red-haired-Kaoru exclaimed as it waved a shinai at him.

"I'm… er… you see…" He tried very hard to say something, but his brain simply wanted nothing to do with his mouth and that moment, and decided that flexing his hands was far more amusing. He was quite certain that he had not drunk nearly enough to be seeing this.

Kenshin and Kaoru tried desperately to hold back their laughter as they watched their friend's miserable attempt at figuring out what was going on.

Finally, unable to take the mental strain any more, he turned around, and calmly walked back out to find whoever had spiked his sake. As he left the grounds, Kenshin and Kaoru heard a distinct sob coming from the front gate. Apparently, it all been a bit much on the ex-street fighter.

The two cross-dressers suddenly burst once more into laughter, collapsing to the ground holding their sides.

"Did you see the look on his face, Kenshin?" Kaoru asked between fits of laughter.

"Aa—he looked like he was going to pass out, de gozaru!" Kenshin managed to reply between gasps of breath.

After a while, they managed to settle down, looking at each other. They did look thoroughly ridiculous, although the resemblance was closer then Kenshin was really comfortable with. He was a little upset that it had taken so little effort to make him look like a girl.

"See," Kaoru said, interrupting his train of thought. "I told you that make-up would hide your scar." It was true—with enough of her make-up, Kaoru had been able to all but hide his legendary scar, enhancing the disguise.

Kaoru had been right—this had been fun. Very silly, but good fun. And while she would never admit it, she did like wearing his gi. It made her feel like he was holding her, and despite its thorough washing, it still held a trace of his ginger scent.

Kenshin meanwhile was content just to see his Kaoru's face contorted in laughter. He felt even more stupid than usual, but it was all worth it to see her face light up like that, and he wondered how long he could keep her smiling like that.

For some inexplicable reason, he felt just the tiniest bit closer to her.

Kenshin smiled once more at her with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Kenshin, what do you say we wait for Yahiko to get home…" he asked her.

"Sessha would love to, de gozaru," she replied as they walked off into the dojo together. They still had a few hours to practice their impersonations before Yahiko got home.


Author's Note

What was I smoking… nothing life-threatening, I hope.

This isn't terribly funny unless you can get a clear mental picture of Kaoru and Kenshin dressed up as each other. Hmm… might have to try drawing that one of these days.

Oh well, it's short, not very funny, and riddled with holes like heavily shotgunned Swiss cheese, but it's quelled my muse for the moment, so I guess that's a bonus.

Incidentally, I wrote this a while back when the image popped into my head. If there are still any spelling mistakes or formatting problems, please feel free to blame OpenOffice for not converting the old HTML version properly.

If anyone does end up drawing that scene in the yard with Kenshin and Kaoru, let me know—I'd love to see it.

Ja, ne


Written: 12th May, 2005
Updated: 11th September, 2005

Updated on the 11th to fix a wee error. Move along, nothing to see here.

The Big List of Japanese Words and Wot They (Might) Mean

aa, hai: Used when in agreement with someone.

ano: "Um", "er", etc.

de gozaru —: No direct English translation, these sentence-enders basically make what Kenshin is saying more polite. "ne" is used as a slightly more informal version, "yo" is used to emphasise a point, and "ka" is used when asking a question. At least, I hope that's what they mean...

gi: The pink robe thing Kenshin wears.

hakama: Those awesome split-dress pant things.

masaka: "It can't be!", "Impossible!". A general statement of disbelief.

obi: The strip of fabric you tie around your waist to hold your gi, or (if you're a girl and wearing one) your kimono in place.

oro: I could try and define this, but I won't bother. Try watching or reading RK, and you'll pick it up pretty quickly.

owari: The end. Fin. It's over. That's all there is, there isn't any bang

sakabatou: Kenshin's reverse blade sword.

sessha: Term used by Kenshin to refer to himself. Roughly translates as "this unworthy one."

shihondai: Assistant master (of a kenjutsu school). This is Kaoru's status in Kamiya Kasshin Ryuu.

shinpainai: "No need to worry." Once again, I think that's what it means—I could be wrong.