It was all so very surreal. She left the battle front and rode in first class on a civilian plane next to and courtesy of Enishi Yukishiro. She'd never been in first class before and apparently Captain Yukishiro was not a man of modest financial means. The change in barometric pressure had been brutal on her recovering ankle and she'd limped off the plane, but Enishi had been quick to wrap his arm around her and make it easier to walk.
There had been a limo waiting for them at passenger pickup at the airport with a chauffeur wearing a black suit and everything. It took an hour to arrive at the Yukishiro Plantation and all the while Enishi had made it an amazing experience. There were fresh strawberries and a bowl of hot dipping chocolate as well as some sweet red wine. While her ankle still ached, her stomach and her heart were quite content.
"Oh my," Kaoru whispered at the sight of the gates outside of the Yukishiro Plantation. "Is this for real?"
"Most definitely," Enishi said popping a strawberry into his mouth. "I don't think you should drink any more of that wine," he said reaching out and taking the wine glass from her grasp. "You might need to take a pain pill later tonight and those don't mix well with alcohol." Kaoru narrowed her eyes at him. "Not that you didn't already know that, being a doctor and all," he clarified.
"You grew up here?" Kaoru asked looking at the wine glass longingly. She really could have used some extra liquid courage, but he was right about mixing alcohol with her pain medications-she didn't take them often, but after their day of travel she'd probably want one later.
"Born and raised here," Enishi confirmed. "My great great grandfather emigrated here from Japan and founded this plantation back in the late eighteen hundreds. My sister and I are the only surviving heirs."
Kaoru looked outside her tinted window and smiled widely as she recognized her little sister standing on the front porch between giant white columns reminiscent to a Greek temple waving like mad at her.
"And that must be your sister, Misao. Tomoe said she'd be staying here for at least a few weeks to help you become acclimated and to assist in both of your physical therapies," Enishi explained. The limo pulled to a halt in front of the mansion and the driver opened their door for them. "Welcome to your new home," Enishi whispered taking Kaoru's hand and walking with her to the front door.
"For now," Kaoru agreed. She didn't know what the future held for her, but it would be nice if Enishi were part of it. "Misao!" she screamed when her sister came running towards her and wrapped her in a bone crushing bear hug—her injured ribs were mostly healed, but still rather tender at the pressure.
Enishi started to step back from the two of them only to be pulled back by Misao. "No you don't mister! You saved my sister's life; you are part of this group hug!"
"Nice to meet you, Misao," Enishi said politely. "I've heard nice things about you."
"Your sister raves about how you hung the moon, Enishi," Misao said.
"And the stars," Kaoru added hooking her arm comfortably around Enishi's waist.
The butler of the house came to the door in a crisp black suit with tails. He bowed at the waist in old British aristocracy style. "Welcome home, Mr. Yukishiro and Ms. Kamiya. Your luggage will be taken to your rooms in the east wing and dinner will be on the table shortly. Mrs. Himura will join you for the evening meal." He bowed again and then gestured for the chauffeur to take the luggage upstairs.
"Does that happen a lot here?" Kaoru asked.
"You'll get used to it," Enishi said.
"Tomoe has really cut back on the hired help," Misao said. "Now there is only the chauffeur, butler, cook, housekeeper, and soon to be a live-in-nanny."
"She doesn't need a nanny," Kaoru argued.
"Oh?" Enishi asked. "Are you volunteering?"
"I'll have you know that I'm actually pretty good with children. However, I don't know where I'll be seven months from now when your sister is actually needing the extra help," Kaoru said. "Though I believe it's better for the mother to bond with her own child and not pawn him or her off to a nanny." She became distracted by the samurai armor standing sentinel just inside of the foyer.
"Great great grandfather Enishi Yukishiro was a high-ranked samurai warrior, but when his daimyo died without heirs he immigrated to the states. That was his battle armor," Enishi said following her gaze. "I'm actually named after him. After the revolution that led to the Meiji era in Japan Grandfather Yukishiro became associated with the Yakuza. It is said that he sought vengeance against one of the man-slayers of the revolution and stole his intended - only to fall in love with her himself. His love for her was so great that he forsook his vengeance and allowed her to return to her beloved and he fled to the states with a broken heart never having told her of his true feelings."
"That's so sad," Kaoru whispered.
Enishi shrugged. "He eventually married and started a family so he recovered somewhat. But I believe he loved the woman from Japan until his dying day. He named his library The Sapphire Room as it was said that her eyes were akin to the bluest of sapphires in color." He took Kaoru's hand and started to lead her to the stairs. "Come with me. I'll show you to the east wing so you can take a bath and get the airport funk washed off."
"I've got to work out my exercise plans for both you and Tomoe, so you go on ahead," Misao said with a big grin.
Kaoru allowed herself to be led up the stairs under Enishi's guidance. He brought her to a set of rooms not too far from the stairs. Her chambers consisted of a bedroom, a sitting room, and a bathroom with a large garden tub.
"Not quite the barracks, but I suppose it will do, right?" Enishi asked. He gestured towards the room across the hall. "And that's my quarters, feel free to visit me anytime-especially in the middle of the night," he said with a teasing wink.
"Right," Kaoru said swallowing hard. "I think I'll take that bath now." She could see her suit case sitting on an antique gold and beige cloth covered ottoman to the side of the bed. It was hard to believe that all her possessions had been reduced to a suitcase especially now that she could see that Yahiko was right and the Yukishiro Plantation was a huge mansion.
Dinner had been a quiet affair. Tomoe was polite but shy in company. They had received an important phone call during dinner from the hostess' husband Kenshin Himura. He and Soujiro Seta would soon be joining them at the plantation. Seta was to be under Himura's supervision while his actions were further reviewed by the military higher-ups. Misao had left afterwards to return to her apartment to pick up a few more items for her stay at the plantation. She and Soujiro would have a guest room set up a few doors down from Kaoru and Enishi in the east wing. Kaoru was pretty sure that Misao's need for an emergency run back to her apartment was to pick up a few special pieces of lingerie for the occasion.
She should have been overwhelmed with joy, but mostly she was overwhelmed. And more than ever Kaoru missed having her parents. She changed into a simple tank top and a pair of flannel shorts and fell into bed that night in an exhausted heap and found herself tossing and turning. As she visualized for the umpteenth time Shishio's mallet careening for her leg she bolted upright, drenched in sweat and stifled her scream with the pillow she had gripped in her arms.
However, she must not have stifled the sound enough because Enishi came rushing through her door, eyes wide, pale hair a disheveled mess, shirtless and with a pair of loose fitting pajama pants. He was at her side in an instant and had wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to his chest. "You're okay, Kaoru. Everything is fine. I'm right here."
"He's always there," Kaoru whispered.
"He's gone. He will never bother you again, I promise," Enishi said running the palm of his hand over her hair and soothing it over her back.
"Could you stay?"
"I'll always be here, Kaoru," Enishi said. He helped her settle back into the covers and lay under the blankets with her with his body wrapped around hers spooning her from behind. He knew she was suffering from PTSD and if he had to sleep with her wrapped up in his arms every night-who was he to complain. He noted that the tank top and shorts she wore wasn't sexy lingerie, but he couldn't think of anything sexier. He did see where the shirt slipped off her shoulder and showed the start of the prominent pale scar on her chest. He shifted so that his hand pressed protectively over her upper chest and shoulder.
"I don't want to mess up your sleep," Kaoru murmured apologetically.
"Hey, I'm not about to complain about sleeping with the most beautiful girl in the world."
She snorted at his words.
"Such a cynic," he said into her hair. "Go to sleep and dream about sweet things-like dancing with me under the moonlight, all right?"
"Good night, Enishi."
He waited until she fell asleep to make sure she was finally unconscious before he let his own mind wander. He thought back to her earlier comment about not knowing how long she'd be at the plantation-if he had anything to say on the matter it would be until they were both old and gray-or white haired in his case.
At first Enishi thought his sister was being incredibly corny in having purchased matching swim suits for him and his girlfriend. The patriotic red,white, and blue pattern in his swimming trunks were interesting, but he had seen the string bikini she'd purchased for Kaoru and was excited to have a look at it draped across the beautiful brunette. However, when they met in the hallway he was met by an anxious young woman.
"I don't know about this," Kaoru said biting her lip and folding her arms protectively across her chest, her hair was twisted up into a messy ponytail. "I don't want to burn. Scars burn very easily in the sun."
"It's an indoor pool," Enishi reassured her. "Have you seen my sister? She looks like a vampire so of course we have an indoor pool. You'll be fine." He tried to tug her gently by the elbow toward the pool area, but his girlfriend stood resolutely with her towel secured tightly across her torso. "Okay, Kaoru, what's really the problem?"
"You haven't seen the scars," she whispered averting her gaze from him, but he could see the sheen of tears in her eyes.
He hugged her to him, holding her tightly in his embrace with his chin resting comfortably on top of her head. "Oh, baby, I'm riddled with bullet holes myself. They're battle scars—you wear them with pride because they mean you're a survivor! Everyone is going to grow old and ugly eventually, but right now you've a smoking hot body that gets my blood pumping whenever I think about you."
Kaoru laughed and slapped at his chest lightly. "Don't ever call your girlfriend ugly, you idiot."
Enishi scooped her up and held her close to him while he walked with purposeful strides towards the pool. Her towel slipped away and he could see clearly for the first time the white scar lines from where Shishio had tried to carve open her chest, but it hardly detracted from her overall beauty. And the bikini was certainly flattering with one breast covered in white and one in blue with a white star and red skimpy bottoms—it left little to the imagination, but Enishi prized himself on his imagination. "Definitely, not ugly," he said with a smirk and kissed her soundly on the lips before jumping into the deep end of the pool together.
Kaoru squealed when they hit the chilled water and Enishi laughed hardily proud of himself and his witty actions. He kicked his feet under the water and kept them both afloat. He kept a firm grip around Kaoru's waist pressing her body against his while he trailed his right hand to her face and threaded his fingers through her hair and brought her lips to his and kissed her deeply with his tongue exploring the deep confines of her mouth and finally ending with a trio of soft kisses gently pressing their lips together. By the time he drew back her skin was flushed and she had a dreamy expression.
"Just so you know, I'm in love with you," Enishi said, causing those blue dreamy eyes to snap open and blink at him in astonishment. "You don't have to act so surprised," he grouched.
"It's no act, I promise," Kaoru said her hands gripping his shoulders tight. "When did this happen?"
"You remember that night I tried to teach you about the constellations and you turned down my generous offer?"
"Right, because you were being a jerk as usual. However, I did appreciate your attempt to apologize."
"Well, when you told me where to stick it that's when I fell for you. I've been falling ever since. You're confident, brave, strong, smart, and gorgeous. I have to wonder what took me so long to fall in love with you."
"But, you didn't even like me," Kaoru argued.
"The problem was that I liked you too much and it scared me and I become surly when I become scared. Surely, you remember as children how the boy on the play ground always teased the girl he liked best. Adults aren't that mature sometimes."
"Is that why you asked me to move here?"
"Would it scare you if I said, yes?"
Kaoru opened her mouth, then shut it, staring at him speechless. She didn't have a chance to collect her thoughts and respond because the door to the indoor pool room slammed open and Misao and Soujiro raced to the pool in their swimming suits. "Geronimo!" Soujiro shouted as he cannon-balled into the pool right next to Kaoru and Enishi.
Misao laughed giddily before she dived into the deep end smoothly and cleanly. She swam up next to the three. "You two aren't having a serious conversation now are you? That is not allowed in the pool!"
"Right! The pool is meant for fun and games and dunking!" Soujiro agreed reaching out to pull Kaoru under, but Enishi snatched her out of the way.
"Dunk your own girl," Enishi warned, he didn't expect Kaoru to take advantage of him and send him under. He came sputtering up in surprise to find Kaoru smiling at him timidly. "Kaoru!" he admonished in mock anger before he wrapped his arms around her, kissed her again, and dunked them both under the water.
Kaoru had finished her exercises on the barre and was stretching out her sore muscles while watching Tomoe walk across the length of the physical therapy room unassisted. It was a slow pace, but it was perfectly balanced. She practically floated across the floor with grace.
"You've really progressed leaps and bounds, Tomoe!" Misao complimented. "I wonder if it has anything to do with that new center of gravity of yours."
Tomoe on reflex cupped her hands over her growing belly. "She's certainly been an encouragement," she said softly. She glanced across the room and her dark eyes locked on Kaoru's. "And having you and my brother back home have been an added blessing-perhaps my little girl will have a cousin to play with?"
"Uh, maybe we should focus on the engaged couple-Misao and Soujiro," Kaoru suggested.
"Oh please, I've seen the way my brother looks at you. He's never looked at anyone that way before. A Yukishiro does not bring home a stray to the plantation. A Yukishiro brings home a future spouse," Tomoe explained. She waved her hand at Misao and the physical therapist hurried to the pregnant patient's side and helped her to have a seat. And when Tomoe Himura sat she looked like an empress addressing her people.
"Maybe we can just focus on you and your recovery. You must be so happy to have your husband back," Kaoru said.
"It has been a blessing," Tomoe agreed. "Your sister has been a gift from heaven. If it wasn't for her I'd still be in my wheel chair and I doubt if I would have been pregnant. To be honest, I'd probably be bed ridden and wallowing in my old depression."
"You wanted to improve," Misao said. "I only facilitated your desire."
The door to the room opened and Enishi rushed inside and skidded to a halt not realizing the occupancy of the room. He glanced around cautiously, eyes pausing on Kaoru before clearing his throat and directing his attention to Misao. "The uh, question I asked earlier. Yes or no?"
"Definitely, yes," Misao said with a grin.
"Yes what?" Kaoru asked suspiciously.
"Yes, to his question. It doesn't concern you. Go back to your stretches, Kaoru," Misao scolded.
Enishi flashed both Kaoru and his sister Tomoe a big grin before he turned on his heel and left the room.
"Your therapist gave me permission-just so you know," Enishi said leading Kaoru outside. She had a bandana wrapped around her eyes so she couldn't see and followed him blindly.
"You mean my sister?" Kaoru asked holding onto his hand tightly and hoping that she wouldn't trip on any uneven stones.
"It's a full moon tonight and I thought you might appreciate the ambiance," Enishi said as he came to a stop. He stood in front of Kaoru and wrapped her in his arms before he lifted off her blinding bandana. They stood in a large garden with many fragrant flowers and a low stone wall. The only thing missing was a swarm of lightning bugs.
"So, you wanted to take me outside?"
He hugged her close and swayed gently. "I asked permission if you could handle some dancing under the starlight. And when our feet hurt too much to dance any more I'll teach you about those constellations."
"So what sort of dancing were you thinking of doing? I can two-step and do a little salsa."
"My dear, I'm about to teach you the wonders of Swing Dance."
"You can swing dance? How did you learn? That's like that World War II USO girl type music, right?"
"It was popular during the forties," Enishi agreed. "And I learned mostly through YouTube and then I took a few workshop classes in college." He leaned down and turned on the stereo that had been sitting on top of the stone wall and some classic big band music drifted on the air. He placed one hand on the center of her back and the other held her right hand. "We start with the rock step," he instructed.
Within the hour, he had her swing dancing like a pro scooching behind him and turning under his arms and doing the Charleston with their legs moving in synch. They were laughing as much as sweating.
"That was fun!" Kaoru admitted when they sat side by side on the stone wall. Enishi turned down the volume of the stereo. "Now, why would I want to learn about constellations? I'm not sailor."
"I want to make sure you can find your way home."
"Follow the north star?"
"Find me, I'm your home," Enishi said with a smile.
Kaoru leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes in contentment. "I think you're right."
"Does this mean you can see yourself staying here after the baby is born?" Enishi prodded.
"You'll have a hard time getting rid of me now Captain Yukishiro."
"Why would I want to do a fool-hardy thing like that, Dr. Kamiya?"
Kaoru angled her face so that she was looking up at Enishi and met his gaze with her own. "I might as well tell you-I love you too."
"I know," Enishi said leaning down and kissing her.
Kaoru pushed him aside and sputtered indignantly. "I tell you that I love you and all you have to say is 'I know'? What the heck?"
"I know, because you look at me the same way that I look at you. Now shut up and kiss me some more."
A/N: What did you think? Did you like the reference to the canon universe of Enishi and Kaoru in perhaps their former life? I mean…why else would there be a bunch of Japanese characters in the American military? Thanks for your support over the years & for not giving up on this story!
Now, to answer some questions posted in the reviews-Originally I had planned to kill off Aoshi, then I thought I'd kill of Sanosuke, and hook up a heart-broken Megumi with Aoshi, then I decided, why not let everyone live for once? And since I was being evil with all these thoughts of killing off my characters I decided to make it up to the universe by creating life. Why did I choose to make Tomoe & Kenshin's child a girl? Because Kenshin had a son with Kaoru in the canon and I didn't want to take away from that. Another brainstorm was to have Aoshi having an affair with a floozy named Candy in an effort to help Kaoru get over him, but that just seemed mean and out of character and I adore Aoshi too much to belittle him like that. And I really do think that Enishi had feelings for Kaoru in the series. This was a fun story to write and I hope I didn't upset any military readers out there by describing combat in a poor, unrealistic way...my knowledge/influence comes from the GI Joe movies-I'm sure they are just SO accurate!
Much love! BDN