"Kaoru no Hatsukoi???"
by DQBunny

Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin is not mine. Too
bad. I could use a red-haired rurouni in my life. Oh
well, he, Kaoru, and the others all belong to Watsuki
Nobuhiro. The original concept for "Ami-chan no
Hatsukoi" belongs to Takeuchi Naoko.

*****

Part Four - Epilogue

In the courtyard of the Kamiya Dojo, most of the
Kenshingumi gathered on the porch to finish their lunch.

Yahiko groaned. "I can't believe we went through all of
that for a dang cooking contest!" He munched on a rice ball
that Kaoru had made about thirty minutes earlier. He leaned
back against one of the beams supporting the dojo and
sighed. She was even getting better than Kenshin, and that
was scary itself.

"Well now, Kaoru-dono's cooking has improved a great deal
because of the contest," Kenshin smiled, working on his own
food. "It's not such a bad thing."

"You should be the one to talk, Don what's his face. Some
English guy," Sanosuke added, setting his empty plate
aside. "Man, Kenshin, I didn't even think you had it in you
to kiss Jo-chan like that, especially in public." He
elbowed Kenshin, sending the smaller man off the stairs. He
landed on the ground on his back, face beet red.

"Gomen nasai, Kenshin-san," Tsubame said from her place
beside Yahiko. "It's all my fault that I thought Kaoru-chan
was going to meet a man intead of a cooking contest."

"Daijobu de gozaru," Kenshin replied, sitting up. "You
couldn't had known."

"And it all turned out for the best too!" Tae added.
"Kaoru-chan's cooking skills have gotten much better!"

"And you've finally made a move on her," Sano teased
Kenshin.

"So, I don't get what happened to cause the mixup between
seeing a man and taking cooking classes," Megumi pondered,
looking depressed. She had arrived at the dojo shortly
after the group returned from the cooking contest and had
quickly taken her anger out on Sanosuke about not going
along with them after Kaoru.

"It's quiet simple," Tae replied. She grabbed a stick off
the ground and wrote several kanji in the dirt. "Tsubame-
chan only heard part of the words being said to her. All
she heard was Washo and kun, which would sound like a man's
name, Washo-kun. But, the crowd drowned you out, didn't it,
Tsubame-chan?"

Tsubame nodded. "Actually, they said Washoku ni ikimasu,
which meant that she went to the Washoku cooking school, not
went to a man."

"It all turned out for the best though," Tae added.

Yahiko eyed the last rice ball on the plate at the same
time Sanosuke did. The two glared at each other and reached
for it. Their heads bumped and they began fighting each
other.

Ayame and Suzume ran out of the dojo and over to Kenshin.
They tugged on his gi. "Ken-nii," Suzume said. "Watashi wa
kowaii desu."

"Doushide de gozaru ka, Suzume-chan?" Kenshin asked,
putting an arm around the little girl.

"Kaoru-nee-chan. She's...," Ayame started to say.

Before she could finish, clouds of black smoke rolled from
the dojo's kitchen window. Tae jumped to her feet. "The
kitchen's on fire!" she yelled.

"Kaoru-dono!"

"Jo-chan!"

"Busu!"

The men in Kaoru's life immediately abandoned what they
were doing and raced in the dojo, Megumi, Tae, Tsubame, and
the little girls on their heels. Kenshin skidded to a stop
when he saw Kaoru emerge safely from the kitchen. Sanosuke
and Yahiko ran into him and all three landed on the ground
in a squirming heap. The women avoided the men and
surrounded Kaoru, who had tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Kaoru-chan, is everything okay?" Tae asked, putting an arm
around her friend.

"Get up, tori-atama!" Megumi ordered Sanosuke, who was on
top of Kenshin and Yahiko. "You three get a bucket brigade
started! Tsubame, get Ayame-chan and Suzume-chan out of
here."

"The dojo's not on fire," Kaoru sniffed.

"Then what's wrong?" Everyone asked at once.

"I was trying to make sushi, but the rice was overdone, the
fish fell into the fire, and I forgot to get seaweed...,"
Kaoru threw her hands up in the air.

Everyone sighed. "Well, guess that means things are back
to normal, de gozaru?" Kenshin asked with a cheerful grin.

"Yeah, yeah," Yahiko muttered. "Knew it was too good to be
true."

"I suppose we'll be heading over to the Akabeko for beef-
pot tonight, eh?" Sanosuke licked his lips and rubbed his
stomach.

"Oh no!" Kaoru wiped soot from her face with her kimono
sleeve. "You guys stay right here! I'm going to go start
dinner again!" She turned on her heel and started toward
the kitchen. She halted and whirled around in time to see
Yahiko and Sanosuke sneaking toward the gate. "And don't
you dare leave!" she roared.

"Sano and Yahiko got in trouble!" Ayame cried, clapping her
hands.

"Don't get Kaoru-nee-chan mad!" Suzume added.

Kaoru took a sweeping look at her family, her gaze
lingering on Kenshin. He smiled at her and a faint blush
appeared on her cheeks.

"Don't ever give up, Kaoru," Kenshin said.

The blush deepened and Kaoru nodded. Her hair curled and
waved in the wind as she whirled around to rush back
inside. Kenshin's breath caught as the newly-recognized
feelings of love swept through him.

Kaoru, don't ever let anyone take away your spirit or your
willing to be the best. Your strength and determination...
it's part of the reasons while I love you. Be the best in
whatever you do. I'll always stand behind you.

As if she heard his thoughts Kaoru stuck her head back out
the door. "I'll never give up trying!" she exclaimed, her
eyes shining with joy and the esscence that was Kamiya Kaoru.

OWARI

*****
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thank you very much to everyone who gave
me comments and helped me out with small fic. Kudos goes to
Lilac Summers, who knows how to write a damn good kissing
scene and was my inspiration for that part of the fic. For
the record, the sentence that caused so much confusion with
Tsubame is "Kamiya-san wa Washoku ni ikimasu," which
translates to "Ms. Kamiya is going to Washoku." In this case,
it is a cooking school. The way Tsubame heard it, it sounded
like "Ms. Kamiya is going to Mr. Washo," making it sound like
a meeting.

*****
Small Japanese/English list:

daijobu de gozaru - It's okay
Watashi wa kowaii desu - I'm scared.
gomen nasai - I'm sorry
doushide de gozaru ka - what's wrong?
tori-atam - Rooster head
Kaoru no Hatsukoi? - Kaoru's First Love
Owari - The end!