Well, I said it would be up soon. I really have no paitence, I swear. Alright, for those of you who have been wanting to know when Amber is going to be updated; soon. I am about 1/3 of the way into it. The problem is keeping all the characters in character. rolls eyes Anyway, soon.
This fanfic is not my normal cup of tea, but I enjoy branching off. Its only goign to have three-four chapters, so expect the chapters to be DAMN long. (the story itself is already at sixty pages) so hopefully you all enjoy this. This one was written more for the idea of attempt of it, and for fun than for anything else.
A thank you to Kristen for beta-reading this chapter!
Warning: This story will contain violence, sex, and allusions to more violence and sex. When I say mature I mean it!
Disclaimer: Do I have to? sighs I do not own Kenshin. sulks
Nineteen-year-old Kamiya Kaoru huddled herself into a tight, fetal position, and her body shook from both shock and pain. Her breathing was labored, as if a tight band was wrapped around her lungs.
Kaoru had hated only once before, and the source was still the same.
Kaoru raised her bruised face and forced herself to think past the pain, past the hurt that was as emotional as it was physical. For now she was alone. Rolling to her knees, she coughed, her constricted lungs fighting past her half-hysterical sobs and her closing throat in an attempt to breathe.
Kaoru made a single, futile movement to crawl forward and collapsed as her wrist took too much weight off her damaged ribs. Broken, perhaps, or sprained if she was lucky. Her father. He had found her. After two years of running, of being so very careful, of never staying in the same place more than a month or two, she had been run down and taught the error of her ways.
Kaoru wept as she lay on the ground, the shards of her mother's favorite vase both shattered on the floor and embedded in her left leg. He hadn't always been so violent, or at least her earliest memories had blocked the hurt if he had. Everything had changed after her fifth birthday, when the men in business suits had come. She remembered her beautiful mothers pale face and the way her father's mouth have curved with the faintest of smiles. Her mother had died when she turned thirteen. Kaoru gritted her teeth and forced herself to rise to all fours. This wasn't the first time her father had beaten her so badly she could not move. But she would be damned if it wasn't the last.
He would be back soon. She knew he was out drinking, certain of his daughter's submission. Between the vase, his fists, his feet, and whatever other object he had hit her with, he was sure she would be in the same huddled position as she had been when he left.
Not this time.
Kaoru thought about using the phone, but shook that idea off. He would be back soon, and she no had idea how long she had lain on the floor unconscious; it didn't matter. She had to get out of the apartment. Kaoru didn't even have the energy to grab her purse, relying on the twenty she had in her pocket. Stopping to lean against the wall of her small five-story apartment building, she forced herself to breathe. Dropping from the pain and shock in the hall was a sure way to get caught. Her ribs couldn't stand another kicking spree. Assuming he wouldn't attempt to kill her right out for her show of rebellion. Assuming he didn't plan on it anyway.
Looking at the elevator when she heard the familiar ding, Kaoru shuffled in. Reaching out with her left hand, her right still wasn't working properly, she punched the bottom floor button and waited, her concentration so intoned with her breathing that she almost missed the door opening. Forcing her spine straight, even though the movement brought tears to her eyes, she walked straight. She was thankful her long hair covered her face. It hid the stark bruises marring the left side of her face and the split lip she knew she would be sporting. It was hard to see out of one eye, and she wasn't sure she was walking in a straight line.
Opening the door she scanned the surrounding areas. She saw two or three people walking around, but she was thankful that she knew none of them. Raising her left hand she hailed a taxi and slide into the warmth of the vehicle. She never knew how she managed to tell him directions or how she managed to speak around her swollen mouth, but she managed; she just hoped one of them was home.
She must have dozed off, because she heard the faint calls of the driver and she looked up. She noticed the look in his eyes and felt a stirring of panic.
"Miss, do I need to take you to the hospital?" His words were soft, but held an undertone of worry that clenched her heart. Kaoru shook her head and handed him the twenty, not sure if it was too much or too little but not caring.
Raising her face to the apartment she knew at least three of them claimed as their own, Kaoru fought back the need to crawl into some dark place and cry. The fact that she was forced to go to them, looking like this, after all they had done for her already, broke her heart. Her pride was already shattered, torn into tatters too small to ever repair. It mattered little to her what they thought, only what they would feel.
Pity. Despair. Perhaps anger at her for getting herself caught. She didn't have the energy to go anywhere else. Her body was wavering with its need to shut down and heal. This wasn't the first time she had been beaten into shock; she knew the symptoms. If she was smart, she would find some dry, enclosed area and curl up and lick her wounds. She didn't feel smart. She wanted to collapse into someone's arms for once. She wanted to do the stupid thing. She would have to share her demons for this night, and while her stomach churned and rolled at the thought, even as her nails bit into her palms, she walked forward.
She was so used to being alone.
Shaking with the effort to stand straight she moved towards the tall building. Kaoru was not even sure anyone was there. Misao had called earlier and told Kaoru that they planned to catch a movie and asked her to come. Kaoru wished fiercely that she had. One of them always walked her to her door. Sano. Aoshi. Megumi. Misao. Kenshin. Her eyes slide closed at the last name, her breathing becoming erratic.
His reaction she feared the most.
She still did not know why they chose to reach out to her, in the small diner they all hung out at on occasion. Kaoru had begged and pleaded until she was finally given the job at the local hangout for teenagers. She knew what she looked like: slightly thinner than was healthy; eyes too large for her face, too old for her face; hair that needed a good washing; and clothing that looked like it was on its third wear between washings.
She wasn't even sure why they had been in that diner. Most of the occupants were high school kids blowing allowances, or college freshman checking in on their friends. Not five casually dressed adults, sitting in what was casual clothing to them, and nice threads to everyone else.
She didn't know it at the time, but they had all noticed her the moment she had walked in for her shift. Megumi had noticed her first. At the time she had been completing medical school and had recognized her thinness for what it was. Misao had been next to notice the girl who was too small for her clothing. She had replaced their waiter when she went on break, and they had been kind to her. The tip they had left had made her eyes sting with tears, and she had tucked it into her back pocket for an emergency.
It wasn't the last time they were at a table she waited on. She learned that Misao and Aoshi were engaged to be married once Misao turned twenty-one, and that Aoshi ran a very successful chain of business. His specialty was expensive spas, ranging from hotel to private, and he was slowly monopolizing the city dojos that were beginning to pick up in popularity.
Kenshin had been out of law school for three years and had been working with his uncle in their private practice. They were well enough known that even Kaoru knew their names, and she was again left wondering why they hung out in a diner that was shabby at best. She finally broke down and asked the cook, who had laughed at her. Marge was an older woman with more fat than muscle, but she was kind. She explained that Misao and Aoshi had been coming to the diner since Misao had skinned knees and that the others just sort of showed up along the way.
Slowly waiting on tables had turned into a movie with Misao and Megumi, to being invited over for dinner, to a great deal more activities than she had ever done before. She found herself pulled into their laughter and friendship, even when she knew it was a bad idea. It was as if they could read what made her uncomfortable and approached things gingerly, as if afraid she would spook.
She was, by far, the youngest of the group. Misao was a close second, but she never felt uneducated or stupid around them. Running from her father had given her lots of time to hide out. The occasional time she had the money to rent a hotel, she would turn the TV to the History Channel or National Geographic and leave it there. She would spend hours hiding out in public libraries when her father was too close for comfort, and eventually she had gotten her GED. It had been under an assumed name and an assumed background, but the twinge of guilt that curled in her tummy when she created identities that said she had it when she didn't, faded.
It was with Misao and Megumi's urging that she got herself enrolled in classes. She had struggled hard to pass the entrance exams, but she was in. She was close to completing her first year, and even though she had to take out student loans, she was happy. The only glitch in her heart was the idea that it wouldn't last. And Kenshin.
She had never been able to help her attraction to him. He was just…he never spoke a harsh word with her, was always careful of her feelings, and it had been so long since someone so handsome had treated the way that Kenshin treated her. Like a lady. Sometimes his eyes would glint with golden sparks when he thought she wasn't watching, and she would melt a little on the inside. When her instincts were screaming at her to flee, the look in his eyes would tempt her to stay, even if she was just imagining it and pretending to see something that wasn't really there, a youthful hope that bloomed even as she attempted to kill it.
Kaoru wavered a bit unsteadily as she pushed the key into the lock on the gates of the apartment complex they lived in. She never knew how they managed to get into a gated apartment complex but she supposed that it had something to do with the income. Aoshi, Sano, and Kenshin took up an entire floor of their building. It rose out of the skyline in an impressive flare, and she raised her tired eyes to see if there were any lights on. Pocketing the key, 'in case you should ever need us,' and headed toward the building with as much of a steady pace as she could manage. The place was well lit and her bangs had never been more needed. The guard at the entrance had already given her an assessing look, as if he could see past her shaky mask.
Stumbling slightly as her vision wavered from the strain of walking without a limp and breathing past her aching ribs, she pushed open the door to the complex and breathed deeply. That hurt. It was late, close to midnight, and generally there weren't any loiters. Most people were still out partying and wouldn't be returning for another few hours, or at least not until the last bar shut down. Kaoru was thankful, because she was aware of her torn clothing, the blood running down her leg. She was just thanking whatever god was out there that the guard outside hadn't done more than give her a doubtful look.
Gritting her teeth she headed towards the elevators. Once she had stayed in an apartment building that turned the elevators off at night to conserve energy, and she felt her eyes spring with thankful tears that this wasn't the case here. Walking up several dozen flights of stairs would have put her into a coma. Kaoru cradled her wrist to her body as she stood inside the elevator. It ached and burned and she was almost positive that her father had broken it. Her left ankle was starting to drag with the burn of its injury. Licking dry lips, she winced at the taste of blood. Her chattering teeth were a possible sign of shock. Or panic. She was shaking with as much panic as she was with fear and pain. She wasn't sure she could do this. Once she knocked on that door and asked for his help…there was no going back. She was going to have to let him into her painful past and she wasn't sure how to do that.
Kaoru leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, knowing the tears that were falling down her face did nothing to aid her appearance. She should have gone to a hospital. She was bleeding and broken and in pain. Who was she kidding? They would have found her there after a few days. Especially if they had gotten worried and found the situation her single-room apartment was in. This is what she got for not taking up Misao on the offer to move in with her until she could afford something better or the wedding, whatever would come first.
The elevator dinged and she stumbled into the foray before his apartment. The hall was starting to blur and she absently noted that as things were starting to get blurry they hurt less. Her stomach clenched as she thought about his reaction when he finally opened that door. Reaching the knocker with trembling hands, she managed one faint, weak sound before her right wrist caused her to see spots. Kaoru wasn't sure how long she stood there, trembling, waiting for any sign that someone had heard her. It was only the sounds of footsteps approaching the door that kept her upright. The direct clicking of the lock didn't quite register in her mind, but Kaoru was more than aware of the violet gaze awash in gold starring at her.
"I…" Kaoru closed her eyes tightly. "I didn't know where else to go." Her voice was faint, a mere thread, but he heard it. Kaoru missed the way the violet drained from his eyes, the tightening of his jaw and the way his fingers pressed hard into the doorframe.
"Kaoru." That was all. Her eyes flew open, and she stared at his face. His bangs covered his eyes, but there was no condemnation in the line of his mouth, at least not for her. Something like relief fluttered in her chest as she fainted dead away.
He caught her on reflex. She fell limply into his arms and he swore in every language he knew as he shifted her. If the panting, anguished breaths she had been taking meant anything, then she had messed her ribs up, or perhaps had separated cartilage on her sternum. He was thankful he had pulled a shirt on and left his shoes next to the door. He cradled her protectively against himself as he shoved his feet in as quickly as he could and grabbed his keys.
She was bleeding everywhere.
Ignoring the urge to rush, to race down the stairs, he took careful, deliberate steps that would keep from jarring her awake. Unconsciousness was probably the best place for her. He didn't even dare assess the damage himself in case there was internal bleeding. He didn't know what Kaoru had gotten herself into, but he hoped the other person involved looked worse. Because if he didn't, then by the time he was finished with him there wasn't going to be enough left of him for the police to identify.
You're going to be alright.
He chanted it in his head as he headed towards his car.
Misao hummed to herself as she balanced on her four-inch heels, listening to her phone messages, and grinned at the sight of a partially drunk Sano attempting to talk his wife into letting him take her home early. Megumi was having none of it, for reasons that Misao could only guess to. Perhaps her friend was just attempting to up the ante some.
Whatever reason it was, it was going to have to wait. Kenshin's cool, clipped baritone flooded into her ears with the deft precision that suggested he was furious. Misao's wide ocean gaze rounded into small dinner plates and her pink lips parted with surprise. Once the message was finished, she listened to it again just to make sure it wasn't someone with the wrong number who just happened to sound like Kenshin and knew a Kaoru. When the message stayed the same and the furious tone of his voice never changed, she snapped her phone shut and practically ran to where her friends were admiring the inside of the theater.
"Aoshi!" Misao wailed as she stumbled a bit on her shoes. He caught her on reflex, the arch to his eyebrow asking why she was running when she could barely walk in those shoes, but she didn't give him time to berate her. "Kaoruisinthehospital! Shewasattacked!" Misao babbled furiously.
Aoshi blinked at her slowly as his brain attempted to digest what she had just spat out so fast that only her lover or a computer could make sense of it. She could tell the instant he understood what she was wailing because his jaw tightened and the look she had only seen a handful of times since their retirement flared in his eyes.
"What hospital?" He asked as he turned to gather her coat into his arms and handed her a purse. "Misao?"
Misao was already moving. Her small hands were frantically waving as she informed Sano and Megumi of the situation, and the shocked expression turned into anger. They nodded once and gathered their own things. Aoshi was thankful that they had driven separate cars, because the expression on Misao's small face suggested that she had no desire to head to the hospital just yet.
"Come on!" Misao said as she dragged her lover off. "Megumi and Sano are going to go and make sure that Kenshin doesn't kill anyone and I want to go and check out her apartment."
Aoshi raised a brow. "Is that were Kenshin found her?"
Misao shook her head in the negative. "No. The message said she showed up at the apartment and fainted. However, she had the night off from the diner and I know for certain she planned on spending the night curled up with a good book after she finished working on that paper of hers. She is so close to finishing out the semester with straight A's! She was doing so well in her first two semesters. She has been attempting to kill herself with the hours she was taking, attempting to cram all her general requirements into three semesters. I am babbling. Why haven't you shut me up yet?" Her voice was breathy and furious as she moved to the car.
"Better to get it out now," Aoshi calmly informed her, "than when you are with Kaoru; she is going to be hurting. I take it Kenshin isn't sure if was just a mugging or if it was directed at Kaoru?" Aoshi had never been completely sure that Kaoru wasn't running from something but had stopped bringing it up when she had become very uncomfortable with his scrutiny.
Misao nodded and bit her lip in tense silence. The only thing Aoshi could pick up on her Chi was her worry for her friends, the deadly intent to get even, and a cold desire for whoever did this to her friend to still be at the apartment. Aoshi agreed with the first two but doubted they would get so lucky at the last. Once they pulled into the parking lot in front of Kaoru's ramshackled apartment place, they exited the vehicle, all their earlier camaraderie and banter gone from their faces.
"I always told that girl that she needed to move out," Misao quietly growled as she stomped up the stairs. Kaoru didn't live that far from the bottom and the elevators had the habit of breaking down. "I just hope there is something there we can use."
As it turned out there was quite a bit.
Misao stood in the door way, her eyes taken in the scene of destruction with a tight jaw. There was shattered glass everywhere. The little coffee table they had bought at the flea market in one of the best days of shopping she could remember lay broken on the floor. The different pictures she had taken over the past year were torn and littered the floor. The single picture Misao could remember seeing of Karou's long deceased mother was torn in half and Misao frowned at that.
"They tore the pictures."
"This wasn't a burglary. See what her bedroom looks like." Aoshi ordered as he picked through the clutter on the floor and bent over broken picture frames to examine the pictures, pulling a pair of gloves out of his pocked. "Try not to touch anything." Misao nodded and slipped inside and came back out with a frown.
"The only things touched were the pictures and her collection of little figurines she said her mother gave her. The ones Megumi and I gave her haven't been touched." Misao reported quietly. Kaoru collected little kitten figurines and Sano had been delighted at the idea of having an easy birthday, Christmas and random present option. That man had no imagination.
Aoshi was holding half a picture with a frown on his face. "What did Kaoru say her last name was?" His voice held a note that Misao recognized, and a flicker of irritation flared in her stomach.
Misao raised a brow. "Aoshi! You have been around the girl as long as I have and you don't remember her name? How heartless of you!" There was a scolding edge to her voice as she glared at her lover. It was ridiculous of her to think that Aoshi didn't remember her name; he remembered the name of all the various shades of her eye shadows and their corresponding numbers, just so he could say he did.
"Kasshin. Kasshin Kaoru," Misao replied exasperated.
Aoshi raised a brow and held up half of the picture that used to have a younger Kaoru and a beaming older woman who looked just like her in it. "This says her name is Kamiya," Aoshi quietly replied. There was a wealth of meaning in his words and it took a moment for her to digest them.
Misao went still as her brain worked. "Why would she lie about that?" Again, her question was more of her thinking out loud, because there were five or so reasons she could think of off the top of her head, and at least a dozen more that she could come up with.
Aoshi quirked a brow. "Probably for the same reasons this place is so trashed out. Come on. Let's get to the hospital and tell Himura what we found." He didn't need to express the idea that Kenshin would be getting antsy, and when he was antsy, people had the nasty habit of dying. Or of being mentally and emotionally bruised from the tongue lashing he gave when he was really worked up.
Misao pursed her lips and nodded.
By the time Megumi and Sano arrived at the hospital, they were letting visitors in. Not that it would have stopped them even if they hadn't, but the look the nurse gave them when they declared they were her family had been disbelieving. It hadn't mattered too much, because the older, grandmotherly woman had winked at them and given them the room number. It wasn't surprising that Kenshin was parked in the chair next to the bed, watching the girl breathe.
Kaoru looked horrible; above her left eyebrow, there was a butterfly bandage, and a series of bruises marred her small face. Her bottom lip was busted and had one careful stitch. Her right wrist was incased in a cast and her entire upper body was swathed with heavy white bandages that suggested she had broken or bruised ribs. Her left leg was out from under the covers, and several cuts were stitched. Her ankle was tightly wrapped in an ace bandage, but the bruising was crawling up her calf.
"What happened?" Megumi rasped out in surprise as she shut the door behind her, her eyes never leaving Kaoru's pale face. There was still blood on her cheek and along her brow. She had expected the girl to be sedated and possibly have a few stitches; she hadn't expected Kaoru to look like she had spent three minutes in the ring counting the flying birdies.
"I don't know," Kenshin's voice rumbled, and Megumi raised her eyes to see him sitting next to the bed, his eyes never leaving the slow rise and fall of Kaoru's chest. There was a quite intensity to him that she hadn't seen outside of the courtroom in years. "We are going to find out." There was a hard edge to Kenshin's mouth and Megumi went and began to look over Kaoru's chart.
"I take she is sedated?" Sano asked quietly as he stood at the foot of the bed. Kenshin simply nodded, his mouth thinning even more if it was possible. "Aoshi and Misao went to see if there was anything at the apartment. They should be getting here soon."
Kenshin raised his eyes and Sano wasn't surprised to see hot flecks of burning amber rage heating the normally calm violet. "Good."
Megumi looked up. "They aren't going to let any of us stay overnight, not until she has been here for a few days or so. Our excuse of being family isn't going to cut it. Were…"
"I will be here." Kenshin said calmly, sitting back and bracing his chin on his hands as he watched them. "As her husband, they won't dare kick me out."
Megumi's mouth parted in a silent O and she blinked before nodding. "You're right; they will need your approval. I take it Aoshi is going to be taking care of forging the marriage license and so on?" She frowned. "You don't think this was just a common mugging, do you?"
Kenshin swung his eyes back towards her from where they had been resting on Kaoru's pale face and he shook his head. "No, I don't. She was beaten thoroughly, and the glass shards in her leg suggest that it was personal. If they had mugged her for just her wallet, she would have been able to take of herself. She knows the drill. She would never have gotten caught in a bad spot. She has always been so careful in the past. If Misao and Aoshi find what I think they are going to find in her apartment, then we will know for sure. I think that someone went in there after Kaoru for a reason." He pulled in a calming breath though his nose. "But yes, if it is in fact what I think it is, then Aoshi will need to forge all the right documents in case someone starts snooping. If you wouldn't mind, Megumi, I will give you my credit card; pick up some rings. We need to make this as real as possible. I think you will also find that nothing of value was taken from her home, so it would be plausible that she also kept her wedding rings."
Megumi nodded. "Sapphires and white gold, I think. I will try to get her something she can wear on her right ring finger when this mess is over." The tall woman sighed and watched her friend breathe on the bed.
A sort of tense silence held the room as Sano slipped his arm around his wife's shoulders. Footsteps echoed down the hall and they looked up as the door opened. Aoshi and Misao walked in with grim expressions. "Such rude people…" Misao said rolling her eyes as she went and sat on Kenshin's lap so she could take her shoes off. "How is she?"
"The doctors said she should come to within the hour or so." Kenshin said quietly, his voice filling the room easily. "What did you find?"
Misao ran a hand through her bangs. "The place was trashed. I haven't seen anyone deliberately destroy everything of value before. Her little glass figurines from her mother were completely shattered and all her old pictures were ripped into pieces. There wasn't enough time to search for fingerprints or fibers, but I don't think we would have found any. Hannya is going to take a team over there tonight and look after the police have gone. They might find something. Over all, I would say the entire thing was deliberate."
Aoshi leaned against the wall. "It was an attack on her."
Kenshin nodded. "I didn't think it was directed at us. Alright, here is what we're going to do. I will call Hiko and explain what is going on. Aoshi, I am going to need you to take care of all the documentation." Aoshi nodded, his eyes flickering to the charts on her bed. "Megumi and Sano, you two are going to start making phone calls. If you can, I want Hannya or Beshimi to work with you. Find out everything you can about her past. Misao, go with Aoshi and report back once you get updated. I want to know what happened in that apartment. There might have been video tapes of them going and coming from the apartment, but they are probably gone. However, maybe someone saw something."
Misao grinned at him and kissed his cheek. "We know what we are doing, general, no need to dictate so harshly. We know what to look for. We are going to assume you are staying here to take care of Kaoru." She didn't even pause to allow him to nod. "Good. Because if he came after her once, he would do it again. Aoshi and I put the call to the cops in, so it wouldn't surprise us if someone showed up over the next couple of days to question her. The police are generally a bunch of paid off idiots, but if Saitoh gets involved they may be able to find something there we cannot." Her voice suggested that it was a possibility, but unlikely.
She glanced down at her shoes, picked them up, and walked to Aoshi's side. He looked down at her bare feet but Misao was distracted by her friend's breathing. Her bottom lip was caught between her teeth and Aoshi knew she would prance right out of the hospital without her shoes. Reaching down, he calmly picked her up.
Hospitals were some of the dirtiest places on earth.
Kaoru woke up slowly. It was like swimming through inky water. That was unusual. She had hated water since she was nine and her dad had laughingly taught her to swim. Kaoru had gotten really good at holding her breath. It had been part of her father's campaign to teach her to respect him. It took several moments to figure out how to open her eyes but when she did, the room swam once she got past the bright light. The walls were the brilliant white washed walls of a hospital and she became aware of sharp pain in every part of her body. Her ribs were jarring and her left leg throbbed in time with her heartbeat.
She supposed she might have made some noise, some change of breathing, because she heard a rustling of pages and turned to see a familiar set of bright violet eyes watching her from over a newspaper. His eyes were diamond hard with amber flares but settled into something less violent as they took her in. "You're awake."
He put the newspaper down and moved towards her. He carefully brushed her bangs out of her eyes and smiled at her. "Hi there," he breathed, his fingers caressing her cheek. "How do you feel?" He watched her open her mouth to say something, but all that came out was a croaking noise. His arm reached out of her view but suddenly a plastic cup was in his hands. There was a straw that he placed between her lips. "Slow sips, Kaoru…take it easy." She did as he said and took careful sips until she had drained most of the cup and leaned back, exhausted.
His fingers were back to smoothing her hair and she looked up at him. "I know you're hurting, but I need you to let me know if it becomes worse, alright? The doctors don't want you to get used to the painkillers, but they are willing to give you something to take off the edge. They would prefer not to drug you too badly," his voice was gentle and she closed her eyes.
"Thank you," she rasped. The memory of last night came back in all its gruesome detail and she shivered with reaction. The memory of last night's terror tugged at her until she felt the weight of it pressed against her chest. Suddenly, warm hands cupped her face.
"Shhh…" Kenshin softly whispered. "I have you. You're safe in the hospital."
The warmth of his voice and his hands were her undoing. The tears that had been burning a path down her throat and the back of her eyes slipped from the corners of her lashes and trickled to meet the warmth of his calloused fingers as he brushed them away.
"Please don't cry," he implored softly. Kaoru gasped painfully and tried to stop the onslaught, but once it had started, it didn't seem to want to stop. The bed bent with his weight and his nose was buried below her ear, the heat of him warm against her cold body.
"Hush, Kaoru. Whoever did this isn't going to touch you again." It was a promise and she clutched at his waist, her hand fisting in his shirt as she worked to stop. The sobbing hurt her ribs and she couldn't raise her arm any high to hold him as she wanted. She desperately wanted some sort of physical assurance that she was safe. No matter how warm he was, or how soothing his voice was, he wasn't going to be able to be here all the time. The cold certainty that this was only a reprieve had the tears flowing even harder. Her father wasn't going to give up until she was dead now. She had damaged his pride with this escape far more than she had with any other. He would never let this go. It would eat at him until he had destroyed her and everything in her life.
Eventually she was just too tired and too worn down to cry anymore. She laid there, breathing in the scent of Kenshin, thankful for the temporary warmth of his body, the comfort that she could hold to her later and remind herself of when her father took his revenge; she was suddenly so tired.
It was her breathing that told him she had fallen asleep again. Even resting, her Chi was chaotic. Her fingers were still loosely clutched in his shirt and he teased them free, wondering at the desperate hold she had on him. The doctors had assured him there was no sign of rape, but he had already known that. She hadn't come to him the way a woman who had been abused in that way would have come to him. There had been desperation and pain, fear laced with uncertainty, but none of the torn damage being raped would have left behind. Sighing, he untangled himself from her, unhappy that he had to leave her alone. Looking at his watch, he rubbed his eyes. The night nurse would be taking her round soon.
She was almost on the dot and he had already settled back into his roll as a nervous husband. "She woke up for a few moments," he told the nurse, careful to put the proper amount of relief and uncertainty in his voice. The nurse offered him an assuring smile.
"How did she feel?" the nurse asked as she marked some things on her chart. "Did she say if she was in any pain?"
Kenshin nodded. "She was hurting. I think her ribs and leg were giving her some trouble. She wasn't awake for long, but her breathing was labored."
The nurse nodded and made some adjustments to the IV. "We will come in around 5:30 for the next check. If she wakes up between now and then and needs something, please hit the call button. This dose should hold her over. I believe her doctor will be coming by tomorrow afternoon to give you the results of the x-rays."
Kenshin nodded his head. "Thank you."
The nurse pursed her lips. "There have been several nosy policemen who have wanted to speak to your wife. They said they will also be coming back tomorrow." Her voice suggested what she thought about that as she gathered her clipboard and moved out of the room.
Kenshin frowned. He expected Saitoh to show up and ask questions but he didn't have a partner and the nurse's words suggested that there had been more than one asking around. He swung his eyes back to the sleeping woman and picked up his cell phone.
"I know what time it is," Kenshin said hissed softly, careful not to make too much noise as he settled back against the recliner. "No…it's Kaoru. She was attacked….no, I wasn't there. She showed…" he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Aoshi is…" he closed his phone when the dial tone hit. "That man…" Kenshin groused as he kicked off his shoes.
Moving to her bedside he shifted Kaoru so that he could climb into the twin bed. She made a noise but didn't protest once he had a good grip on her, her body relaxing against him. He made sure her bad wrist was settled against his abdomen and that her bad leg wasn't brushing against anything that would cause her to hurt when she woke up; absently he set the alarm on his watch so he could be out of the bed half an hour before the nurse woke. At least in this position, if she did wake up and needed help using the facilities, she couldn't pretend he wasn't there. His presence, he could only hope, would help her fight against the nightmares he knew she was going to face.
"I'll protect you, even if you don't want me to," he whispered, kissing her temple.
Kaoru woke with a start, at first not knowing where she was when she opened her eyes. She always felt disoriented in the mornings, but this was worse. Warm breath slid across her ear and down her neck, and she tilted her head back to see dark red hair. Kenshin. His arms were wrapped around her and her body was using him as an impromptu body pillow. Her movements felt foggy, and she must have woken him because his eyes blinked open to show sleepy violet eyes. "You're supposed to be sleeping," he informed her softly, brushing a finger down her face.
"What are you doing?" There was a slight slur on her words and she realized she was floating in that drug-y sensation that always came with the nice stuff.
He nosed forward and kissed her temple, surprising her again, and shifted his hold so she was cradled even more firmly against his chest. "Keeping you warm. Those are thin blankets, Kaoru, and its cold in here." His voice was a lazy whisper that caressed her battered nerves so that she relaxed despite herself.
"I'm tired," Kaoru admitted, finding her words were true. She was tired. Sleep dragged at her, wanting to pull her down into its abyss. But with sleep came memories and nightmares that even the drugs couldn't keep her from. In her history, she had found that the drugs just kept her dragged down longer. "I'm sorry."
His hands smoothed up and down her arms. "We will talk about this when you're more coherent. I don't blame you for anything. Aoshi and Misao are looking into this as we speak." His lips brushed against her hairline with each word. "It's going to be alright."
Kaoru wanted to argue with him, to tell him that he was wrong, that it was only a matter of time. Instead she closed her eyes again and let him keep his illusions. If he wanted to think he could protect her, she would let him. She should have run from him and his friends the moment they entered her life. Something wanted to harden inside her and she knew it was the fact that, once again, she had something to protect. She would not let her father destroy these wonderful people's happiness.
As soon as she was able, she was going to have to flee. She was going to have to let go of her selfish needs and run; her father would stop at nothing to destroy everything around her if he thought it would hurt her. Even in the safety of Kenshin's arms, her mind danced with images of what could be. Even as the drugs pulled her back into a sleep that was supposed to be restful, she knew that everything was only temporary.
He watched her drift off, swathing her in his Chi, feeling the way hers trembled and flickered with fear and determination. "What do you fear so much, Koi?" Kenshin questioned softly, cupping her soft cheek in his hand. Even in sleep, her features didn't relax into something that resembled peace. Running his fingers down her pale skin, tracing the curves with eyes wanting to memorize, he frowned as his fingers came across a sort of ridge above her left ear.
It was an old scar that didn't appear to have healed correctly. Frowning, he ran fingers over it, smoothing them across it, when he found its twin a little lower. Now that he knew what to look for, he actually found several old scars. Some looked to be newer than the others. His heart clenched even as he realized what was going on. This wasn't the first time she had been beaten this badly. He closed his eyes and wondered, if he searched, what other scars her would find on her little body. "You are hiding so much…" he kissed the edge of the scar because he couldn't help himself. The lines around her mouth were still there and he laid there, listening to her sleep.
It wasn't until his watch beeped that he forced himself to let go of her. She didn't make a noise as he shifted her back into a comfortable position without him. As much as he wanted to stay curled up around her, he didn't think he wanted the morning shift to catch him wrapping himself around her yet. He carefully tucked her back under the covers and made a mental note to have Misao bring an extra blanket. Settling back into the chair the hospital had provided, he pretended to sleep.
Those scars bothered him more than he wanted to admit. It meant that there had been situations where he hadn't been able to protect her. That she hadn't been willing to talk about with their group yet. Something violent from her past was stalking her and she hadn't felt comfortable enough with them to tell them about it. Someone had hurt her physically, and he suddenly understood why her eyes were so old. There was going to be hell to pay once he got his hands on whoever was responsible for this.
She was refusing to talk.
Kenshin watched her from lowered lashes as she clumsily ate her breakfast with her left hand. It was plain oatmeal and she had grimaced every time she took a bite, so he had tracked down some honey to sweeten it for her. There had been an expression on her face when he had shown up with the honey and a chocolate chip muffin that he couldn't read. It was as if she had never had someone take care of her before and wasn't certain what her reaction should have been.
Kaoru was beginning to suspect something was up. When Kenshin had left, the nurse had come in to give her some medicine. It was supposed to keep her from being drowsy. Not that her body wasn't tired and stiff and recovering from shock. Now Kaoru was shoveling gruel down her throat as fast as she could because if she didn't, she was going to come off the bed and strangle him with his own hair. The nurse, for some reason yet unexplained, had called her Mrs. Himura.
She knew once she started the conversation she couldn't give him any sort of edge or he would win. She had been arguing with Misao and Megumi long enough to know what they were all good at. If her sources were right, Kenshin was even worse. What on earth had possessed him to tell people they were married? He was putting himself in danger and she couldn't tell him. So she had to use the only route left open to her. Do whatever it took to make him regret his decision.
"So," Kaoru asked him as she set down her spoon on her tray, watching him flip through that damnable magazine of his. Her bottom lip burned a bit; the stitch and swelling made it difficult to eat. "How did you sleep, anata?" There was an edge to her voice that was sharp, even to her own hearing.
He stilled for a long second. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Maybe she should have thrown the bowl of oatmeal at him instead. Perhaps her roundabout manner had been a bad idea. Her statement gave him all sorts of ways to go about the argument, yet she couldn't take the words back. There was a quality to that silence and something about the way Chi rolled off him that told her she wasn't getting the reaction she had hoped for. To be honest, she was almost hoping he would begin apologizing and making his excuses. He did neither. Instead he turned and gave her a warm, amused look that had a little bubble of anticipatory fission rolling through her blood.
"I slept fine." There was an amused purr in his voice and her gut clenched. Kaoru refused to be intimidated by the warm light in his eyes and raised a brow.
"That's wonderful," Kaoru replied irritable. "Then you won't mind explaining why the nurse called me Mrs. Himura. Now, I realize I am on some major painkillers, but I was pretty sure I hadn't married anyone recently."
His mouth curved into a smile. "That can be changed." Kaoru scowled at his teasing and waved her spoon as threateningly as she could at him, being suddenly left handed.
"Now is not the time to make jokes. You should have simply checked me under my real name and things would have been just fine! I can't think of a single reason why you did otherwise." Her bottom lip was shoved out in a scowl and she glared at him. She wasn't telling the complete truth and she was sure he knew it, but she was going to give this charade her best shot.
Kenshin took the couple of steps forward so that he could brace his hands on her bed, leaning forward so they were only a few inches apart. "I will tell you anything you want to know, Kaoru, when you tell me why your mother's name is Kamiya and you're a Kasshin." Aoshi had called earlier that morning and given him a complete rundown of everything they had found and everything they had not.
Kaoru's eyes rounded. Something like surprise flickered through her eyes, but they quickly narrowed to hide her emotions. "How dare," she started fiercely, but the sound of the door entered into her brain just as a warm, firm mouth pressed lightly against hers. Her lips had been parted in the middle of her statement, so his tongue flicked against the roof of her mouth before brushing lightly against her own tongue. Kaoru sat there in mute shock before she heard the sound of the nurse clearing her throat. His mouth had been exquisitely gentle against hers, so that her stitches completely ignored the kiss.
Kenshin pulled back and the corner of his mouth kicked up at the sight of her dazed expression. He turned and made his apologies to the nurse, who had an amused expression on her face. The spoon was still clutched in Kaoru's hand like it was a weapon.
"I came in to see if you two were up and about. Those police officers were by earlier this morning, but you two were still sleeping. They said they would be back sometime today." Her voice was as gentle as it was brusque; Kaoru attempted to keep from blushing even harder. She ran her tongue over her lips in a nervous habit, analyzing what the nurse had said. The taste of the coffee Kenshin had drank that morning lingered on her tongue and she swallowed. There was no way she was going to be able to convince anyone that Kenshin wasn't her husband; he probably had already crafted some tale for why she didn't have a ring. The nurse didn't seem to care one way or the other as she gathered the tray and spoon still clutched in Kaoru's hand.
"The good news is," the nurse continued as if she didn't mind at all that Kenshin had taken up the position next to Kaoru and threaded his right hand through her left, "that the doctor only wants to keep her here for another few days. You went through quite a shock, young lady, and they just want to take precautions. You're very fortunate that all your wounds were external or simple breaks."
Kenshin was rubbing his thumb along the back of her knuckles and it was distracting her. "What type of care is she going to need once we get out of here?"
The nurse smiled at him. "Her doctor, Mr. Fujiwaka, will be coming in later to explain everything. He will discuss her medication as well. We are hoping we can take you off most of the heavy painkillers today or tomorrow." She smiled at Kaoru. "Some of them are going to make you sleepy, so if you get tired, feel free to sleep as much as you need." She nodded at Kenshin. "We will be by later to check on her. Hit the call button if you need anything."
Kaoru thanked her quietly.
It was no sooner than the door had shut that she became aware of her need to use the bathroom. She sighed at the complete irony of that and twisted her fingers to express her wish that Kenshin would remove his fingers. He wasn't looking quite at her but there was an expression on his face that confused her. First he had placed her under his name, and then he had kissed her. Had she missed some cosmic event? Had she been hit harder in the head that she had thought? "Kenshin, let go!" Kaoru complained softly, rotating her wrist again. Her nose burned in such a way that told her she was blushing.
"Hmmm?" He asked his expression slightly puzzled as it swung back to her.
"I have to go to the bathroom," Kaoru snarled at him, aware that her entire face was turning red. This was mortifying. This was a reason she didn't want him lingering. His mouth quirked up and then he was moving to help her get out of the bed. Her left hand awkwardly tossed the covers back and then he was supporting her by slipping an arm around her waist so that, when her bad foot hit the ground, she could lean on him while her body protested her movements. The room spun for a moment and she clung to him for a second as her vision saw those peculiar spots that occurred when she moved too abruptly or after a long period of inactivity. Once her body was no longer limp against him, she attempted to pull away.
"Careful, Kaoru," he lightly chided as he assisted her. "Your body was recently traumatized. It's best to take this slow. You don't want to press that ankle any more than you have to. You're lucky, the doctors said it was only badly sprained with a few pulled ligaments, nothing was snapped or broken." His tone was off and she glanced up at him. He wasn't looking at her, so she concentrated on making it to the bathroom.
Kaoru clenched her teeth as she heavily limped and was thankful he hadn't tried to carry her. The IV was a bit tricky to manage since she only had one good arm and it was clutching at Kenshin, so he simply held her carefully with one arm and tugged the IV with the other. "Are you going to need any help?" he questioned, his lips brushing the edge of her ear as he spoke. The heat of his breath sent goosebumps down her body as surely as the almost-caress.
"Now listen here," Kaoru growled at him, raising her head so she could glare him, since he was only a few inches taller than her small frame. "I don't know what you're playing at, but it stops here."
His grinned at her, a cheeky little boy's grin that belonged on the face of a twelve-year-old; not a man who was just shy of celebrating his thirtieth birthday. "As your husband," he started, but she cut him off as she balanced against the sink and shoved at his chest with her good hand.
"We are not married," she reminded him dutifully. "Now leave before I start asking you how many laws you have broken in the past twenty-four hours." He grinned at her and mock saluted. That just irritated her. However, once she had finished with her morning toiletries and was left leaning tiredly against the sink, she looked at herself.
Her eyes were large and dark in her face, the color of a fading bruise. The butterfly bandage had come off earlier and the cut was an angry red against her pale skin. Her bottom lip, the one Kenshin had kissed earlier, was still swollen but was healing. There was absolutely nothing that she could see that would attract the man outside the door waiting for her to finish. She was too realistic to do more than view the events as if he was looking after a little sister he was pretending was his wife. Her stomach clenched in protest but she knew that she couldn't let herself pretend.
She knew she was attracted to Kenshin. It was the reason she attempted to never be alone with him. The reason she kept Misao or Megumi or even Sano between them as a buffer. Because if she let herself think for a single moment that he would care for her back, she would cave into him and bury herself inside and around him, and then her father would kill him. Kenshin moved like a predator, all dark silk and sensual control that came with the powerful and rich. She was small and filthy and poor enough that she had, more than once in her life, been reduced to pickpocketing to pay for her meals.
No, she was something he definitely didn't want. As soon as she got out of this hospital and this stupid charade was over, a charade she still didn't understand, she was leaving. Running as far away as she could and finding a new hole to carve a life out of until she had to run again. It was like a never ending spin cycle.
The door opened and Kaoru turned in surprise. "Megumi is here," Kenshin told her quietly as he helped her back to bed. Kaoru smiled a bit around her bruised mouth and the older woman returned it. "Hey." She wasn't sure what else she was going to say. Megumi's eyes were absorbing everything about her and she felt uncomfortable.
Megumi reached around her and gave her a soft hug. It surprised Kaoru, because the woman normally wasn't this affectionate. "Don't ever do something like this again," Megumi warned as she moved away so Kenshin could get her situated. "You know I hate to worry."
Kaoru stared at her. "Megumi…"
Megumi sniffed and walked over to her purse and pulled out a small box. "These are yours," she told Kaoru, putting them on the bed. She pulled out another box and tossed it at Kenshin. "That one is yours."
Kenshin smiled his thanks, but Kaoru looked at the rings wearily. "What…"
"Rings," Megumi said as if Kaoru hadn't spoken. "So that you can pretend this charade is real." Kenshin made a noise but Megumi ignored it. "I understand that you are worried about it, but it's safer this way. Whoever did this isn't going to be looked for Kaoru Himura, and we need to keep anyone from suspecting you." She gave the girl an assessing glace. "You are going to tell us what happened, aren't you?"
Kaoru ignored her question and opened the box. Her mouth went dry. Inside there were two rings. One was a smooth, plain band; the other held a square-cut sapphire surrounded by two smaller squares and small diamonds going three or four down the band. The jewels were small carets, so they would fit on her small fingers, but the workmanship was gorgeous. She looked up, startled and vulnerable. "I don't…"
Kenshin's long fingers were pulling her hand up, and then he was sliding the cold metal along her ring finger. "I know." His voice was back in that low purr and Kaoru looked at her rings. If she turned them over, they might do a bit of damage should she have to slap someone. Megumi was still watching her, expecting an answer to her questions, and Kenshin was tracing his finger over the plain band as if he was fascinated. The exhaustion of walking to the bathroom hit and she swayed as her energy seeped out of her like water through a sieve. She didn't argue when Kenshin caught her expression; she just let him push her back into the covers to sleep.
"She hasn't said anything, has she?" Megumi asked quietly as she watched the way Kenshin smoothed back the girl's hair. "I brought some things for her to change into and some of her personal stuff from her apartment. I really don't think she should go back there." There was a note there that had Kenshin turning to give her a sharp look.
"I don't plan on letting her. Aoshi can move in with Misao; they've been planning on it for weeks now anyway." There was a tone in his voice that surprised Megumi. "The second bedroom can be used to store her things while she heals."
Megumi raised a brow at that. "Not letting the girl have her own bed?"
Kenshin smirked slightly, his eyes darkening to glittering amber. "By the time she is ready to be let out of the hospital, Megumi, she won't want her own bed. But it's not just that…she has nightmares." His voice was low.
Megumi rolled her eyes and gave him a warning look. "Be careful with that girl. She has scars on her I think we are just now going to start to see. Besides, I won't have to pull every strand of red-hair from your scalp individually. She will do it herself." Standing, she reached for her purse. "Now be a good boy and make sure that girl gets a shower and a change of real clothes, okay? Misao and Aoshi are going to come by once they have a better idea of what is going on. Sano is off doing something or other."
Kenshin blinked several times after Megumi had left before sighing and shaking his head. Looking around, he noticed that she had brought him his briefcase. Good. He could get some work done while Kaoru was sleeping and possibly work on a strategy on how to get her to talk about what had happened. There had been a flicker of fear behind her eyes, and he knew from experience that trauma victims rarely wanted to talk about what had happened. The more he heard from the others and the more emotion she allowed him to see, the more he decided that Aoshi was right. The entire attack had been personal. His mouth quirked upwards; he wondered how long it would take before she started demanding answers of her own.
Sighing when Megumi's suggestion rang back and forth through his mind, he looked at the woman sleeping. She would enjoy a shower. He wondered how he was going to ask for the towels and such for her, or how he was going to convince a nurse to help her. Kaoru would be furious with him if he attempted to give her a shower himself.
He didn't expect the matter to be taken out of his hands.
The nurse, he had learned her name was Ira, came in with lunch and saw her patient was sleeping. "Oh poor dear, must be worn out. I believe the good doctor is going to be changing her medication soon. He will be here around three or so. When she wakes up, make sure she eats the jello please; and you might give the girl a shower. There is still a bit of blood in her hair and the stitches will be fine wet. It's the cast that has to be dry. Since the doctor is coming in she might feel more…comfortable the better she feels." There was something flickering in the nurse's eyes that had him on edge, even as he fought it down. "I will nip back here in a little bit with a plastic bag to tie over it and I will bring some towels as well."
Kenshin sat there a final report over a case he had finished up last week in his hands. That was two people who had suggested that his wife needed a shower. The problem was both of them expected him to give her a bath. Frowning a bit, he sat back. This was going to take a bit of work. He sat back and watched as her chest rose and fell. His Kaoru had a spectacular temper that she tried to repress, and she needed to learn to let it out. The sooner she learned it was safe to dump her emotions on him, the sooner she would start coming to him for other reasons. He hated to use something like this, when she would feel so vulnerable, to start making this point, but he saw no help for it.
He had also been told he was a masochist.
Perhaps it was time to prove them right.
Kaoru woke up and blinked fuzzily until she managed to clear her brain and then mentally yelled at herself for falling asleep again. She never slept this much. On the streets it was a surefire way to get caught, and anywhere else it was almost worse. She had to be awake when her father came or she wouldn't be waking up. Sitting up was difficult and she had almost managed it when strong palms were curled around the base of her spine and the bed was making a humming noise when it moved up. It had been so long since she was in a hospital that she had forgotten about the adjustable beds.
"Lunch is here," Kenshin told her calmly. "You're lucky. It was only brought in a few minutes ago, so it should still be warm. I am under firm instructions to make sure you eat the jello."
Kaoru made a face. "I hate jello. Please tell me it's not green." Kaoru covered her eyes when in fact it proved to be green jello. "I promise to leave all the proper offerings," Kaoru grumbled, "just don't make me eat that."
Kenshin gave her a thoughtful look and watched as she took a bite out of what appeared to be some sort of pasta smeared in pasty tomato sauce. If the look on Kaoru's face said anything, she wasn't enjoying that either. "Offerings," he mused out loud and took his seat next to her bed. "What sort of offerings?"
Kaoru rolled her eyes. "I have no idea. It depended on which god requested the offering." She took another bite and glared down at the pasta. "I thought my cooking was bad." She sighed and maneuvered another forkful, chewing on her upper lip as she did so. It was difficult for her to get the pasta on the fork, but the nurse had instructed her at breakfast that she was going to have to learn how to eat on her own. She supposed that was why they had given her such a sadistic meal. She was going to lose ten pounds simply because by the time she got a dozen forkfuls to her mouth she was so frustrated she didn't want to eat anymore.
Kaoru looked up and blinked at the expression on Kenshin's face. He was giving her the most peculiar look. Frowning at him, she chewed her noodles as she blinked at him. "What?" Kaoru asked as she swallowed.
Kenshin laced his fingers together and continued to study her features. "The nurse came by and mentioned that the doctor was coming to give us a detailed catalogue of your injuries." His tone never changed, even when she fidgeted a bit at the idea of her injuries being laid out. "She said you would want a shower." Kaoru blinked with surprised eyes before nodding slowly, as if she hadn't thought about taking a shower.
"Nurse Ira said she would come buy with a plastic bag for your cast," he replied lightly before motioning for her to eat. "You should be finished with that before she gets back." He opened the jello cup and took a spoonful for himself. "You have to eat half," he warned and was given a bright smile that somehow emphasized the split lip and jagged cut above her brow. He watched her struggle with her next bite of food, mentally making a list of finger foods that would put some weight on her slender frame. He grinned at her growl of frustration and reached over and took the fork from her hand. She made an indignant noise but didn't say anything when he handed her the fork back. They finished the meal quickly, after that, with Kenshin rolling the noodles onto the fork and Kaoru taking the forkful of noodles back to eat it.
Once she had finished off the tasteless, watered down spaghetti, and she was swallowing the last of the jello, a look of utter disgust on her pretty features, Nurse Ira walked in and dropped off the towels. "Now remember," she warned as she gathered the tray and watched as Kaoru forced the last bite of lime-green jello down. "Don't get that cast wet and try to keep as much weight off that ankle as possible. I will be back to re-bind your ribs and rewrap your ankle as soon as your finished. Just hit the call button." With a smile at the couple she left. Kaoru accepted Kenshin's help out of the bed and into the bathroom, her mind firmly stuck on the idea that her hair was going to be clean, when she noticed he wasn't leaving the bathroom like he should.
Kaoru turned and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as she braced herself on the counter as he put the towel down. His fingers moved quickly as he wrapped her cast with the plastic bag, tying it in place easily. He turned and shut the door. When he turned back around, Kaoru was staring at him with wide eyes that suggested she wanted answers. "What," Kaoru asked quietly, "are you doing?" Her voice held a bit of panic in her tones and he smiled at her.
Kenshin leaned against the door and butterflies sprang up in her stomach and fluttered around. "Someone has to wash your hair." He told her calmly. "Besides, you're going to need help getting into a change of clothing and you're already lopsided with your ankle and wrist."
Kaoru stared at him. "You are not helping me shower."
Kenshin raised one scarlet brow. "You're right, I'm going to give you a shower. There is a difference."
"Like hell," Kaoru spat furiously, attempting to stand up straight. Something like panic was racing in her veins. If he saw her back, there was going to be little chance that he wasn't going to ask questions that she wouldn't be able to answer, and there were already questions in his eyes she didn't like. She had never seen her back, but an old lover had once told her it looked someone had taken a jigsaw puzzle and carved it into her back. The idea that he would see something like that, never mind that being naked in front of him was humiliating enough, had little tears springing up in the corner of her eyes.
The next heartbeat his arms were around her shoulders, holding her to him, careful of her ribs. Kaoru sucked in a deep breath and stomped down on her sudden emotional outpour and breathed deeply to fix her shaky breathing. Kenshin held for a moment longer before softly speaking. "We have to work on your trust level. I will only wash your hair and balance you when you are using your left hand to wash everything else, Kaoru." His voice was soothing. "I promise. I won't touch you anyway besides that, unless you request help."
Kaoru breathed deeply between through her nose. "You can't just call the nurse?"
Kenshin kissed the top of her hair. "I'm sorry," he told her gently. "Right now you're my wife, and a husband would be more than willing to help you. I know this isn't a situation that you want, but when we leave here you are still going to require assistance. Trust me." He pulled back and tugged the hair tie that had been holding her thick, long hair back and watched as it cascaded to the middle of her back. "You have beautiful hair."
Kaoru swallowed hard and averted her eyes. "I don't understand why you are pulling this charade." Her voice was quiet. "Why are you doing this?"
Kenshin smoothed her hair away from her face, something she had noticed he was apt to do whenever he felt like it. He continued to run his hands through her hair. "You're my friend, Kaoru. Someone has decided to go after you." He tilted her chin up. "It will not happen again. Right now, my name will give you protection until we can get this cleared up."
Kaoru stared up at him. "Why do you keep talking like you're the one who is going to catch whoever did this?" She swallowed and forced herself to meet his eyes. "Why won't you just let the police handle it?"
Kenshin's mouth quirked up at the corners. "For the same reason that you won't tell me the truth about whom attacked you." His voice was mild and she averted her eyes.
Kaoru swallowed and fiddled with his shirt. "You're not going to let me call the nurse, are you?" Kenshin shook his head no, and turned his back.
"I won't look until you ready for me to help."
He was giving her a semblance of privacy while he could. He could tell that she was uncertain and nervous, something vulnerable attempting to hide behind her eyes. Something tightened in his chest, but he was determined to have his way in this. She was going to have to learn to trust him. He listened to the sounds of her breathing as she struggled with her hospital gown. He knew she was going to be thrilled to get into her own clothing once she was clean.
"Alright," Kaoru softly spoke, keeping her back to him. Her face was colored a dull red, but he was right. She did need his help. She swallowed as she waited for him and didn't attempt to limp to the bars inside the shower until his hands were firmly planted on her elbows. He made no attempt to move around her, instead letting her take down the detachable shower head and adjust the temperature.
An arm wrapped around her bare waist and she swallowed at the feel of his arm around her waist. The press of his muscles against her back was warm, and she swallowed hard as he ran the hot water through her hair. Kaoru felt the faintest brush of his pants against the back of her legs and felt a surge of relief that almost made her dizzy. Her eyes fluttered close in pleasure, and it took a great deal of will to bite down on the purr that threatened to roll out of her throat. His fingers were carefully massaging her scalp and she felt the rest of her tension leave her body.
It was when he was wringing out her hair so he could lather it with conditioner after the second washing that she became aware of how still he was. It took her a moment, because her senses were still humming with pleasure from the massage to her scalp. There was a quiet indrawn breath she could hear even over the water, and she froze when he brushed a finger tip down her back.
"Kaoru what…" his voice cracked with anger, so he tried again. "What is this?"
Kaoru closed her eyes and shook her head mutely. She was thinking he would argue with her, demand answers, but she was completely surprised when his lips brushed the skin above her shoulder blade. Then his lips mimicked the move and kissed her opposite shoulder blade. Then he placed a soft kiss at the base of her neck.
"You will tell me," he told her softly, his lips still brushing her skin. "I will know what each and every scar is from. I will know every story behind every line, Kaoru." There was a strange mix between a purr and a growl in his voice. His tongue flicked against the base of her neck, and her eyes widened. However, he raised his mouth and she felt him working a liberal amount of conditioner into her hair. He placed the showerhead in her hands and then she was being traded that for a loofah full soap. He rested one hand lightly on her hip to keep her balanced as she washed everything above the waist. Everything else was going to have to wait. At least her hair was clean, as was most of her body.
Kenshin finished rinsing her hair and then let her turn the water off as he reached for a towel and handed it to her. She awkwardly wrapped and secured the towel and he moved her to the stool. He sat her down and rubbed her hair out. Kaoru allowed him to braid her hair and then accepted his help to stand.
"Here," he disappeared and then came back with a small bundle of clothing. "Can you change on your own?" She didn't answer him, but her expression was determined. He turned his back dutifully and didn't turn until she asked. She had managed to change into a clean set of underwear and get a clean shirt on. The shorts were giving her trouble as her ribs protested her leaning down again. Kenshin dropped to his knees and helped her step gingerly into the shorts, letting her grab onto his shoulders as he helped her with her bad ankle. Kaoru didn't protest as he picked her up and carried her to the bed, hitting the call button after she was sitting on the edge. She was going to have to take her shirt off for the nurse, so he made himself busy in the bathroom.
When he came back out the nurse was carrying on pleasant conversation with Kaoru.
"Very lucky dear, to have someone so attentive to your needs, that's not too tight? Good. I would say the good doctor would be coming in sometime after three. That should give you half an hour or so to get ready." Nurse Ira continued on along a similar fashion as she maneuvered the girls legs back onto the bed. Smiling at Kenshin, she left them alone.
Kenshin moved over to his own bag and looked at the tired girl on the bed. "I am going to change…." She didn't answer so he moved into the bathroom. Kaoru looked up and checked the clock. Half an hour wouldn't hurt…
Kenshin stepped out of the bathroom and grinned to himself. She had fallen asleep again, and was napping sprawled out on the covers, so the long length of her legs was apparent to his eyes. He woke her up fifteen minutes till three so she could be awake when the doctor came in. She had the most adorable sleepy-flush to her face, and her eyes were dark blue with an overcast of contentedness he was positive she wasn't aware she was showing. He lightly rubbed her neck for a moment before handing her the water a nurse had dropped by and requested that she drink.
"Doctor Fujiwaka will be here in a moment," Kenshin softly told her. He wasn't expecting her to rest her forehead against his shoulder and mutter incoherent things and relax like she was going to fall asleep again. A pleased smile curled at his lips so he scooted backwards and let her lean against his chest. A soft rapping at his door caught his attention. Kenshin buried his fingers in the base of her braid and softly called her name. She opened sleepy eyes and blinked rapidly and started a bit at the sight of the doctor. He was an elderly man with bright blue eyes and a completely bald head. The only hair on his face was a long, thick handlebar mustache.
"I am Doctor Fujiwaka." He said with a very assured, kind air. "It is nice to see you awake, Mrs. Himura. I take you're the husband?" At Kenshin's nod, he pulled out her chart and then thumbed through some papers he had in another clipboard in his hand. "Then I would like to discuss some things with both of you. When we were running x-rays on Mrs. Himura, we found some rather disturbing things." He moved forward to show the young couple an x-ray of her right arm, the one with the broken wrist, and then one with her ribs. It was then that Kaoru noticed how small the man was. He was perhaps even smaller than she was.
"See here," he said, pointing to something other than the obvious break in her wrist. "This is calcium build up that suggests Mrs. Himura has broken her arm at some point in her life. Then here," he showed the ribs. Several of them held the same deposit markings as her arm. The hand on the back of her neck tightened just a fraction. "Now, generally we would hand this off as simply being a child getting rambunctious. But, as I am sure you know about the scars on your wife's back and the type of injuries she now has, suspicions rise. When Mr. Fujita came in and asked for x-rays," the hand tightened again, "we were forced to show them to him." He sat back and gave them both a hard look.
Kaoru met his eyes squarely. "I thank you for your concerns," Kaoru said quietly. "However, as I child I practiced kendo, and that is the cause of the broken ribs and arm, Doctor. I had three older cousins who weren't happy that a girl played samurai better than they did. After they broke my arm when they were getting too rough, mother refused to allow me to continue. Later, after I reminded them why I was better, I got knocked out of a tree." She smiled at him. "I am afraid there is nothing more than a misunderstanding. Kenshin has been nothing but supportive since I was attacked, and I would appreciate it if the staff would continue to treat him with the same respect." Kaoru had been spinning the same lies for so long now that she barely remembered what had really happened. Or to be honest, she much preferred that story to the one that was true. The blazing eyes of her father sneering down at her as he broke her arm for playing kendo, and the beating that had broken her ribs had come because she had refused to dance for his friends.
"I am relieved," Dr. Fujiwaka said honestly. "I am still curious about those back scars of yours."
Kaoru stiffened slightly in Kenshin's arms and his smooth voice slid down her spine. "I believe my wife has explained as much as needed. She comes from a difficult background, Dr. Fujiwaka, and is normally seen by my private physician, Megumi Takani, if you would like to speak with her about this some other time." Kenshin voice hardened to a bite at the end. His next words softened the blow. "Your opinion on how to deal with her injuries and what medication she will be taking will be greatly appreciated."
"Of course. First of all, her cast cannot get wet and will be on for several weeks, I am afraid. Her ribs will take less time to heal because they are merely bruised, but they will cause her a bit of pain. Bending over should be avoided, even if it's to tie her shoes. Her left ankle is going to take a few weeks to heal since she stretched it so completely, and we would prefer she put little to no weight on it for a two week period. We will happily give her a boot to wear when she needs to walk around." His words were kind as he spoke, mostly directing his words at Kenshin. "After that, she will need to do some minor physical therapy to get the tendons strengthened back up. I am going to prescribe her some medication that will help her sleep at night and something else for the day." Dr. Fujiwaka continued. "She will also need to strengthen that right hand up some after the cast comes off."
Kenshin nodded. "Thank you doctor."
Dr. Fujiwaka smiled again. "It will be best that she avoids heavy fats and cholesterol since she won't be moving around a lot. I want to keep her one more night to make sure she doesn't have any problems we might have missed, and I will be by to check her out around ten in the morning." He stood and handed Kenshin a card. "If you have any questions over the medication or something else, call this number and either I or my head nurse will get back to you." Gathering his things, he stood up and left.
"Gensai Fujiwaka," Kenshin mused as he pocketed the card and turned to kiss her temple. "So, did you really learn Kendo?"
Kaoru nodded hesitantly. "Yes. But my injuries forced me to stop, and then my mother wanted to move around, so I was forced to give it up completely." Her tone was soft. "I haven't gotten to hold a bokken in years." The more truth she gave her story, the more believable it was. Pressing her good hand flat on his chest, she pushed. "Now let go, the doctor isn't here anymore."
He smiled against her neck. His mouth was still pressed against the clean skin next to her ear. "You didn't seem to mind when you were sleeping a few moments ago."
Kaoru scowled, although he couldn't see it. "I am on drugs, you heathen!"
Kenshin laughed then. "One day, Kaoru, you will sleep against me by choice." He placed a lingering kiss on her hairline and moved away from her. "I'm going to go and raid a vending machine for a sandwich. Try not to get up." He smiled at her. "It won't take me long, so if you need anything, please wait."
Kaoru scowled at him and lay back among her pillows with a frown. Someone had come from the police, which meant there was going to be a file about her. Now, while she doubted that her father would find her so soon, it still made her nervous. She just wanted to disappear and never come back. She heard the door open and didn't bother to look up. "That was fast."
When there was no answer, she looked up, and her heart stuttered to a stop.