Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin does not belong to me.
AN: I won best KK Waff in the 2005 RKRC Awards for Hakama Dake. Whoo hoo!! The Slumbering City got nominated for Alternate Reality in the 2006 RKRC too. Yay! Readers rock! Please be nice and vote for me. I truly apologize for the extremely long delay. The path to a PhD is not smooth (and I'm not even half-way there). Thank you so much for not abandoning me. Add in writers block and a new boyfriend (can I say yummy and distracting?), and time just got away from me. But here it is. The final chapter of TSC!! –Drum Roll-
The Slumbering City
Chapter 10: To His Coy Mistress
"I'm much better than I was, but there's a chance that I will never completely get over this." She still wasn't looking at Kenshin when she finished her story.
Although she hadn't wanted to tell him, Kaoru now felt eerily calm. He now knew that she was psychologically damaged, mentally unsound. There was nothing more she could say. She could only wait for his reaction.
Air slid sluggishly down her throat. Kaoru wished oxygen was optional as she tried not to wince at the pain of breathing. Emotion shouldn't make your body hurt like this, but it did. Everything ached. Losing a championship kendo match would have been less painful, less bruising. Telling her mind to get over it, she took a deep breath and forced herself to meet Kenshin's eyes.
But I can't bear it if….
Quickly, like a startled deer, her eyes flicked away, down to the moss-covered soil. Were his eyes green, gold, or purple? Maybe blue? If she wanted to know for sure, she'd have to look again. But Kaoru was scared. She didn't want to have to try and translate color into emotion, into acceptance or rejection. Kaoru felt like an old rubber band – brittle and cracked. Even if she were lucky enough not to fall to pieces at the pressure, she would just lash out wildly and be lost instead.
I'm not over it… not completely, not yet.
Wrapping her arms tightly around her chest, Kaoru tried to hold herself together. She didn't want to feel that again. Suddenly, the soft shades of the garden were too much. The colors of the coffee-brown earth, speckled with patches of moss like jade-green tiles, stung her eyes. Kaoru squeezed them shut. For a brief moment she retreated to a cold, lonely void of dark misery. This was a place she didn't want to be – a gray place of memories, weakness, and fear.
Then Kenshin's presence enfolded her from within and without. Color returned to her senses.
Touch.Strong hands cradled her close, letting her feel the heat of sun-warmed skin and cotton. Tender palms rubbed up and down her back. Their bodies rocked slowly. Calloused fingers skimmed her hips and sides, sending tingles through her skin, before returning to the dip of her back and arch of her spine.
Sound. Lips nuzzled the side of her head gently, rustling the strands. Murmured words of comfort flowed into her ears, uttered in languages foreign and strange. Yet a split-second after each exotic word, a masculine whisper of bells, water, and stone, the voice of his soul deep inside her heart, translated it into a flavor soothing and familiar.
Scent. Burying her nose into the hollow between his shoulder and neck, she became aware of the slight musk of sweat, grass, and spice. It was a scent simultaneously comforting and dangerous. Like the sun, it could either warm or burn. But this sunlight scent would never burn her. She knew that, knew it.
Kaoru's muscles unclenched. Her senses drank him in. These sensations were planks and nails and ropes in the muck of her fears, buttressing her hopes. She let herself surrender, trusting his arms to hold her up. Her mind calmed and her inner strength reasserted itself.
At some point his voice fell silent. However, his body kept her cradled close. Those warm hands kept stroking her back up and down, sometimes dipping below her waist slightly before continuing their soothing, and quickly arousing, perambulations.
With her eyes closed, Kaoru's other senses were more acute. Taking a deep breath through her nose, she found herself focusing on the scent of Kenshin's sweat. She wanted to open her mouth and taste the salt of it on her tongue. It enticed her.
Either he accepted her flaws or he didn't. Kaoru had rebuilt her center and was ready for whatever happened. If he was just doing the nice-guy thing and comforting a woman in distress, this might be her last chance for taste of that flavor. Besides, I have nothing to lose. I might as well indulge myself.
Opening her lips, she slowly inhaled, savoring him. Her tongue curled inside her parted lips and flicked at the air. Her hazy blue eyes opened to slits as she concentrated on his phantom taste. Brushing her nose against his hot neck, she began to bridge the minute distance with the tip of her questing tongue.
Yet he moved, right before she made contact. Not fair! The arms enfolding her loosed and his body began to shake. The silence ended. Kenshin started to laugh - loudly.
Kaoru was incensed, outraged, boiling with disappointment, hurt, and anger.How dare he?!
Here she had just bared her secrets, revealed the vulnerable underbelly of her psyche, and he was mocking her! Vision wavering - from rage, not tears, she assured herself - Kaoru stepped back out of his arms, fisted her hand, and clouted him as hard as she could square in his insensitive, laughing mouth.
When the sky stopped spinning, Kenshin gingerly sat up and rubbed his face. Part of him wanted to be angry at the blow, but most of him just felt surprised. He looked up at Kaoru's demonic face and looming form, her raised fist blocking out the sun. Fear, oh yes, there's fear here too. Quickly he scooted back until he was out of reach.
Going back over the last few minutes in his mind, Kenshin tried to figure out what had just happened. Would he ever understand women - especially this woman?
After Kaoru had finished her story, he had found himself staring at the vulnerable arch of her neck. In the shimmering sunlight her porcelain skin looked translucent, with faint blue veins trailing down to slip beneath the collar of her shirt. He was more aware than ever before of just how fragile that flesh must be.
When he'd looked closer, he could see a faint white crescent of skin curling around her bicep and under the shirtsleeve. A scar. Was it from the day of the bombing, or did it come from a more innocent source? Perhaps she had earned it falling out of a tree or riding a bicycle.
Or maybe it had come from a heedless boot in a panicked crowd.
His brow creased; his fingers itched. They wanted to slide around her waist, grasp the hem of that shirt, and lift it over her head. There was nothing sexual about those thoughts, just an obsessive need to know. How far up did that crescent-shaped scar go? Does she have others? I didn't think to check before. I didn't look closely enough. Fool.
He wanted to ask now; he wanted to heal and erase.
That's my shirt, wrapped around her skin. What other scars does it hide? What are their stories? If I asked, would my shirt reveal her secrets to me? Or is it hers now and no longer subject to my will?That thought had opened doors that he didn't wish to look at too closely. He wasn't ready to take account of all the things no longer in his control.
Pursing his lips, his thoughts had turned to that summer two years ago, the summer of the bombings. He and his forces had hunted down the terrorists. Some were killed, others imprisoned to await trial. Ironically, their fate had finally been decided the same week he met Kaoru.
Actually, Saitou had barely returned from overseeing their punishment. And if I'm reading correctly between Kaoru's words, he ran into her and did something offensive. It's been a while since we butted heads. Perhaps it is time to remind him of who is truly the master here.
If he had met Kaoru last year, there might not have been anyone left for a trial. He'd like to think that reason and his respect for the law would have stayed his hand, but he was too old to start lying to himself now. Just the thought of Kaoru being trampled made something vicious and very, very sharp rise within his chest. Where Kaoru was concerned, his emotions were still out of control.
Putting down his anger for another time, Kenshin had blown out a long breath. Without the anger to mask it, he could feel his stomach aching with the knowledge of Kaoru's pain. Yet she was so strong.
It seemed that Kaoru had expected his censure. After her story, she'd given him one quick look. Then she'd canted her head away from his face as if afraid. Nevertheless, her body stood proud and tall before him, resolutely awaiting his reaction.
Despite her tragic story, he didn't pity her. The strength of her spirit defied such a reaction.
'Thank you' sighed the voice of Kaoru's bonded spirit, deep inside his soul.
At that moment, Kenshin had realized that this was the final hurdle. This was Kaoru's big secret... and it changed nothing. He still loved her. In fact, it only deepened his respect for her, knowing that she'd overcome such a trial.
With this out in the open, they could finally be together as one. She no longer had a reason to run away. Relief and exultation flooded his body. At last, she's mine!
Kenshin felt giddy. He couldn't help it. With the deluge of joyful emotions bursting through his body, he began to laugh.
A few seconds later, Kaoru had decked him. Shaking off the sting, he slowly stood up.
"Write if you must," Karou coldly bit out, "but don't call." Lowering her fist, Kaoru spun around and strode over to the edge of the garden veranda. Coming to a halt in front of the iridescent honeycomb barrier, she growled and gave it a vicious side blade kick. The lack of shoes prevented her from kicking it straight on, and just as well. It felt like little stinging needles were attacking the edge of her foot.
"Get rid of it!" she commanded without turning around. Surreptitiously she shook out her foot. "I saw it disappear earlier after you made me drink from the fountain, so it can't be that hard. Make it go away again."
Kenshin was still a little annoyed and confused by the punch. Every time he thought he had her figured out, she went and did something crazy on him. Thus he answered, a little more sarcastically than his usual wont, "The same way I put it back up. You must have seen me do it, feel free to do it yourself. After all, the city's magic loves you."
Turning around, Kaoru glowered at him. She had totally missed his replacement of the barrier, and she still had no idea how she was doing most of the magical things she'd accomplished. However, she wasn't going to admit that to him out loud, the jerk.
As he looked at her unhappy face, Kenshin gave a quick sigh and rubbed his face briskly. He needed to be patient and mature. Somehow, he had to get a hold of his wildly careening emotions. Besides, he should know by this stage of his life that he would always be hopeless at understanding women.
"Kaoru, I'm sorry." He didn't know for what, but if it made her smile it would be worth it.
Rubbing her foot against the calf of her other leg, she examined his face intently. "You didn't need to laugh at me. A simple pat on the back and 'let's just be friends,' would have been enough," Kaoru said.
Kenshin tugged on his bangs and asked the gods for patience. "Koi, I love you. That hasn't changed." He took a step closer.
Kaoru stood her ground.
At this moment, he had to say the right words. Mustering his will, Kenshin tried to project all of his love and sincerity. "I was laughing in relief that we could be together now, that there were no longer any secrets between us." Reaching out to cup her face, he looked deeply into her liquid blue eyes. "I admire and adore you, still, always, and forever."
A trembling breath escaped Kaoru's lips. He accepted her, even knowing the truth. She never needed to be alone again. As a smile broke across her face, Kaoru flung herself across the clearing and into his arms. Their love would work. It would!
Kenshin caught her, swung her around once to bleed off the excess momentum, and then crushed her against his chest. For a few moments they simply hugged each other. Each inhale pressed more of their bodies together, and each exhale of her breath rebounded off his skin to warm her face with a mixture of their scents. It was magic – they were magic.
Fitting her leg between his, she shifted even closer into the cradle of his body. Her arms traveled up to rest along his sides, with her palms cupping his shoulder blades. Strands of red-gold hair cascaded softly across her forearms. I'm home.
After a few minutes or hours, Kaoru couldn't tell which, she felt Kenshin's grip loosen slightly and his head come up from its rest against the side of her head. Looking up, she stared into his eyes. They were gold, pure as sunlight. She could see so clearly the honesty of his regard. It touched her heart. Moved, she could only gaze back.
Slowly, the serious lines of his face began to change. Humor crept into his eyes and the corners of his mouth began to twitch. Kaoru couldn't help responding. Soon she started to laugh, and then he did, and before she knew it the entire garden was harmonizing to create a symphony of laughter, chiming leaves, and splashing water.
Full to bursting, Kaoru couldn't go another minute without kissing him. Bringing her lips to his cheek, she gave it a happy kiss. They she moved to the tip of his nose. Kenshin went cross-eyed as he followed her progress. She wanted to skip the rest and just descend on his mouth, but never let it be said that Kamiya Kaoru was a quitter.
Moving to his other cheek, she then very carefully left a trail of moist kisses down his chin and along the tendon on the side of his neck. Finally, when his breath had quickened and the rhythmic flexing of his muscles fighting for control proved too distracting, Kaoru returned to his lips.
First she lightly flicked them with her tongue. Then she waited for his response.
"Tease," he breathed. A split second later, his mouth covered hers.
Moaning, Kaoru opened her mouth wide. Lips moved against lips, tongues met and retreated, and Kaoru felt her insides begin to liquefy with desire. Bringing her hand down along the edge of his chest to caress his side, she felt his stomach tighten and his breath catch. It brought a wicked smile to her lips that Kenshin couldn't help but feel.
As she rubbed up and down his side, trailing her finger ever closer to the center of his chest, she kept trying to elicit the same reaction. She loved how his breath caught in his throat. She wanted to hear it again.
Sweeping the back of her knuckles up to his shoulder, she turned her hand around and carefully raked her nails down his chest, across the planes of his abdomen. She only stopped at the hem of his pants, which she traced until her fingers reached the small of his back.
Kenshin twitched, gave a husky moan deep in his throat, and tightened his arms around her convulsively. His kiss became deeper and all consuming. The lushness of his lips overwhelmed her. For several timeless moments her entire reality consisted of the press of his body and the motion of his hot mouth.
Eventually, the kiss began to gentle. Pulling away, Kenshin smoothed the hair back off of Kaoru's flushed face. Both of them were panting.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
Kaoru couldn't help her wide smile. "Yes, are you?" He smiled back and moved closer again to resume their kiss.
Suddenly Kaoru had an unpleasant thought. "Megumi!" she exclaimed as she dodged his mouth. "I can't believe I forgot! Are they all right? They didn't get in trouble, did they?"
"Do not worry, both Megumi and her companion are fine," Kenshin soothed. Tilting his head to the side, he gave her a small, mischievous smile. "They're probably home right now… snuggled warm in their bed," Kenshin's eyes crinkled at the corners.
"In the middle of the day?" Kaoru teased as his arms reeled her back in.
Kenshin ignored her objection and kept talking, "pillows plumped, limbs entwined," he ran a finger up her arm, down her side, smoothing it up under her shirt and dragging it hot and heavy across the sensitive skin in the small of her back. He paused there, drawing small circles with the pads of his fingers and the tips of his nails. Kaoru shivered. Her eyes quickly fell to half-mast. She would have purred if she'd been a cat.
"A perfectly natural place for two people to be, a bed," he breathed into her ear hypnotically. "Can't you see?" Kaoru's breath caught for a moment as the erotic picture bloomed in her mind.
She could feel his smile on her neck as he brushed his face back-and-forth against her skin. His other hand rubbed down her arm, picked it up and placed it around his neck. Kaoru took the hint and locked her arms behind his head as he continued talking. Her fingers sank into the strands of his hair.
"Picture the two of us lying together on a soft bed, the cool breeze brushing your skin and rustling through the pile of my clothing on the floor. But since you're wearing my clothes right now, it will be both my and your clothing on the floor then."
Both of his hands dipped under her shirt, rubbing up the line of her spine, down to flit briefly but firmly across her butt before returning to their worship of her back. She was putty in his hands. Petting was her weakness. That and his voice that just dripped with,go ahead and think it, spine-melting sex.
"You… and me… with nothing but heat and sweat separating the skin of our bodies," his lips kissed down the line of her neck and slowly back up, closing around her earlobe with a devastating amount of suction. "Love me, my Koi," he entreated huskily. "Love me."
Kaoru was lost, she was found, she was his, that sweet talking tease. Dragging his wicked mouth away from her ear, she looked him straight in the eyes. "Listen to me. I love you, and you love me, right?"
"Of course, I-," he assured, but Kaoru didn't let him finish.
"And we're bonded, which is sort of like a spiritual marriage. I get that now, and I'm okay with it, but," she tightened her fingers in his hair to make sure he could feel the pull, "it wasn't initially consensual in the fully conscious sense, right?"
A wince flitted across his face, though from her words or the hair pulling, she couldn't tell. "So we are going to get married again," Kaoru declared firmly. "This time in the physical, legal, cliché wedding with family and friends attending sort of way. And it will be small, and private," she could tell Kenshin was just dying to say something, but Kaoru wanted to finish her new demands first. "And special, and then-"
"Of course, my love," Kenshin finally managed to break in. "We can have it whenever you want. We can schedule another marriage for next month."
"Eh hem," Kaoru cleared her throat at his interruption, and tried to ignore the feel of his fingers tracing her waistband long enough to finish her thought and keep her resolve. "And then we will have knock down, dragged-out sex with lots of foreplay and licking and the potential for love bites."
At her words, Kenshin growled low in his throat and tightened his grasp around her waist. "Koi…." Pupils blown wide, he lunged forward and captured her mouth in a wet, devouring, open-mouthed kiss. Kaoru felt herself weakening, and allowed her tongue to flit along his upper lip just to hear that growl in his throat again. Momentarily having the upper hand, as his were currently clutching her back and thigh, Kaoru grasped the base of his neck and pulled back while she still could. His head canted towards her but she leaned farther back to stay out of his reach.
"Don't be coy, I don't think I can stand it," he groaned.
Kaoru giggled. "But I am your koi, and as such entitled to be slippery and hard to catch, as well as strong-willed," she teased. Quickly leaning forward she gave him a peck on the lips. Then she gave him another because she couldn't help it.
"I love you, Kenshin, but I deserve a consensual marriage of equal partners. We will start that way or not at all." Kenshin face showed his objection to her threat, but Kaoru was adamant.
"Fine, we can schedule a marriage for next week." Kenshin was obviously happy, but also obviously humoring her and not taking this as seriously as she wanted. He'd 'won' her and no longer had any worries.
We're already , his soul chorused in her mind.
She realized that, but she wanted this done right and in a way to make her deceased parents proud. Besides, she'd always dreamed that Megumi would be by her side the day she married. And she wanted it done in a church - a small church full of fragrant flowers.
Karou gave Kenshin a crooked smile. "Thank you, but you do realize that the naked and sweaty part is reserved for the marriage, right?" She wanted it done right, but she was also full of years of pent-up passion and theoretical knowledge just waiting for the right man to unleash it. A little prodding couldn't hurt.
"The wedding will be this afternoon," Kenshin demanded with a mock-serious face and twinkling eyes. He kissed her softly, before stepping back and grabbing her hand. "Well, come on, no time to waste," he stated as he began dragging her up to the veranda. "We'll grab your friends, magic up a minister, and be in bed by suppertime. You'll be the appetizer," he squeezed her hand, "and I'll be dessert."
The honeycomb force field that had trapped her inside the garden rippled and disappeared as he strode through it. It happened so quickly that she couldn't even feel a tingle in her fingers. And he didn't seem to have done anything to get it to disappear either, the rat. She'd have to get it out of him later though, because for now she had more agreeable things on her mind.
Shivering pleasantly at the thought of such a dinner, Kaoru had to give a slightly regretful laugh. "Kenshin, I'm a mess! And if you haven't forgotten, I've been running for the last few days. I need a bath and a shower and maybe if I'm really lucky a trip to the spa." Wow, am I channeling Megumi or what?! But I'd also like a pair of my own underwear. And after lying underneath that prickly bush, a massage would be fantastic. Not to mention that I would kill for a hot tub full of aromatic oils to banish the last of that muddy stench. Then again, maybe Kenshin could do those things for me… but I definitely won't keep my control if he does. I'd molest him for sure. Ah, bad thoughts!
"I'm not ready today," she could feel his pout all the way down to his grip on her hand. "We still need to talk about how magic works in this city. It's awake now, I can feel it."
Kenshin's smile was a little awed. "It is awake because of you, my little mage. Together, we will heal The City and restore it to its former glory."
A saucy look entered Kaoru's eyes. "With both you and I working on it, I bet we can make even it better than that. After all, you have me for inspiration."
Putting a serious look upon his face, Kenshin asked, "So what you are saying is that you are going to turn the magic in my city into a menagerie?"
"You should be so lucky," Kaoru sniffed. "However it ends up, OUR city is going to be fantastic."
Kenshin laughed and tugged her closer. "It will be." Raising their entwined fingers to his lips, he kissed her hand. "Know what would be even more fantastic?" A sultry gleam sharpened his gaze, "If you came back with me to my bedroom right now."
Although she was sorely tempted, Kaoru was nothing if not stubborn. "Tomorrow," she riposted. "Besides, I wanted you well-rested and full of stamina," Kaoru teased daringly.
"What!?" Kenshin stared at her in disbelief and offended male pride.
"I'll marry you tomorrow," she repeated.
He glowered, "You better." Taking a step forward, he pulled her against his body and lowered his head to hers. "I'll show you stamina." Lightly kissing her with a closed mouth, his tongue nipped out to teasingly caress her bottom lip, then her top. Kenshin could feel himself smile. His slightly parted lips then began to rub over her mouth, always just slightly off center.
Kaoru kept trying to deepen the kiss or catch his tongue, but she kept failing. He always stayed just out of reach, forcing her to lean more and more forward as she chased his lips.
Frustrated, she finally leaned too far and overbalanced. That's when he attacked. "Let's see who has the most stamina now," he challenged as he launched a tickle assault.
"No!" Kaoru shrieked, but it was too late. Wiggling, giggling, and trying to twist away from his darting fingers, she felt herself fill with joy to the brim. It was silly and crazy to be having a tickle fight at the edge of a magical garden with the ruler of the city who just happened to be the man she loved.
Nevertheless, this was it, this was what she'd always wanted – a man like this… this man.
"I love you, Kenshin," she declared with what breath she had to spare from the laugher.
Letting his assault end, Kenshin pulled her into a tight embrace full of sunshine, belonging, and love. Her curves fit into the hollows of his body and heart perfectly. Breathing in the scent of her body, Kenshin closed his eyes, kissed her hair, and promised, "Forever, Koi. Forever."
Koi – Depending on the kanji used it can mean: (n) love, tender passion (fyi, adj. usage would usually be koishii); (adj) thick, dense, strong; (n) carp – a fish found in ornamental ponds
AN: Love to my editor and writing buddy katyclismic! The title of this chapter is inspired by the poem, "To his Coy Mistress," by Andrew Marvell. I adore poetry! Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people who kept sending me encouragement and nagging emails. I know I dropped off the face of the fanfiction planet for a while, but your words kept me from leaving altogether. And to everyone, yes, I really do need to check my email more often and actually respond. Thank you especially to the people who pointed out plot holes. You are fantastic!
This year, I've dyed my hair a dark red with 'sunfire' highlights. I like it a lot, and I think it has helped me to better relish my time on the other side of the quarter century. Since my advisor has taken Turkey week off to visit family, I get to too. Yay! I'm off to NJ to meet my boyfriend's parents for the first time for Thanksgiving. We leave tomorrow and I'm really nervous because they all speak fluent Spanish in the home. I can only do English and Japanese. I took a few years of Jr. High Spanish, but that doesn't really count. I knew I should have watched more Dora the Explorer with my niece when I had the chance, curses! At least this relationship has given me all sorts of new inspiration for make out scenes. Hoo yah!
I love you all!
Please comment and let me know your thoughts about the end of this saga. Also point out unanswered questions you still have. Yay and thank you!