Disclaimer -I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.
1.Ingenious and complex in design or function; intricate.
2. Finely or skillfully made or employed; artistic.
1 -- First Prelude
"I'd never tell her, but I think it's the best possible choice she could've made."
Kaoru paused at the sound of her father's voice from beyond the open doorway.
"Neither of you need to be alone right now," her father continued.
Kaoru bit her lip. For a second her mother's death seemed fresh all over again. She reminded herself that it had happened almost two years ago. Her father wasn't devastated any more. He was putting his family first again.
"What about you, Dad?" her younger brother, Yahiko, asked. Three years Kaoru's junior, her mother's youngest child had been hit the hardest initially. Of all the members of her mother's immediate family, only Yahiko had been able to grieve at first. Kaoru hadn't been able to react until hours afterward, a trait she'd inherited from her father. She'd envied Yahiko his ability to grieve when she hadn't been able to. But Lynn's death hadn't been a surprise for any of them.
"I've got the family to help me out," her father continued, "Your aunts and uncles wouldn't leave me alone if I wanted them to. It's you and Kaoru that I'm worried about."
Yahiko snorted. "I can take care of myself."
That was just like Yahiko, scoffing and saying he was fine. But it was also true. He could take care of himself. Kaoru leaned sideways to listen, her shoulder against the wall.
Her father sighed. "I know you had other plans this year, so I'm thanking you for showing so much maturity about the new living arrangements. Just help your sister find her way around at first. You've been at that school two years already."
Kaoru held her breath. She'd thought Yahiko wanted her there. She'd thought he relied on her as much as she relied on him. Not that she would tell him that. Openly communicating their feelings wasn't how their relationship worked.
"I don't care about the apartment, Dad," Yahiko broke in quietly. "I want Kaoru there."
Neither her father nor her brother spoke again. Kaoru let out the breath she'd been holding.
"What is it?" Seijuro Hiko barked.
Kenshin's aunt placed a reassuring hand on her husband's arm. Their son, Soujiro, glanced at his watch.
"I'm moving out," Kenshin said simply. "Aunt Tae, you'll be able to use my room for your studio."
"But why?" His aunt rose from her seat and bustled around the table to where Kenshin sat. She gave him one of her huge hugs. "You're going to college on the north side now. You can live here and save your money, just like last year."
Kenshin hugged his aunt back, but shook his head when she pulled away. His uncle watched him silently. Soujiro frowned, but said nothing.
"I've reviewed my budget over the past couple weeks," Kenshin explained. "I can afford it as long as I've got someone to split the rent with and a job."
"You've always got a job at the Akabeko, idiot," his uncle said, taking a sip from his sake glass.
Tae nodded. "Always, Kenshin." The Akabeko was a traditional Japanese restaurant owned and operated by Seijuro Hiko and his wife, although it was Tae who really ran it. After Kenshin had graduated from a university in California two years ago, he'd come back to the east coast and worked as a chef in the Akabeko, just as he had throughout high school and over the summers. It had given him time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. A year later, he'd decided to apply for grad school at one of the local colleges.
"Thanks," Kenshin said to his aunt and uncle.
"Do you have an apartment yet?" Soujiro asked, speaking for the first time.
As Tae sank into the chair next to him, Kenshin directed his attention to his cousin. "Yahiko's looking for a roommate."
"Who the heck is Yahiko?" Hiko asked.
"He's alright," Soujiro said.
"Again," Hiko said, "who is he?"
"He's going to be, what, a junior at Kenshin's school next year?" Tae said, looking to Kenshin for confirmation.
He nodded. "His sister's starting a grad program, so he's moving out of university housing to live with her."
Hiko shrugged. "Do what you want, Kenshin." He stood from the table. "But your shift in the kitchen starts in ten minutes. Soujiro-"
"I took off tonight, Dad."
"Oh, the girlfriend thing," Hiko said with a roll of his eyes. "For a second there I almost forgot Friday night hell was imminent." His uncle claimed that he liked a quiet and calm restaurant, which was the farthest from Friday night as it got. But they all knew Hiko would be on top of everything once the restaurant filled.
"I won't bring her here then," Soujiro said, glancing at his watch again and standing as well.
"Soujiro, I want you to bring her here soon," Tae said. "You've been dating the same girl for three months and your father and I haven't met her yet."
"Mom, I'm going to be late to pick her up," Soujiro said, heading for the door, "Can we talk about this later?"
Tae sighed, Soujiro grinned, and then he was gone. Hiko offered his wife his arm. "The damn kid's spoiled, Tae. You shouldn't have babied him for so long."
Tae smiled and accepted her husband arm. "Don't be late, Kenny," she said.
Kenshin half smiled. She only called him Kenny when she was wishing he was ten again. "I won't."
Tae smiled back at him and Hiko rolled his eyes. Then they were gone too. Kenshin relaxed slightly against his chair. Kenshin didn't want to be here the day Soujiro said he was moving out.