Characters: Aoshi x Misao
Summary: With the dark comes her silence. Some needs are better left unspoken.
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and its characters belong to Watsuki Nobuhiro. All dementedness in between are mine.
Notes: Dark. More 'what if' than anything. Not quite the Aoshi and Misao that you're familiar with, but who's to say that this is any less real? After all, familiarity and truth aren't exactly synonymous. Open to reasonable debate.
He exhales into her and realizes that he is out of breath. Without ceremony, he tears his mouth away and falls against the curve of her neck, convincing himself that not every kiss means suffocation.
Self-denial is not for sinners. When his gives way -- gives way to her -- he takes her on her futon and stabs her as he would his conscience. When he is finished, he curses himself silently and wishes she would speak. Yet on nights like this, her verbosity slips from her like fabric off her skin, discarded because it does not belong in this space. He finds that this is how habits are born, when the frightening absence of words is taken as acquiescence.
Still, even with her silence, they both know that he does not demand anything that is not already willingly offered, evidenced by the way she fists his hair to keep him at her chest as she breathes little syllables that could -- or could not, how does one really remember anything but the passion? -- be his name. Her rapid pants are heartbeats trapped within the wooden room, inescapable.
And so the morning finds him unlearning the lessons of the night, about her eyes, why they shine, and where they have wounded him.
"Should I love you less because of this?" she finally asks one night.
He flinches at the word love. He tries to recall if he has used it before, but his memory has become conveniently selective. If he had, once or twice, he now tries to smother the thought with his body over hers. She thinks she knows him well enough -- yes, yes, yes -- to assuage his shame, but really, what she wants is for him to acknowledge the heart that she has spilled in undecipherable patterns all over the floor.
She ought to realize that there is nothing forever about these moments; at least, this is what he tells himself as he takes her again. He knows his salvation is a long time coming, but Aoshi tries, he really does.
His guilt is a sieve, so that each abrupt word he speaks to her in the brightness of the morning does not contain the apology he means to convey. Still, she prepares his tea as she was wont to do, and hands it to him with a smile. They are both creatures of habit, it seems.
"Thank you," he tells her solemnly.
She nods and dances out of the room.
Aoshi fears that if he holds her after each time, she would begin to want more than his selfish heart was prepared to give. So instead, he dozes off, sometimes feigning sleep until she slips away. But when sleep comes, so do the dreams.
She kills him in each one.
Once, the nightmare wakes him with her still in the room. Her eyes are wide. He lets her hand linger on his shoulder before he shrugs it away. "Do not ask me how it is."
He thinks himself wise to search for his needs where there is some semblance of emotion instead of some rough, dingy tavern. He thinks the attempt will pacify his immortal soul. But what is an immortal soul in the company of a mortal want? The night is humid, and she is shattering, and he convinces himself that this is all the emotion he seeks.
Outside, the seasons change but her eyes are always winter. They grow used to this cycle. Sometimes he wishes they could stop, but he never does.
Once, on a rare night that she has fallen asleep on the crook of his arm, he touches her damp skin with a light hand. His fingers ponder how something so small could ever fill him like she does, or choke him in the same way.
She stirs, and Aoshi moves away.
"You look lovely, Misao-chan," one of the women tell her. It is the festival of the chrysanthemum, and she is dressed in a soft blue-green robe, draped gently atop one of a paler shade. Dragonflies dance around the hem. From a safe, disinterested distance, he watches the blush that tinges her cheeks as the two older women giggle their appreciation, wondering what else made her color during the daytime.
When he steps into their circle uninvited, he feels her shuffle closer to Omasu. He stiffens at the slight, but would have properly ignored it had her friend not betrayed her, grabbing Misao by the shoulders and thrusting her towards him as one would hold a jewel up for inspection. "What do you think, Okashira? Don't you agree?"
She meets his eyes in the brief dance of dragonfly wings.
"Yes," he concedes, a little hoarsely, with a voice almost grating from misuse. "Yes."
He turns, and the women behind him do not even attempt to hide their titter of delight. Yet he counts only two voices.
Later, on the way back from the temple, he chooses to walk beside her but this time, it is she who drifts away from him. Soon, the space between them would have held an ocean.
Tonight, he is spent and she rises to leave.
Her absence from his side leaves a wake of sudden coldness, and it chills Aoshi to the bone. "Must you go?" he asks softly.
His words ensnare her like the hand at her wrist. She nods and lets his arms fumble their way into an embrace. He cannot quite tell if the trembling he feels is hers.
There is space, there is presence, and only one of them is empty.
She turns brittle in his hands.
Okashira – literally, 'the head,' leader, boss. I would have refrained from using the Japanese title, but I find the English translation a little too casual for the effect I wanted.