Disclaimer: I do not own RurouKen. Watsuki-sama does, and I'm not making any profit off of this. (These things are so unbelievably boring to write…)

Dedicated to Jupe-san. Happy birthday, Lem. :3

Ice Skating
by misaoshiru

It was time for breakfast at the Kamiya dojo. Yahiko, who was visiting that morning, wolfed down his food, but neither of the residents was eating. Kenshin studied his miso soup in melancholy silence. Kaoru had set down her bowl and was studying the ex-rurouni quietly, casting a concerned glance at him now and then. He didn't appear to notice.

Yahiko's bowl hit the low hardwood table with a loud clattering sound, magnified by the surrounding state of calmness. "Jeez, what's with you guys?" he said, standing. "You're both so...quiet! It's creeping me out."

"Hmm?" Kenshin responded, looking up at Yahiko with eyes not quite as unfocused as they were a mere moment before. "Oh, this one apologizes. There are just a lot of things on this one's mind right now."

"Yeah, whatever," the boy mumbled. "Thanks for the food and all that. Bye, Kenshin. Bye, ugly."

Kaoru glared at him as he left, but she didn't go after him; not this time, not with Kenshin like this. The disturbing part was that he had been like this for a while, now; a few days ago, it had been impossible to even pry him out of his futon.

Kenshin peered at her nearly full bowl. "You didn't eat much," he said softly.

"Neither did you."

"This one isn't very hungry right now; that's all."

"Is it..." Kaoru raised an eyebrow at him before changing the subject. "It's New Year's, you know."

"Sessha knows, yes."

"We could go into town, to one of the celebrations. Maybe that would cheer you up."

"This one would rather avoid the crowds today."

"...It's that time of year, isn't it?"

Kenshin's eyes widened, in shock and feigned confusion. "Oro?"

"You know what I'm talking about. It's...it's the time of year when Tomoe-san died, isn't it?"

"Yes," he almost whispered. Then, a little louder, he continued, "Yes, it is. The anniversary was Thursday, this one thinks. It wasn't something sessha thought about much, though..."

"Kenshin, don't lie to me. The way you've been acting...it was obvious something was going on." Kaoru's eyes shone with determination and enthusiasm. "I know what we can do to cheer you up! Kenshin, go put on the heaviest tabi you have, maybe two or three pairs if you can."

"Maybe it would be best if this one..."

"Get going!"

"Yes, ma'am!" he said in a resigned, almost scared tone.

Kenshin sorted through his tabi glumly. Life as a rurouni had really taken a toll on his socks over the years, and they were in pretty sad shape. He was about to put on the pair with the least holes when Kaoru came in. "Those'll never do. Here, use a pair of mine." She tossed him a pair of thick white tabi, only to receive a confused glance in return. "Well, what are you waiting for? Put them on! They'll be a little tight, but they should fit...I mean, we're about the same height!"

He sighed, though his expression was one of amusement as he did what she commanded. Sure enough, they fit.

"Told you they'd fit. Come on; if we wait too long, the ice'll melt!"

"Oro?"

They were at a small pond, a few blocks away from the Kamiya dojo. "Take off your shoes," Kaoru said, removing hers as well and stepping onto the ice in her tabi.

"But..."

"Kenshin, please?"

"All right. This one will take off his zori." He joined her, nearly slipping in the process. "Now what?"

"Now you do this!" Kaoru said warmly, sliding across the frozen pond. She collided with Kenshin, knocking him into an oro-ing heap on the snow. With a grin, she offered him her hand. "Sorry 'bout that."

There was no sincerity in her tone, but Kenshin accepted the help nonetheless. This was just Kaoru's way of kidding around, he knew, of revisiting a time of childlike innocence, a need he could relate to. Truthfully, he wasn't entirely fond of the idea of falling onto the snow again. Still, he followed Kaoru's example…with a repeat faceplant at the end. "Oro…how might this one stop, Kaoru-dono?"

With a laugh, she pulled him back to his feet, gesturing to hers. "You can't. But falling works. Hey, at least the snow's soft, huh?"

"Oro."

It became something of a game, at Kaoru's lead; they would try to knock each other down onto the blanket of snow while trying to remain on the ice. (Kenshin usually let her win.) Kaoru developed a strategy that was almost always an effective way of stopping, though it made her feet very cold: she would dig her feet into the snow around the edge of the pond, which slowed her momentum somewhat. Still, she sometimes pitched forward; that couldn't be helped.

All good things had to come to an end. "It's getting too warm now," Kaoru said, her disappointment showing. "If we stay too long, the ice'll get thin."

"Well, maybe we could come back another time, Kaoru-dono."

"Mm. I'd like that. So…did you have fun?"

He smiled. There were lingering traces of sorrow in his eyes, in the way his face was set, but some of the usual warmth, and even some genuine happiness, had returned. "Winter is something that may grow on this one, given time."

"I'm glad." They walked on a little, before Kaoru bent down, as though inspecting something interesting on the ground. "Hey, Kenshin?"

"Hmm?" Kenshin turned around, only to be hit in the stomach by a large snowball. "Oro!"

"Got you!"

"Kaoru-dono, that's not fair!"

"Don't be a baby," she said, giving him a wicked grin and packing a second snowball. "All's fair in love and war, and this is war!"

"Oro…"

End "Ice Skating"

Author's Notes:

According to the Wikipedia article on ice-skating, it has been considered a sport worldwide since the eighteenth century. I'm unsure how much ice skates would have cost in the Meiji era, though. Since Kaoru's hardly rich, I don't imagine she would have a couple of pairs, so she'd probably resort to the next best method of practicing the art of falling on one's butt in the cold.

So, umm… Happy sweet sixteen, Lem-chan! May you eat much asparagus and pudding! (The latter with spoons, of course.) I know you love KxK, but a little (implied) KxT snuck in there, and I couldn't help myself… XD Hope you enjoyed nonetheless.