Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and all characters therein belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki.

A/N: I blame Scribbles for the conception of this piece.


High Maintenance


Kaoru sighed wearily as the reflective copper doors of the elevator slid closed in front of her with a faint thunk. Consciously relaxing her shoulders, she balanced the stack of files in her arms against her hip, and carefully curled her hand around the side to shift them securely to one arm. Once she was certain they weren't about to go scattering to the floor if she put her other hand to better use, she felt safe enough to bring it up to rub her aching temples.

On top of the already ridiculous hours she was putting in for quarter-end, today they'd figured out that a few of the brilliant minds in the research division had been consistently filing incorrect budget reports for almost eight months. Starting off her day with that meeting had been bad enough, but her already strained temper had very nearly bubbled over more than once at the endless excuses and accusations flying between the department heads. Holding it in when her biggest desire was to smack all their heads together and call it a day had left her completely drained and less than pleasant.

In the end, it had been easier to throw them all out and reassign cleaning up that mess to the already overworked finance division. Which, unfortunately, involved having to remind the all-too-smug chief financial officer that giving the researchers the responsibility of tracking their own records hadn't been her decision in the first place. But when that hadn't worked, reminding Sano that he would be the one who took the news of that incompetence to his pregnant wife, and watching the blood drain from his face in realization had done a fair job of making up for the added headache.

Whatever good the small victory had done vanished the second she stepped back into her office and just barely missed taking a folder to the face from a ranting Misao.

Patience gone, she'd been forced to bodily lift the slight girl and carry her out of her office before she'd been able to get anything else done.

What made matters worse, the sandals she snuck in to change out with her heels had "mysteriously" vanished from her bottom drawer. And while she was sure that someone had won money off seeing her successfully carry Misao without breaking her neck or the damn heels, it hadn't made her feet any happier.

A flicker of light snapped Kaoru's attention back to the present just in time for the elevator to make an ominous whirring sound and grind to a halt.

"You have to be kidding me," Kaoru muttered in disgust, automatically trying random buttons for a response. Glaring at the lights when they continued to dim to nearly nothing, she gave up on the buttons and crouched down as best she could manage in a pencil-skirt. Breathing deeply through her nose, she set the files safely on the floor, pointedly resisting the urge to smack the whole thing against the wall in a mild fit. It might make her feel better for a moment, but she knew well enough that having to sort everything in those stacks all over again would be more irritation than it was worth.

To make up for it, she settled for spitting out a few curses generally reserved for situations far, far removed from the office.

When she had finished, Kaoru took a deep breath to compose herself, and reached for the hatch to the security phone when a shock of cold metal against the side of her neck froze her in place.

"Let's not try that, hm?"

Kaoru slowly let her hand lower to rest on her thigh, gritting her teeth as she looked skyward in a silent prayer for patience. Only to blink and quirk her head in incredulity when she caught sight of a perfectly square patch of darker gloom in the corner of the ceiling. "You came in through the top of the elevator?"

A quiet chuckle sounded behind her just before a strong hand fisted in the ponytail and pulled her head back. "You're a smart girl. You can hardly expect an assassin to walk in the front door, can you?"

Kaoru cast a dry look over her shoulder, the corner of her lip twitching upward. "An assassin?"

The metal pressed more firmly against her neck. "You hand over your company secrets and I won't have to deliver you to your husband in pieces."


The hand in her hair tugged as the distinct sound of a throat clearing reached her senses.

"Husband," Kaoru corrected obediently.

"That's better."

Sighing, Kaoru shifted her weight and frowned in annoyance at the twinge that snaked across the arch of her foot. "I don't suppose a mighty, elevator-scaling assassin would happen to know where my sandals walked themselves off to, would he?"

There was a faint huff behind her. "Shouldn't you be more interested in negotiating with me for your safe release? I'm a very dangerous man."


"Electrical tape."

Blinking, Kaoru twisted a disbelieving look behind her. "Electrical tape?"

"I'm a very thorough assassin."

Kaoru blinked again before lifting one hand to cover her eyes. "I can't even look at you right now."

A leanly muscled arm wrapped around her waist as the assassin knelt behind her, dragging her off-balance until she lost her balance and fell against him. "That isn't very nice, sweetheart, I put a lot of thought into this."

"An assassin?" Kaoru got her feet underneath her to lean back into his chest more comfortably. When her "attacker" pressed an affectionate kiss behind her ear, she tilted her head into his touch. "Kenshin, you idiot, what were you thinking climbing around on top of an elevator? And how did you talk Shinomori-san into letting you do that?"

Kenshin shrugged, smiling against her neck. "I gave him the evening off."

"He really should know better by now," Kaoru observed absently.

"He's bitter because he had his money on Misao," Kenshin defended. Gently setting his sakabatou aside, he brought his hands down to her waist and lifted her into a better position on his lap. "I changed after he left."

"Because seeing you in your special pants and tabi boots would have tipped him off." Kaoru made a tsking sound and traced a finger along the familiar butter-soft leather hugging the lean definition of his thigh.

"I thought the mask might be overkill," Kenshin admitted.

She arched an eyebrow at the disappointment coloring his tone. "Saving that for home?"

"I was planning to kidnap you back up to the president's office and leave a warning to ensure his cooperation." He tapped her hip with the hilt of the sakabatou and nipped her shoulder.

"Let me guess."

"I hear your president is a very visual man."

Kaoru shook her head, reaching up to slide her fingers through Kenshin's hair, and not entirely surprised to feel it tied much higher than usual. "He's a dangerous one too, you know. I have that on good authority."

"That's why it's very important I send the message loud and clear." Kenshin gave her a squeeze before sliding his hand caressingly down her thigh. "My people said to be specific."

"Your people?" Kaoru just barely managed to hold in a laugh. Although admittedly, that may have had more to do with the way his fingers slipped under the hem of her skirt to stroke along the lace-top of her stockings.

"'People' sounds more ominous," Kenshin informed her matter-of-factly. "Ambiguity makes the enemy uncertain."

Kaoru gave his hair a yank in retaliation. "I'm taking away your espionage books when we get home."

"Now, Kaoru-love." Kenshin reached into his pocket and pulled out a slim, round disk. He gently depressed the top button until soft golden light flared up from the sides, brightly enough to see each other's faces more clearly. "I worked hard on this one! Heartless, sexy assassin versus the beautiful, loyal wife of a corporate rival."

"Fiancée," she corrected again.

Kenshin gave her a look and set the tiny light on the floor. "We're doing my fantasy right now and I say wife. Besides, it's a just a technicality."

"We have another month before the wedding, and that is only if I don't somehow come to my senses before then." Kaoru poked him in the chest, staring down in surprise at the stiffness of whatever he had on. Shaking off the confusion, she forced herself not to try looking closer before she could get caught up in questions that would likely only encourage his particularly elaborate plot.

Especially not with expectant look in his eyes.

Rolling her eyes, she moved her finger up to his forehead and poked him again.

Kenshin caught her hand, arching his eyebrow as his lip curled up in the little half-smile that she had long ago learned to associate with trouble. "I have backup plans if you get nervous."

Kaoru snorted at his interpretation of her threat. "Nerves would have nothing to do with it, 'heartless assassin.' And no, you are not showing me what you learned reading that Kinbaku book."

"Some of the techniques date back to the Sengoku era." Kenshin offered with a bright smile.

Kaoru covered her eyes again, sighing heavily at his enthusiasm. "I'm scheduling you another charity function. Something that requires long hours and extended trips out of the office to coordinate. With Shinomori-san," she emphasized when his eyes practically lit up with excitement.

His shoulders slumped in exaggerated dejection at being thwarted on that idea before he could even voice it. "I just planned a charity function last month."

"Trust me, if this is how you're spending your money and your free-time, it's time for another," Kaoru assured him.

Kenshin sighed, leaning back against the elevator wall with a hurt look that muted the sparkle in his eyes. "I thought it was good."

Kaoru turned a narrow-eyed glare on him. "Don't you even."

"I spent a lot of time making sure it would go smoothly," Kenshin continued, stroking his hand up and down over her hip in a coaxing gesture while he maintained the miserable expression. "And you've been so busy lately that you're coming home at strange hours, and you're always exhausted. I wanted to do something extra special for us."

Kaoru folded her arms over her chest and turned on his lap until she was looking straight into that perfectly crafted disappointment on his far too innocent face. "I am not falling for that again."

"I look good in these pants," Kenshin reminded her. At her unchanged look, he jostled her slightly in his lap. "Crazy, hot assassin," he let the end trail off in a questioning tone.

Kaoru couldn't stop herself from asking, "What happened to heartless and sexy?"

"I'm improvising."

Kaoru stared at him silently but that hopeful, adoring expression never so much as twitched. When he blinked and adjusted it to give her his most harmless, charming smile, she muttered under her breath, "Crazy isn't that much of a stretch."

Kenshin rubbed his cheek against hers affectionately and corrected, "I'm rich, so you have to say I'm eccentric."

"I handle your personal accounts and I say crazy," Kaoru informed him in a decidedly unimpressed tone.

"You said yes." Kenshin reached up and tapped a finger to the tip of her nose.

"Obviously not saying much about my own sanity." Kaoru caught his hand and pulled it down to her lap. "I maintain that you wore me down."

"You admire my brilliant persistence." Kenshin slid his thumb across her knuckles, brushing across the engagement ring, and lingering there to trace the skin below the band. "And I'm pretty."

Kaoru curled her fingers around his and leaned her head back against his shoulder. "At least I don't have to worry that our kids will ever have confidence issues."

Kenshin was quiet a moment before he turned her hand, pressing it onto her stomach and covering it with his own. Brushing a kiss to her temple, he murmured in her ear, "That dangerous husband of yours might get the message if you have the crazy assassin's baby."

"You will never in a million years get me to admit to getting pregnant when you're in one of these moods," Kaoru warned him sternly.

Kenshin's shoulders shook with laughter before the sound bubbled out despite his efforts to keep it contained. "No?"


"What if he's a very good assassin?" Kenshin teased.

Kaoru slanted him a sardonic look. "I'm very loyal to my husband, remember?"

Kenshin grinned at her in delight at the acquiescence to her part in his carefully planned fantasy. Not giving her a chance to take it back, he held her against him securely and rolled to his feet in a fluid motion that had one of her eyebrows kicking up in open suspicion. Stroking her hip to placate her, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the elevator's emergency key.

At the deprecating noise she made as soon as she saw it, Kenshin kissed her jaw again, slid the key into the proper slot, and turned it to override the stop. When the low hum of the motor to kicked on, he nuzzled her hair and pressed button for the top floor.

Kaoru shook her head. "I don't even want to know how you got security to agree to this stunt."

"I told them we were having dinner." Kenshin puffed his chest out proudly and stowed the key safely back in his pocket.

"In the elevator."

"Well… we were starting in the elevator," Kenshin amended.

If she thought it would have deterred him at all, she would have kicked him in the shin just to put a dent in the smugness practically radiating off him. "If they believed that ridiculous explanation, Shinomori-san is going to fire them in the morning."

"They know to come in and take the tape off the camera after we've gone back to my office." Kenshin waved that off dismissively. "Aoshi won't fire them unless they miss the ceiling door being open."

"That isn't exactly the biggest problem on my mind, you know." Kaoru looked down at her folders consideringly and tried to refigure how long it would take to work through them with Kenshin's "interruption."

Kenshin followed the line of her gaze and gave her a comforting squeeze. "Relax. They'll take those back to your office and we can pick them up on the way home. I'll help you catch up."

"You're breaking the no sex in the office rule," Kaoru reminded him.

"You said during regular hours," Kenshin pointed out. "And you only said I couldn't do the overbearing boss fantasy again until after quarter end."

The faint ping of the elevator reaching its floor saved Kaoru from getting dragged back into all the reasons why he'd been temporarily banned from that one. Although the tap of his sword's hilt against the small of her back almost convinced her it would be worth it. Instead, she shot a frown over her shoulder, only to nearly lose it all over again at the stoic expression on his face. When he winked and gestured out toward the floor, she had to bite her lip to contain a helplessly amused smile.

Kenshin pressed against her back and whispered in her ear, "No tricks now. Make sure it's clear and take me to your husband's office."

"You are the most shameless man that ever lived."

"Assassins have no need for shame," Kenshin replied loftily.

Shaking her head again, she made a show of looking out, even though it was more to be sure no one was around to see them and give the office gossip any more fuel than to indulge his orders. Satisfied with the deserted silence of the dimly lit the floor, she took a step out of the elevator and came to a startled stop when his hand caught her wrist.

"You're supposed to be leading me, remember?" Kenshin scolded.

Kaoru chuckled quietly to herself, sliding her hand down to lace her fingers with his.

Kenshin clucked his tongue in disapproval while twisting his hand to make it easier for her. "You're awfully affectionate for a loyal wife."

"Somehow I don't-" Kaoru trailed off when she glanced back and finally got a good look at what Kenshin had on.

Kenshin looked down at himself and back up at her in confusion. "What?"

"Just…" Kaoru stopped, her focus straying to the black rope looped over his shoulder before she decided some things were just better left unsaid. "Come on before someone sees you."

"What's wrong with how I look?" Kenshin pouted, but followed her docilely down the hall. "It's authentic."

"Oh it's something all right."

Kenshin was quiet again, but just as she reached for the handle of his office's door, he gave her hand a squeeze. Nudging her suggestively with his hip, he murmured in her ear, "I have a feeling you're trying to seduce me into letting you keep your company's secrets."

Kaoru didn't bother to hide her smile this time, following through to get the door open and bring them into the more secure privacy of his spacious office. "You do, do you?"

"Assassins are highly trained to resist all forms of persuasion," he drawled out in taunting warning. "Even beautiful, loyal wives."

Kaoru's brows rose at the bold claim and she tugged her hand out of his. Resting it on her hip, she gave him a thorough once over and very pointedly slid her gaze down his body and back up until their eyes met again. Satisfied she had his full attention, Kaoru brought her other hand to rest on her stomach and traced two fingers along the waist band of her skirt.

Lashes lowering, she drew a path up between her breasts until those same fingertips brushed over the first button of her blouse. And as she watched the telltale gold creep into his eyes, Kaoru's lips curled up in smug challenge.

She flicked the button open.

Wordlessly, Kenshin slammed the door behind him.