Disclaimer - I don't own Rurouni Kenshin or any of the 'Lethal Weapon' movies.
Chapter 10 - Awkward
-"Hi, Kenshin!" Kaoru said as he opened his front door the morning after the wedding. They'd both gotten back from the reception in the early morning hours, so she wasn't surprised to see him wearing that horrible green dolphin pattern t-shirt and a pair of plaid pajamas that clashed atrociously. At least he'd stopped wearing the shirt in public.
Kenshin looked surprised to see her. "I thought you'd still be asleep. I only got six hours."
"No, I'm alright." On cue, Kaoru had to cover up a yawn.
Kenshin shot her a skeptical look.
"Aren't you going to let me in?" Distraction was the best policy sometimes.
"Oh, sorry." He stood aside and Kaoru walked past him, catching a whiff of what she'd always assumed was the soap he used in the shower.
"You're not going anywhere today are you?" she asked, although he never did if he changed back into pajamas after his morning shower. Kenshin had gone to college in LA and picked up the habit of wearing pajamas all day, although he never did outside of his apartment.
"I was going to drop by later, but since you're here, I guess I'm in for today." He glanced past her out the window. It was pouring. The rain drumming against his window made for comforting background noise.
"Good," Kaoru said, and because they weren't just friends anymore, because they hadn't really been for a while now, she took a step closer, stood on her toes, and kissed him quickly, before she lost her nerve.
Instantly, her face felt like a few brushfires had just flamed to life, which was ridiculous because she like-liked Kenshin and he like-liked her back, so there was no reason to be shy. Somehow, Kaoru managed to resist staring down at the ground like an inexperienced middle schooler, but maybe she shouldn't have stopped the analogy there, because she'd just used the term 'like-liked' in a sentence. Twice.
But all that didn't matter, because when she'd come out of shock enough to focus on the man standing in front of her, he was grinning like the cat who'd swallowed the canary.
"I knew I liked this shirt."
Just as quickly as they'd started, the brushfires were doused and Kaoru felt the color lift from her face. "It had nothing to do with the shirt."
Kenshin shook his head. "Oh, it's got everything to do with the shirt."
"I don't even like that shirt."
"But if you can kiss me while I'm wearing this shirt, you must like me a lot."
Kaoru looked at a particular green dolphin that looked like it was about to bite the tail of the one in front of it. She shook her head. Maybe he'd spill something on it sometime in the near future. "You're right about that, Kenshin." She would have turned away to walk into the living room at that moment, feeling just the tiniest bit disappointed, mind you, but in the moment before she turned Kenshin reached out and took her hand.
"This isn't going to be awkward, is it?" he asked quietly.
Her heart started beating faster. She watched as he looked down at their joined hands. "Probably," she said. "At first."
"I guess you're right," he said and pulled her hand a little so their arms were stretched between them in a 'V'. He looked up and met her eyes and there went her heart again.
"Just the first five minutes," Kaoru said and gave his hand a light squeeze.
"What happens after that?"
She took a step towards him. "You'll realize I'm not going to back out of this."
He dropped her hand in favor of putting his hands at her waist and tugging her the rest of the way toward him. "So you'll realize I'm not backing out either?"
Kaoru reached up and put her arms around his shoulders. "It might sink in by then. I think I'm insecure."
"Yeah right." He closed his eyes, confusing her, and leaned down until his forehead touched hers. "Don't be insecure about me, Kaoru."
She kept her eyes open for a moment, then sighed in contentment and closed hers as well. There was something about this moment, about the rain that still thrummed against the window, about this man. Maybe their five minutes were up early.
A few days later they sat curled together on the couch watching one of the Lethal Weapon movies, Kaoru wasn't sure which. The popcorn was in her lap and she was in Kenshin's, and that was still so new and exciting that she couldn't concentrate on the movie. It was all she could do just to stay calm. Every ten minutes ago she'd realize just where she was and who she was with and her heart would start beating double time until she did deep breathing exercises just to fight the urge to jump up and scream because she was so happy. And then there was the rain, reassuring on the window, always the rain.
She already loved how aware of her Kenshin was. He'd kiss her every now and then, or tap his fingers in a pattern up and down her leg, or finger the ends of her hair. Just because of that she'd never cut it pixie short again. Kaoru had a feeling Kenshin's mind wasn't fully on the movie either.
"The other day, after the wedding, why'd you come over so early? I meant to ask you."
"I came over at ten." But she knew what he meant.
"But you got home at three." He tugged lightly on a lock of her hair. "And you like to sleep in on Saturdays… So?"
Kaoru laughed. "It's stupid."
"I want to know." She could hear the smile in his voice.
"Okay. When I woke up Sunday morning, for some reason I couldn't believe Megumi was really married. I saw the bridesmaid's dress in the chair by the bed where I'd left it, but somehow, I couldn't believe it."
He leaned forward and smothered a laugh into her hair. "That is stupid."
Kaoru tried to hit him, but the angle was all wrong. "So after I did the morning thing I came down to see you and ask you if it all really happened. But of course the second I saw you I knew it had. And that story is not stupid. I think I had part of my mid-life crisis."
"You're not even thirty yet."
"Details, Kenshin, details."
Two weeks and five days after the wedding, the day before Megumi and Sano were due to return from their honeymoon, Kenshin held up a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. "You want one?"
Kaoru shook her head. "The sugar makes my milk gritty."
He shrugged and put the box back on the shelf. "And why is that a bad thing?"
"I don't like gritty milk." She pushed her shopping cart down the aisle, towards the frosted shredded wheat. It was on sale, so she put three boxes in her cart. She looked up to find Kenshin watching her with a raised eyebrow.
"What?" She refused to acknowledge the fact that she just might be acting a little grumpy, emphasis on the 'might'. "I'm trying to eat healthier."
"I think all the frosting kind of negates the shredded wheat."
He was probably right, but she didn't feel like acknowledging that fact either. "You're not a doctor, Kenshin."
"I used to work for a medical school."
"Get back to me when you're an M.D."
Kenshin idly observed a toddler trying to escape from the kids' seat of a shopping cart when his mother's back was turned. "Or I could just wait until Megumi gets back from her honeymoon in three days and ask her. I'd save a fortune on med school bills."
He was practical, she'd give him that. "You weren't supposed to take me seriously."
He grinned. "I didn't." He softened the words by sliding an arm around her waist and coaxing her to move in close to him. "How are you with public displays of affection?"
"I always thought it was gross when people made out in front of me in high school." The mother of the restless toddler turned around and stopped her child from vaulting out of the shopping cart just in time. Kaoru and Kenshin turned the cart into the next aisle.
"And yet," Kenshin said thoughtfully, "I distinctly recall you frenching me in a parking lot."
Kaoru shrugged. "I was caught up in the moment." They were in the aisle with toothpaste.
"Or dazzled by my bright, white smile. The world may never truly know."
Kaoru decided to ignore that and scanned the products quickly. She didn't want to be here for long. "I know grocery shopping is boring, and I'm sorry I dragged you along, but I'll be done soon." Wow, that speech had sounded like she was talking to a kid or something. The day had taken a toll on her.
"Where'd you get that idea from, Kaoru? This is the perfect ending to our date," Kenshin said lightly.
Kaoru had to smile at that. They bypassed a couple aisles and turned into one with paper towels. "That was not a date."
Kenshin removed his arm from around her waist and stood back to look at her. "Then what was it?"
"An outing. Helping you run a fair to make money for your company isn't a date. And I resent the fact that you made me sit in the dunking booth for two half-hour shifts."
"It was ninety degrees outside. You dried off in ten minutes."
"That little punk wearing the bright blue shirt dunked me eight times," Kaoru said as she picked up a roll of paper towels and moved on.
"Well it wasn't all fun and games for me either," Kenshin teased.
"Yeah right," Kaoru scoffed.
"Running a pie eating contest is harder than it looks."
"Your three leftover pies are sitting in the car right now."
"I almost got thrown up on," Kenshin reminded her, stopping to stand in the middle of the aisle for dramatic emphasis.
Kaoru kept going. "You were ten feet away."
"That was projectile vomiting!"
Kaoru rolled her eyes and glanced back to see Kenshin trailing after her. "You owe me one for today."
He sighed. "Anything you want, dear, although do I think carrying your groceries back to your apartment for you should count."
"You were going to do that anyway. And what's with the 'dear'? We're not fifty."
"It's a term of endearment," Kenshin said, mock haughtily. I'm experimenting with them, my oh so sweet darling one."
Kaoru wrinkled her nose. "Ew."
Kenshin adopted a hurt expression. "Something wrong, puddin' pop?"
"I do not, and have never in my life, borne the slightest resemblance to a pudding pop, or anything made out of pudding." A middle aged man pushing a cart filled with party supplies shot them an amused glance as he passed them.
"Yes, honeybunch, of course you don't look like pudding."
"That sounded slightly condescending."
"It's all in your head, lovely."
Well, she kind of liked that one. "Let's just go. I think I've got everything I need."
"As you wish, buttercup."
She paused and gave him a hard look as he caught up to her. He winked.
"Maybe I shouldn't have forced you to watch 'The Princess Bride'," Kaoru admitted, half to herself, "but that was revenge for taking me paint-balling again. You know I'm horrible at that."
Kenshin winced. "I thought you'd learned from last time. But look," he reached behind her head, "the dunking booth water washed out the last of the green paint in your hair."
Kaoru froze. "There was still green paint in my hair?"
"I thought you knew."
Kaoru stared at him in shock.
Kenshin started speed walking to the front of the store.
Kaoru's hand flew to the back of her head. She'd been at that fair for a good three hours before it had been her shift for the dunking booth. Her only hope was that she never saw any of the people who'd gone to the fair again. She pushed her cart past an elderly woman. Fluorescent green paint on the back of her head! How the heck had she missed that one? And why hadn't Kenshin told her? She was going to kill him.
Kaoru marched around the corner of the aisle to the cashier lines. No Kenshin. If he was smart, he'd have gone outside to bring the car around to the entrance. Trying not to look too foreboding, considering there were small children present, Kaoru pushed her shopping cart to the end of the first open checkout line. The store was crowded today, but she didn't feel like searching for the line with the least customers only to have it be the first line she'd picked. It was that kind of day.
Two hands covered her eyes and Kenshin said in her ear, "I was just kidding about your hair, muffin."
Well that was weight off her shoulders. Kaoru pushed his hands away so she could see and turned to face him. "I believed you." She grudgingly let him put his hands at her waist and pull her towards him.
"I know," Kenshin said with a smile. "I'll make that up to you too, if you'll hang out with me tonight."
In the end, she really couldn't resist that smile, or the way he looked at her. Kaoru smiled and reached up to finger a few strands of the red hair that framed his face. "I thought it was you that was hanging out with me."
He pushed them back a couple steps as the line moved forward. Kaoru's body rolled the shopping cart forward in line a couple feet. "Whatever you want, baby love."
Kaoru laughed and completely forgave him for making her work the dunking booth. "When are you going to stop calling me corny names?"
"When I find the one that turns you on, sweetheart." He leaned forward to kiss her, but she pushed him back a little.
"Well it's not 'sweetheart'. That makes me think of frilly Valentine 's Day cards."
Kenshin frowned. "The ones with lace, right?"
"You hit the nail on the head, sugar pie."
He grinned. "I thought you were against corny names, dumpling."
"I was being sarcastic."
"Of course," he said.
Then they had one of those moments where you just stare at each other and it feels like forever in your time, but it's actually a split second for the rest of the world. It was a relief in a way, because this was the first of their moments and she hadn't known she'd been waiting for one until it came.
It was one of those moments that's sweetly sickening, if you're on the outside looking in. Sweet because it's like-like, maybe even love-like. Sickening because there was a time, is a time, will be a time when you don't have that connection and in your mind, you tell them to 'go get a room' or 'I did not need to see that'. You'll read about it or watch it on TV, but you don't want to see it there in front of you. But it's sweet again because there was a time, is a time, will be a time when you'll be happy for that couple. That's it: just happy.
Kaoru reached an arm up around Kenshin's neck and kissed him. He kissed her back. Light. Silly. Smiling.
They were in public after all.
A/N - This is the end of the story for us, if not for this version of Kenshin and Kaoru. I am sorry the last chapter was late in coming. I had a case of writer's block, but I really enjoyed writing this story because it was so happy and lightweight most of the time. I hope you enjoyed reading it as well.