Some Beach, Somewhere

There was something romantic about sitting on a beach, watching the sun spread fingers of light above the horizon, and wrapped in an oversized sweatshirt. The gentle sea breeze and the rhythmic pounding of the surf stirred her blood and she sighed, wrapping her arms around her raised knees and, taking a deep breath, closed her eyes as the scent of salt, sunscreen, and the faint trace of men's cologne filled her nose.

The sky lightened and Kaoru opened her eyes, just barely able to see the edge of the sun over the curve of the horizon. Brilliant colors painted the sky. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was romantic. She couldn't stop the melancholy sigh that escaped her. It would've been perfect if she had a man with her. Several yards behind her, past the sand dunes, sat the small beach house she and the rest of her friends were renting for their final spring break of their college lives. No one else was awake and, for the moment, she was alone with her thoughts. Perhaps Megumi was right and she should tell him. He was single still. Both Megumi and Misao swore he was. She bit her lip, her eyes on the undulating surf a few feet away. She was running out of time. In just a few short weeks they'd graduate and all go their separate ways. Not that friendships would cease but—

Now she was depressing herself. Debbie Downer. Movement down the beach caught her eye and she turned, squinting. A runner by the looks of it. A quick glance over the ocean assured her the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Who was the sorry, fool who got up so early just to run? Never mind the fact that she'd been awake way before dawn as well. The runner slowed as they drew nearer and Kaoru gasped, confused. She'd thought no one else in the house was awake but she'd recognize that shade of hair anywhere. She could tell the moment he noticed her. He'd had his eyes on the water before turning toward the house and she saw him start with surprise before raising a hand in greeting. She returned the wave, unable to stop the smile that spread across her face. He stopped in front of her, a grin tugging at his lips and a spark in his eyes that made her heart flutter. "You're up early, Miss Kaoru."

He'd forgone a shirt for his early morning run and Kaoru had the guilty pleasure of allowing her eyes to trace over toned muscles as she looking up to meet his eyes. "I could say the same about you."

He laughed, dropping down beside her, unmindful of the sand sticking to damp skin. She turned her head to look at him, resting her cheek against her knees. She blushed at the smile he sent at her, her cheeks heating as his gaze swept over her. "Is that my sweatshirt?"

She gave him a cheeky grin. "You weren't using it. Do you want it back?"

He raised an eyebrow, glancing down at his sweaty torso. Her blush deepened as she followed his gaze to his chest before meeting his eyes again. "You can keep it for now."

"Thanks."

He nodded, leaning back on his elbows in the sand and turning his eyes to the horizon. Kaoru returned her eyes to the sunrise, contentment spreading through her chest. It was nearly perfect. She glanced at the young man lounging next to her, a small sigh coming to her lips. If only she had the courage to say something.

"I like dawn."

His voice startled her and she straightened, looking down at him. "What?"

His eyes flickered to her but remained on the ocean. "There's something promising about the beginning of the day." He met her eyes again, his gaze steady. "Makes you feel like the possibilities are endless."

The breath caught in her throat. What was he saying? Was she jumping to conclusions? The silence stretched between them. Her heart pounded in her ears, nearly drowning out the sound of the surf. Perhaps this was her opportunity. She blinked and he turned his face back to the horizon, his eyes closed and apparently relaxed. She took a steadying breath, licking suddenly dry lips. "Kenshin?"

He hummed quietly, acknowledging the question in her voice. Her heart raced and nerves attacked her stomach. She hoped she wasn't going to be sick. That would probably be one of the most embarrassing experiences of her life. She released a shaky breath and dropped her arms from her knees, turning towards him. She placed her hands flat in the sand next to him, leaning closer, her eyes intent on his face. "Kenshin, I—"

His eyes cracked open, meeting hers. Her words caught in her throat and she just stared. Violet and gold swirled in the depths of his gaze and she swallowed, her mind going blank. She was so close she could feel the heat of his skin and the soft caress of his breath. Her body refused to close the scant inches and her tongue felt clumsy as she tried to form words. "I—"

"Kaoru! Kenshin! Breakfast is ready! You better hurry before Sano eats it all!"

Kaoru gasped, throwing herself away from Kenshin and scrambling to her feet, never noticing the tight grimace on the redhead's face. She hurried towards the boardwalk, shaking sand from her clothes and trying to calm the blush burning her cheeks. She'd been so close. If only Misao hadn't interrupted she would've...she would've... Her blush intensified. She would've kissed him. She sighed. Her courage was gone now and she felt incredibly stupid. Kenshin appeared at her side, smiling brightly as if nothing awkward had occurred. "Shall we join them, Miss Kaoru? I bet you're hungry, that you are."

She returned the smile half-heartedly but Kenshin didn't seem to notice. He held the door open for her and she stepped through with depressed spirits. So much fro the promise of new beginnings. She didn't know if she could gather that much courage for a second time in one day.


AN: Okay, since I wasn't really too fond of where I stopped it with the last chapter (and I know some of you are inclined to agree), I'm posting this chapter. Yes, I wrote this in two hours (or less, I'm not really sure when I started this) and therefore, it may suck. I really wanted to title this "Ass in the Sand" but I didn't think that was allowed in the rules or something... not sure. Anyway, I want to thank all my awesome readers/reviewers for sticking with me for so long. I really never planned on making this any longer than the original oneshot that started it all. You guys are the best and I appreciate your encouragement along the way. I think this one is the last one since I believe it's a better lead in for chapter 1 than chapter 21 was. As always, let me know what you think! Did I leave off at a better point? Is it any good or should I send it forever into the cyber trashbin and try again? Was the development of Kaoru's feelings too unbelievably fast?

AN2: Word prompt is #017 Beach