Disclaimer - Sadly, I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. It is the sole property of Nobuhiro Watsuki and the many companies who have purchased the rights.
Hi All. Well here it is, the first chapter of my new offering to the Rurouni Kenshin fandom. I know, didn't take much of a vacation did I? Anyway, this idea has been kicking around in my head for several months and I finally decided to put it to virtual paper. But before you decide to read I do have a couple of notes...
First, the disease Kaoru was born with is a real disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum Type A which is a rare and incurable genetic disorder that makes exposure to the sun, or any ultraviolet light, life-threatening. And one very important fact you need to know about this is the life expectancy of one with XP Type A is approximately twenty years and Kaoru is almost nineteen in this story. If you would like to know more about XP go to wikipedia dot com, they have a whole page about this disorder.
And the other thing I would like to tell you, and the main reason it took me so long to decide to go ahead with this story, is the fact that Kenshin and a few others are vampires. Before you roll your eyes and back click I would also like to say in this story's defense that him being a vampire is purely secondary to the overall story line. I needed him to be sympathetic to her plight and also possibly have the ability to make her greatest dream come true. But if you still can't get past the fact that he is indeed a vampire then I guess this story isn't for you.
Also one last thing I'd like to point out is this story is completely AU, although I am going to do my best to keep the characters IC.
So with all that said, on with the chapter. I hope you enjoy my latest creation.
A Walk in the Sunlight
Chapter 1 - An Unexpected Meeting
A great puff of steam wafted into the bathroom as the shower door effortlessly slid open, the heated air fogging the room even more. Kaoru smiled and stepped from the shower into the jasmine scented, steam-filled bathroom feeling completely refreshed. Now that was the best way to start a day, a nice hot shower did wonders for the soul. Sighing in contentment, she grabbed the towel from the counter and tucked it around herself before heading into her dimly lit bedroom. A shiver whispered over her skin as the cool air of the air conditioning hit her damp skin. Quickly toweling off, she threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and pulled her hair up into a ponytail with the pale blue ribbon resting on her dressing table.
Heading out of the bedroom, she wandered into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. She still hadn't gotten used to the extreme heat here or the need for air conditioning. At home they had never needed an air conditioner, the summers in Sapporo were just the right temperature.
Kaoru sighed as a pang of homesickness hit her again at the thought. Even though she'd been born in Okinawa it still didn't feel like home. She had to admit, though Okinawa was quite beautiful, she still missed Hokkaido. She missed the clean, crisp smell of the air, the cool breeze that would set the leaves to dancing merrily in the trees. Yes, the salt tang of the breeze here was nice, but nothing could compare to the soul cleansing wind that blew in the heart of winter in Hokkaido.
Stifling another sigh, she headed into the livingroom and flicked on the light. Grabbing the remote, she flipped to the weather and scowled as the weatherperson rattled off the forecast...
"Tonight will be a very balmy 75 degrees with a light breeze coming out of the east to keep it bearable. And tomorrow sunshine, nothing but clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. A great time to head out to the beach and enjoy the last few weeks of summer."
Flicking the TV back off, she shook her head. Sunshine. Were the gods out to get her or something? Snorting, she smiled, no just Sampson. If her fifteen year old black lab hadn't gotten to the point were the cold weather hurt his legs she would still be in Sapporo, but unfortunately that wasn't an option anymore. It was Okinawa or nothing for her aged pooch.
Tossing the remote onto the sofa, she dropped into the chair and stared at the blank screen. But it wasn't really Sampson's fault, he didn't understand. He really was a remarkable dog, so she couldn't fault him for their move. He had changed so much for her it was only right she let his last couple of years be comfortable. Shaking her head, she settled even further into the cushiony softness. What was truly surprising was the fact that Sampson had somehow managed to become nocturnal just for her. A small smile touched her lips at the tales her mother and father had told her of Sampson's first few months with her. Of the confused puppy who couldn't understand why his new friend always wanted to stay up all night and sleep during the day. It had taken him almost a year to adjust to her lifestyle, but once he had they'd become inseparable. Thanks to her illness, he was the only friend she'd ever had. Oh, she'd had the occasional friend who would come to play because they thought it would be 'neat' to stay up all night, but those friendships had only lasted a couple of weeks at most. It usually didn't take them long to shy away from her for fear that her disease would rub off on them.
Swallowing around the lump suddenly lodged in her throat, she shrugged off the loneliness. It didn't matter anyway, she wasn't alone. She had Sampson and now she even had Tae, the owner of the small seaside restaurant she worked the overnight shift at. Little did Tae know just what kind of gift she had given her when she'd hired her. And that was another reason why she'd left Hokkaido, the stifling attention her parents lavished on her in an attempt to make what little bit of life she had left happy. At least what they thought would make her happy, but truly only two things would make her happy and that was freedom and sunshine. One she'd finally managed to guilt her parents into giving her, but the other she knew, was forever beyond her reach and yet...
Letting her eyes wander over the paintings, filled with bright sunshine, lining the walls of her livingroom, she sighed. If there was one thing she would love to feel before she died, it was the sun. There was absolutely nothing she wouldn't give to be able to just once feel its warm rays dance across her skin. Stifling a sigh she shrugged and shook her head, maybe in her next life Kami-sama would see fit to allow her the sun and a full life to enjoy it. Until then, there was no use dwelling on something she had no power to change, the sun would always be beyond her reach and nothing would ever change that.
The sigh she'd tried to keep in check escaped against her will and she pushed out of the chair. Heading into the foyer she slipped on her sneakers and grabbed the leash on the small table just inside the door, "Sampson, it's time to go."
A muffled thump, thump, thump greeted her statement as Sampson made his way in from the side porch and then she was accosted by her ninety pound best friend. Dropping to her knees, she hugged him tight and endured his enthusiastic licks. Smiling, she fended him off and scratched his head, "Ok... ok... I love you too." Standing, she snapped on his leash and headed for the door, "Come on before it gets too late. I do have to work tonight."
Sampson eagerly danced through the open door and tugged on the leash to urge her to follow. Smiling, she shook her head, even though he was almost fifteen years old he was still as healthy as a horse except for the arthritis that had settled into his back legs. At this rate he'd outlive her.
Sobered by the thought, she shoved the possibility from her mind and stepped out into the warm night air. It didn't matter if he did or not, her mother and father would look after him for her, of that she was sure. Heaving a sigh at the dark thoughts, she quietly closed the door behind her and headed toward the park a half mile up the road. Glancing up, she let a small smile play across her lips at the moon hanging high in the sky; her gentle rays chasing away the heaviness in her soul.
At least she had the moon. With her to brighten the path, all her worries could fade... at least for a little while.
Kenshin lsmiled as he watched his elusive, raven-haired neighbor step quietly out into the pale moonlight and start toward the small park a short way up the road to town. Stepping lightly from his own porch he trailed behind her, as he had several times over the last couple of weeks since she'd caught his attention.
It had come as quite a surprise to find the house beside his occupied when he'd returned from his yearly visit to his beloved's grave. Quite a surprise indeed. For as long as he'd lived in this quaint town in the southern reaches of Okinawa that house had stood empty. When he'd first purchased his own house eighteen years ago, he'd asked around to see who owned the one next door and if they would be coming back anytime soon. The only thing he'd ever been able to learn of its owners was that the couple who had lived there had closed it up tight shortly after their child was born, and had vanished without a trace. He'd found the whole thing rather strange, but once that information had come to light he hadn't thought much of the empty house or its vanished family. Instead he had settled into the nice, quiet life he'd been desperately searching for.
Ah, but that had all changed one warm summer night two weeks ago.
That night he'd come home tired from the long journey to Kyoto to find the shutters removed from the windows and a thin stream of light filtering through the extremely heavy curtains hanging in their place. Curious, he'd wandered around the house to investigate and much to his surprise had found this woman lying on her back in the backyard staring up at the stars. Her skin so pale it gleamed in the light of the half moon riding in the sky.
His interest had immediately been piqued and he had settled onto his own back porch to watch her. The entire night she'd wandered around the yard, weeding the overgrown flower beds and playing with her oversized black lab in the balmy summer weather until finally, just before the first rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon, she had slipped inside. Slightly surprised, he had waited all day to see if she would surface again, but it had taken him another two days before he'd finally managed to catch her again. As before, he'd found her in her yard in the dead of night. And, as he had the time before, he had watched her until the rain had finally driven her inside. Ever since then she'd ensnared his entire attention, and he found himself waiting for her to put in an appearance once the sun dropped completely over the horizon.
And that was what had caught and held his undivided attention. Her complete avoidance of the sun.
His eyebrow cocked as she skirted a street lamp, instead keeping to the shadows. She truly was an enigma. Never had he seen anyone live as she did. Over the last couple of weeks since he'd first seen her, he'd watched her live her life in the dark of night. Not once had he seen her out in the plentiful sunshine Okinawa offered. She even worked the graveyard shift at the small restaurant he liked to frequent by the beach. He found it quite odd that someone would choose to live in the dark, as his kind did. At least most of his kind, he himself had been able to walk in the sunlight for many years now because of his love for Tomoe.
A slight twinge of pain shot through his heart at the thought of his long dead wife. Ignoring the dull throb materializing in his chest, he silently weaved his way from one shadow to another. If only the old witch had told him just what would happen once he took the concoction he wouldn't have done what he'd done all those years ago and maybe Tomoe could have led a full happy life, like she should have.
Grimacing at the shot of pain that speared his heart again, Kenshin only half paid attention to the world around him as he kept pace with his raven haired neighbor. Even though it had been over a hundred years since that night, he still felt her loss as keenly as he had all those years ago. She would always remain a constant reminder of the terrible mistake he had made. A mistake that had cost him more than anything else had in his life.
All of a sudden, he was shocked back to the present as a guttural growl rumbled into the quiet night, the sound making the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Immediately fixing his entire attention on the pair in front of him, he was shocked to find himself staring into the furious gaze of her big black lab. Stunned, he vanished into the shadows as the object of his curiosity swung around and scanned the empty road behind her.
Holding his breath, he simply watched as she scanned the road and surrounding area; quietly admonishing the still growling dog beside her. How the hell could he have let himself get close enough for her dog to notice? Was he slipping in his old age? Shaking his head at the thought, he waited until she was satisfied she was alone and continued on to the park. It was because of that damn dog that he'd kept his distance, even though he was dying to know exactly what she was. He knew she wasn't one of his kind, but he also knew she wasn't like normal humans. There was something different about her that he couldn't pin down. And thanks to her ever faithful dog it was very unlikely he'd ever get the chance to find out.
Heaving a sigh, he shook his head, it was probably better that they didn't meet anyway. The less people he came into contact with the better. If the truth be told, it was time for him to leave this area and start new somewhere else. The longer he stayed here the better chance that they would find him, and he wasn't ready to be found yet. No, not yet.
And still, he wasn't sure he'd be able to leave. There was something about her that wouldn't leave him alone, something that nagged at him night and day. What it was, he couldn't say. But unfortunately one of his many downfalls was his insatiable curiosity which had, over the years, led him into all kinds of trouble.
Smiling ruefully, he watched her hesitantly begin down the road again, slowly fading into the darkness. Admitting defeat, he decided to take a different route to the park. Who would have thought her dog to be that perceptive? But really it didn't matter, he was still going to quietly watch her until either her novelty wore off, or he finally managed to figure out exactly what she was. Whichever came first.
Grinning at the thought, he shook his head and sped down a little used path toward the park. What was the saying he'd heard so many times over the years?
Ah yes... curiosity killed the cat.
Kaoru shivered as the feeling of being watched continued to whisper over her skin. Casting another hooded glance over her shoulder, she scowled at the empty road behind her. She was almost tempted to turn around and go back home. Something felt off, there was an eerily ominous feel to the stifling heat tonight. Scoffing at her fear, she shoved the thought from her mind and clutched Sampson's leash a little tighter. She had never, in her entire life, been afraid of the dark. But then again Sampson had never acted like that before either, which wasn't helping. Something was definitely different tonight.
Scowling, she did her best to regain her earlier calm and focused her attention on the entrance to the park less than a hundred yards away. It was probably just her imagination anyway, so there was no need to blow it out of proportion. Maybe it was the full moon riding high in the hazy night sky; she'd always been told that things tended to get a bit strange when there was full moon.
Satisfied that was the case, she let her worries slip away and guided Sampson into the park; heading towards their favorite spot on the other side of the small statue situated a short way from the entrance. She loved this park, this one place was worth all the hardship she had to endure avoiding the plentiful sunshine Okinawa offered. Because here, beneath the moon and star-filled sky, she could let Sampson roam free for a little while. Something he hadn't been able to do in the busy city of Sapporo.
Coming to the statue, she started to guide them around it when, all of a sudden, Sampson nearly yanked her off her feet as he pulled the leash taught and started to growl and bark. Startled, Kaoru fisted her hand tight around the stiff handle and dug in her heels.
"Sampson! What are you doing?!" She growled, trying to keep a hold of him. Her only answer was another bark and then he put his full weight into it and yanked the leash out of her hand. A hiss of pain ripped from her throat as he took off across the park, vanishing into the darkness.
Ignoring the dull throb radiating out from the abrasions on her hand, she took off after him, following his barks towards the very back of the park. Her heart jumped into her throat when his angry barks all of a sudden changed to a feral, guttural growl. Surprised, she picked up her pace as his snarl became deeper and more threatening. Spying him under a tree a couple hundred yards away, she broke into a run. Why in God's name was he growling at a tree?
Coming to her enraged pooch, Kaoru grabbed his leash again and scanned the darkness beneath the trees in an effort to find what he was staring at. Searching the inky blackness, she gave Samson a tug and was just about to scold him for his unusual behavior when she was all of a sudden assaulted by the feeling that she wasn't alone. Unnerved, she frantically searched for whatever was lurking in the shifting shadows beneath the small grove of trees and nervously tugged on Sampson's leash, "Come on, Sa-"
"It seems I have upset your dog."
Kaoru's eyes flew wide and she screamed as the disembodied voice cut her off. Stumbling backwards, she managed to keep herself upright only by sheer force of will. Holding on tight to Sampson's leash, she used his rigid stance to halt her fall," Gah!... What are you trying to do?! Kill me?!"
Nothing but silence met her irritated questions, and she had to resist the urge to growl herself.
Finding her balance, she straightened and pinned the now visible shadowed figure with a hard glare. "What are you doing lurking in the shadows? Come out here where I can see you, or I'll let Sampson have you."
A light chuckle whispered into the quiet night and the figure took a step out from under the trees into the soft moonlight. Kaoru's eyes widened in shock as they settled on the stranger's gleaming red hair, and then her world narrowed as she met the abashed, yet curious violet gaze fixed on her.
"I meant no harm. Forgive me."
Another threatening growl rumbled out of her fiercely protective best friend and Kaoru snapped back to herself. Tugging on his leash again, she tried in vain to make him stand down. "Sampson, stop! What's wrong with you?"
The stranger chuckled again and Kaoru found herself shivering at the haunting hollowness of the sound.
"It's not his fault. I don't have an affinity for dogs and he knows it." Bowing slightly, the redheaded stranger flashed her a quick smile and made to move past her. "I should go before he decides I truly am a threat. I'm sorry for interrupting your nightly stroll."
Stunned, Kaoru simply let him pass until it dawned on her just what he'd said. Spinning around, she shouted, "Wait! How do you know I take him for a walk every night?"
A small smile that didn't reach his eyes whispered across the stranger's lips. "You have no idea who I am, do you?"
Kaoru scowled at his tone, "And exactly how am I supposed to know that?"
The strange man quirked an eyebrow and pinned her with an intense stare that cut right through her. "It's not safe for one to not know their neighbors. But then again, maybe in this case it would be best if you didn't."
And with that he quietly made his way from the park, leaving her to stare after his retreating form in stunned silence. Neighbor? What did he mean by neighbor? She didn't have any that she knew of. The house beside hers was empty... wasn't it? She vaguely felt Sampson relax as the fiery haired stranger vanished around the corner and then she was brought back to reality when a rough tongue flicked over the back of her hand.
Shaking her head, she glanced down to look into the chocolate brown eyes fixed on her, "Well, that was weird, wasn't it, buddy." Absently scratching his head, she glanced again to the empty entrance across the length of the park, "I think it would be best if we stayed away from this so called neighbor, what do you think?"
Sampson barked in agreement and she smiled, "Sounds like we have the same opinion." Flashing a quick glance to her watch, Kaoru hissed, "Oh, man. I'm going to be late for work!" Without another thought Kaoru tugged on Sampson's leash and broke into a jog heading for home. Tae wasn't going to be happy. It was Saturday night and from what her boss had said they would likely be swamped. She'd been quite surprised to find that this part of Okinawa was a favorite vacation spot, but then again, she had to admit she'd never seen anyplace quite as beautiful either.
And then another thought hit her as she jogged down the road toward home. Maybe she should ask Tae who this redheaded, violet eyed man was. As far as she knew, Tae had lived in this area her whole life so maybe she would know. Smiling at the possibility, she filed it away until she reached the Akabeko and picked up her pace. Sampson was definitely feeling better, it had been years since she'd had to speed up to keep up with him.
Kenshin sighed and jammed his hands into his pockets as he slowly made his way back down the far side of the road toward home. What had he been thinking when he'd spoken up like that? He could have simply vanished, instead of making his presence known.
A light, rhythmic thumping from behind him caught his attention and he cast a quick glance over his shoulder. He froze as his eyes settled on the object of his curiosity running headlong down the opposite side of the road, her dog only paces in front of her. Blending into the shadows, he watched them pass and shook his head as his heart sped up slightly at the sight.
Oh, he knew the reason why he'd made himself known. It had been years since he'd been that close to a human, let alone a woman. The gentle scent of jasmine still tickled his nose, teasing his senses, reminding him of what he had given up so long ago.
Heaving a sigh, he stepped from the shadows and watched her vanish from sight. Yes, it would be best to leave her alone and follow through with his plan to leave. He'd be playing with fire if he stayed, a fire that was likely to burn him again as it had all those years ago.
A fire that, once lit, would likely consume them both.
And there you have it. I hope this introductory chapter has piqued your interest and you will continue to follow as I weave this story into, what I hope, will be my best yet.
Also, please review. I would love to know what you think of this new story, be it good, bad or indifferent.