Author's Note: Poor Kenshin will be the victim of yet another one of my fics. This is almost pointless, but I hope it will stir a few hearts. Kenshin and Kaoru rule, and I do wish that their eventual marriage in the manga (Did I spoil that for anyone? Oops! Sorry!) had a bit more WAFF to it.
As is my tradition, OOCiness will rule again. OOCiness is the spice of fanfiction life.
Standard disclaimers apply.
Mind of the Woman
Part I: Shallow
I peeked through the veil of my red hair to stare at Kamiya Kaoru, the woman I have sworn to protect to my dying day.
I have known her for almost two years now, and yet the purity she exudes never ceases to amaze me. And her eyes…Kami-sama those eyes are so soulful that sometimes I could drown in them. Strange that in spite of what everyone says, that her sapphire pools reflect every nuance and emotion she has, I couldn't really read her all that well.
True, I know when she is happy. I know when she is miserable, but the depths of her are still a mystery to me. She goes about life like she hadn't a care in the world, yet I could not believe that nothing bothered her. Even if she showed anxiety, it is not the kind of melancholy all the rest of us are so prone to take.
Had she been so sheltered in her earlier years that she could not comprehend the meaning of tragedy? If that is so, then I really am unworthy of her. Who am I to destroy that bliss? Who am I to tarnish her clear view of life? I could not take that away from her, ever. Never.
Face it rurouni, this one's too good for you.
I sighed, sipping the tea Misao had placed before me on the table.
"Himura, you're beginning to look like Aoshi-sama over there," Misao said to me in her usual cheerful drawl. Her long and black braided hair bounced and whipped at my face. "You're not going to start meditating on me, are you?"
Kaoru giggled and Aoshi gave a grunt of disapproval.
Boy, that hair whipping could get annoying.I flashed a smile and put down my teacup. "Maa…can't a man be alone with his thoughts and not be accused of becoming 'Aoshi-sama'?" I asked playfully.
Aoshi's frown deepened and he tucked his arms more firmly across his chest. He said nothing, as was his wont and took everything in with his usual calculating detachment.
Talk about mysteries of the universe…I thought with a shake of my head.
"Shinomori-san, Okina-san expressly instructed me in his letter to keep you away from any more ponderous activities," Kaoru said with an easy smile. "Won't you humor a tired old man?"
His "pondering" saved your life, love,I surmised tenderly, wanting to reach out and brush a lock of hair that had tumbled to her forehead. Enishi almost succeeded in his revenge. If it weren't for Aoshi, all would have been lost.
Aoshi only gave a grunt of response while Misao rolled on the floor in laughter.
"Jiya? Tired old man?" Misao shrieked. "Oh, that's simply priceless!"
I chuckled and gave Kaoru an amused look.
Kaoru merely rolled her eyes around, not the least bit offended. "Okay, bad choice of words, but you know what I mean. Shinomori-san, you must relax. The Oniwabanshu's worried about you."
Aoshi was as immovable as ever.
I watched the scene before me in silence, my smile veiling my troubled thoughts. Kaoru, you are young, so optimistic about life. It would be asking too much to make you understand the workings of a mind such as Aoshi's…such as mine. You still believe that you could move mountains, while I express endless gratitude if I can bend a bamboo stalk. You are full of life, while I am jaded. You have faith, while hope only pains me when I see it pass me by. I will never be worthy of you…ever. Never.
Part II: Meditation
I looked up from my laundry tub and saw Aoshi peering at me through his unreadable eyes. He was glaring at me, but I could not feel any of his old hate. All that had disappeared after our fight in Shishio's lair. Right now, he was shielding his emotions as impenetrably as before.
What he said next would be beyond my scope of foresight. "How can you stand this torment, Battousai?"
"Oro!" What a strange man indeed! Thank goodness I didn't have to live with him all the time. I don't think I can stand to put up with his odd moods. I have enough problems trying to understand Kaoru. "What torment do you speak of, Shinomori-san?" I asked politely.
He made a slight gesture with his hand, towards the house and dojo.
I looked over my shoulder, could not figure out what he meant and returned my gaze to him. "Ehh…I don't see anything, Shinomori-san. If you mean the house and dojo itself, I'll have you know that I love staying here."
Aoshi expressed irritation in the most restrained way: sniffing audibly. "I don't mean that, Battousai. Is it not tiring? Not all suffering involves the shedding of blood. Sometimes, it is bloodless pain that rips the soul."
"Umm…" What is he talking about?
Aoshi continued to babble. "The worse thing about it is, it spreads, like a contagious disease. It affects others, like a pebble thrown into the stream, waves rippling all around it to disturb the surface of the water. And then you realize that doing nothing only makes the pebble sink deeper under the water."
What in the world…? "Thank you, Confucius, for your inspiring words. Now what does it mean?"
He chuckled. He actually chuckled! Well, yes he sounded sarcastic, even disgusted, but a chuckle qualifies as a smile, doesn't it? Will wonders never cease? I think God has found his toy today.
"Somehow, I think you should start trying to understand the people who need understanding," Aoshi said, approaching me. "Come on. I think you need a knock on the head."
Well, that was simply surreal. Aoshi talking in casual speech. Being colloquial. I think the world is about to come to its proverbial end. This definitely means I should take his invitation.
Wiping my hands of the soapsuds and rinsing off from the rinse tub, I got up and pulled off my apron, drying my hands as I followed him.
I should have known Aoshi would have me meditating again. It was just like him to wrap a meditation session in the guise of discovering the answers to the riddles of life.
I groaned and tried to relax my muscles to forestall the cramp. How in the world does Aoshi do this, hours at a time?
"You've refused to go beyond the physical plane, Battousai," Aoshi said to me with his eyes still closed. "That is why your leg is complaining."
I chuckled. "Or maybe, I'm just getting old."
"We're about the same age, Battousai," he inevitably said. "The spiritual knows no boundaries in time."
"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, Shinomori-san." Right back at you. I wish he would go back to normal Japanese. Listening to him feels like reading a bunch of haiku. I don't think I'm stupid, it's just that Aoshi is so damn complicated. No wonder Misao acts crazy most of the time. If I had to listen to Aoshi like this day in and day out, I'd go insane myself.
"No, the spirit is not willing," Aoshi told me loftily, staying firmly in his lotus position. "How are you suppose to understand Kamiya-san if you refuse to listen to the cosmos?"
Ah. Now we get down to it. I didn't know Aoshi was the type to meddle in romances. There is life in planet Aoshi after all.
"I know what you're thinking," Aoshi said, his eyes finally opening to look at me. "You're thinking I should mind my own business."
I was about to protest when he raised a hand to quiet me.
"That is true. People should know when not to disturb the hand of fate," he continued. "But frankly, the tension you and Kamiya-san are exuding is disturbing my perimeter of self-discovery. It's terrible the way you two carry on. How am I suppose to find my inner being when the both of you are causing such a racket?"
Oro…I didn't know it was that bad.
"Work with me here, will you?" He said, closing his eyes again.
Ooo-kay. How am I supposed to be uncooperative after that?
Alright, I'll give this another shot. Might be worth my while.
I got into position again, trying to search within myself. Trying to find the peace that has eluded me.
Kaoru's face came to my mind, quite clearly. Smiling, youthful, beautiful…
This isn't so bad.
Her tears…she has shed them for me. Please don't cry love.
Her laughter…shining blue eyes, collapsing in mirth because Sanosuke managed to say something stupid again…
I began to laugh myself, quietly, so as not to disturb Aoshi.
Walking in on her bath…boy, was she furious.
I chuckled again.
Watching her make her hopeless dinner…think Kaoru…think Kaoru…cute kenjetsu instructor…Kaoru, you're soooo cute…
That's it! I can't do this!
I laughed loudly, rolling on the shrine floor, clutching my stomach in uncontrollable heaps of guffaws.
Aoshi was severely displeased. He glared at me. "If you can't take this seriously, I wish you would go."
Wiping tears from my eyes, I raised a placating hand, still burping out chuckles. "Maa…Maa…I'm going. I am very sorry for wasting your time, Shinomori-san. It's just that meditation isn't for me. Thank you for trying, though."
"Your loss," Aoshi said haughtily, going back to his meditation.
I got to my feet, smothering my laughter.
In the next moment, I lost my humor. My leg screamed bloody murder.
I checked the water in the furo for its temperature. Feels about right. Kaoru will like this bath in the chill of Autumn.
I was already a little late in preparing it, but Aoshi kind of put me behind schedule.
If you ask me, this is the life. Profundity puts my mind in a jumble. I'd rather be washing clothes, cook, prepare her bath…they were all for her, anyway. If Aoshi finds that disturbing, well, he could just shove it up his you-know-what.
I turned and some folded clothes rolled from the side then straight into the tub. It fell into the water quite nicely.
Perfect. It's like me to screw up something as simple as preparing a bath.
I folded up my sleeve and reached into the water, moving my hand to find the delinquent cotton cloth.
The water splashed, wetting the front of my pants.
Great. Just great! I couldn't find it. I really ought to. If I leave it in, Kaoru might get a feel of it and think a rat had joined her in the water, which would thus scare the living daylights out of her. She hates rats.
Where the hell is it…
I caught the delinquent garment from beneath the water and pulled it out, causing water to spill a little to the floor.
I looked at it and noted with a blush that it was Kaoru's underwear.
The shoji door slid open.
I turned to look. "Yahiko, this is Kaoru-dono's…"
Oh those blue eyes I know so well. They were staring right back at me this very moment.
Panic button. Kaoru is standing in the frame of the door, wrapped only in a towel, looking at me in shock.
Like I said, I was late. I shouldn't have been here anymore, and what with the stuff that fell in the tub...
Her eyes widened and roved to her delicate clothing which was clutched in my hand, then her gaze fell to the front of my wet hakama.
God! This looks absolutely awful!
"Kenshin…you…pervert…" She growled.
OH…MY…GOD! She thinks I…that I got… "N-No! It's not what you think!"
She shrieked to the high heavens.
I panicked, totally gone of my senses. I stood up suddenly, and just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, my leg cramped again.
I grit my teeth and tried to get my muscles to stop contracting. Hopping on one leg, the water beneath my feet just had to contribute to this miserable situation. I slipped. I screamed. And the world went blank.
Part III: Fate Plays
"Yes dear, it's me."
Where are you?
"You won't be able to see me."
Well, that's just silly. I can hear you but I can't see you?
"That about sums it up. Anyway, the reason I'm here is because I'm angry with you."
What?!? I haven't spoken to you in a decade! What do you have to be…oh.
A subdued chuckle rose out of the limbo. "My dear, sweet idiot…I'm not angry at you because we haven't spoken for ten years. It's quite understandable, I'm dead."
I cringed. Did she have to bring that up?
"Now, now. You're not still sore about that, are you?"
Well duh! I killed you!
"You didn't do it on purpose, dear. Now please, just listen to me. The fact of the matter is, I'm angry because you haven't exactly gone and made yourself happy, ne?"
I don't deserve to be happy.
"Goodness! Wouldn't Kaoru just hit you over the head for saying that!"
Oro! You know about Kaoru?
"Yes dear. She's wonderful."
She is, isn't she? She has that smile, and she…hey! What am I…? I mean--
"Ease up, dear. It's fine. I want you to be happy with her."
"Dear, be quiet. I've come to give you a gift."
You're angry with me and you want to give me a gift?
Another chuckle rose. "Yes, as a matter of fact. This gift…I just want you to know that you think too little of Kamiya Kaoru."
Too little? She is--
"I know. She's everything to you."
"Hush, dear. I've experienced what that felt like. To have someone that encompasses your entire being. You, on the other hand, have never had that, until now. I don't want you to waste it."
What are you saying?
"Quiet now. Let me give this to you, and…hold still. I always wanted to do this."
Do what, Tomoe?
And from out the darkness came a blinding light, hurtling towards me in a bokken-like arc.
It slammed into me, right over the head.
"He's coming to!" I heard a voice ring from my darkness.
Must have been Yahiko, or that weasel ninja girl. Doesn't matter. My head is throbbing like a Japanese drum. Dream or no dream, Tomoe can pack a mean wallop.
I gave a groan of suffering. "Ouch…"
Oh, I remembered what happened. Everything is just crystal clear.
Kaoru found me in the bath where I wasn't supposed to be anymore. She saw me holding her underwear in my hand and I just had to have a strategically placed patch of water on my pants. Fate could be such a bitch I could cry, or laugh, or both.
I must have hit my head on something, because it's just being peachy right now.
I opened my eyes and saw three faces hovering above me. There was Megumi, of course. With my present state, I wouldn't expect less. Then there was Yahiko, peering at me in curiosity. Finally, there was Kaoru, looking so cute with her worried expression.
"Oh Kenshin, say something! Tell me you're alright!" Came Kaoru's voice.
"I'm fine, Kaoru-dono," I said, delicately touching the lump on my head.
She frowned with an odd lilt to her face. "Whatever. You ought to be more careful about the things you do, Kenshin!"
Oro! "S-Sorry, Kaoru-dono. I just took a little longer to prepare the furo."
"Really, racoon-girl!" Megumi said reproachfully. "How can you scold him at a time like this?"
Kaoru blushed and turned away. "Damn pervert! And with my underwear too! Was he doing what I thought he was doing?"
"Oro!" I exclaimed, gingerly sitting up. "Kaoru-dono, I wasn't doing anything like that! I was just preparing your bath! Honest!"
She turned to stare at me, blinking. "I didn't say anything. Kenshin, I think you hit your head harder than we thought."
Misao giggled and Aoshi eyed me with a suspicious gleam.
What…what the hell…?
"Oh don't mind her, Ken-san," Megumi said in her usual flirtatious tone. "Let Megumi take care of you in ways you could only dream of. Ohohohoho!"
Those fox-ears could be just terrible sometimes.
"Grrrr! Fox-woman, how would you like it if I were all over rooster-head? I swear if you touch Kenshin, I will engage Sanosuke in a serious lip lock you and he will never forget!" Kaoru growled.
I turned to stare at Kaoru in disbelief. "H-How can you say that?" Kiss Sanosuke? Even if it was just for show…I'll never let it happen! I just won't!
Kaoru looked at me in irritation. "Say what, Kenshin? Are you sure you'll be fine?"
"But you just--"
"Hellooo!" Yahiko chimed. "The rurouni has gone completely bananas."
Misao laughed. "Himura, I don't think you're quite ready to get up yet. Let me handle the kitchen tonight. You had a pretty hard fall."
"Great, the closest thing the rurouni's done to falling is hitting his head," Kaoru's voice rang out clearly. "Kenshin you idiot! When are you going to fall the way I want you to?"
I stared at Kaoru. Her lips hadn't moved, and her eyes were as expressionless as anything. Am I the only one hearing this? "Ummm…thank you, Misao-dono," I said uncertainly, keeping my eyes glued to Kaoru.
Kaoru turned away from me momentarily. "I might as well let her. I couldn't cook for shit and everyone knows it."
"Oro!" I exclaimed.
All eyes turned to me anxiously.
"Ooo-kay! That settles things," Yahiko said, giving me the freak-with-the-scar-on-his-cheek look.
Kaoru sighed and shook her head. "Kenshin, you're staying in bed. I'll bring you your dinner."
Her lips had moved this time. Everyone heard it and nodded their approval.
"Thank you, Kaoru-dono," I murmured, bowing my head.
That particular maneuver caused my eyes to swirl and I flopped back down on my pillow with a groan.
She sighed again and knelt beside me, pulling the covers of the futon to my neck. "Just relax, Kenshin. I'll stay right here until Misao gets dinner ready."
That's mighty sweet of her. I love it when she gets this way. So concerned for worthless little ole me.
The rest of the people turned to leave the room, walking out in pairs.
Kaoru stared at them briefly. "Kenshin, I love you and all, but I gotta give Aoshi the benefit of his ass. It's really quite to die for."
I frowned and looked up from my futon. "Excuse me?"
She averted her gaze at me, startled out of her reverie. "Hmm?"
"What did you just say?" I kind of demanded.
Kaoru's eyebrows furrowed. "Nothing. Kenshin, you're hearing things. Close your eyes. You're straining your head."
I gave her a suspicious gape before snuggling into my sheets again. This is getting freakier by the moment. And for goodness sake, she thinks Aoshi's you-know-what is better than mine! When the hell did that happen?
Alright, calm down, Himura. This is just a figment of your imagination. Of course you're not hearing Kaoru's thoughts. That's impossible. Misao's right. It was a pretty hard fall.
A gift…Tomoe and the dream. Had that been real? No, it can't be.
I felt Kaoru's hand smoothing some hair from my face. "Kenshin, I just want to kiss that bump on your head, but of course, that would be totally 'raccoon-y' of me."
I cracked an eye open to see if she was doing anything that might resemble what she had said, or what I think she said.
Nothing. She was just staring at me, a slight smile on her face.
I suppressed a sigh of disappointment. Didn't she know? She can be as 'raccoon-y' with me as much as she wants.
Well, this is insane. Just plain insane. I got a hard knock. That's what I think.
I'll have dinner, sleep this off, and in the morning, everything will be back to normal.
A gift…feh! The idea.
To be continued…