D/C: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.
Hello! You know, I haven't written a one-shot in sooooo long, and when I started writing this one, I realized just how much I miss writing them! I mean...one-shots are just pure bliss! You write this one chapter and then you don't have to worry about updating it ever again! It's perfect! Hehe.
Anyway, happy reading!
Between Four Storeys
"Oh, and, Kaoru, would you please pick up the coffee on your way?"
Kaoru had to stifle her groan. She was hoping she'd be able to hang up before her director managed to make the dreaded coffee request, but obviously, luck was not on her side. It wasn't like she had a problem with getting coffee per se, but she absolutely hated Starbucks in the morning. It was always filled with cranky employees, people who also wanted to get their coffee and get out of the place, people who wouldn't even consider smiling at you before their first sip of coffee.
She glanced at the digital clock on her dashboard. "Rika, it's ten minutes till eight," she protested. "I'll be late."
"Kaoru, you're my assistant. Your job is to assist me. It would be an assistance to me if you were to bring me and my team our morning coffee," Rika told her. "It wouldn't matter if you were a few minutes late."
"Bitch," Kaoru muttered.
"Did you say something?" Rika asked.
"I said...yes, I'll get the coffee for you," she replied. "It will be four espressos again?"
"Actually, I want a latte this time," Rika decided. "Don't be late. Ja."
Kaoru let the phone drop onto her lap and allowed herself to bump her head briefly on the stirring wheel before the lights turned green. She pressed her foot down on the gas pedal and headed for the coffee shop. As she'd expected, getting the blasted coffee made her wait in line for ten minutes, get shoved aside by people hurrying out the shop...someone even managed to spill some coffee down her pants. It was fifteen minutes past eight when she finally managed to get behind her stirring wheel again. She balanced the cup holder carefully on the passenger seat and pulled out onto the street again.
She was grateful there wasn't any traffic today, and she managed to arrive to the office building where she worked in record time. However, one chick beat her to an empty parking space and she had to circle around for a while before she found one, which rendered her another ten minutes late. While she rushed through the revolving door she was hoping that the coffee wasn't cold yet. Rika hated cold coffee.
"Hold that open!" she cried as the door to an elevator started to close. The doors reopened and she slipped inside. "Phew. Thanks."
The man standing next to the button panel nodded. "Which floor?" he asked.
"Twentieth, please," she replied, feeling slightly out of breath.
She leaned against the cool metal walls, and acknowledged the other two people in the elevator with a quick look - one was a guy with spiky brown hair and the other a girl with a tight black bun; they didn't look very friendly at the moment, either. She then reverted her gaze to the guy who had held the doors for her and tried not to raise an eyebrow. He had long red hair which he wore in a ponytail, violet eyes and...a cross-shaped scar? Who was this guy - a samurai? She realized she was particularly gawking at him, so she quickly lowered her gaze. Then she looked at the button panel again. They were on the eighth floor now - twelve more to go.
Suddenly, the elevator gave an almighty lurch, and the coffee tray almost flew out of Kaoru's grasp and onto the red-haired man. She quickly knelt down, holding the tray with one hand and the metal bar lining the walls with the other. It was only when the elevator shuddered to a stop that she had her eyes squeezed shut.
She dared take a peek - spiky-haired dude had wedged himself into a corner and was gripping the metal bars tightly, tight-bun chick had collapsed to the floor and was looking absolutely frazzled...only the samurai guy seemed remotely calm; he simply had one hand on the bar and the other in his pocket.
"Umm...what happened?" Tight-Bun Chick asked.
"I believe the proper explanation would be: the elevator broke down," Samurai Guy answered with a sympathetic smile.
"So...we're stuck?" Kaoru squeaked.
"Pretty much," he replied.
"No! We can't be stuck!" she wailed. "Rika wants her coffee. I'll be fired if this gets cold!"
Samurai Guy gave her an alarmed look. "Calm down...I'll call maintenance," he told her. He pressed the emergency button on the panel, and seconds later it crackled to life. "Hello there. It seems like our elevator broke down, right?"
"Are you going to fix it?"
"In an hour or so?"
"Alright. Thank you for your hard work," Samurai Guy said. He took his finger off of the button and smiled at her. "They'll get it fixed in one hour."
"I heard him!" Kaoru cried.
Spike-Haired Dude suddenly reached out and plucked a cup of coffee from the tray. "No use letting it go cold, then," he said and took a long sip. Stumped, Kaoru could only watch him. "Bingo. I got a latte! Remind me to pay you for it later, okay?"
"O-okay," she said uncertainly.
He plopped down on the floor next to Tight-Bun Chick and sat there, cross-legged. "I'm Sanosuke Sagara, by the way. Thirteenth floor," he said, and chuckled. "Unlucky thirteen, eh?"
"Could you please cut it out?" Tight-Bun Chick huffed. "This is not the time for jokes."
"Oy, let your hair down, kitsune," he teased her, and Kaoru could've sworn his eyes flicked in the direction of the girl's bun; she tried to stifle a giggle. "We're stuck here, so we might as well make the best of it. I mean, I was hoping I could have a beer instead of coffee...but this is all I've got right now. I ain't complaining."
She merely raised an eyebrow at him. "What did you call me?" she demanded. "I have a name, you know."
"I'm sure you do," he replied with an impish grin. "Introductions! Let's all introduce ourselves! As I mentioned before, my name is Sanosuke Sagara. I came to this office building today in hopes of nicking the dudes up on the thirteenth floor, actually. I didn't come to work or something like that."
Kaoru could only stare at his open frankness; she didn't come across people like him all the time. She found herself edging away from the guy; if he was who he claimed to be, then he might even have weapons on him. Tight-Bun Chick was doing the exact same thing.
"That could be...problematic," Samurai Guy said.
Sanosuke laughed. "I kid, I kid," he assured him. "I'm not nicking them in the actual sense of the word. The company on the thirteenth floor belongs to my pop. I'm just going there to dock him a couple of bucks."
"You really should not joke about things like that!" Tight-Bun Chick snapped, and whipped her head around when she heard Kaoru laughing. "It's not funny."
"See, even the jou-chan is laughing. Lighten up, kitsune," he teased her. She glared at him. "Let's have your name then."
She looked away from him. "Megumi Takani. Sixteenth floor. I'm a psychiatrist," she said stiffly.
"Whoa, so you sit and listen to crackpots and nutcases all day long? That's awesome!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide...and then, before Megumi could reply, he turned to Kaoru. "What about you, kid? Who are you?"
"I'm Kaoru Kamiya," Kaoru answered. "Twenty fifth floor. I'm an assistant."
"More like coffee girl," he joked and she stuck her tongue out at him. He raised his cup to her. "Not that you don't do your job well. This coffee is great!"
"It's Starbucks," she said ruefully.
"Don't flatter yourself, Kaoru - it's not star quality yet," he replied, and she stared at him; did he not know what Starbucks was, or was he just pulling her leg? She couldn't begin to fathom this guy, and he was already wearing her out. "Why are you getting the coffee, anyway? That seems like a shitty job to do."
"Well...my boss is quite the bitch, so..." she said with a quiet giggle.
"Sucks," he muttered after another sip of coffee. He then turned to Samurai Guy, and Kaoru found herself suddenly listening with rapt attention - she wanted to know about this red-haired man. "What about you, Carrot Top?"
"You're quite rude, you know," Samurai Guy remarked.
"Everyone tells me that," Sanosuke shrugged. "Part of my charm!"
Samurai Guy sighed. "I'm Kenshin Himura. I work on the thirtieth floor," he informed them.
"You work as...?" Sanosuke prompted him.
Kenshin smiled. "I help people," he said. "They usually don't realize it's me, though. I'm what you may describe as invisible."
"Secretive little sod," Sanosuke muttered, and Kaoru shoulders slumped, disappointed - that was all? Sano downed the rest of his latte in one gulp and placed the cup on the floor. He crossed his arms behind his head and closed his eyes. "I've set the stage for you guys. Talk, talk. I'm listening."
"Ugh, you're so loud," Megumi complained, placing her hands over her ears. "Be quiet. Shut up."
"Am I annoying you, kitsune?" he asked, bringing his face close to hers in a mere flash of a second. "Huh? Am I? Are you psycho-analyzing me right this moment? Are you thinking I'm a rich kid who always gets what he wants but is yet deprived of the thing he needs the most, which is his father's attention, and that's why I am so loud and obnoxious...because it's my way of grabbing other people's attention?"
Her eyes widened in surprise. "What? I didn't-" she started.
"Aw, too bad, kitsune; because that really is the case," he interrupted. "Sorry - you lose."
Megumi gave him a blank look; Kaoru could tell that she couldn't begin to fathom this guy, either. The doctor put her face between her hands and heaved a sigh of exasperation, before looking up at Kaoru. "Do you think I could have a cup of coffee, too?" she pleaded.
"S-sure!" Kaoru said, quickly handing her one of the cups. "They're all espressos, though; I don't know if you like those."
"It's fine. The stronger, the better," Megumi assured her, and hurriedly took a sip.
"May I have one, too?" Kenshin asked her, and Kaoru looked around just in time to see him sitting down across from her. He pointed to the remaining two cups. "It would seriously help me pass the remaining hour here without going insane."
"You're all so subtle, aren't you?" Sano scoffed. "Fine. I'll just shut up."
"That's good news," Megumi muttered.
"You know what you are, kitsune? Huh? Do you?" Sano started up again. "Well, I'll tell you. You also are a child who's trying to live up to her family's expectations. You probably just became a doctor because everyone else in the family is a doctor and you didn't wish to break tradition. You would've been happier working as a baker or something like that. Your family has set high standards for you and you have to work to shine amongst your siblings. That's why you don't cut yourself some slack - it's always work, work, work and no play. That's no fun at all. Gosh, I'd go crazy if I were you."
It took Megumi a couple of moments to recover; she gritted her teeth and looked away from him. "I thought you were going to shut up?" she hissed.
"Well? Am I right?" he asked, ignoring her completely. Megumi refused to answer. "What, are you irritated that a freeloader like me can do your job better than you? Is that it?"
Kaoru watched the interaction with utmost fascination; it seemed that there was more to Sanosuke than what meets the eye, and she wondered vaguely about the level of truth his analysis of Megumi held. The doctor did seem at loss for words, and that made Kaoru more convinced that Sanosuke had been correct in his assumptions.
"You shouldn't pester Takani-sensei like that, Sanosuke," Kenshin chided him. He was sipping his coffee quietly, and appeared to not have a care in the world. "Really, all I wanted was a cup of coffee, and now that I have it, I'm content."
"Bah. She picked on me first and you know it," Sanosuke muttered. "I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up when this damn thing gets fixed."
He was as good as his word - he just curled up on the floor and was snoring in an instant. Megumi screwed up her nose in disgust and moved away from him, settling next to Kaoru.
"Is he really asleep?" Megumi asked, while Kaoru picked up the remaining espresso.
Kenshin prodded him gently, but Sanosuke didn't even stir. "Looks like it," he replied.
"Good. He's just too annoying. I feel exhausted just by looking at him, and it doesn't help that I've barely slept a wink last night," she mumbled, lifting a hand to her temples. Kaoru just smiled sympathetically. Megumi lowered her gaze and let her hand drop back to her lap. "He got it right."
"Excuse me?" Kaoru said.
"Sano...Sanosuke...the things he said about me; they're mostly accurate," she said quietly. "I don't know how he figured it out, but everything he said was true, and I don't understand how he managed to read me like an open book when I've never even seen him before."
"Maybe he's a good judge of character?" Kenshin suggested.
"Even he's a good judge of character, you can't just make a proper analysis without some background knowledge of the person," Megumi said. "I've been studying for years and it still takes me a while before I'm able to provide my patients with something solid."
"So you were irritated," Kaoru blurted out.
Megumi narrowed her eyes. "And you're blunt," she snapped. She got up to her feet and reached for the button panel. She pressed repeatedly on the emergency button. "Ugh. How much longer are they going to keep us in here? Yes, hello? Any headway on elevator matters? Are you done fixing it?"
"No, ma'am; the specialized team hasn't arrived yet, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little while longer," came the reply.
"A little while longer? Are you kidding me? I've got patients waiting!" she cried.
"I'm sorry, but we're doing the best we can. Just hang in there!" he guffawed, and the line went dead.
Megumi pressed the button repeatedly. "Think you're funny? Huh? Think you're unbelievably funny?" she snapped, but the maintenance guy didn't answer her. With one final jab at the button, she slumped down next to Kenshin, fuming. "Can you believe how rude he is?"
"I'm sure he's just having a bad day as you are, Takani-sensei," Kenshin soothed her.
"Sure he is," she muttered. She hugged her knees to her chest and rested her head against them. "I guess we have no choice but to wait."
"It will be only a short wait," Kenshin said reassuringly.
But the short while became a longer while, and the longer while became an even longer while, and forty minutes later...
Kaoru giggled. "Is she snoring?" she whispered.
Kenshin smiled wryly. "It appears so," he said. Megumi was slumped against his shoulder now, and he had to try and keep still so as not to wake her up. He gave her an imploring look. "Please don't sleep as well. If you joined in the snoring I think I might just flip."
"I won't," she promised.
Kenshin smiled again. "Isn't it funny how their snoring is incredibly synchronized?" he remarked after a moment.
She laughed. "I was thinking the exact same thing! But I didn't say anything because I didn't want you to think I was being immature or something," she admitted.
"I'm really not a wet blanket, Kaoru-dono, even if I do seem like one," he replied.
"Eh? No! I didn't say that! I just..." she broke off, and hid her blushing face between her hands; she did think that Kenshin was a bit uptight. She cleared her throat. "You know, I wonder if Sanosuke would've been able to provide a correct analysis of your character."
"You do?" he asked, tilting his head to one side.
"Well, yeah," she answered. "I mean, when I first saw you, I thought, 'Oooh! Samurai Guy!' Don't laugh - seriously, you look like one! I mean, with your long red hair and that cross-shaped scar; you look like something out of my manga! Where'd you get the scar, by the way?"
"Not in a sword's fight, I can tell you that much," he said, his eyes twinkling.
"Hey, it could happen," she retorted. "After all, you did say you were invisible to most people. You could be a crime fighter!"
"Let's be realistic - crime fighters are just products of Marvel Comics, Kaoru-dono," he said kindly. She scowled at him. "I'm sorry. Okay, I'll tell you. I got this cross-shaped scar when I was still a kid; I was running and crashed into a too clean glass panel."
Kaoru was stumped. "Well, that's rather..." she said.
"Normal?" he prompted her, and she nodded. "I never said I was anything extraordinary, Kaoru-dono; you just inferred that from my red hair and my scar and my manga-like appearance."
"I'm sorry, but I just never met anyone like you before," she told him. She stretched her legs before her. "If Sanosuke were awake right now, he would tell me that I'm the most average person he's ever met. He would say that there's really nothing special about me. I'm just drab. There's nothing interesting about me. Sano...he's got his attitude, and he's obviously a good judge of people. Megumi is probably a genius. You...you have this cool scar and you're probably some sort of secret agent. He's right - I'm just the coffee girl."
"Is that really what you think?" he asked, to which she just shrugged. "I don't agree with you."
"Kenshin, what do you know about me?" she asked, pushing back her hair with both her hands. For some reason, her eyes were tearing up, and she was babbling. "My mother died when I was a kid, my father was such a hardass, I left home at an early age, I came to the city, I worked as a waitress, a saleslady...and so many other things. It was never anything stable. I don't know what I'm doing really. It's all so pointless. You know, I've considered suicide many a times before..."
She snorted. "Pathetic, isn't it?" she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "Why wouldn't you agree with me? I know I'm a nobody. I'm only a coffee girl."
He nudged her foot with his. "Hey, coffee girls are pretty cool, too," he offered. She didn't smile. "You're...what do the young ones say today? Oh, yes - spunky."
"You think I'm spunky?" she said, bemused. "How old are you, anyway?"
"Twenty nine, but that's besides the point," he said quickly. "What I meant to say is...when you walked into the elevator, I thought to myself, 'Wow, that's one attractive girl.' I'm serious. For one thing, you don't rely on make-up in order to look pretty. You're just pretty naturally and...there's just something eye-catching about you."
Kaoru could particularly feel her cheeks becoming pink. "Eye-catching?" she repeated.
"I can't quite define it, really, but yes; I mean, I was able to tell just by looking at you that you were a determined person. Why did you take up all these jobs if you weren't determined to find something which is better for you? You start as a waitress, then a saleslady...and now an assistant. Maybe in a year or so you will have an assistant. And don't scoff - you know I'm right."
"Well..." she said, clearing her throat. "You still haven't told me about yourself."
"He's obviously a crime fighter," Sanosuke suddenly piped up.
Kenshin laughed. "Not even close," he said.
Kaoru, on the other hand, was aghast. "You were awake the whole time?" she demanded.
"Please, who can sleep with kitsune muttering and huffing the entire time? She could wake up the dead," he complained as he pulled himself into a sitting position. "By the way, jou-chan, you're wrong about your assumptions."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You do let people push you around, but...you're certainly not drab," he replied with a quick win. He'd barely given her time to digest his words when he changed the subject. "Ehh, I wonder when they're going to get this thing fixed. Can you imagine what a tight spot we'd be in if one of us was claustrophobic? Actually, I would like to see a claustrophobic kitsune; maybe then she'd act naturally."
Kaoru recognized the look he was regarding Megumi with. She recognized it because she herself always regarded guys like that...guys she couldn't have. It was the same look she'd regarded Kenshin with when she first stepped into the elevator; she was just lucky he didn't recognize it. What would he think of her if she knew she was crushing on him from the very first moment? She realized she was staring, and quickly looked away.
"Oh, well," he muttered, crossing his arms behind his head and leaning back against the wall. "You know, Kenshin...you're not off the hook yet. You have yet to tell us what you do. We've all been pretty honest and you're the only secretive bastard here."
"And you know, Sanosuke...maybe you should go to therapy," Kenshin suggested. "I'm sure Takani-sensei would be willing to give you an appointment."
"That's not a bad idea. That's not a bad idea at...whoa!" he exclaimed as the elevator gave a sudden jolt. "H-hey! We're moving!"
The speaker crackled on. "Hey, kids. The elevator's been fixed. Sorry for the delay," the man said, his voice filling the elevator.
"Thanks, man!" Sano said. He reached over and started shaking Megumi awake. "Oy, kitsune. Wake up! They got this blasted thing fixed! We can get out of here! Incidentally, are you free this afternoon? I would like to get an appointment. Wait, is that a nod? Yay! I'll drop by your office then."
"Huh? What?" she said dazedly. Sano pulled her up to her feet and thrust her briefcase at her. "What's going on?"
"Ah, here's my stop!" he announced, as the elevator halted at the thirteenth floor. He gave Kaoru and Kenshin a quick handshake each. "Nice meeting you. Let's do this again, shall we? Kitsune, I'll see you in a few hours. Ja ne!"
And then he was gone. Kaoru stared at the spot where he was standing. "Wow, the place is suddenly so still and quiet with him gone," she commented, and looked around at Kenshin. "His mere presence felt loud, didn't it?"
"Some people have that kind of effect," he agreed.
Megumi was still looking rather out of it. "Did I just give the idiot an appointment?" she asked, and they both nodded simultaneously. "Crud...well, I'm a professional. I'll figure out a way to deal with him. It's my floor now. It was nice meeting you, Kaoru, Kenshin; let's get together sometime, okay? Bye."
And then she was gone, too, and Kaoru was left alone with Kenshin. She wanted to look at him, but she daren't even take a peek in his direction.
"She really didn't look disappointed, did she?" Kenshin suddenly asked.
"Excuse me?" she said, puzzled.
"Takani-sensei," he replied.
"Oh, yeah. I noticed that. She looked a little bit happy, didn't she?" Kaoru said.
"I think she developed a bit of a crush," Kenshin chuckled.
Twenty first floor.
Pink patches appeared on Kaoru's cheeks. But...I developed a bit of a crush, too. Would you laugh at me if I told you that?
Twenty second floor.
"Umm...Kenshin?" she said timidly.
He looked around at her. "Yes, Kaoru-dono?"
Twenty third floor.
Kaoru's heart was thudding painfully against her chest. She hoped Kenshin wasn't able to hear her heartbeats. She hoped he wasn't able to see how red her cheeks were.
Twenty fourth floor.
She thrust out her hand. "It was nice meeting you," she said, carefully avoiding his gaze. "And...thank you."
Twenty fifth floor. The doors opened.
Kenshin smiled and shook her hand. "It was my pleasure, Kaoru-dono," he said softly.
Was she imagining it, or was his grasp a little too tight? Kaoru's head spun as she stepped out of the elevator. The doors started to close and she looked around just in time to catch him giving her a small wave. She waved back, and the doors closed, hiding him for hair. She sighed. I couldn't do it after all. I couldn't even tell him that I liked him. Still think I'm not drab, Kenshin?
She watched the numbers stop at thirty, and an image of Kenshin stepping out of the elevator flashed in her head. She felt pathetic. She should've just told him. She should've told him. If he liked her, too, then it was good news, and if he didn't...well, it wasn't like she was going to see him again, right? She wasn't going to go to the thirtieth floor just to see him...right?
"Kaoru!" barked a familiar voice, and she was pulled out of her reverie. Her director was marching towards her, and she didn't look quite happy. Kaoru felt herself shrinking as the older woman approached. "Where have you been? Do you know how late you are?"
"I...I'm sorry, Rika, but the elevator broke down. I was stuck in there for nearly two hours," she told her.
"Sure you were," Rika muttered, rolling her eyes.
Kaoru frowned at her. "I was," she retorted. "You can check up with the maintenance and see for yourself whether or not an elevator was broken."
Rika raised an eyebrow. "I see," she said, and then cleared her throat in an attempt to appear dignified. She placed her hands on her hips. "I don't see any coffee with you, by the way. Did you forget to pick it from Starbucks?"
"I drank it all," Kaoru answered.
Rika stared at her. "You drank a latte and three espressos?" she demanded.
"I was stuck in the elevator with nothing to do, and I thought it would be a waste to let the coffee go cold, so yes; I drank a latte and three espressos," Kaoru said defiantly. "Are you done interrogating me? I think I'd better get to work."
"Um, yes, sure."
Kaoru waited until she was away from Rika before she allowed herself a triumphant grin; it really did feel good to be in control of the situation...if even for a few seconds.
It was a bit difficult to focus on her everyday work tasks, especially after what had happened to her - it wasn't everyday you get trapped in an elevator. She also couldn't concentrate with Kenshin's serene smile continuously popping up in her head. At two p.m., she went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. She bought a green salad and strawberry yoghurt, and sat down at a table by herself. She didn't feel like eating, however, and just continued to stab at her cucumbers with her fork.
"Did you hear about Takani-sensei?"
Kaoru looked up as three girls sat down at the table across from her. She was sure she'd heard them utter Megumi's name.
"No, what did she do?" one girl asked.
"Well, I heard that she hooked up with a patient," another girl replied as she buttered up her bagel. Kaoru sat up in her seat and strained her ears. "Her secretary told me that moments after this guy entered her office, Takani-sensei rang her up on the intercom and told her to cancel all her appointments for the next two hours."
The third girl giggled. "You don't think she...? On the lounger?" she said.
The girl who was buttering her bagel grinned. "It seems that even stiff bitches like Takani-sensei can get a little bit kinky," she said, and they all burst out laughing.
Kaoru could feel her cheeks become a little warm; she decided she shouldn't be listening to this, abandoned her lunch and hurried out of the cafeteria. In the back of her mind, she was getting flashes of Sano coaxing Megumi into "letting her hair down". She shook her head in an attempt to shake out those images from her head. She delved into the ladies' restroom and splashed some water on her face.
She felt a little empty inside. Sano had gone and made a move; he didn't chicken out like she did. Her eyes burned with suppressed tears and she splashed her face with water again. Sano would call her a wuss if he saw her like this, and Megumi would start to analyze her. It was funny how suddenly those three people meant quite a lot to her.
Kaoru had to stay back after the regular working hours in order to finish up. The office started emptying up gradually, and by six thirty, only she and the secretary were left in the place. The girl walked past Kaoru's cubicle and made a show of heaving a sigh while checking her watch. Kaoru took the hint.
She switched off her computer and gathered her papers. "I'm going home, Amu," she announced. "I'll see you tomorrow."
She called the elevator and waited for it to arrive. Moments later, she was standing inside the metal box and her finger was hovering over the GF button. She gulped and bit down on her bottom lip. For once, she wanted to work on impulse. She pressed on the button marked 30. The time it took for the elevator to reach the thirtieth floor seemed like a decade. It gave her time to question the efficiency of this plan.
How will she know where Kenshin works? What if there are many offices and firms on the thirtieth floor? Was she going to search each one? And what if Kenshin wasn't there? What will she say to him once she saw him? Will he turn her down? And then what?
The doors opened on the thirtieth floor. Kaoru took in a deep breath and walked out. However, she wanted to return back inside as soon as the doors closed again.
"Well, there's no turning back now," she murmured.
It turned out that the floor was owned by just one law firm, which was a good thing. However, this building's floors were vast so it didn't mean that it would be a quick search. For one, it seemed that there were about twenty five offices on the floor...and they all had wooden doors and solid brick walls, which completely ruled out peeking. However, that was what the nameplates were there for.
So she began her search. She walked down the corridors, letting her eyes roam over the doors...but none of the nameplates bore Kenshin's name. Was she on the wrong floor? Then she heard a clatter from a room down the corridor. There was an open door, and light was pouring out of it.
Kenshin could be there!
She hurried forward, her feet making thudding sounds against the moquette. She had barely reached the door when someone stepped out of the door.
"I'm sorry. We're closed now..." Kenshin froze in his tracks. "Kaoru-dono?"
Kaoru didn't say anything. She just looked at him. She looked at his blue uniform and the name tag stapled to the front of it. She looked at the cap underneath which he'd gathered his long red hair. She looked at the yellow gloves he was wearing. She looked at the mop he was holding.
But he looked away from her.
"Kenshin..." she said softly.
"Kaoru-dono, I'm sorry," he murmured, his eyes suddenly becoming very interested in the navy blue moquette. "I guess...I didn't want to let you know that I'm a janitor. Takani-sensei and Sanosuke...they were both sophisticated people. And you were this beautiful girl who wouldn't even look at me twice if she knew I was a janitor. I'm sorry I didn't say anything. I'm really sorry."
"You help people. You're invisible," she quoted him, and smiled. "I can see where you're coming from."
"I would completely understand if you left now and never came back," he told her.
"Why did you feel the need to hide it from me?" she questioned.
"I already told-" he started.
"No," she cut him off. "I mean...why?"
Kenshin looked at her then. "Because... Kaoru-done, I like you. I really like you," he replied.
Her eyes welled with tears, and she hurried to hide her face between her hands. She heard the distinct clatter of the mop being dropped to the ground, the dull thuds of gloves being tossed to the floor, and Kenshin's footsteps as he hurried to her side. She felt his hands clasping her wrists, tugging them away from her face.
"Kaoru-dono, you're crying," he said softly, his thumb wiping away a tear. "Why?"
"Kenshin, you idiot. I like you. I like you a lot, too."
And he smiled at her. That warm, serene smile of his...that smile which made her fall for him in the first place. And he caressed her cheeks, and she didn't care that they were a little rough and calloused. And he lifted up her chin...and he kissed her. And Kaoru's knees actually buckled, and he pulled her even closer.
And he broke the kiss after what seemed like a long time; Kaoru had run out of air. He broke it just enough to whisper...
A/N: Yay, all done! I think this may be the longest one-shot I ever wrote. It certainly took me a while to get it finished. Ne, did you like it? Was it good? I've put quite a lot of effort into this so I really REALLY hope you like it! Reviews would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! :3
- S. N. B.