title: Ikedaya | part 5/5
rating: pg-13
author: Mir
email: mir@despammed.com

disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin was created by Watsuki
Nobuhiro, published by Shueisha in "Jump," and
produced by Sony Entertainment. All rights are theirs.

AN: This has been a long time coming, and it's short. What
can I say? Oh right, and it's a little abrupt as well. I've been
debating where to end this story (i.e. cut if off directly after
the Ikedaya event or continue beyond it), and I've finally
decided on the former. I do recognize that the ending might
leave a little to be desired. Therefore, I'll leave you with the
promise of an intention to write a sequel one of these days.
Okay? ^_~


*part 5*
A man, lightly built and of medium stature, stopped by the gate of the
Choshu headquarters. As he neared the group of young samurai standing
guard, he reached up with one frayed and dusty sleeve to wipe the
glistening sweat from his forehead. The oldest of guards, a sturdy man
just barely into his thirties, reached for his sword as the stranger
approached, eyes narrowing in suspicion. Many drunks had wandered past
after overdosing on the festival's festivities, but the figure walking
toward him neither stumbled nor staggered. If anything, despite his
worn and stained clothing, he held himself with a dignified stance that
undeniably bespoke confidence and sobriety.

"Excuse me, but--" He not-so-subtly stepped between the man and the
gate, blocking the other's path with his body. It was only then,
underneath the lamps' yellow light, that he was able to clearly see the
man's face.

"Good evening, Ishuya-san. If you would let me pass..." Katsura
Kogoro, unphased by the lukewarm welcome, calmly met the guard's gaze
and extracted his hands from his sleeves. Even with the moon hidden
behind clouds, he hadn't expected his disguise to be so effective. Was
a man's clothing really so important to his identity?

"Excuse me, I'm so very sorry, sir. Yes, of course, Katsura-san."
Ishiya bowed deeply, his face reddening at his mistake. Silently he
cursed his stupidity -- the others were going to make fun of him for
weeks. How could he have failed to recognize Katsura, of all people?
But the other man's words shocked him out of his self-pity.

"You are to lock the gate. Do not let anyone else enter tonight, not
even our own men." He swallowed, as if trying to rid his mouth of the
taste of the words he had no desire to say. "Do you understand? No one
is to leave or enter until daybreak. No one." There might still be
men abroad if they survived the attack on Ikedaya, but it was too great
a risk to wait in hope of their return. No, the headquarters had to be
secured, no matter what the cost.

- - - - - - - - - -

"We should leave." Two figures, one white and one blue, stood beneath
the building's eves like abstract shapes stenciled out of the darkness.
The one with swords at his belt frowned, his golden eyes piercing
through the night like steel through skin. His voice, although soft,
left no room for arguments, and his words were more statement than
opinion or suggestion. Still, he looked toward the woman for
confirmation. She nodded, kimono streaked with dirt and hair falling
into her eyes. Around them, the streets lay quiet, and above, the
clouds continued to pass by. And so they walked, on behind the other,
through the streets of Kyoto with only their stars as their guide.

The night wore on as they wound through street after street, slowly
approaching the Choshu headquarters. But when they arrived at last,
the gate was locked fast, and no one was standing outside to guard.
Had he been alone, the hitokiri would have gone around back and scaled
the fence with all the ease and grace of a cat. But he was not alone
tonight. 'Women. What a nuisance.'

"We'll have to find an inn. We can't just stand here all night," he
muttered at last, not at all pleased with the situation at hand. 'As
if the night couldn't get any worse.'

"Just go inside. Don't worry about me; I've traveled alone before."
Even tired and dusty, there was a certain elegance to her composure and
an unassuming confidence radiating from unclouded eyes.

He was surprised by her sudden show of independence and the calm
indifference that settled across her face like a veil. But although
his eyes narrowed slightly, there was no other obvious sign of his
emotion. "Fine, do as you wish. I'm not your father."

She had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing at his comment,
dangling from the response as awkwardly as a dead branch from a tree.
There was something absurd about the image, that of her quiet, gentle
father and the Hitokiri Battousai transposed into one. 'But I could
see him as a father.' And the thought, floating unbidden through her
head, seeped down into her body, and despite the oppressive heat, she

"Well...?" A hint of boyish impatience bubbled up through in his voice,
and he blinked. And suddenly, for a brief moment he wasn't the Ishin
hitokiri, wasn't the murderer of her fiancé and killer of countless
others. He wasn't a lethal shadow stalking the Kyoto streets
soundlessly at night. He was only a young man, tired, hot, and

"I'll see you tomorrow, then." She stared into his eyes, those deep
amber spheres that took in everything and let nothing escape.
Everything, almost. Then, with a slight nod she turned and began
walking, slowly, one foot in front of the other down the road, dust
swirling into the air behind her. She didn't know where she'd go.
There were places.... if one was willing.

"Wait--" He didn't move, didn't reach out as another might have done
in his place, but it was enough, and she turned. "Wait."
*end of story*

- - - - - - - - - -

So that's it. This is actualy my first finished multi-part RK
story. Can you believe that? I guess you can say that I'm
just really horrible at finishing things.... right. Anyhow, on
that note, I just want to say that I'm in the process of writing
the first chapter for a new RK story -- an AU piece in which
Kaoru is a picture bride coming to America. I'm going to
try to write the first two chapters before I post the first one,
though.... but I've been writing a bit each night, so hopefully
it' won't take me too long to finish the first 30-40kbs.

Thanks to everyone who has read this story and mega-thanks
to those who have reviewed. haku baikou, Firuze Khanume,
Mara, M.Kasshoku, Calger, Mikan, and Arashi among others.
I write because it's fun, but your comments are like frosting
on a cake, and they always make my day. You guys rock.

- Mir (03.18.03)