Author's Notes/Warnings:

Alternate Universe (AU) – The setting is in general contemporary era… yes, I know. It's been done before. Aoshi and Sano are half brothers, and Misao is a ward of Aoshi's grandfather. The other characters will just show up as I see fit.

Explicit Language / Mature Content – Although it may not appear a lot in the first couple of chapters that are building the plot and what not… it will happen. I can assure you.

By the way. Keep in mind any suggestions for a new title, I just used the title of a track I'm attached to right now by the Sneaker Pimps. It's a good song, look it up.

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"Curl." by Jayni

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Standing at the train platform, he wasn't quite sure what he should expect. Aoshi Shinomori had been living by himself for quite some time now. He was happy – no, content – with his life in Tokyo. At the age of twenty-eight, he was the overseer of Tokyo University's kempo club, and was helping with his father's business. A network and research firm, nothing terribly interesting, but the job paid well.

It had been so long since he had spoken to his mother, that when she called, it took him terribly off-guard. Since his parents divorce, his heart had hardened. He hadn't entirely forgiven his mother for being unfaithful, but there was little to be done about it now. The product of her… "exploits" was about to arrive. Aoshi asked himself for the umpteenth time, 'How did I get myself into this?'

*-*-*-*

"… uhm, yes, may I please be connected to Aoshi – Shinomori Aoshi?" The woman quickly corrected her informality.

"May I ask who's calling, ma'am?" said a nasal-voice of a nameless secretary on the other end of the line.

"His mother." There was a brief silence on the line, and she wasn't all that surprised. Her son had been given a choice, after the divorce… and he had chosen to stay with his father. The former Mrs. Shinomori almost gritted her teeth loud enough for the secretary to hear.

"One moment please." And then the annoying elevator music started.

She couldn't blame him for being angry, but if only he would understand… She was a woman, and she needed to be loved. His father was always busy, and at work. He was diligent, which was one of the reasons she had married him in the first place. But… all work and no play, makes for an unhappy marriage. Couldn't Aoshi remember all the birthdays he spent alone with her? All the parent-teacher conferences that his father always missed… Yes, he provided for his family, but she honestly questioned if he was ever fit to have one. She sighed, as she had been on the line for quite some time…

'He's stalling for time. He's been around his father far too long,' she grimaced, holding her tongue as she heard a definitive click on the other side of the line.

"Shinomori Aoshi speaking, and how may I help you?"

*-*-*-*

He knew full well who was calling. His secretary had stuttered for a solid minute to get the name of the caller out. 'My mother.' He saw her maybe… once, twice a year. At best. It took some holiday, some family function, some paper-signing, *something*… and that was the only way to drag that whore's carcass – 'Calm down, Aoshi,' he silently scolded himself. He had repressed all his anger and disappointment inside of him for so long… the last twenty years, to be exact. Maybe he was re-telling his father's opinions without realizing it, perhaps… He loved his mother, for giving him life. For the years before the divorce, he remembered them – whether she believed it or not. But it was his parents, yes, both of them, and their lessons of honor, and morals, that was the undoing of the relationship he had with his mother.

"… Hello Aoshi," that voice. Aoshi silently sank into his leather office chair, and swiveled away from the desk. He faced the full-length windows of his corner office, gingerly crossing one leg over the other. He had had so much practice in nonchalance. Even with no one watching, the production didn't end.

"Mother," he could hear his mother draw in a breath of hurt. Part of his mind cursed him for being so cold, but most of it was telling him that it simply couldn't be helped. This was how things were now.

"It's been quite some time… since last spring, ne?..." she was struggling for idle conversation. He was sure she wanted something, and mentally braced himself for impact. "Anything new?"

"Nothing in particular, Mother."

"… y-yes, well. I thought I might tell you…" 'Here it comes.' "… Sanosuke is moving to Tokyo."

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Aoshi remembered a time long past, from when he was ten years old. He was sitting in a secluded corner of the gardens of his mother's house. He despised how he was forced to move back and forth periodically. Especially since she was with *that* man now. Sagara.

And it got worse. His mother had remarried four years ago, give or take. Only months after the divorce to his father. How could her heart be so fickle? First the spouses. Then the children. Aoshi's hands curled under the cold marble of the bench he sat on. He didn't look up when he heard the footsteps coming.

"Aoshi…" she had started calling him that since the divorce. Rather, he wouldn't let her call him anything else. No 'chan's 'kun's… nothing. She lost that right when he became her "half-son."

"Yes, Mother?" His turquoise gaze rested on moist blades of grass, calm as the sea itself, and as cold as the iceberg that brought down the Titanic.

"… why don't you play with Sano-chan? He's your brother…"

"Half," Aoshi rudely interrupted. He had nothing against Sanosuke, personally. You know, other than the fact that he was conceived dishonorably, while his mother was still married to his father, Aoshi was sure Sano was a very nice boy. 'Hah.'

The pained look on his mother's face didn't escape the corner of Aoshi's gaze. He knew he was hurting her this way. But he hurt. Didn't she care about how he felt about all this? "You can't be having any fun sitting out here all by yourself… just spend some time with little Sanosuke, maybe you'll get to like him…"

"You said that about your present husband, as I recall," He couldn't stop what he was saying. The part of his mind that held an apology was on lock-down, while nothing but hurt glazed over the surface of his being. Above that, there was just a thin protective layer of ice, which threatened to freeze anyone who touched it.

She couldn't hold back the tears anymore, and her hands joined his, underneath the bench. His mother hunched over as the tears spilled down her cheeks into her lap. "A-aoshi I know you don't…" she choked on her words briefly, "… can't believe that it was hard for me, too… at first," she added quickly. "… it's been four years already…"

"Four? Only? I had the impression that you knew Sagara quite a bit longer," he spat out at her, as he stood up suddenly. She leaned back, stunned. This was the most emotion he'd shown in all this time… "The bulge of your belly at your wedding proved that much." Then the young boy marched up to his room, and she could only wince as she could hear the door slamming from where she sat.

*-*-*-*

Over the years, Aoshi and Sano had come to an understanding. A truce, one could say. Although, Aoshi thought it was highly unlikely that he was prepared to spend the next year, if not longer, with his… younger brother.

Aoshi never apologized for any of the harsh words he told his mother back in those days. Part of him hoped that this would finally let her smile at him… like she had when he was little. When the smiles were genuine, and her gaze was pure, and the love…

The train arrived, causing a little commotion with the artificial wind, which jarred Aoshi from his deep contemplation. He quickly recalled the conversation where  his mother briefed him on the whats, wheres, and whens.

"Sano will be arriving on the noon train with Misao-"

'… oh shit.'

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Author's Note:

Ohohohoho… I bet you thought I forgot about poor little Misao. Well I'm thinking you can't have an Aoshi/Misao fic without her in it, ne? This fic actually transpired out of a dream I had where I was Misao, and Aoshi was trying to wake me up for school… but I didn't want to go because of like, a foot of snow outside… heh.

You've probably heard this a thousand times, but reviews are welcome.