Disclaimer: Still don't own. Nope.
Author's note: I actually lost this story when I changed computers some time back. For some reason it didn't transfer with everything else, and the new computer didn't take floppies, so I couldn't access my backups. I finally took my disc to work, recovered this chapter and emailed it back to myself during a lunch hour (because the work computer refused to acknowledge the stick I brought to save it on).
A Meeting of Minds
Tae hid her laugh behind her hands as Kaoru stomped back into the restaurant and asked for a table for two. Normally she would have commented good naturally about what had just happened, but Tae quickly noticed how elegantly dressed Kaoru was this afternoon. Despite the manhandling of Yahiko and Sano and her temporary state of fury it was obvious that she had put a lot more consideration into her appearance today than she did most other days.
She also noticed how much more intense Kenshin's attention to Kaoru was. Instead of lunch between a landlady and her lodger this appeared to be a date.
About time too.
With her best attempt at discretion she got the two of them into her most private seating area, which really wasn't all that private, but at least there wasn't anyone sitting near them at the moment. The two of them ordered quickly. As regulars they practically had the menu memorised. Tae left them a pot of tea and cups and took their order to the kitchen, planning to find a good spot to keep an eye on the two of them once that was done.
Unfortunately for Tae three tables worth of boisterous students came in just after and she was kept busy dealing with them. She did however make sure to seat them as far from Kenshin and Kaoru as she could.
Every glance she managed to spare the two possible lovebirds made her grit her teeth in annoyance and itch to jump in and help things along. Kaoru appeared to be spending the wait for their meal looking at her hands, sipping her tea and staring intently into her cup. In other words, she did everything she could to not look at Kenshin.
As she stared at her tea Kaoru was sure that her cheeks would burn away from embarrassment. Here she was trying to be elegant and instead she'd been acting more like a tropical storm. As awkward as she felt at the moment, if she'd had even an inkling that Kenshin found her recent whirlwind of activity very attractive her entire face would have gone up in a bonfire of blushing mortification.
Battousai was also looking into his cup intensely. Why, he wondered, did I say yes? It wasn't that he didn't want to be here with Kaoru, in fact he very much wanted to be with her. The problem was that, one, he wouldn't allow himself to be with her the way he really wanted and two, sitting in a restaurant with her trying to figure out some way to start a conversation wasn't anywhere close to the way he wanted to be with her. Although he had to admit that it would be part of it. The little things were important and there wasn't anything he could think of that he wouldn't be willing to do with, or for, Kaoru.
And yes, that included the one thing that the Rurouni had sworn never to do again.
He looked up and nodded at her, relieved that she was going to start the conversation.
"Could we talk about what happened in your room?"
Okay, maybe relieved was the wrong word.
Mentally Battousai opened and closed his mouth a couple of times while trying to think of something to say to that question.
"I mean, was there something there, or was I just imagining it?"
Yes, tell her that she was imagining it and everything would be able to go back to normal just as soon as the Rurouni took back control.
"Yes, there was something there."
What! Who the hell said that?
He looked at Kaoru. Her face held pure joy and she was blinking rapidly, trying to fight back the tears that were gathering at the edges of her eyes.
Oh crap, he'd said that.
"Kaoru, something was there, but nothing can happen."
"W.. w.. what?"
Battousai came close to wincing as a look of total desolation came over Kaoru, killing her moment of happiness.
He spoke quickly. "What I mean is… I would not… could not… compromise you in such a way. You deserve..." To not be held by a man with more blood on his hands than he holds in his own body, damn, he was starting to channel the Rurouni. "You deserve the love of a man who is your husband. To do anything that could destroy that... I cannot."
Kaoru looked at him, her eyes little more than slits that glittered dangerously. It was a look that made him fear for his own personal health, regardless of his abilities with a sword.
"So I should wait until I am married?"
He nodded and held his breath, waiting for the explosion.
Kaoru appeared to be giving what he'd just said some serious thought. Her eyes returned to their normal size and she gave a little nod to herself.
"Very well." She smiled at him, the calm expression on her face making him far more worried for his safety than her previous look had. A harried Tae arrived with their meal and Kaoru changed subjects, discussing small things, like repairs to the dojo, if she'd forgotten anything on the grocery list and if some of the garden was ready for harvesting. Everyday things that should have been far more comfortable to discuss, but somehow weren't.
If any part of Kenshin had known what Kaoru was thinking right then, all of him would have been panicking just about...now.
Kaoru was quiet on the walk home as she considered her options. She knew that Kenshin was right. Right about waiting anyway. She also knew quite well that he wasn't offering to marry her, no matter how she might wish he had been. She had been very tempted to misunderstand him and attempt to force his hand. It wouldn't have worked with Rurouni; he was too good at deflecting such suggestions with a pratfall and a pitiful 'oro.' However, while Battousai might be painfully blunt in how he dealt with people, he was obviously trying to not hurt her. Mix that together and he might not have managed to back peddle away from any advances she could have made.
Kaoru stifled the impulse to sigh. She hadn't been able to do it. It just hadn't felt right. So that left her only one other option, one that she was even less sure about than misunderstanding him
She could seduce him.
Or at least try to. She could attempt to drive him crazy by showing him what he wanted, but wouldn't allow himself to take. At least not if what had happened twice earlier today was anything to go by.
It was a time honoured tactic, but one that she had doubts about being able to pull off. Anytime she'd attempted something similar she'd felt like a little girl dressed up in her mother's clothes and pretending to be grown up.
Briefly she considered talking to Megumi about it. If there was anyone who understood how to use female wiles it was the fox. However she felt uncomfortable asking advice of someone who was also interested in Kenshin, even if she had apparently yielded the field to her.
'Come on Kaoru,' she thought, 'try something, keep his attention at the very least and figure out the rest later.'
A sexy walk maybe?
Subtly she started to shift her stride, making her steps a little smaller and giving her hips a bit more movement.
"Kaoru, have you hurt your ankle? You're walking rather oddly."
"Sigh." She wilted slightly and smoothed out her walk, returning to her normal athletic tread.
"No Kenshin, there was just a pebble caught in my shoe, its fine now.
How do other women do this anyway?
Maybe she should try a higher pitch to her voice, to make it more sexy?
Pwwww. Kenshin would probably ask her if she was coming down with a cold or something.
Well at least she knew enough to not try and laugh like Megumi. That would never go over well.
Battousai spent the rest of the day keeping discretely out of Kaoru's way. Thankfully she'd been distracted for most of the evening with storing the groceries and making sure that Sano and Yahiko had a miserable time of just about everything.
He almost wished he could have helped with that.
Night had seemed to take forever to come and despite his control sleep had been difficult to achieve. When he did finally managed to drift off and had once again entered the dream (nightmare) he'd ended up having to forgo the revenge he'd planned, mostly because he'd found Rurouni passed out from blood loss by the side of the river. From the looks of it he'd been like that ever since he'd tackled Kaoru back in his room.
Who knew that nose bleeds could be so dangerous.
He mentally kicked Rurouni forward in their mind, so that when their body woke up he'd be in control. With another twist of his thoughts he reset the dream from the river bank that Rurouni liked to fish from, to the inn he used to live in during the Bakumatsu. With a satisfied sigh he settled down in his old room and picked out one of his books to read while waiting for the morning to come.
Watching Rurouni try to figure out what had happened while he'd been passed out should be worth the wait and would work a small ways towards the revenge he deserved.
Kenshin was very close to panicking. Battousai hadn't left him any clues to what had happened yesterday and Kaoru...
Kaoru was happy.
It had actually been something of a shock. He'd woken up and wouldn't have realized it was morning if Kaoru hadn't given him a cheery "Ohayou" as he made his way to the relief area. When he'd finished there he'd headed to the kitchen to start breakfast and found the place fully stocked.
What had he missed yesterday? What had happened with Kaoru in his bed room and why was there the sound of someone snickering in the back of his head?
"Hey Kenshin, do you need any help with breakfast?"
Kenshin turned to see Kaoru standing in the entry to the kitchen and fought to keep a worried frown from his face. She was still happy. And not a kind of happy that he'd been expecting. He would have thought that her good cheer this morning would have been for the fact that Rurouni was back, but that wasn't it. In fact she didn't even seem to notice any difference in him this morning.
"Uh, no thank you Kaoru dono, I can manage."
"Okay. Say Kenshin?"
"Since I got Sano and Yahiko to take care of most of the chores yesterday, I was wondering if we could go picnicking this afternoon."
"Uhhh." NO, was his immediate thought. There was no way he was going to spend a romantic afternoon picnic with Kaoru, it was just asking for trouble.
"Uhhh, what about Yahiko?"
Kaoru frowned at him, appearing slightly perplexed. "Well, he can come too, of course."
"Ahh, well then, I would love to go picnicking this afternoon."
"Great, I'll go tell Yahiko and get him started on his practice so we can have the afternoon free. Just give us a shout when breakfast is ready, okay?" She practically yelled the last sentence over her left shoulder as she headed out to the dojo.
Alright, so maybe he had been reading a little too much into Kaoru's good mood. After all, just because he'd passed out around the time Battousai had been laying on top of a barely dressed Kaoru didn't mean anything had happened...
Damn it, there was that laugh again.