Catching hold of you
Hi everyone !! Here another totally un-original fanfic. I've tried to imagine something new but it desperately looks like my favorite fics. I hope you'll like it anyway !!
Usual disclaimer apply: Please don't kill me, I wouldn't dare tell Aoshi and Misao are mine ^_^ !
Big thankies to Teni for beta-reading the whole story !!!!
Chapter 1: Catch the snow
The mild rays of the sun of December barely managed to warm the cold air and sharp wind, turning the morning dewdrops into a jagged outline of frost that crunched and creaked under Misao's feet. A small smile on her lips, her teeth chattering, she was striding along in order to get to the temple before her socks were soaking wet with melted ice, but the task was hard, as she had not to spill any of the boiling tea on her tray. At the same time, while watching where she was putting her feet and keeping an eye on the precarious balance of the cups, there was no way to run as she usually did.
Finally she reached the door of the temple, only to face a new problem. The door was closed. How can you open a door when you're carrying a heavy tray without upsetting half of its contents? Misao sighed, and placed one of her arms under the tray to push the door with the other one. Damn, the door was heavy too, she fumed, meaning to strangle the responsible monk as soon as she would have a chance. The burning teapot started to scald her arm through the tray.
"Iiiiieee nooo!" , she screamed when she felt her foot slipping on the iced-over ground.
In a desperate cry she came a cropper, folding her hands over her face to protect it from the boiling liquid -- but someone had opened the door and caught the tray even before she dropped it. Moaning and rubbing her fingers on her forehead, she raised her eyes on her savior and swallowed a gasp.
"Are you all right Misao?"
Misao jumped onto her feet, very nearly knocking the tray in Aoshi's hands, and rushed into the temple with a shriek. Aoshi, always impassive, raised an eyebrow, following the petite form of the weasel-girl with his eyes.
Wondering whether everything was alright with Misao, or whether he really was this frightening, he walked towards the meditating room where he usually spend most of his time; the room where Misao had disappeared -- and he couldn't help but stare at her with a flabbergasted look. Sitting on the tatami, Misao was frantically removing her socks, which where dripping with iced water. She threw the drenched socks on her geta and, sighing in relief, she gathered her reddened feet under her to warm them up.
Aoshi silently joined her on the tatami, and put the tray between them. Misao had caught a glimpse of the mocking look in his eyes.
"It's not funny!" she retorted angrily, "It's awfully cold outside! And the dew doesn't matter for you; you're wearing boots!"
Aoshi ignored her remark and closed his eyes, preparing himself for the tea ceremony. Misao pouted and sighed, but the tea was getting cold, so she lined up the cups to pour the tea, concentrating on her task. A small cloud of steam rose and teased her nose leaving a trace of mist on her cheeks.
Now quiet, she held a cup out to Aoshi, and surrounded her own with her hands to warm her numb fingers. She enjoyed more than anything those short moments of silence when they were together. He just savored the peace; she just enjoyed being close to him. She took a sip of hot tea slightly burning her tongue but smiling anyway.
Their morning tea had been a daily routine for more than a year Aoshi mused. When they had come back from Tokyo after helping the Himuras with Enishi's case, he had shut himself away between the walls of the temple, the only place where he found a peace of mind. And every day, she invariably came to bring him his tea. At first he had judged the idea amazing, but now he rather enjoyed it -- actually he would now have found it strange and disturbing if Misao had decided to stop doing it. Anyway, it was a sweet moment in his uneventful days and it sometimes brought something new and original -- such as her fall earlier. She was the only one who dared speak loudly and giggle in the temple and he was expecting the sound of her steps when he knew she was going to come in.
He glanced at her as she was blowing on her tea to cool it, fidgeting with her cup to keep from scalding herself now that her fingers had recovered their whole sensitivity. Finally, she put the cup on the tray and blew on her burnt fingertips. Aoshi inwardly smiled, she was always on the go, unable to concentrate on something for more than a few minutes.
Misao shyly smiled to apologize for troubling his reflections, though she didn't think to be their main topic.
"Aoshi-sama, when are you planning to train?" she asked softly.
The question was rather unexpected, as Aoshi hadn't really planned when he wanted to train.
"I don't know. Why?"
"Your kodachi are rusting in their sheath", she teased him with a gamine grin on her face. "I was just wondering if you'd be okay to train with me tomorrow."
Aoshi raised an eyebrow. This was really unexpected. Misao hadn't asked him to train with her ever since she was a kid; he also hadn't tried to have a training session with her, as he wanted to keep his distance from her. He didn't want to harm her with the conflicts from which he couldn't untangle himself though she had began to become closely linked to them anyway.
Misao smiled warmly, that smile reflected the light in an odd alchemy to make her look radiant and deeply beautiful. She took the forgotten cup on the tray, drank the last gulps of cold tea, then stacked the cups and got up. She lifted the now light tray. Leaving the room, Misao caught her still damp socks and getas. She turned around and cracked a last smile.
"Have a nice day, Aoshi-sama."
Aoshi nodded and she ran out of the temple in a chink of dishes.
December was not the best month to travel on the road of Tokai; but the traveler didn't care. As long as the snow wouldn't cut off the path or the rain wouldn't make it impassable, he would be on the road in order to reach Kyoto as soon as possible. But since he had walked part of the night every day, he didn't really know how many days were left in the walk to Kyoto. It was better to ask someone; maybe the traveler wouldn't have to sleep in the open tonight.
The man, comfortably wrapped in his coat to protect himself from the icy wind, sat on the terrace of a small teahouse; the kind of teahouses he had seen hundreds of times during his journey. Motioning a waitress to come, he ordered some tea and a bowl of rice, and then he turned to his neighbor, who happened to be a monk. Well, he thought, a monk wouldn't refuse his help to a poor, lost traveler.
"Excuse me… How far are we from Kyoto?"
The monk slowly turned around, scanning his face with a strange smile. The traveler was hard to read -- this was rare nowadays. His whole body was hidden by the thick coat; a hat was concealing his face: all that he revealed was a petite building and the suppleness of a well-trained fighter.
"About a day's walk. What is someone like you going to do in Kyoto?"
The traveler frowned, not sure he understood what the old monk meant.
"I'm looking for someone."
"You're going to kill him? Take your revenge?"
This time the traveler got up and angrily raised his voice.
"What are you implying, old man?"
The monk sighed and smiled with resignation, then motioned the traveler to sit down and be quiet.
"Young people are always touchy. Be quiet, you're going to frighten all the customers, and you'll have to pay for their drinks."
Indeed, the waitress was waiting for the traveler to cool down, almost shivering enough to drop the tea and the rice that he had ordered. She put the sustenance on the bench, took the money and left without waiting to hear more. The old monk drank a sip of his own cup of tea, waiting for the agitation to fall back. When the murmuring crowd seemed calmed, he started speaking again.
"Something tells me that the stick carrying your bag looks furiously like a sword. Even if it's wrapped in a piece of cloth, the curve is characteristic. Am I wrong?"
The traveler didn't answer.
"Ok, so I'm right. That's why I was asking if you were looking for a man to take revenge."
Strangely, the traveler smiled and turned up the edge of his hat to reveal two bright, piercing green eyes.
"Not at all."
And he got up, forgetting the tea and the rice. His aim was only a day's walk away; he had no time to hang about.
Misao's steps rang out on the cobbles of the path taking to the training hall. It was even colder than the previous day, but nevertheless she was wearing her onmitsu outfit, overexcited about her training today. She had spent part of the night to polish her kunai, as she wasn't able to sleep.
She happily slid the door open, finding the wide hall in a dim twilight.
No one there.
Where has he gone?
Worried and a bit annoyed, she ran through the whole hall, not really expecting to find anyone, but just to be sure. Obviously, nobody had come in here since last night, when she had herself closed the training hall after her practice. Maybe Aoshi was still asleep, she tried to reason with herself. It was still early.
She rushed out of the training hall, without taking time to breathe; she crossed the yard of the Aoiya and climbed the stairs towards Aoshi's room. Breathless and messy-haired, she knocked at his door and called.
"Aoshi-sama !! Wake up, it's late !"
But no answer came. Either he definitely is dull, or he is a really heavy sleeper, she thought angrily. She knocked for the second time, then as there still was no answer, she went in. Of course, Aoshi wasn't there.
"OKINAAAA !!", she yelled.
She tumbled down the stairs, and bumped into Okina who was getting out of his office to see what was wrong with his little Misao-chan. She was angry amazingly early today; usually she became this excited only after noon.
"Jiya, you're here! Where is Aoshi-sama?"
Okina raised an eyebrow, perplexed.
"He's gone to the temple, as usual. You weren't awake yet, I think."
Misao's face turned to a crestfallen grimace, as she swallowed the hard lump which came to her throat.
"To-to the temple? But he… he told me we would train together today…"
Not exactly, she remembered. He told that maybe, he would consider the proposition coming from me, miserable little onmitsu that I am. She clenched her teeth. That bloody-minded Aoshi-sama!!
"It's okay, never mind Jiya. That doesn't matter after all, I'll train on my own."
Jiya smiled softly. It was one of Misao's qualities that he appreciated the most: never did she let herself lose heart. And, he mused half-amused, half-angry, it was an absolutely necessary quality to deal with Aoshi's unbearable temperament.
Now as the first disappointment was over, Misao was in a great fit of anger, but she hid it well. She hugged Jiya with feigned happiness and started running towards the training hall, knocking over Okon in the rush.
"See you at lunchtime, everyone!"
Following her with her eyes, Okon sighed and turned to Okina.
"Does she sometimes stop, or does she always have to be worked up?"
Misao kicked open the door of the training hall. She didn't want to train now; her enthusiasm about training with Aoshi had vanished with her good mood. She needed to let off some steam. Letting out an angry groan, she grabbed her kunai and started throwing them everywhere, while linking jumps, flips and other ninja skills. In a few minutes, the walls and ceiling were spiked with her knives, and she was lying on the ground, breathless.
Trying to get her breath back, She stretched out on the floor. Damn Aoshi-sama. Stupid, stupid him. Aoshi-sama no baka !!
Grumbling and muttering, she got up on her feet and wiped the sweat off of her forehead. She was here to practice, Aoshi-sama or not. And the baka could wait for his tea.
Gathering her kunai all around her, she decided to train for kunai throwing. Although she was rather skilled at fighting with kunai, she was not in the mood for something harder. She ensured her grasp on the small blades, and aimed at a beam above her head, especially at a stain on the wood. With a cry, she backflipped and threw her weapons ; the four kunai sinked into the beam, but none of them hit the stain.
She let out a sigh of frustration. She was really not concentrate.
She focused on the target hanging on one of the walls. Think it is that bakayarou of Aoshi-sama, she said herself with a sarcastic grin. Releasing her kiai, she threw the kunai at the target; this time, the four weapons got stuck in the middle of the target. Misao raised an eyebrow. Interesting skill, she thought, although she was not sure that she wanted her Aoshi-sama to look like a pin-cushion. But yes, he deserved it. She wasn't asking for the moon, damnit !
Clenching her teeth, she let herself lean against the wall and slid along it to sit on the ground, her head leaned against the wood. She was definitely not in the mood for training -- through the fault of Aoshi-sama. Damn him. She closed her her eyes in annoyance, then got up, picked up her kunai scattered everywhere and opened the door.
The best way to clear the mind: a good bath!, she thought. There at least, she was absolutely sure she wouldn't come across Aoshi.
She went on the cobbled path towards the bathroom, shuddering as the cold wind rushed between the layers of her training suit. She raised her eyes towards the white-greyish sky, plain and silent.
It's going to snow tonight.
The traveler gazed with a respectful look at the imposing building in front of him. A woman he had questioned had assured him he would find his aim in here. The large doors of the temple were closed, and everything in here exuded calm, peace and serenity. Even though he was exhausted by his long journey, he felt oddly soothed, unwilling to disrupt the peaceful prayers inside or the quiet walkers enjoying the beauty of the day in the garden, towered above by an immense cryptomeria which spread out its long, bare branches in the pale, still sky.
Smelling a familiar scent in the air, cold and slightly metallic, the traveler removed his hat and turned his green eyes towards the sky, dazzled by its blinding whiteness, then smiled.
It's going to snow tonight.
With a sigh, the traveler pushed the door of the temple, his heart starting to beat wildly. He was there. His particular and indescribable presence was everywhere around; he was something there, in one of the rooms. Focusing his attention, the traveler gathered his fighter's senses to detect the one he was looking for; and a slight smile found its way on his lips when he felt an impressive ki in the nearest room.
Sighing in relief, he put his hat and his coat on a coat rack. He had plenty of time; enough anyway to catch his breath back and calm down. He hid his sword in the folds of his coat, so that no one would find it, then he knelt down in front of an altar and, breathing in and out with application, regained his countenance. With a soft smile, he took a slim stick of incense and lighted it, smelling the noticeable fragance that soothed his soul.
Then, when he felt ready, he got up and walked toward the room.
Aoshi's meditation was far away from zen purposes today, but he couldn't help letting his thoughts wander.
Misao hadn't come to bring their usual morning tea; and he was not the one who could blame her. But it had disrupted his day, leaving an empty moment, breaking off the tempo of his well-ordered day and the balance of his disorderly life. It's only when you don't have something anymore that you realize how much you need it. He cursed himself. She was certainly angry with him, and he deserved it. She was so happy about that training, and even if he hadn't promised, he was aware of the importance it took on for her.
And yet I didn't come.
What was wrong with him? He enjoyed her company when she poured his tea and shared some time with him, but he didn't want to feel her closer. Granting her request felt like acknowledging the care that he felt for her. And he didn't want her to know that he cared, or he knew she would ruin her life to wait for him. She deserved someone better, she just has to realize it.
But now why do you feel so angry when you think that one day, she will get married and have children? You're an idiot, Shinomori, a stupid and overprotective idiot. You don't want to love her, but you also don't want anyone else to turn his eyes on her. At least try to be coherent!
Well he wasn't coherent; it was evidence even in his blurred mind. Yet for the moment, all he wanted was to preserve their quietness, their tiny intimacy and the sweet way she called his name when she came with the tea tray, and their relationship shouldn't go further. But he himself knew that things had already gone further.
Something in the corridor troubled his musings. Immediately on his guard, Aoshi scanned the presence behind the shoji. Light steps resounded on the floor -- Misao? He tried to figure the ki of the person; pride, anger, but also bitterness, regrets, apprehension took shape in his mind, coupled with a familiar presence, but oddly distorted. If this was Misao, she had to be deeply upset so that her ki was so distressed.
The one behind the door knocked slightly.
Aoshi closed his eyes, and braced himself to face Misao's anger; he owed her an explanation -- although he had no really convincing apology to give. He heard the shoji sliding with a smothered rustling -- and a soft voice started speaking.
His eyes snapped open. That voice… He turned over, wide-eyed, and faced the slim silhouette leaning on the frame of the door. It was not possible, his eyes had to fail him… And yet…
End of chapter 1
Author's notes : Hi everybody !! I hope you enjoyed. The first part was quite sweet, the other ones will be darker. It's the "calm before the storm".
What did you think about Misao ? She's really weaselish in this part, or at least that the way I wanted her to look like ; she'll get more mature during the fic. The story takes place in December, one year and a half after the end of the manga ; so she's (counts on her fingers) 18 and Aoshi is 27,as he was born in Januar.
Misao : Who is that Yukiko ??
Kmye : Hey you'll see in part 2 !!
Misao : If she DARES touch my Aoshi-sama, she'll be the one looking like a pin cushion !!
Kmye : Oooh nooo I need her until the end of the fic !
Misao : WHAT ?? You mean she'll really touch my Aoshi-sama ??
Kmye : ……