Catching Hold of You

Waii !! I'm back !! New chapter !!

To the ones who haven't read chapter 11 bis : don't worry ! Everything will be explained  ^^ .

Thanks to CardMistress Sakura, sarah, DarkFairy, Chibi-Nikoru, Noa, Cleao, Yen, pratz, JadeGoddess, Sai Hikaru, Mica-chan, caramel, lebleuphenix, lorik, nekonomiko, Susy, SilverNimbus, Shinomori Kibou, Zula, nee-chan, Isilwen Nyx Silverstar, Diablo, Selph, Gina and FlameSolo for reviewing !! Thanks a lot !!!

I'm sorry if the lemon wasn't as good as some of you expected. It was my first try after all !! Next time I'll write something more hot  ^^ . I thought about taking it out, but oh well… I'm assuming my stuff  ^^ .

Sorry again about my grammar mistakes !! As I already said, I'm not a native English speaker and sometimes I'm making mistakes !!

Now read and have fun !!!

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Chapter 12: Awakenings

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A cool breath in my hair wakes me up. I'm comfortable – I can't recall what happened after I left the training hall in a hurry. A mere feeling of vague cold and disease. But then, now I feel alright, warm, cherished… Will I open an eye? I leave the quiet dizziness of sleep to embrace my awakening, and my eyes are fluttering open, still hazy from slumber.

I'm cuddled against a strong, comforting chest. A masculine chest? How happens… Amazed – am I dreaming? – I raise my eyes to the one holding me so lovingly… but my mind snaps from its cloudy state to turn to a chaotic turmoil when I realize I'm staring at icy blue eyes. Icy blue eyes boring holes in me. Icy blue eyes violating my peace and barely constructed independence. Independence from him.

I know I have to be harsh, or I'm going to cry. Hurt before being hurt, you know. He knows how to hurt me; I've now learnt how to hurt him. I can't give him enough time to harm me, I have to strike before he does, because I can feel my eyes watering under his concerned gaze. I don't want to cry, he doesn't deserve it…

"Why aren't you gone?"

Was it harsh enough? I'm not sure. My voice has shaken slightly, though I manage to gather enough strength and boredom to make him believe that I don't need him. How funny, you must think. I've tried so hard to make him realize that I do need him indeed, and right now I am reduced to let him believe that I don't anymore. A wry turn of fate. But I must have sounded convincing because I can see pain twinkling in those icy depths. Pain? I thought he didn't care.

"I told you that you could catch up with her. You're quick. You're Oniwabanshuu, aren't you?"

"Misao…" Great. I forced a word from those sealed lips, and it's my name. I have to go on lamely, I don't want him to think I'm weak. Anyway, why didn't he leave?! Does he think it will make the things any better? Must go on speaking. If I stop for a mere second, I know I will fail. Must go on. And mustn't cry.

"Why did you stay? I don't want you to regret it afterwards." Was it I? It didn't sound like me at all. I am angrier than that. He hurt me, I want him to regret it. But then I still want him to be happy. I am contradicting myself. Will he at least turn his damn eyes away?! His gaze is burning my bare skin.

"Misao…" Again my name breathed almost sensually. What got inside his head? Is he stupid enough, or does he not know me at all, to think he can calm me down with pretty words that are threats in disguise? Does he think I haven't grown to recognize his lies? I know you by heart, Aoshi, and when you hide that sexy look in your eyes, you're like the wildcat about to swoop down on its prey. You are gazing down at me with that unreadable gleam in your eyes telling me that you are going to fool me, that you are going to lie to me, and that before I can utter a word I'll be left with my disillusions. You're treating me like those children: you can promise them the moon because you know that in a few days they'll have forgotten about it. But I won't forget, Aoshi. I won't let you deceive me.

"You should be there, Aoshi, you know, you should have left, or you'll miss her…"

"Misao, will you listen to me?!"

What? My breath keeps sticking in my throat by the anger and annoyance in your tone. And despite myself, guilt is flooding in me – I've never wanted to hear you sound so hurt… never wanted to see so much sadness amassed in those icy blue eyes… I want to force a no but I'm transfixed, and words are slipping away before I can help.

"Ha-ai…" How weak my voice sounds. I can't help. I still love him. Where did my courage flee, my harshness, my anger ? Can I really be heartless when it comes to him? I think I just can't. But his eyes are closing – as though he tried to get rid of his sorrow… Oh Kami, my heart is pounding so hard in my chest that it becomes painful. I'm speechless. Just him to make me feel like that – I don't know what he's thinking and yet I'm shattered by the single picture of him kneeling in front of me like that. Thinking of it, I'm still between his arms… his eyes are opening slowly, shimmering with emotions, and he doesn't seem to be the same man.

"I didn't leave because I don't want to chase after Yukiko, Misao. True, I used to love her, love her very much indeed. But I don't anymore. I belong here, where lives my family, and where lives my love too."

And he smiles.

And I remain frozen.

It's just; I can't find the words to express how emotions are rushing through me, leaving me empty and worn-out. I have to find something to regain my composure – and I start to fidget, like I usually do. I think I've never felt so awkward, torn between utter, fuzzy joy and betrayed uncertainty, as if my mind couldn't register any information coming from him without the ghost of doubt hanging over it. I saw that gleam telling he was going to fool me. But if he ever meant what he just said…

"Y-you're not f-funny, Aoshi-sama. D-don't tease me. Y-you're kidding, r-right?" And I try to smile, uneasy as I am, plastering a sort of grimace on my face to hide my discomfort. If he was just mocking me…? Could he? Seconds are passing by, each one being an eternity… And still no word is spoken, he just keeps focusing on me, those fiery eyes not leaving mine – devouring me… A large blush is creping on my cheeks, yet he remains impassable…

"S-stop teasing me, Aoshi-sama…" My hands clench spasmodically in my lap, betraying my nervousness…

He's bending over. He's coming close. And before I can point out what's happening, he's kissing me. His strong, calloused hands are cupping my cheek with great softness, as though I was made of glass. All rational thoughts are fleeing from my mind, and without thinking I'm answering to his kiss… The taste of his lips, the way he brushes them against mine… This is the exact opposite of the rough kiss he snatched from me yesterday… My arms are winding around his neck without my permission, as if of their own will, and I'm kissing him shyly but hungrily, as he does to me. I'm drowning in his strength… I'm in love…

His tongue is entwining with mine – it feels so delicious… Then his hands are tracing my skin… His caresses…

Knock knock.

What the hell…?

"Misao, are you up?"

Okon's sweet voice echoed dimly from the corridor, and Misao grunted slightly before turning on her right side and drowning again in the soft warm of sleep. Hesitating a short while, the older kunoichi soundlessly opened the shoji, letting the mild rays of sunlight splash the whole bedroom… and stared in disbelief at the two heaps of tousled hair barely emerging from underneath the thick blankets.

"MISAO!! AOSHI-SAN!! OKINAAAAA!!!"

Misao's heart jumped to her throat as she got woken up with a start, and her cheeks turned a bright red when she heard Okon's squeaks. Aoshi was obviously awake too – and his hands snuck around her naked waist to pull her deeper under the blankets. Flushed, vaguely ashamed and unable to line up two coherent thoughts, Misao dived under the sheets and buried her face in Aoshi's bare chest, trying to hide her uneasiness at Okon's yells. Hurried steps were heard and breathless Okina, Shiro and Kuro appeared in the doorframe, alarmed by the noise – but stopped dead in their tracks at the sweet scene the two lovers were making.

A dumbfounded silence spread all over the room, Aoshi and Misao did not dare move; neither did the intruders. Then Okina cleared his throat and asked casually: "Okon, should you make me taste that wonderful tea you brought back from the market?"

The still speechless Okon stammered a few incoherent words before managing to let out: "Huh. The tea… Huh, y-yes, s-sure…"

Okina had a small smile and gently pushed the shocked woman in front of him along the corridor after having closed the shoji and shut everyone out.

Inside the now quiet room, Misao soon started to squirm, ill at ease in Aoshi's tight embrace. The young man loosened his grip around her frail body with a small chuckle, and gazed at her when, flushed and embarrassed, she wrapped herself in a sheet to sit down without exposing her bare chest. In the meanwhile, she felt more than silly – after all he had seen more than her breasts last night, she thought with a pang of awkwardness. Yet now heaps of questions were assailing her, fear eating at her insides – had she been right? What if Aoshi decided to let her down?! What kind of trouble had she gotten herself into?! She would never been able to find a husband now… and would remain a burden for everyone…

She had to put her cards on the table. And make him put his.

"What are we doing now?", she asked stiffly. Aoshi's gaze didn't waver, nor did it lighten up to give her any hint.

"What do you expect us to do?", he cooly replied. Damn. She hated when he answered her questions with one of his own. As if to add to her uneasiness, she felt that her lower lip was quivering, showing out how tensed and miserable she felt. Swiftly she turned round, showing her back to Aoshi and, wound in the blanket, she got up and walked to the window.

"You know what I mean, Aoshi. Don't play this little game, please… I just want to know… know what's going on…"

She was staring out of the window, her forehead leaning against the cold pane.

"I saw you kissing her. I was standing right here. Maybe I can't understand some things of yours, but then you can't understand how hurt I felt. Betrayed. Ashamed. Sad. Lost. Whatever… I won't get out unharmed of all this. I just want you to tell me the truth. Let me know what's going on…"

But Misao couldn't keep pouring her heart out. She was started, taken off-guard, as Aoshi's warm arms embraced her from behind, slipping around her petite waist.

"Listen to me carefully, Misao… I won't tell you I didn't kiss her. I won't tell you she forced me. But then – I don't love her. That's the way it is. I can't say I never thought of her like someone I could love. It's just – she's a part of me, a part of my past… Seeing her awakens feelings in myself that are not exactly love – fondness, care, I don't know. You'll understand with time. Yes, I think that's it…"

Both of them remained stuck in their own, lone thoughts for a while, then Misao voiced with that tiny, shy tone of hers that made him go wild.

"Sure?"

Aoshi smiled, his nose buried in her smooth hair, before answering.

"Marry me, Misao."

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A year later

"Misao? Aoshi-san?"

Omasu's kind voice echoed through the dinning room, but nobody replied. The young woman scowled, annoyed, and opened the sliding panel that looked out onto the garden. Loud laughter and shouts could be heard in the distance, and the onmitsu gritted her teeth rather angrily – were they mad to go out when it was so cold?!

"Misao! Come in right now!" she called firmly.

Misao's ebony hair popped from behind a bush, powdered with shimmering white flakes.

"Oh, Omasu!!! Don't be such a killjoy! It's the first snowfall of the year, let's enjoy it!"

Aoshi appeared near his wife, as snowy as she was.

"Don't worry, Omasu. I'm taking good care of her."

Omasu made a face and started pestering after unwise men, when Aoshi crushed a big snowball on Misao's head, which earned him a shrill shriek that was smothered with a kiss.

"When you'll have finished with your foolish games, will you please come in so that I can give you the letter that arrived for the both of you?"

Misao's eyes widened. "A letter?!"

Omasu nodded, and she saw Misao emerging from the snowy thickets, walking rather slowly and uneasily, before Aoshi lifted her up between his strong arms and carried her towards the house. Fuming, Omasu started her usual lecture.

"Aoshi-san, really, do you think it's wise to encourage a pregnant woman to go and do what she sees fit?! Now, going in the snow and what? She could catch a cold! No, Aoshi-san, you really should…"

Aoshi chuckled while glancing quickly at his lovely wife, who had blushed like whenever anyone was pointing out her pregnancy. Gently, he put her on her feet and held her until she found her balance – she was so frail that it was hard for her to bear the additional weight of a child, and she had difficulties in walking. This got on her nerves because she wasn't as independent as she used to be – but Aoshi took advantage of any opportunity to help her out and get a change of air. Which actually pissed Omasu off as she thought a pregnant woman should take as much rest as possible.

Nevertheless the woman handed the letter to Aoshi, who took it with thanks. Slowly, his gaze ran through the sheet of paper as he unfolded it – and a shadow passed through his eyes in recognition of that quick yet neat handwriting. Misao felt the tension growing in her husband. Was it bad news?, she wondered with concern.

"It's from Yukiko", Aoshi merely said. Misao frowned slightly.

"What does she say?", she simply asked.

"Let me read…"

Dear Aoshi, dear Misao-chan,

I hope the both of you are alright. I heard about your wedding quite a while ago, and I wish you all the possible happiness. I wish I could come and congratulate you myself but I can't come to Kyoto for a while. Let's hope that when I'll at last be able to come, I'll find you with beautiful toddlers! As for me, I've just married a man I've met when coming back from my last assignment. I resigned my job (my boss nearly killed me but, by chance, I survived…!), got married and actually that letter was meant to let you know that we, Seta Yukiko and Soujiro, would be very happy if the both of you could come and visit us whenever you want in Nara, where we're living. I apologize for being so rude and not coming to see you and invite you, but actually a happy event to come makes any travel impossible… Take care, with love,

Yukiko.

"WHAT?! You mean, Seta Soujiro?!" This was Misao's voice, very shrill with shock. Aoshi half-smiled and answered coolly:

"I don't think there are two."

"But she's what?! Years older than him!!"

Aoshi sighed.

"Misao, I am years older than Yukiko and you are years younger than Soujiro…"

Misao remained speechless, and pouted cutely to hide her discomfort. She was about to retort something wry when her face turned to amazement; Aoshi was already about to ask what was wrong and if she was okay, worrying about his precious wife, but Misao smiled in delight and exclaimed, pure wonder readable on her features.

"He kicked me!" Her eyes twinkled. "I really felt it!"

And a fond smile broke on Aoshi's lips, rewarded by a sweet burst of laughter.

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OWARI ? … Let's see…

Okina's perverted epilogue !

Well… I think that youngsters are out for now… Hey hey hey Kami knows what they're doing right now… Well I guess that it's none of my business  ^_^o … Aaaaah I'm soooo tired !! It's no good for an old man like me to stay up so late at night… and actually I must say that though Yukiko's a very caring mother, she still can drink like ten. She and her husband arrived to the Aoiya today morning, and of course a little party was thrown to greet them… Though Aoshi and Soujiro spent some time sizing up each other (why had Yukiko-chan to marry one of Shishio's associates ?! Well if they're happy…) the ice was soon broken and the party was a real pleasure.

Yukiko told us how she met her husband, but it's such a loooong story that I won't tell you now ! I wanna go and sleep, do you understand ?! Ok ok the epilogue… If I don't want Kmye-chan to skip my perverted epilogue, I have to tell you what happened…

Indeed nearly a year after her wedding with Aoshi, Misao gave birth to an a-do-ra-ble Makie-chan – which is really stunning ! I didn't think Aoshi could make so beautiful children, though I've always believe in my lovely Misao-chan… ^_^o … Well again it's none of my business… Ah, if I was younger… Good, now I hope that the next one will be a baby boy ! Not that I don't like girls – I indeed do LOVE girls – but now that we have a chibi Misao to care about, we'd like a chibi Aoshi. I'll have to drop a word to Aoshi about this…

A few minutes ago, Aoshi and Misao were discussing with Yukiko and Soujiro about travelling with them and their cute Heiji-chan in Nara. Maybe I could go with them – just to be sure they don't do anything stupid, of course ! (Do you think there are pretty girls in Nara ? YES ? Oh oh oh… *lecherous smile*)

Well actually you'll have to excuse me, I must pack my things to go to Nara – and I've just seen a gorgeous (not to say slightly tipsy) beauty walking down the street… Wouldn't I be rude if I didn't go and check she's alright ?! … Hey hey hey see you later…

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OWARI

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Author's notes :  END !!! I finished it !!! I can't believe it !!! Do you realize that I've been writing this damn story for nearly a YEAR ?! Actually I loved writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it !!!

HYPER-THANKS to all the adorable people who reviewed, emailed me or gave me their advices ! It really helped a lot ! I'm not a really good writer so any piece of advice that could make my stories better was welcome  ^^ . Although I enjoyed a lot all the nice reviews and comments !!! Reading them helped me to go on when I was short of inspiration ( you know, when I was in front of my comp staring at my screen and didn't found anything to write…  ^^o)

Well… I hope that the end of this story wasn't too disappointing… I know that some people would have liked something more angsty to conclude this already angsty story. It's just, after the climax of chapters 10 and 11, I couldn't find anything even more angsty to keep the angst so I decided to have a happy outcome, quite merry and sweet. And actually I think I went totally crazy when writing the very end… Okina's perverted epilogue ?!… I've always wanted to write an AxM story in Okina's point of view, but I can't get in the mood to place myself as an old lecherous man… so I just let him write the epilogue… Tell me if you think it was not funny at all and want me to take it out, or if it does damage to the whole story.

Now, I decided to marry Yukiko to Soujiro because I didn't want to hurt Soujiro's fans and letting him alone  ^-~ ! Well… It was just a wink… I won't write a story about how Yukiko and Soujiro met, but if anyone is interested in writing one, let me know !

Then, I just wanted to ask a question. I have a lot of fanfictions planned in that little crazed mind of mine, but I don't know what to write first since I can't write two fics at the same time (not enough time !!). Tell me what you would like to read ! I have a long angsty fic planned, but would you like to read a short romantic story or an AU funny/crazy story first ? Thanks to anyone who will give me their opinion !!

Thanks minna for supporting this story !!! Review and tell me what you thought about the whole story !!!