I hadn't realized some of you thought the last chapter was the end. It wasn't, but this is. My inspiration is almost nil and I don't want to leave anyone hanging about Kenshin & Kaoru's relationship so…here it is…and I'm so sorry if it feels rushed but I need to draw this to a close or it'll enter the lake of never finished fics.
Chapter XIII: Words that need not be said
Mountains of Kyoto, April of 1873
23-year old Kenshin sat on a rock by a stream, stretching his arms from his recent training session. It had been 5 years since the close of the revolution and since then everything had been peaceful; quiet.
A sigh escaped the red head's lips; almost peaceful. "Hai, shishou?"
A tall broad shouldered man in a billowing white cape stepped out from the cottage and tossed him a sack of yen. "Go into town and buy me some more sake."
"I can do that, Hiko-san," Kaoru quipped, though he ignored her.
At the sight of the raven haired woman, Kenshin's previous anger melted away and he headed off with a few choice words under his breath. It had been like this since he had come back to his master, retaking up his training as the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu's 14th successor. Kaoru and Soujiro had come as well, that alone prompting him to ask his shishou to take them in. It had made him stomp his pride down but the past years had definitely been worth it.
"Let me come with you, Himura-san," Soujiro said, coming out of the forest carrying firewood on his back. The light blue gi sleeves had been tied back and leg guards were around the boy's hakama, suggesting he had been training before Kaoru had ordered him to get wood. "I wanted to go into town today anyway…"
"Come along then."
Soujiro deposited the firewood and took off with Kenshin, Hiko muttering, "Remember what I told you," as he passed.
Kaoru gave him a suspicious look. "What did you tell him?"
That smirk that made Kaoru grit her teeth in annoyance flickered onto the egotistical man's lips. "The boy asked me how he could pick up a girl; who am I to refuse giving him my extensive knowledge? Soujiro's got to become a man some time this century; he's 18 already."
Kaoru groaned; loudly. "Oh no…poor Sou-chan's going to be slapped…"
* * * * *
The sake shop in Kyoto was, like always, filled with people bustling through, the big bush of red hair sticking out amongst the crowd. Even with his scar covered, everyone knew who Kenshin was and had become somewhat used to his presence. There was still an uneasy tension in the air whenever he was around though.
Kenshin was oblivious to everything though; Soujiro was acting oddly, looking from side to side in search of…well…something. Purchasing 5 bottles of his shishou's favorite sake, he gave Soujiro two of them to carry before walking out of the shop. "Soujiro, who are you looking for?"
Was he seeing things, or was the boy blushing slightly? "A friend I met on my last trip to the book shop…"
Kenshin's eyebrow arched questioningly, a hint of amusement in his amethyst eyes. "Female someone?"
Soujiro was definitely blushing. "Hai…"
"I was starting to worry that you didn't have an eye on any girl," he said with a touch of laughter in his tone, "Who is she?"
"A friend…she was coming to visit with some family this week…should we go get some lunch at the Shirobeko? You won't have to go to the river and fish for it today."
Kenshin rolled his eye heavenward saying, "Shishou will make me go anyway but sure…no offense to Kaoru-dono's culinary skills but I don't think my stomach can hold more of it after a week straight."
Soujiro grimaced. "Why doesn't Hiko-san cook? He can cook decently enough…at least…he did when you were sick last winter…"
Kenshin barely concealed a snort of laughter. "Hell will freeze over before he cooks again."
Soujiro sighed; that was believable.
"Konnichiwa Soujiro-kun," an older and prettier Kana beamed as she ushered them into the Shirobeko. Misa and Haruka were off in the background waiting tables, Hachiro and Seiki vaguely heard in the kitchen cooking for the owner, Sae. "Are you staying to eat today?"
"Iie; we wanted to ask Sae-dono for five lunches to go…"
Kana beamed; "Right away, Kenshin-san."
"I'm going to see something Himura-san," Soujiro said quickly, putting the sake jugs down, "I'll be back in a moment."
Kenshin blinked as Soujiro disappeared in the blink of an eye, asking Haruka to watch the sake before following. Who in their right mind could resist spying on the boy a little bit? He had spied on him when Kenshin was trying to have some alone time with Kaoru many times before. Peering around the corner of the wall, his eyes widened slightly.
"So how has everyone been, Soujiro-san?" Shiori asked, kneeling in one of the rooms with three other people. He could see three shadows but nothing else really, except for the fact that the small girl he remembered had grown into a stunning young lady that had Soujiro wrapped around her fingers from the tell tale blush on his cheeks and his beaming smile that was threatening to break his face. "I didn't get a chance to visit you all last month when I was in town…"
"Kaoru-san and Himura-san are doing great; Hiko-san is…" Soujiro paused as he thought his words over. "Well, Hiko-san is Hiko-san."
One of the shadows snorted. "The guy is that bad?"
The voice was oddly familiar but Kenshin just couldn't place it. Listening closer, he could tell the other two were a man and a woman but he was still at a loss.
"I'm sure Hiko-san isn't that bad…he taught Kenshin how to fight so he has to be a good warrior."
"He isn't a good spy like we are then," Shiori quipped, "I can hear Kenshin-san breathing behind the wall around the corner."
A tuff of red hair came into view as the former hitokiri fell to the floor sweat-dropping.
Shiori giggled, waiting for Kenshin to crawl his way to their little corner room. "Long time no see, Kenshin-san. I see your skills have lessened somewhat; I could hear you a mile away."
It's not like he could hear her though; Kenshin was too busy staring at the ghosts – at least, he thought they were ghosts -- in front of him.
* * * * *
Kaoru tapped her foot as she waited for Soujiro and Kenshin to come back. Hiko was off making his latest pottery creation, thus leaving Kaoru bored stiff until the two men returned, Soujiro hopefully without a red handprint on his cheek.
Turning around, Kaoru squinted, not believing what she was seeing. "Shiori-chan?" The girl walking beside Soujiro and Kenshin – who, Kaoru noted, was staring behind them while walking – beamed brighter, running the rest of the way before grabbing her in a hug. "Shiori-chan! It's been so long! Look at you! How are you?"
"I've been alright; I'm in Kyoto visiting with some in-laws though." She smirked knowingly in the general direction of Kenshin and the three people he was absorbed in talking to. "They wanted to meet you and see Kenshin-san again."
"Again?" Kaoru murmured confusedly to herself before Soujiro and Shiori grabbed each of her arms, dragging the young woman towards the rag tag group. "Makiko-san, Seiji-san, Ryosuke-san!"
The adults talking animatedly with the former hitokiri looked up in unison, their amethyst eyes bearing a striking resemblance to Kenshin's. "Is this the famous Kaoru you've told us so much about, Shiori-chan?"
The girl beamed, nodding. "Kaoru-san, this is my brother-in-law Seiji, his brother Ryosuke and their sister Makiko." Her grin widened. "They're the people who ordered me to come to Kyoto a few years ago."
Kaoru's eyebrow ticked; she had always wanted to say this. "Why would you send a young child into the center of a war?"
Makiko sighed, running a slim hand through her fiery red hair. "It was bad judgment on our part years ago, but we were so worried that baka would get himself killed."
Seiji nodded in firm agreement. "We certainly didn't put up with the incompetent slave traders for nothing."
"Besides," Ryosuke scoffed, "This brat is too hard headed and stubborn to get herself killed."
Shiori's eyebrow ticked and she stepped on Ryosuke's foot hard, prompting a howl of pain.
"What is all the racket? Can't a humble potter get some peace around here?" He turned to Kenshin and arched an eyebrow. "Where's my sake and who are these people?"
"You have to be Hiko-san." Arching a delicate eyebrow, Makiko walked around him with a speculative eyebrow, ignoring his annoyed look. "I always thought Kenshin's master would be a bit on the thinner side."
Hiko's brow ticked. "Are you calling me, Seijuuro Hiko, fat?"
Kenshin nearly choked on his laughter. "Please forgive Makiko, shishou. Ane-ue never knows when to keep her mouth shut."
That earned two surprised looks and one hard smack to the back of his head.
"Ane-ue?" Kaoru and Hiko muttered in surprise, though Hiko's face took back its annoyed presentation. He hadn't even known his baka deshi had living relatives, let alone one as annoying as him.
Shiori snickered as she glanced at the now bickering siblings. "Can you see where he gets his attitude?"
Hiko's brow ticked again, this time in earnest. Just great; my home is turning into a reunion sight for my baka deshi. Now it's four times the annoyances.
* * * * *
Kaoru watched in unconcealed amusement as Kenshin revealed yet another side to him; the childish one. She had always been an only child, so maybe that was why she found it so funny that he was currently arguing with them. Whenever one said something, it seemed to anger one of the others.
"You're still short."
Kenshin's eyebrow ticked. "I'm not THAT short."
Ryosuke snorted, "You're as short as Makiko!"
That got the red haired girl started. "I am NOT SHORT!"
"If I'm not mistaken," Seiji – the seemingly calm one – said, "From what I heard of Makiko-chan and your wife talking, YOU'RE the one who's short. Yushiro-san beats you by a few inches."
Kenshin and Makiko choked on their tea while Ryosuke went furious red and Kaoru simply flushed in embarrassment. Shiori was having the time of her life, rolling on the floor and clutching her side as she howled in unladylike guffaws. "Kisama!" Ryosuke promptly jumped over the table and tried strangling his brother.
Soujiro looked about ready to leave the room because of his uneasiness. "I think I'll go get some more water." He grabbed the empty bucket and walked out the door, Shiori looking up once her laughter subsided.
"I'll go with you!" She promptly got to her feet and ran after him.
* * * * *
Soujiro sighed as he put the bucket under the waterfall, the cool liquid frigid to his skin. The day had certainly been interesting and Shiori's rag tag family was as interesting as she had said.
"Ne, Soujiro-san?" Shiori was sitting on top of a rock in the water, her feet cooling off in the water below. "How do you like living in the mountains?"
"It's fun," he said simply, a small smile quirking his lips, "But not nearly as much fun with no one my age to talk with. I know Kaoru-san and Himura-san are here to talk to but…"
She chuckled knowingly. "They kind of make you feel like a third wheel?"
Soujiro nodded. "I'd like to see them get married one day…it's been so long since the…revolution ended and I know they both like each other."
"Adults are stupid," Shiori stated flatly, "Take Ryosuke-san for example. He knows Makiko-san can kick his butt yet he teases her anyway and whines when she beats him up."
Soujiro let out a little laugh. "I take it they're worse at your home."
Shiori nodded with a roll of her eyes. "It's a common sight to see someone flying through the roof." Lying on her back, she let out another sigh. "There's never a dull moment but…I still get lonely…"
Soujiro turned to her with an eyebrow arched. "You too?"
"There's no one I can relate to…" She let out a sigh again, this time sad. "The last time I didn't feel lonely was when I was with you…"
Soujiro smiled brighter then he ever had, the familiar warmth spreading to his face. It was giving him a wonderful feeling in his chest and just for a moment, he wondered what she would say if…"Shiori-san?"
"Can I come live with you?"
* * * * *
Kaoru choked on her rice dinner as she kneeled there, eating with Hiko, Kenshin, Soujiro and Shiori who had opted to stay a little longer. Ryosuke, Makiko, and Seiji had left, heading to Tokyo after promising to visit again. "Nani?!"
"I'd like to go live in Tokyo with Shiori-san and her family." Soujiro couldn't bring himself to meet Kaoru's eye as he knew what he would see. "Don't get me wrong…I like it here but..."
Kenshin didn't need to hear him elaborate on that. He had somewhat suspected that Soujiro was beginning to feel uncomfortable living with them. "It'll be quite desolate without you here, Soujiro."
He gave a smile. "I doubt that. Hiko-san is here to keep things lively." Soujiro sweat-dropped when Kenshin glowered and Hiko had that teeth grating smirk of his. "Besides…I…"
Kaoru studied Soujiro's suddenly volcanic blush curiously before turning to Shiori who was a bit flustered herself and avoiding eye contact. She'd miss him so much but she couldn't keep him here forever; she knew she'd have to let him go sooner or later. "I don't know what to say, Sou-chan…I'll miss you…" Kaoru let out a ragged sigh as she tried her best to smile brightly. "I know you'll be happy though, so…"
Hiko wondered whether the two youngsters could beam brighter. It was rather pathetic really…the boy had figured out his feelings long after his baka deshi had but was the first one to admit it to his girl, if their interlocked hands under the table were any indication to anything. "When do you leave and I get to have some peace and quiet?"
Shiori ignored his look towards her. "Tomorrow; I do have to get back to my job…" She glowered a bit and held up a message. "My superior sent me a new job already by messenger pigeon."
"What's this?" Hiko asked, pointing to a figure on the paper.
Shiori took a look at it before saying simply, "That's how much I'll get paid if I succeed."
Kenshin and Kaoru gawked while even Hiko let his eyes widen slightly.
* * * * *
Kaoru sighed as she watched Shiori and Soujiro walk off, waving until Soujiro turned around and was out of sight. It had been harder then she thought to let him leave, even though she knew he'd be happier with Shiori. He'd have more friends his age and more freedom.
Still, it hurt.
"Kaoru-dono, are you alright?" Kenshin watched her nervously as she blinked her tears back admirably. If there was one thing he could never figure out it was how to deal with a crying woman. Buddha knew Kaoru confused him enough as it was.
"I'll be fine," she said with a light wave of her hand, "I just need to be alone for a little while…"
As Kaoru began walking away – towards the waterfall – Kenshin contemplated leaving her alone but found his feet moving after her anyway. With the stealth of an active hitokiri, he followed a few steps behind her silently, settling in a high branch of one of the trees when she settled down on the rock in the middle of the pond. Kaoru was rigid as she looked around, relaxing only when she was sure that no one was watching.
Finally, Kaoru broke down, tears flowing down her cheeks and into the lake below.
* * * * *
It really was selfish of her to be this upset; Soujiro would be happier in the city with Shiori. If they were lucky, his calm presence would ease her temper into something more manageable. Heaven help them if it went the other way and Soujiro became quick tempered like her.
Still, Kaoru had practically raised him. To her, it felt as if she had to let go of her own child; watch him go off on his own to spread his wings. On some level it was true and she had thought it would be easy to handle. After all, she had always known that Soujiro would leave to start his own life one day. It really shouldn't have affected her this much.
Kaoru nearly jumped out of her skin when her senses picked up a presence, looking up just as Kenshin took her in a warm embrace. His fingers ran through her hair lazily, his breathe tickling her neck. "What are you doing here, Kenshin?"
"I followed you," he said without shame, "I know you're upset and I…thought you'd need a shoulder to cry on."
The tears just wouldn't come, Kaoru's instincts preventing her from crying in front of the one person she never wanted to see her like this. Kenshin seemed to notice her reluctance now, sighing as he pulled back slightly to look her eye to eye.
"A smart woman told me once…that it's all right to cry." He gave her a small smile. "So if you need to, cry your heart out. I'll never think any less of you."
The dams seemed to break as Kaoru let loose her tears, using Kenshin's shoulder for the comfort she had always been denied for many years.
By the time Kaoru's tears had dried the sun was beginning to set – the lake was a few inches higher too – and Hiko could be heard grumbling about no dinner. Sniffling one last time, she pulled out of his comforting embrace and smiled slightly. "I'm alright now Kenshin. Domo arigatou…for everything…"
"I should be the one to thank you…Kaoru." Kenshin smiled slightly as he stood up, holding his hand towards her. "Let's go back home."
Blinking a few times, Kaoru noted his lack of formality. He had never just called her Kaoru and his smile…it didn't seem like a forced one that he normally had. Blushing slightly, Kaoru took his offered arm and smiled. She didn't know why but the sound of just her name gave her a bigger comfort then any foreign chocolate could. It gave her a new hope that maybe…she could get closer to him; maybe he would open up and one day…
Pausing through their walk in the woods, Kenshin turned to her and nodded. He didn't need to anything and neither did Kaoru; they both knew they could move forward in the pursuit of a relationship, now that he was ready.
Coming out of the forest, Kaoru suddenly let go of his hand, surprising Kenshin slightly before standing on her toes and kissing him. It was short and sweet but the grin on Kenshin's face afterwards gave Kaoru a sort of happiness she had never felt.
Words could never describe their feelings for each other; all that mattered was that they would make each other happy.
Finally done! I thank ALL my reviewers for their support and I hope you enjoyed my first RK story.