A/N: I just recently reread the entire series, what with the release of Kyoto Hen and the Live Action movie, all of which has stirred my long-lost love for this series. It was my first true manga love, and where I started originally writing in fanfiction. I appreciate the subtle romance that Watsuki offers in the series. I realize it was a shonen manga, and to appeal to the appropriate audience needed to focus on fighting and badassery, but the fact that the underlying tones involved the relationship between Kenshin and Kaoru really appealed to me. I only wish there had been at least one kiss scene. This is to get that desire (and perhaps disappointment) out of my system for the moment.
I know, I don't write anymore, and I can't write for shit anymore, but here it is anyway. Thanks for reading. Don't expect much else out of me.
A Little Lonelier
It took her several days after their return from Enishi's island to notice it. At first, the emotional exhaustion had crept in and she had slept heavily upon being back at the dojo in her own bed. It wasn't the most peaceful sleep she had ever experienced, certainly her own fair share of nightmares would creep in, but most often she would wake up without really remembering what they were about. However, on the fifth night, she awoke. She could not quite remember what exactly jarred her out of her slumber, whether it be dream or noise from the outside, but she sleepily blinked and sat up, rubbing at her eyes.
Whatever it was, it was enough to stop her from simply rolling over and going back to sleep. She took some moment to let her brain catch up with her body, and she glanced around her room. Moonlight filtered in from outside, creating some soft glow in the room, enough for her to see everything was in place. She was home again, home where she should be, and everyone she cared about was right there. Yahiko, Sanosuke, Megumi, Aoshi, Misao... and Kenshin.
Realizing she was not ready to try to sleep once again, she stood, figuring a walk around the dojo might help whatever was ailing her, if she could even call it such. Something was there, bothering her, but she hadn't the slightest clue what.
And so when she pulled open the door to step out into the hall, she nearly jumped back in surprise. She had not expected anyone to be sitting outside of her room, and she could not help the soft gasp that escaped her in her surprise. Kenshin jerked his head up, jarred from his light slumber and blinked rapidly. "Oro?"
Kaoru, hand pressed to her chest, stared back at him briefly before her surprise melted into a small smile at the familiar noise rolling off of his tongue. Even still, she did not like that he was not in bed resting. He was dressed in bandages, his arm in a sling, and his form was slighter than normal. She had been told about the events leading up to her rescue—how he had gone days unmoving, without food or water, wallowing in his misery.
It brought pain to know that had happened to him, and she closed her eyes briefly, the emotion apparent on her face. Kenshin, not aware of what she was thinking, furrowed his brow. "Kaoru-dono? Are you all right?"
She opened her eyes to his voice, that little smile returning to her face as she took another step toward him. "Shouldn't I be asking you that? You should be resting, not camping outside of my bedroom." If this had happened some time ago, she would have accused him of being a pervert or up to something nefarious. Now, however, she knew exactly why he was there. It was both endearing but also... sad. Sad that such things had happened to result to this worry within him.
He gave an apologetic smile, that looked so cute and ridiculous at the same time and she made a soft noise of amusement at him. "This unworthy one apologizes. It is just that..."
"I know," Kaoru murmured, not letting him finish. Kenshin paused, watching her quietly as she closed the small distance between then and dropped down to a seated position beside him, tucking her legs in. "You don't need to say it, Kenshin. It was mostly rhetorical."
"Well," Kaoru glanced over at him and then down at his arm in the sling. "You really should be resting. Megumi-san will have your head if she finds out you are not taking care of yourself. Have you been out here every night?"
He opened his mouth, but paused, no words immediately coming forth. Then, he nodded, glancing down at the floor. "Ah. Except the first night."
She wasn't surprised. He'd lost a lot of blood, and had practically passed out on the return home. In fact, she had watched over him that night, not that he knew. But the fact he'd been out here, camping by her door every night, well...
As much as she wanted to reprimand him for not resting properly, she couldn't. Because she knew why he did what he did, and she was not going to be angry at him for such a thing. She paused at that. Where was her temper at? She lifted her gaze back to his face, and his eyes cut over to meet hers. Sometimes, she felt as if she could get lost in that gaze. Instead, she smiled at him, and she could tell he was caught off guard just slightly. Perhaps he, too, had expected her to get mad at him. "Kenshin... you should get some rest-"
He was so very polite, usually he did not interrupt her. It threw her off, and it showed in her own expression. He bowed his head, adjusting the sakabatou that was leaning on his shoulder. "Let this unworthy one stay here, please. If Kaoru-dono does not mind it."
"Kenshin..." He lifted his head to look at her and she smiled at him, warmly. She couldn't say no to such a request. "All right."
He smiled back. "Thank you."
He continued to sit watch outside of her room at night. It became habit. Megumi left for Aizu. Aoshi and Misao left for Kyoto. A week later, Sanosuke departed for his worldly adventures (as a fugitive). Not long after, Yahiko took up residence in Sanosuke's old place. In such a short time the Kamiya Dojo became a very empty place. It hit Kaoru very suddenly the day Yahiko moved out. She had been aware of it, of everyone leaving, but now in the face of Yahiko living elsewhere, she was realizing just how empty it was. The only ones left were herself and ...Kenshin.
She blinked out of her reverie, turning to the sound of her name. Kenshin approached, smiling at her. It was early in the day, and Yahiko had not been gone too long. She had not realized she had been standing at the entrance of the dojo, staring in the direction he had left for.
"Is Kaoru-dono all right?"
She reached up and patted her own cheek. "Yes, I was just... lost in thought. Seems empty now, you know? Well, actually it is empty now. I think it's just now hitting me."
"Ah." Kenshin didn't offer much more than that, coming stand beside her. His presence was so relaxing, comforting. The tension in her body that she didn't realize she'd been harboring began to leave. The wind picked up, rustling their clothes, and she felt the sleeves of his kimono brush her fingertips. The worn fabric caressed her skin, and she thought little about it until it was replaced by warm, slender fingers that were rough with callous and a life of the sword. Kaoru blinked as Kenshin's hand enclosed over hers, holding her gently. He did not look at her, although she looked at him, but that slight, gentle smile was on his face. Quietly, he asked, "Is it really so bad?"
His words surprised her, and the possible meanings behind them ran through her head, before she gave a shy smile and glanced down at the ground. "No. As long as you are with me."
Kenshin glanced over at her, his expression soft. "Always."
Night came and with it did Kaoru retire to her room. Undressed and in her yukata, she was pulling back the cover of her futon when she paused. Standing, she walked to the door and without hesitation slid it open. "Kenshin."
True enough, the habitual rurouni was sitting down in the hallway, and the sudden opening of her door caught him off-guard. He slumped down the rest of the way with a soft "oro!" and looked up at her in confusion.
She looked back at him. Had he really been doing this every night? Probably. And now that no one else was around, he was probably more inclined to do it. "Come inside."
"Oro?!" He hadn't been expecting such a bold thing from her, and it showed on his face. She, in turn, blushed heavily, obviously flustered at his misunderstanding.
"Oh, not like that you idiot! I mean if you're going to sit and watch you might as well make yourself comfortable, so get in here!"
"But, uh, this one is most comfo-"
"OK, OK!" He scrambled to his feet, clutching his sakabatou and hurried into her room as obediently as he could.
Rolling her eyes, and still thoroughly embarrassed, she closed the door behind her. "Really," She exasperated, moving across the room to grab an extra blanket. She turned to see that Kenshin had taken seat against the wall, getting himself comfortable. She sighed and rolled her eyes, though a smile had crept onto her face despite herself. Walking over, she unfolded the blanket and draped it over the rurouni, right over his head.
"Oro?" Kenshin reached up and pulled it down, the fabric tussling his hair. As he did so, Kaoru took a seat next to him, which only made him repeat himself in even more confusion. "Kaoru-dono...?"
He felt her body press up against his, a warm presence that made him relax and he watched her. She had a faint blush on her cheeks still, and she took part of the blanket, draping it over herself. "Well... I just thought you might like company."
Kenshin smiled at that and adjusted the blanket more around himself. "It does make this one happy, yes."
"Good," She muttered through a yawn that almost didn't see completion when she felt him adjust and then slip an arm around her. Her breath caught as he pulled her up close against him, tucking her into his side. Her head hit his shoulder gently and she could feel his breath washing over her. His scent was almost intoxicating, and she was surprised how easy it was to relax into his embrace. This was... nice. No, it was beyond nice. She smiled, and snuggled deeper against him, a hand coming to rest against his chest.
Kenshin had not been sure how she would react to such an advance. He was pleasantly surprised with how well she received the action, and smiled slightly. He would have not suggested staying in her room himself, at least not at this point, but for her to do it was OK. And to hold her like this... he had dreamed of it for sometime. This was as close as he would reach to heaven, he felt like. Right here, in this moment. This was it.
Without even a second thought, he leaned in, his nose brushing against her hair, and his lips pressing against her forehead. The move was not calculated, one bore on desire and impulse more than anything, and he felt her stiffen underneath him. It was probably the only reason he realized the gravity of what he'd just done. Not intending to panic, however, he pulled back slightly, watching her under the veil of his hair, gauging her reaction.
She was staring out into the room, her breathing more noticeable. He had... he had kissed her! Certainly, she'd had silly girl fantasies of such things. She'd never been kissed before. She'd especially had fantasies of him kissing her. And on some level, she knew that it was probably going to happen some day. She just hadn't expected it now, so soon! She was certain her entire face was beet red, but she somehow found her lifting her gaze up to him, wide eyes staring into his calm, gentle ones. "Kenshin..." She whispered softly, half in question, half in reverie.
He smiled slightly at her, placing his sakabatou down on the floor beside him so his hand would be free. Reaching over, he brushed her hair out of her face, rough fingers smoothing over her jawline. It made her breath hitch in response, and admittedly, he enjoyed having such an effect on her. She leaned her face into his touch, which encouraged him and gently, he tipped her chin up. She let him, her eyelids heavy, a gentle blush on her face. He savored the image, letting it burn into his memory, of how inviting she looked, but only for a moment.
And then, he leaned in and kissed her.
The notion was gentle, loving, and steady. Her lips were soft against his, and she was shaking in his arms. He suspected it was out of nervousness more than anything else, but that would pass. Gently, his lips moved against hers, showing her what to do. Though, he was no expert himself. It would be a learning experience for both.
It pleased him to feel her fingers wrap into the collar of his yukata, holding onto it tightly. It created a sense of urgency and desire that made him feel hot, and he had to be careful to remind himself to not get carried away.
Finally, after an eternity of bliss, he broke the kiss, pulling back only a few inches. Even his own breathing was not as steady of usual, his heart beating quickly in his chest. He forced himself to calm down, and took the time to focus on her face.
She had taken a moment before opening her eyes, lips slightly parted and face still flushed. She focused her gaze on him, and after a moment, smiled. He smiled back and squeezed her a little closer. Her response was to rest her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. She breathed his name out, and it filled him with a sense of completion. This... this was happiness. Her smile, her love for him, it was his everything. Smiling, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall.
It might be a little lonelier here now, but it was all right. They had each other.
It's difficult to decide just how much Japanese one uses in a manga-based fanfiction. Here, I was torn between the use of "Sessha" and "This unworthy one." Too much Japanese usage makes the story not flow and lacks class, but a certain amount should be taken into consideration for appropriate representation of setting, characters, etc. Hopefully this was not too bad. -Phoe-chan