See chapter 1 for disclaimer.

Oh dear. I'm terrible! Has it really been that long?! Um…was it worth the wait?

Now that I have been sufficiently shamed, here is the next chapter. I make no promises, but I'll try to do better from now on. I am hard at work on chapter 9 as you read this. ^_^

NOTE: I don't have a mailing list (never thought I'd need one), but if you want me to email you when I update, let me know in a review or email me at

I have two special 'thank you's to give out. The first goes to my wonderful and patient friend and beta Sweetgrass for your advice and encouragement and in general putting up with my rambling. ^_^

The second goes to Destiny for the emailed motivation to get my lazy butt to work. Sorry it took so long. ^_^

And thank you: EneriRenie, The Wanderer, Kyme-chan, Neko-chan, me me me and only me, Sweetgrass, lebleuphenix, lost cause, Mai, Maxelle, pratz, CardMisstressSakura, birdboy2000, Noa, bishlov, Cat H, DarkHorse1, sobakasu, Okashira Paige, Maylar, Azn Anime Artist, Dominique Genocide, Gracelyn, Barb, xoxo, dacrayzblaze1, Lady Nightshade, Aya8, Cataluna and Yunalesca Leyline Takami. Your reviews made my day. ^_^

Shutting up now.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Chapter 8: Tears from the Moon (Misao's POV)

You think you know a person, if you've loved them since before you could even walk. You think you know what they will do, how they will act in certain situations, because you've known and loved them forever, practically. Maybe they have some faults, but it's not a big deal. You love them, and they love you, right?

I wanted to wake up in Aoshi-sama's arms. I wanted him to smile at me and kiss me good morning. I wanted so many things…

But he left.

I should have been angry. I should have raged and stormed at him and demanded to know why he left me. Instead I was numb. I was hollow and empty, rejected yet again even after I knew how much he needed me.

I thought that loving him would be enough. Perhaps this was childish and stupid of me to believe; people are much more complicated than simple wishes like mine would have them be.

Either way, I'd brought this on myself, and now I had to endure it.

"I can't believe how much better the reputation of the Kamiya dojo has got in the past few months," Kaoru-san was gloating in the midst of my self-pity trip. "I have eleven students now - eleven - including the three that signed up just before we left! People are finally beginning to forget about the false Battousai, and a few of my old students are talking about coming back, too."

"That's wonderful, Kaoru-san!" I beamed, but I wasn't really listening.

It was sheer torture, walking with Kaoru-san, trying to stay focussed on what she was saying while smiling and pretending that a certain tall, dark-haired Okashira that I'd spent the night with wasn't walking right behind us. I could feel every step he took, every quiet word he said to Himura jab me like a needle through my heart.

How could I concentrate when he was right there, pretending that nothing had happened, like he had not been affected at all?! Grr! It made me so mad I wanted to scream and rant and rave, but I knew that would only get me an expressionless stare out of Aoshi-sama and several funny looks from Himura, Kaoru-san, and everyone around us.

That would not help my quest to unfreeze Aoshi-sama and make him love me. In spite of his actions this morning, I was still determined to follow through with my plans. I'd got this far - no sense in stopping now, ne?

Even if last night was the most beautiful night of my life. Even if Aoshi-sama was being a baka about the whole thing by first abandoning me before I woke up and then refusing to look directly at me. Even if obsessing about it was making me miserable.

When did things get so messed up?

"Here, Misao-chan," Kaoru-san said suddenly, her blue eyes warm with affection and, strangely, compassion, as if she sensed my inner turmoil. "My arms need a rest."

And with that, I suddenly had an armful of Kenji-chan. He stared up at me with wide, clear violet eyes, like he wasn't sure about me. Then he smiled brilliantly, fisting his small fingers around two of mine.

"Don't worry," I told him cheerfully, grinning at him in return. "I'm your Auntie Misao, and we're going to have lots of fun spoiling you while you're here, aren't we?"

Once we got back to the Aoiya, Jiiya and the others came out to greet Himura and Kaoru and ooh and ah over Kenji-chan, who was definitely a big hit with Okon and Omasu.

"Oh, aren't you just the most cutesy-wutsey little baby?" Okon crooned when it was her turn to hold Kenji-chan. She bounced him gently in her arms, and he giggled.

"How adorable!" Omasu cooed while Kaoru grinned with obvious pride. "He's a miniature version of Himura-san!"

"You're so lucky, Kaoru-san!" I said, not quite able to completely erase all traces of wistfulness from my tone. If Aoshi-sama and I ever had children…would they look more like him or me?

Thankfully, only Kaoru-san seemed to really notice it; Okon and Omasu were distracted by Kenji's giggles as they tickled him. Her blue eyes narrowed slightly, and a thin line appeared between her brows as she cast a brief glance at me, but she said nothing.

"Yare, yare, what are we doing out here when there are important guests to entertain?" Jiiya said suddenly, breaking off the quiet conversation that he'd been having with Aoshi-sama and Himura. I'd been straining to hear them from Kaoru's side without letting on that I was trying to eavesdrop, but, damn it, they were speaking too softly for me to hear!

"Forgive our rudeness, Himura-san," Jiiya continued, smiling sheepishly. "You and your wife must be tired from your journey. Please, come in and refresh yourselves."

"Arigatou gozaimasu, Okina," Himura said, inclining his head.

Kaoru reclaimed Kenji from Okon. "That is very kind of you, Okina-san."

Jiiya smiled and gestured for them to precede him past the sign on the front door that said "Closed for family reasons."

I followed Kaoru-san inside, glancing back at Aoshi-sama just in time to see the furtive glance he threw in the direction of the temple, and my heart sank. Himura and Kaoru-san had come so far to see us, taking time from their busy lives. I knew he would rather be meditating than visiting with the rest of us, but couldn't he just be normal and social for one day?

Jiiya noticed it too. "Aoshi," he said, meeting the okashira's impassive gaze calmly. He jerked his head once in the direction of the Aoiya, and then I had to turn around before I bumped into something and made a fool out of myself.

A joyful thrill shivered through me. Aoshi-sama was staying! It was almost like Jiiya knew that I wanted him to stay, or maybe he just thought that Aoshi-sama could benefit from being around people for a while. Come to think of it, that was probably why he made me ask Aoshi-sama to go to the train station with me. Whatever the reason, he was staying, and I felt like skipping.

I might have, too, if I had not remembered that I was still nervous and uncertain about where things stood between us. I winced, inwardly deciding to corner Aoshi-sama later, and plastered on a big grin as I followed Okon and Omasu to the kitchen.

For once, I did not complain about having to help serve the tea and sweets. The familiar tasks steadied my nerves and gave my hands something to do aside from flutter uselessly in the air.

The tray I carried did not rattle too much when I entered the room and my eyes immediately met Aoshi-sama's unreadable ice blue stare. I froze in mid-step, hardly daring to breathe. He had predictably seated himself on the edge of the group, in a position where he could watch the inner and outer shoji leading to the garden. He held my gaze for a brief, nerve-wracking moment, then looked away, down at his lap.

"Misao-chan, you're blocking the door," Okon said, laughing. That effectively broke the spell.

"Gomen, Okon-san," I said with false brightness. If my genki smile seemed a bit strained, my normal bouncy nature a bit exaggerated, the others did not remark upon it. And I still had to pour tea for Aoshi-sama. Maybe I'd save him for last.

"So, what is the latest news from Tokyo, Himura-san?" Jiiya asked pleasantly as I began to pour the tea. He leaned forward intently, eager for gossip.

"Arigatou, Misao-dono." Himura accepted a cup from me with a sweet smile. I nodded in reply and poured another for Kaoru. "We received a letter from Megumi-dono in Aizu a few weeks ago. She is well, and sends her regards. Sanosuke has been to visit her for treatment of his hand several times."

Kaoru-san laughed, her attention on juggling her small son in her lap and the cup of hot tea. "She says the baka rooster-head stays longer to pester her each time, but I don't think she really minds that," she added, her eyes glinting with good humor. "We're expecting a wedding announcement any day now."

We all laughed at that, remembering how the lady doctor and the street fighter had bickered almost incessantly when she'd come to treat Himura's wounds the last time everyone was gathered in Kyoto. Aoshi-sama remained silent, of course, eyeing the peaceful garden through the open shoji as if entertaining thoughts of escape.

It was very hard not to pelt him with questions such as, why did you leave before I woke up? Did I do something wrong? Did you just not want to hurt my feelings by telling me what I did wrong? Or did you decide that it was a mistake and we should both just forget it ever happened? Why won't you just let me love you, you baka?!

I wished that we could both go somewhere private, if only just to talk. I really wanted to grab him and shake him until his teeth rattled. I hoped he didn't think that I was going to let him go that easily. Not after waiting so long for him to notice that I'm a grown woman. Certainly not after last night.

I bit my lip, returning my attention to the teapot before anyone could notice that my thoughts were wandering.

"Yahiko and Tsubame-dono are officially courting," Himura continued, a smile in his violet eyes. "That is another reason why he did not accompany us on this trip."

I snickered, trading a smile with Kaoru-san as I handed Jiiya his cup of tea. I almost wished that the little shrimp had come, if only so I could tease him to death about his little girlfriend.

At the very least, it would be a welcome distraction from my current…well, distraction.

Speaking of that distraction…the only person left to pour tea for was Aoshi-sama.

I kept my eyes on the cup and the teapot, glaring hard at my hands so they wouldn't shake. Not a single drop of tea splashed or spilled, whether due to the anger in my gaze or to the tremendous effort of will I expended to prevent that I'll never know.

Nor did the liquid even slosh as I slowly and silently passed it to Aoshi-sama. It hurt to look at him, so I stared at the cup in my hand, determined to not make a fool of myself yet again. That also helped to keep my burning questions and accusations hidden, for I knew he would be able to read them in my thoughts.

That strategy might almost have worked if his fingers had not closed over mine as he took the cup. Instantly, as if his eyes were magnets, our gazes connected and locked together.

I couldn't see anything but his eyes, so very light in such a dark man's face. And for once his shields were down, letting me see into his heart. His confusion and turmoil, his sorrow and pain…it was all there, like that time when he appeared in the field.

I could feel a blush spread over my cheeks. Maybe his heart wasn't such a frozen wasteland after all…

To be continued…

Author's Note: To my surprise, I've had a few requests for more lemons, and not just for the Aoshi/Misao pairing. If I do write any more lemons, they'll be posted on my account at under the pen name Inieda, same as on I've learned my lesson (sigh). I'll put a notice on my profile at or in the chapter if there's a lemon scene I've cut from it.

Chapter title from Conjure One - Tears from the Moon (DJ Tiesto Sunrise Remix):

It just ain't fair - this thing called loving

When one step there and the other feels nothing

I would have done anything for you

I still love you, baby I adore you

I feel something falling from the sky

I'm so sad I made the angels cry

Tears from the moon

Fall down like rain

I reach for you

I reach in vain