Disclaimer: I own nothing. I am scrounging and saving for school. Please don't sue me.
Author's notes: Ack! Yet another A/U where the Kenshin-gumi is in high school! Well, I've put my own little twist to this yet again, so perhaps it won't be completely repeating every other story like this out there.
Please read the Warnings and Explanations. It's long, but it may save you from getting a headache or being offended later on.
Warnings: This fic contains mention of Homosexuality and Bisexuality. If the thought of two guys (or girls, should the situation arise) kissing, holding hands, hugging, and other unmentionables bothers you, perhaps you should re-think reading this fic. The classic coupling--being Kaoru/Kenshin, Sano/Megumi, Aoshi/Misao--are mostly disregarded. Aoshi/Misao fans will be the only ones out there who see a little, and unfortunately, I mean very little, action. This, along with adult situations and language are the reason for the R rating. Ages and relationships have been altered drastically. Expect the characters to be somewhat... well, out of character. It's an alternate universe. This should not come as a surprise. Lastly, expect me to take a bit more time to update this. This is a very long story (for me), and I am currently trying to separate it into manageable chapters as I get prepared for my own school year to start. I have not so much free time on my hands.
Explanations: This is a drama. There will be highs and lows, action and a lot of talking. I treat this like a series of short episodes rather than one long block of time. The time frame is set somewhere in October until the end of the school year--June. If it seems like something has been dropped or forgotten, I intend it to be that way. In most cases, it means that a rather large amount of time has passed (Days, weeks, etc...). Don't worry. Most things will be explained eventually.
Final explanation/warnings: This fic is alternate universe. It is set in a typical high school of US standards, as I know very little about modern schools in other countries. While I have done some light research on subjects addressed in this fic, by no means are things as they are in the real world. These are just ideas that popped into my head and begged me to write them down.
I think that about covers it. On with the fic! (Oh, and reviews are welcome. Constructive criticism, people. I put a lot of time into this one. I appreciate efforts to help me make this better, but I really don't think anything I put in here warrants a flame.)Life's a Dance
Central High School. It was a school of notorious reputation. Like any school, the students were of mixed cultures and class, spanning from Christian to Muslim to Atheist, jocks to computer geeks to gang members, some students spanning between the groups. It was not unheard of for a jock to be part of a gang, nor was it uncommon for a choir member to be in basketball.
Kenshin absently stepped back, his heel grinding into some hapless boy's toe as the kid tried to make off with his backpack. Ignoring the pained yelp of the student, whose face he did not recognize but would now never forget, he picked up his bag and straightened.
"Watch it, asshole!" the would-be thief growled.
"Don't stand so close to people," Kenshin replied coolly. He slammed his locker shut and spun the dial habitually. Turning, he pushed the bill of his hat up slightly so that he could look at the kid. "Next clumsy person to step on your foot might be heavier than I am."
The boy snickered, trying to hide his embarrassment. Kenshin shouldered his bag and melted into the crowd, easily falling in with the pace the students set. He scanned the rooms lining the hall, searching for the one which was his first of the day--of the year. Pushing ragged, red bangs out of his eyes, he broke free of the crowd and stepped through the proper door.
The teacher did not even glance up. She was absorbed in her magazine, the pair of reading glasses perched on her nose giving her a severe countenance. Kenshin stopped in front of her desk and waited for her to acknowledge him. When it became apparent that she would not, he sighed and crossed his arms impatiently.
"What's new in the world of science?" he asked bluntly.
"Wha--?!" the woman looked up sharply, glasses dropping right from her nose in her haste to see who had addressed her so boldly. Her eyes were a dark brown, although not so dark as her hair, which was so deep a black that it reflected blue-green in the light. "Excuse me?"
"I'm Kenshin Himura," Kenshin held out his admittance paper. "I'm a transfer student."
"Oh!" the teacher glanced at his papers, then waved them away. "Welcome to Human Physiology, Mr. Himura. You're sitting in the desk by the second window back."
Nodding curtly, Kenshin turned to go to the aforementioned seat. The instructor picked up her reading glasses and closed her magazine. World Science Weekly.
"Oh, and Mr. Himura," she spoke again. Kenshin paused, looking over his shoulder at her. His face was shadowed by the plain cap on his head. "Lose the hat. I want to be able to see your eyes, alert and always attentive to the lecture."
Moving slowly, Kenshin reached up and gripped the curved bill of the hat. The instructor's eyes widened in obvious shock at the thick, red hair that tumbled around the boy's shoulders, falling to the small of his back. Kenshin lifted an eyebrow at her, then went to his desk. He sat down and, after placing his bag on the floor next to him, calmly worked his hair into a low ponytail, which he tied off with a short ribbon pulled from his pocket. The teacher found her voice.
"Thank you, Mr. Himura."
Kenshin glanced at her, then looked out the window. He was silent as students filed into the class after the first bell.
"Who's the new kid?"
"Not a clue. Some transfer student, I think."
"That a girl or a boy?"
The students snickered, greatly amused by the sarcastic question. They all looked across the room to the red-haired boy who did not appear to notice them. He just stared down at whatever he was writing in his notebook.
"He is pretty, isn't he?" one boy commented, his lips curling into a devious smile.
"Knock it off, Okita," a tall boy with spiky brown hair growled. "I heard he already made a fool of Chou this morning."
"That's not exactly an impressive feat," Okita chuckled. He laughed again and waved his hand in a placating gesture. "Okay! Okay! I'll wait 'til I meet him to make judgments."
"How much time until class starts?" the spiky-haired boy wondered, looking toward the clock.
"Seven minutes," a tall girl purred. She was knock-dead gorgeous, her dark hair drawn up in an elaborate bun. The boy was not impressed. He nodded his thanks and stood.
"Sano?" Okita questioned.
"Be right back," the brown-haired boy grinned, then sauntered over to the opposite side of the room. He stopped at the new boy's desk and glanced down at the doodling in the notebook, wondering what the petite redhead had been doing for the past several minutes.
The textbook on the boy's desk slapped shut, hiding the notebook from view. That was not before Sano saw that the doodles were not, in fact, doodles. They were words, although what the sentences read, he had not had enough time to see. But then, Sano forgot the notebook because two narrowed, violet eyes were looking up at him steadily. He grinned.
"Hey," he greeted. "I'm Sanosuke Sagara."
The boy watched him, flinty eyes following his movements as he sat in the chair in front of his desk. Finally, he nodded a greeting.
"Kenshin," he murmured. Sano was slightly surprised at the voice, soft and high. He might have mistaken that voice for a girl's had he not been looking at the boy as he spoke. That was all the boy said. No 'hello,' no 'nice to meet you,' nothing. Sano refused to be daunted.
"Did you just move here?" he tried amiably.
"...Around," Kenshin frowned in apparent disapproval.
"This your first day here?"
Sano was beginning to feel a bit frustrated. He tried again.
"You have any friends here already?"
"Do you always answer questions with one-word answers?"
"Hah!" Sano jabbed his finger through the air toward Kenshin's face. The smaller boy blinked, jerking back, away from the digit. "Got you to say two words!"
Kenshin blinked at him, his irritated frown suddenly melting into an expression of bewilderment. His dusky, violet eyes, so narrow and cold before, were suddenly wide and almost confused. The hard line of his mouth softened to something much more gentle. His eyes darted to the side, to the classroom, the other side, to the window, and back to Sano.
"What did you say your name was?" he asked cautiously.
"Uh... Sanosuke..." Sano said clearly, wondering if this boy was slow.
"Sanosuke," Kenshin echoed, then smiled faintly. "Hello, Sanosuke."
"Yeah," Sano frowned. "Hi. Call me Sano. Sanosuke sounds so... long."
Nodding in agreement, Kenshin looked down at his desk self-consciously. He tapped his pencil against his book in a small, nervous gesture.
"Kenshin," he said softly.
"So you already said," Sano scowled. He was growing more and more certain that this kid was a complete idiot.
Kenshin startled visibly, a flush of red rushing to his cheeks.
"Oh," he muttered quietly. He looked out the window again, avoiding Sano's piercing stare. "Sorry."
Great, Sano mentally smacked himself. Now I've gone and humiliated the new kid. Way to go, Sagara. Aloud, he said, "You have any brothers or sisters going here?" Good to cover my bases.
He had hoped for another shy, friendly answer. What he got was a dead stare.
"I don't have any siblings," Kenshin said softly.
"Uh... well okay," Sano fumbled for something appropriate to say. "You're lucky. Brothers and sisters are annoying anyway."
The more he said, the more he realized he was just upsetting the new kid. Kenshin's expression became guarded, closed off. Sano hesitated, then tried to make the kid more at ease.
"You can tell me to shut up any time, here," he offered.
"I can," Kenshin's face hardened into that mask of anger it had been when Sano had first approached him. "But that wouldn't stop you, would it?"
"Probably not," Sano scowled, ready to push back. He hated it when punks tried to pull attitude with him. "And it won't stop you from being an ass, will it?"
He received a cold glare for his words. Shaking his head in disgust, Sano stood and walked away. He was greeted with a curious look from Okita when he returned to his desk, but at that moment the instructor chose to begin class. Everyone knew that to keep talking once Dr. Megumi Takani began her class was to invite a sharp tongue lashing, so Sano kept his peace and turned toward the front.
He glanced once more to the new student. Kenshin had opened his book again and was staring down at the page of his notebook. Bracing his elbows on his desk, the new kid buried his face in his hands. Sano frowned, curious at the action, but then he reminded himself that Kenshin was just another jerk. He looked away.
The lunchroom was packed, as usual, a third of the student body crowded into the inadequate space. A girl with a long, ebony ponytail wove through the students, making her way to the far corner of the room. She smiled and waved at a girl who called out to her, momentarily forgetting to watch where she was walking. And in that moment, she ran straight into another student.
"Ooof! Ack!" Kaoru reached out automatically to steady the person she had hit. She was startled by the flash of long red hair, then quickly babbled out an apology. "I'm so sorry! I wasn't watching where I was..."
She trailed off as she found herself staring into a set of soft, violet eyes. The student still had his back turned to her, but he had twisted slightly to look over his shoulder at the girl. Kaoru gaped at him, stunned to silence.
Whoa, is he gorgeous! she thought, suddenly a little breathless.
The boy just gazed back at her. Then, he murmured a quiet, "Excuse me," and continued walking. Kaoru stared after him, her heart racing away in her chest.
"Hey! Jou-chan!" a familiar voice startled her from her thoughts, and she grinned at the boy waving at her. She waved back and continued on her way to her original destination. In a minute, she had reached the table, and with an exaggerated sigh, dropped into the nearest chair, which just happened to have someone already sitting in it.
"Kaoru, get off my lap."
Kaoru giggled and slid into the seat beside the irritated boy.
"I love you, too, Aoshi," she teased her older brother. She snatched the bag lunch from his hand and started opening it. "I just ran into the new student," she failed to notice the dubious glances exchanged around the table. "Anyone met him yet? He's got to be the prettiest boy I've ever seen."
"He's also the biggest jerk around," Sano muttered.
"Sano talked to him in Human Phys," a girl with a long, black braid down her back offered brightly. "You might want to stay away from the new kid, Kaoru."
"Why?" Kaoru frowned. "What did he say?"
"He was ruder than that ass of a principal of ours," Sano grumbled. "Confusing as hell. Started out all cold and mean, then got kind of friendly. He damn near bit my head off twenty seconds later."
"Even Dr. Takani avoided bringing him to attention," Okita added. "She usually picks on the new kids. I think she likes to test them. But she never once called on Himura."
Kaoru glanced around the table at her friends. They were a strange group, she knew, but they fit together like jagged puzzle pieces. Ages, interests, intelligence levels, all spanned the board from top to bottom.
Misao was a sophomore and a solid B student. She was as bubbly as a cheerleader, but she was in basketball--one of the best players on the team despite her unimpressive height. She was also Kaoru's best friend.
Sano, a senior, looked like he was a gang member, and Kaoru knew that he had been, years ago. He barely squeaked by with C's, annoyed the heck out of the teachers, but was an all around good guy. He was possessive and fiercely protective of his little brother, Yahiko, as well as his friends. Kaoru considered herself lucky to know him, even if he did keep calling her Jou-chan, which was about the only thing he retained from their Japanese language class.
Okita was a bit of a mystery, always smiling and usually friendly. He had a mean streak that caused Kaoru to compare him to a coyote. Attractive until you got close. Nice to his friends, but he'd rip the throat out of anything that tried to hurt him or his friends. He kept to himself for the most part, got A's in his classes, and occasionally played tennis, but no one could ever make him play on the school team. His senior year, perhaps he would.
Aoshi, Kaoru's brother, was as standoffish as they came. He was a straight-A student, had the musical talent to be a classical prodigy, but never asserted himself. Kaoru was proud of him for his abilities, but she wished he would do more for himself. She knew he had been accepted into Harvard, and she was pressing him to accept. After all, so few people got into Ivy League schools on a full scholarship. Especially students from Central.
"I think you all are jumping to conclusions too soon!" Kaoru announced. "He's new, doesn't have any friends, and doesn't know his way around yet. He's probably nervous."
"If you're so keen on getting cut down, go talk to him," Sano glanced around, then waved in the direction of a table, not too far from them. "His name is Kenshin."
"Okita called him Himura," Kaoru frowned.
"It's Kenshin Himura," Aoshi said calmly. Kaoru blushed, then scowled, standing up.
"I'm going to talk to him," she declared. She turned and walked away from the table, shoving Aoshi's head forward as she went. Her brother cursed as he spilled soda down his chin. The others laughed, but Okita caught her wrist as she went by. He had a dark gleam in his eyes.
"We're dying to know, Kaoru," he murmured. "Find out if he's gay or straight."
Kaoru flushed, then laughed and walked away. She hugged her lunch to her stomach as she wove through the rowdy students again. She focused her sights on the redhead that had caught her attention that day.
Kenshin was not eating. He held a bottle of water, but by the looks of it, he had not yet opened it. The table he had chosen was one notorious for the presence of the so-called 'band geeks.' However, the red-haired boy did not seem bothered by their presence. He listened impassively as the group of mostly girls talked about who knows what. Kaoru walked right up to them, smiling when she got a few curious glances.
"Hi!" she greeted brightly, settling herself down in the empty chair beside the new boy. He looked at her, recognition brightening his gaze.
"Hello," he murmured, smiling a bit.
"You're the new kid, right?" Kaoru jumped right in, getting both feet wet. "The transfer student?"
"Yeah..." Kenshin's fingers fiddled with the lid of his water, opening it, shutting it, opening it, and so on. Kaoru wondered if he knew just how distracting that little motion was.
"I'm Kaoru," she introduced herself. "You interested in student council?"
"Not really," Kenshin smiled weakly. "I take it you're in the student council?"
"I'm the vice president," she nodded. "But don't worry. I'm not offended."
Kenshin did not react to her lighthearted wink as most boys would. No blush, no returning grin. He just continued to twist that bottle cap, back and forth, back and forth. Kaoru could not take it anymore. She reached forward abruptly, placing her hands over his and stilling his movements. That got a reaction. Kenshin jerked his hands away from her, as if her fingers were scalding hot.
"Ah..." he stammered, apparently startled at his own reaction.
"I'm sorry," Kaoru said before he could say anything both of them would regret. "I shouldn't have done that," she smiled ruefully. "It's just that you kept fussing with that bottle cap. You must be really nervous, this being a strange new place and all."
"Yeah," Kenshin glanced at her, then smiled. Kaoru loved that smile. She grinned back, only to have it fade when he stood.
"Where are you going?" she demanded.
"Um, to the school nurse," Kenshin picked up his book bag. Kaoru smiled brightly.
"You want some company?"
That elicited a startled blink. Kenshin looked at her uncertainly.
"I'll be okay," he muttered.
"Don't be silly," Kaoru stood as well, noticing with no small amount of pleasure that he was almost exactly her height. It was a rare thing, for any boy to be as short as she. Even Okita was three or four inches taller. Kenshin might have been an inch taller, at most. "It's lonely walking through the halls by yourself. And maybe I can get out of a few minutes of sixth period."
"Maybe," Kenshin smiled hesitantly. "But if you're sure you don't mind..."
"Don't think, Kenshin," Kaoru tapped his forehead lightly, delighting in his startled blink. "If you think too much, you won't make friends around here. I'm trying to be nice and be friends with you."
She hooked her arm through his, and this time he did not pull away. He just let her pull him out of the cafeteria and down the hall, caught in a stunned silence.
"So, where'd you go before this?" Kaoru asked, trying to make conversation.
"Home schooling," Kenshin managed to blurt, still at a loss for how to act around this girl. "Private tutors."
"Wow!" Kaoru grinned. "Your parents rich or something?"
"Or something," he echoed.
"What made you decide to come to a public school after that?"
"...It's a long story," he said after a moment.
"Why are we going to the school nurse?" Kaoru wondered.
"I have medication that I have to take," Kenshin explained vaguely. Kaoru was not certain how he did it, but suddenly, she was no longer holding his arm. She wondered if he was just nervous around girls. Then again, Sano had said that Kenshin had been particularly rude to him.
"What for?" Kaoru blurted unthinkingly.
Kenshin stared at her, and she blushed.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she said quickly. "That was really rude of me."
"No," he smiled, and it had a bit of sadness to it. "It's okay. Maybe that's one thing you should know about before you start thinking you want to be friends with me."
"Huh?" Kaoru frowned at him uneasily. "What do you mean?"
"Well..." Kenshin watched her closely, as if trying to read into her very soul. "It's a rather uncommon disease..."
"Oh, my god!" Kaoru gasped. "Do you have AIDS?!"
"No!" Kenshin frowned at her in open disapproval. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't start spreading that around. I have a hard enough time making friends as it is."
"Sorry!" Kaoru turned very red, mortified at her audacious words.
"DID," Kenshin said suddenly, stating each letter separately.
"What?" the girl stared at him blankly.
"Disassociative Identity Disorder," Kenshin clarified, his words steady, his expression guarded. "You'd probably recognize it as Multiple Personality Disorder."
Kaoru stared at him. She could not have been more shocked if he had told her he had just killed a man. Kenshin, accustomed to the silence that followed that particular announcement, just kept walking toward the nurse's office.
"The medication is supposed to help regulate it," he said quietly, forcing Kaoru to keep up with him to hear his words. He smiled, an expression of bemused cynicism. "It doesn't always work, though."
"Whoa," Kaoru breathed, finally finding her voice. "Uh... this is going to sound incredibly naive, and maybe a bit cruel, but... I thought MPD... DID came from... uh..."
"Abuse?" Kenshin suggested.
"That's usually the case, yes," Kenshin nodded.
"Usually?" Kaoru echoed.
"Here we are," Kenshin said, suddenly smiling and cheerful. He ignored Kaoru's question and went into the nurse's office. The 'nurse' was actually a doctor, and an old one at that. "Dr. Genzai?"
The old man smiled, squinting up at the pair that had just entered his office.
"Hello there, young man!" he greeted. "What can I do for you?"
"It's Kenshin Himura, Dr. Genzai," Kenshin said patiently. "I was in here earlier."
"Ah! Kenshin," Dr. Genzai pointed at the desk, where Kenshin's file already lay out. "You're here to take your medication, I assume?"
"Have a seat."
Kenshin sat in the chair by the doctor's desk, studiously avoiding Kaoru's curious stare as the girl settled herself in a chair by the wall. Dr. Genzai bustled about, opening a small cupboard in the corner and removing a bottle that rattled loudly with the movement. Kaoru watched with interest as he pulled out a paper cup and flipped on the water in the sink. Dr. Genzai started talking, all while calmly dispensing Kenshin's medication.
"Your schedule, I believe, was set up so you have a study hall this hour, was it not, Kenshin?" he asked.
"I have a cot in back, if you want to lay down for the next twenty minutes or so," Dr. Genzai offered.
"The medication you took earlier had a pretty strong antihistamine," the doctor babbled on. "You're probably feeling pretty tired by now."
Kenshin was silent, accepting the water and the little paper cup that held his pills. Dr. Genzai smiled kindly.
"Drink all of the water now."
Kenshin did as he was ordered, slouching back in his chair a bit when he was finished. Kaoru watched him, intrigued by this new student. He was drifting, glancing around the nurse's office wearily, eyes swimming in and out of focus. Kaoru wondered how she had not noticed his exhaustion until this moment. She thought that perhaps he was just very good at hiding it.
"You okay, Kenshin?" she asked abruptly. He blinked and looked at her in surprise.
"Fine," he replied with obvious discomfort. Kaoru smiled nervously.
"Sorry if I offended you," she hoped she wasn't babbling too much. "You just look like you're ready to pass out, so I thought I'd ask."
A slow smile came to the boy's face, and Kaoru was lost in the depths of those blue-violet eyes. He was dazzling. Kaoru reached across the space between them and grabbed his hand and held it, rubbing her thumb over the back of his hand in gentle circles. Kenshin looked at her in obvious confusion.
"Don't you have class?" he asked cautiously. Kaoru grinned and shook her head.
"Silly," she squeezed his hand lightly. "I told you I'm looking for an excuse to be late. Staying here with you seems like a better one than most."
"Taking advantage of the situation..." Kenshin smiled languidly.
"In more ways than one," Kaoru giggled. "If you're not too out of it, maybe you wouldn't mind talking for awhile. I'd like to get to know you."
"Not until I ask my questions, young lady," Dr. Genzai returned, chuckling good-naturedly. "After that, I'll write you an excuse and let you and Kenshin chat the hour away."
"Thanks, Dr. Genzai," Kaoru smiled brilliantly.
"Now, Kenshin," Dr. Genzai crouched in front of the sedated boy. "How has your day been so far?"
"Okay," Kenshin sighed, eyes rolling to look at the doctor. "I guess."
"Incidents?" Kenshin repeated dully.
"You need to be honest with me, Kenshin," Dr. Genzai said, suddenly very serious. "Were there any periods of confusion? Loss of awareness? Did you find yourself somewhere and not remember how you got there?"
Kenshin frowned, the picture of struggling concentration. He nodded.
"This morning," he said finally. "Before first hour... I was talking with someone."
"What happened?" Dr. Genzai scrawled down a few notes on a pad of paper.
"I saw a boy in front of me and didn't remember seeing him get there," Kenshin explained slowly. His face screwed into an unhappy frown. "I think he thought I was some kind of idiot. I must have repeated myself... Later, I saw my notebook, and the page was covered with things I don't remember writing."
"Was that the only spell, Kenshin?" Dr. Genzai asked solemnly.
Kenshin nodded, adding a soft, "I think so."
"You're nervous," Dr. Genzai smiled, once again lighthearted and happy. "These things are bound to happen when you're under stress. Come on, now. Let's get you back to that cot. You look like you could use a nap."
Kaoru stared down at the sleeping boy pensively. Things were starting to make sense. At first, she could not understand how this kind, gentle boy could have been the rude jerk that Sano had described. But when Kenshin had described his encounter with the boy from that morning, it all fell into place.
Sano had been talking to one of Kenshin's alternate personalities.
"You are an intriguing person, Kenshin," Kaoru decided. And I'm going to be your friend whether you like it or not! she added silently with fierce determination.
Kenshin murmured something in his sleep and opened his eyes. Glazed violet met bright blue, and Kaoru smiled. He smiled back.
More longwinded notes: Okay, so this starts out suspiciously like a K&K thing. Oh well. I have nothing against the girl. I know Kenshin is a bit more forthcoming with information about himself than he usually is, but it seemed to fit, so I left it. I also realize that I'm treating the Japanese names as if they are perfectly normal for a student in the US. That's only because I tend to get confused if I try to change their names. Please forgive the discrepancy with US culture. These characters are 100 percent American. While that means they may have blood of different cultures, they speak English and do not practice Japanese customs other than the occasional mention of martial arts. I'm sorry if that disappoints anyone, but it is how this story is handled, and that aspect will not be changed.