Continuing Tales

Hakama Dake

A Rurouni Kenshin Story
by Indygodusk

Part 14 of 16

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Opening her eyes, she stretched out her arm and, grunting slightly, cracked open the nearest shoji. As it opened, Kaoru saw the singing brown sparrow that had woken her from her dreams flutter his wings and puff out the fluffy feathers on his chest. "Cuteness only buys you so much this early in the morning," she scowled. What was it with annoying sparrows lately? First yesterday and now this morning.

Wait, yesterday… Kenshin! Sitting up rapidly in shock, Kaoru felt all of the blood rush from her head. Groaning, she flopped back down.

Then, smiling dreamily, she happily replayed the events of the previous day. I kissed Kenshin! He said he loved me! And Yahiko and Sano got me a new hakama! Okay, so it was a slightly used hakama, but still much better than her old one, not to mention a gift!

After that Kenshin had kissed her again, though it was a lot darker than all of their previous kisses. Definitely a delicious and shiver-inducing interlude, but darker and slightly strange. What had been driving his suddenly possessive behavior was unclear, but she suspected the trauma of losing his wife still haunted him. Or perhaps it stemmed all the way back to when he'd first been orphaned as a child, sold into slavery, and then orphaned again when his fellow slaves were killed before his eyes.

That or it was a male thing again. Maybe he just doesn't like to share? After all, he didn't have many possessions. When people touched his bag or his sakabatou uninvited, she'd seen that little crinkle between his eyes that meant he was unhappy and trying to hide it. Of course, he never seemed to mind when she touched his sword.

Whatever the case may be, Kaoru hoped that Kenshin would be willing to tell her of his fears. However, she suspected that he would try to keep them to himself. There were so many things about his past and his inner turmoil that he was reticent to speak about. Much of what she knew came from closely watching him and devouring any and all information he or an acquaintance might let slip. Living with him had also helped to give her insight to even his subtlest moods. Still, she knew that there were dark, fierce parts of Kenshin that she hadn't seen yet. No one could live a life like his and not have them.

Nevertheless, she was determined to love all of him, even the slightly scary parts, no matter how difficult it got. Knowing her temper and his communication problems, there probably would be times when it got pretty difficult. Even so, neither of them was a quitter. She would tackle those problems as she came to them, and if he did something she really didn't like, they'd talk about it – even if she had to tackle him to make sure he listened to what she had to say.

But just for today, she wasn't going to think about all of the problems. Instead, she was going to savor the fact that they loved each other. Everything was wonderful. Well, except for that singing sparrow waking her up.

Nonetheless, it was going to be a fantastic day. Dreams were fun, but reality was better. That Kenshin had given his heart to her was more precious than all the gold and silk in a thousand dream worlds. Kamiya Kaoru was excruciatingly in love.

Of course, unlike in her dream she wasn't about to get married. In fact, there hadn't been time to discuss marriage at all. They had only just admitted their love for each other, after all. Yet Kaoru had loved him for so long that nothing would feel too fast at this point, even if a priest showed up in the very next moment to marry them. She had imagined so many times what their life would be like, similar to now except that there would be more whispering of secrets in the dark of the night, straightening the ties of each other's hakama, and sharing of responsibilities.

Compounding her desire to marry him was the fact that she had a lot of urges no proper unmarried young lady should have. It didn't help her resolve to behave properly that she suspected that Kenshin would thoroughly enjoy satisfying those urges. But knowing him, he'd probably talk himself into feeling guilty for dishonoring her somehow afterwards.

There was only one solution for it – The man needs to marry me, and soon.

However, Kaoru didn't want to drive him away by moving too fast. She also didn't want to push him into doing something he didn't want to do. Everything would be so simple if only he already wanted to marry her, but he might not.

Either way she needed to know what he thought. But how to find out? She couldn't just ask him straight out; Kenshin might tell her what he thought she wanted to hear instead of what he really thought. No, she would have to be subtle, and maybe a little bit sneaky. Kaoru could do sneaky, no problem. But subtle?

Throwing an arm over her face she groaned. She was horrible at being subtle! Lies and evasions always showed on her face. She couldn't do subtle if her life depended on it. Your life does depend on this, your future life with this man by your side! Firming her lips, Kaoru decided to give it her best shot. Ganbatte!

Stretching where she lay on her back, she fully extended her arms and legs across the futon and arched her stomach up into the air. With a satisfied sigh she let her muscles go limp for a moment. Then she rolled over onto her knees and stood up with a bounce.

After another good stretch, she shut the shoji and proceeded to get dressed in a pink and purple yukata spangled with white seashells and blue fish. While she searched for a matching hair tie, a delicate gold scarf folded at the bottom of her chest caught her eye. Grinning impishly, she wondered what Kenshin would do if she tried to get him to wear it today. It would bring out those gorgeous golden highlights in his concubine hair perfectly. Kaoru could feel the grin bowing her mouth threatening to burst into delighted laughter at any moment. It took no effort at all to imagine his adorably confused, "Oro?" if she made any such suggestion. Finally settling on a simple indigo ribbon, she tied up her hair into its customary ponytail.

Opening her shoji again to keep the room from getting too hot during the day, Kaoru took a deep breath of morning air. The inhalation carried the lingering scent of old rain, earth, pine needles, and something invigorating that tingled in her nose but resisted identification. In the eastern sky, wispy white clouds blended into the washed-out powder blue skyline. The sun was not yet glistening over the horizon, indicating that it was slightly earlier than she had assumed. Silly sparrow.

Stepping quietly, she made her way to the kitchen. She saw that the room was quiet and dark when she peeked her head around the doorway. Kenshin must still be asleep. A grin slowly formed on her lips as she thought of a way to please the man she loved. Quickly tying her sleeves back with a cord, she set to work.

This morning I'll make breakfast. Kenshin works so hard, he deserves a rest every now and then.

Oh, and when Kenshin comes in, I can make a subtle remark about how cooking makes me feel like a wife. Then, depending on his response, I'll know what he thinks of marriage. It's a perfect plan!

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time he'd seen her cook, and she'd never said anything even remotely like that before. Did that mean it wasn't subtle? Stirring up the coals in the cooking fire, she bit her lip in dismay. Oh it's a horrible plan… and I just got ashes on my kimono.

Sighing, she picked up the apron she'd forgotten and tied it around her waist. Hopefully by the time Kenshin woke up, Kaoru would have a plan for figuring out his thoughts on marriage. A perfect plan.

When Kenshin woke up, it was to an instant awareness of his surroundings. Rolling to his feet, he extended his senses to ensure that all of his friends were safe. Sano and Yahiko seemed to be still asleep, but Kaoru's aura showed her to be awake and… happily busy.

He loved it when her aura felt like this, bubbling with energy and twining around his own aura like a small child tugging on his hand, cajoling him to come out and play. Performing a few quick stretching exercises, Kenshin made sure he was limber enough to handle whatever his little shihandai had to offer. Then, with a final roll of his shoulders, he adjusted his clothing and strode out of the room.

Seeing his magenta gi lying abandoned on a table in the hallway, he made a small detour to grab it and return it to his room. It was careless of him to leave clothing just lying about. Besides, he didn't have so many clothes that he could bear to lose any. He must have left it there the day before when he heard Yahiko yell about Kaoru catching the house on fire. Luckily Yahiko had been exaggerating, but in the ensuing brawl he must have forgotten about it.

Picking up the gi, he turned to go back into his room but had to freeze. Looking down in confusion, he quickly lifted the magenta cloth up to his nose and inhaled. Kaoru… it smells like Kaoru. Walking slowly into his room, he tried to figure out why his gi was infused with the delicate scent of jasmine and orange blossoms. After all, this was definitely his gi, and the needle was right where he had left it in the left sleeve… although he could have sworn he'd inserted the needle near the repaired tear in the shoulder and not by the cuff.

Folding the garment, he took one more whiff, closing his eyes in contentment at the layering of their two scents, before placing it on his pillow. This was a mystery he'd like to solve now, but if Kaoru was borrowing his clothes, he'd much rather catch her in the act. Smirking, he thought about 'accidentally' leaving something else in the hall later – as an experiment.

Exiting his room again, he slid the shoji shut, careful to keep the sound of the sliding wood to a minimum so as not to disturb his still sleeping friends. Padding down the hallway, he began to hear soft, feminine humming as he neared the kitchen. Idly, he wondered what Kaoru sounded like when she sang. He didn't think he'd ever heard her do anything but hum quietly to herself when she thought no one was around. Well, he had time to discover it. Besides, didn't all mothers sing to their children at some point?

The smile on his face only widened as he rounded the corner to the kitchen and caught his first glimpse of Kaoru that morning. Her back was turned to him as she bustled around the kitchen, busy preparing breakfast. Her midnight fall of hair bounced merrily as she moved from task to task. For a moment he was content to simply stand in the doorway and drink her in.

But the knowledge that he could touch her now was too potent a lure to keep him in the doorway for long. "Good morning, Kaoru-dono," he finally said. Seeing her turn stricken eyes on him at his formality, he quickly amended his statement.

"Kaoru, little shihandai, beloved." At each salutation he took a step forward until he was standing directly in front of her. Cupping her upturned face in his hands, he gave her a gentle, worshipful kiss, confident that the other dojo residents were still sleeping.

While chaste compared to their last encounter, it was still full of heady emotion. Her lips were even softer than he remembered and the hands smoothing down his chest felt even more precious. The heat from her hands and mouth seeped into his body and warmed him down to his soul. When Kaoru tilted her chin, bringing their lips into an even closer alignment, Kenshin had to sigh into her mouth in contentment. Finally lifting his head, he saw her china blue eyes once again alight with joy.

"Good morning, Kenshin," she replied with a small smile. "I decided to make everyone breakfast."

Guiltily, he straightened. "You should not have to do that, I am sorry-" he began before she interrupted him.

"No, I wanted to do it. I woke up so filled with happiness and," for a moment she looked down shyly, but then her eyes rose boldly to his face and her hands came to rest on his shoulders, "and love, that I needed to do something." Tapping him teasingly on the chin she said, "Since flinging open your shoji and jumping on you was out, I decided to cook breakfast. I've been really careful, so this should taste good."

Wrapping his arms around her waist he grinned. For some reason, he couldn't help the next remark that sprang from his lips. "Kaoru, you can jump me anytime." A giggle escaped her lips at his words.

"All right, who are you and what have you done to my shy rurouni? Because that sure sounded like Sano in there," she teased.

"Well," he drawled, voice deepening as a half-smile formed on his lips, "haven't you heard that love can change a man? Besides, a good shihandai can teach a man to do anything, and I do so want to please the teacher."

As he eagerly awaited her reply, the momentary silence caused him to consciously notice the frantic popping and sizzling he'd been hearing for the last few moments. Biting back an inappropriate laugh, he turned them so that they were both facing the stove. "Kaoru, the fish."

"Fish? You plan to please the teacher with fish?" A sudden look of horror popped onto her face as she flung herself away from him and towards the stove. "My fish!" she wailed, flipping over the smoking meat.

Coming up behind her, he looked critically at her culinary efforts. "It will be all right, it is only slightly singed."

"I tried so hard this morning, but it's ruined" she sighed dejectedly.

"No it is not. Here, let me help," he soothed, taking another step until he was flush against her back, feeling the warmth of her skin seep through their clothes into his chest. Even though he knew she didn't mind, he still felt an illicit thrill race down his spine from being so close to her. Wrapping one arm around her waist, he used the other to take hold of her wrist. When he looked down and saw her fierce, white-knuckled grip around the chopsticks, he used the tips of his fingers to stroke her wrist lightly. "Relax," he murmured into her ear. Placing his chin on her shoulder, he directed her hand to use the chopsticks to move the grilling fish over to the edge of the heat. "Now the spoon," he instructed.

He felt her rest more weight against his chest as she exchanged utensils. Bringing his chin up to rub his cheek along hers, he felt a few strands of her hair catch in the slight stubble on his face. She purred low in her throat like a content housecat at his actions. It was an effort to try and keep his concentration on the cooking instead of the warm woman in his arms. Luckily he'd prepared this meal hundreds of times, so most of his mind was free to dwell on the smell of her skin in the morning and the way her hair tickled against the skin of his chest above his gi.

Smiling, he used the hand entwined with hers to stir the steaming soup. Trailing his nose back behind her ear, he inhaled deeply. Then he had her lift up a spoonful of the miso soup to test if it was done. Bringing his face forward, he blew gently on the spoonful before directing their hands to bring it to her mouth. She took a delicate sip, pursing her plump coral lips. Enthralled, he directed the half-full spoon to his own mouth, finishing off the salty fluid as he placed his own lips where hers had been.

"How does it taste?" she asked anxiously.

"Delicious," he murmured, and he wasn't talking just about the soup. His entire focus was centered on her mouth, leaving the rest of the world to fade away.

Taking the spoon from her fingers and setting it down on the counter, he snaked his other hand up her body to tilt her head back for another kiss.

"Ohayo-, whoa!" Of course, Sano had to choose that moment to enter the kitchen.

Hakama Dake

A Rurouni Kenshin Story
by Indygodusk

Part 14 of 16

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