Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Let's Just Pretend ❯ DTR: Defining the Relationship ( Chapter 8 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Kaoru settled down across the table from Kenshin, mouth set in a determined line. He flashed her a smile and she quickly averted her eyes, picking up the menu to hide behind. As she stared absently at the menu she missed his confused expression. This was not going to work. She couldn't concentrate.
Kaoru's eyes darted around the room. What if someone saw her? What if they thought—she flushed, sinking lower in her chair and bringing the menu higher. People might think she was...she was...bestowing favors! She stifled a groan. Could she be any more of a moron?
“Miss Kaoru?”
She startled. “No! We can't! I can't!”
Violet eyes blinked in surprise and Kaoru was suddenly aware of the server standing at the table. Kenshin smiled and turned to the server. “It doesn't look like we're ready yet, that it does not.”
The server nodded skeptically and turned to another table. Kaoru blushed, fidgeting with her menu. “Mr. Himura—”
Her eyes darted up to him before dropping to the table again. “I don't think we can do this.”
“Do what, Miss Kaoru?”
She swallowed. Did the man have to be so... so... beautiful? No! Difficult! “This... Kenshin. People will talk. I don't want to be kicked out of school...”
Understanding dawned on him, she could see it, though something else flashed in his eyes too quick for her to catch or comprehend. Kenshin's fingers tapped restlessly on the table a moment before he settled and grinned. “We are friends, Miss Kaoru?”
Friends? She certainly had never walked in on any of her male friends half naked and then proceeded to gawk. She blushed. She did not need to recall that particular mental image. “We... You are my teacher.”
His shoulders slumped slightly. “But, we can be friends?”
“I...” she faltered. Could it really be that bad? Perhaps her mind was jumping to conclusions that were unwarranted. Maybe he really did just want some friends. “Friends. Yes.”
He flashed her a brilliant smile that made her heart flutter and her cheeks heat. They were friends. Nothing more. After all, Sanosuke roomed with him. The poor man probably desperately needed normal people to hang out with. Friends. Kaoru relaxed a little. Friends were allowed to spend dinner together. Friends were allowed to call each other and argue over the check. Friends were allowed to joke around and spend time just the two of them.
So lost in her thoughts, Kaoru almost missed it when Kenshin called the server back to the table and ordered for them. She glared. Friends were also allowed to kick the other friend's ass. She aimed a kick at his shins under the table, stifling a triumphant grin when he gave a pained grunt. She flicked the menu open, giving a put out sniff just for effect. “I can order for myself.”
Chauvinistic pigs. Both Kenshin and the server waited patiently, or rather, Kenshin waited patiently. Finally, Kaoru lowered the menu, glaring at her dining partner. “What he ordered is fine.”
The server nodded briskly and hurried away. Kenshin continued to smile as he placed his napkin in his lap and organized his silverware, completely unconcerned with the death glare being sent his way across the table. The man's defenses were impenetrable! “So, Miss Kaoru, what made you choose history?”
Deflection! The man had some training in evasion after all. “Oh no, you're not getting away with that. I'm perfectly able to order for myself, you know.”
“Of course you are.”
That almost sounded condescending. If she didn't know better, she would be insulted.”How did you know what to get?”
Kenshin shrugged, looking around the restaurant with mild interest. “I asked Sano what you always get.”
She couldn't help feeling flattered. She could use a thoughtful friend. “That's sweet.”
They turned toward the voice, surprise crossing Kenshin's face and he darted a quick glance back at her. A young woman dressed in a well-tailored business suit moved between the tables toward them. Her lips curved up slightly in a smile that wasn't quite a smile but her dark eyes shone happily. Kaoru's eyes were drawn back to the table top. There went that restless tapping of Kenshin's fingers. It was brief but she'd seen it. He seemed to catch himself for he moved to straighten already straight silverware and brush non-existent wrinkles out of his shirt. He rose when the young woman stopped at their table, giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Kaoru shifted uncomfortably in her seat but Kenshin turned back to her immediately. “Miss Kaoru, I would like to introduce you to Miss Tomoe Yukishiro. Miss Tomoe, this is Miss Kaoru Kamiya. She's a student in my class.”
A ghost of a smile crossed her features when Kaoru stumbled to her feet to acknowledge the introduction but seemed to dismiss her as inconsequential. Kaoru slowly sank back into her chair, trying to disguise her hurt feelings at the curt dismissal. Tomoe's dark eyes swept over Kenshin with a disturbing sense of familiarity. “Choosing the young ones now.” Color rose in Kenshin's cheeks and Kaoru saw him start to protest but Tomoe placed a hand on his arm, changing her approach. “You didn't tell me you were back in town, Kenshin. I would've called you sooner if I'd known.”
“I wasn't aware you were still in town, that I was not. I thought you were moving.”
Tomoe gave a tiny wave of her hand, like she was brushing away dust. “Oh, Akira wanted to stay another year. You really should reconsider. You made a great adversary.” She paused, giving him another sweeping, sultry look. “An even better partner.”
The meaning was clear and Kaoru never wanted to leave a place so bad. She did not want to be present for what was clearly a private conversation. She tuned out the conversation a few moments but was brought back by her name being said. Tomoe was making her farewells. She was still touching Kenshin. Kaoru scowled but Tomoe ignored her. “Call me, we'll grab dinner some time. Maybe catch up at my place.”
Kenshin agreed readily enough and Tomoe brushed his lips with hers in a chaste kiss that rang with a little too much ease and familiarity than just a kiss between friends. Finally, she turned to meet Kaoru's eyes. The gauntlet was thrown and Kaoru was never one to be intimidated. The challenge was acknowledged and Tomoe cast one last look at Kenshin before leaving the restaurant. The sever was just placing their dishes in front of them when Kenshin resumed his seat. Strained silence settled over the table for most of the meal before he gave a heavy sigh. “Miss Tomoe is—”
“Possessive,” she snapped.
She did not want to talk about his girlfriend. She did not want to hear waxing soliloquies about her beauty. And she definitely didn't want to even attempt to acknowledge the green dragon of jealousy that smoldered in her chest because it certainly wasn't jealousy. She had nothing to be jealous about. She didn't care. She paused in the middle of viciously stabbing a piece of chicken, caught off guard by the odd smile he gave her. For one panicked moment she thought she'd said her thoughts out loud but Kenshin just continued. “I would have chosen 'protective' as the character trait but possessive works as well. I was going to say that Miss Tomoe is a criminal lawyer.”
“Oh.” Snippets of the conversation clicked into place. “She wanted you to become a partner in her firm.”
He blushed hard enough to nearly match his hair at the reminder of the conversation and his eyes dropped to his plate. “Yes.”
“How old are you?”
“With one career already behind me you can hardly expect me to own up to it.”
That sounded eerily familiar. “You can't be that old.”
A smile tugged at his lips as he peeked up at her. “I am not yet nine and twenty.” He was quoting from Pride and Prejudice. Well, kind of. Tension eased and Kaoru found herself returning his smile. They would be friends. He suddenly rose, offering his hand to her. “I won't keep you all night. You must have things you need to get done. I'll walk you back to your dorm.”
“I already paid.”
She frowned. “If we're going to be friends you really have to stop doing that.”
“Doing what, Miss Kaoru?”
She indicated the table. “This. Ordering for me. Paying for me.”
“I did promise you a free meal.”
“No, what you promised me was a home cooked meal.”
He smile easily, taking her hand as they left the restaurant. “Next time then.”
She tried to ignore the warmth of his hand in hers. “Next time?”
Kenshin snuck a look at her, his expression thoughtful. “Yes. You wouldn't want me to go back on my word, would you?”
He relaxed and let their clasped hands swing a little. “Good. I'll let you know.”
They stopped outside her dormitory as Kaoru dug through her purse for her keys. Kenshin shoved his hands in his pockets and she caught his intense gaze when she turned to say good night. Kaoru shifted awkwardly. Her relationship with him was going to be awkward forever. Kenshin didn't seem to notice the awkward tension between them and caught her up in a friendly hug, giving her a boyish smile. “See you in class.”
She smiled, returning the hug. “In class. Good night, Kenshin.”
He gazed down at her upturned face and she caught and held her breath, waiting anxiously for his next move. Violet eyes searched her face a moment before he moved away and let his arms drop back to his sides. “Good night, Miss Kaoru.”
He walked away but waved just before he turned the corner. Kaoru lifted a hand in good bye, a sigh escaping her. They were friends. So why was she so disappointed?