Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Let's Just Pretend ❯ Clouds Just Mean Another Storm ( Chapter 10 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Kaoru lounged on the quad, staring up at the sky. She had originally chosen the quad to study and get some of her last minute papers written but the day proved too nice to waste on a silly thing like homework so she fell to cloud watching. Winter was quickly approaching and the fall days were growing cooler. Once the cold weather arrived she'd be stuck inside. With Misao. She pondered that last thought. She'd better enjoy the warm weather while it lasted. Satisfied that her procrastination was justified, she closed her eyes and relaxed. It was nice to get away from Misao too. The girl chattered incessantly. She even talked in her sleep.
A shadow fell over her and she frowned, opening an eye to find the source of her annoyance. Kenshin grinned down at her, loosening his tie. “For a moment, I thought you were asleep.”
He glanced at the books she'd tossed aside, tilting his head to read some of the titles. She grunted, closing her eyes again. “You're blocking my sun.”
He chuckled, sitting down next to her on the grass. He picked up a book near his hand, smoothing creased pages and continuing his previous line of conversation. “Not that I'd blame you. Mill is a tough read.”
Kaoru turned to look at him through slitted eyes but he was busily gathering her scattered books and stacking them neatly nearby. “John Stuart Mill is a nightmare.”
Kenshin, finished with his task, leaned back on his hands. “How so? He did a lot for women's rights in England.”
She rolled her eyes. “The man's never heard of a period before. How you people expect anyone to read him and not go brain dead is beyond me.” She sat up, glaring at the offending book. “And you say my grammar is horrendous.”
“You're not reading Mill for his excellence in grammar, Miss Kaoru.”
“Doesn't mean he gets to offend my grammatical sense. What are you doing out here in the middle of the day?”
“Today was a test day. I released class early.”
So not fair. Why couldn't her class ever get an early release. “If you already had a career and a possible partnership, why did you quit?”
That was something that had been bothering her for quite a while now. He shrugged. “I wanted to teach. I was tired of seeing the bad side of life. Why don't you think about teaching?”
Her? Was he mad? “Me? Teach? I'd kill them.”
Kenshin laughed, leaning back on his elbows and searching her face thoughtfully. She blushed under his appraisal and turned away. “No. I think you'd be a great teacher. I know you tutor some of my younger students. Yahiko is improving tremendously. At least he now knows that Bacon's Rebellion wasn't about the breakfast food.”
Great. She could die complete knowing Yahiko was a little less of an idiot. “I always wanted to be a lawyer. Defending the weak and standing for the truth.”
Kenshin's gaze became distant, apparently getting lost in some distant memory. “It's not always clear... the difference between right and wrong. Truth and lies.”
Whoa. That was a little too intense. “Kenshin?”
He blinked, focusing on the present again. “Are you going to the dance Saturday?”
Startled by the abrupt change of topic, she stumbled over her answer. “No. I don't have a date and besides, Misao is too busy mooning over Aoshi to be much fun.”
“I understand that Sano is going with Megumi.”
Why were they talking about this again? She thought they were talking about proper grammar in prominent social writers and her future career. Sanosuke and Megumi's volatile relationship was not in her Top 10 Conversations to Have Before You Die. It wasn't even in her Top 100. “I don't know why. She probably lost a bet.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Bet?”
“Sano is a notorious gambler. He's most well known for his losses. You should know that.”
He said nothing for a moment and Kaoru was content to let him mull over the possibility of betting against Sanosuke. Bonds of friendship be damned. “So, is it Megumi or Sano you don't approve of?”
Cautiously. “What are you asking?”
Kenshin shrugged, looking away. “Are you jealous?”
“Jealous?” Her voice squeaked. “Of Sano?”
“No. Of Megumi.”
She gave him an incredulous look. What could he possibly be thinking? Her? Jealous of Megumi? The girl who thought herself so perfect? She'd probably pass out if she broke a nail. How did she get her hair to lay so flat? And neat. How early did that girl get up in the morning? She was rambling. “No. Just surprised.”
Kenshin turned to smile at her. “I think they go well together.”
Sure. The straight-A student and the class clown. Perfect match. At least in the movies. By that logic they would have the perfect marriage, the house with a white-picket fence, and 2.5 children. “They fight all the time.”
He laughed, laying back on the grass. “They're flirting.”
That was his idea of flirting? Kaoru felt her heart skip a beat and she focused back on the sky to avoid looking at him. “I think she's more interested in his roommate.”
Kenshin stared at the sky in silence. She risked a glance at him and was startled by a group of girls who approached their blanket. She frowned when they smiled coyly at Kenshin. “Hello, Mr. Himura.”
Kenshin sat upright, smiling politely. “Hello, Miss Yumi. Miss Ami. What can I do for you?”
He was avoiding her statement. Guilt by avoidance. The girls exchanged glances. “Are you going to the dance?”
Kaoru jerked. She hadn't had the courage to ask that question and she felt her breath catch in her throat as she waited for his answer. “I am, Miss Ami.”
The girls' eyes lit up ad Yumi spoke over her friend. “Will you go with me, Mr. Himura?”
Ami pouted and she started to protest but Kenshin interrupted. “I'm sorry, Miss Yumi. I already have a date.”
Both girls deflated with disappointment and soon moved on their way. Kaoru frowned but Kenshin sighed, relaxing again and closing his eyes. As much as she tried to relax she couldn't and she searched for the topic of conversation they lost. Kenshin had a date. “Who are you going to the dance with?”
“Miss Kagome.”
No hesitation there. She searched her mind for someone she knew by that name but came up blank. “Do I know her?”
“Probably not. She's an old friend.”
Another girl called hello to him across the quad and Kenshin waved back cheerfully. She scowled at them. Too many people knew him. She looked down at him, her eyes scanning over his relaxed posture and focusing on his face. He certainly had delicate features for a man. “You know a lot of people.”
He opened his eyes, looking around just in time to see another girl wave to him. “Oh. Well, I do teach more than one class, Miss Kaoru.”
Dunce. “A lot of girls.”
“The girls just have questions about the lecture.”
Kaoru rolled her eyes, moving to gather her books and shove them in her backpack. “You're so stupid.”
She was repeating herself. Didn't she say the same thing to Sanosuke just days ago?
And now Kenshin had to act innocent. She snatched a book from his out-stretched hand, glaring at him. “They don't have questions about your lectures. Your lectures are clear and comprehensible. They don't want to be friends.”
She stood, jerked her bag over her shoulders and pulled up her blanket, looking down to meet his bewildered expression. They stared at each other for a full minute before a small smile tugged at his lips. “I am not interested in them, Miss Kaoru. They are sweet girls but they're young, that they are.”
Of all the stupid—“Young, Kenshin? How old do you think I am?”
His head tilted back and he smiled fully. “You're different.”
Her heart leapt and she felt color flood onto her cheeks. “Different? That usually isn't a compliment.”
“You're my friend.”
Kaoru looked away, hiding her disappointment. “Oh. Yeah.”
He was right. They were friends. She had no reason to be disappointed. She didn't want to be anything else, right? “Are you all right, Miss Kaoru?”
Kaoru smiled, hoping he wouldn't see how strained it was. “Oh, yes. I have to go. Misao made me promise to go shopping with her. I'll see you in class.”
“Good bye.”