Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Let's Just Pretend ❯ It's the Climb ( Chapter 20 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

“Come on, Megumi, let me pick a movie.”
Sanosuke's whine carried through the small, two-bedroom apartment. Kaoru rolled her eyes, unwinding her scarf from around her neck and shedding her coat. Sanosuke should know that he wasn't about to win that fight. Megumi always got her way.
“Hello, Miss Kaoru.”
Kaoru jumped, turning to meet violet eyes. “Hi, Kenshin. I didn't hear you. Has a movie been chosen yet?”
His eyes crinkled and he tilted his head toward the living area where the argument was gaining in volume. “It's not a stupid movie. It's a Christmas classic!”
“Christmas classic? How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a classic!”
“If you're twelve!”
Kaoru raised an eyebrow and Kenshin helpfully filled her in. “Miss Megumi wants to watch It's a Wonderful Life.
“I see. So, this is your new place?”
Kenshin startled, reaching for her coat and scarf. “Oh, yes. Welcome. Would you like me to show you around?”
“If you want to. I don't want to hold up the movie.”
“It's not a problem. They're still arguing. Down the hall are the bedrooms and the bathroom is the first door on the left. Then the kitchen.”
Kaoru followed him into the small kitchen, smiling when she saw how neat and organized it was. “I take it Sano doesn't come in here that often.”
A grin spread across his face. “He's only allowed in the fridge.”
She laughed. “You do the cooking then? How's the ramen?”
“I cook more than ramen, that I do.”
“I still haven't seen the evidence for that.”
“I'll have to have you for dinner some time.”
Kaoru turned from admiring a small painting over the sink. “What?”
Red spread across his cheeks. “For dinner, I mean. I still owe you.”
“For what?”
“For making you lose your lunch.”
She blushed. She'd nearly forgotten how they'd met. “Yo, love birds, movie's starting!”
An awkward silence fell between them before Kenshin cleared his throat. “Do you want anything to eat or drink?”
Kaoru made a bee-line for the entry way. “Oh, I brought something. I'll be right there.”
“Right. I'll... umm... save you a spot.”
* * * * *
The credits were just beginning to roll when Kaoru released the dramatic sigh she'd been holding in for at least half the movie. “I really wish they had better prizes in these things.” Five pairs of eyes turned in her direction and she frowned, shrinking back. “What?”
Misao was first to speak. “Kaoru, are you eating Cracker Jacks?”
Kaoru clutched the bag instinctively, drawing it close to her chest. Almost four years of living with the hyperactive girl taught her to viciously guard her food. That didn't always help though. “Yeah, so? I happen to like them. Too bad the prizes suck now.”
“What is the prize, Miss Kaoru?”
She turned to Kenshin, struggling to hold down a rising blush. He must think her childish. Her complaining about the stupid prizes in a box of sweets. After all, he was several years older than her and had probably outgrown the hunt for the prize when he was eight. He smiled harmlessly and she relaxed, reaching into the Cracker Jack bag to pull out a flimsy piece of paper. “It's another one of those 'Who Am I?' things. The last one I had was Susan B. Anthony and the one before that was Abraham Lincoln. It's like they're trying to teach me history. It's probably the only educational thing kids see nowadays anyway.”
Sanosuke leaned forward to peer down the sofa at her. “How many of those have you eaten, Missy?”
Kaoru sniffed, raising her nose in the air and turning back to the television. Like she would admit to such a thing. She peeked at Kenshin. He might think she was a pig. Better to evade... or if that's not possible, be vague. “Enough to collect a short history of the United States.”
Sanosuke laughed, leaning back and throwing an arm over Megumi's shoulder and ignoring her frosty stare. Apparently, she was still annoyed with him for belittling a Christmas classic. “Gee, Kenshin, looks like you weren't needed after all. Generations of kids can learn history just from eating Cracker Jacks.”
Kaoru glared and Kenshin tried to placate them. “Now, Sano, there's more to history than what you can find in a Cracker Jack box, that there is.”
Sanosuke snorted and Megumi elbowed him in the side, turning his snort into a grunt. “Ignore him, Kenny, the boy has a bird-sized brain.”
Misao snagged the paper from Kaoru's hand, holding it up for the others to see. “What say we learn something? After all, the more you know...” she trailed off, forehead furrowed as she tried to end her sentence. With a careless shrug, she let it go and instead turned her attention to the paper. “Ooo! A little folding picture! Okay. 'Can you guess who I grew up to be: As a boy, I was athletic and tall for my age. One of my happiest memories was when my father gave me a pony and taught me how to ride it. My father died when I was eleven and I eventually went to live with my older half brother, Lawrence. I didn't have much of a formal education, a fact that bothered me most of my life. When I was twenty, I joined the military and worked hard to gain a commission in the British Army. Ironically, I would later become an enemy of the British. Who am I?'”
Misao grinned brightly, holding up a cartoon drawing of a young boy that came with the Cracker Jack prize. Silence met her recitation and Sanosuke snorted, muttering, “You're right, Missy, the prizes do suck.”
Megumi grudgingly agreed, turning to Kenshin and Kaoru. “I think we'll leave this puzzle t
Kaoru shook her head, already turning back to her Cracker Jacks. “No way, I'm not wasting my time on something so stupid. I want a real prize. Not a pop-quiz.”
Kenshin slung his arms over the back of the sofa, watching as she dug through the bag for another caramel covered popcorn. “You mean, you don't know the answer.”
She rolled her eyes, sticking her tongue at him. When his eyes narrowed and glinted gold for half a second, she quickly pulled her tongue back into her mouth and pointed a piece of popcorn at him instead. “Like you know.”
He snatched the candied popcorn from her hand, popping it into his mouth and grinning at her outraged squeak. “Of course.”
Once again, she clutched her Cracker Jacks protectively. Now she hand to defend her food from two tyrants. Life was so unfair. “Fine, Mr. Student Aide, what's the answer.”
His gaze lingered on the bag that she clutched to her chest before he met her gaze again, grin widening. “George Washington.”
Heat flooded her cheeks though she wasn't sure of the cause. George Washington certainly hadn't caused a blush in over 230 years. Misao turned the paper over, clucking her tongue. “He's right.”
With a careless shrug, Kenshin broke eye contact with her and Kaoru released a breath she hadn't known she was holding. “Smart ass.”