That same morning...
Kenshin sighed as he methodically prepared breakfast. He thought he heard Kaoru screaming from the dojo but she'd told him that she was just "looking for something."
Yeah, right. And he's the Emperor of China. Better yet, Buddha reincarnated.
It was pretty obvious from her tone of voice that she wasn't telling him the truth. He'd been around her long enough to know that when she was "looking for something" that 'something' was either Yahiko's head or his own. He had settled for the conventional reply after deciding that breakfast wasn't really quite the appropriate time to confront her especially since she looked out of sorts when he saw her earlier. Kenshin shuddered inwardly. Cardinal rule for all inhabitants of Kamiya Dojo: Never but never encourage, deliberately or otherwise, Kaoru when she was -- out of sorts.
But that wasn't the point. Kenshin began chopping the vegetables faster. She was obviously hiding something, not looking for something, as she so prosaically put it. It occured to him that she hardly ever talked to him anymore, ever since that time when she had stumbled upon him on the bathroom. He had tried to act like a perfect gentleman because he didn't relish the thought of looking like beanpaste when he'd just taken a bath. It had taken a lot of effort on his part to act casual when her robe just -- parted. Right in the middle.
Kenshin shook his head impatiently. No, damn it, that's still not the point. Despite his best efforts, she still pounded him. And rather effectively,too. It had taken Sano and Yahiko to pull his head from its sublime resting place in the ceiling. He winced at the memory. Even Megumi had told him that he probably incurred brain damage from what happened. His skull was was probably splintered into a thousand pieces, too. And, worst of all, Kaoru started avoiding him after the incident. He racked his memory, trying to think of something he did which offended her. Was it something he said?
Kenshin paused. She only started hitting him after he uttered that part about her getting sick. Nah. That can't be it. There was nothing wrong about that, right?
But, again, that wasn't the point. Kenshin stopped himself just in time from mincing his fingers into pieces.
Then what was the point?
It's Kaoru. What do I do about Kaoru?
"Kenshin, if you're so damned worried, why don't you ask her?"
Kenshin gave Sano an exasperated glance. "If it's so easy to do that, then I'd have done it a long time ago," he retorted as he vigorously scrubbed Yahiko's gi.
"Sure," Sano replied, his tone disbelieving. "Uh-huh."
"It's true," Kenshin protested.
"Look, Kenshin," Sano said as he idly chewed on his favorite fishbone. "Has it ever occured to you that the reason she's so uncommunicative now is because you don't seem to care about it all? You know she's in a snit but you pretend like nothing's happening. You just can't ignore her forever."
Kenshin stopped his scrubbing and looked up at Sano. "What do you mean?" he asked.
Sano rolled his eyes. "Kenshin, do we still have to go through this?" At Kenshin's glare, he sighed. "OK. We both know you love her, right?"
"Sano," Kenshin muttered.
"Oh, quit that 'Sano'-crap. You gotta admit what you feel, Himura, or you'd forever be stuck in square one." Sano eyed him challengingly, "Besides, do you want to help Kaoru or not?"
"What's all these got to do with--"
Kenshin took a deep breath. "All right. I--" he paused, his face turning red, "--love her."
Sano nodded approvingly. "Great. We've settled that. Now, the next step is for you to prove your love. In the clearest way possible, you hear me?"
"What?!" Kenshin sputtered. "How the hell--"
"Don't you know anything about women?" Sano demanded. "And you call yourself the Hitokiri Battousai. The Slasher. What kind of a freakin' swordsman are you?!"
Kenshin coughed. "Sano, I don't do that kind of swordplay," he said pointedly. He began to scrub in earnest again. He wished that he didn't bring the subject up with Sano. His love life, or the lack of it, as the topic for conversation... He was beginning to feel hopelessly -- old.
"Whatever," Sano waved his hand dismissively. "But you've been married, right? You should at least have some idea about courting women."
"Um, well, Tomoe and I didn't exactly have a--" Kenshin hesitated, "--proper courtship. We just sort of -- ended up together."
"Gods, Kenshin. And are you telling me that you have no experience whatsoever with women?" Sano asked.
Kenshin shook his head. "Um, not really."
Sano spit his fishbone out. "Kuso. Then I'd have to be the one to teach you."
Now that was a dangerous proposition. "WHAT?!"
"Come on, Kenshin," Sano said as he hunkered down beside his friend. "You're nearly thirty years old and--"
Kenshin glared at him, "Thanks for reminding me."
"--you can't dilly-dally forever. Sooner or later, you're bound to learn about the, um, you know...," Sano told him with a shrug. "Besides, how do you expect to win Kaoru? By saying 'oro' to her every word? By cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her? By doing her laundry, for Kami-sama's sake?"
"Kenshin..." Sano mimicked him. "The point here is you don't court a woman by acting like one."
"ORO?!" Kenshin burst out. "Now, Sano, that's--"
Sano shook his head. "Don't interrupt. I'm not yet finished," he said sternly.
"Kenshin, you know she won't wait for you forever," Sano said intently. "Sooner or later you'd have to make your move."
"You've gotta show her that she's important to you. Or would you rather that some other guy get her?" Sano raised his eyebrow.
"Uh, well, she deserves someone better than--"
"Don't bullshit me, Kenshin. This is not about you deserving her or anything. In case you've forgotten, that's for her to decide. And you ain't backin' down like a wimp," Sano snorted. "Now, do we do this or not?"
Kenshin didn't respond for a while. He loved Kaoru. And he honestly didn't think that he could stand it if she ended up with another guy. Besides, he'd do anything for her to talk to him again like before. Sano was right. If this is what it took... He nodded.
Sano pounded him on the back, "Excellent!
Kenshin sighed. He hoped that Sano knew what he was doing. "So, what do I do?" he asked.
"Leave it to me," Sano told him and patted his chest proudly. "I'm the Sagara Sanosuke, after all. Women are my game," he grinned.
"Oro..." Kenshin shook his hand free of soap suds and watched the laundry floating about the laundry disconsolately. "I hope this works."
Kenshin heard the sound of footsteps pounding on the road leading towards the dojo. Kaoru was home already? She was gone for only thirty minutes. He hurriedly tucked the piece of paper Sano had given him earlier in his robe and made a show of slinging clothes over the clothespin. He remembered what Sano told him:
"OK, Kenshin. The first thing you've gotta do is to impress her. You know, flowery words, cool clothes, romantic dinners, the works. When you've done that, you've got it made, buddy."
She burst through the entranceway exuberantly and he felt his heart thud madly against his chest when he saw her. She looked so vibrant, so alive, and he wished that she was so for him. He was vaguely aware of saying his usual "hi-welcome-how've you been speech" as determination slowly took root. All right then. He mentally counted his savings as he made his way back to the house. Enough to buy a new set of clothes and that dinner Sano was talking about. He looked back at Kaoru and, for a moment, he wondered why she looked -- buoyant. She must have bought something nice. Wait, wait, wait. He was not making his point clear here.
You bet he would.
END OF PART TWO
Mwahahahaha!!!! I hope that wasn't too OOC ^_^ I'm determined to keep this 'fic very very light.
Oh, yeah. About that part with Sano saying that Kenshin's like a woman just 'coz he does the chores. I know that that was pretty chauvinistic but we'd have to contextualize, right? ^^
Next part: a lot of confusion, falling over...^_~ And it seems that writing this 'fic helped me regain my focus on "Of Love and Honor." Part 8 is gonna come out, guns blazing!!! ^_^