Categories > Anime/Manga > Rurouni Kenshin

Take My Hand

by ladyoiran 3 reviews

Leather, a pink dress and a whole lot of mud.

Category: Rurouni Kenshin - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Characters: Aoshi, Misao - Warnings: [?] - Published: 2005-07-24 - Updated: 2005-07-24 - 3757 words - Complete

Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki.

Notes: This fic is the product of manic conversations between several friends who dared me to write a story about Aoshi in leather. It was meant to be an alternate universe epic, but I aborted the actual writing of it at the last moment. This piece is all that remains of the original concept.


Take My Hand
An Alternate Universe Tale of Rurouni Kenshin

Even though it had long since lightened to a gentle drizzle, the heavy rain of the early morning left its telltale mark. He felt a frown curve his lips at the sight of the puddle spanning from their black, two-door coupe to the walkway leading into the Aoi-ya. Taking in a deep breath, he opened the driver side door further and stepped gingerly into the shallow water, knowing there was no way to avoid it. He adjusted the fall of his duster as he rose from the car and shut the door behind him with a firm thud.

Plain walkway led to a set of clear, glass doors framed by a pair of classic, Japanese lanterns. Smooth, unmarred walls showed the constant care its owners bestowed. Even the windows with their sliding shutters maintained the traditional, Japanese architecture. The very same building where he had grown up, weaving through tables full of customers who delighted in the quiet, self-contained boy who served their meals.

Shinomori Aoshi had come home.

If only for a little while.

"Oh hell, she's got to be pissed it's raining."

Aoshi glanced out of the corner of his eye at the tall, imposing man who stood next to him. Despite his muscular bulk, the tailored suit complimented his broad frame flawlessly. "Shikijou," he murmured quietly.

Shikijou laughed. "Come off it, boss. You know she has to be. All this rain? You know how much she hates it."

"She never liked being trapped indoors," Aoshi admitted. He looked past Shikijou as two men exited the van that had followed his coupe and Shikijou's sports car. A study in contrasts, the huge man and his much smaller counterpart. "But it's her birthday today. She'll be another year older and wiser. Perhaps she'll relent just this once."

The man standing next to him made a sound deep in his throat. Aoshi pretended not to hear the laughter lacing it. Unfortunately, Shikijou took that choice out of his hands with his next words. "Right."

As Hyottoko and Beshimi joined them, Aoshi cast another frowning glance over his shoulder at his companion who had yet to exit the passenger side of his coupe. When the other three men moved to enter the restaurant, Aoshi remained in place, waiting for the last man to leave the car. Through the tinted windows, Aoshi could barely discern the outline of his form but she could tell that the other man had no intention of moving.


Aoshi turned at the sound of Hyottoko's voice, meeting the eyes of the large man who had ducked his head to enter the door. The puzzlement on the three men's faces lingered before they realized that the fifth member of their group had yet to join them. Anything they might have said died on their lips, leaving only an awkward silence. Both Beshimi and Hyottoko shifted uneasily while Shikijou met his eyes briefly before turning his gaze vaguely to the side.

Pushing back the long length of his leather duster, Aoshi spun on his heel and took measured steps across the puddle to bring him to the other side of the car. Tapping lightly on the window, he leaned down and waited. A few minutes passed before he heard the locks release and the door open slightly. Curling his fingers around the edge, Aoshi pulled until he was greeted with the profile of the man inside. "Hannya."

"I can't."

Aoshi remained silent for a moment, aware the lack of sound held more meaning than words ever could. Clearing his throat, he said quietly, "She'll want to see you."

Stiff and proud, Hannya turned his face to the grey light filtered through the rain clouds. His fingers itched to move but he forced them into perfect stillness. In his life, Aoshi had seen many things that made most other men cringe. The sight of that face would garner no reaction from him. This man was his friend. "Will she?" Hannya asked, just as quietly.

The doctors had done all they could. The surgeons had tried their very best. Truly, they had. But even knowing that, the reality proved very hard to accept. "Yes," he said in a firm tone. The multiple surgeries on the mutilated face had left one eye smaller than the other, casting an off-center manner in the way Aoshi met his gaze. But he met it nonetheless. He extended a hand. "Are you coming or not? We're late enough as it is. You know impatient Misao can get."

A ghost of a smile drifted across what remained of his lips. "I believe it's you that she wants to see the most." Resting on his thighs, his clenched fists loosened just a fraction.

"Misao wants to see all of us." He paused as he met the expectant gazes of the waiting men. "Are you going to make us wait here all day?"

The moments stretched before Hannya showed any signs of moving. The faint sigh was almost inaudible over the sound of his foot splashing into the puddle spreading beneath the car. "I suppose it'd be cruel to disappoint her. It is her birthday, after all." Aoshi took a step back as Hannya rose from the car. As the other man moved past him, Aoshi slammed the door shut and hit the automatic lock on his keys. Of a similar height, the two men shared a look before they maneuvered around the car and headed towards the Aoi-ya entrance.

Shikijou raised an eyebrow at their approach while Hyottoko and Beshimi looked politely off to the side. Aoshi gave the scarred man a warning glance before he could say anything. Instead Beshimi nodded to the door with the tip of his chin. "It's awfully quiet in there."

"Too quiet," Hyottoko added. Shikijou only made a rumble in the depths of his chest to show his agreement. Hannya shifted slightly next to him and Aoshi felt the weight of his gaze. They were right. At the very least, they should have heard movement coming from within the restaurant. It being Misao's birthday, they should have something akin to barely controlled chaos.

The beginnings of concern prickled through him and he strode forward to push open the immaculate glass doors. His three men fanned out behind him as Aoshi stopped in the center of the genkan. For what should have been a festive celebration, the restaurant looked deserted. Scanning the interior, he turned to meet Hannya's intent gaze. "What is it?"

"No one's here." As he spoke the words, Hannya raised a gloved hand to gesture towards the back of the restaurant.

It was as good a place as any. Besides, knowing the residents and owners of the Aoi-ya, that was the best place to look for them. With a faint sigh, Aoshi walked towards the kitchen. As he approached the oft-used doors, the rise and fall of arguing voices reached his ears.


As he pushed open the door, the loud voices assailed his ears with their invective.

"Okina, how could you let her run off like that?" Oumime gestured wildly with her hands while a rather embarassed Masukami covered her gentle features with her hands. "After all the trouble that Omasu and I went to! Do you have any idea how hard it is to get her into a dress?"

Shikijou choked. "They put Misao in a dress?" he asked in a stage whisper.

A very loud, stage whisper.

A very loud, stage whisper tinged with horrified awe.

Beshimi snickered while Hyottoko nudged the two men. Shikijou bore the weight well enough but as it was, Beshimi staggered a few steps forward. The movement attracted the notice of Masukami who smiled in relief at the sight of him. "Aoshi! Thank goodness, you're here. We've run into a bit of a problem." Wearing a simple, floral sundress, she stood in sharp contrast against the skimpy, lace top and miniskirt that clothed Oumime.

"Misao didn't like the dress," he hazarded a guess as he nodded to Kurojou and Shirojou who stood off to the side, hoping that by staying out of the way, they could avoid Oumime's wrath while she unleashed it upon Okina. The two men winced at his words, giving Aoshi an idea just how much Misao "didn't like" her dress.

Of course, Okina had to make it worse. "Don't be silly! My pretty Misao looked wonderful in that dress! The picture of grace! Of innocence! Of girlish splendor!"

"Oh?" Oumime fumed. "Is that why you let her out of your sight like that?"

Aoshi furrowed his brow. He was missing something here. "So she was upset and ran off? Is she somewhere else in the restaurant? In her room upstairs?"

The sound of his quiet questions silenced Oumime's furious berating. She lapsed into a silence and stammered an incoherent answer. His frown deepening, he turned to Okina who, for once, looked somewhat guilty. Even Masukami shifted awkwardly and looked towards Shirojou and Kurojou for aid, both of whom only shrugged their shoulders in way of answer.

Looking between the five of them, he asked, "Do you have any idea where Misao is?"

Sharing glances with one another, Masukami swallowed heavily and said something in a small voice.

"What was that?" Hannya asked.

"She said, no." Shirojou rubbed the back of his neck. He glanced at Kurojou. "Kuro and I searched the gardens behind the restaurant but we couldn't find a trace."

Oumime snorted. "You'd think two, twenty-something men could handle one ten-year-old girl."

Kurojou crossed his arms over his chest and looked the other way while color flooded Shirojou's face. At Shiro's embarassment, Masukami said sharply, "If I recall correctly, Misao nearly gave you a black eye while you tried to pull that dress over her head." She met Aoshi's eyes and pointed to her arm. "I got kicked when I put on her shoes." Shaking her head, she sighed. "I've never known someone who hates to dress up as much as Misao does."

Aoshi processed the information in a corner of his mind while the rest of his attention focused on one fact and one fact, alone. "You have absolutely no idea where Misao is? Not even a clue?"

Masukami winced at his question and even Oumime cringed.

No one said anything.

Finally, Beshimi said what was on all of their minds. "You lost the birthday girl?"

If anything, Oumime cringed even more and shot Okina a dirty look.

No one moved for a moment before Aoshi pushed his hands into the pocket of his duster and walked past Okina. Oumime followed his movements with visible agitation. "Aoshi, where are you going? Aoshi?"

"I need some air."

As Aoshi walked out of the kitchen door that led into the gardens, he heard Oumime's angry hiss, "Now look what you did! If Aoshi's mad, we'll never be able to find Misao!"

"Okon--" Masukami's soft voice attempted to placate the older woman.

"No, Omasu. We told Okina to watch Misao and he didn't! He was too busy oogling that poor, young lady who came in to pick-up her family's order. Can you imagine? That girl was young enough to be daughter! Probably granddaughter, you dirty, old man!"


The sounds of the others' futile attempts to soothe Oumime faded as the door shut behind him. He did not envy them. When Okon launched into one of her angry tirades, very little could stop her. Besides, he had more pressing issues at the moment. Looking around the garden, he considered the possible places where a mischievous, little girl could run off to hide. He moved through the gardens, searching the paths that Shirojou had no doubt gone over just a few minutes prior. And to be expected, he found nothing else that Shirojou had not already.

Almost satisfied that he'd find nothing more in the garden, he turned to leave the garden when something caught his eye. Aoshi paused and tried to discern what exactly it was before giving up and moving closer to it. When Aoshi drew near enough to be able to tell what it was, he smiled.

A kunai.

Picking it up with nimble fingers, he spun around again. "Misao!" he called, moving through the weaving pathways formed by the rows of shrubbery. For a few minutes, he wondered if his hunch had been correct but his persistence paid off in the end. Scattered throughout the gardens, thrown askew across the ground or embedded in tree trunks, Aoshi found more kunai.


He paused at the foot of a sakura tree to pluck a kunai out of the scarred wood. He remembered this tree from his boyhood. In the shadow of its branches, he had learned his first kempo moves. A memory prickled. It had also been where Aoshi and Hannya had first taught a trailing, adoring girl the very basic maneuvers. Tapping on the bark with the back of his closed fist, he looked up to find one, disheveled girl clinging to a branch.

"Misao," he said.

Misao froze, the tip of her tongue peeking out from between her lips as her wide eyes looked down at him. Aoshi took in the way her left arm and legs curled around the branch in a death grip while her right arm stretched out to grasp a kunai that she had probably thrown. Amusement filled him at the picture she presented. Aoshi supposed he could see how Misao would have been Okina's Pretty Misao.

Before she taken to throwing kunai in the backyard.

Resigned, he asked, "What are you doing?"

"Practicing," she said before biting her lip again, her gaze drifting towards the stray kunai again. Misao blew away a straggling lock of hair that had fallen into her eyes. Her black hair appeared to have been woven into twin braids, secured with bright pink ribbons.

Had been, anyway.

One of the ribbons had been long since lost and the other had lost its neat, tight bow, leaving its ends to trail over her shoulders. While Aoshi could still see the braids, wisps of hair stuck out at odd angles from the plaits and the braid lacking the ribbon was held together by only a prayer. As Misao leaned forward, more hair fell into her eyes. A shiny, silver barrette with a pink flower on one end slid from its precarious position until it hung morosely on a tangle.

Seeing she had no intention of coming down from the tree anytime soon, Aoshi attempted to distract her again. "Practicing... what? Exactly?"

Misao drew back until she sat on her tucked heels. She pursed her small lips in silent disapproval. "Throwing kunai, of course."

Of course.

As she started to creep forward on the branch, Aoshi thanked whoever was listening that the dress did not share the same fate as her hair. The lace-trimmed, pink dress with its white sash neatly tied into a perfect bow. Oumime had truly outdone herself. How did she keep Misao still long enough to tie those bows, let alone braid her hair? Aoshi remembered how hard it had been to get her to stay still during her bedtime story. Still, Oumime would take it very poorly if she ruined that dress.

A warning creak drew his attention back to the girl. Aoshi had no doubts about Misao's ability to climb. If anything, she had learned how to climb things before taking her first step. He knew Hannya and himself had contributed to that since they had taken her around as a toddler when they had trained in the Aoi-ya's back gardens. Still, judging by the way that branch bowed beneath her weight, Aoshi knew any further and Misao would go for a flight.

"Misao," he said, stepping past a large, muddy puddle. "Move back. I'll get the kunai for you."

Misao huffed. "I can get it myself. I don't need you!" Ignoring his advice, she continued inching along the branch.

The unexpected anger caught him off-guard. "Little one, you'll fall."

"No, I won't!" She stretched her arm out, reaching out for the kunai again. When it became obvious that her arm was not long enough, Misao inched further again before resting back, her legs tucking around the branch. Balancing herself, she reached out with both hands for the kunai.

"Misao!" Aoshi surged forward, darting underneath her. "Don't move!" The branch creaked ominously, bending down and a few inches behind Misao, he could see where its weakest point was. There. It would break there.

"I don't have to listen to you! You left me behind!"


Misao steadfastly refused to look at him as she continued to ignore his advice.


She huffed again and sat back to glare down at him. "You and Hannya and Shikijou and Beshimi and Hyottoko! You all left me here by myself!" Misao gave a quiet sniffle. "No one else plays with me."

Aoshi took pause. "What about the neighborhood children? I know there are girls here who are your age."

Misao scrunched her nose and made a face. "But they want to do girl things like play with dolls and put on make-up. If I wanted to put on make-up, I'd stay here and let Okon do that. They don't want to do things like climb, punch and kick."

He hid a smile at her comment. Irreverent it was but it held so much truth. "Then what about the neighborhood boys?"

The girl blew a raspberry and then stuck out her tongue. "They don't like me because I'm a girl. Stupid boys."

Aoshi cocked his head to the side as he considered her earnest face. "I'm a boy. Am I stupid?"

"You're not a boy. You're Aoshi."

Nonplussed, Aoshi pinched the bridge of his nose. "Misao, please climb down. That branch can't hold your weight. Climb down and I'll get the kunai for you. Take my hand."

Misao considered his offer before shaking her head. "No. You left me behind."

Aoshi sighed. "Misao, I had to go to Tokyo. I go to university there."

"But did the others have to go too?" she wailed. "You didn't even say goodbye." Her eyes glittered in accusation.

So that was it. Aoshi lifted his hand once more. "But I'm here now. Misao, I don't want you to be hurt." As if the punctuate his point, the branch dipped further down, cracking as the break widened. "Please take my hand."

Misao chewed on the inside of her mouth before extending her smaller, chubbier hand for his long-fingered one.


Aoshi held Misao's hand firmly in his grasp. He stepped into the kitchen slowly, looking around cautiously. Good. No sign of the others. Hopefully, they would be able get Misao upstairs and changed before- -

Shikijou strolled into the room, with Beshimi and Shirojou not far behind. "Boss! You're back! We were wondering where--" He came to a halt when he saw the state Aoshi and Misao were in. "Boss, what happened to your coat?"

Aoshi coughed and shifted. Misao took a step back and hid behind him.

The movement only attracted further notice. Beshimi gasped while Hannya said, "Okon isn't going to like this."

"I'm not going to like what?" Oumime froze in the doorway of the kitchen. Slightly behind her, Masukami covered her mouth. To be honest, Aoshi would have preferred that reaction over the frozen silence that characterized Oumime. Silences like that worried him because they usually preceded an explosion.

Shikijou cleared his throat and offered a lopsided smile. "It's not that bad."

Aoshi closed his eyes while Misao huddled in the confines of his mud-encrusted duster.

Oumime inhaled and exhaled multiple times, words tumbling over each other as she tried to work past her disbelief. "Coat... dress... mud... how... what... we..." Oumime put a hand to her forehead. Then her gaze focused on Aoshi, eyes narrowing in anger. He took an involuntary step back, inwarding cringing and pushing Misao back. "What did you do?"

He opened and closed his mouth a few times before shutting it. Nothing he could say would assuage her. His leather duster had borne the brunt of the mud, ruining it beyond recognition. A few splotches of mud marred the long, black length of his leather pants but it could have been much worse. Maybe a professional cleaner could remove the stains.


Misao, on the other hand...

If she had been a bedraggled mess before, she was a bedraggled, mud-covered mess now. Somehow, her hair had managed to tangle itself into a more snarled mass than before and the lone pink ribbon tied itself around one pathetic, thin lock of hair. Her bangs fell into her mud-streaked face. Even the black lustre of her hair was lost into the multiple globs of mud that stuck to its strands. Although the mud covering the pink dress was a foregone conclusion, it was in relatively good condition. Except for the torn lace at the hem. And the fact that half of the lace was missing. Or how her right sock was in muddy shreds. And the fact her left shoe was gone.

Unexpectedly, Hannya laughed. Everyone looked at him in surprise. Even before the accident, Hannya had never been the most jovial of people. After the accident... Aoshi raised his brows at him. Hannya pointed at him. "You have mud on your face." Heat rushed to his cheecks as he rubbed at his skin with the muddy sleeve of his duster. "Not there..." Aoshi looked up at Hannya who was rubbing a finger across his right cheekbone. Aoshi sighed and wiped the mud away.

As if the boyish gesture opened up the floodgates, Shirojou and Kurojou snickered. Which only spurred Shikijou to burst out into loud, raucous laughter, followed by the hesitant chuckles from Hyottoko and Beshimi. One by one, until the entire kitchen resounded with laughter. Aoshi sighed and looked down at Misao.

She smiled at him, oblivious to the ridiculous picture she offered. Turning away, she waved at Hannya. "Hi Hannya!" Warm and sweet, as if nothing else were wrong.

Misao took his hand.

And he held on tight.

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