[f]andom: Rurouni Kenshin
[d]ay: Oct 19/birds in your garden
[p]airing: Aoshi, Misao (NOT AoshixMisao)
[s]ummary:Misao's little hand reached out. The fat, trusting pigeon that had hopped too close found itself snatched into her hand.
[n]otes: Don't kill me for this. I've wanted to do it for a long time.
Her hand reached out, fingers uncurling to reveal fistfuls of bread crumbs. The bread was expensive, but he would spare no expense when it came to her. If he had to, he would find cheaper bread, or ask restaurants for their left-overs.
A pigeon hopped towards Misao's open palm. Misao squealed in delight.
"Nenji-san," Aoshi confessed, "I can't thank you enough."
"It's nothing," the old man replied. "Your skill with the tea ceremony brings me great joy. It's not often you meet a young man who still practices it."
"Misao enjoys it, but her hands... She lacks the fine motor coordination."
Nenji was silent for a while. They drank their tea in companionable silence.
Misao began to wriggle the fingers of her right hand in a specific pattern.
"Misao," Aoshi called.
Her head jerked up, and she turned to look at him. The sight of that peaceful smile on herlovely face made his chest ache.
He held out the bag of crumbs. She stood, fetched some.
"You always know just what I need," she said.Maybe sending her to the Kyoto school had been a good idea. She was stumbling less and less over her words.
She was still obsessed with patterns, but she did show signs of improving.
"It's because I know you," he told her.
She giggled and went back to the birds.
"Is that some sort of ritual?" Nenji asked when she had gone.
Aoshi nodded. "She likes patterns and routines."
"Forgive me for asking, Shinomori-kun, but what, exactly, is her disability?"
"Misao is a high-functioning autistic."
Nenji would never know just how much it cost him to admit that. It wasn't that he was ashamed. It was that he hated admitting it to himself.
This disease of hers would prevent her from living the life she so easily could live. She was so sweet, so beautiful, so charming and cheerful and energetic and she would have gone so far.
Could still go so far, he reminded himself. Never lose hope. She functions so highly...
Nenji nodded. "That explains a lot."
Aoshi looked over to her.
Misao watched the birds eat the crumbs.
She must have sensed his scrutiny, because she turned around to smile at him. She cheerfully smiled a smile that broke his heart to see."How exactly are the two of you related?"
Such prying questions from such a usually well-mannered old man. Aoshi resisted the urge to shut down. Nenji-san didn't deserve that kind of treatment.
He turned his gaze to the pink bow tied around Nenji's beard.
"She's the granddaughter of one of my father's older friends."
"And why is it that you're taking care of her?"
Stop, Aoshi wanted to scream, turning to watch Misao more.
Stop it. This hurts. Don't bring up the past.
But Nenji had been so kind. He had to answer honestly. He owed it.
"I'm all she has left." The words left his mouth with strain. He had to push them out, drop them like they were thousand-pound weights. "Her parents were... deemed unsuitable, and her grandfather suffered a heart attack."
Those first few months, so long ago, had blended together into one hazy nightmare. Misao's raw grief and confusion had hurt him to see, had torn him up inside until he was ragged and bleeding. Until he couldn't take it anymore, and held her as she laughed until she cried, blinking back tears of his own and pulling her tightly to his chest, wishing he could take all of that pain away.
Such a beautiful, precious, bright little girl didn't deserve any of that pain.
Misao hadn't really understood the concept of death at the time. She hadn't understood what it was to cry, either.Her mother had been a severe schizophrenic, her father, an orderly in the mental hospital. Misao had never known either of them. Until the loss of Makimachi Kabuo and the death of Shinomori Tetsuya in a plane crash, Misao had never grieved in her life. Even when Aoshi had gone away to college when she was eight— entering at the age of seventeen— Misao had not grieved.
He had maintained contact, after all.
Misao's little hand reached out. The fat, trusting pigeon that had hopped too close found itself snatched into her hand.
Aoshi could only blink as she stared at the distressed bird.
This was a new action. This was not part of The Routine. This was not a safe action. This was... This was...
This was an improvement! Dear sweet heaven, she had done something new!
The bird made an indignant squawking sound. It jabbed its beak against her wrist. Blood welled up, Aoshi could see it, bright and red against her skin.
Misao released the pigeon with a cry.
Aoshi stood, practically overturning the tiny patio table in his haste. He rushed towards her. One hand connected with her right shoulder.
"It bit me," she murmured.
"Aa, it did. You scared it."
"Did I do bad." Her voice was oddly flat.
"No. You were curious. Birds will do that if you hold them, so be a bit more careful next time."
"I'll go get a band-aid for that."
She nodded again, her expression timid.
And he did.
Despite Misao's pain and sudden bit of fear and that damnable lip-biting motion she had begun to make— she hadn't done that in years, since his father's death— he found himself releasing a knot of tension in his gut.
She was going to be okay. She was going to be okay.
Around her ankles, the birds hopped and chirped.
[r]ating: PG-13, just because I wrote it.
[d]ay: Oct 20/A spy of the old school
[p]airing: Aoshi/Misao, sort of.
[s]ummary: Aoshi confronts Misao, but it's too late. She has already found Okina.
[n]otes: Not fond of this one. I couldn't decide quite how I to make their personalities fit... And it didn't turn out well at all.
Misao stared at the sixteen year old boy before her. He seemed so... familiar...
"Makimachi-sama?" The boy queried.
Idiot boy, don't you know what I've done? I don't deserve that title anymore.
Memories of wishing for the Bakumatsu, of needing to prove herself, that a woman COULD be the Okashira, even a short, delicate-looking woman, rushed back.
And then she recognized him.
She had been eighteen when she'd left. Eighteen when she had run away because of what Okina was doing with her Oniwabanshu. With Aoshi-kun's Oniwabanshu.
It had been the intent, after all, of Shinomori-sama that the Oniwabanshu pass to Aoshi. Not to Misao, but to the blood heir. Of course, the blood heir had been a two year old at the time. So it had passed to her.
A kunoichi. And worse, in the eyes of the jonin council, a traditional kunoichi. One who would just as often be found undressed and sweating in the enemy's futon as found in her onmitsu uniform and creeping about and actually doing stereotypical spy things.
"Aoshi-kun," she breathed.
And then her gaze slipped to the three kunai in her right hand and the war fan in her left. Blood dripped from her weapons, staining her kimono irrevocably.
No matter. Kimono were unimportant. Besides, bloodstains would be no hindrance in her quest to take the title of 'greatest' for the men who had followed her.
The men who had supported her in all that she had done. The men who had not cared that she was a kunoichi, that she did not fight battles the way they did.
"Aoshi-kun... Go," she breathed. "I don't want to see you again."
I don't want to remember. I don't want to think about what I have just done. Don't make me think, Shinomori. Don't make me think.
He tilted his head, stared down at her.
She could see the hurt. She could see it. And then it was gone, erased from his face with frightening ease.
Don't make me come back. Don't make me give this up. It's all I have. It's all I have.
She moved past him, kept on walking.
She resisted the urge to look back.
There was no going back. She had been set on this path when she lost her virginity.
No going back. No coming back. No regrets, no second thoughts. There would be none of that. She would be like Makimachi-sama, like Okina, like the man she should have killed but hadn't. She would be straight and tall, she would be like a line, she would never stop.
So she kept going forward, chanting in her mind, "No going back, no going back, no coming back, no regrets, no second thoughts."
But somehow, it all just turned into