The Circle Game; A Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic
by Kitty Woolfson
First draft of The Circle Game, 5/2000.

Chapter 4: Arc: Enishi

Several weeks passed. The dreary late fall weather got worse and winter struck in full force. Snow began to fall sporadically in mid-November and by the time winter holiday rolled around the city was covered in a thin blanket of gritty snow.
Even though her grandfather had been back for almost two weeks, Misao still went to Aoshi's house after school. When he asked her about it, she replied simply, "Would you rather be in a three-room flat or a, a however-many-rooms-this-is apartment?" Aoshi paused and looked up from his homework. Misao gave him a winning smile. "Besides, I'd rather be with you here than alone there."

"Another good point," Aoshi said, bending back over his books.

Chiho and Gisuke were hardly out of the others sight when they weren't in class, and when they were the seemed to pine for each other in a horrible way. Misao and Chiho would leave Aoshi and Gisuke and within a few minutes Chiho would be sigh-y and droopy. Gisuke would start to doodle Chiho's image and name in the margins of his paper. It got to be so bad that a teacher once returned a large stack of notes, demanding that they be redone.

"Neatly!" they had said disgustedly, thrusting the scrappy papers into Gisuke's lap.

One day early in December Misao looked up from her lunch and stared at Aoshi in surprise. He was used to these sort of incidents before. They usually meant that Misao had remembered something from their past.

"What is it?"

Misao stared at him blankly. Aoshi checked her quickly for any signs that she was dropping into a trance like she had only once before, but her eyes were focused on him. Though her stare was a little bit vacant, she was definitely awake in there.

"Shinomori Aoshi," she said, beginning to glare harder, "in all the weeks that I've known you"

'Uh-oh,' Aoshi thought, straightening up self-conciously, 'here it comes.' He swallowed nervously and prepared for the worst."I haven't seen or heard ANY sign of"

Aoshi steeled himself

"your parents!"

and facefaulted.

"M- my parents?" he stammered, trying to regain his composture. "That's what you were worried about? My parents?"

Misao gave him a condecending look and said, "Well of course! I spend almost more time at your house than I do my own, I spent the night on your couch for nearly two weeks, and your parents STILL haven't come back from this convention thing they went to!"

'In all that she never once mentioned that she's my girlfriend,' Aoshi marveled. 'And here I was afraid she was going to ask me why I'd never taken her out on a real date.' He thought briefly about the only other girl he had ever dated and repressed a shudder.

Aoshi crumpled his napkin up and dropped it into the garbage can next to the park bench he and Misao were sitting on. He glanced over at Misao and sighed. "Truth is," he said slowly and deliberately, "I don't see my parents much. They came back not long after you left, but they're never home before midnight at the very earliest. They're always busy at the Aoiya and their other jobs. If the restaurant ever gets real successful, they can quit their other jobs and relax a little. Until then, I'm pretty much alone."

"But- but that's awful," Misao whispered. Aoshi looked up at her horror-striken face and felt guilty.

"Don't worry about it," he said more lightly than he felt. "I've got Gisuke, and Taku, and Shinji, and you, I'm not really alone."

Misao stood up suddenly and grabbed his hands. "That's right!" she stated sternly. "You've got me! And I'm never going to ever let you be alone! No matter what!"

The young man stared at her. He had never had anybody try to help him like that since his sister had died. She had been everything to him; his mother, his best friend, his teacher, his role-model. When she quietly passed away in the white hospital room his world had ended. His distant parents became more distant. His friends were bothered by his melencholy obsession with his futile efforts to make himself happy. After his sister had died he stopped smiling, stopped trying and locked his heart away.

But Misao, the master-thief, had broken into the safe and took his heart out to sit in a sunny spot in the window. She made him feel alive again, after being locked away for so long, and he didn't want this refound feeling to go away again.

Misao let out a gusting sigh. "Oh, I've just filled your head with gibberish. Let me say it the easiest way I know how." She sat down next to him and wrapped her arms as far as they would go around his shoulders and rested her head on his shoulder tenderly.

"Misao, it's okay, really," Aoshi said. "You don't need to worry about me."

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