Seeing Red 23

Sano wasn’t aware of the motions he used to get out of the car, didn’t feel the handle under his fingers or hear the sound of the door closing, was barely even conscious of the parking lot around him. All he knew was the huge, hot, overwhelming certainty of where Kaoru’s story was going. He was so angry he couldn’t think; he was so angry he practically couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t quite say it was worse than before, because it was different than before, but he couldn’t quite say anything, really, because all that was likely to come out was an inarticulate roar.

Sure, it was no surprise, after all the speculation (serious or otherwise), that Kenshin’s wife had been his killer… but Sano had expected that to have been caused by a concealed callousness, or a moment of lost control during an argument, or some kind of infidelity or other marital intrigue… If he’d had any idea that threat and coercion had been involved… He raged at himself for ever having joked about it.

The sight of Hajime’s bright red figure emerging from the passenger side of the unfamiliar red car was the first event or part of his surroundings to register coherently (relatively) in Sano’s head, and he felt his hands clench immediately into tingling fists.  Of course he was still angry at Hajime, for all the same reasons as before — the aloofness and evident disinterest, the blame Sano laid on him (unfair; even now he knew it was unfair) for the slowness of proceedings and the fact that he still had a maddening ghost attached to him — but this time he also recognized, somewhere deep in the maelstrom that was his thoughts and emotions under Kenshin’s influence, that Hajime was trying to help him, that Hajime was willing to do what was necessary.  This time, as Sano staggered toward him with intentions every bit as violent as earlier, he did so with nearly as much needy hopefulness as anger.

It was as before: Hajime encouraged him off behind one of the other cars in the parking lot — a big old SUV, Sano vaguely recognized, which could provide at least a little privacy — and essentially beat him up until Sano was in a more propitious frame of mind.  And this time, when yet another hard-knuckled blow from the exorcist opened the return doorway to rationality, when Sano staggered backward to stumble (not for the first time in the last couple of minutes) over the curb that bordered the lot on this side and sit down heavily in the small strip of grass between that and a tall fence, he ran a hand across his face and let out a frustrated sigh.  His statement that he hoped they wouldn’t have to go through this again today lacked about half its intended words.

Hajime snorted but said nothing.  Both shoulders of his shirt, Sano noted, were now split open, and at least one of the buttons across his chest had torn through its hole; his jacket he must have left in Kaoru’s car, since it wasn’t visible anywhere around.  The newest bruise on his face induced simultaneous guilt and satisfaction in Sano.

Calming his panting breaths and trying in vain to smooth away his scowl, Sano growled, “Thank you.”

Returning to their interviewee after not too long, Sano in some weary dismay at the feeling of the anger still growing as he continually had to restrain Kenshin, they found Kaoru staring at the steering wheel with a dry face but despairing eyes.  These she turned only briefly on Sano as he resumed his place in the back seat; then she returned quickly, with a wince, to what she’d been regarding before.

“He’s mad at me,” she whispered. “Kenshin. He wants revenge. He isn’t — wasn’t — isn’t that kind of person, but… but I think anyone would react like that. I killed him… me, the person he should have been able to trust most… I took everything from him… and now his son is being raised by a murderer. Of course he would have to do something about that. Anyone would.”

“Then he’s a fucking dick,” Sano growled, “and he can damn well just stop haunting me right now, because fuck that.”

Neither of the others responded directly to this largely incoherent statement. Instead, Hajime said in what Sano was fairly sure he intended as a kind tone, “What’s the rest of the story?”

After the same preparations for unpleasant speech they’d seen her make a couple of times already today, Kaoru continued.  “These notes had me so tense and miserable and worried that I didn’t even blink when they told me they needed me to kill someone. The note said I’d never hear from them again if I did it, and I was so relieved at that thought that at first even murder didn’t seem like too much. That’s how far they’d pushed me.

“Obviously after a while I was horrified by what they were asking me to do, but even then I couldn’t see any way out of it, and I think I accepted the idea and how helpless I was a lot more easily than I should have. It’s something to remember, I guess… how easy it is to make someone a murderer. It’s not a certain type of person; it’s any type of person in the right situation. You’d never look at me and think, ‘She seems like someone who’d shoot a man twice in the head,’ but here I am a murderer.

“Kenshin and I had agreed I wouldn’t have any guns in the house until Kenji was old enough that we could count on him not hurting himself by accident.  Obviously whoever they were knew that, because they told me where to go to find a gun to use for the job they wanted me to do: they left it in a box behind a dumpster in one of the streets on the way to where they wanted me to go.  It was — I told you — it was a Taurus .38 special, snub-nosed, hammerless, with a — god, what does that matter?  I’ll remember every little detail of that gun for the rest of my life, but you guys probably don’t need to know.”

“I’ll admit,” said Hajime, looking at her with slightly raised brows, “that description didn’t actually mean anything to me.”

“Sorry.”  It was half a laugh and half a sob.  “Not everyone’s a fan of guns.  Including me, now.  But I’ve been shooting since I was little… actually, I’ve always wanted to be a policeman.  Not much chance of that now, is there?”

As Kaoru took a moment to get hold of herself as she admitted to a lifelong dream thus shattered, Hajime filled the near-silence with the query, “Is that why they chose you for this?  Because you’ve had the practice and are familiar with guns?”

She shook her head slowly.  “I’ve had a lot of time to think about all of this — god knows I’ve had a lot of time to think about all of this, even if I wasn’t thinking very clearly some of that time — and I think that was only the reason they had me do it the way they did.  If I wasn’t a good shot and familiar with guns, they’d’ve had me poison him or something.  And if they just… if they just wanted him dead and not cared who did it, they already had whoever it was who was sneaking notes into my house, who I’m sure would have… would have done it better than I did anyway.”

“So you think this was a deliberate form of torture or revenge?”  Although Hajime seemed to be interjecting at this point to allow Kaoru another moment to calm her misery, his tone also had the steel-cool determination of someone that loathes what he’s heard and has plans for doing something about it.

With a nod, a deep breath, and an obvious effort, she elaborated.  “They wanted me to do it because — I’m just sure of this — they thought it would be the best way to hurt us both.  They didn’t care whether I got caught or what happened afterwards… they were completely anonymous the entire time, so even if I did get caught and I told everything, the police wouldn’t be able to get at them and I’d probably still be charged with accessory to murder or something.

“I think I did better than they thought I would, though,” she added with the hint of a bitter smile.  “I followed their instructions about the route to take and the best position to be in to wait for the victim, and I wore what they suggested, and I got rid of the gun exactly how they told me.  They promised to provide cover fire in the street, and they even did that.  It went so smoothly, it was just like I’d practiced it, like I’d been doing this forever.”

They had probably been doing this forever,” said Hajime.

“Did you…”  Sano could barely get the words out.  “Did you know who…”

“No,” Kaoru whispered.  “Do you think I would have — do you think I could have done it if I’d known?  Even to protect my son, even to save my own life, do you think I would have been capable of…”

“And it was a dark little back street and he had his hood up,” Sano finished for her in a tone as low as hers but far more rough.  “I bet you never even saw his face.”

“I didn’t even know until the phone call came.  But… but even not knowing who it was… from the moment I pulled the trigger for the first shot, I felt sick… and cold… and just… terrible like I can’t even describe… and when I saw him fall on his face, I knew I’d done something I could never take back.  And even thinking about how I’d done it to save Kenji didn’t help, because I knew I’d turned into something I…”  Whatever she said next was completely unintelligible in a storm of body-wracking sobs.

Sano didn’t know how much more of this he could take.  He was exhausted and aching all over, and wasn’t sure if he could handle another fist fight today… and yet the anger was growing even more quickly than before as he watched the suffering of this poor woman and thought of whoever it was that had put her through this torment.  He wanted to find them and do to them the most horrible things he could come up with, force them to endure what Kaoru had endured.  His heart hurt even more than his body, and the horror of the circumstance she described was overwhelming.

Eventually, as her sobbing diminished, Hajime asked, “And did you get any more notes?”  When she shook her head, he nodded.  Even from the back seat, Sano could clearly see the set of his jaw and his brow, and he realized with an odd sense of clarity and certainty that Hajime was having much the same thoughts and vindictive desires he was.  On the topic of what should be done about Kaoru’s abusers, evidently, they were in complete accord.

There was a long period of brooding wordlessness during which Sano was trying to decide how much longer he could stay in this car and how he could comprehensibly express, through this rage, his resolution and pity.  Finally, though, Kaoru spoke again, apparently determined to finish what she had started even if her story had rather fallen apart halfway through.

“So you see why it makes perfect sense for Kenshin to be so angry.  I’ll do whatever he wants me to, whatever he needs to see happen so he can move on.  I’ll shoot myself in the head if he wants.  If it weren’t for Kenji, I probably would have done it already.”

Previous (Part 22) | Chapter Index | Next (Part 24)

8 thoughts on “Seeing Red 23

  1. I think I cried a little bit when I went to your site and found it deleted. But! Google is awesome and now I find you’re still writing RK fic! I can’t wait to browse this journal and re-read your fic! (Have you heard of AO3? If you’re interested, I have an invite ^-^)

    Ond question though. I was trying to find a fic (Aoshi/Soujirou) but I don’t think it’s here and I’m pretty sure you wrote it o.o It’s an AU based on cinderella? Aoshi is the prince?

    1. Hi! Good to see you! Yeah, the site’s been gone for about three years now, but almost everything that was there is now here. The story you’re referring to, Inhibitions of the Age, has been taken down, however, because I hated it XD Sorry!

      Thanks for the offer of an AO3 invite, too, but I’m happy here ^__^

      1. Ohhh! Haha, I actually loved that story, it was so great and one of the few Aoshi/Soujirou that I actually enjoyed. XD It’s a good thing I saved a backup of it though (I just found it on my RK fic folder lol)

        I was really into RK years ago but then I went on to other fandoms and now I’m back again; it’s so sad to see a bunch of sites that I used to go have been deleted. Buu :(

        But I’m happy you’re still writing! I’m going to re-read all your fic now since it’s been yeaaars hehe


  2. Okay, I dunno what it is, but I’m feeling less generous regarding the set up here…

    The fighting was a nice touch, a nice juxtaposition of a physical answer to a, what?, metaphysical issue. I was curious about just how much of a close-cut Hajime’s clothing is if throwing a few punches not only tears a button loose but results in BOTH shoulder seams getting ripped out…and there is Sano, too juiced up to even appreciate naked Hajime shoulder.

    But reading about Kaoru’s manipulation, I dunno…feels like the reader is getting manipulated this time around so jury’s out on that one. I will say this, though, I think it would have had greater impact if–after she drops the bomb two or so chapters ago that SHE killed Kenshin–we had known that, yes, she pulled the trigger, but no, she didn’t know it was her own husband she had killed from the get go. Looking back on it, yes, we are told Kenshin had his hood up and all that, but it wasn’t until THIS chapter that I realized that that meant that Kaoru wasn’t able to see who she was shooting (and I suppose I can totally give you a pass on the fact that he had been wearing her own grey hoodie since clothing is, by and large, mass produced and one grey hoodie probably looks a lot like the next PLUS who is expecting to see their own clothing walking around town?)

    On a cerebral level, I get the feeling Kaoru is very, deeply regretful of her role in the whole shebang, but at the same time it also seems like the huge, blaring excuse is that she did it for her son (no, I do not feel like Kaoru or any one else sets it up like this, like that made murder okay–even though Kaoru basically admits that she WAS okay with murder if only it meant an end to her torment). But taken as a whole, the presentation leaves me feeling like “well, whatever, she had to stop these notes.”

    I am now curious where the “I wanted to be a policeman” thing comes from, if it was something from the original series or not AND I was curious about why she said policeMAN instead of police officer or police woman or whatever. Hell, the whole convenience of Kaoru knowing her way around a gun is kind of interesting…and since she states that whoever was tormenting her clearly wanted to do this is a way that was painful to both Kenshin and Kaoru, I am also left to wonder just what this means since the design of the crime would have one believe that Kaoru’s got the lion’s share of the torment–having to live with the fact that she killed her own husband while Kenshin only lived with the false idea that his wife was angry at him and then put, through no choice of his own of course, out of his misery.

    Unless whoever wanted Kenshin killed knew about the possibilities of his sticking around as a ghost…which had interesting implications.

    Finally, I am wondering just how much of a beating Sano does have to take to return to normal and I sincerely wished it could have been resolved in a no-less-physical but far-more-pleasurable manner…but I realize that is not going to be a prominent feature in the story *sigh*

    1. Once again you’ve brought up some good points that I can’t really respond to because of spoilers XD I will mention, though, that Kaoru has no desire to become a police officer in canon, where she is a skilled practitioner and teacher of kenjutsu. As for why she said “policeman,” it’s just because that’s how she talks. I have no doubt she says “mailman” and “stewardess” too.

      Oh, man, there’s a scene in canon where Sano and Saitou have a fist fight and Sano’s rapid-fire punches completely shred the lower halves of Saitou’s sleeves, baring his sexy forearms… and Sano doesn’t react there either! He doesn’t even drool a little bit or anything! Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy.

      Their sex life will become a prominent feature eventually, I promise. Just not, as you noted, of this story.

      Thanks very much for your comments!

  3. Damn, man….I can’t imagine what she was feeling when she found out it was Kenshin that she killed. Sano is so damn strong to keep himself together through all of this. Of course, Saito would be upset at this unspeakable abuse that caused Kaoru to do this. D: I wonder who was sending the notes! Ninjas immediately make me think of the Oniwabanshu….but back when we found out Kenshin had been shot in the head, I immediately thought of Shishio and his penchant for ironic revenge…. hmm!!

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