Warriors' Secrets: Of the Past written by Atlantis ( 2002

Yes, yes I have returned and I bring a gift. This chapter has been VERY long in coming and in length, especially since I had myself *hand-write* it first before allowing myself to put it on the computer. Turned out being 37 hand-written and 15 or 16 typed. I used a good deal of American History free time on this sucker and am pleased with the result. I was able to post it because it is now officially summer vacation for me and I actually have TIME! You know, that thing that people claim they have every-once-in-a- while that has to do with clocks?

Anyway, to those of you who would like to see what I had to say to all of your marvelous reviews, please go to the end because I'd rather not take away too much from the story. First of all though, I'd just like to say up front that this will *NOT* become a lemon for any reason whatsoever. I personally do not write them because I went through an ordeal similar to Kaoru's and cannot bring myself to do it. For me and anyone with a sane mind, rape is a very ugly thing and my own morals say that sex should be saved for marriage. On a lighter subject, I thoroughly enjoy writing a good kiss, so stay tuned for that. Also, we're going to pretend that I used Japanese terms in Part 1 because I added them in here and they sounded much better.

You still know that I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. I'm just borrowing the characters so don't sue, kapeesh?

Rating: R because of language unsuitable for 13-year-olds, otherwise it'd be PG-13 *snicker*

*****************************************************************

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayerof a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16

*****************************************************************

PART 2

The storm subsided and night fell. Throughout the night, Kenshin stayed with Kaoru, simply holding her. He knew that nothing he said would comfort her so he simply let her know that she was not alone and that he wanted to share her pain. They healed each other that night, hugging and crying and shaking, mending the freshest wounds on each other's souls.

Kaoru eventually fell asleep in Kenshin's arms, exhausted from sharing so much and crying so long. He didn't move an inch, keeping her tucked safely within the circle of his arms, placing a kiss on top of her head every once-in-a-while as if to reassure himself that she was still there. As the false dawn began to lighten the sky, turning the black to a light shade of grey, Kenshin's thoughts could only focus on one thing: finding Shiko and killing him for what he had done to Kaoru. The conjured image of Shiko's body mutilated by his sword and cut into pieces for the scavengers to feed on made the bloodlust of his faraway past rise ever-so- slightly. But what of Kaoru?

She had been with him so many years, always urging him to control that unending desire to simply kill, to find other ways of retribution. If he left her to hunt down and slay the man who had brought her such shame, he was sure she would never forgive him. No, he shook his head. Death would not come to Shiko by his hand. Instead he would remain with Kaoru and build her up, slowly and with much encouragement, until she realized that he saw no shame in her. What had happened was in the past and was no fault of her own, and Kenshin vowed to make sure she was aware of that, that she knew the truth. But if Shiko ever stepped through the doors of the Kamiya dojo ever again...

A bird sang out, the musical notes floating in the air and through Kaoru's open window as the sky turned baby-blue. Kaoru stirred in Kenshin's arms and turned her body toward him, her face nuzzling into his stomach. Gold flickered over his eyes briefly as he wondered if Kaoru knew half of the effect that she had on him before he calmed again, content to simply watch her soft features in peaceful slumber. Her thick, satiny black hair was spread out all around them like a blanket, curling at the ends slightly and shining almost dark blue with the morning light. Long lashes fanned out against her high cheekbones, their black color contrasting against her fair skin. She had perfectly shaped eyebrows, slightly arching, and a cute, slightly upturned nose, looking quite impish. And her lips... Good Lord her lips! The petals of a rose could not be a deeper shade of red, or softer. He could just imagine the way they would feel, feather-soft against his own and warm, and her taste... Kenshin's eyes closed of their own will as he imagined Kaoru as his and in his arms for a reason other than comfort.

Something soft touched his chin gently and he opened his eyes to look and found Kaoru's fingers seeking out his face. His eyes shifted down and he saw her staring up at him with big, beautiful, healthy, navy eyes. He smiled at her and she smiled back, her hand resting on his cheek.

"Good morning," he said, taking her hand from his face and into his own. Kenshin smiled devilishly to himself and watched as Kaoru blushed a pretty pink when he pressed a kiss to the center of her palm. She looked away and started to get up, helped by one of Kenshin's hands that moved to her back. His touch, although gentle, was firm and felt slightly possessive, and Kaoru felt her body warm and begin to tingle. Not wanting Kenshin to see her flushed face, she stood and walked over to pull a set of clothes for the day from her closet.

"I think I'll take a bath this morning," she said as she reached her door and turned to look back at Kenshin. "These tears have to be washed away for me to start over." Kaoru watched as Kenshin got up from her futon and walked over to her.

"I will prepare it for you," he said, looking at her and smiling softly. He was about to walk out of her room when her hand on his forearm stopped him and he turned around.

"Though I don't deserve you, I am truly grateful for everything you've given to me," Kaoru whispered looking up at him. He was startled when she suddenly launched herself into his arms, hugging him tight to her and pressing her face to his chest. Kenshin hesitantly wrapped his arms around her waist and held her close, inhaling the faint scent of jasmine in her hair.

"Kaoru," he said, dropping the honorific, "you deserve everything that I can offer and more. Look at me," he told her, pulling away to look at her face. "What happened was not your fault. Do not feel shame, for it was something that couldn't be stopped and won't ever change. In my eyes, you have always been and will always be the most innocent and pure of all people I have ever met. And your fighting spirit draws more people to you than you are aware of. In you, people see hope and determination and know that if they were to ask you, you would do anything in your power to help them... as you did for me. Don't ever forget that."

"Kenshin," she breathed out, closing her eyes momentarily, "thank you." When she opened her eyes, she found Kenshin grinning at her.

"I thought you were going to call me Battousai when it was just you and I," he said softly, his voice a deep timbre and eyes intense. Kaoru blushed.

"I think it's going to end up being determined by the circumstances. Right now, you're acting like the gentle rurouni, not even half of what you were last night."

"Last night I was dangerous, then?" the man in front of her asked, folding his arms across his chest.

"No, not dangerous. Just passionate," Kaoru explained. "That's who I think Battousai is: the passionate part of you that allows himself to feel emotions that are deeper, more intense. He's willing to do the things that you think yourself incapable of doing, almost being the incarnate of human primal instincts."

"Such as killing," Kenshin shuddered. Kaoru's hand gently touched his arm.

"Yes, like killing. But also fierce protection. Battousai is untamed. You cannot hate that part of you because everyone, I think, has one form or another of Battousai inside of them. It just so happens though that yours is almost a separate entity and comes out to display what he is, what you are. But you know what?" she asked, taking his face in both of her hands and tilting it down to look at her. "I like him." Then she let go and picked up her clothes, moving from the room to the bath house, leaving a stunned redhead in the doorway of her room.

***

"Here, hold it like this," Kaoru said, correcting Yahiko's stance. The boy shifted his feet as told, scowling, and changed the position of his arm. "Now swing," she said happily. Yahiko gave her a strange look, unaccustomed to this kind, constructive advice, and did as he was told.

"Oh wow!" he exclaimed. "That felt so right, when I swung." He looked up at Kaoru, puzzlement staining his young face. "How did you know to do that busu? Did you steal the idea from Kenshin?" he asked, the familiar nickname slipping in without hesitation. Kaoru's temper flared briefly.

"You brat! I help you and you call me names? Do 500 strokes and then work on your defensive. When I come back, you'd better be ready to continue the lesson. And stay in that stance!" she shouted, stomping from the room. Sighing in frustration, Kaoru walked to the door and opened it, looking out over the yard. It was still wet from the rains, but everything was washed clean and new life was sprouting everywhere. She left her bokken leaning against the wall and walked down the length of the porch, stopping in front of Kenshin while he washed laundry. He looked up from the slightly grey water and smiled at her, making her heart melt all the way to her toes.

"Kenshin," she greeted him, smiling back. "Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked.

"No Kaoru-dono, I am almost finished. All I need to do is hang up the clothes," he explained, wringing out the last piece. Kaoru's eyes lit up.

"I can help with that!" she said, stepping around the washtub. Kenshin opened his mouth to warn her, but it was too late. Kaoru tripped over a laundry basket full of clothes that she had not seen and flew toward Kenshin in her fall. He didn't move fast enough as he found Kaoru crashing into him, taking them both to the floor in a tangle of limbs and spilled laundry. Kenshin, for his part, had the breath knocked thoroughly from him. But that took second place in his mind as gold flickered over his eyes with the realization that Kaoru's gorgeous body was effectively plastered along the entire length of his form. Kaoru squirmed as her head popped up, a gi sitting atop her head and draping down the sides of her face. She was blushing furiously.

"Sorry Kenshin," she whispered as color continued to flush her face. "I ruined all of your laundry." Hearing Kenshin chuckle, she looked up at his face, having trouble moving because of the clothes all around them. Her breath caught in her throat when her blue eyes clashed with gold and he tightened his arms around her waist.

"I don't mind, as long as you don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon," Battousai whispered softly to her face before moving to nuzzle her neck. Kaoru tensed then relaxed as his lips and warm breath moved over her neck. Pressing kisses to her soft skin, he pulled her closer and tentatively touched her neck with his tongue, tasting her. She sighed and clutched at his shoulders, her neck arching for more of his attentions. One of his hands traveled up her back, resting between her shoulders while the other simply wrapped itself entirely around her slim body. Kaoru let out a soft squeak when Battousai suddenly turned her over and carefully settled himself on top of her. He looked down on her, an infinite tenderness resting in his golden gaze, along with the passion that never left.

"I'm not sure if you're ready for my attention, but I'll be damned if this doesn't feel right," Battousai whispered hoarsely in her ear, kissing and nipping softly at her lobe. He felt Kaoru's hands leave his shoulders and travel upwards slowly to wrap behind his neck.

"If it were anyone else, you wouldn't even be able to touch me," she whispered back. Her eyes fluttered shut as Battousai's lips descended upon her own, kneading them gently. He pulled away and heard her sigh, then settled his lips on hers once more, fully intending to deepen the kiss.

"Ohayo!" a voice boomed from the gateway of the dojo. Battousai pulled away from Kaoru, entirely reluctant, and gazed at her lips, running his fingers over them lingeringly before the gold in his eyes flashed in annoyance at the interruption. He watched Kaoru's eyes shift from a pleasant glaze to utter embarrassment as the visitor approached. "Oi Kenshin, Jou-chan, what are you laying all over the laundry for?" Sano asked in a lazy drawl as he sauntered over to the still-entangled couple. Kaoru, for her part was glad that they were so wrapped up in the clothes because Sano didn't realize that he had interrupted an intimate moment between the two and he couldn't see her bright blush.

Sliding her arms down from Battousai's neck as nonchalantly as possible to keep Sand, who was still approaching, from noticing, her hands came into contact with the hot flesh of Battousai's chest. What a little fool she was! In an attempt to keep Sano from seeing, she had inadvertently trailed her hands down his front!

Startled by the pleasant heat of his skin, she looked up at him, eyes wide, and nearly saw actual flames of desire dancing around his gold irises. She gulped and licked her lips anxiously, realizing that it was a mistake when she watched his eyes follow the wanton movement. Still hidden beneath the clothes, Battousai moved quickly to cover her mouth with his own, flicking his tongue across the seam on her lips before pulling back roughly and attempting to stand. He smiled and inward, satisfied smile when he realized that Kaoru's mouth had opened to him, even if only for a moment. He was feeling damn smug to say the very least.

"Kaoru-dono tripped over the basket trying to help me," Battousai said softly as he closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again to reveal the gentle violet of Kenshin's eyes, a hidden amber flickering madly just below the surface. He sat back on his heels and helped Kaoru to a sitting position before moving to begin picking up the scattered clothes. Plucking the gi from atop Kaoru's head, Kenshin flashed her a secretly seductive grin before bowing his head to hide his amusement behind his flaming red bangs. Kaoru mock-glared at him before standing up, straightening her clothes and hair.

"Sheesh Jou-chan, can't you do anything without klutzing out?" Sano joked, picking at his teeth with his trademark fishbone. Kaoru was about to remark when Kenshin suddenly whipped around, stood, and walked over to Sano. Sano found himself staring into eyes on the brink of spilling into amber and staggered back in disbelief.

"You WILL apologize to Kaoru-dono for that comment. She does not deserve the foul words that erupt from your mouth without thought," Kenshin whispered viciously, his hand trailing to his side to take a hold on his sword. Sano jerked back, falling off the porch and landing on his backside, hands held up in front of him to assuage the barely contained beast in front of him.

"Gomen! Gomen!" he shouted, his voice a higher pitch than usual with his surprise. "Kenshin, what's got you so riled up today? I could swear I almost saw Battousai flaring there," Sano said slowly as he got to his feet cautiously. Content with Sano's fervent apology and attempt to shift back to easy banter, Kenshin willed his hand to move away from his sword, smiling half-heartedly at Sano.

"Sessha just doesn't want Kaoru-dono to be insulted or tainted with words," he said as he played the part of the gentle rurouni up to the max. He watched as Sano sighed as if relieved and then turned sharply when a hand landed on his forearm softly.

"He was only joking," Kaoru said softly, looking up at him with understanding navy eyes. She realized when he had reacted almost violently to the everyday jest that, though Battousai's half was now permanently in residence, he was not used to dealing with Kenshin's friends and their harmless arguments and pestering. Battousai's head bowed in agreement and, astoundingly, the tiniest bit of embarrassment as he slowly covered Kaoru's hand with his and squeezed gently, as if on instinct.

"I was only trying to protect you," he said quietly so that only Kaoru could hear. She smiled to herself and then leaned her forehead against Kenshin's while his chin remained at his chest.

"You'll learn," she replied softly, nuzzling his hair a bit and inhaling his spicy scent. The clearing of a throat had them both jumping apart.

"Am I interrupting something?" Sano asked with a raised eyebrow and crooked grin.

"I'm going to go check on Yahiko. That boy better not have slacked off while I was gone," Kaoru mumbled hurriedly before leaving the porch and walking back inside. Kenshin watched her go and then sighed at the still- scattered laundry, ignoring Sano's remark and presence.

"So what's going on with you and Jou-chan?" Sano questioned Kenshin as he leaned up against one of the posts that held up the roof. "You two seemed a little cozy, like you were off in your own world." He waited for a few quiet moments before Kenshin finally turned to him, his arms full of laundry.

"Kaoru-dono and I were merely having a discussion," the rurouni replied easily, holding his Battousai back forcefully as he wanted to last out at Sano for not minding his own business. "She came out to help..."

"And tripped. I know Kenshin, you just stood here and told me a minute ago. Stop stalling, I know something's going on between you two. I swear I saw you going for her lips!" Sano retorted.

"Then you are mistaken. I was merely getting up and moved forward before up, obviously giving you the impression that I was trying to kiss her. Have you been drinking this morning? Perhaps you are suffering from hallucinations," Kenshin replied softly, gripping the clothing before him with tight fists, hoping that Sano stopped his line of questioning before Battousai came barreling out of him. He looked up at the former gangster to see him look away sheepishly, red flaming up his neck and around his ears. Sano scratched his neck, still not looking at him, and cleared his throat.

"I may have had some sake, but only for my head. It was pounding something awful," Sano confessed. Kenshin rolled his eyes beneath his bangs.

*Yeah, pounding from a hangover from drinking too much last night!* Kenshin thought sarcastically.

"And did this pounding head require you to drink the whole bottle?" he inquired, sinking his hands into the wash tub and feeling the suds bubble over his hands. Sano laughed uneasily.

"Well, you see Kenshin, the thing is... I've got to get going! Uh, yeah, that's right! I haven't paid my favorite doctor a visit today. What do you think the odds are that she'll give me a checkup, or a physical?" With that said, Sano fairly bolted out of the gates of dojo, leaving Kenshin to the quiet yard that laundry. He chuckled softly at his friend's reaction to being caught, glad that the attention was off of what he and Kaoru had been doing. Perhaps he was being selfish, but he wanted his and Kaoru's deep affections to be their own little secret. At least for a little while. Eventually the truth would come out, but until that time, he wanted Kaoru all to himself.

***

The rest of the afternoon went by slowly and the sun hid behind the soft grey rain clouds that still remained in the sky. Kaoru spent her time drilling the new technique into Yahiko's head, occasionally arguing back and forth with him, secretly enjoying her time with the infuriating boy. His eleven-year-old mind refused to be bossed around by his female nineteen- year-old mentor and when he was forced to listen, he resorted to name- calling. It didn't help that a particular redhead, whom he happened to idolize, kept laughing at him every time he passed by the training room doors on his way to different chores. Yahiko became so frustrated in thinking that the world was out to get him that he lost hold of his bokken for a split second, causing it to fall directly across his foot and him to drop to the floor, howling in pain.

Without a single tease, Kaoru rushed out of the room and came back a few short moments later with ointments, a warm bucket of water, and plenty of wrapping materials for his injured foot. It wasn't long before Kenshin entered as well and helped Kaoru, watching her in fascination out of the corner of his eye and she ministered to the young boy. She couldn't help but look so adorably sexy with such a determined look on her face, her nose scrunched up the tiniest in deep thought, and a light sheen of sweat on her skin from practicing. In short, she was glowing and Kenshin was very appreciative of the ways that glow made her look. He was almost thankful that Yahiko was in so much pain because had he not been so preoccupied, he would have noticed that Kenshin was devoting all of his attention to study his beautiful Kendo instructor... and that he was undoubtedly, deeply in love with her.

"Little baka," Kaoru joked gently as Yahiko cried out and tears streamed down his face. He painted the ultimate picture of stubbornness, trying not to cry and twisting up his face in the process of hiding his hurt, but failing miserably. As she finished off the wrap, Kaoru stood and then carefully pulled Yahiko up to a standing position, making sure that he kept his weight off of his injured foot and pulling his arm around her neck. Kenshin stood as well, steadying Yahiko on his other side and wrapping an arm around his middle. He hadn't realized that Kaoru had done so as well but took advantage of the situation and put his arm over her, lightly gripping just above her elbow as they led the wailing boy to his room. Kaoru glanced over Yahiko's head quickly to look at Kenshin before blushing furiously and facing forward. Kenshin could feel Battousai grin wickedly. He was *so* enjoying this.

After putting Yahiko in bed and making sure he had plenty of fluids, Kaoru left him alone, prepared to do some practicing herself. She passed by Kenshin who was busy in the kitchen, preparing lunch. The whole scene looked harmless enough. Walking in, prepared to just get some water and perhaps a few vegetables to snack on, Kaoru took no heed of the tension in the room. As she grabbed a cup and began to fill it, it clattered into the sink when hot breath swept past her ear. She turned to find Battousai not even six inches away and staring at her with intense gold.

"Were you just going to get what you needed and leave? Without saying anything to me?" the dark man asked, nonchalantly placing an arm on either side of her to rest on the counter. Kaoru gulped.

"I... well, I... " she stammered, her eyes fluttering around nervously before she caught the look in his eyes. He was enjoying making her squirm! Well, two could certainly play at that game. Her arms reached around his neck and she pulled him into a tight hug, keeping her lips near his ear. "No, I was going to take what I wanted," she whispered. She felt Battousai's arms twitch at her sides and grinned maliciously. "And I want you."

Battousai's arms bolted around her waist and crushed her to him. Kaoru giggled. This was so much better than... than... Suddenly she pushed him away, eyes wide.

"Oh God," she whispered frantically. What the hell was she doing? What the hell had she been doing all morning? Playing with Kenshin's feelings, that's what. Could she be any more stupid? But Kenshin was nothing like Shiko, not even an inch of that madman's shadow. He wouldn't ever hurt her but she knew the fear would keep her from a real relationship until she finally got over it. Thoughts whirled in a kaleidoscope of fears, insecurities, and confusion as she stared ahead blankly, no longer seeing a now-worrier Battousai. The redhead, whose arms had been settled comfortably around the waist of a beautiful young woman, moved away slowly to give her space. He knew why she had pulled back and cursed himself. He was a damn fool for even remotely entertaining the thought that Kaoru would start returning his affections so soon after reliving horrible memories and baring emotional scars.

Growling, he abruptly shoved himself away from her and stormed out of the kitchen as he screamed mentally at himself, leaving a wide-eyed Kaoru at the counter and unchopped vegetables.

***

Ten minutes seemed to stretch into an eternity before Kenshin finally returned to the kitchen, after a thorough self-beration and an order of restraint on himself, to find Kaoru had left. He leaned over the counter, hanging his head in dismay. The thought of finishing preparing lunch hovered briefly in his mind before being thrown aside roughly by the overwhelming urge to find Kaoru and speak with her.

Going through the house slowly he searched every room for her but only ended up finding Yahiko sleeping soundly in his bed. Kenshin checked the dojo once more and almost slumped in defeat when the sight of the still- empty room affirmated Kaoru's absence from the premises. With her out of the house she could have gone anywhere: to the market, to Megumi's, Dr. Genzai's, the Akabeko, or she could simply be wandering. She enjoyed taking walks alone.

Determined not to give up, Kenshin decided to leave the dojo and seek her out, first making sure that he fixed some food for Yahiko and left it on a tray beside his bed. When Kenshin left, he was confident that Yahiko would be alright without anyone to watch over him and that he would find Kaoru.

Thorough in his search for the young woman, Battousai allowed the rurouni to flutter on the surface shamelessly since his cheery attitude and pleasant questions about the missing Kendo instructor might be more affective than the fiery demands of a golden-eyed man at the tip of a sword. He had searched everywhere he thought she would be and even with the rurouni's inquiries, he had come up empty-handed. Nobody in the market had seen her, Sano and Megumi had been arguing all morning and hadn't seen her, and not even the small children that often played outside the gates of the dojo had seen her. Since he had failed in finding her through the wanderer's means, he had long-since squashed the violet-eyed persona and reverted back to Battousai and his tracking skills. So far however, not even Battousai's talents had been able to find her. Either Kaoru had simply dropped of the face of the planet or she had gone to great lengths to make sure that nobody would find her: the latter obviously being the more likely.

Stopping to lean against a tree by the side of the road, Battousai closed his eyes to give the golden orbs a short reprieve from the bright afternoon sun. His breathing was deep, restful, as he relaxed against the old tree, tempted to sit on the thick grass at the base and perhaps sleep awhile. But an unusual noise kept jolting him awake, forcing him to open his sharp eyes and determine what it was and where it was coming from. He heard the hiss of a blade and tensed instinctively, looking around for the source but finding nothing.

There was a stand of trees across the empty field he stood on the edge of and he made his way over, careful not to make any sound whatsoever. After passing by nearly ten trees, Battousai peered through the remaining branches and saw a small green glen enclosed by thick foliage and a hedge of trees. There, at the very center stood Kaoru, oblivious to his presence. In a firm grip she held a fine sword, the blade shining like a mirror when it hit shafts of sunlight that broke through the trees. Her eyes were closed, breathing even, and movements precise. The sword sliced through the spaces around her, making the air hum against the steel.

Battousai stood amazed in the shadows as he watched his ethereal goddess go through a sort of sword meditation. The golden skylight that filtered through the canopy of leaves up above floated around her in a haze, blossoms from the trees falling occasionally, only to be diced by the lightning fast swings of Kaoru's sword. Her sword! Battousai had ever only known that she used a bokken and while she displayed above average skill with the wooden sword, now, strangely enough, she seemed to be flawless with an actual blade! It looked as if she could take on Battousai himself and put up a fight to rival his own talents. Her hair swayed with her movements, a river of shining ebony cascading down her back from her ponytail. The grass around her was a pliant, lush dark green and she stood in her bare feet to be more stable.

Kaoru began to control her breathing and maneuvers with a stronger discipline, cutting the air around her, turning and crouching, jumping, evading, above and below. Minutes passed by and neither knew how much time passed. Then she stopped, her sword jutting into the air in front of her with a steady hand before drawing it in and sheathing the weapon, her face a serene countenance and breaths light on the air. Battousai found himself breathless and flushed. The image of Kaoru's wild, yet precise sword exercises had aroused him like nothing before but all he could think about was Shiko. The sewer rat would pay for harming his woman!

In his sudden anger, Battousai pounded his fist into the nearest tree, shattering the bark and stomping some twigs underfoot. Kaoru whirled in his direction, eyes narrowed and stance defensive before she realized who it was. Her hand moved away from her sword hilt hesitantly.

"Kenshin?" she questioned, unsure of why he was there. Gold eyes turned to look at her, glowing from the shadows. "Battousai," she breathed. The former assassin nodded and stepped forward into the glen, his eyes looking softer in the warm light. Kaoru allowed her body to relax and smiled gently at him, sinking down to the grass and folding her legs beneath her. Battousai followed her down into the grass and sat before her, taking her hands in his own with infinite care. Kaoru was surprised when he bent over as if bowing and began to murmur and kiss her hands.

Kaoru's mind was reeling, almost not accepting the fact that it was Battousai who was giving such lavish attention to her hands. From what she knew of this man, not even Kenshin would have ever displayed his emotions so openly. She was nearly jolted physically from her ponderings as she felt Battousai's lips brush against the back of each of her hands and whisper so softly, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Wide-eyed and confused, Kaoru remained relaxed and still as she felt Battousai's lips travel over her fingers, so many feather-soft touches tracing the lengths of her slender fingers. He turned her hands over and pressed kisses into the centers of her palms, lingeringly, before pulling her hands to his chest, slightly rocking back and forth. Slowly, as if she would startle him, Kaoru pulled on his hands, freeing one of her own and seeking out his jaw under his fiery mane.

Her fingers traced over his face, sliding down his cheek and over the curve of his jaw before pulling gently to see his face. It was strange to see his golden eyes, hooded slightly behind blood-red bangs, glazed with so much emotion. Moving her other hand slowly, she brushed away his unruly locks and brought his knuckles to her lips before settling her cheek against the rough palm of his hand.

"Whatever you are sorry for Battousai, you can be sure you are forgiven," Kaoru whispered softly, making sure that her eyes did not stray from his. He shook his head at her.

"No, no I have failed you!" he cried, trying to turn from the hand that held his jaw. Kaoru held firm and he looked at her, furious tears shining in his golden depths. "You don't understand!"

"Then make me understand," Kaoru replied softly releasing him from her hands and then dropping them to her lap. Battousai snarled and got to his feet, easily placing a few yards between the two of them. With his back to her, Battousai pulled at his hair and growled in frustration. He whipped around, eyes blazing.

"As if I don't have enough inner-conflict with a former killer and a clueless wanderer, I have to deal with everything you've told me and with what I feel for you. There you sit, innocent as the day that you were born and all that I want to do is claim you, ravish you until you and I both cannot move. But I dare not because of what that monster Shiko did to you. Then there are the conflicts I have about Shiko himself: whether to seek him out, butcher him for daring to cause you such grief and scar you while risking your rejection of me or... I can let the bastard go free and show you over time how much I truly love you. I have never faced so many decisions at once in my life before and I'm both thriving on and despising it! What am I to do?" he screamed, sending birds that had been nestled in trees fluttering for safety. Kaoru opened her mouth but Battousai refused to let her answer. "And my actions toward you have been unacceptable to top it all off! I have continued to advance on you despite the fact that you've told me what horrors you've survived just recently." His head bowed in shame.

There was no sound in the glen for many long moments, Kaoru willing the former manslayer to turn and look at her and Battousai refusing. Finally, Kaoru sighed and got up, going to the edge of the trees and standing there momentarily before entering the shadows. Battousai watched her every move, fearful that she would leave him. When she stepped into the darkness, he choked back the first sob he had had in a long time. It was just like when he was a child: alone and left to fend for himself.

"Battousai, come here!" The command was soft-spoken but Battousai heard it as clearly as a silver bell. Rushing forward into the trees, he found her standing beside the very tree that he had smashed. Kaoru's hands ran over the badly damaged bark gently, touching and prodding it as if it were a human wound and the tree would cry out in pain. Looking up into Battousai's eyes, she didn't say a word, merely took his hand in her own and pushed his palm to the broken bark. It was slightly warm but he shivered under Kaoru's touch. His eyes traced over the lines of the bark, suddenly remorseful that he had hurt the tree so badly. Battousai looked at the young woman who still held his hand, watched as she gave him a half- smile and looked back at where their hands rested.

"This tree will now have a scar for the rest of its life. It was young, innocent, and undeserving. Nevertheless, this is what fate has decided. But Battousai," Kaoru whispered, turning to him, "it will heal just as I have healed. It will grow just as I have grown. You can't change the past but the future is ours to sculpt and create. The choices we make based on the past and experiences we've had are what made us who we are and help up to choose the paths that life takes us. I just want you to know that." She pulled his hand away from the tree and cradled it between hers, glancing up through lowered lashes to gauge his reaction.

The gold eyes before her burned with emotion and darted from their joined hands to the tree and back to their hands. Suddenly, understanding began to trickle into those golden pools and he blinked away any and all doubts that had lingered in his mind. Battousai licked his lips and pressed them together.

"But what about Shiko?" he asked, glad to have that question released. Kaoru's eyebrows rose and she looked at him as if he were stupid. Leaning up on tiptoes, Kaoru softly kissed Battousai's cheek, pulling him behind her as they left the trees and interlocking their fingers. In the middle of the grassy field that Battousai had crossed earlier to find her, Kaoru stopped and turned to face him.

"I truly love you, you rurouni warrior, but sometimes your stupidity amazes me," she giggled, making references to both of Kenshin's personalities. "Do you honestly think my father would let Shiko get away with harming his only daughter?" Kaoru scrunched her face up at him and released his hand, walking away by herself.

"What did he do?" Kenshin asked, managing to display both Battousai's battle-delighted expression and the surprise and shock of the gentle wanderer. The thought hadn't even occurred to him! Kaoru turned and looked at him over her shoulder.

"He slaughtered the bastard and dumped his remains in the ocean, naturally," she replied flippantly with a wink before facing forward once more. Kenshin stopped in his tracks, twitched, and face-vaulted before jumping to his feet and quickly trailing after his beloved, a million questions on his mind.

***

End of Part 2. Well, what did you think? Last chapter all of you were writing me and telling me that Ken/Battousai should go and kill Shiko. But think about it... if something like that happened to you, can you really believe that you dad would be lax about it and just let the disgusting person go free? I think not. The kiss will be next chapter, I promise. Sorry if I misguided you to think it was in this chappy. It just didn't fit in here.

Challenge of the week: I'm looking for other websites (obviously Rurouni Kenshin) to post this fic. I would love if you could give me some good addresses or suggestions as to where I should go. I'm seriously considering KIKAC since Kaoru is definitely a survivor in here. What do you think?

Before I forget, REVIEW now that you've read!

Middy-chan: I'm sorry about the cliffy. I wasn't even aware that it was a cliffhanger. Hope this satisfied you and brought you back up to normal temps!

Dragon Girl: Thanks! Loved your encouragement!

Sakura-san: What a nice comment! I have to say that I didn't guess, I've just done *A LOT* of reading RK fics to get the feel of characters and such so I could write my own.

Kay: Thank you so much! Did you really cry? That is, I think, the most ultimate compliment if a writer can get a reader to actually cry. Not to sound weird or anything. =)

Ita-chan: Your sobs were encouraging and funny. Thanks!

K-chan: Thankies!

Kaiou Yumi: Your applause was very welcome. Thank you for the support and addy for RK eppys. However, I couldn't seem to download anything. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places...

Sujakata: Your kind words are very appreciated!

Lina: Thank you!

AngelsExist: Thank you! Sorry about the odd spelling errors! I went back over Part 1 and found what you were talking about. And look, this isn't a one-shot! Aren't you proud?

the weird kid: Are you really speechless? *chuckles* Yes, Battousai is more prominent in this fic because it's kind of like his coming-out party, only it's not a party. And I've been in Kaoru's position and you don't rush through the details. If you skip anything you feel like you've got something lodged in your heart, you go very slow, and make sure you say everything.

Shuno no Miko: Thanks. I know that Kenshin doesn't *really* change when he becomes Battousai, but I wanted to emphasize the differences between the two by pretending. After all, this is fiction!

aku-chan: Gracias! Your words were so nice.

Chiruken: To have you review my fic is truly an honor since I've read a bit of your stuff and love it. You gave me an actual review, going through bits and pieces of the story and analyzing them. That was wonderful and I truly appreciated it. I also loved your little comments about what you hoped or were guessing at. Thank you so much!

Mareanbeast: No, no sequel, just a few chapters. One more after this. No, there will not be a lemon. Read the opening author's notes if you missed them to find out why. Thank you for the nice words.

Jason M. Lee: I'm surprised I did alright. I thought that after the first chapter I'd get a whole bunch of reviews saying how wrong I was, but then that would mean all of the fics I've read were also wrong. I'll try to read the manga, but that's always hard when money is scarce. *^_^* Thanks for the facts on Kaoru's family (mother/father) but I wasn't trying to be that close to the truth. Maybe I'll use them in a future fic. Did you see that I used the Japanese this time? Aren't you proud? I did it just for you! Well, actually that's a lie, but you inspired me!

Omochi: You are totally right about not involving a child, but that is how people gain power: by preying on the weak who are unable to defend themselves. Thanks for the nice words.

Once again, REVIEW please!

Atlantis *^_^*