Kaoru really doesn't realize how she affects me. I've thought it all through, and this is the only logical answer I can come up with. And if she does know... well then... It's hard to continue my thoughts with her looking up at me, her impossibly clear eyes staring into mine, they seem to promise things that should never happen, but that my heart desires more than anything else. The tears welling around them just make them all the brighter.

"Kaoru, neither of us have had time to think this through and-" I stop myself. Stupid, Kenshin, very stupid. I stand around very well moony eyed over her half the time, and when she finally does offer herself, I tell her she needs to rethink it? Am I blind? Or just dumb? Maybe both. "How much thought have you given this already, Kaoru, or is it just some whim?"

I can almost read her answer in her eyes; 'are you stupid? I just confessed my love to you, and you think I haven't thought this over?' I can already hear her. "Do you really think that I haven't thought about all this, Kenshin? Do you really think that I would tell you I love you if I didn't mean it, if I hadn't thought it through and pondered everything? I'm not as selfish as some would like to believe I am, Kenshin, I know how this affects you." Was that a stab at me? I'm not entirely sure who she was referring to.

"I know that as soon as someone finds out that we're together, they'll assume we were all along. And then you'll get bothered about marrying me." A shake of her head, a quick, fluttering blink of the eyes. "I don't want you bothered with that. You don't need to worry about what everyone thinks. And not only that, I know how our friends would react. But it doesn't matter, in the end, Kenshin." Sighing, she suddenly stops, and I wonder what else she was going to say, but didn't.

"Kaoru, I don't care. I don't care what they all say, what they will say. I never have. If I did, if I cared, I would have been sadly disappointed years ago." All I can do is shrug and watch her face. I wish I could say something to make it all go away, to make it all better for her. But I know I can't. I know that I should back away right now, let her go, and move on, leave everything here behind.

Could I do that, even if I tried my hardest? I think if I had the strength to leave, I would have done it before. If I could have left her, I would have. But I can't. I can't leave her. A sudden epiphany hits me. She's my world. My world, for so long, was my sword. But my sword has merely become an instrument in protection of my world, my light.

So lost in thought, I didn't realize the hand that she had snuck behind my head, pulling my face towards hers. "Kaoru..." I can only whisper her name before my lips land on hers, and, after giving her another light kiss, I have to pull away. A shaky breath escapes me, almost shuddering.

I can feel my lips quirk in a way that must only be a smile. "You make me feel like a teenager." But all too quickly, we both realize the same thing. I never really was a teenager. I never had the time to be.

"Kenshin." Ignoring all my gut feelings, all the instincts that are telling me to let her go and leave, I press my lips to hers again, and, pulling open her mouth with my thumb on her chin, I deepen the kiss, amaze filling me at not only the feel of her, but also of the taste. She tastes so sweet, so fresh. And a little like the tea we had with breakfast.

I know I'm reacting to her in a primitive male way, and I can feel urgency running through me, but I know I have to ignore it, to pull away. I have to tell her to give her some kind of... some kind of assurance that I'm not going to leave... that I've decided to stay, to be with her...

A low moan escapes her, and I can feel her pressing against my body in a way that could be my very undoing. I have to chuckle, though, when her hand makes it's way into my gi, pressing against my chest, but my chuckle stops short as she caresses me, as though I'm the gentlest of things, ever so soft.

A sharp arrow of awareness shoots through me, and I have to remind myself to back away from her. This could go too far all too quickly. And if I don't stop it now, I know I won't. I wouldn't be able to, and what shocks me, is I wouldn't want to. It's hard to believe that this is such a revelation for me, I've thought this through so much, how could I have missed it before?

Kaoru's low, suductive moan pulls me back to reality, and I realize that I have to stop, now, I have to before I lose control of myself. Before I...

"Kaoru. I..." The sudden rush of cold air against my skin surprises me, and I have to wonder when she got my gi off of me. When she had time to. Why.. How can this happen? I spend so much time trying to keep her a safe distance away from me, and then, in a moment of weakness, she manages to partially undress me.

Looking down at her, her eyes are on my face, watching me even as I do the same to her, and, rather than the confidence that I expected, I see something else. Something that makes me rethink rejecting her. Vulnerability. She really thinks I might not want her? Can't she tell, when the proof is right against her? Perhaps.. just perhaps... Perhaps I should simply stop thinking...