Disclaimer- A huge panda is sitting on the floor, seemingly scribbling something on a piece of wood. When the panda finishes, he holds up a sign that says: "Oni does not own Ranma!"

Kenshin: o.O . . . 'Ranma'?

Panda: *Blink* The panda holds up another sign: "Sorry. Wrong anime." Throwing that sign to the side, the panda doodles out one more sign: "Oni does not own Kenshin!"

Sano: *Blank stare* . . . I know you attract weird shit, Kenshin, but what's with the panda?

*

Author's Notes- Uh, hi. Um, yeah, it's been a while. *Ducks from flame-throwers* I won't bore you and feed you with crappy lies about my little 'vacation'. I have a new Blog/diary thingy where you can find a link on my bio page to it and if you read that, it explains all my shit. In the future it will also inform you about my progress on writing and such. And, there are people who emailed me, and their emails ended up getting deleted by Hotmail. So if I did not reply to you recently, or if you' re not listed at the bottom, you were one of the unluckys.

Please email me back if you have a specific question. I will be answering all emails now individually and in a timely manner… hopefully. X_X

But anyway, I understand the last chapter confused the heck out of most of you peoples. And no, I will not explain. You're suppose to not know what's going on. You just have to wait… *Evil smirk*

Warning- This chapter is probably full of grammar errors, seeing as how I wanted to post this right away since it has been months before I updated. The chapter will be jumpy --it is mostly compiled of a bunch of different scenes, 'cept for the last one. Sorry about that.

Chapter Contents- Hairdos, Orlando International Airport, A new character, a tiny confrontation, and a bunch of nonsense before the next chapter. Enjoy!

*

What Went Before

Chapter VII- The Mark Has Been Made

Once upon a time, in a city not so far away, there was a perfect family --Mom, dad, and child. They lived in the storybook house with all the fantasy belongings, and they even owned the classic dog. They attended the school plays, went to the local sport rallies, and were seen comfortably in the public's eye. Home life was warm and fuzzy; everyone loved one another dearly. It was the perfect picture of family life and more.

But it was this 'more' aspect that only made it a picture, underneath the framework, constructed in the frame, lurked the abysmal truths.

There was no such thing as perfect --which was a lesson someone learned with time and experience. There was always something that came along with the appearance of perfect, something a little shady. Something that would eventually destroy everything from the inside out, leaving nothing behind but the real pictures of a perfect family.

Before the disrupting began, the family had taken it upon themselves to help other less fortunate people. Maybe it was to boost their social level more, or maybe it was for an unselfish matter. One would never be sure. But the child often enjoyed the guests, and their adverse life stories. It was a chance to see the real world through a stranger's eye; it was so different from the child's own.

The child took to two adopted family members, becoming very close over the years. There was an older and younger boy. Two very different people in their own respect, but both from similar backgrounds, a dark past that was brought up only on necessary days.

But just when life looked as if it was going to last forever, cataclysm began and forced the familiar apart. The shaky framework finally caved in on the picture. Mother and Father ended up dead, Child barley escaped --only to be left alone and shallow. The child's estranged family was still there, left unharmed because they were not blood. One of the boys left with the child to a different county, but the younger was left behind in the homeland.

And Kaoru hated herself for that fact, that she had to leave behind the younger with her distant family. But that was the problem, he was young, and the law did not allow otherwise. Sano often talked about adoption, but he was only a guest in a foreign country himself, he would have to go home to Japan to settle the problem. But the only way he was going back was if she came, and they both knew she would never do that. The occasional family visit was forced but she did not have to live there anymore. Not after what had happened.

But today was a better day; she had received a short letter in the mail, declaring he was coming.

And Kaoru could only smile.

*

The first thing she noticed when she entered Ken's room was how it smelled so much like him, a sort of ginger scent was all she could think of as a description, it reminded her of Christmas. The second was the sparkling aspect of the room; it was cleaner than any other guy's room she ever saw. The third was Sano lying on the bed, seemingly entranced as he watched Ken rummage around in the dresser, or rather; he was just zoning out like usual.

"Sano, I have a problem."

Sano blinked slowly, and rubbed his forehead. Kaoru hardly ever came to him with 'problems' unless it was something big, with her trying to be very independent and all. "And what would that be?"

"He's coming --today."

Crap. "What's with your relatives not giving you any earlier notices?"

"You know how they are. They don't care." Kaoru sighed, and leaned against her roommate's doorframe. "But I can't pick him up today, I have school. Can you do it?"

"I'd have to cancel school and my job." Sighing, he leaned on his elbows, and went back to watching Ken go about as if they were not even there. "What about Megumi?"

"No. She's has a real job to worry about." Kaoru side-glanced toward Sano's direction. He just snorted back. "I guess I'll just have to skip out on school today."

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Looks that way."

Kaoru stared; Sano could be a real uncompassionate jerk sometimes. And what was so interesting about their roommate that he could not even pay attention to her, anyway? Honestly. "What's your problem, Sano?"

"Huh?" Sano blinked. "Oh, I've never seen a man so prissy about his hair before."

Ken grumbled something under his breath and continued to brush his hair that was making Sano's head turn with all the attention he bestowing on it. It was just hair, for Gods sake. Now that Kaoru had thought about it, Ken had been messing with his hair since she came in. And his hair was always neat and perfect --he also wore it in different styles sometimes, too.

It was kind of prissy.

"I mean," Sano continued, still eyeing the other man distastefully. "It's fascinating to watch. He's like a girl about it."

"I am not." Ken seethed, and yanked the brush through his hair a couple of times. Sano snickered. "Anyway, who's coming?"

No, of course he was not trying to change the subject or anything. Kaoru grabbed the assaulting brush out of his hands. "A relative, and I just found out last night."

"Oh." Ken looked in the mirror, trying to decide on what exactly she was doing with his hair, cocking his head tot he side, only to have it pulled straight again. He had learned to give up when it came to down to her necessity of playing with it. "I can probably pick them up."

"Really?" Then Kaoru stopped brushing a quick second later. "Wait. Did you get your license yet?"

Ken suppressed the urge to roll his eyes, and stomp his foot like a child because that was exactly how Kaoru treated then sometimes, very motherly like. "Yes, Kaoru-dono."

"Good." Holding a section of his hair, Kaoru leaned over, and reached for a tie among the many sitting on top of the dresser. "But you'd have to go to the airport. Do you know how to get there?"

Sano rolled his eyes. "It's not that hard, just take the highway, and follow the signs."

"Still…" The tie was fastened in Ken's hair, and she shifted her weight to the other foot, anxiously. "Are you sure?"

"I'm not doing anything today." Ken shrugged, inspecting his new hairstyle, compliments of Blue Eyes --half of the red strands were up in a ponytail, and the rest was free to hang about his back. "Just sleeping, really."

Sleeping, that's all Ken seemed to do. Did he not have job or anything? When she thought about it, she actually had no idea what, exactly, Ken did for a living, or for that fact, life. "I'm going to start calling you kitty with all those catnaps you take, Ken."

"'Kitty'?" Sano grinned. "Now that's cute, along with yer hairdo."

A glare was aimed Sano's way, a true one at that. "You call me prissy, but you use the words 'cute' and 'hairdo'?"

"Anyway," Kaoru interrupted quickly. "Are you sure about picking him up?"

"He said he'd do it already." Sano got off the bed, and flung Kaoru over his shoulder, almost a little too casually. "Now get out of here, or you'll be late for school."

"If you'd put me down, you jerk!" Kaoru pounded on his back. "Maybe I'd do it myself!"

"Che! You'd be here for another half an hour playing with Ken's hair if I didn't move you." Sano slammed the front door behind him, and Kenshin just blinked as the voices trailed off down the hall.

Odd people.

*

Investigations into the Shigekura Jubee murder case were put on a cold case status last week. No arrest were ever made in the case, and their only suspect was one of an unidentified state said to be linked to other unsolved murders of a similar nature. It is rumored among the government that they are all assassinations connected together and not random killings as first thought.

In regards to the case, Saitou Hajime had little to say about their only suspect. "I'm sure the man who actually did the killings will never be ascertained. He probably is in an another country at the moment dining on foreign cuisine and sipping whine never to be discovered."

"Or reading a newspaper and drinking coffee…"

Ken sighed, it was late morning, and he found himself sitting across from the security checkpoint at Orlando's International Airport. He only had a brief description of the person he was picking up, Sano turned out not to be a very good person in regards to details. But he had a good feeling that the kid walking past the X-ray machines at that moment was the right one.

Dark chocolate hair, eyes to match, and looked like a brat. It fit Sano's definition perfectly, almost word for word.

Throwing the Starbucks cup into the trash bin, and folding the Asian newspaper underneath his arm, Kenshin approached the apprehensive child, not really sure what to do because surely the poor kid was expecting Kaoru to be there, or even at least Sano. "Yahiko?"

The said kid stared, then slowly nodded, and followed when the red-haired person gestured for him to walk. They made their way down the escalator to baggage claim in silence, Yahiko cursing his luck for being picked up by an American, and not his represented family members.

"Nihongo ga dekimasu ka?"

'Do you speak Japanese?' Ken blinked, but was not really surprised that the young boy mistook him for a native. It had happened with all of the other people he had met so far in the blasted country. Ken smirked. "Honno sukoshi."

'Just a little.' Yahiko sighed, and lowered his gaze. When he saw his brother or sister they were going to get it. "Oh. Okay."

Yahiko said nothing more; conversation was futile with one who did not speak another's language well anyway. But of course Ken did not offer to clarify the fact that he was just being sarcastic, so it was more quiet air until they reached Ken's car, and Yahiko became utterly confused.

"Ano…" The kid tried to stammer out, starring at the car.

"Are you hungry?" Ken opened the door and placed Yahiko's luggage in the back, ignoring the odd look he was receiving from the child. The younger nodded. "Well, I have to make two stops before I get you back to your Nee-san. Do you like Burger King?"

Yahiko nodded again.

"That's good because I wouldn't take you anywhere else." The door was unlocked for the kid, and Ken walked around and slid into his own seat. "I also have to stop at the liquor store before that."

Yahiko blinked repeatedly --well, the red head was quite the jerk. The person could at least drop him off before he went to go buy some friggen booze for himself and a name would be lovely, not to mention polite, and obviously the asshole can speak more than just a little Japanese, fluent would be the correct word, and --and, he?

"Wait." Yahiko turned in his seat to face the jerk and get a good look. "Are you a guy or a girl?"

Ken gritted his teeth and stepped on the gas.

*

Yahiko was greeted to an empty apartment when the red head --now identified as a male-- brought him to where he would be staying at for an unknown amount of time. His distant relatives had practically threw him on the plane and told him they would call before he was to come home again. Yeah, so much love in that side of the family.

"Kaoru-dono said she'd come home during her lunch hour and bring Sano with her if possible."

"Kaoru-dono…?" The boy asked rather lamely.

"Your sister, Kaoru." Ken cleverly reminded him, tossing the ketchup to accompany the fast food.

'What's up with the weird nickname?' Yahiko caught the condiment then quietly sat and swallowed down his Whopper with extra cheese and no onions. The other just nibbled on some fries on the other side of the bar until the mentioned sister burst through the door moments later with Sano sauntering smoothly behind. Sano always sauntered.

"Yahiko!" Kaoru covered him in squeezing hugs and unwanted friendly kisses. "We've missed you!"

"Yeah, yeah." The captive gasped, removing her from himself. "I missed you guys, too."

"How have you been? Was the plane ride okay? How about the airline food? Bad, I know." Kaoru spun him a few times checking him over, making sure he was safe and sound, blabbering the whole time. "Did you fine him okay? He didn't drive like a maniac again when he brought you home, did he? I'm sure he did --he's nuts behind the wheel. All of your luggage arrive okay? Did you--"

"Kaoru!" Yahiko screamed, wanting dearly to bang his head up against the wall. Repeatedly. "I'm fine. Let me eat."

"Huh?" The motherly sister then noticed the Burger King bags and withdrew her clutches. "Fine, fine. But you won't get away from me later when I get home from school."

"Sure." He agreed, knowing she spoke the dreaded truth. "Whatever."

Kaoru turned and smiled at Ken just as she noticed him for the first time, him being his usually very invisible self. "And how has Ken-san been today?"

"Just lovely." Ken rolled his eyes, now knowing he could quite possibly be living with a slightly insane person, and handing her the beloved Burger King French fries she loved so much. "How about you, Kaoru-dono?"

Yahiko glanced at Sano. "What do they call you?"

"The usual." He shrugged, opening up the other brown bag and finding it full of his favorite liquor. "Jerk, Idiot, Asshole."

"Oh!" The girl suddenly jolted out her chair and pointed a finger at the new arrival. "Give back Ken what ever you took."

"Wha!?" The accused gulped, trying his might to not let it show for fear of his little head and future headaches. "What're you talkin' about?"

"You know what I'm talking about. Hand it over." And at that moment in time, Kenshin decided the little blue eyed girl could be very scary if she ever felt the need to be in simple seconds. "Now."

Cursing under his breath and blatantly scowling, Yahiko started to rummage through his pockets. Kaoru just stood all the same, waiting with her hands firmly planted on her hips. And again, Kenshin was reminded of Kaoru being the motherly type.

"Yahiko is not my real brother, my family took him in off the streets when he was younger." She thought she might as well let him now what the reasoning behind her outburst was seconds ago, as Ken was just standing behind the counter, hand midway up and about to place another fri in his mouth, looking so very lost. "He was a pickpocket and just needed someone to take care of him other than criminals, really."

"I'm standing right here, ya' know." Yahiko scowled some more, still unsuccessfully looking through his pockets.

"Yeah, well, keep looking." Sano decided to throw his two cents in, very aware and used to Yahiko's habits when he met new guys associated with Kaoru. The kid got jealous, probably subconsciously. But he always ended up stealing from them and turning the 'cold-shoulder' act on. Just being the punk of a kid he was, really.

Yahiko got to the point where he turned all of his pockets inside out; he could not find the darn object he was looking for if his life depended on it. And from the look Kaoru and, even Sano was giving him, it probably did. "I can't find it."

Kaoru crossed her arms authoritatively.

He gulped some more. "I swear! I'm not lying!"

"Yahiko. So help me--"

"No need to worry, Kaoru-dono." Ken held his hand out to keep Kaoru from becoming a child abuser, and fished a knife out of his pocket, the same one usually attached to one of his chains. "Is this what you're looking for?"

"Uh." Yahiko gaped, blinked, then nodded. "Yeah. But how'd you do that. I did take it earlier."

Ken just smiled a little too knowingly for the others to care for. "Comes along with my position."

"Position?" Sano asked. "Like your job?"

"Something like that."

And with that, Ken conveniently slipped out of the room before anymore could be asked of his simple, and it was always simple, explanation.

Sano just smacked Yahiko on the back of the head for stealing things again.

"OW!"

*

Left alone and there was nothing to do, so Yahiko glared at the other man. When his Sis and Sano had come home, Ken was even quieter than before, only having a brief conversation with the two. It turned out he had stopped at Burger King especially for Kaoru so he could buy her some of her favorite French Fries, and the trip to the liquor store was to purchase the booze for Sano, not himself. So… maybe the guy was a little nice, but he was still a jerk.

Yahiko really did not have a reason to hate the guy; but then again, ten-year-old kids did not need a reason for such things.

The other man shifted slightly and they locked eyes --the staring match had ensued.

Yahiko smirked, he could always beat Sano, and if he chose to give the silent treatment to the people back at home in Japan, the maid and staff had never been a challenge either. He had done that many times before, a trophy-less champion of sort.

But as it was, five minutes into the game, Ken sat still, and Yahiko was dying to blink.

"You don't like me, do you."

Yahiko swiftly blinked, then just as quickly scowled. Damn, he lost. "You did that on purpose."

"Maybe." The winner lazily shrugged. "But we can always have a rematch since you seem to like giving me dirty looks."

"I'm sure you're used to it."

"Maybe." Ken repeated, getting up from the metal stool. "It does not mean that I care for it, though."

"Yeah, well, if you weren't so--"

"Anyway," He quietly interrupted. "Do you like to skateboard?"

"What?"

"Skateboarding." Ken retrieved his board from behind the couch and offered him an authentic example. "Do you like to do it?"

"Umm." Yahiko shrugged, unsure why the elder was not reprimanding him for his rudeness seconds ago. "Sorta."

"Good." Ken dug the keys out of his pocket and turned for the door. "Because we are going."

Yahiko swiveled in his seat to face the man. "Where are we going?"

"Skateboarding." Opening the door, Ken stepped out into the hall, and glanced over his shoulder. "Now."

Yahiko blinked as the door clicked closed.

I'm going to kill Kaoru for leaving me alone with this weirdo.

*

The drive to the Skate Park was much like the one back from the airport. Quiet, and very fast. Unlike Kaoru though, Yahiko was not so easily frightened by the roommate's driving skills. It was more fun than anything else was, actually; it reminded him of when he had raced with his friends at the go cart tracks. That's what Ken seemed to be doing anyway --trying to race the Camaro with everyone else.

But of course, the tricked out Civics and Integras were doing a horrible job at being left behind in the dust, or rather; they were just pathetic losers.

Yahiko was turned in his seat, gitty from watching them fly by the other cars so quickly. "I can't believe Kaoru let you borrow her car when you drive like this."

"It's my car."

"Huh?" The boy returned to sit in the seat correctly, and blinked at the other. Pretty much used to Kaoru being the richest person he had ever met. "Really? It's not hers."

"No." They flew past a few more unsuspecting motorists and turned onto the off ramp. "She drives a Dodge Durango."

"Oh." He blinked more. Weird. "Are you rich?"

The gears shifted down, along with the rumble and buzz of the engine. "Anything but that."

"Then what are you?" Yahiko threw back at him with all the innocence of youth he could fake.

But Ken always had a way out of the very tactful questions people tried to lob his way. It was simply called changing the subject. "We're here."

The ride to a parking spot was quick, and they unloaded the skateboards from the trunk. Ken actually had three of them, luckily enough for Yahiko. Yahiko scuffed his feet and kicked a rock to the side as they walked to the ramps.

"You didn't answer my question, Ken"

The red head stopped, and smiled down at the bright child. "You're pretty persistent, aren't you?"

Yahiko bobbed his head up and down quickly. "Kaoru taught me so."

"Of course. No one else better."

*

Blast it all. Whenever the search for a particular shirt was taking place it was never, ever found. Other attire that had mysteriously disappeared two weeks prior always were discovered, but never the black one with the rad Vans logo on it. 'Oh, and look at that.' A missing sock just seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Maybe the Washing Machine monster did not eat them, he just decided to wreak havoc and return them a few unpleasant weeks later.

Ken snatched up a dark gray Harley shirt instead. It was not like he was going out to impress anyone, just cleaning up after skating the whole late morning with Yahiko, that's all. The boy turned out to pretty talented for a ten year old child, and a little to perceptive for his early years. Kaoru and, possibly Sano had taught him the tricks of life very well. And living on the street most likely had a great deal of influence as well.

At least he stopped glaring at him for the most part. That was a step in the right direction.

Too bad their healthy relationship was built off a string of lies.

The door quickly opened to his room, and Kaoru just as speedily shut it just enough to leave a crack worth of space, and peered through it.

Ken blinked once, and lowered the shirt he was just about to pull over his head. "Uh… Kaoru-dono?"

The uninvited merely waved her hand for silence and continued the spying as if all was dandy.

Well, all was not dandy. Ken wanted to know why the hell she bolted in her room like she was being chased from evil beings… or hiding from them.

"Care to share?"

"Share what?" Kaoru turned at that, and rose a thin eyebrow. Then just about fell over. "Holy Hell, Ken!"

"I didn't think I scared people that much…"

The girl just starred at his chest. She thought she would probably end up admiring it the first time she saw it, but no, she ended up blank with no means of deciphering the past puzzle pieces that were pierced, stitched, and slashed all over his torso. So many old wounds --some faded more than others were.

That could only mean they were acquired over years. 'Why…?'

"Hey, I'm up here." The redhead dryly reminded her, coughing for emphasis.

She blinked, and looked up straight into his eyes for the very first time. Those were another mystery all together, too. Odd colours, odd emotions held inside. "I don't understand. Did you get into an accident… lots of accidents?"

Kenshin shifted his sight off to the side. "Something like that."

Kaoru stomped her foot, and crossed her arms. "I'm tired of that answer, Ken. Honestly."

A shrug and nothing more was said from the other side.

She huffed, but then fizzled quickly. What was she doing? 'None of you business, Kaoru. He's still a stranger.' Still, curiosity won and before she recognized her hand on his pale chest it was lightly placed there on top of something that looked like a bullet wound. 'A bullet wound!? Kami!'

"D-does it hurt?"

"Um…" Obviously she needed to go back to school for that answer. "It's an old one, Kaoru-dono. No."

"So…" Kaoru traced a line to another marring. "How did this happen?"

Another polite as could be when shrugging gesture was her response. Kaoru looked back up into his eyes dead on again and he slowed. Damn her, she always made him feel, well, guilty if he was being slightly off with her. All the same, on the outside he defiantly held her gaze, showing he was not backing down on the silent war.

She was not going to get answers out him. Ever. And he did not feel like making any up today. It was hard to keep track of past lies in conversation. So that was the best way to handle his job. Not release any answers at all, real or fake. Simple, right?

Reluctantly defeated, Kaoru looked down and fingered another mark that was long and deep. Then her wrist was caught in a grip and she shifted her face up again, meeting his. Crap.

He lowered Kaoru's wrist back to her side, and lightly drew his hand up her arm slowly. "That tickled."

Oh, she blinked fast. Then brought the same hand back up again to cover her giggles. "Your ticklish? That's just so wrong."

"Wrong?" Ken frowned. "What's wrong?"

"Men like you should not be ticklish or anything of the sorts."

Was she intentionally here to bother him that day!? "Men like me!?"

"Never mind." Kaoru sighed and leaned against the wall next to the door. "It looks like I might have made an escape."

"Escape?" Ken questioned her for the third time; hope set on an actual answer this time.

"I saw Misao-chan headed this way."

Ah, that was why she was running so pronto like earlier. She was hiding from evil beings. Misao, of course, being the scariest he met in the town thus far. "I see why you ran. But why can't you use Sano's room as sanctuary?"

"Because you're the closest, and she won't come into your room… yet."

That sounded reassuring. Did that mean when she felt friendlier around him she would be barging into his room? Well, another note to self; be extra rotten next time she comes around. No need for stuff like that, he already had Kaoru doing it. One female was enough, thank you. "But won't she just stick around until you 'come home?'"

"That's why I don't mind having Yahiko around sometimes." She smirked. Ken blinked at that little curve of the mouth, Kaoru never smirked --never really got evil looking, actually. "He'll scare her away. She hates him, and he hates her more. Trust me, she won't stick around."

"Using your little brother for exorcisms, I see."

"Hey, at least he's good for something."

Yep. From what he saw and heard today, Kaoru was definitely starting to become an evil little girl. Maybe even worse than Misao, or that Med. Student, Megumi. Ooo… was that a tough decision. Kaoru laughed a little, and it strangely sounded a lot like a cackle --Ken promptly replaced his forgotten shirt for some protection. Protection from evil vibes maybe, he did not know. Just knew he better cover himself before she started to get cynical --Who knows what she would do then.

Living in that apartment definitely got interesting sometimes.

"Kaoru!?"

Well, speak of the little demon herself --Misao-chan.

And all they could do was quietly wait for Yahiko to work his charm.

*

Ken eyed Yahiko.

Yahiko eyed Ken.

All was still.

And more still.

Very still.

"GO!"

Yahiko grabbed a fistful of french-fries and shoved them into his mouth. Crumbs and bigger chunks soon lined the sidewalk below. Ken was doing the same, but was taking lesser handfuls and shoveling them into his mouth quicker.

Now, the predicament they were in was very odd, but it was the only thing Yahiko could think of that he could possibly beat Ken in. So far, Ken was a better pickpocket, liar, video game player, crafty at staring games, ran faster, skated a hell of a lot better, and on went the list. But this, the 'Biggy Sized Wendy French Fries Eating Contest' was surly something Yahiko could be superior in.

Then he choked on another hand full, and Ken promptly patted him on the back while trying to swallow what was left in his mouth.

Dammit, he lost again!

"Okay, okay!" He coughed out, and coughed some more. Ken handed him a pop, which he quickly sucked down half in thanks. "You win again. But I'll think of something."

"Of course. Let me know of when you think of your next great plan."

Yahiko threw the last of his fries on the older man and stuck out his tongue. "You're really a jerk sometimes, Ken."

"Nah." He stood and brushed of Wendy's crumbs. "I'm just messing around with you. Just means I like you."

Smiling, Yahiko got up as well and followed the other to the car. "Doesn't mean you gotta be a jerk."

"It's all I know." Ken shrugged. "Anyway, let's get home."

It seemed like the two were probably going to end up spending a lot of time together while Yahiko was in town. Kaoru and Sano were busy with school most of the day, not to mention Sano was busy most of the night with odd jobs and 'fun'. At the moment, Kaoru had to go pick up Sano from Megumi's house seeing as he managed to anger Misao-chan and in the end she refused to drive him home. So Ken and Yahiko were volunteered for dinner and movie duty.

But of course, having a little fun was mandatory before they got home, too. A quick stop at the arcade and a healthy round of competition was all they needed, and it was damn fun. Yahiko was already praying he would never have to go back home to Japan if everyday was going to be similar like his first day back in the States.

They pulled up to the complex, parked and dug out the groceries and movies from the back. They tactfully had picked out 28 Days and House of a 1000 Corpses, hoping to scare the crap out of Kaoru --or at least get a few jumps out of her. Yahiko had quit proudly told Ken that Kaoru was not very fond of horror movies after the Shinning gave her nightmares when she was kid, not to mention Jack Nicholas alone. Ken thought this to be more than hysterical.

At the top of the steps Ken stopped and looked over to Yahiko, searching for his house key. "Wanna practice sneaking up on people?"

Yahiko could only nod. One of the things he picked up quickly about Ken was that the man was silent as could be and had already sneaked up on him a few times that day, completely startling him. "Yeah, but how do you do that by coming through the front door?"

"Easy." Ken smirked. "We'll come through the Boy's side and continue from there. Just watch what I do, okay?"

"Got it."

When they got to the correct door, room two fourteen, Kenshin instructed Yahiko to leave the bags outside, effectively causing any noise issues to go down. With Yahiko cautious as could be behind him, Ken silently inserted the key and opened the door slowly to the apartment. He closed the door behind them just as stealthily, and stopped when Yahiko tugged on his shirt.

Nice and cozy like, Sano was propped up against the doorframe with his forearm, and Kaoru was leaning against the same frame to her back. His hand was on her face; fingers smoothing down her light skin to the lips just before he placed a light kiss there.

Of all his luck, Ken had to walk in at the crummiest moment of affection the two had shown the whole time he had been there. He stopped dead, not really sure what to do. Be jealous? Be happy? Did he not want the two to just kiss and realized they cared deeply for each other? Should he pound on Sano for trying to 'seduce' a woman that was much too good for him?

Well, wasn't she too good for him? Yeah --and besides, it was highly against the job's predicate to have feelings for the people involved with his work. There, a legitimate excuse for his feelings, problem solved.

Yahiko coughed and rolled his eyes. "They always do this. It's gross."

Ken coughed also. "Really…"

"Uh…" Sano went along with the coughing game and pushed away from the door. "Hey, Guys."

Kaoru, unfortunately, broke the chain of the game and whisked toward the door to her side of the apartments, smiling shyly at Ken before looking away. "Umm… Yahiko, I have something to show you."

"Sure, whatever." The kid rolled his eyes again and followed his sister.

After they left the room, Ken crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "Sorry to interrupt."

"Che." Sano snorted and pulled a Sprite out of the fridge. "Sometimes I think ya' sneak up on people on purpose, Roomy."

"And what is that suppose to mean?"

"That yer a little sneaky, that's all."

"Oh." Ken crossed the room and sat at the bar a little miffed.

Sano groaned at his slip of tongue and placed the now empty pop can on the counter. "Look. I'm not tryin' to be mean here."

"I know that."

"I'm just sayin' the truth."

Ken rolled his head and sighed. "Sano --really, you don't need to explain yourself."

"Someone needs to."

Leaning back in the chair, Kenshin sighed once again. Trying to understand where the conversation was headed. "Meaning?"

He hesitated for a moment but then leaned against the bar surface, looking straight at his roommate. "Like you always shy around the fact of your job --profession --what ever you want to call it."

A little nosey, yes? Maybe Ken would have to start making up lies that day, just like what he did not want to do with Kaoru-dono earlier. It seemed nobody cared for his vague explanations. "I do not think it is really any of your business."

"Trust me, Ken. It is." Stated Sano a little harsher than Ken had ever heard him verbalize before. Sano was always laid back, taking life easy --even when he got mad.

Kenshin rubbed his temples, a habit he picked up over the years when he got frustrated or was trying to hold back his anger. At the moment it was a little of both. "And why is that?"

"Because."

"Because?" 'Because!? What the hell?' "I'm not in the mood for games, Sano."

"Fine." The taller scowled and stood tall. "Fine. What kind of job do you have that needs you to carry around a gun almost all the time?"

Kenshin blinked slowly and remained impassive as could be in the situation. "What do you mean?"

"I'm not dumb. I notice these things." Narrowing his eyes, Sano paced the room, keeping one eye the supposed Punk. "I made a living off the streets for fuck sake. You're obviously not a cop, so it's not legal."

"You don't know that."

"Right, of course I don't. But you know I'm right." Sano glanced at Kenshin, but he stayed blank. "I'm not one to tell you other wise. I'm just curious for Kaoru's sake. That's the only reason why her family pays for me to live here --They're pretty much paying me to protect her."

Kenshin relaxed a little at that. He was only worried for the girl's wellbeing, which was totally natural. It was something he totally suspected coming from Sano. "I see."

"So what's the deal?"

Time to think --Sano was not going to back down this time. He needed a good answer or the man would probably get real hostile, real quick. Not violent, but definitely angry.

"It's mostly for self-protection. I do a lot of body-guard work."

His roommate stared, then, laughed hysterically. And then, laughed some more. Kenshin did not know whether to hit him or, well, hit him. 'What an ass'.

"Ken, truthfully now. You can't be a bodyguard."

"I am." Kenshin bit out, noticeably getting a little dangerous.

Sano waved his hands neutrally. SO maybe the small guy was a bodyguard of sorts. Uh-huh. "Okay, okay. I just thought it was weird."

"Right."

"Alright. I'm sorry for pissen' you off." Sano wavered a bit stiffly, not really use to apologizing. But Ken at the moment did not look like the type to anger anymore. He did have a gun, after all. "Just when it comes to Kaoru, I gotta be careful. Ya' know I'll kick yer ass if ya' do anything or cause anything to happen to her."

"Yes." And Ken was going to beat himself up for the biggest lie he was just about to tell. "You can trust me, okay?"

Trust --Ha! The whole existence of their Ken was a lie. White lies and bigger. But, as it went, that had been a part of Himura Kenshin's life for many long years. It was something a person could never get use to, but he understood there was no way out of it until he was released. And that meant death in most cases.

Ken fingered the heavy metal gun resting against his stomach, and starred Sano down, albeit regretfully.

"I hope I can." Sano clearly imposed it as a threat, but quickly brighten his face into his usual half-smile, half-smirk, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Anyway, I've got to go."

"Where are you going already?" Kaoru appeared from the doorway, frown in place. "They rented movies for us."

"Jobs, Jou-chan. You know that."

She sighed, and toiled a lock of hair around her finger, looking off to the side. "Yeah, I know."

"So then." Sano kissed Kaoru's forehead and opened the door to leave. "See you guys later."

They waved, Kaoru a little more disappointed than Ken, and Sano left for the night.

Kaoru turned and smiled sincerely at Ken. "Wanna watch some movies with Yahiko and me?"

He could see why Sano would willingly confront someone with a weapon just for her. She was definitely his Angel, and she was definitely making a place in Kenshin's long forgotten heart. Along with the rest of her scratch-board family. Sano was a good friend, better than most people he had met in his life were. And after being around Yahiko for a day, he did not mind the thoughts about having kids of his own one day.

Like that would ever happen. 'Not this lifetime.'

"Ken?" Kaoru questioned and took his hand to get his attention.

"Ah, sorry." Ken smiled slightly. "I'll watch them with you guys."

And that's what they did that evening. Watch the movies Yahiko picked out and ate the dinner they picked up together. They did get a couple fidgets, and squirms out of Kaoru when they watched 28 Days. But she said House of a 1000 Corpses was more funny than scary.

Ken sat in the middle between the two to keep them from feuding, but it just ended up he was used as a pillow of sorts. Yahiko fell asleep against him on one side, Kaoru on the other as they stayed up trying to watch the late, cheesy movies on cable stations. When it got too late for him, Ken picked up Kaoru and nudged Yahiko to wake up with his foot. To his mild amusement, Kaoru did not even wake once while he moved her. Yahiko groggily told him that she was use to Sano doing just the same thing before rolling over and going to sleep again.

Kenshin had laid Kaoru on her bed, and pulled the covers up, smoothing the hair away from her face with his hand in the dark.

His position in life was really too cruel sometimes, if not most of the time. When he was a child he had always dreamed about a close family like Kaoru shared with the others. But his family had died while he was very young, and for the rest of his life his family consisted of men older than himself. He was always the youngest among the group.

But not when he lived in the apartments now. He was older, much older. Still, it felt good living calmly and almost carefree with them. Too bad his employers had said the operation was moving faster than planned.

The quiet life would be coming to an end soon.

And for the most part, Ken did not know that that life would end the very next day.

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To be continued…

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Next Chapter- You got me. Oh wait, I know. Some more stuff inserted into the plot to confuse you more, of course. Bwahaha…

Author's Notes- Well, not much to say about the story, I guess. I'm sure I didn't clear up any of your question, well, maybe a couple. And I'm sure I confused you a little more --Oh, what's that? Just made you crazy? Yeah, that, too.

Yahiko is a small part. He is just there so you get the gist of what Kaoru's life has been like and you get a closer look at her relationship with her two 'boys'. He'll go away in a couple of chapters, so Yahiko Lovers, cherish him while he lasts. Yeah, I like Yahiko.

Heh, you K&K hard core people are probably wanting to strangle me right now for putting in a little K&S mush. Sorry, but it is necessary to the plot. Just breath, Peoples, it doesn't mean they're gonna shag in the end and be happy. Just look at their past, it would make sense if they were together anyway. The story is not over with, so hold tight K&K lovers! Don't hate me…

Alrighty then, be prepared for a major plot twist next chapter. The quiet suburban life is coming to an end for the RuroKen cast. Cheers!

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Review Peoples- So happy. I got so many reviews. Lots of threats, too. Heh, I'll try to keep the updates closer together now. But you people make me want to twirl, and most importantly, want to write more when you review. Thank you!

missaw- Oi, great. Glad you like mystery because there is plenty of that in here. I didn't update soon… but uh, here it is. X_X

flyinangel777- Hey, well, you were right. It was both, but I guess you figured that out… Glad you like how I wrote Kenny, I love him this way. I'm just afraid some people won't --too much OOC for them. Bah, anyway. I updated, sorry again for the wait!

moonblossom- Always pleased with someone who cares for the fic. I hope you stuck around for my long awaited update… :P

Kimiko5- Updated! Cute bunny, btw.

MysticPrincessMoonlight- Hey, always love hearing from you, it's always a pleasure. I hope I didn't disappoint you too much on my absence. *Begs* Forgive me!

Haru- Woo~ You made me happy. I love it if I can convert people over to AU. It's hard when you're in love with the Meiji timeline, and I'm a hardcore lover. Anyway, dear Gods no, I'm not gonna do that 'Kaoru gets rapped' bit. It's so sad to say, but it's over done, and a touchy subject like that should NOT be overdone. Anyway, Ken's cell phone does kick some arse. It is pretty much essential to his life right now, expect to see some more of his nifty gadgets. Um, well, about the 'silver in the white boxes' *Smirk* You're just gonna have to wait on that one. Heh. Thanks for the luck; I do need it after taking the hiatus. I'm sure some people are mondo pissed at me. Anyway, I hope to hear from you again. Thanx! ^^

Selim the Worm- Sup, me homey. Thanks for the review, Man. I appreciate it. Hope to hear from you again someday. :D

Hana J- Well, I did take my time… but probably waited more than you wanted me to… sorry. *Hides* But wow, you've got some pretty good guesses going on there. Hope the gun question was answered for you. Ah, please make some guesses on what might happen. I think it's great and it lets me know what people are thinking about when I write the plot. Yes, a few grammar errors. I'm thinking about investing in a Beta, but I'm so darn lazy and impatient… Anyway, great to hear from you again. Thanx!

Lazy Worshipper- And so, about four in the morning I was watching your reviews come in one at a time. I wished you were registered, I wanted to email you back so bad. :D Well, here I go. *Cracks knuckles* So, yeah, I did try to start the fic off a little dark, and the city isn't particularly seedy, it's just like every town in good ol' US of A. It has hidden dark secrets and fake smiles covering up the wrongs… Well, that's how I look at it. Anyway, I like their relationship in this fic (Sano and Kaoru), I think that is how it would be present day if they were in a similar situation. Friendly and protective, but they know how to have fun. Yes, dammit, I'm always tired of Kaoru being the Saint herself. She's a 17-year-old girl; most girls by that age have had plenty of relationships! And done some stuff that would make their grandma's cry! So I tried to make her into a realistic teenager. Hate Misao? Like what I did to her? Thank goodness. She is so fun to tear apart, yeah, not a Misao lover here either. Heh heh. Think Kenny is a little smart-ass in the fic? Good, I made him that way. I figured if he lived nowadays he would be like that --civil on the outside, but thinking maybe the complete opposite. ;) Ah, yes! The anime is so wrong! HISS! Ahem, go manga… And go Yamaguchi doujins; I love them so much. I actually just got "Sou Sou" Today. Love it! I did scan some before I moved, so if I don't post them soon on my site, bother me, please. Glad I make a likable Megumi. I can't say much about her, she sits the same with me just as Misao's antics do… Ah! There is too much to comment on. I'm gonna have to stop here. Anyway, you made my day --heck, week when you posted the reviews. They're awesome and it gave me a look into what the readers were thinking about the fic. Please, rant all you like next time, that is, if there is a next time. I took too long updating. But everything is functional in my new 'life' so writing is coming back to me. Anyway, luv 'ya. Hope to hear from you again someday! And REGISTER, DAMMIT! :D

leapintiger723- Glad you like Ken, and get an account! It's worth it! ^^

kouri- ACK! I so need to read your story now that I have time!!! And your email was deleted; I never got a chance to reply to you! I'm so sorry!

Espi- I'm sorry you're confused… but it was intentional. Bwahaha… ^_^;;

Henrika- Ah, I'm sorry I made you beg. But believe me, it made me start writing again. Crossed over to the AU side, eh? There are some good ones if you look hard enough. You're right about Kats; Kammy is easy if you think about it. But I'll reveal who it is later… About Tomoe. Ha, don't hold your breath. Keeping a tight lid on her 'involvement'. Oh yeah, thanks for correcting me on the Henna tats, I'll go fix that someday. X_X Thank you for the reviews!

KanryuuxKaoru4eva- What's up with your name? Hmmm… anyway, the scar's story will unfold in a chapter someday. Just gotta keep you guessing on the rest, sorry. :D Thanx!

Startenchigome- I'm sorry I was cruel, but I'll try to keep the updates regular like before now.

Queen of Shadows- Sorry about the initial crap. It kinda makes me mad when I go back and read it. I think I'm going to try and change it some day… anyway, everything will be explained. But if you would like, this is a sort of 'mystery' fic. All will be revealed later.

KatsyKat- Great, it seems people are pleased with the setting. I tried to work on that and make it fit better with the fic more than most people do. And I'm so thrilled you took a chance to read my AU story… and liked it. Sorry I'm killing you with the suspense, but it just lets me know I'm doing my job correctly. :D Thank you for the wonderful review, it made me ubber happy. Than you again! ^^

Tsugoi kakarlena- UPDATED!

feckless- Sorry I made you wait on the update… thank you for reviewing. ^^

Leina- Well, I'd have to say you are wrong on both guesses. It's nothing that extreme… sorta. But good guesses.

ixchen- Thank you for the compliment. :D

En Satsu Koku Ryuu Ha- Thanx!

angelicyokai- Makes me happy to know you like it, I hope I didn't make you too mad about the late update. ^_^;;

Pen D. Fox- I updated, I updated! Don't hurt me! *Hides*

Naiya-chan- Well, the confusion was meant to be so. Sorry, lol. But, I'm happy you like it!

Bob-san- You weren't 'spose to understand the last part. It was intentional. But I promise it will all be explained.

Amanda- Happy you like it, and I promise more K&K, Okay? ^^

Flame amber- Well, Ken tells him he is 21, but he's older. You're not 'spose to know his real age yet. And I can't confirm about if he sword fights or not… I want to keep you guessing. Did I already answer this question? I don't remember… bleh. Uh, Hiko? Well, you'll see…

Was that everyone? I hope. So, if you didn't hear from me, it is like I said before --Your response was deleted. And I would love to have you email me back.

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Thanx!