WARNING!!!  Citrus Content Ahead!!!  WARNING!!!

Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic

Rurouni Kenshin & Samurai X Original Japanese Version © N.Watsuki/Shueisha * Fuji-TV * SME Visual Works Inc. * Sony Pictures Entertainment

All Fanfics created by Chiruken (me) were written for the sole purpose of shared entertainment and not intended for publication or sale.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

--Battousai Returns—

by Chiruken

Chapter 2

        He pulled her closer, deepening the kiss when she responded passionately.  She loves me!  His soul rejoiced.  Kaoru…MY Kaoru…she loves me…  His logical side cautioned him to be careful, to not trust blindly…to remember what happened with Tomoe…but he ignored it for the moment, choosing instead to revel in the moment, to enjoy the feeling of loving and being loved in return for as long as he could.  Of course, reality had a nasty way of asserting itself in the most inopportune moments, choosing to intrude even in poignantly intimate moments of shared declarations of love.

        Tearing his lips from hers, he stared across the yard towards the back gate with narrowed amber eyes, expression hard, revealing his anger.  A low growl escaped before he could stop it as he pulled Kaoru a little closer against his lean form, arms coming around her now in a protective embrace rather than passionate.  "Kaoru…" He whispered against her fragrant hair.  "Koishii…I want you to go inside now…" He paused when he felt her slender frame tremble as she began to shake her head in denial.  "Please, koishii…for me…I need for you to be safe."  He slowly reached to the side for his sheathed sakabatou, fingers curving around the familiar shape as he pulled it closer, golden gaze alert and roving over the shadowed yard, searching for the intruder he'd sensed.

        "I'm safer if I stay with you."  He almost smiled at her immediate response.  His little hanabijou…kami but he loved her spirit!

***

        She could feel the tension radiating off of him.  His muscles were taught as a bowstring.  She licked her lips anxiously, and then blushed when she remembered the feel of his lips against her own.  Kami-sama but he's a good kisser!  She blushed a little more at the impure thoughts running through her mind.  She wanted him to kiss her again.  She bit her lip, eyes flying up to view his strong profile as he surveyed the doujou's yard.  She wanted him to do much more than just kiss her…much, much more, she realized, her pulse stuttering then resuming at an alarmingly fast rate.  "Kenshin…" She whispered softly, needing him to look at her with his heated amber eyes again.  She needed to see the love shining in his golden gaze.  She needed reassurance that it hadn't been her imagination that had conjured up the tenderness she'd seen in his expression.

        "Shh…" He murmured softly, shifting her to the side, away from his sword arm.  "We aren't alone, Kaoru."

        She scowled and pulled away from him, turning to study the familiar landscape of her doujou's yard as well.  There was any number of places an intruder could hide.  She glanced from the corner of her eye at the man kneeling beside her, strong profile hard and implacable, amber eyes moving restlessly over the dimly lit area.  Suddenly the moonlight glinted off of something obviously metallic across the yard, towards the storehouse.  Drawing in a sharp intake of breath Kaoru leaned closer to the man at her side.  "The bathhouse…" She whispered, barely loud enough to be heard over the soft breeze flowing through the yard, tinkling the tiny bells hanging from the overhang of the engawa above their heads.

        He nodded slightly.  "Aa…I see him."  Was his equally soft reply.

***

        He drew in a sharp breath, willing his body to obey his commands and stop focusing on Kaoru's sweet curves pressed so close against him.  Swallowing, he clenched his hand around the saya of his sakabatou tight enough his knuckles turned white.  He had to concentrate on the task at hand…not the beautiful young woman at his side…and especially not the delicate fragrance of her perfume and unique feminine scent.  Not the remembered texture of her petal-soft lips under his own, opening to him, inviting him to deepen the kiss…he closed his eyes with a soft groan.  If he didn't stop dwelling on Kaoru, he may as well forget about catching the intruder.  His lips curved upwards into a self-mocking smirk.  He was behaving like a sex-obsessed teenager.  He'd thought himself past this embarrassing tendency to focus with his hormones and not his mind.  "Ah, hanabijou…what you do to me…" He murmured before opening his eyes again to stare across the yard towards the bathhouse, ignoring her questioning look.  He'd explain later…when they were alone.  His smirk turned into a predatory smile of anticipation.  Maybe demonstrate, too… He liked the sounds of that.  He always had been a visual type of individual.  Showing rather than telling had always been his preferred way of learning and instructing.  He almost laughed aloud at the turn his thoughts were taking.  If he didn't stop dwelling on Kaoru and begin paying attention to the man lurking in the shadows near the bathhouse, it would all be a moot point in the end.  "Stay here."  He ordered gruffly as he stood in one fluid motion, ignoring the stiffness in his shoulder as he lifted the sakabatou and strode across the yard with quick purposeful strides.

        "Kenshin…" Kaoru's soft voice trailed into nothingness as he swiftly left her behind.  He could sense the surprise in the prowler's fluctuating ki ahead of him as well as Kaoru's worry in hers behind him.

        Eyes narrowing in on the flash of steel, he rested his hand against the hilt of his sakabatou and, with a burst of speed, closed the distance swiftly, not willing to allow his prey the luxury of escape.

***

        Kaoru blinked in surprise when Kenshin seemed to disappear.  Eyes moving almost desperately around the yard, she held her breath as she felt panic rising within her, threatening to choke her.  Kenshin was injured…he was slower, less alert than usual…that placed him at a definite disadvantage.  Expression hardening with determination, Kaoru looked over her shoulder and spotted her discarded broom from earlier.  Biting her lip in momentary indecision, she debated over the wisdom of her half-formed plan, and then decided that something had to be done; she couldn't just sit idly by while Kenshin went off into danger.  She had to do something to keep herself from feeling helpless.  Brows drawn together in determination, she reached behind her and grasped the smooth wooden handle of the broom and pulled it to her.

        Looking out over the yard again, she gasped when she saw the bright flash of moonlight on exposed blades followed by the unmistakable sound of metal clashing against metal.  Hands flying to her mouth, Kaoru prayed that Battousai wouldn't forget himself and inadvertently revoke Kenshin's vow.  Shaking her head sharply, Kaoru harshly scolded herself.  They're one and the same, baka!   Focusing her attention once again on the battle unfolding in her yard, she found herself admiring the graceful fluid movements of Kenshin's budo.  Breath catching in her chest, she felt her heart thudding almost painfully as her pulse raced in growing excitement tinged with alarm.  "He's beautiful…" She whispered breathlessly, eyes following Kenshin's movements hungrily.  Despite the danger of the situation, she found herself anticipating being alone with him again.

        She was so engrossed in her thoughts and single-minded focus on Kenshin that she didn't notice the shadow fall over her from behind.  She saw Kenshin falter and start in her direction, only to be drawn back into battle with the intruder.  "Kaoru!"  Eyes widening in horrified understanding, she ducked and rolled to the side, taking her broom with her.  She landed hard on her shoulder and kept rolling off the edge of the engawa.  She landed on the hard-packed ground with a muffled exclamation of pain and surprise.  She'd have a bruise by morning, she knew it.  Slowly, she raised her head, sapphire blue eyes bit by bit moving up long legs, past an empty saya, to a wickedly glinting blade…drawing in a painful breath, she tried to swallow past the lump in her throat.  Oh kami-sama help me!  She continued her terrified assessment, gripping the handle tightly with her uninjured hand, and shrank back from the burning lust in the man's dark eyes.

***

        Kenshin spared a brief moment to look towards Kaoru and felt an icy fist squeeze his heart.  He turned back to the man lunging towards him, bare blade upraised and, with a fierce battle cry, countered his attack, striking him with crushing force across the chest with the blunt edge of his sakabatou, lifting him and throwing him back into the wall of the bathhouse.  With a satisfied smirk, Kenshin turned his back on his now unconscious foe and advanced across the yard with deadly purpose.  If he so much as lays one filthy finger on my Kaoru…I'll kill the bastard!  With a quick, careless chiburi, executed mostly out of habit than an actual need to rid his blade of blood, he fixed a cold stare on the man towering above Kaoru and slowly pointed his sakabatou at him in blatant challenge.  Lips curving upwards into a cold, humorless smirk, nodded towards the prone figure of his previous opponent.  Looking towards the other man again he narrowed his eyes and sheathed his blade with a snap.  "You're next."  It emerged on a low dangerous growl and though he was certain the intruder hadn't heard him, he was equally sure that there was enough light cast by the moon for him to be able to read his lips.  No one threatened his Kaoru with impunity.

        All thoughts of his vow to never take another life fled from his mind when Kaoru was grabbed by the hair and yanked mercilessly upwards, a bare blade resting against the slender column of her throat.  Crude laughter echoed off the walls of the doujou.  "Well, well…seems like I have the advantage, eh?"

        Amber met blue and in that moment Kenshin felt all time stop.  He began to shake his head, reading her intentions in her soft smile and clear sapphire blue eyes.  "Kaoru…" He whispered, torn between admiration and fear.  Her smile widened confidently, her lips forming words he never thought to hear coming from her directed towards him.

        "Kill him, Kenshin…"

***

        Kaoru drew in a quick breath and closed her eyes tight as she brought the broom handle up sharply as she made her body go limp, taking care to throw her head back, away from the razor sharp edge of the blade pressed against her.  She felt momentary glee when her attacker yelped in pain, the solid wood having connected with his unprotected groin.  "You bitch!"  She gasped when she felt his fist connect against the side of her face, throwing her off balance and dazing her.

        She continued to fall, stunned, but with enough presence of mind to roll when she hit the hard packed earth of the doujou's yard.  Without hesitation, she rolled under the engawa, wedging her small frame between the ground and the boards, whimpering softly in pain as she banged her injured hand against the edge of the steps.  Turning her head she watched as Kenshin took advantage of her impromptu move and exerted his god-like speed, closing the distance in what, to her, seemed like the blink of an eye.  The moonlight glinted off the metallic surface of his sakabatou as he drew it with blinding speed.  An instant later she heard the sickening thud of the blade connecting with its target followed by the heavy thump of a body falling to the boards of the engawa.  She squeezed her eyes shut, almost afraid that Kenshin had killed him.  You told him to!  The words echoed in her mind accusingly and she bit her lip to still its trembling.  You gave him permission to kill again, Kamiya Kaoru, so don't you even THINK of pushing him away now!  She could now smell the unmistakable metallic scent of freshly spilled blood permeating the air and her trembling intensified.  Drawing in a shallow breath she forced herself to move, wiggling out from under the engawa slowly.  Drawing in another breath she opened her eyes and turned her head to see Kenshin standing with his head bowed and blood dripping from the previously unstained blade of his sakabatou.

        Biting her lip hard, Kaoru took a hesitant step forward, towards Kenshin's still form.  Raising her hand slowly, she turned her palm upwards and called his name softly.  "Kenshin?"  When she didn't receive a reply she tried again.  "Kenshin?"  Slowly he turned to face her.  Her breath whooshed out in a rush as she met his burning amber gaze.  What have I done?!

***

        The scent of blood was strong, invading his senses, drowning his reason, the metallic scent, intoxicating.  He focused his gaze on hers, sensing her fear, seeing it in her wide blue eyes as she stared at him, face pale and form held stiffly.  He lifted his arm, tearing his gaze from hers to stare at the fresh blood running along the edge of his sakabatou.  Sweet, fresh, red, bright, warm… He trembled and tore his eyes from the mesmerizing liquid, closing them and drawing in a deep calming breath, trying unsuccessfully to ignore the scent calling to him, teasing him.  What have I done?!  It was a desperate thought as his eyes snapped open again and he stared across the short distance separating Kaoru from him.  "Kaoru…" He whispered softly.  An instant later he performed a quick chiburi and swiftly wiped his blade clean on the intruder's haori before sliding the blade into its saya with a snap.  "Kaoru…" He repeated, a little louder.  "Are you all right?"  He closed the distance and halted before her, noting sadly how she trembled in obvious fear.  Pressing his lips tightly together he paused, making certain his voice would be steady when he spoke.  "Are you hurt?"

        She shook her head, movements choppy as she stared past him at the engawa.  "Kenshin…" She swallowed, jerking her eyes back to his.  "We should clean that up.  At this time of year it'll start smelling soon."

        Kenshin blinked, and then blinked again.  That wasn't what he'd expected to hear.  He reached out and gently touched her shoulder, wincing when she flinched away from him.  He allowed his hand to fall to his side again with a soft sigh.  "I'm sorry, Kaoru."

***

        Kaoru drew in a shuddering breath and shook her head sharply to clear it of the almost painful buzzing.  "No, Kenshin…I'm the one who should apologize."  A sudden thought occurred to her and she spun, to stare at the empty place by the bathhouse.  "Oh no…" She whispered.

        "Kaoru?"  She glanced over her shoulder at his questioning tone.  "What is…" She lifted her hand and his gaze followed where she pointed.  "Kuso…" He breathed the expletive under his breath when he finally saw what she'd seen.  Or rather…what she hadn't seen.

        "Where do you think he went?"  She asked softly, moving closer to him, taking comfort in his familiar presence.

        "I don't know."  She looked up to see that he was frowning, gazing off into nowhere, obviously deep in thought.

        "Kenshin…" She gently placed her hand on his arm, noting how tense he was.  She bit her lip and stood up on tiptoe.  "Kenshin…let's go inside."  She whispered her soft plea near his ear and smiled when he shivered.

        He nodded slowly and hesitantly placed his arm around her shoulders as they turned back to the engawa.  He winced when his eyes fell on the unmoving form sprawled over the highly polished boards.  "Ano…" He cleared his throat before continuing.  "Perhaps you should go inside, Kaoru…I'll take care of this out here."

        "Are you sure?"  If she were to be honest, she didn't want to be anywhere near the body.  It was a bitter reminder that she was the cause of Kenshin revoking his vow to never kill again.  Intellectually she knew that if Kenshin hadn't killed the intruder he would've killed her and possibly Kenshin as well.  That outcome was unacceptable.  She didn't like it, not one little bit, but it was better to be alive to regret than to be dead and not feel anything.  Impulsively she kissed his cheek.  "I'll make tea."  She hurried inside, studiously ignoring the corpse bleeding all over her engawa, and sought the relative sanctuary of the kitchen.  "Maybe I can manage this without burning myself this time…" She muttered under her breath as she set the filled kettle over the fire and searched the cupboard for another teapot.  "I'll be damned if I'll go out there to find the other one.  It can be washed tomorrow morning…" Finding the spare she smiled when she took in its faded paint and chipped spout, remembering the last time it had been used.  With a soft sigh she shook her head, clearing it of memories of her father sipping tea with Genzai-sensei on the engawa and discussing the recent turns in politics.  Swiftly wiping the dust from the surface she poured some water in and swished it around before dumping it and then wiping the inside dry.  That was a long time ago…now I'm going to use this pot with Kenshin… It was a special pot.  It had been her mother's and her mother's before her.  Yes, it was a very special pot…her father had urged her to keep it hidden and only bring it out to use with someone who was very special to her.  She'd always used it with him…but now… She smiled happily and quickly measured the loose tealeaves into the pot.  "Now I'll serve Kenshin with it."

***

        Kenshin swiped his forearm across his face and straightened up with a soft groan.  He was heavier than he looked!  He looked longingly towards the kitchen where he could see Kaoru's silhouette moving past the window as she prepared their tea.  Wrinkling his nose in the next instant he turned his steps instead towards the bathhouse, deciding that he couldn't return to her with the stench of death clinging to him.  Deciding to not bother heating the furo, he opted for a cold rinse.  Stripping quickly, he dumped bucket after bucket of cold water over his head, gritting his teeth at the shock against his warm flesh.  Closing his eyes, he let the water wash over his face, plaster his hair against his neck and cheeks, thoughts in turmoil.

        Finally after what felt like an eternity he moved, his muscles protesting stiffly as he stood.  I've hidden long enough…it's time to face Kaoru… Closing his hands into fists, he acknowledged that this was the last thing he wanted to do.  He was afraid.  He was afraid that she'd turn from him in disgust now that he'd killed again.  "This isn't how I wanted things to be…" He whispered softly, head bowed dejectedly.  He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at the knots forming relentlessly.  "Death…it always seems to find me…" He lifted his head and stared sightlessly at the wall, amber eyes slightly unfocused as his mind drifted, expression filled with sorrow.  "I thought I could protect her from it…" Suddenly he shook his head sharply, dropping his arm to his side again.  "Who am I trying to fool?  Death can't be stopped…no matter how much we try…" And you can't stop yourself from delivering it…

        He shook his head again, banishing the insidious voice whispering through his mind.  He knew that if he wouldn't have acted, Kaoru would most likely be dead now.  That was unacceptable in his mind.  Though he was loath to admit it aloud, he could acknowledge the truth silently…to protect Kaoru, he was capable of anything.  He didn't gain enjoyment from it, never had… Liar… He ignored the voice whispering at the back of his consciousness.  With an annoyed snort, he turned to his clothing scattered where he'd thrown them in his haste to strip and wash the blood from his body.  There was a time when I never got blood on myself… He shuddered at the reminder of his bloody past.  He needed to return to Kaoru…to ensure that she was indeed safe.  But…

        "Oro?"  He smacked a palm to his forehead when he realized that he hadn't brought clean clothes with him into the bathhouse.  "Kenshin no baka…" He muttered under his breath.

***

        Kaoru cast a worried glance outside before turning her gaze back to the now steaming water.  "Mou…Kenshin, what's taking so long?"  She folded her arms over her chest and tapped her foot irritably.  "Honestly, how long does it take to dispose of one body?"  Her eyes widened at her annoyed mutter and she quickly covered her mouth with her uninjured hand to hold in what she suspected would be hysterical giggles.  How am I going to explain the bloodstains to Sanosuke and Yahiko?  Eyes widening at the thought, she spun and frantically searched for the soap and rags, grabbing a bucket half filled with water as she ran out the door.  Dropping to her knees on the engawa she began scrubbing at the blood frantically, her only thought was to remove it.  Pouring more water over the boards, she reached for the soap and began to scrub more vigorously, unaware that tears were falling to mingle with the sudsy water.  "Out, out, out…damn it!  Why won't it come out?"

        "Kaoru?"  She didn't pause at the familiar, soft voice.  "Kaoru, stop."

        "I-I can't, Kenshin!  I have to clean it up before…before…" She trembled when he gently but firmly pulled her into his arms, away from the glistening boards.  She reached forward weakly with her soapy and soaked rag.  "I have to…" She sniffed blinking rapidly to clear her eyes of the tears forming again.  "Before Yahiko and Sanosuke…" She shivered and closed her eyes, tears falling over her cheeks unchecked.

        "Let it go, Kaoru…" His low voice, so close to her ear, sent tingles up and down her spine.  His hand covered hers, gently urging her to drop the rag.  "Let it go…" The rag fell with a wet plop.  "My fault…all my fault…" He whispered softly before pulling her sobbing form into his arms, turning her face into his chest, away from the sight of the wet boards of the engawa.  "I'm sorry, Kaoru…so very sorry…" He gently rocked her, his voice washing over her, soothing her frazzled nerves, calming her hysterical and frantic reactions.

        After her tears had subsided a bit, Kaoru pulled back a little and frowned in bewilderment as she stared at the odd sight that greeted her.  What the--?!  "Ano…Kenshin…isn't that my yukata?"

***

      Kenshin shifted uncomfortably and ducked his head to hide his blush.  "Ahh…" He stalled, trying to think of a way to divert her attention.  When nothing came to mind, his shoulders slumped in defeat.  "Yes, Kaoru…yes, it is."

        "I see."  She pulled back a little more, an odd expression crossing her pretty features reminiscent of someone biting into something sour.  "I really don't think that's your colour, Kenshin.  It clashes with your hair."  Her eyes traveled downwards, a blush creeping into her face.  "And…" She cleared her throat before jerking her gaze back up to his.  "I don't think it fits you properly."

        He snorted derisively.  "Really?"  His tone dripped with sarcasm.  "Excuse me while I go get changed."  He stood abruptly and turned, shoulders stiff with indignation, as he walked away towards his room.  He stiffened some more when he heard Kaoru's snickers from behind him.  Though he was thankful that her mind was now off the trauma of witnessing Hitokiri Battousai at work…he winced a little at the reminder of his failure to keep his word from so many years before…he didn't particularly want her dwelling on his current state of dress…or rather, undress.

        "Nice legs, Himura."  Kaoru's laughter followed him as he gave up all pretense of dignity and bolted for the relative safety of his room.  He could hear the sound of her footsteps rapidly approaching the closed shouji to his room.  She paused outside and he held his breath.  "For future reference, Kenshin…" He allowed the yukata to drop to the floor in a puddle at his feet and reached for his clean hakama.  "Orange is definitely not your colour."  Her laughter drifted through the thin paper separating them and he growled low under his breath, pulling his hakama on and tying the obi carelessly before crossing to the shouji and sliding it open with a snap.  "Eep!"  Kaoru jumped and pressed her bandaged hand over her heart.

        Without giving it another thought, he pulled her into his arms and claimed her lips in a searing kiss, expressing all the pent up emotions of the past few years they'd been living together.  So close…yet always out of reach… Lifting her small form against his own, he deepened the kiss, urging her to respond with the passion he knew she possessed.  Not anymore…she's mine…always…

**To Be Continued…**