05/06--- Chapter under went plastic surgery to clean away a few glaring errors and better prepare for upcoming events. Basic plot remains the same, if you care to skip over and move directly to the most recently uploaded chapter. Thank you. DoC

Chains Required, Whips Optional

A Tale of Rurouni Kenshin

Chapter One: Cute Rots the Intellect

It was a warm breeze that carried the soft sounds of daylight wildlife to his ears and stirred the coat on his back. Relaxing, pleasant, and over all everything one needed to wander away from the city to find. Once past that main bridge out of Tokyo, it was a worthy walk to his destination. Toying lazily with the fish spine in his teeth, the young man sighed. He really hoped Jou-chan had something going for lunch, he was hungry!

Hell, better yet, Sanosuke hoped Kenshin had something going for lunch. Then he wouldn't have to take the time to stop and complain while inhaling. 'Course, might be worth it just to tick her off again.

Walking up the familiar path towards the Kamiya Dojo, the young ex-gangster casually pulled one hand from the slit of his pants and pushed open the gate. Sniffing at the air, he noted that nothing seemed to be cooking yet. Damn. With a shrug, Sanosuke strode up the stairs and onto the porch of the dojo with full intention on inviting himself in and raising a fuss about hunger pains. Hand on the sliding door; he heard the sounds of children's voices from behind, and that of an adult in exasperation.

Curious, the young man shucked earlier plans and wandered instead around the dojo towards the conversation he couldn't quite make out. He couldn't hold back the chuckle on his lips when he finally spotted the cause. Ayame and Suzume each clung fiercely to an arm, both of which were attached to one frustrated Kaoru Kamiya. "I'm telling you two, I have to go make lunch so that it can be done when Kenshin and Yahiko get back!"

Ayame, the elder of the two sisters and therefore usually the speaker, pouted as she tugged on Kaoru's kimono sleeve. "But, big sister, since Uncle Kenny is at the market with Yahiko we wanna play with you!"

"Yeah," Piped up the younger sibling, "We wanna play!"

The assistant master rolled her eyes toward the heavens, as if expecting to find answers there. "Yes, and in an hour you're going to want to eat. I'm sorry, I can't play right now."

With a shake of his tousled locks, Sanosuke snorted loudly enough to gain the attention of the three. Leaning back against one of the support beams of the porch, he chuckled. "Oye, Jou-chan, that's cruel."

The young woman scowled back at him. "Yeah, and what are you here for? Lunch, right? You aren't getting feed either if I'm out here playing, you big freeloader!"

Suzume giggled and let go of Kaoru's sleeve. "Uncle Sano!"

The ex-gangster grinned as the four year old launched at him. These two kids were just too damned cute. At least, usually both of 'em were this cute. Expecting a second, similar greeting from the elder sister, he felt no little trepidation to find a gleam in the six year old's eye and a cunning grin on her little mouth. A look that suggested the child spent way to much time around the Kitsune.

The girl turned that look onto Kaoru. "Okay, big sister. You can go cook now, but can Uncle Sano play with us instead?"

Sanosuke froze. Kaoru grinned. Little Suzume, her hands clenched on 'Uncle Sano's' soft white pant considered this for a moment. An immeasurably happy look spread across the tiny girl's face, her round little cheeks dimpling and her little pigtails seeming to perk up with her mood. The young man cautiously glanced down at the child that had hold of him. Large, bright, black eyes looked back at him, not unlike those of a cuddly puppy. "Yeah, Uncle Sano, can you come play with us?"

Damn it.

Eyes darting back to the little trouble maker, Ayame, Sanosuke resisted the urge to flinch. The look she wore was of such sweet innocents as to make any pastry look tart by comparison. "Please, Uncle Sano? You don't play with us a lot, you know…"

"Yes, 'Uncle Sano'," His eyes found Kaoru again, an undeniable look of vicious pleasure on her teenage features. Pleasure at his obvious discomfort, and her being there to witness it. "I think it would be just wonderful if you were to play with them. Ayame is right, you never have. You always let Kenshin, Megumi, or Dr. Gensi and I have the pleasure. I think it would be a good experience for you." The girl softened her smile then, though her eyes still twinkled with amusement. "I'll be sure to make extra food for you, Sanosuke."

Double damn it.

Well, what could he say to that? He'd just taken a nasty blow to his conscience, his sense of duty, and his stomach. Okay, so that had been bribery aimed at his stomach… Raising his bandaged right hand behind his neck, he rested it there and looked helplessly at the wooden planks on the porch floor. "I ah… I don't think I know what kinda games you play."

Ayame, apparently having sensed her victory, latched onto the leg her sister didn't have. "That's okay, Uncle Sano, we'll teach you!"

"Yeah, we'll teach you!"

Kaoru laughed and caught Sanosuke's eye again. "Well, I can see that your in good hands, I'll just go and prepare lunch now."

And she padded happily into the dojo on her sandaled feet. Leaving the ex-gangster all alone in unexplored terrain with two little girls. What kinda games do you play with little girls, anyhow? Kenshin had that damned ball out a lot… He was brought back to the moment by the two little girls giggling. They were both tugging hard on his pants. "Sit, Uncle Sano." Commanded little Suzume.

Obediently (prolly for the first time in years), he sat. Legs sprawled in front of him and butt on the porch. Each girl pointedly claimed a leg and sat on it. Ayame nodded to her partner in crime, er, sister. "That's much better. Now we have to decide what game to play."

Suzume giggled again and maneuvered so that she straddled Sanosuke's left leg and bounced up and down on his knee in her exuberance. Kids had way too much energy. "Let's play tea party!"

'Uncle Sano' felt his eyebrow twitch. He hoped that which ever Kami out there had come up with this little joke, was having a very good laugh right now. Ayame smiled happily. "Yeah! With the rain we had last night; we can make good mud pies for Uncle Sano to eat!"

Unbidden, a visual of himself, face coated in mud, two ecstatic little girls, and all the adults laughing in the backdrop came to mind. Nope. He was hungry and all, but not desperate. "No."

Both little girls pouted for a moment at the young man's no-arguments response. Didn't take 'em long to get over it. "Okay!" Ayame smiled, "Then let's play house! I can be the mommy, Uncle Sano can be the daddy, and…"

"I can be the baby!" Chimed Suzume.

Sanosuke shuddered at the premise of the whole thing… If he was playing 'house' with anyone, it would be a lady of ill repute who's at least two years older than him. Not the same thing as the kids were thinking of, he knew. Well, he was a teenage male, after all. Eww… The ex-gangster shuddered again before blurting, "Hell no!"

Ayame gave him a dirty look. "You shouldn't say naughty things like that, Uncle Sano."

Oh boy, being lectured by a six year old. Putting on a face that he hoped looked properly chastised; he waited for the girls to continue brain storming. Once again, it didn't take long. Suzume bounced on his leg again and stated, "Let's play Princess and the handsome heroic Samurai!"

That sounded a bit more promising, long as he wasn't supposed to be one of the princesses. "How do we play that?"

Ayame grinned. "Me and Suzume are princesses being held captive by a big and mean dragon. You gotta be the brave samurai who comes and rescues us."

Sanosuke chuckled. He didn't like playing by other people's rules and he had a fun little twist to add on to this game. "All right." He stood with out warning, causing the little girls to scramble to their feet. "We can play that game. But I don't wanna be the samurai. I'm the big mean dragon and you guys' had best run!"

The two little girls looked at him, and then shared a look between them. Abruptly they both burst out into laughter and took off running across the yard. Sanosuke trailed after them, growling, roaring, waving his arms about (while fighting the smile off his face), and over all prolly looking quite the mad man.

On one of their laps around the yard he spotted Kaoru stepping back onto the porch; no doubt wondering at the game which involved this much noise to play. She smiled and kneeled on the porch to watch them. The ex-gangster smirked in a mock-evil way when he saw little Suzume trip and land on her nose in the dirt. Taking a quick tally to make sure the girl was unhurt, he pounced on her. On his knees with either hand planted in the dirt just inches from her shoulders, he waited for her to flip over. He smiled down at child, "You know what happens when the dragon catches a princess?"

Suzume giggled. "He eats her!"

"Nope. He tickles her till she can't laugh no more!"

And he proceeded to do just that. Quite amused with the game, he was having a blast watching the child writhe and squirm, laugh and giggle, as he mercilessly tickled her. Kids were damned cute. Abruptly he found himself tackled from behind. Ayame sprawled over the evil on his back and wrapped her arms about his neck, 'throttling' him. "I'm not gonna let no big, mean, ugly dragon torture my sister like that!" She laughed.

Playing into this, Sanosuke, ehem… the dragon, choked and sputtered. Both girls were laughing quite hard by the time the 'dragon' made its dramatic demise, tipping over onto the yard with a muffled thud. Kaoru seemed to be laughing pretty hard too. After a few beats, Ayame spoke up. "Uncle Sano? I didn't really hurt you, right?"

Opening one chocolate brown eye to the girl he grinned. "'Course not."

"'Kay! But, you know when dragons die, their mouths are supposed to be open and their tongues hang out."

"That so?"

Ayame nodded sagely. With a snort, the young man obliged, setting both girls into another round of giggles. Sanosuke then sat up and raised an eyebrow at the little girls. "Well, now what'cha wanna play?"

Suzume jumped up and down in place. "Let's do that again! But this time I wanna be the dragon!"

The little girl put on a 'fierce' scowl and growled. Then she hissed. And meowed. The young man felt both eyebrows rocket up beneath his ever present red bandanna. "I think your dragon has a cat complex, kid."

Kaoru had silently joined them in the 'playing field' by then and she smiled at the girl too. "Don't mind him, Suzume. Sano's just jealous because you do that so well."

"Right. And you can do better, Jou-chan?"

With an exaggerated wink at the girls, Kaoru turned to him and making a cat scratch motion, hissed. Sanosuke couldn't help it, he started laughing. She hissed again, this time interrupted a bit by a fit of giggles. The ex-gangster shook his head, bandanna tails fluttering. "Don't you have lunch you should be cooking?"

"It's simmering. But if you're going to be that way about it," she grinned, "I'll go back in."

"You'd better. If I wanted ta' eat charcoal, I coulda raided any of the local cook pots in the city."

The girl rolled her eyes. "You know what they say about beggars, Sanosuke."

The young man cocked his head slightly to the side. "Umm… Don't give 'em money or they'll spend it all on sake?"

Kaoru blinked. "No… Beggars can't… You know what? Never mind."

Sanosuke chuckled as with a long suffering sigh, the teen continued back to the dojo. The two little girls were laughing at they're antics. That was fine. What kinda big brother figure would he be to Jou-chan if he didn't harass her every now and again?

Abruptly, the world seemed to stop. There was something wrong, he knew it. He could feel it. As if on cue, the world began moving again. Too fast. That bad thing, it was aimed at Kaoru… The resounding sound of a gunshot rang in the ex-gangster's ears. He pushed his body for motion. Faster, he needed to move faster! It was like some twisted play, he could see what was coming, but it was like he was slogging through mud. Faster!


Not fast enough! Kami damn it! Not Kaoru! He heard a second explosion from a gun barrel as he watched the first bullet tear through the girl's side. The world was moving at such a pace that he could see the spurt of blood as the bullet burst through the skin and clothing of her back. With a wordless yell, he flung himself in a full body hurl at the girl. He felt this bullet graze his ribcage as yet another shot was fired. Tumbling to the ground he rolled half over Kaoru, forming a living shield. With out need.

A ruff voice shouted, "Damned fuck up, you ain't supposed to kill the girl! Just wound her!"

Sanosuke blinked, but didn't move from his position. The fuck? And then he heard two muffled little yells. The kids! Jerking up right he found the dojo grounds had been surrounded. Men with black cloth wrapped about their lower faces. And packing weapons. The ex-gangster didn't care. There were now important lives at stake, and he'd all ready let Kaoru get wounded once. Casting a cool look at the two would-be-ninjas who held the little girls captive, he stated, "I'd put them down, if you know what's good for you."

One of the men nearest him snorted. "Or what, the 'big, mean dragon' will tickle us till we 'can't laugh no more'?"

Sanosuke felt his heart sink. These goons had been hanging around that long, and he hadn't noticed. If Kenshin would've been here… No. Kenshin wasn't here and he was fucking well a big boy that could take care of this on his own. "Oh yeah. You'll be real fucking tickled by what I'm going to do to you."

The man growled and attacked, followed by fifteen cohorts. Whatever this was all about; there was someone rich behind it to fund this kinda thing. Didn't matter right now. None of the guys were particularly good fighters and the battle scene looked a bit more like a tavern brawl. The biggest drunk deckin' all the little guys onto their asses. 'Course, none of 'em were drunk at the moment. And these guys had proven by their initial attack that they didn't fight fair.

He should have known better.

A loud bang abruptly seared his eardrums, but that was nothing compared to the fiery agony that exploded in his shoulder. He found himself on his knees in the dirt; he didn't know how that happened. He did know that there was now blood in the water, and the sharks were moving in. One man jerked his arms up behind his back, while another ground the butt of what could have only been a rifle into the mass of pain that was his shoulder. The shaft of another rifle came up hard into his abdomen, just under his ribs. Sanosuke felt the wind rush out of him. A second and third slam had him doubled over on the ground.

Like some of the more sadistic entry rights that some gangs had, the group of men kicked and punched at the prone figure on the ground until he quit moving. Though that did nothing for the frightened whimpers of the little girls and Jou-chan's plaintive shrieks. Feeling the men move away from him, Sanosuke mentally smirked. Good. He sure as hell was not down for the count yet. He just needed them to move away a little further…

"Grab the cloth. Remember what the boss said about this guy. He doesn't fuckin' well go down this easy!"

The ex-gangster's eyes shot open and he moved to push himself up. Only to be shoved back down by several men his head was jerked back by a hand wound tightly in his hair. His mouth and nose were then covered by a cloth. Sanosuke held his breath. If he breathed, this would be it. He couldn't… A boot was ground roughly into his shoulder, the pain taking a quantum leap into another dimension. He inhaled sharply. A tangy scent assailed him and the world began to spin. The young man struggled to hold the darkness at the edges of his vision at bay.

No! He couldn't let them down this way. Ayame, Suzume, Kaoru… Kenshin. He had gotten stronger to protect his loved ones, not to let them down. Again. No… Just before unconsciousness claimed him, the hazy in between beckoned:

"I ah… I don't think I know what kinda games you play."

"That's okay, Uncle Sano, we'll teach you!"

"Well, I can see that your in good hands, I'll just go and prepare lunch now."

Oh… fuck… no…

Language notes:

Jou-chan: Well, most who read RK fan fiction all ready know this one. In the Japanese version this is Sano's little pet name for Kaoru. Roughly translates to 'Little Miss'.

Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and all characters/ideas related to it do not belong to me. Admittingly, most of what I know of the Japanese culture I've learned through Anime. I didn't do it, folks! And I make no profit from it.

Author's Note: Well, there you go folks! A cliffhanger for you all to complain about . Now now... Anyway. This is my first RK fan fic. I'm not writing that to warn you about my writting skills, trust me, this isn't my first fan fiction period. I tell you that because I feel it's only fair to warn you that I've been, as an author, raised on Dragon Ball Z. I saw you folks cringe! Why'd you think I put my note at the end of the chapter ()

I request reviews. I don't beg for them, I don't play on your conscience for them. I just ask for them. Keep in mind, I can't correct mistakes, or make improvements if I don't know about what needs to be improved. And, they give you this wonderful warm glow to read. (DoC looks about guiltily) Oops said that aloud. Anyway, next chapter coming when I get it typed

As to my DBZ fans, forgive me, but Sanosuke is just nagging at me to be written! And... I need to get out of the romance rut. Need some good old-fashioned blood, gore, and angst. I'll get back to that other story, I promise.