Warning: This is a fusion of Rurouni Kenshin, Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait and several other dragon and maiden books and movies. If you don't like, don't read.

Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin. I also do not own Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait, Patricia C Wrede's Dealing with Dragon's and it's many sequels, Dragonheart, Dragonslayer, any fairy tales that may pop up or the dragon and princess book that I read in grade four that I no longer remember the name of (Although it may or may not have been called 'The Dragon's Princess'). In other words if you recognize it (and possibly even if you don't) then I don't own it. So live with it, because I do. RK and the other stories are the property of their respective owners. I'm just writing this for fun (it's fanfiction, it's supposed to be fun) and will make no money from it. Please do not sue me. You really wouldn't get anything anyway.

Summary: Kaoru's the maiden, guess who the dragon is.

Author's note: Finally a new chapter. And yes I am evil, sorry.

The Dragon and the Maiden

By Colleen

Part 7

The Maiden

Kaoru still couldn't believe that he'd had a second helping of the soup.

She also wasn't sure if she should be angry with him for foiling her revenge or if she should just be amazed that anyone could have eaten more than one bowl of the stuff. Even she'd had trouble finishing hers and she was used to her own cooking.

She looked over at Kenshin, watching to see if he might suddenly bolt for a nearby bush to be sick behind but to no avail. He retained his normal healthy look and was busy adding pieces of clothing and bedding to the wash tub that he had set up by the waterfall fed pool. The only thing she could think was that even when in human form he must still have the digestive fortitude of the dragon he also was.

Oh well even if the soup didn't work at least he'd consented to let her go outside.

Kaoru snorted at the thought. She wasn't sure that she considered being bundled up and deposited on a futon covered square of ground much of an improvement over being in the cave. In fact she was pretty sure the dragon had allowed it only because he could then keep an eye on her while doing the laundry. Still, the fresh air felt good in her lungs and she hadn't realized just how much she'd missed the heat of the sun against her skin.

However even the charm of looking at something other than stone walls eventually had to wear off and Kaoru found her attention drawn once again to the dragon. After a few minutes of watching him scrub and rinse she realized that this was the first time she had been able to study Kenshin when he wasn't completely focused on her alone. Sure there was nothing earth shattering about watching someone doing the laundry but he seemed so different while he did it. In fact if she hadn't known what he really was she would have thought of him as a good natured, and yes, good-looking young man who liked to help out with the household chores.

Once again she wondered just where and why a dragon, even one that could look human, would have learned to cook and do laundry. And how would she have reacted to him if he were just human? What would it be like if the dragon did not exist and there was just Kenshin?

Her breath hitched in her throat and a pain that she had never experienced before caused her heart to lurch as it hit her square in the chest. She moaned slightly and then gasped as she felt a pair of hands grab her by the shoulders and looked up, startled to find Kenshin staring at her with concern.

"Kaoru dono perhaps you have had enough fresh air for one day."

"No, no, I'm fine."

The dragon didn't look like he would be believing that anytime soon but Kaoru waved him off.

"I'm fine, please just continue with what you are doing, besides if I go back in I'll probably just end up making lunch to keep busy." Kaoru held her breath, hoping that the threat of more of her cooking would deter the dragon from sending her back inside.

The dragon froze for a moment before pasting a pleasant look on his face. "I would like to try more of your cooking but I don't want you to over do it. If you're sure that you are fine then perhaps it would be best if you stayed out here until I'm done with the laundry."

Kaoru nodded and gave Kenshin a tight little smile before he headed back to his chore. She didn't know what that burst of pain was but it didn't feel physical. In fact it felt almost spiritual, as if she had brushed up against some part of her soul without knowing it and found it too fragile to touch.

Why the hell would thinking about Kenshin cause that to happen?

The Dragon

Kenshin continued to scrub at the laundry but it was with only part his attention as he made sure to centre all of his ki reading ability on Kaoru. He didn't know what was wrong but he knew a gasp of pain when he heard it and he split his attention off even further from the wash so he could worry about it.

He had planned to tell her that he would be leaving her alone tomorrow while he searched for a new place for her to live but now he wasn't sure that that would be such a good idea. Maybe he should wait just a little longer. Two or three days wouldn't matter too much in the long run.

He looked fully at Kaoru and she gave him a little nod before turning her attention to a butterfly that had decided to land on her sleeve. She smiled sweetly at the brightly coloured insect and as beautiful as its' wings were they were nothing compared to that smile.

Maybe it would be better to wait a week?

Kenshin felt guilt stab through him and he knew that he wouldn't be waiting any longer then the next day. His thoughts of delay weren't due to any worry for Kaoru. Rather they were stemmed from his desire to keep her, a desire that he thought he'd already dealt with.

He knew that she couldn't stay here. Not only would it not be safe for her but also what kind of a life would it be for either of them? She was human and he wasn't and while he could take on the form and was comfortable enough in it he knew that their differences would always be between them.

Of course his parents had managed to work around that problem but they were a special case and given that they had died together at the hands of dragon hunters he didn't think they were an example that he should follow.

Besides his father and mother had loved each other at first sight and while he wouldn't admit to himself he had fallen the same way for Kaoru those many months ago he felt that Kaoru was only tolerating his presence. If she had been free and well enough to leave she would have long ago and as much as he might want that to be different it wasn't.

He would tell her today, right now, and he would ask her if there were any places, any towns or villages other than her own where she might like to live. He would check those ones over first thing tomorrow and then spread out from there.

"Kaoru dono?" He asked, pulling her attention away from the half a dozen butterflies that were now visiting her.

"Yes?"

He opened his mouth and felt it freeze open when the air behind him give a little twist and he noticed Kaoru staring in amazement at something that had appeared at his back.

Oh, please, he thought, don't let it be...

"Baka deshi are you going to introduce me to the young lady or do I have to do it myself?"

Kenshin looked back to see Hiko Seijuro, his godfather and teacher, waiting patiently for an answer.

Oh crap.

The Knight

If Sano hadn't felt as if his guts had been ripped out and danced on he would have found a good deal of amusement with the fact that the two men he had needed to follow home were now content to plod along after him. Instead the only thoughts he had were for the creature that he hoped to destroy and how to do it.

He stopped suddenly and managed to hold his ground when the two hunters behind him failed to notice in time and ran into him.

"What?" Kanbe asked, frowning at the fighter.

"I just thought that maybe I should know what you know about the dragon," Sano replied. "Given your recent close encounter with the thing I thought you might have some idea about how to go about killing it. I was also wondering what happened to your equipment as I can't see either of you being willing to go up against this thing with nothing more than the knives that I know you're carrying."

Kanbe looked startled at Sano's statement about the knives but Tokuma stopped any reply the near giant would have made with a wave of his hand.

"You're absolutely right about the equipment; it is currently stored in a small cave part way up the mountain. We thought it best to scout the area for the dragon without hauling around a harpoon system and spears."

Now it was Sano's turn to frown. "You mean your going after this thing without knowing for sure that you're weapons are still there and in good enough shape to use? Che, just how much are they paying you for this job anyway?"

The two hunters looked at each other with something like guilty knowledge and Sano casually move the zanbatou into a more useable position. Whatever the amount was it must have been huge to get these two whiners back and even though he hadn't lived there for quite a few years he still didn't want to see his village bled dry by the two hunters.

Tokuma gave a little laugh and held his hands up as if to ward off anything Sano might do. "Actually since we had already been paid for the job we told the village elder that we would attempt it again for no extra charge." He smiled at Sano in such a way that the fighter knew the other man was actually telling the truth, but only a very small part of it.

He didn't believe for a moment that these two wouldn't normally do anything like take another try at the dragon for no extra gain. Something was most definitely going on but he suspected it would take more time then he wanted to waste to get anything out of them.

"Tell me everything you know about that dragon and how we can kill it," he said as he turned and started up the mountain trail once again.

"Of course, of course," Tokuma replied and as they continued their trek up the mountain he started to do just that.

The Idiots...er, Hunters

Damn that boy isn't as stupid as he looks, Tokuma thought as he gave the fighter an edited run down of their last meeting with the dragon and what they had learned. Which was very little.

Other than the size of the creature he kept the physical description of the thing to a minimum. Just because everyone in the village hadn't figured out the importance of this dragon didn't mean that the kid wouldn't, especially since he had obviously been outside of the village for quite a few years.

There was far, far to much money riding on this kill and given the trouble that that scaly son of a bitch had already put them through there was no way they were going to share. The kid could have his revenge; they were going to get the cash.

End of Part Seven