Author's Note: I had this idea late one night as I was trying to fall asleep, and it just wouldn't leave me alone until I got up to at least start it. This is a Kenshin/Kaoru story. The lyrics at the end (though this isn't a songfic) are from the song that inspired this story, "Honey and the Moon" by Joseph Arthur. The characters do not belong to me - they belong to Watsuki-sensei.

Warning: Contains an itty-bitty, blink-and-you'll-miss-it spoiler for the Jinchuu arc.

Honey and the Moon
by Maia Serrelinda

A cool breeze blew softly through the dojo. Everyone had settled in for the night - Sanosuke staying overnight, saying he had had too much sake. This familiar excuse brought quickly smothered smiles to the faces of the Kenshin-gumi. Their ex-gangster friend was utterly transparent and also utterly unaware that everyone knew he was just lonely.

Kamiya Kaoru readied herself for bed, loosening her hair from its familiar ponytail to stream down her back in silky blue-black waves. She combed it and braided it loosely, securing the end with a small scrap of plain ribbon, as was her habit at night. Unwrapping her obi and taking off her favorite yellow kimono, she wrapped herself in her sleeping yukata before hanging the other garments with care. The sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze caught her attention, and she stepped out of her room to enjoy the coolness after the stifling heat of the summer day.

The young kenjustu instructor stepped outside, inhaling deeply as the wind brought a welcome freshness to the summer night. The moon was half-full, lighting the dojo's yard more than enough for her to see, and, since Kenshin had been teaching her ki-sensing, she felt completely at ease as she perched on the edge of the walkway just outside her room, dangling her bare feet off so that they nearly touched the bare earth.

The breeze picked up slightly, scattering a few loose leaves around the yard, teasing Kaoru's hair until she gave in to her impulse and loosed her hair, letting the wind lift her hair and tease it. She enjoyed the feel of it cascading down her back and reveled in the sense of well-being nights like this brought her. Her dearest friends - and loved ones - were surrounding her. There was no trouble that she could see on the horizon, and even Yahiko had been calmer than normal lately. She attributed this to Tsubame-chan's attention - Yahiko really had it bad for the Akabeko's young waitress. He was becoming quite the skilled young swordsman as well, going about his practice with an almost single-minded intensity. This, she knew, was Kenshin's influence. Yahiko practically worshipped Kenshin's skill with the sakabatou.

Kaoru closed her eyes and stretched her arms out behind her, leaning back to support herself on her elbows. She turned her face to the direction the wind was originating from, letting it tease locks of her hair away from her face.

******

Kenshin had gone off to bed when the others did. After readying himself for bed - a fairly simple process, since the only thing he did to prepare for bed was change into a sleeping yukata and loosen his hair, keeping it only very loosely tied back - he began his habitual round of the dojo and its grounds, making sure everyone was safe.

He cringed inwardly as he thought that Kaoru would definitely not be happy if she knew he did this every night. In addition to his bedtime patrol, he often rose at least once in the night, since he slept lightly if at all, and made the same rounds, taking special care to check Kaoru's room. He usually only stopped outside Yahiko's room to listen for the young boy's deep, even breathing, but he often slid aside Kaoru's door to make sure, not trusting the sounds of her sleep. He felt a need to make sure she was sleeping peacefully by seeing it with his own eyes. Since Enishi had "killed" her he wouldn't take the chance of losing her again.

He first stopped by the door to Sanosuke's room, although since his friend snored rather loudly, he normally didn't need to. However, tonight Sano was quiet, and Kenshin slid the door aside, "oro"ing softly when Sano greeted him with a whispered "Gotta check up on Jou-chan, ne?" Sano grinned and Kenshin felt a blush suffuse his cheeks as he turned without a word and went on to Yahiko's room.

Tonight it was Yahiko's turn to snore, and Kenshin grinned as he passed by, not bothering to slow. He passed by his own empty room as he approached Kaoru's room. He paused outside the door, listening for her slow, even breathing. When he didn't hear it, he stretched his senses out to feel for her ki. It was there, but more distant than normal. Slightly alarmed, he slid her door aside to find an empty and unmussed futon, Kaoru's kimono and obi neatly hung on the rack at one end of the room. Closing the door again, he felt for her ki again, realizing that it was leading him outside.

He stepped outside silently and was captivated by the sight in front of him. Kaoru was propped up on her elbows, her lovely features bathed in the gentle light of the moon as a gentle smile played about her lips. Her hair, he noticed, was loose and moved freely with the wind, which was picking up. He caught the faint scent of rain on the breeze as he continued to watch her, wondering what exactly she could be thinking to bring that exact mixture of wistfulness and happiness to her face at the same time.

"Kenshin?" she whispered softly. "I know you're there, I can sense you. I thought you would have finished with your nightly rounds already."

A soft "Oro?" confirmed Kaoru's suspicions, and her smile deepened.

"There's nothing to worry about, Kenshin. I'm just enjoying the night breeze. I think it's going to rain, don't you?"

"Aa, sessha agrees with you, Kaoru-dono," the rurouni said.

Kaoru shifted her weight to one arm as she released the other to gently pat the space beside her. "Why don't you join me, Kenshin? It's not usual that we get some quiet time around this place."

He stepped forward as Kaoru finally opened her eyes, keeping her gaze on the swirling leaves. He sat next to her, careful to keep a respectable distance away from her.

"Ano, Kaoru-dono....you knew sessha checks on you?" She could hear the slightly embarrassed tone to his voice and smothered a wide grin.

"Kenshin no baka!" she scolded gently. "Of course I knew. After what happened with Enishi, I thought that if that was what it took to settle your mind, I wasn't going to complain."

Kenshin smiled and fell silent. The wind picked up again, this time bringing spatters of warm rain with it. Kaoru sighed with contentment. "I've always loved nights like this. My father used to sit up with me when it rained. We would sit outside, just like this."

Kenshin could hear the note of sadness that tinged her soft voice. The rain intensified, warm and still gentle as it washed the dust of summer from the dojo's roof, spattering Kenshin's and Kaoru's bare feet. The moon was still visible through the haze of clouds, and Kaoru turned her face towards its gentle light.

Kenshin thought that he had never seen a more beautiful sight. He reached out a hand towards her swaying hair, fighting the desire to stroke the glossy mass as he reluctantly pulled his hand away. As much as he loved her, as much as he knew she loved him, he still couldn't bring himself to make that first move. It would change their relationship irrevocably. He wanted to leave it to her, reluctant to spoil a solid friendship if she was not absolutely certain.

A sudden flash of lightning lit the sky brilliantly, silhouetting the trees and nearby buildings in vibrant light. "Kirei!" Kaoru gasped.

"Aa," Kenshin agreed. Kaoru turned to find that Kenshin was looking at her, not the brilliant display of Nature's power. She flushed under his violet gaze, but did not turn away.

Kaoru was stunned at the intensity she saw in Kenshin's eyes. She knew that they were both dancing warily around something, but she wasn't sure she was quite ready to take that step yet. She had a feeling Kenshin was waiting - waiting for her to make the first move. She had been thinking about almost nothing else for weeks, and although she had already made up her mind, the look in his eyes, that intense gaze that left her breathless, confirmed her decision.

She had thought that she would be nervous. She thought she would be uncertain and unsure. She was pleasantly surprised at how natural, how right it felt to lay her head on Kenshin's shoulder. She felt him stiffen for a split second before his arm came up to rest on her shoulder, his hand winding stray tendrils of her hair around his fingers. Kaoru sighed happily and leaned into him.

The couple remained that way for several minutes. The rain continued to pound the packed earth ad the couple took the time to simply be close to one another.

The intensity of the storm abated slightly. Kaoru sat up, careful not to dislodge Kenshin's arm that still rested on her shoulder. She turned to face him and smiled at him.

"Ne, Kenshin?" she asked.

"Hai?" he responded.

"You won't leave us again, will you?" She watched the play of emotions across his expressive features and was more than a little shocked to find that hot tears were sliding down her face at the thought that he might leave her again, the way he had when he'd gone to Kyoto.

Kenshin's breath left him with a whoosh and with a speed that surprised her, he gathered her up in his arms and settled her in his lap, holding her tightly, as if he was trying to make her a part of himself. He buried his head in her hair, inhaling the fragrance of her, feeling her surprise yet unable to release her just yet.

"Koishii, I'm not going anywhere unless you want me to," he murmured into her hair. Kaoru's body relaxed against his and she tucked her head into the crook of his neck.

"I don't think I could stand it if you left again, Kenshin," she said softly. She felt his fingers tracing the outline of her neck and shivered slightly as an unfamiliar warmth settled in the pit of her stomach. His fingers tilted her head up to look at him, and she barely had time to register the tender look in his eyes before his lips claimed hers.

He kissed her gently, aware that this was most likely her first kiss. Sliding his hand from beneath her chin around to rest on the back of her neck, he slid his tongue across her soft lips, pleasantly surprised when her lips opened slightly and her tongue shyly touched his. He smothered a groan and deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth as he poured all of his emotions into this one kiss.

Kaoru was totally unprepared for the feelings that swept over her when he kissed her. She'd expected something completely different. She'd expected to be awkward and shy, but somehow it seemed like she knew exactly what to do and how to respond. She reached her hands up behind his head and loosened his brilliant red hair from its tie, freeing it from its confinement to shelter the couple with a shining red curtain. She slid her hands around to rest one on either of his cheeks, gently stroking his distinctive scar with the pad of one thumb. She broke off the kiss, placing kisses all along the scar, as if she could heal his inner pain by her actions.

Kenshin curled his hands around her back, embracing her tightly. They sat in silence for a short time, reveling in their new closeness and in the peacefulness of the rain and the gentle wash of the moon's light.

After a short time, Kenshin realized that Kaoru was dozing softly in his arms. Reassured that she would feel so completely protected in his arms, he stood and, with her in his arms, walked back into the dojo.

Sliding open the door to Kaoru's room, he gently placed her sleeping form on her futon, tucking the coverings securely around her. Right before he stood up, he looked at her once again, surprised to find her watching him with a soft smile and love radiating from her eyes. He smiled at her and leaned down to kiss her softly on the forehead, then on the lips.

"Kenshin?" she whispered softly. "Ai...aishiteru."

"Aishiteru, koishii. Sleep well." Kenshin smiled at her one last time before stepping into the hallway, sliding the door silently closed behind him.

Kaoru drifted back to sleep peacefully as Kenshin completed his aborted rounds and returned to his own room. He was surprised to find that he could quite easily sense Kaoru's ki, without even trying. He knew that she was already deeply asleep and dreaming. He had time to hope that her dreams were of him before he slid into the first deep, restful sleep he had had in years.

******

We're made out of blood and rust
Looking for someone to trust
Without a fight
I think that you came too soon
You're the honey and the moon
That lights up my night

-owari-