Konichiwa, minna-san! I started this today, and decided to post it, but I need reviews to continue on to chapter 2, so review or this is a one shot J

Summary: So Kenshin and Kaoru called it quits before it ever began. And now there's a new man, an oil tycoon from Kyoto. Nani? How long have you known him Kaoru-dono? And you want to do what? Do you not think that's rushing things? NO! Sessha must win her back, or win her for the first time, or something like that……

On with the story:

Chapter 1: Paradise Lost

Yeah, yeah so I'll admit it. I'm more than a little afraid of my mother's possessions…I mean, just the sight of them gives me a case of the shivers. It's not because she was mean or anything, but because, well, she's dead. I don't even like her things in the dojo anymore, its bad luck, you know. And I don't need any more bad luck than I've got already.

        It's not like I didn't love her, we were just different. And I think half of our problem was that she never had the time to know me. She was a strikingly beautiful, accented with simple adornments, one of her heavy brocade kimonos could have kept my little family, Kenshin, Yahiko, Sano and me, in rice for a few years at least. But shortly after her death, bandits pillaged our house and took most of her things.

        So you can imagine my surprise when I found a wooden box with my name written in elaborate katakana under one of the floorboards in my room. I knew that writing although I hadn't seen it in many seasons. And as I placed my fingers on the lid of the box, an image of her burning incense at the town shrine for her protective Kami came back to me. Her raven locks almost brushed the floor as she walked and her hair was adorned with one beautifully detailed pearl comb, her obi stretched for what seemed like miles and the intricate patterns played with the sparse sunshine in the temple interior. She was so lovely.

        Mother.

        My hands pressed against the mahogany and slowly I slid the lid between my fingers…and gasped.

        And what was inside this box, you ask?

********

        Someone was furiously stomping in the kitchen.

        Kenshin heard it, rather, he heard her, and smiled. Well, that was fine, she could make breakfast today, he would just have to grin and grimace through the charred food. But, he had been hoping for something…edible.

*****

        "Hnnn." Her ponytail rustled up against her freshly washed kimono as she growled at a shaft of boiled bamboo. Any minute, she realized, this underestimated foe would spring up and try to kill and destroy her and the food she was preparing. But she was ready, and the long kitchen knife glinting in the morning sun proved it. Just as the bamboo jumped off the counter to attack her,

        "KYAA!" Kaoru sliced like someone partially insane, which was not too far from the truth. Bamboo shoots went flying up into the air in a very gory display, harsher than even the Battousai could muster. She had made it rain vegetables.

        "Umm, Kaoru-dono?"

        His pink gi swayed in the air current making its way around the kitchen. Kenshin looked so handsome, one hand resting on his hip.

        "Hai?" She picked a piece of bamboo out of her hair.

        "Can sessha help?"

        Kaoru frowned. No. On this day of all days, she would do this on her own. "Hai, Kenshin. Will you wake

Yahiko-kun up?"

        A placid smile painted his still features. Had she, had she been on the verge of snapping at him? "Hai, Kaoru-dono, I will."

        "Hey, Kenshin! What's for breakfast?"

        "Segara Saosuke, I can smell the sake from here!" Kaoru yelled back as Sano made his way through her dojo. "And if you haven't noticed, Kenshin's not cooking this morning. I am."

        "Well, in that case, sayonara!"

        "Oh no you don't!" Kaoru grabbed his white jacket and pulled the fighter-for-hire over to her little table, forcing him to sit or face the same fate as the bamboo.

*****
        'Let's see… fish? Is that fish or burnt wood? And, dear Kami, please tell me that's rice. And what the hell, a deformed piece of bamboo?' Yahiko thought as he surveyed the spread in front of him. 'And I don't even wanna guess what that is.' He eyed a grey lumpy dish of what appeared to be some kind of strange sauce. He was almost positive it eyed him back.

        "Well, come on, everyone. Dig in!" Kaoru's fresh blue eyes shone.

        'Kami bless her. And Kami bless me for eating this shit!' With that, Yahiko bravely picked up his chopsticks and prepared for battle with his food.

        A few seconds of silence, of three men praying that their death by putrid breakfast would be fast and painless. Sano crunched down on something in his rice that he thought, yes he was sure, was a fingernail.

        "Well, it's certainly not like mom used to make…" He jested while holding his white sleeve out of the way to take a sip of tea.

        "Yeah, not like mom used to make." Yahiko closed his eyes and smiled, awaiting the flying 'baka's and bokkens that would no doubt befall him. He knew she would say what she always said, '200 strokes!', and it was a kind of comforting daily ritual.

        He waited.

        And waited with his eyes shut.

        But nothing came.

        Finally, Yahiko opened up one eye a tiny bit to sneak a peak at Kaoru and saw her sitting perfectly still, her teacup halfway to her mouth, and her eyes harboring hurt.

        "K…Kaoru, I didn't mea-" He started. But as he did, she rose in a quiet, stormy way and fled the room with her shoulders shaking a bit. Any other day, she would have taken it as a joke, but today of all days…

         "I didn't mean it!" Yahiko yelled after her, but no reply was given.

        "Kami, what's her problem?" Sano stared after her, and then felt something cold upon his person, a deadly energy. He turned to meet a pair of razor sharp eyes upon him. belonging to one very angry wanderer. "Umm, Kenshin? Didja swallow some bad bamboo?"

        Kenshin coughed, radiating contempt into the air around him. "If you will excuse me." He stated coldly. No 'sessha', no 'de gozaru yo', just plainly in a horrible Hitokiri way that made the muscles in Sano's belly contract.

        He picked up Kaoru's teacup and headed off down the hallway.

*****

        The paper-thin door was still open, she hadn't bothered to close it in her fury, and Kenshin snuck up on her without much effort.

        Kaoru sat in front of a large floor mirror in her room, her black hair strewn about her shoulders as she tore at it with a sandalwood comb. Kenshin could hear the hairs breaking from where he stood, her fingers flying furiously through the strands. As he watched, she tangled the comb in her hair and it stuck there, a mess about her head. He stepped lightly until she could see him in the glass, and then crouched down directly behind her.

        "You left your tea, de gozaru yo. It is not good to skip breakfast, so sessha thought maybe you would drink a little of it in here, that I did." He placed the teacup at her side and then went to work on getting the comb free from her obsidian locks. Her hair gave way under his nimble hands and soon he was combing through her lovely hair with broad and sweeping strokes. Kaoru's face in the mirror showed an expression of wonderment, her little crimson lips parted as if she could think of nothing to say and her teacup held but inches away from her mouth. Kenshin met her eyes in the looking glass.

        "Oh Kenshin." She choked out, her breathing uneven and her eyes near tears.

        "Nani?"

        "What…what will happen when I'm old and I have no one, no one to…I'm nothing like a proper….like my…I can do nothing…" A lone tear rolled down her cheek and she sighed. "I can't cook, or wash clothes properly. I mean, I can't even brush my hair for Kami-sama's sake."

        Kenshin bent close to her ear to whisper. "Is Kaoru-dono replacing me? Sessha will take care of you when you are old, if you will allow it de gozaru yo. You are like a sister to sessha, I would never let you go un-cared for." He knew that 'sister' was a lie, he was well aware, but he also knew that he was not worthy. And truth be told, he had been thinking the same thing about Kaoru-dono lately. She needed someone perfect, someone to love her without the fear of her being captured all of the time.

        He would love her forever, from a distance…

        His past would not mar her future.

        He brushed away a tear that was still lingering on her cheek.

        Kaoru set her tea down on the floor and placed her face in her hands, small sobs beginning to fill the room.

        "Oh…" Kenshin exclaimed as he turned her around to face him, to close his arms around her and place his cheek upon the crown of her head. Her small hands entwined themselves in the front of his gi and she buried her face in his chest, even now he could feel the multitude of her tears soaking through the fabric to meet his skin.

        She was saying something through her tears, but it was so muffled that he could not understand her.

        It was probably a good thing he couldn't.

        He was truly sorry for her, sorry for himself that he could not allow his heart to love her because of the danger it posed. But seeing her in pain from his words was almost worse. 

        "There, there," he said as he rubbed small circles on her back. He needed something to get her mind off of the present situation she was in, anything. Then, his eyes spied something sitting at the corner of the mirror. It was a pearl comb, an old one from before the Meiji, a lovely hand carved lotus blossom motif adorning its corners. He picked it up with his spare hand and began to sweep her hair upwards with the help of it, began to set it in place.

        But suddenly, she wrenched herself from his hold and grabbed the comb from him. Kaoru brushed away her tears with the back of her hand, discarded them as if they were worthless, and stood over him in a position of defiance.

        "Arigato." She said curtly, her voice taking an austere tone. And with that she turned her back to him to stare at an ink painting on the far wall.

        Kenshin stayed seated and stunned, not budging.

        She whirled around again, still holding the comb between her hands. "I said arigato." Kaoru bit into him in a less than subtle attempt to get him to leave.

        He rose in an unhurried way and strolled out of the room, shocked at her words and the voice she had used with him.

        The last thing he heard was the door slamming behind him as he walked down the hall, a defiant slamming intended to shut him out permanently.

A/N

NANI? KENSHIN AND KAORU HAVING TIFFS?! WHERE IS THIS GOING!? Do you want to see? Well, I need reviews to continue, otherwise the buck stops here.  Next chapter (if one exists) I take you to a graveyard and we meet someone we never thought existed. Thanks for your time!

Lara-chan