Author's Note: The title to the chapter is somewhat confusing. Quixotic means caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality or impulsive. Quarter, in the sense I used it, means mercy or clemency, especially when displayed or given to an enemy. Thus quixotic quarter, this would mean impulsive mercy. I thought it sounded cool, okay? Excuse my use of large words! I'm dedicating this chapter to Scarlet Rayne for seeing me important enough to regain contact with!

Adrenaline Adoration

Chapter 7- Quixotic Quarter

Kaoru clung desperately to her legs, pulling them as close to her body as humanly possibly. There were tears trailing down her cheeks, littering the red kimono she wore with blackened splotches where they fell. Her usually vibrant aura was small and dull, shaded with fear and shrinking with sorrow. The paste white color of her skin was frightening; she appeared to be dead already. Short, gasping breaths were the only clue that she was indeed still alive. As she lay there like a limp doll, only one word could come to Kenshin's mind.

Fragile… she looked so frail.

Leaning to the side in defeat, Kaoru started to fall from inside the closet directly into Kenshin's arms. She made a feeble attempt to push him away, mumbling incoherently about Kiyo and how she didn't want him to touch her. His eyes softened and Kenshin clung to her, drawing her close to his chest in a protective, gentle embrace. This new Kaoru was so hauntingly weak, a ghost of her former self. Her movements were pathetic and almost teasing, like she wasn't trying. The way she trembled told of her terrified state; it made Kenshin's heart twist into odd, agonizing angles.

"Kaoru…" Kenshin started, hoping to relieve her fears.

She passed out before he could finish.

Misao had been standing by the doorway, her eyes searching the halls for guards or Kiyo himself. As Kenshin scooped his fallen angel up into his arms and stood, Misao began making rapid movements with her palm, signaling a danger he couldn't decipher. She turned and glared at Kenshin when she realized he hadn't moved yet. Hadn't the urgency of her signal been enough to alert him?

"You need to go! Kiyo's coming!" she hissed. "I can hold him off and then get out on my own. Just go!"

Emotions raged within his head; Kenshin wasn't sure what to do. Kiyo was here and he could dispose of the bastard once and for all, but he also had Kaoru. Could he really take the risk of losing her again because he blindly attempted to fight the madman that had pushed her into her current state? Kenshin knew he couldn't risk her getting hurt now, she was already wounded enough. He had to get out of there before Kiyo could corrupt her again.

He would deal with Kiyo later. Keeping Kaoru saferight thenwas the most important thing. He had given her up so easily before, unknowingly selling her to the devil.

There was no way he could make the same mistake again.

Darkness covered the dojo. It was well past midnight when Kenshin had finally arrived back home with Kaoru. She still hadn't woken up, which was something that he was partially grateful for; as much as he yearned to assure her that she was safe, he knew he couldn't handle her right now. His blood was boiling. There was a rage inside his heart he could have never imagined; all the times Kenshin had thought he was angry before could have never amounted to the anger that burned within him now. It was demonic.

When he had run into Kaoru on the Tokyo streets and seen how submissive she was, worry had begun to spread throughout him. He had known something was wrong, but never had he imagined it would be this rancid. The rotten life he had basically abandoned Kaoru to had corrupted her; every square inch of her body and being had been marred with insidious memories that he could never hope to cleanse her of. This was something she would have to live with for the rest of her life.

Never had he blamed himself so much for something… he had vowed to protect her, and he had failed. Kenshin knew he never should have given Kaoru up to Kiyo; that was the biggest mistake he had ever made. His senses never failed him before, so why didn't he state his unwavering distrust of the man in the first place? If anything, he should have done it for her; the sadness that was in her expression before she left had told her story. He should have forgotten that speaking his mind on Kiyo woudl have benefitted him and just focused on what Kaoru had wanted to begin with; her tears told her truth, even though she went agaisnt it just as he had.

She never wanted this to begin with, andKenshin had done absolutely nothing toprotect her from the bad choice they had both made.

He had just sat back in his own despair and ignored the fact that he could have saved her from this long ago. It didn't have to come to him sneaking into the Nishawagi home and stealing her back. If he had only stepped up and said something, spoke of his disapproval and stated his reasons, none of this would have happened.

Kaoru would still be smiling.

Kenshin wasn't sure who to be angry with anymore; himself or Kiyo. Rightfully, Kiyo had done the wrongdoing, but Kenshin knew he could have halted it before it ever began. There was never a time he had second guessed his actions or reasons, but now he wasn't sure he could ever trust himself. If he could make such small errors that could lead to something this horrendous, what other kinds of damage could he do? Hadn't he already done enough damage in his youth? It didn't make sense that all his mistakes had toreciprocate and hurt Kaoru. His prescene was slowly killing her in an indirect manner, and he knew it.

Leaving Kaoru now was out of the question, though. Sanosuke and Yahiko were no where near to help her now; Kenshin wasn't even sure he would entrust her safety to them in the first place. She had become so brittle and frail now; he was afraid their rough and tumble ways would unknowingly break her.

Cradling her to him gently, Kenshin closed and locked the dojo gate and then headed inside, traveling down the comforting familiarity of its protective walls. There was no sound as he padded across the unused dojo and toward the connecting shoji door; he moved like the shadow he was in the past, his eyes and senses alert to any oncoming threat. This was the only place Kenshin could truly feel secure, but even here he knew there was danger. It could be lurking beyond the door he was opening, or in the room he was headed toward.

Following the hall to Kaoru's old room, Kenshin slid the door open again and blinked a few times until he could adjust to the dark and spot her old futon. Stepping over and kicking the bedding until it fell into a crisp, flat placement upon the floor, Kenshin lowered Kaoru down onto the mattress. After adjusting her position and setting her head gently upon the headrest, he reached for a small blanket and set it overtop of her.

She was sleeping now. She was safe.

There was no reason for him to hesitate.

His palm lay upon her forehead, gently pushing her bangs away from the pale shades of her face, exposing her to his view. Even with everything he went through to find her, part ofKenshin didn't believe she was there. Something wasn't right… this wasn't Kaoru. It was her body, but not her. There was a light sadness in his eyes as he knelt beside her, his hand settled gently upon the crown of her head. It was ironic how he had her here and yet managed to truly leave her with Kiyo anyway, simply because he had been too late.

She was there with him, but it was just the shell, her body. Kaoru's vivacity, her lively personality… her spark, had died in that house, and remained there to rot away. That was something Kenshin knew he could never bring back to her. She had fought too long on her own and lost the war; all he could do now was hope he could build her back up to a livable state.

Rape… Kiyo had been raping her. The truth of that fact had been proven to him that night; there was not much else that could bring Kaoru down to the pathetic state he saw her in when he opened that closet. Even if she was scared, there was no way she would cower and hide like that. Kiyo had slowly broken her down, piece of by piece, tearing her life from her and storing it away where she could never grasp it again. It was torture Kenshin could only envision, and the anger it rooted in him made his free hand fist together.

Why did have to be her?

Kenshin stood, shutting the door to Kaoru's room. All those nights he had spent outside her door, protecting her from the shadows, were now gone. He was staying with her that night; he wanted her within his sights. Nothing was going to get to her unless they were planning on dealing with him first.

Stopping suddenly, Kenshin turned his angry gaze toward the closet. He wasn't alone, but the aura was familiar and held no hostility. He calmed a small amount; he had been expecting this guest from the beginning.

"Aoshi, come out."

The door slid open a little, and Aoshi slithered out, his coat the only thing making noise as he pushed onward to a corner where he had full advantage of sight and disguise. Kenshin kept his eyes directly on him; Aoshi was by no means a threat, but he was also not there for joyful chit chat. There were certain expressions that even Aoshi couldn't keep from his face, and serious was definitely one of them.

"You didn't listen to me. I told you the Oniwabanshu would be taking her out of the home in a week."

"She didn't have a week." Kenshin growled. "One more week and she would have been dead."

Aoshi made no attempt to show that the comment had truth. "I also told you Misao was with her. She knows how to do her job."

"I don't care." Kenshin stated, the final tone in his voice echoing off the walls.

"That was a fool move, Battousai." He continued. "I think it is in your best interests to let us keep watch on you. Kiyo cancelled his business trip and sent out search parties for Kaoru."

"Misao didn't get out without injury, did she?" Kenshin guessed, reading the filtering emotions that rushed through Aoshi's eyes.

"Her state is not of importance now." He responded, the attempt at keeping his voice emotionless very apparent. "I'm not here to discuss Misao."

"I wasn't going to just fly in." Kenshin told him. "Misao told me to take Kaoru out."

There was a moment of surprise in Aoshi's expression; obviously Misao had left that small detail out when she reported back to him. Aoshi crossed his arms and remained silenced, thinking over what to do next. He peered down at Kaoru momentarily, taking in all he could from her appearance andthe spike in Kenshin's ki when he had glanced at her. The protective nature within Kenshin had been filtered into a dangerous mixture, and Aoshi could sense that; he wasn't separated into two personas any longer. Battousai and rurouni were no long split parts of Kenshin; they had melded into one.

"You will kill for her now. There is no hesitation in you any longer."

Kenshin didn't respond.

"I thought as much." Aoshi answered, pushing himself off the wall using his shoulders. "We will keep watch on Kiyo and alert you to any threat. Be gentle with her, Battousai."

Aoshi stepped from the room, disappearing into the darkness of the dojo halls. Silence suffocated the room as Kenshin shut the door one more time, pivoting on his heel to look back at the girl on the futon. She lay there motionless, breathing peacefully in a restless sleep. So many ironies in one small, insignificant act… that was ironic and haunting in itself.

Kenshin's attention was diverted to a glare at the foot of Kaoru's futon, sticking defiantly from underneath her kimono where it had been hiding. He neared her slowly and knelt beside her, pulling the offending object away and inspecting it. Had she been hiding this inside her kimono? Whatit was highly surprised him; what use would she have for something like this?

It was a small knife, not large enough to be considered of much use. The blood that was encrusted around the tip scared him; where had it come from? Kenshin leaned back against the wall and propped his sword up against his shoulder as he inspected the small blade in his grasp. It was well built for something that served little to no purpose, and it even appeared custom made. Kiyo's name was encrested into the handle, symbolizing his ownership.

Anger bubbled in Kenshin's heart again.

Did Kiyo use this to hurt her? That would explain the blood, and why it had still been with her; it was possible she had fought it out of his grasp and then hid in the closet, hiding the knife with her to keep it from him. Kenshin had half the heart to pull her blanket back and check Kaoru for injuries, but he knew better. He hadn't spotted any intense amounts of blood, and he didn't want her waking up feeling he had violated her just the same as Kiyo.

That would have to wait until Kaoru woke up.

Kenshin settled back against the wall, pushing himself into the half sleep of a hitokiri, where he could be alert to danger and still resting. He would spend his nights like this until he felt Kaoru was safe; he was not going to leave her alone or abandon her again.

Author's Notes: Yes. A short little chapter, but it's an update I've been hoping to get up for some time. For any readers of my 'Breaking Through' story, that may not be updated again for quite some time. I started it on my other computer, where it was on Powerpoint… and that computer is now long gone, so I'll have to go through all the chapters to re-read and start up again, and I may not start that until I finish this story and a few of my other ones. I apologize.

Love you all!

Crystal Renee