A Rurouni Kenshin Fanfiction
By the Dragon's Daughter
Summary: In the smoky streets of London, a battle is brewing. Kenshin is a former business man who has just discovered life in all its varied forms. Kaoru, a vampire, is running for her life when a certain red-head stumbles into it. Modern-Day AU.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. I am making no profit by writing this fan fiction. It is intended for recreation purposes only.
Rating: R for language and violence
Pairing: Kenshin/Kaoru, Aoshi/Misao, and Sano/Meg
Chapter One: There's a Moon Over Baker's Street Tonight
Kaoru stared up at the moon that hung low and swollen as a pregnant woman over the smoky rooftops and chimneys of London.
She sat atop the sagging roof of a low-built tenement. Somewhere in the distance there was a dog barking, and someone played a radio too loud. She could hear the jazzy acoustics of 'Moon over Bourbon Street' straining into the thick darkness.
The chorus caught her attention and she sang softly along with it.
"… oh, you'll never see my shape, or hear the sound of my feet while there's a moon over Bourbon Street…"
She caught hold of a wiry old television antenna and leaned out over the lamp-lit street below her. It was deserted, until her keen ears picked up the sharp staccato beat of expensive shoes on cobblestone. Smiling she sang the song from memory.
"There's a Moon over Bourbon Street tonight…" her soft soprano drifted down to earth and coiled into the dense fog that blanketed the street. The footsteps slowed and halted.
Kaoru released the antenna and fell forward into the void before her, arms spread wide with acceptance. She smiled as the rush of air brushed her dark hair away from her face.
There was a single footstep that faltered and stopped as though the owner of those expensive shoes hadn't intended to take that step and had tried to reclaim it.
Fool, Kaoru thought at him, you can never take back what you've sent out.
Agile as a cat, she twisted in mid-air and landed on the pavement without so much as a whisper of sound. She rose dreamily to glide forward on bare feet. A warm breeze teased the hem of her sun dress causing the scarlet material to billow out around her thighs.
She slipped out of the alley to curl around a lamp post and beckon to that dark figure in the street. A feral grin curved on her red lips and she extended one pale arm out to the man in expensive shoes.
"I see people as they pass me in the pale lamplight…" she sang in a husky contralto.
The man in the street wasn't tall or built, but there was power in his movements. He wore a three piece suit of good cut and quality fabric, but he wore it uncomfortably. It was no stretch of the imagination to see him in faded jeans a t-shirt. His hat was low brimmed and disguised the top half of his face, but the line of his law was firm and his skin pale.
Kaoru ran her tongue over her slick white teeth and smiled at him. She deliberately cocked her hips at him in a come-hither gesture.
The man's head tilted in her direction. His eyes caught the lamplight briefly and threw gold sparks at her. He took a step in her direction and then another.
She unwrapped herself from the lamp post and padded up to him. Without asking permission, she slipped her arms around his neck and let her body mold against his.
"New in town, sweet?" she purred.
His gold eyes narrowed and one gloved hand closed around her wrist to peel her off his neck. "I'm in no mood for your games, vampire." He growled.
Kaoru's smile widened. "No games, were-man." She purred. "I'm the welcome party. It's not good for our kind to wander the streets alone at night. London is an Old Town; they know us here and how to hunt us. You should come with me to where we meet." She let her arms trickle down his chest and spun away from him. She halted a few feet away and beckoned to him with one immaculately painted fingernail. "Come on, follow me."
Without another word she slipped into the shadows of the alley from whence she came. The man hesitated until the strains of her voice came back to haunt him.
"…I've no choice but to follow that call…"
Slowly, almost unwillingly his feet turned to the shadows and he followed her into the underbelly of London.
Kenshin knew better than to follow a Vampire in her choice of terrain, but he also knew that this one had spoken truthfully. Europe was the last place in the Modern world where the humans remembered the superstitions of their forebears. On every other continent, the people had turned to more rational thinking, taking solace in numbers and dry facts to drive away the fears of the night.
Europe had always been different even when the entire world had believed. This was where the witch burnings and the Werewolf hunts had found their genesis. Belief ran strong in the Humans, but none so strongly as those in London and the surrounding areas. Something about the dark, smoky streets made them remember a time when their species hadn't been on the top of the food chain.
He'd have never come to this city if he'd had a choice, but they knew him across seas from before his re-birth into the world of the supernatural. He'd made too many friends and too many enemies in Asia and the Americas. Europe was the last place he had left to go.
The girl who'd met him on the street flickered in and out of sight like a phantom. He could smell the unholy perfume of stolen blood that clung to her slender frame, but he could detect no taint of the undead. She'd been born a vampire, not brought over the threshold of death. That afforded her some measure of credibility, but not much.
Vampires of the true blood didn't succumb to the insanity that plagued their bastard siblings, but they fell victim to greed and deceit just as well any other creature, mortal or immortal.
He wasn't exactly sure why he'd decided to trust her. She hadn't acted trustworthy or sane, but she'd known him for what he was at a glance and hadn't used her opening of opportunity when his negligence had allowed her a shot at his throat.
As if in response to his thoughts, the darksome woman appeared out of the dense fog before him. A stark brick building loomed out of the night behind her. She flashed her fangs at him in a mischievous smile and stepped aside to reveal a low lit door built into the wall. A dim neon sign that fizzled out and then came back on displayed three sigils for Safe Haven; one in Witch Runes, another in Vampire Scriven, and the last Were Trail Marks.
"I swear upon the Accords that you have Safe Passage this night. I am Kamiya Kaoru and your enemies are mine until the sun rises." She said softly.
Kenshin inhaled sharply as she sidled up to him and slipped one slender hand around his elbow.
The door let them into a badly lit, half hearted attempt at a disco club. The music was low enough as to be barely audible and cigarette smoke replaced the heavy fog they'd just left. There were roughly four or five round tables scattered across the public room at random and a thing man who smelled of Magick tended the bar.
Few of the tables were occupied. A lone vampire sucked on an IV bag in the corner and a young witch sat by the bar and cast oracle bones for a Swan mane. The were-swan looked up and tensed as he entered, but relaxed as soon as her eyes flicked over Kaoru's face. The witch along with her cast a disinterested look over her shoulder and nodded deferentially to the Vampiress.
A soft growl built up in the room, drawing Kenshin's attention to the last knot of customers. A small pack of werewolves stared at him from their table under the window, hackles raised to a man. Kaoru favored them with a dazzling smile, deliberately flashing fang in a silent warning. The growl subsided.
It wasn't over. The apparent alpha of the pack pushed himself to his feet and prowled across the floor to block Kenshin's path. He noted that the wolf deliberately stayed out of the smaller woman's path.
He was perhaps the tallest man Kenshin had ever met. His hair was soft brown and stuck out at all angles, held back only by a red bandanna. Kenshin noticed that the entire pack sported similar headpieces.
"What have you brought home, Kaoru?" He asked in a deceptively mild tone. His eyes never left Kenshin's although he addressed Kaoru.
"I found him wandering the streets." She shrugged. "I thought he might need a Sponsor. Do you have a problem with that, Sanosuke Sagara?"
Sanosuke broke eye contact to stare at Kaoru in disbelief. "You're sponsoring him?"
She grinned unrepentantly and let Kenshin's arm go. "Funny, coming from you," she purred and began to circle Sanosuke.
There werewolf's eyes followed her as she flanked him, but he made no move to avoid her when she pounced on his back and wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned his attention back to Kenshin and held out a hand.
"She vouches for you so you've got mates to run with if you want them." He offered. "I'm Sanosuke Sagara of the Sekihoutai Wolf Pack."
Kenshin stared at the proffered hand. With one hand he carefully removed his hat, letting his long red hair spill down his back. He'd pinned it up before he'd even left his old apartment in Tokyo. His hair was too identifiable with its shade and length, but he couldn't bring himself to cut it off or dye it.
"I am Kenshin Himura." He introduced himself, careful to phrase his name in the western fashion as he took Sanosuke's hand and gave what he hoped passed for a firm hand shake in the were community. His kind was solitary by nature, unlike the pack-oriented wolves.
Sanosuke nodded with approval as they shook hands. He stepped away as he released Kenshin and nodded towards his table and pack. "Sit with us." He returned to his seat without waiting for Kenshin to follow. Kaoru slipped down from his back and hopped into his lap when he sat down.
Kenshin took a seat beside him, careful to keep Kaoru within his sight. He wasn't sure what Sanosuke had meant when he'd named Kaoru as his 'Sponsor', but it had defused a potentially lethal situation faster than love, money, or drugs.
"Your name is Asian, Mr. Sagara, are you from Japan as well?" Kenshin let his elbows rest on the table. He ignored the scummy film that covered the surface. He could afford the cleaning bill.
Sanosuke snorted, but nodded just the same. "I'm a half-breed that way. My mother married a Japanese man, but she was too much for him. When I was six she took me and split for the States. I left when I was a kid, but I've still got the language if that's what you mean?"
Kenshin shook his head. "No, my English is good enough. It was curiosity, nothing more."
"So what brings you to Merry Old England, Mr. Himura?" A scrawny punk spoke up from behind his glass of dark beer. His mannerisms bordered on foul, but Kenshin sensed genuine sympathy in his speech.
"I was only recently changed." He said by way of explanation. He had little to hide. His story was common enough. "I had too many acquaintances in Asia and the Americas, so Europe was my last choice and I thought it would be a shame to not see London before I found a place to settle."
Sanosuke nodded soberly. "It's probably best that you did. The supernatural communities are pretty close-knit on this continent. We don't take well to strangers; there are too many Hunters in this country."
Just then the vampire in the corner sat up and signaled to Kaoru, who slid off Sanosuke's lap. She dropped a sisterly kiss on Kenshin's cheek as she passed. "I won't be far. Call me if you need something, kay?"
The Sekihoutai burst into laughter, but Kenshin turned to watch her glide across the room towards the corner table following the waft of jasmine perfume that followed in her wake. Funny, but he hadn't realized before that moment that she was barefoot. Her short scarlet dress drifted around her knees occasionally lifting to show a glimpse of slender thigh. Long, glossy black hair flowed down her back in magazine smooth waves. She walked on the balls of her feet, which lent grace to her movements and hushed the sound of her steps.
The warlock behind the bar laid out a pouch of blood, which she picked up as she passed. Her sapphire eyes glimmered in the dim light of the bar as she paid for it with a wink. Sanosuke's eyes followed Kenshin's hand as he ran his knuckles thoughtfully over the place where Kaoru had dropped her playful kiss.
"I wouldn't read too much into it," Sanosuke eyed the vampire over his beer glass. "She's like that with everyone and it all means about the same."
"Be fair, Sano." A long haired were spoke up from behind his alpha. Kenshin noticed the way the other members except Sano deferred to him and silently marked him as Sano's beta. "You're making her sound like a slut." He turned to Kenshin, "What my esteemed leader means to say in his blundering manner is that Mademoiselle Kaoru is equally disinterested in us all, but she's still very affectionate as long as you remember that you're 'just friends'."
"Stow it, Katsu!" Sano growled, but the reprimand rolled right off his beta's back.
A hollow crack reverberated through the room, interrupting all conversation. Kenshin turned his attention back to Kaoru just in time to see the vampire who'd summoned her fall to the grimy bar floor with his neck bent at an unnatural angle.
Kaoru stood over his inert body idly sucking on her pouch of blood. The witch and the swanmane who'd been involved in the bone reading earlier were huddled behind her. They peered anxiously around her slender body at the incapacitated vampire.
"It there a problem, Ladies?" The warlock spoke up from behind his countertop.
"Not anymore," Kaoru replied smoothly and turned to guide the girls behind her back to their table where the Witch's oracle bones still lay scattered across their velvet blanket.
"Who is she?" Kenshin addressed his question to Sanosuke, but it was Katsu who answered.
"Good question. Wish I knew." He tossed back a swallow of his drink. "No one knows for sure, although everyone knows her."
"Kaoru is one of the few living vampires in this city who isn't a lackey for the Blood Council." Sanosuke explained. "Most of the blood-suckers in town are changed Undead or Living vampires who crossed over to Death for one reason or another. She doesn't nest with any of them for that matter. Kaoru's the only vamp I ever heard of who sleeps alone. How'd you meet her, much less get her to sponsor you?"
"I met her in the street." Kenshin spoke slowly, fully aware how weak the truth sounded. "She gave me a hug and told me it wasn't safe to walk alone at night. At first I thought she was a prostitute, then I smelt her other nature. She brought me here."
Sanosuke chuckled. "That's sounds random enough to be true." He grabbed a handful of pretzels from one of the bowls on the table. "She's always pulling stunts like that. Kaoru'd be considered a vigilante in London if she wasn't so disinterested in the every day crap. Really, she's got her own motives although damned if anyone else understands them until a long time after the fact. Rumor is that she's over four hundred years old, but she prances around like she's as crazy as an Undead. The only thing that you can really count on is that if she shows up too often, then a big change is on the way."
"Should I be afraid?" Kenshin leaned back into his chair. His bangs fell forward to hide his eyes, but Sanosuke saw that they'd changed from a gentle violet to hard-edged gold.
Sanosuke shook his head. "Nah, you were just in the right place at the right time. She's pretty capricious, but she's pledged to guard your back until dawn. Do us all a favor and stay out of trouble. Things tend to blow up when Kaoru feels threatened."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Kaoru chose then to return to the company. This time she chose Katsu's lap and started to braid his long hair. For his part, Katsu seemed unperturbed. When he caught Kenshin watching he grinned. "She likes my hair."
Things progressed in companionable semi-silence from there. Kenshin collected some telephone numbers from the Sekihoutai and received an invitation to their next howl at the quarter moon. Kaoru switched laps until she'd given everyone a cuddle except Kenshin, but he was all right with that. Katsu hadn't gotten off with braids alone. Kaoru had curled the ends with her finger and tied them off with some ribbons she'd produced from a pocket. By four a.m. Kaoru started shooting glances at the shaded windows and Kenshin took that as a cue to say his good-byes.
When he stood, Kaoru was on his arm again. They left the bar amidst a cloud of hoots, whistles, and catcalls. As they left, Kenshin noticed the Witch and the Swanmane going to sit with the Sekihoutai.
"They'll be fine." Kaoru murmured in his ear. "Sanosuke's wolves always take them home.
"Odd." Kenshin observed. "The swanmane is a prey creature."
"The Sekihoutai all have strong beasts, but they are in control. They know that real prey doesn't walk on two legs." Kaoru released his arm. "Do you require an escort to where you are staying?"
Kenshin smiled at the implied courtesy in her offer. He could say no and then she wouldn't have to know where his den was for the moment. It was considerate of her, especially since he suspected that her status as his Sponsor gave her certain privileges concerning his day life.
"I'm staying at the Grosvenor House Hotel by Hyde Park. I'd be honored if you accompanied me." He made a half bow and offered her his arms his time. If she was really as old as Sanosuke implied, then the old world courtesy might appeal to her.
Sure enough a smile flickered across her face to be quickly replaced by the dreamy one she normally wore. Kenshin didn't doubt for a moment which one was real.
Finding a cab had been murder, but eventually Kaoru had flashed some leg and flagged one down.
"I thought that only worked in the movies." Kenshin commented as they got in.
"Inspiration must have a source." Kaoru replied.
The cab let them off in front of Kenshin's hotel and Kaoru gazed on the starlit expanse of Hyde Park as he paid the driver.
"Do you need the cab to get home before dawn?" Kenshin asked quietly before he let the cab go. There was no reply.
When he turned around, she was gone.
Kaoru watched from a nearby rooftop as Kenshin entered his lodgings. She'd done her duty as his sponsor. He now had local contacts and had survived his first night in Town. Once he disappeared from sight, she toasted him with an imaginary wineglass.
"Welcome to London, Mr. Himura, may it never be the same!"
Weeks passed and eventually the help of the Sekihoutai, Kenshin settled into a modest apartment in Wapping on the Riverfront. A lifetime spent carefully cultivating an impressive stock portfolio guaranteed that he'd never have to worry about money for the rest of his life. He was officially retired.
Kenshin spent his time exploring his new home. The first month he happily spent as a tourist. He saw Big Ben, Vauxhall, Madame Tussaud's Waxwork Museum, and a million other places he'd only read about in his previous existence as a bland entrepreneur. When the quarter moon came, he gladly participated in the Sekihoutai's tribute to their Lunar Goddess even though he shared none of their lupine traits. At home, he quietly explored his relationship with the Earth Mother and Sky Father.
As his mentor in Japan had promised, he grew comfortable with the powers and responsibilities that came with his changed existence. His inner beast demanded sensation and excitement, but he was learning when to give in and when not to.
He'd lived in London for a total of two months before he heard word of Kamiya Kaoru.
That night, Kenshin joined Sanosuke and Katsu at a steak and ale pub they'd been raving about. The ale was thick, dark and strong, and the steaks were almost two inches thick. When Kenshin cut into his he found it practically raw… perfect.
Katsu's cell rang in the middle of dinner. He left the table to answer it while Kenshin and Sanosuke continued to give their respective meals the proper amount of respect. Unfortunately, Katsu came storming back a few moments later with a proclamation that killed Kenshin's appetite.
"Yukishiro's trying to kill Kaoru again." The werewolf sighed as he slumped back into his seat. He gazed forlornly at his steak.
Sanosuke snorted and took another bite. "You'd think he'd have learned better by now."
"I think I've missed something," Kenshin set his utensils down. "Who is this Yukishiro and why is he trying to kill Kaoru? Furthermore, why don't you care?"
"Enishi Yukishiro is one of the rising stars in Vamp politics." Katsu tucked his cell phone back into his pocket. "He's a changed Vampire, one of the Undead, not like Kaoru. He's one of the few vampires who survived the change with his mind intact or at least everyone thinks so. We've seen signs of something else. He and Kaoru have been butting heads ever since he was brought into the Blood Council as a Junior Attendant."
"Why does he want her dead?"
"He's after her because Kaoru has a Council Seat believe it or not, and she sees right through him. For Enishi to gain a seat and a vote on the Blood Council, he has to be accepted in with a unanimous vote, which he'd have if it weren't for Kaoru." Katsu frowned. "If he kills Kaoru then there's a seat open and waiting for him."
Kenshin stood and threw his napkin on the table. He took out his wallet and tossed down enough cash to cover his meal and part of the tip. "Do you know where I can find, Miss Kamiya?" he asked as he shrugged into his jacket.
Kaoru had been running for a week and a half. In that time she had neither slept, ate, nor stopped for any length of time worth mentioning.
She knew who was after her. After all, it was hardly the first time Enishi had taken it into his mind to end her life. Normally she'd have had a wonderful time leading her trackers in circles all over the city before leaving them in small bite-sized pieces at Enishi's back door.
This time it was different.
She was under pursuit day and night. The attacks came in shifts and when they weren't trying to put a stake in her heart, they were scaring off any humans she might have been able to feed upon. All her normal hide-outs were either staked out or destroyed and she didn't dare contact any of her tentative allies.
Kaoru's last safe place was an abandoned chapel near the riverfront on the bad side. Enishi's vampires couldn't cross hallowed ground, neither could the sort of Witches he'd be able to hire, but were-creatures could.
Somehow Enishi had made a pact with a local tribe of were-rats. It was from them that Kaoru faced the most danger. She was a living vampire and as such she was susceptible to the bacteria in their saliva. A were-rat's spit contained twice the virulent bacteria than a komodo dragon's! One bite and she'd die of infection within half an hour.
The chapel had no gas or electricity. For that matter it had little in the way of insulation. Kaoru huddled in the belfry, using the fallen bell as a wind-break. The cold November wind tore through the threadbare blanket she'd managed to scavenge from the downstairs rooms.
Hypothermia was a kinder death than a were-rat's bite, but Kaoru found little comfort in that. She held onto life with relentless determination. When her eyelids grew heavy she pinched arm and reminded herself of those who would only suffer if Enishi Yukishiro came to power.
The Blood Council convened in two days. After that they would not meet for another fifty years. If Kaoru could just hold out that long, she would have done her duty. Enishi wouldn't be able to hold his frayed illusion of sanity that long. Already he was descending into true madness.
Two days, she had to survive for two more days.