Synopsis: Growing up, Kenshin had been Kaoru's best friend. Her feelings towards him evolved into an overpowering love that sustained her through her teenage years. Her true feelings were her own secret she kept hidden from him. But that love almost destroyed her when Kenshin announced his engagement to his girlfriend Tomoe. Heartbroken, she turned inward, leaving him to his new life, and forging a new path for herself. Years later, Kaoru's mother becomes ill and she returns home to find Kenshin divorced, and a door of possibilities open wide.

Revised 3/1/11

Author's Note: Welcome to my first Rurouni Kenshin fic. Feel free to leave me a review on your thoughts. Hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.

Tendrils of Sunset

Chapter 1

"Angry Memories"

It was an angry day. The clouds hung somberly in the sky, soaking up all the warmth and morning light, threatening to burst into an ugly fall storm. A brisk wind darted across the water of the lake and tousled the leaves littering the ground. A stray red leaf was captured in the breeze and flew by the grumbling young woman as she stomped down the dock on the local historic grounds of Green Goose Island.

"Ugh, this weather!" she exclaimed with humph as she swatted her raven hair away from her face. She reached down, searching her jean pockets for a band to tie the annoying locks from her face, but found them…irritatingly empty. A growl started in the base of her throat as she grasped a handful of her hair with one hand and looked out to the swaying water of the lake which lapped angrily against the legs of the dock.

Her parents owed her more than they knew. They were sure to be laughing at her from their beachfront condo while she slaved over the island, her new responsibility. Agreeing to be the caretaker for the family island had been a mistake. A huge mistake.

The angry day was making her increasingly frustrated; it reminded her of a day she used to cherish. Now it's a day she wished she could forget. It was the day she met him.

"Him," she muttered with a frown.

"Kaoru!" a voice behind her shouted. "Stop standing there like a moron and get moving. Sano said there's really bad one coming. We need to secure the docks and boat houses!"

Kaoru whipped around, her hand dropping away from her wild hair. Her eyes, although narrowed to small slits, were again hidden by the wildly moving strands of her hair. The teenager stood up on the rise of the steps leading down to the dock. His eyes, though narrowed, held a note of anxiety and worry.

"Don't call me a moron," she retorted with an angry yell. "Just because you're my cousin doesn't mean I won't kick your sorry little butt."

Yahiko rolled his eyes at her and snorted. "Shyeah. I'd like to see you try."

A loud burst of thunder cracked through the air, causing them to both jump slightly.

"Just get to the east dock, Kaoru," he yelled over the growing noise. "We don't need to loose another boat and you know it," he said glancing anxiously at the sky. Yahiko turned to his left and took off toward the west end dock to help Sano, their resident police officer, secure the two boats stationed there.

Kaoru gnashed her teeth together in annoyance. "I'm going," she replied, and quickened up her pace, deciding to take the shortcut across the island to the east end.

Sighing with relief, Kenshin Himura dropped his suitcases on the tiled foyer of his lake-front house. "I'm home," he said to himself with a somewhat quizzical smile, his expression wary and pale from the long day's travel.

Having been gone for two and half months, Kenshin walked through the quiet, dark house making sure nothing had happened to anything during his absence, especially since his Uncle Hiko liked to drop by uninvited. When everything appeared to be orderly, he returned back to the foyer to take his bags into his bedroom for unpacking.

He ran a hand through his long, red hair and grimaced. He was heading for the bathroom to take a shower, when a glance out of one of the windows overlooking the lake stopped him in his tracks.

The water was moving with choppy insistence, lashing brutally onto the shore of the small island only a short expanse of water away from his house. Two people were struggling to get two boats secured. Kenshin squinted, and frowned.

"What the heck is Sano…?" he questioned recognizing the older man as his best friend. The younger one with Sano looked familiar but Kenshin couldn't place him.

He hurried through his house and out the back door to his small boat. Fumbling for his cell phone, Kenshin hurriedly searched through his contacts and found Sano's number.

Kaoru shook her head with annoyance. "Stop thinking about him, idiot," she said to herself. "It'll do you no good!"

Making her way a quickly as possible without tripping and falling on her face was proving to be a little difficult as small droplets of rain started to fall from the blackening sky. Kaoru shivered and pulled the hood of her blue blazer over head. It was turning out to be just like the day she met him.

As she made her way through the trees, she sighed. This was the exact path she had taken that day - she'd run into the storm blinded with tears after witnessing her parents fighting.

Frowning, she remembered the precise clench of gut-wrenching pain she had felt that day. Like the silly six year old she had been, she'd thought that one ridiculous fight over grape jam would be the end of her parents' long marriage. Her friend Suzy's parents had gotten divorced around that time, so the possibility had been fresh in her mind.

Kaoru stopped in her path and pressed a hand against a pine tree. She leaned her head against it, closed her eyes, and placed herself back into that little frightened six-year old body.

17 years ago


That's what the tiny touch felt like. It was like…like the butterflies that currently danced and twisted in her little tummy. Kaoru smiled. She loved butterflies. But why were they in her little shack by the water? Hiding from the rain, of course, she thought. Just like she was. She was hiding from the rain and from the angry voices.

There they were again, she thought with amazed wonder. They were lightly touching her bare, wet shoulder. Shivering slightly, Kaoru peeked open her blue eyes to see her dancing butterflies fluttering on her skin.

Only…they weren't her butterflies. Her eyes widened in mild surprise and saw instead small fingertips, belonging to small red-haired boy with wide violet eyes.

Kaoru blinked. She'd seen him paying across the lake before. She'd never thought she might get to ever meet this boy!

His small mouth curved into a somewhat bemused smile and he tilted his head sideways, causing his deep red bangs to fall into those beautiful violet eyes.

"Are you…are you okay?" he asked in a shy, polite voice.

Kaoru shivered involuntarily, "Yeah."

A huge clap of thunder resounded through the sky and then a blinding flash of light split from the clouds.

Kaoru clenched her hands around her small legs and closed her eyes. "No, I'm not okay," she whispered as a small tear slipped down her pale cheek.

The boy frowned and motioned to the outside. "This shelter we're in will protect us. Don't worry." He settled down beside her on the dusty floor and pulled a pack of cards from his coverall pocket. "My, uh, uncle always said that playing 'go fish' when you're scared will cheer you right up." He hesitated for a split second, and then extended the brightly colored deck toward Kaoru. "Would you like to play with me?"

Kaoru inched closer to him. Her voice started out so soft he could barely hear her against the pitter patter of the rain on the wooden panels of the shack. "Yes. I'll play with you."

The boy smiled hugely. Just before he dealt the cards, he told her his name. "I'm Kenshin Himura," he said with twinkle in his violet eyes.


Kaoru away from the tree and started walking again. If she kept daydreaming like this, she'd never get to the boats on time. Slightly confused as to why she was being so sentimental, she was so distracted she didn't notice the Canadian goose waddling down the same path until it was almost too late. Side-stepping the animal quickly, she shook her head with irritation. The goose stumbled back a little and gave a startled honk before continuing on.

It wasn't even five steps later that Kaoru's mind drifted again back to that long-ago day. It had been the beginning of their friendship. Every morning before school started, Kenshin used to row over to the island and help her with her chores - feeding the ducks and geese, keeping the docks clean, and general labor around the island. When done, they would both climb into his boat and row to the school which was, and still is, conveniently near. It was definitely unconventional, now that she thought of it. She and Kenshin were the only students who had rowed to school in a boat.

Her mouth curved involuntarily with a smile as she came out from the tree cover and into the small clearing overlooking the east side of the enormous lake. Her eyes came to rest on the small shack that she had first met Kenshin in. After the day she met him, she named that shack 'The Butterfly House.'

At first, she had just thought of Kenshin as her comrade in mischief. Though he was three years older than her, it didn't bother either one. Each of them had friends from their own respective peer groups, but none quite reached the level in which she and Kenshin's relationship achieved. With time, they were able to know each other's thoughts; likes and dislikes; when to back off and when push forward; and most of all when to support each other. They were each other's shadow.

Shivering against the breeze, Kaoru walked down the small incline to the boat house.

It was when Kaoru was twelve that she realized she loved him. Not just as a friend, but as a girlfriend would love her boy. The revelation had astonished her. Although she'd wanted to tell him about this new development, she hesitated because it was too soon. He wasn't ready, and she definitely wasn't ready to change their relationship. So, she kept her feelings from him.

She had been fourteen when he had gotten his first girlfriend. She'd left during the summer in between eighth and ninth grade to go to a photography camp. Oh, how excited she had been about being able to take pictures of anything she wanted for an entire summer. Her Kenshin had seen the handout at his high school and given it to her, knowing about her sudden new love for taking pictures.

Her Kenshin. That's what she had referred to him as at the time.

She had stopped calling him that when she came home to find him kissing that snob Marcia Winters underneath the Magnolia tree. At first she had felt betrayed, and angry. After time, though, she began to accept the idea that she had to grow up a little more before he saw her the way he saw Marcia Winters, or Tori Mallge, or Ami Ether. She realized that after a while, they all left Kenshin's life, but she stayed. She had always stayed by his side.

Until Tomoe.

Author's Note: The next chapter should be up within the week. It's already written, I just have to proof-read it. Please review and tell me your thoughts. They are muchly appreciated!