Synopsis: A few years after the death of Kenshin's wife, Tomoe, Kenshin moves into a small apartment complex in Chicago, Illinois. His next door neighbor ends up being a young pregnant woman named Kaoru who is living on her own - abandoned by the father of her child. The only reliable person left to her is her brother, Sanosuke. With the passage of time, a cherished and fragile friendship blossoms between the Kenshin and Kaoru. But what happens when Kenshin's feeling unwillingly evolve into something more?

Author's Note: Since I got a thumbs up from my reviewers for my other RK fic, I decided to post this a little bit before I originally planned. This is a KK fic. Hope everyone enjoys it.

Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.

White Tides of Dazzled Dreams

Chapter 1

"Tides of Change"

Flapping furiously and mingling together in the glorious blue sky above the stark white sand, the beautiful white seagulls danced in the rolling breeze. Their cries of morning exhilaration and hungered flight spilled resplendently into the air, filling the young woman's chest with bursting pleasure. Sitting on a beach towel with swirled colors of purple and green, she tilted her head to the side and laughed curiously as the birds rose in one swift motion and swooped down together toward the sand, landing in a flash and flurry of white feathers.

Brushing the dark hair from her flushed face, she turned to the young man sitting beside her, his nose stuck in a book. A white tee-shirt modestly covered his chest while he wore a pair of dulled red swim trunks. The tangled mass of long red hair that spilled down his back was pulled back in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. Engrossed in the written words of his paperback novel, he paid no heed to the whirl of nature around him.

The young woman sighed and laid a pale hand on his tanned forearm, causing his gleaming violet gaze to shift to her face.

A teasing smile pulled at her full lips, and she questioned him calmly, "Are you enjoying the morning, Kenshin?"

Closing the book, but keeping his finger between the pages to hold his place, Kenshin let a lazy smile curl his lips as his eyes scanned the form of the woman beside him. The white sundress sprinkled with tiny blue flowers hugged her form prettily and rustled quietly with the ocean breeze. Her steady gaze blinked at him with curiosity and contentment. He watched as she reached a delicate hand up the brush her loose, swaying hair away from her ethereal visage. The scent of white plum assaulted his senses, causing him breath deeply, taking in the much loved aroma.

Kenshin reached a hand up to her face and slid his fingers down her cheek in a soft, loving caress. "You know I am, Tomoe," he replied huskily, watching as a pink flush tinged her neck and ears. "It isn't everyday you're on your honeymoon, huh?" he said with a smile, sliding his hand down her back familiarly and then reached out to tangle his warm fingers with hers.

In a slow motion, Tomoe leaned over to rest her dark head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. The combination of his earthy scent and the tang of the salty sea air assaulted her senses while the splashing roll of the waves falling and lapping onto the moist shore filled her ears.

A feeling of absolute satisfaction washed over the couple as they rested lazily in the mellow hue of the morning sun, bathing in the bliss of being newly married. Kenshin went back to reading his book while Tomoe's eyes drifted to the blooming horizon, looking out over the endless spill of salt water and the heaving splashes of the foamy blue waves. Cuddling against her husband, she felt a warm glow fill her.

Perfect.

Absolutely perfect.

Tomoe replayed the vows that she and Kenshin had declared to one another earlier in the week. Their declaration of love…respect…loyalty. Till death do us part. Her heart clenched at that. A tidal wave of depression so bleak it caused her eyes to darken with deep sorrow washed over her. Tomoe swallowed painfully and closed her eyes as she willed the thoughts from her mind. She vainly tried to return to the cheerful morning. But, thoughts of her uncertain future unraveled painfully in her mind.

She would revel in the terribly small amount of time she would have with her new husband. The small amount of time she had left to walk on this magnificent planet. An estimated six months.

Six months.

Sucking in a breath of air to cleanse her troubled thoughts, Tomoe shuddered.

Astutely sensing her worried feelings, Kenshin folded the page of his book over and set it aside into the woven beach basket containing their other supplies. Kenshin stood in one fluid motion, arching his back to get out the irritating kinks. He reached out both hands with a gentle smile and took hers into his. With a slight tug, he pulled Tomoe up next to him and steadied her wobbly legs with a strong arm around her slim waist. She wrapped her own arm around his waist for comfort and snuggled up against him.

"Let's purge you of these sad thoughts," Kenshin whispered into her ear. He pulled Tomoe with him, taking her to the lapping lips of the ocean. "Now is the time to forget your worries."

Tomoe nodded her head against his shoulder in agreement and tread with him through the sand, their feet sinking in the grainy ground. An exhilarated tingle sidled up her thin legs as the cool water slipped over her toes. Sinking her toes into the mushy sand, Tomoe laughed merrily, thoughts of her revealed future dissipating slowly to hide in the recesses of her mind. Not quite gone, but not haunting her.

They would return with a vengeance in the looming months to come.

The few weeks of bliss on the tropical island seared an unforgettable memory of passion, love and brightness into Kenshin's mind.

It wasn't until weeks after the couple returned from their honeymoon that signs of Tomoe's illness began to creep slowly to the surface, rearing its ugly head of impending doom. Although forewarned of this, it hit Kenshin hard. Harder than he could have ever imagined. Absurdly, Tomoe remained the calm within the turbulent storm as she weakened and tumbled into the earnest grasping of the cancer which overtook her body…day by day.

She learned to accept her fate.

Helpless to do anything, Kenshin watched as she deteriorated before his very eyes. A deep resentment built within his chest at the unfairness of it all. He wept in silent fury at the sorrow which clutched his very soul.

The night Tomoe slipped into the embrace of angels, Kenshin sat by her side, her pale and gaunt hand cradled between his.

A knowing smile graced her pale lips as her sparkling eyes swam with unshed tears.

In a faint whisper, she spoke to him as he watched her with trembling limbs and a heavy heart. "Love you," she managed, visibly swallowing with difficulty. "Be happy…"

In the gentle whisper of the night a couple hours later, she succumbed in a peaceful state of languid dreams, a content look on her pale features. Kenshin swore he heard the jubilant song of heaven's voice and the hushed whisper of angel wings that night…welcoming his wife with open arms.

Bowing his head against her hospital bed, he wept for her, for him…for their lost future.

He'd try to be happy.

He just wasn't sure if it would ever be possible again.

-

Three Years Later

Chicago, Illinois

The raging rush of the turbulent air blew the loose leaves lying on the congested sidewalk, causing them to lift and wobble in the air. Trees moaned as sprinkles of rain fell from the overhung, gray clouds blocking the shine of the sun. Numerous people bustled busily on the sidewalk, creating a sea of walking bodies and unfamiliar faces. Among them walked a red-haired man. An expression of cool calculation schooled on his features. His worn brown boots tread lightly on the light concrete and his gray and blue flannel shirt mirrored the grumpy mood of Mother Nature. His walking brought him to a thin, brick, ten-story building flanked by blooming red flower beds and graced with a forest green awning hanging over the front glass door.

His new home.

Jogging up the five stairs, Kenshin unlocked the front entrance with the shiny new key he held in his hand and stepped into the cheery white foyer of the building. Yellow tulips placed magically in a clear vase lit up the foyer with a merry smile, while a blue braided rug covered the floor. A stairwell peeked shyly around the corner, revealing its presence.

With even movements, Kenshin climbed up the stairs to the second floor.

Dim, yellow lights lit the narrow hallway creating pale, shifting shadows on the deep maroon walls. The high ceiling crafted in soft brown wood and the somewhat decorative russet tiled floor added an aire of hominess to the otherwise bleak hallway. No miscellaneous paintings hung on the wall, though there were a few squares of deepened wallpaper, darker than the faded surroundings, hinting that there had once been a sprinkle of decoration.

As Kenshin walked silently down the hallway, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and another smaller leather bag clutched in left hand, he sighed and blew the red bangs out of his eyes. His tired eyes came to rest on the broad black door of Apartment # 212. He fished the key out of the pocket of jeans and jammed it into the snug lock of the golden doorknob. The lock turned with a welcoming click and the door slid open with a faint creak.

Pushing inside, Kenshin walked into the empty apartment and dropped his small leather bag on the floor. Closing the door with his foot, he stood in the tiny foyer and gazed at the plain place he'd decided to move into. The front door opened to a small living room connected to a tidy square kitchen. A tiny hallway branched off the living room and led to a small bathroom and one bedroom. He'd have to sleep on the floor with one of the blankets in his duffel bag. His furniture wouldn't be arriving till the next afternoon.

The fading light of the lowering sun peeked through the broken clouds and bathed the room in a soft orange hue of shadowed dusk. Kenshin took a step forward, but then stopped when his foot crunched on a lumpy paper envelope on the floor. He leaned over and grabbed the envelope between his fingers. He tore open the sealed paper and withdrew a small note and thin silver key. Apparently the landlord had slid the small package underneath the door. The key opened his mailbox on the floor below.

The sloppily written note told him to check and make sure the key worked.

Sighing, Kenshin slid the key into his pocket and walked into the dark kitchen. He reached out and flipped on the overhead light. It flickered slowly, coming to life lazily. Kenshin dropped his duffel bag on the floor and stooped down to pull out some miscellaneous food items. He put a box of crackers and a package of flowered paper plates in one of the mahogany cabinets above the small olive counter. A wrapped bundle of paper cups with the same design as the plates joined the two items.

Kenshin grabbed an opened package of cheese crackers from the bag and set them down on the counter. Taking one of the cups, he filled it with tepid water from the sink faucet and gulped it down thirstily. Grabbing a couple of the crackers and popping them into his mouth, Kenshin headed back to the door, chewing as he walked.

He opened the door as quietly as possible and stepped out into the deserted hallway. Shutting the door and locking it behind him, Kenshin walked down the hallway towards the wide stairwell, opting to forgo the clanking elevator that buzzed loudly. The door to the apartment adjacent to his lay open, allowing the laughter from within to fill the hallway with joyous mirth.

Kenshin passed without looking inside.

He hurried down the flight of stairs, his feet clonking on the hollow wood. Once on the first floor of the building, he headed to the where a black sign with gold lettering pointed to the mailboxes. Turning the corner, he came to a wall sprinkled with numerous small metal boxes labeled by floor and apartment number. Quickly scanning the boxes for the second level of the apartment, Kenshin let out a hum of confusion when it only appeared that the odd numbers for that floor were there. Turning and looking around for another sign pointing to more mailboxes, Kenshin sighed when he found none.

Well, this was confusing.

Maybe those people in the apartment next to his knew something. They had an even numbered apartment as well. Chewing the inside of his cheek, Kenshin hurried back up the staircase and walked back down the hall. He slowed and came to halt in front of Apartment # 210.

Light from the room spilled out into the hallway along with the jumbled, cheerful talking of the occupants. Hesitantly, Kenshin stepped up the doorway and peered inside.

The walls of the living room were painted with light lavender, a white loveseat sat underneath the lip of the window, flanked by two small wooden tables, miscellaneous artwork graced the walls while a little television set sat in the corner on a small shelf. A large bookcase dominated one wall, overflowing with countless books.

A young woman with dark hair pulled back into a tidy ponytail appeared from around the corner of the kitchen. Her face flushed with merriment and heat, and her eyes crinkled with joy as melodious laughter spilled from her mouth. She wore a pair of blue overalls with a long-sleeved pale pink shirt underneath and a green ribbon tied prettily in her black hair. The overalls accentuated the swollen curve of her pregnant belly. Maybe five or six months along.

A tall man followed her out, an annoyed look flashing over his face. His blue shirt was soaking wet, dripping sloppily on the linoleum floor. His blue jeans hung low on his hips, half-way hiding his black boots. Sweeping a hand through his mussed brown hair, he sent the girl a sour look. He started to say something to the giggling young woman when he noticed the slight redhead standing in the doorway of the room. He cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow in question.

"Can I help you?" he asked. The woman placed a hand on top of her belly and turned to look at Kenshin. She blinked the laughter from her eyes slowly, filling them with an easy curiosity.

Kenshin shifted a little and took a hesitant step back. "I'm sorry if I'm interrupting you and your wife," he said quietly.

The man held up his hand and shook his head with smile. "Nope. Not married." He grabbed the woman around the waist and ruffled a hand through her hair, drawing a protesting squawk from her. "This is my little sister," he replied warmly. "My name is Sanosuke and this is Kaoru. I don't live here. I'm just visiting the little waif," he teased her with a chuckle.

Eased a little, Kenshin jammed his hands into his pockets. "Do you know where the mail boxes are? I can't seem to find the even ones for our floor."

Sano nodded and stepped away from his sister, giving her a comforting pat on the back. "Yeah, I'll show you. I had to hunt all over with Kaoru to find hers as well. For some reason they decided to hide them in a little room and forgot to put a label announcing their presence." Sano brushed past Kenshin at the door, but turned back to Kaoru who was currently ambling back towards the kitchen. "Don't you dare touch those brownies. Don't need to start poisoning that kid of yours just yet," he kidded, pointing a finger at her. She rolled her eyes and mumbled crossly as she disappeared around the corner.

Motioning for Kenshin to follow him, Sano led him down stairs once more, past the other mailboxes to an opaque glass door. Pushing it open, they both stepped inside the cool small room.

"Which one is yours?" Sano asked, scanning the wall.

"Um, 212," Kenshin responded.

Sano nodded and pointed to the right one. "Sometimes you have to lean on it just right to get the lock to click. They weren't installed very well," he said, looking down at the smaller man. He watched as Kenshin inserted the key, pushed up a little and swung the small metal door open to reveal the empty innards.

"Thanks," Kenshin said with a friendly smile and closed the mailbox. Sano uttered a small reply with a smile.

They exited the small room and walked up to the second story in silence. When they reached Kaoru's apartment, Sano slipped inside. Kenshin started to walk by, but stopped when he heard the soft voice of the young woman.

"Would you like to have some brownies?" Kaoru asked, her eyes twinkling with kindness. She stood in the doorway, leaning slightly against the doorjamb for needed support.

Shaking his head slowly, Kenshin replied sincerely, "Maybe some other time. I'm exhausted."

An understanding look slid over her features as she nodded in agreement. "I know how that feels." She smiled and leaned back, taking the edge of the door in her hand. "If you ever need anything, feel free to knock."

"I'll do that," Kenshin replied.

She gave him one last long look before backing up awkwardly and closing her door softly with a click.

Kenshin stared at her door for a moment, and then turned and walked the few steps back to his apartment and stepped inside.

-

Later that night, lying in the floor in the living room beneath the luminous glow of the window, Kenshin sighed and rolled onto his side, pulling the blanket further up around his shoulders. Annoyingly, sleep eluded him with a mocking sneer. Kenshin blinked and traced the small crack on the wall in front of him with his eyes. It traveled up slowly from the floor, then spliced into two slivers, slithering slowly up the white wall.

Kenshin attempted to shake the familiar melancholy thoughts clouding his mind and tried to imagine fluffy, mind-less sheep prancing over a rickety wooden fence. Wearily he counted their prancing bodies, sleep still dancing just beyond his desperate grasp. As his mind wandered, the brainless sheep were replaced by the cheerful visage of a young woman.

Kaoru.

Kenshin shuddered and rolled onto his back, tangling the blanket around his slim waist. No matter how hard he tried to distract himself from her face…her harmonious voice…she kept coming back with maddening exactness. She held a singular aura around her that subtly sparkled, the glow of pregnancy settling comfortably about her young being. Without a blink, she'd had extended an unwavering hand of congenial friendship towards him. Amazing. To say he had been caught off guard would be a gross understatement.

Maybe…just maybe…he had found someone he could relate to. Someone he could casually talk with.

Kenshin ran a hand through his bangs and closed his eyes once again, sagging against the hard floorboards. Letting loose his mind, he though of the new life he'd started today.

A new city…a new apartment…a new job…new neighbors…a new beginning.

This needed change just might be beneficial to him. A sudden sweeping tilt of relaxation trembled through his limbs. With a silent expel of breath, Kenshin slipped into a dark, dreamless sleep.

-

Author's Note: Well, that's the end of the fateful chapter 1. Please leave reviews and tell me what you think. The more reviews, the better and the faster I'll be able to punch out the next chapter. I'm thinking it'll be in a couple weeks. We'll see.

Till then…

- Mana