Disclaimer: I do not own "Rurouni Kenshin." I do, however, own several ettiquette manuals, none of which tackle the Trifle problem...

Setting: Modern AU WAFF/citrus fluff; one-shot challenge fic.

Rating: R. Yes, really. So, if you're too young, don't read it. You have been warned.

Kaoru was rapidly coming to the conclusion that there were some situations even her grandmother's extensive collection of ettiquette manuals did not provide instruction for.

For example, realizing that your blind dash around the corner has resulted in a perfectly innocent total stranger getting showered with said grandmother's special Raspberry Cream Trifle.

She supposed that she shouldn't have been surprised. The entire day had been going from bad to worse, from a broken shoe, to runs in her last good pair of stockings, to her idiot car not starting, to running late for her Girl's Night In with Megumi and Misao.

In fact, the only thing that had gone remotely right was the Trifle, which Kaoru was fairly sure she had finally managed to make more or less according to the recipe. And now, the only thing left of it were some sad remnants in a crystal bowl that she was still clutching protectively and a truly spectacular mess in front of her.

"Ah..um... I... I'm so sorry, sir.. I didn't... I mean..." Kaoru stammered incoherently, staring at the sight of a formerly immaculate dark blue suit and grey shirt that were now spattered with pink raspberry cream, bits of cake, jam, almonds, and the occasional forlorn-looking raspberry. A blue suit and grey shirt that, she was quite certain, cost more than she made in a month. 'Oh, dear...'

"Well, I have been told that I look good in pink," a thoroughly amused, throroughly masculine voice said.

Kaoru, startled, looked up and met a pair of eyes that were a shade between amythest and indigo, sparkling with humor. The man wasn't that much taller than she was, with dark red hair that framed his face and seemed to be pulled back into a low ponytail. His mouth curved into a grin as he looked at her, and he seemed totally unconcerned by the fact that the front of his outfit had been turned into an impromptu dessert buffet.

Kaoru's first, incongruous thought was, 'Pink? With THAT hair color?' but she quickly stamped it down before it could get any further and tried to proceed with her apologies.

"I'm so sorry; I didn't realize that there was anybody else in the building... I mean, in the hallway, at this time of night, and I'm running dreadfully late, and I guess I just wasn't paying attention, and now your suit's all..."

She was both blushing and babbling, and she knew it, but there was something about his eyes, and the line of his jaw, and the way his hair seemed to catch the light like liquid silk that was making it extremely hard for her to focus and produce a coherent sentence.

"It's no big deal; I have other suits." The man's expression turned speculative as he looked down at the bowl Kaoru was holding on to like a lifeline. 'You, however, don't seem to have any other desserts. Perhaps I could help you pick out a replacement.. after I get cleaned up a bit, of course, unless you think it would be useful to bring a sample of what you're looking for to the bakery?"

Kaoru grinned at his last remark, her emotions settling down to something more like normal with his calm acceptance of the situation. "No, that's ok... I really wasn't supposed to bring a dessert anyway; it was just that I wanted the chance to show off my grandmother's Trifle. There's enough left in the bowl to get the point across, I think."

"The point?" he asked, one eyebrow quirking up.

"Oh," she said, coloring faintly, "it's just that I've never quite been able to get the recipe to work before, and I wanted to show that I could do it...I mean, I think I can do it; I haven't actually tried any of it yet. But it looks..er... looked right when I put it together."

"Hmm.." the man said. Kaoru was startled when he reached towards her and used one finger to wipe off a streak of raspberry cream she hadn't even realized was on her cheek. Her mind blanked briefly as he lifted his finger to his mouth and tasted, his tongue flicking out to catch a last bit of cream remaining on the corner of his lips.

"Well, I don't think you've got anything to worry about. It tastes fine to me. Delicious."

She blinked and took an instinctive half-step backwards, something about his proximity, the way she swore she could see tiny sparkles of gold in the depths of his eyes, making her breath catch nervously.

"I.. well, thank you; I'm glad to know that it's not toxic or anything. Um.. Well, it was nice to meet you; I hope that they can clean your suit.. I really have to go; I'm terribly late. Bye!"

And with that, she turned and walked—she was not fleeing, she told herself—off down the hallway to the elevators.

She didn't see how his gaze followed her retreating form appreciatively, his eyes definitely tinged with amber, as he murmured, "Absolutely delicious..."

Kaoru wasn't entirely certain how she'd ended up in the situation she was in, but she was fairly certain that she must have done something horrible in a previous life.

When she'd reached the door of the apartment, both Megumi and Misao had taken one look at her slightly shell-shocked appearance, the almost empty bowl, and the minor spatters of raspberry cream and jam on her t-shirt, and had immediately begun making sympathetic noises and shepherding Kaoru into the apartment, into the bathroom to wash up, and into a clean shirt, while they took care of dividing the trifle remnants among three bowls, so that it at least looked vaguely presentable.

Unfortunately, in the interests of cheering her up, Misao had declared that she would give them all manicures while they half-watched a ridiculous romantic comedy, drank wine from Megumi's excellent collection, and gossipped about everything and anything.

Kaoru thought that that plan sounded great. Well, mostly great. The only problem was that Misao, in her entire life, had obviously never met a nail polish experiment that she didn't like.

Which explained why Kaoru's fingernails were now a blazing shade of pink, somewhere between fuschia and a major radiation disaster.

"Umm.. Misao? Don't you think that this is...a bit too bright for everyday use?" Kaoru asked, trying to be tactful.

The petite girl cocked her head to one side and looked at Kaoru's fingers. Kaoru wasn't sure how she managed to look directly at them without sunglasses.

"Nah, don't worry; the glitter will tone it down—you'll see, this is gonna look fabulous!" She immediately dashed off to get the rest of her nailpolish supplies, practically bouncing.

"You let her have sugar again, didn't you?"

Megumi, currently allowing a second coat of a red so deep it was practically black to dry on her elegant hands, winced slightly and said, "And caffeine. Sorry; it's just that you were running late, and latte machiattos seemed like a good idea at the time..."

Kaoru just shrugged. "Well, I suppose I should have been expecting it. My entire day has been a disaster. Possibly if I'd already had my own personal lighting system earlier, I wouldn't have run into that poor man in the hallway and spilled Trifle all over him."

The other woman's ears perked up at Kaoru's last statement. "Is that what happened to the Trifle?" Kaoru gave a sheepish nod. "I see.. so, who exactly did you.. um.. meet in the hallway?"

"No idea. But he was really.."... the soft brush of a warm finger down her cheek, and an expression of humor in deep, expressive eyes... "...nice about the whole thing." Kaoru finished, somewhat lamely.

Megumi rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Don't tell me, racoon-girl, you didn't even get his name, did you?"

"Who, him?" Misao chimed in as she walked back into the living room holding so many bottles of nail polish in her hands that she looked like they were three seconds away from being dumped all over the carpet.

"Kaoru's mystery man in the hallway—the one who ended up wearing the rest of the trifle."

"Ooooo! You met somebody? You finally met somebody? I demand details!" Manicures forgotten, Misao launched herself at a floor pillow and perched there, her eyes sparkling.

"I did not "meet somebody," I merely had one in a series of unfortunate events plaguing my life today when I dumped dessert all over some total stranger's very expensive blue suit."

"So, what's his name?" Misao demanded. At Kaoru's expression, Misao mimicked Megumi's earlier eye-roll and said, "Kaaa—rou! I can't believe you didn't even get his name—you run into some cute guy, and you don't even exchange names?"

"I never said that he was cute!" Privately, Kaoru thought the man had been the best-looking guy she'd seen in...well, possibly ever, but there was no way she was admitting that to her nosy, well-meaning, interfering best friends. Ever since Megumi had gotten engaged and Misao had finally managed to pounce her long-time crush, the two of them had been on an absolutely relentless campaign to see Kaoru "find happiness with the right man," as they so eloquently—and frequently—expressed it. Frankly, she was getting more than sick of their efforts. As far as she was concerned, her life was perfectly fine the way that it was, thank you, and a relationship would just take more than she was willing to give in terms of time and emotional investment. She'd been through enough disasters in the past couple of years—many of them arranged by her oh-so-helpful friends- to make the entire idea distasteful.

Misao grinned. 'Didn't have to say it; your face gives it away. What'd he look like? Maybe we can put up "Wanted" posters: 'Girl Seeks Man from Trifle Incident; Interested in Long Walks, Deep Conversations, and Great-"

"MISAO! Don't you even THINK about it!" Knowing Misao, that sounded like exactly the kind of stunt she'd pull. Actually, now that she thought about it, it sounded exactly like a stunt that she had pulled, back in college; fortunately, Kaoru, hadn't been the target of Misao's help on that occasion.

Unexpectedly, it was Megumi who came to Kaoru's rescue, as she stood up, giving her nails a final once-over before speaking. 'Now, now, Misao; Kaoru clearly doesn't want to pursue this—and, as her friends, we should respect her wishes about how she runs her life."

"But that's not what you said bef—ok, yup, you're right; I will now go and bring the Trifle, in a way which is completely respectful of Kaoru's personal wishes, and her personal space, and her personal hygiene..."

Kaoru threw a pillow at Misao's retreating form, a solid hit. Megumi shook her head in a way which was meant to both indicate disapproval of Misao's hyper behavior and inspire Kaoru to confide in her. Kaoru's flat stare in return indicated that she wasn't buying it. With a sigh, Megumi gave up and said, "Well, at least he was nice about it. Did you just get his suit, or his shirt and tie as well? Ties can be impossible to get cleaned.. well, unless you were lucky and he was wearing one that already had pink spots on it..."

"I have been told that I look good in pink,"... "Eh.. no, he wasn't wearing a tie at all. Just a suit and shirt... I hope that he knows a good drycleaner; they looked exp... Misao! Don't try to carry all three bowls at once, or you're going to be the second person who's ended up wearing Raspberry Trifle instead of eating it!"

Dashing forward to intervene before another food-related disaster could occur, Kaoru missed Megumi's sly expression. A man wearing a blue suit and no tie—a man who was nice enough to not get angry about getting food dumped all over him- a man who was leaving their building at about the same time Kaoru was arriving...

Megumi grinned to herself. If she was right—and she was sure that she was—then there was no need for Kaoru to have asked her mystery man for his name.

Now all she had to do before the evening was out was make sure that her friend accepted a perfectly harmless dinner invitation for the following Tuesday... and make sure that Sano extended a similar invitation to the man in question.

"... and tell Mr. Blake that he has already received multiple citations from the relevant environmental agencies regarding his building practices, and that any further infractions will be dealt with, severely. And personally. By me." Grimacing at the phone as he hung up, Kenshin put the papers scattered across his desk back into their file and checked his calendar to see when his next appointment was.

He never enjoyed threatening idiots who thought that they could break the law, destroying the environment and making people sick with the careless disposal of chemicals.

Well, he almost never enjoyed it.

Looking down at his dayplanner, Kenshin saw that he had drycleaning to pick up after he got off from work. He sighed and looked at his watch. There was no way he was going to have time for that. Picking up the phone again, he left a message for his assistant to get it for him once she was back from lunch.

He hoped that they had managed to get everything clean again, but even if they hadn't...

...A pair of incredibly blue eyes, deep enough to drown in...the sight of her tongue nervously flicking over full pink lips as she'd stared at him... long black hair tied back in a ponytail that swung when she walked... and a style of walking that did the most interesting things to her hips...

It had been worth ruining a suit to meet her.

Now he just had to find out who she was. He hadn't quite decided on a strategy yet; staking out the building where she had clearly just been visiting didn't seem productive; getting Aoshi's firm to obtain copies of the security tapes and trace her using her photograph was a much better option, although engineering another "chance" meeting between them might take some planning on his part...

Then again, it would by no means be the most difficult thing he'd ever done. And there was no question that he would figure out a way to find her.

He smiled at the memory of her expression as he'd run his finger down her cheek—and at the memory of how soft her cheek had been. That smear of pink cream had been driving him crazy since she'd first turned her face towards him, and he'd been fighting the urge to just lean forwards and lick it off directly.

Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending—he knew that that sort of thing was generally frowned upon in polite society, at least during first meetings.

He could easily imagine other circumstances, though, where...

Kenshin's pleasant reverie was interrupted by a loud knock on his door, followed immediately by the entrance of one of his oldest friends, clearly in a boisterous mood.

"Kenshin! They still not letting you outta the office? Haven't they ever heard of lunch breaks?"

"Hello, Sano; I had deadlines to meet, I've already eaten, and no, I'm not buying you lunch."

The taller man managed to look convincingly insulted that anybody could think he would show up just to cadge a free lunch from a friend. Kenshin wasn't fooled for an instant.

Sano grinned when Kenshin raised one eyebrow, and said, "Well, actually, I have come on important business. Businesses. First of all, Megumi and I were wondering if you would do us the honor of being my Best Man at the wedding."

Genuinely surprised and pleased, Kenshin exclaimed, "But, Sano, I thought that... I mean, of course, I'm honored, but didn't you already ask Katsu?"

"Err..." Sano looked sheepish, "Well.. you weren't at Katsu's wedding last month, were you?"

"No, I had to go to Portland, remember? Why, what happened? He didn't show up drunk or get lost en route or something, did he?"

"Let's just say that afterwards Megumi and I—mostly Megumi—had a long discussion on why any man who responded to the statement, "With this body, I thee worship" with a loud, "HELL, yeah!" should probably not be entrusted with the most important toast on the most important day of our lives, etc., etc. Don't worry; I've already told him, and he's much happier just planning the bachelor party and letting you do the responsible stuff."

"Ah. Well, like I said, I'd be honored."

"Great! Second, you are hereby invited to dinner at our place on Tuesday night. Last chance before I go make an honest woman out of the Fox."

There was something in Sano's too-casual tone that gave Kenshin pause. 'Oh no- not again,' he thought. Staring at his friend with a hint of his courtroom manner, Kenshin carefully said, "So, Sano, this would be a dinner party consisting of you, and me, and Megumi, correct?"

Sano blinked, looking startled. "Well.. um... Megumi did mention that she.. um.. might try to invite a friend of hers. But, Kenshin..."

"No. No, no, no. No way."

"But, Kenshin, you haven't even..."

"Don't need to, and I have a meeting in five minutes. Tell Megumi that I'll gladly accept an invitation to have dinner with you, and with her, and that if I see a hint of a fourth place setting, I'm going to suddenly remember an urgent appointment across town."

Accepting defeat, Sano sighed. "Well, ok, Kenshin, but I still think you'd be missing out. Meg said that Kaoru's finally figured out how to make her grandmother's special Raspberry Trifle recipe." He managed to avoid looking at Kenshin as he said it, concentrating intently on the pair of antique Japanese swords Kenshin had chosen to put over the mantel in his office.

Kenshin froze in the action of writing notes on a file. "Really?" He moistened suddenly dry lips "Well.. that does sound... delicious..."

Sano's broad grin practically dislodged the toothpick he habitually had in his mouth. "Yup, so she said—course, I didn't get to try any of it; apparently, Kaoru ran into some guy in the hall on the way there and spilled most of it."

"Did she, now..." Kenshin mused, his expression thoughtful. "Well, I would hate to deprive... Kaoru... of a chance to practice her culinary skills... What time should I be there?"

"Oh... Megumi invited Kaoru for eight o'clock... so I would recommend around seven thirty... you're not the only one who gets nervous at the sight of an extra place setting..." Sano winked and turned to leave.

"Seven thirty, on Tuesday. Thanks, Sano; tell Megumi that I'm really looking forward to it."... 'Kaoru... oh, yes, I am definitely looking forward to it...'

Fortunately, this time, the Trifle had survived the trip, crazed bus drivers and all, completly intact. Kaoru approached Megumi's door with a sense of triumph that was only marginally dimmed by the fact that, once again, her car had refused to budge.

She was in the middle of trying to figure out how to manage knocking on the door while not dropping anything when the door swung open.

"Thanks, I was just trying to figure out how... to... knock..." she trailed off as she looked into a pair of violet-colored eyes."Um... Hi? This is still Megumi and Sano's place, right?"

The man flashed her a brilliant smile. "Yup, you're definitely in the right place. Megumi's just finishing dinner, and Sano said something about opening up a bottle of wine. ... Come on in!"

Instead of a suit, he was dressed casually, in a forest green sweater and a pair of blue jeans that were well-fitting enough to make Kaoru forget whatever pleasant small talk she had been just about to start.

She was saved from saying something she was sure would be extremely inane by Sano's catching sight of her from across the living room and holloring out a cheerful greeting.

"Hey, there, Missy— what are you standing out in the hall for; get yourself in here! Hey, Meg! Kaoru's here!.. .Hang on, I'll go get us a couple of glasses.." he finished as he took the bottle of wine he was carrying back into the kitchen.

Kaoru came in and started looking for a place to put the trifle down while she removed her coat. Before she could, however, the red-haired man stepped forward and said, "Here, let me take care of that for you."

She handed him the bowl and said, " Um.. careful; I mean, I've put Saran wrap on top, but.."

"Don't worry," he said, grinning, "I won't let the trifle win this time."

Kaoru rolled her eyes and turned to take her coat of. She was surprised at the sudden feeling of warm hands helping her slip out of the sleeves, and turned to find that the man had somehow put the trifle down onto the coffee table and come back to help her without her having heard him move.

She was fairly certain it wasn't her imagination that his hands lingered just a bit longer than absolutely necessary, or that there were faint sparks right underneath her skin where they had touched her.

Sano came back in carrying a small tray with three glasses of red wine that he distributed.
"So, Kaoru, this is Kenshin Himura; Kenshin, this is Kaoru Kamiya. I'm your charming host, Sanosuke Sagara, and my lovely fiancee, Dr Megumi Takani, is currently in the kitchen finishing what looks like its going to be a spectacular dinner."

The red-haired man, 'Kenshin...' Kaoru thought, took two glasses of wine, offering one to Kaoru.

"Thank you.. Kenshin," she said, "I'll take one in a minute; right now I really need to get this Trifle into the fridge," 'And, while I'm at it, give a certain Fox a piece of my mind for setting me up! No wonder she didn't ask me more questions last week, damn it!'

With both hands full, Kenshin couldn't offer to help Kaoru; she took advantage to swiftly retrieve the dessert and head out into the kitchen.

Sano, noticing the way his friend's eyes followed Kaoru as she walked, had a kind of casual smugness in his voice as he said, "Seems like you approve of our other dinner guest, eh, Kenshin?"

Sipping his wine, Kenshin was well aware that his eyes probably had glints of predatory amber in them as he replied, "Oh, yes, I very definitely approve. How long have you two known Kaoru?" As long as the raven-haired girl was out of the room, Kenshin planned on taking advantage of the fact to learn everything he could about her.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Megumi paused in stirring the sauce to direct Kaoru as to where exactly the Trifle should go.

Once the dessert had been safely stowed in the fridge, Kaoru casually leaned against the counter next to the stove and crossed her arms over her chest. Megumi, recognizing the signs, studiously ignored her friend's accusing glare and concentrated on adding seasoning to the green beans.

"I couldn't help but notice that you invited someone else to what you assured me was going to be, and I quote, "a chance for the three of us to catch up before the serious wedding craziness gets going,"—or am I just imagining the gentleman with red hair out in the living room with Sano?"

"Who, Kenshin? Sano's known him forever; they go way back; it didn't seem right to invite one of my friends to our last pre-wedding dinner party and not let him invite one of his." Megumi's voice and expression were models of complete innocence; Kaoru wasn't fooled for an instant.

"Me.Gu.Mi. Are you trying to tell me that Sano just HAPPENS to have invited the man I accidentally ran into last week, and that this is not another one of the crazy schemes that you and/or Misao tend to cook up every couple of weeks, whenever you've had enough caffeine and/or alcohol to persuade yourselves that I, and more specifically my love life, need your expert assistance?"

"Kaoru, dear, if you had a love life, neither of us would need to help you out, now would we?" Megumi returned sweetly, and Kaoru was positive she could practically see the fox ears behind her friend's head. The young doctor continued, her tone still so sweet and innocent that Kaoru fought down the urge to retrieve her bowl from the refridgerator and have another "unfortunate accident." "Besides which, how could I possibly have known that Kenshin was the man you assaulted with a dessert last week.. the fact that it's him is nothing more than a serendipitous coincidence."

Kaoru opened her mouth to express her opinion of serendipity in general and fox-like friends in particular, but before she could say anything, Kenshin casually strode into the kitchen.

"Megumi? Sano was asking your opinion on wine selection and what candles should go on the table."

"Thanks, Kenshin," she replied, a little too quickly for Kaoru's comfort, "I'll go talk to him, if you promise to keep an eye on things out here.. that sauce might need a bit more seasoning, if you don't mind..." And, just like that, she was gone, and Kaoru was left alone with a man she really wasn't sure she wanted to be alone with.

Kenshin gave her a grin that did funny things to the pit of her stomach as he came over to the stove and looked down at the pots and pans bubbling merrily away on the stove.

"So, Kaoru, Sano tells me that you're a teacher..." Kenshin said as he hunted for a spoon to taste the sauce with.

Mentally making a note to damage a certain rooster the next time she got the chance, Kaoru answered, "Well, I'm just finishing my internship; I'll be graduating in June, and hope to have a post at an elementary school or Junior High next fall..."

"Challenging work... " he mused as he finally found a spoon and tasted the sauce. Kaoru refused to allow herself to be distracted by the way his tongue once again flicked out to catch a stray bit of sauce; she was not even going to start thinking about that, she really didn't need this kind of complication...

Kaoru's valiant efforts at not being distracted were interrupted by Kenshin asking, "Kaoru? Do you know where Megumi and Sano keep the seasonings?"

"Umm.. I think they're in the cupboard, over to your right... hang on; what exactly do you need?"

"Salt, pepper... white pepper if they've got it... little bit of nutmeg wouldn't hurt..."

She had to admit, she was impressed that he seemed to know his way around the kitchen, and felt comfortable enough to improvise. Kaoru had discovered that the only way she could make things taste good was to religiously follow whatever recipe she was attempting.. and sometimes even that didn't work. She got the things Kenshin had requested and brought them over, and watched, fascinated, as he proceeded to add a dash of one and a pinch of another, all the while with an expression of concentration on his face, his eyes focused, and his mouth...

Damn it, she was not going to keep staring at him like this; it was getting ridiculous. And what on earth was taking Megumi so long?

"Here, taste this; what do you think?"

Kaoru blinked at the spoon in front of her, then looked back up at Kenshin's expectant expression as he held it towards her. She started to lift up a hand to take the spoon, but Kenshin showed no sign of relinquishing it; instead, he moved the spoon slightly towards her. Hesitantly, she leaned forwards, opening her mouth and letting him feed her.

"Mmmmmmm...wow..." Kaoru said, closing her eyes. She tilted her head to one side and looked down at the saucepot, biting her lower lip slightly as she tried to figure out exactly why this sauce was so much better than Megumi's usual concoctions. She completely missed the way that Kenshin's eyes flashed amber sparks as he looked at her.

"Good, then?" he said, his voice slightly lower than it had been.

Kaoru nodded enthusiastically and turned back to face him, "Absolutely! What on earth did you... " She swallowed nervously at the expression on his face and found herself backing up a step as he advanced, her back pressing up against the counter, her hands braced on the countertop. Kenshin stood so close she could practically feel the heat radiating from his body, placing his palms carefully on the countertop on either side of her, and leaning down towards her to flick his tongue, delicately, against the corner of her mouth.

She honestly thought that her knees were going to buckle at the jolt the contact sent through her, and she wasn't entirely positive she hadn't whimpered.

"You had some sauce there..." Kenshin murmured, the low, husky tones sending another faint ripple of electricity down her spine. Looking up at him with wide eyes, she noticed that his own had gone completely amber, and his expression somehow conveyed that she was about two seconds away from being ravished senseless, regardless of where they might be.

It was a relief when the moment was interrupted by Sano's cheerful yell to Kenshin from the living room and the sound of Megumi making her way back towards the kitchen.

At least it was mostly a relief.

Kenshin was mentally calling himself every name he could come up with as he headed back out to the other room. What on earth had he been thinking, doing something like that?

Well, he'd been thinking about Kaoru's lush mouth, about the way her expression as she tried the sauce had been one of complete enjoyment, what else might put a similar expression on her face... and about how easy it would have been to just lift her up onto the countertop, pulling her so that he could press himself tightly against her, letting her wrap her legs around him...

'Damn it, Himura; control yourself! You were going to take this slowly, remember, not scare the poor girl off!' Taking several deep breaths in an attempt to re-establish some self-control, Kenshin went to go make pre-dinner small talk and help Sano with setting the table.

For the first half of dinner, Kaoru practically refused to look him in the eye, and showed a tendency to blush faintly whenever she did glance in his direction. Sano and Megumi were surprisingly tactful, deliberately ignoring the undercurrents at the dinner table and working to keep the conversation going. Kenshin also worked hard to put her at ease, engaging her in conversation about her chosen profession and her plans for the future.

"What made you decide to be a social studies teacher?"

"Well, my father and mother are both teachers— English and math- so I guess it runs in the family. And I've always really loved history... and... there's this moment, when you're teaching kids, there's this moment when you're telling them something and you know that they really get it, that they've learned something.. it just makes all the annoyances worthwhile, you know?" Kaoru was so caught up in her speech that she lost all her self-consciousness, and by the time she finished, she was earnestly leaning forward and looking directly at Kenshin, her eyes shining with her enthusiasm.

'Lord, she's beautiful..' he thought, and he didn't just mean the way that she looked.

"I know what you mean," Kenshin replied, "Those moments when everything goes right..."

"Exactly!... So, um, Kenshin, what do you do?" Kaoru was embarassed to ask, and mentally berated herself for not having asked Megumi when she had had a chance.

Taking a sip of his wine before replying, Kenshin said easily, "I'm an environmental lawyer."

Sano broke in, declaring, "Kenshin's one of the best! Remember the case last year against the Takeda Corporation? He's the one who beat those bastards..."

"Ah, Sano, it wasn't just me..." A faint flush ran over Kenshin's pale skin. 'And I don't need you to try to make me sound good in front of Kaoru!'

"Still, Kenshin, you have to admit that it was mostly you; I don't think that they would even have prosecuted if you hadn't been there," Megumi said with conviction. She had had a personal stake in that case, he recalled, and had testified about the illnesses caused by the company's reckless disregard for the environment.

Kenshin accepted the compliment graciously, but made sure to turn the conversation to other topics afterwards. He honestly didn't feel comfortable when people praised him for his current work...

Considering what he'd done before, he felt that it was no more than his responsibility.

"He didn't!" Kaoru gasped, laughing.

"What?" said Sano "The resort came very highly recommended!"

"Oh, yes—very highly recommended. By Katsu, who thinks that mirrors on the bedroom ceiling are the epitome of style and elegance!" Megumi replied tartly. "Thank goodness they were willing to give us a cancellation refund—otherwise, you would be making plans to spend your honeymoon alone, rooster-boy."

Sano put his arm around his fiancee and grinned lasciviously, "Well, don't you worry, foxy lady—I guarantee that you are going to have a fa-a-a-a-a-bulous honeymoon."

Both Kaoru and Kenshin looked very intently at their dessert bowls while Megumi whacked Sano over the head with her napkin.

"So, Kenshin..."

"So, Kaoru..."

They both checked themselves and looked at each other, then started laughing as they realized that they had both tried to divert the conversation at the same time.

Sano and Megumi stopped their own discussion and looked at the other two, then also started laughing.

"Sorry, Kenshin; sorry, Missy—guess we're both kind of wedding-crazy at the moment..." Sano said, sheepishly.

Kaoru laughed again and said, "No, no; don't worry about it... actually, it's getting kind of late; I should get going if I want to catch the bus." She stood up and started collecting her things, looking at the clock on the wall. "Megumi, if you don't mind, I'll just leave the bowl with you and get it sometime later, ok?"

"Bus?" Kenshin said, looking perplexed and slightly concerned.

She rolled her eyes, "Yeah... my car spent all last week in the shop, they swore it was fixed, and today, of course, it wouldn't start again, no matter what I tried. It's no big deal, just annoying." Sano brought her her coat and she fetched her purse from next to the door.

Kenshin frowned. "Let me give you a ride home." It wasn't really a request.

Blinking, Kaoru looked at him. On the one hand, it was very nice of him to offer her a ride home. On the other, she had never liked being ordered around, or inconveniencing strangers. And the look in Kenshin's eyes was, frankly, still making her a bit wary of being alone with him.

"Thank you, Kenshin, but it really isn't necessary for you to go out of your way like that. The bus stop is right at the corner, and I live in a perfectly safe neighborhood. Really; I take the bus all the time." That last was actually a lie, at least since Kaoru had gotten her car a couple of years ago, but she wasn't worried. Even if some creep tried to bother her, she knew enough martial arts to take care of herself.

Although she certainly wasn't about to tell Kenshin that, since it would only suggest that she was expecting to be mugged on her way home.

In spite of Kenshin's expression, he let her collect her things and get ready to leave without pressing her to take him up on his offer.

"Bye Sano! Bye Megumi! I'll see you guys at the wedding! Kenshin, nice to meet you!" And with that, Kaoru headed out to the elevator.

The minute she had left, Kenshin turned and said, without preamble, "Megumi, Sano; thank you very much for the dinner invitation. I'll see you next week."

And with that, he grabbed his own jacket off the back of the couch and headed out the door.

"Well, that went extremely well, I think," Megumi murmured as the door shut. "I think that Kenshin's exactly what Kaoru needs in her life, don't you?"

Sano came up behind her and put his arms around her, leaning in to nuzzle her neck. "Absolutely. They're going to be perfect for each other."

"So, when do you think I should go put the sparkplugs back in Kaoru's engine?"

Out at the bus stop, Kaoru paced back and forth after checking the schedule. She had about ten minutes before the next bus came, and she would have to transfer, but it would get her home in about forty minutes. She sighed. Really, she was going to call the mechanics shop tomorrow and give them a piece of her mind; this was ridiculous.

Sensing somebody approaching from behind her, Kaoru felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Whirling, she spun around, ready to strike out if neccessary.

Kenshin stood there, looking perfectly comfortable, his hands in the pockets of his dark blue jacket.

Kaoru forced her heart to slow back down and said, "Kenshin! What on earth are you doing out here?"

He shrugged. "Waiting for the bus."

She stared at him, momentarily at a loss for words, then said, "Y-you.. but.. Kenshin.. what do you mean, you're waiting for the bus? You didn't take the bus to get here, did you?"

Kenshin's tone was completely calm as he replied, "I'm taking the bus because you're taking the bus. I'll come back and get my car tomorrow."

"Are you completely deranged?" Kaoru demanded 'What do you mean, you'll get your car tomorrow? What if something happens to it?"

The expression that Kenshin turned on her was calm, but there were amber sparks in his eyes nonetheless. "What exactly are you expecting to happen to it, Kaoru, in a neighborhood that you yourself recently described as "perfectly safe"?"

"I meant my neighborhood, you idiot.. I mean, not that this neighborhood is dangerous!" she added quickly.

"Ah, I see.. .so you were keyed up enough to practically attack me on sight because you think that this neighborhood is not at all dangerous."

She was starting to see where Kenshin must be an excellent lawyer.

"I.. it's... there's... Look, the bus will be here soon and, there's really no point in you going all the way..."

Kenshin turned from where he was examining the bus schedule. 'You live over on McCullen, right?"

"Err.. well, yes, how did you.." Kaoru was really going to have to have a talk with Megumi and Sano on the subject of personal privacy, and why it was important.

Ignoring her, Kenshin continued, "If you take the bus, it's going to take you at least forty-five minutes..."

"Forty!" she said, slighly snappish.

"...and you'll have to transfer, which will involve waiting at another station, by yourself... I really don't think I'm prepared to let you do that."

"You don't think that... listen, where do you get the right..." Now she was really starting to get angry.

Kenshin stepped closer and looked at her, clearly trying to keep his own emotions under control.

"Kaoru. Please. I agree with you that nothing is likely to happen, that you are probably going to be perfectly safe. However, if something did, you know that Sano and Megumi would be devastated, and would blame themselves because you were on the way home from their dinner party."

She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Oh, he was definitely not playing fair!

"Besides," and now his expression turned mischevious. "It's either put up with me for forty minutes on the bus, or accept my offer of a ride home, and only have to deal with twenty minutes of my company."

She glared, but knew that she was defeated. "Fine."

Kenshin's car was parked slightly up the street, a dark blue BMW that was elegant without being flashy. He opened the door for her, then went around to the driver's side while she admired the interior.

As he started the car, he asked, "Music preferences?"

"Oh.. um.. anything is fine, just nothing hip-hop, death metal, or screechy opera singers."

His mouth quirked up at that, and soon the pleasant strains of a Mozart quartett filled the car as they headed towards her apartment.

She gave him the directions, and was debating with herself whether to talk with him or make him ride the entire way in silence when he asked, "Looking forward to the wedding?"

Drat. It would be rude not to ignore a direct question.

"Yes; Sano and Megumi are perfect for each other, even though half the time you'd never guess it."

Kenshin chuckled, a thoroughly amused sound that she had to admit she found attractive.

"True.. I still remember the first two years of their relationship, before either of them would admit how they felt—Sano kept coming into the office and compaining about "that damned Fox woman" while he was trying to get me to pay for his lunch..."

She laughed in spite of herself, "And Megumi was just as bad! She used to swear up and down that if he came in with one more stupid injury from one more idiotic fight, she was going to make sure that he had to stay in the hospital long enough to develop some common sense! That was back when we were rooming together and she was still doing her internship. Misao and I never could quite figure out how on earth Sano kept getting himself beaten up..."

Kenshin's expression was hard to read, and his bangs fell forward to cover his eyes.

"Usually," he said, his tone carefully neutral, "it was because he was working on something for me."

"For you? But I didn't know that environmental lawyers needed to employ private..."

"I didn't used to be in environmental law... I started out as a prosecuter, working for the government, mostly. I was... very good at my job, but after a while... Well, anyway, I'm much happier with what I'm doing now."

"Oh." She wasn't entirely certain what to say to that. She could definitely see Kenshin as a prosecuting attorney; from what she'd seen of him so far, she was convinced that he would have been excellent. He had the right killer instincts for it. However, it was equally clearly a part of his life that had made him unhappy, and that he was trying to put behind him.

Finally, she settled on saying, "I think what you're doing now is very important; Megumi's talked about the Takeda case, and they clearly had to be stopped. And I've read about other, similar cases... We could certainly use more lawyers who are as dedicated to helping people and the environment as you are."

He flashed her a brief grin, and she saw that some of the shadows had lifted from his expression. "Thank you, Kaoru!"

There was something about the way that he said her name that made her relieved that they were about to pull up to her door.

She supposed she shouldn't have been surprised when Kenshin didn't even ask if she wanted him to see her to the door of her building; in fact, she was slightly surprised that he didn't try to formally take her arm and lead her up the steps.

Kenshin followed her up the steps, distracted by the way her hair shone in the lamplight. If he leaned in closely enough, he could catch the faint smell of jasmine that he had noticed in the kitchen, and the temptation was more than he could bear.

She put the key in the lock and turned to thank him, then almost jumped at his proximity.

'Is he... what on earth is he doing?' "Um.. Ken..shin?" she said, trying to back up so that she could see his expression.

"Mmmm?" he said, showing no inclination to move from where he was almost leaning against her hair, his mouth just above her ear.

Kaoru's heart almost skipped a beat at the feel of his breath ghosting over her ear, and as she leaned back against the door and looked up, her mouth went suddenly dry at the amber hunger in his eyes.

Nervously, she licked her lips while she tried to think of something, anything, to say, that would diffuse what was rapidly growing into more than she could handle.

Kenshin's eyes flashed at the movement, and he leaned in, his mouth claiming hers, one arm reaching around her waist and the other hand burying itself in her hair, angling her head so that he could deepen their kiss.

He could feel Kaoru's momentary startlement before she practically melted against him, could feel the way her curves pressed up against his body and her soft mouth parted to let his tongue slip in and start to tangle with hers.

She tasted wonderful, and the noises she was making in the back of her throat as she kissed him were enough to make him want to drag her up to her apartment, or his apartment, or the back seat of his car...he found that he didn't really care.

Kaoru felt the same jolt she had felt when Kenshin had licked her cheek, except tenfold, and she knew for a fact that this time she was whimpering as he molded her body against him and explored her mouth very thoroughly.

She clutched at his shoulders, seeking to pull him closer, wanting to lose herself in the feel of him, and when he pulled back to let both of them breath, she could see her own emotions reflecting in his eyes.

The fact that Kaoru looked both thoroughly kissed and thoroughly kissable was doing nothing for Kenshin's self-control, but the sound of someone approaching the door of the building made enough rational thought return that he was able to ensure that the two of them looked respectable—well, mostly—when her neighbor exited the building.

Kenshin tried to regulate his breathing, using the distraction provided by the presence of a third person to get himself back other control, to cool the fire racing through his blood.

As much as he wanted to keep going, to spend the rest of the night exploring every inch of Kaoru's lovely body, memorizing the taste of her skin, he didn't want to rush her, or give her cause to regret anything later.

She was a woman worth taking his time with, even if it meant that he was going to have to go home and jump straight into a cold shower.

Kaoru struggled to regain equilibrium and remember what coherent thought meant. Kenshin had stepped back when he had heard Mrs. Abernathy approaching the door, and she was glad for that; letting the nosiest old lady on the block see her passionately embracing a stranger on the stoop late at night was definitely not a good idea.

She could still feel the sparks from their kiss, could practically still feel him pressed up against her, his desire evident in the way that he held her, in the press of his body against hers.

And she had absolutely no idea what to do next.

Part of her, the part that had absolutely melted at the first touch of his lips to hers, wanted to drag him upstairs, ravish him thoroughly, and not let him leave until they had to attend the wedding.

However, the annoyingly rational voice in the back of her head pointed out that it was probably not a good plan to jump the poor man the very first night, that she should be certain that there was more to it than lust, and that she had to be up early the next morning to go to classes.

And, also, that it wouldn't be fair to rip his clothes off and leave him with nothing to wear for the drive back home.

Although the thought of Kenshin naked and trapped in her apartment was almost tempting enough to make it worthwhile...

Kaoru shook her head to clear her thoughts and hesitantly said, "I..um.. I have class tomorrow morning at eight..."

Kenshin let out a deep breath and said, "That's ok... I need to be at the office pretty early, too... "

His voice was under control, but he couldn't quite erase the sparks from his eyes.

Kaoru backed up slightly, needing the distance to help get her thoughts back together.

"Thank you for the ride..Kenshin," she said softly, and then, needing to say something else to distract herself from the way his eyes had lit up at the way she said his name, babbled, "It was great to meet you..again.. and..and... I hope that we can.. I look forward to having... a chance to get to see you at the wedding...err... um.. Good night!"

This time, she definitely fled, but she told herself that it was the best thing for both of them...

Another five seconds of being that close to him, and she wasn't quite sure what she would have done.

It was only when she got upstairs to her apartment and looked at her appearance in the hall mirror that she realized she had apparently lost her hair ribbon at some point out on the steps.

"Good night, Kaoru..." Kenshin said to himself softly as he watched her retreating form.

Her hair ribbon had fallen to the steps where he had dropped it after pulling it out, and he picked up the length of purple fabric and put it into his jacket pocket.

His mouth quirked into a smile as he realized that this was twice Kaoru had turned and run away from him.

This time, though, he really couldn't blame her; in spite of his virtuous intentions, the odds were fairly good that another five seconds of the tension between them would have resulted in more than her hair ribbon being ripped off and abandoned on the steps, and if her apartment was more than one floor up, he wouldn't have wanted to bet on her making it as far as her own door before...

'Control, Himura! ... and many, many cold showers...'

Besides, he comforted himself, there was no way he was letting her run away from him a third time.

The next two days, Kaoru went to classes, went to work, went to sleep, and tried very, very hard not to think about a certain red-head. She wasn't sure what to make of the fact that he hadn't called her yet.. well, alright, she hadn't given him her phone number, but she was certain he could have gotten it from Sano or Megumi.

Maybe he was giving her time? She wasn't sure what to think about that, either. True, she'd mentioned seeing him at the wedding, but that didn't mean that she didn't want... that she would mind...

Giving it up as hopeless, Kaoru headed up the stairs, resolving to get out of her high heels, change from her "I am professional but not uptight, and don't question my authority in the classroom" skirt into a nice, comfortable pair of sweats and a t-shirt, eat the Chinese food she was bringing home, and maybe watch a movie or something.

When someone came up behind her as she was opening the door, she spun, startled, only to see the red hair and violet eyes that had been plaguing her dreams for the past two nights.

"Kenshin! Are you trying to get me to throw Chinese food all over you?"

His grin was almost but not quite free of predatory intent. "Well, Kaoru, if it makes you happy to keep throwing food at me..."

She glared at him and demanded, "What on earth are you doing here?"

Kenshin reached down and picked up the bags she had set down before she could say a word of protest, and easily answered, "Several things. First," he indicated a bag he was holding, "Megumi asked me to bring back your bowl. Second, I ..err. wanted to return your hair ribbon. It was on the steps. Third, I was wondering if you could help me with this Best Man toast I'm supposed to be giving. I could use somebody to give it a critical once-over... I was going to offer to buy you dinner if you'd take a look at it, but since you've already picked up food, perhaps you'd be willing to take a raincheck?"

His tone was perfectly innocent, and his reasons made sense, but there was still something in his eyes that made Kaoru feel either nervous or anticipatory; she wasn't sure which.

"Umm.. thank you. And Megumi. And, well, sure; I'd be happy to look at the toast for you. I.. if you'd like, you could have some of the Chinese food and we could take care of it now. I have Sesame Chicken and potstickers and, um.. Orange Beef."

Kenshin grinned and said, "That sounds great."

Kaoru told Kenshin where the plates were while she got silverware out and put serving utensils in the Chinese food. She debated using some of her serving dishes rather than the restaurant containers, but decided that it was better to keep things casual.

'Casual. Right. Just helping him with that toast, nothing more...'

Never mind that she had seen his eyes sparking amber in his reflection as they'd come into the apartment; never mind that the scent of him as he leaned close to her to put plates on the table was doing distracting things to her breathing, never mind that his tone of voice as he'd mentioned her hair ribbon had immediately made her brain start replaying their interlude on the stoop. Repeatedly. In technicolor.

Kenshin deliberately kept the conversations casual during dinner. He had been expecting that he and Kaoru would go out to a restaurant, someplace where they could enjoy enough privacy to talk comfortably, and that then, maybe, they could take it from where they'd left off earlier in the week.

Being alone with Kaoru in her apartment was more temptation than he had bargained for, and he wasn't entirely certain he could handle it. Not when she was so close, not when he could tell from her faint blushes and occasionally distracted air that her thoughts were running along the same lines as his.

They talked about their jobs, Kaoru told him all about her younger brother's escapades, and he shared stories of the uncle who had raised him and given him his love for practicing law and helping people.

After dinner, she suggested that they go into the living room so she could hear him deliver the toast he had written. With her feet curled up under her skirt and her brilliant blue eyes watching him expectantly, she was so adorable that he was hard pressed to avoid just tackling her on the couch and kissing her senseless, but he called upon years of training and recited what he'd written.

Kaoru was impressed. It was a good toast, including the right mix of humor—mostly at Sano's expense—and heartfelt wishes for the future of the happy couple.

"That was great, Kenshin!" she said, clapping. "You'll be a much better Best Man than Katsu!"

He laughed. "Yes, Sano told me about..er.. Katsu's departing from the text of his vows. I'm glad to have a chance to step in."

Kaoru grinned, "Oh, yes; you should have been there. Everybody was laughing; Tae was livid, and poor little Tsubame was blushing the color of her bouquet. Between that and the garter incident, it's a wonder that both Katsu and Sano escaped uninjured!"

Kenshin cocked his head to one side and asked, puzzled, "The garter incident?"

"Ohhhh. Sano didn't tell you about that, did he- he just told the story that would embarass Katsu..." Kenshin nodded, and she continued, "Well... first of all, Megumi made certain that she caught the bouquet, which was no surprise, although I think that it was partially because she threatened Misao to get her to stay out of the way. So, naturally, Sano had to catch the garter, even if it meant, err... let's just say that his garter-catching strategy involved a certain lack of consideration for the other guests. And the furniture."

Kenshin grinned, "Yes, I can imagine where it would. Can't blame him, though..."

"Well, I suppose not, but..." she blushed slightly, "Sano was.. um.. a bit more thorough about putting the garter on Megumi's leg than was absolutely necessary."

At that, Kenshin threw back his head and laughed out loud. When he had finished, he said, "And you say that he got away without serious injury? How on earth did he manage to pull that off?"

"I believe that his official excuse was "lack of practice." At least at this wedding, neither Sano nor Katsu will be in the group trying to catch the darned thing; that's a relief."

"Mmm..." said Kenshin, something in his expression that Kaoru couldn't deciper "But they should probably make sure that the single men who are there can't use Sano's excuse..."

"Wh—what do you mean?" she asked, her voice catching slightly as Kenshin came over towards the couch, his pace unhurried but with a definite air of stalking.

"Well," he said easily, perching on the coffee table in front of where she was sitting and pulling something out of his pocket, "it seems to me that it would be a good idea for whoever expects to catch the garter to practice a bit..."

"Practice?" Kaoru echoed, unable to concentrate with the way his eyes glowed as they looked at her and never left her face.

She could feel her nerves sparking at how close he was, and was having difficulty keeping from throwing her arms around his neck and pressing her lips against his.

"Mmmmm..." he said again, more of a purr than an actual response, "Practice is definitely key..."

Any rational thoughts Kaoru was managing to cling to fled at the feel of Kenshin's fingers wrapping around her ankle, and his other hand guiding what she realized must be her hair ribbon, tied off in a loose knot, over her foot and then slowly up her leg...

Kenshin was reveling in the feel of her skin under his fingers, the way her pupils dilated in reaction to his touch. This wasn't what he had been planning on, but his brain had come up with an image of Kaoru, sitting in her bridesmaid's dress, stretching out that delicate ankle, waiting for someone—for him—to put the garter on her, and he hadn't been able to shake it.

And at the feel of her skin, the way her lips parted and her eyes fluttered closed and her head fell back as he slowly guided the ribbon up past her knee, his self-control completely deserted him.

Once he had reached her thigh, he stopped, his fingers tracing random patterns on her skin, and said in a low, husky voice, "Did you like that.. Kaoru?"

She blinked and looked at him, completely incapable of a response other than to nod and gasp as his fingers ran along the lace of her underwear.

"Kenshin..." she managed, and leaned forward to kiss him, wrapping her arms around his neck and tangling her tongue with his.

He kissed her back fiercely, and one hand came back to reach for the zipper of her skirt. The other kept tracing maddening patterns along her inner thighs, then moved around to cup her bottom and pull her into a standing position as Kenshin also stood up.

Her skirt fluttered to the floor as he pulled her up and molded her body against him, but she barely noticed. She was too busy trying to undo the buttons of Kenshin's shirt as his mouth moved to place burning kisses down the line of her throat, his tongue flicking out to taste the hollow at its base in a way that made her moan and arch against him.

"Ah, Kenshin...yes..." she gasped, hardly aware of what she was saying.

She had managed to remove his shirt, and the feel of her slim hands tracing his chest, running around to the muscles in his back that lept in response, was enough to undo him.

With a sound like a growl, he tore the front of her shirt and brought his mouth down to kiss a path along the tops of her breasts. She whimpered in the back of her throat at his attentions, but the sensations he was causing were nothing compared to what she felt when his tongue delicately flicked underneath her bra to taste her nipple.

Kaoru's knees buckled and she would have fallen back onto the couch if it weren't for Kenshin's arm supporting her. His other hand was occupied with undoing her bra to give him more access.

As it fell to the floor to join her skirt and their shirts, Kenshin pulled back briefly, his eyes blazing with desire as he looked at her flushed face, the passion in her own eyes that matched his, the way her breasts rose and fell as she panted.

"You are so beautiful..." he whispered, and kissed her again, picking her up slightly so that he could guide them both towards the bedroom.

By the time they reached the door, Kaoru had managed to get his jeans undone, and pulled down enough so that he had to pause to remove them the rest of the way or risk tripping. She promptly began caressing him through his boxers, and he gasped in turn, before she pulled down on his waistband with one hand while the other continued stroking, her nimble fingers and thumb doing things that made his knees weak and had him gasping and moaning in turn.

Reveling in the sensation, Kenshin removed the boxers the rest of the way and let her back him up against the doorframe and explore him with her hands as she kept kissing him.

The knowledge that she wanted him as strongly, as completely, as he wanted her, doubled the fire in his blood.

However, as much as he was enjoying her touch, there were things he had been fantasizing about for the past two weeks, and he was not going to let another night go by without fulfilling those fantasies.

Taking Kaoru's wrists in his hands, he backed her towards the bed and tumbled her down onto the mattress, looking down at her pale skin, the way her dark hair fell haround her, and he smiled briefly before he joined her, his mouth on hers as his fingers resumed where they had left off, deftly removing her underwear and then stroking upwards along her thighs, causing little sparks under her skin as they moved.

Kaoru felt the way warmth was pooling deep in her stomach, could feel the steady pulse of her growing arousal, but she was still completely unprepared for the jolt of white-hot sensation when Kenshin finally touched her.

She moaned something that might have been his name, and whimpered as he continued, his eyes taking in every nuance of her response. Her hands were still running over his skin, everywhere she could reach, and he moaned in response when she found a particularly sensitive spot.

The movement of his hands remained steady, however, driving her higher and higher as his mouth alternated between cherishing her breasts and tracing the line of her throat. Completely lost to the sensations he was creating, Kaoru felt herself tighten and shatter and scream as she fell over the edge, her hands clenching hard enough on his back to leave marks.

"Oh, yes, love," Kenshin murmured low in his throat, punctuating his words with kisses along her collarbone as she slowly recovered, "Very, very good... but I rather think that... "

She tried to regain enough control of her vocal cords to ask him what it was that he thought, but by then he was already dusting a trail of kisses down between her breasts, letting his tongue do things to her belly button that she had never imagined, delicately nipping at her stomach before he flicked his tongue against her and made her arch practically all the way off of the mattress.

The look he gave her was more than smoldering as he licked his lips and purred "I thought so... absolutely delicious," before he dipped his head back down, his hands holding her hips to prevent her from escaping as he proceeded to use his tongue and his lips to send her spiraling out of control.

Lost in a maelstrom of sensations, Kaoru could only cling to his shoulders, sobbing and moaning and calling his name.

Lord, she was addictive... the sounds she made, the feel of her skin, the taste of her, the way she responded with a passion equal to his own...

He knew that he would never be able to get enough of her, and he relished the feeling.

Kaoru was his, as much as he was hers, and he was looking forward to demonstrating it to her, again and again.

"Kenshin... Kenshin, please..." she gasped, and he wasn't even sure she was aware of what she was saying. Her eyes conveyed what she wanted, and her hands were moving to pull him closer.

"Yes, love.. anything that you want," he said huskily, settling himself against her, reveling in the feeling of her skin against his, the way her heart was racing as his chest settled against hers, the way her arms wrapped around him.

He made one swift movement with his hips, joining their bodies together, and held perfectly still, letting the feelings wash over him, his eyes closed in bliss.

Kaoru moved first, thrusting up from underneath him, clenching her muscles around him so that his world flashed briefly white. When he could think again, Kenshin smiled. "Eager, aren't you, love," he teased, nipping delicately at her throat, "Well.. I would hate to leave a lady wanting..."

And he lost himself in her, in the feel of her surrounding him, his own groans mingling with hers, clutching her to him.

Wanting to feel more of him, Kaoru wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, pulling him deeper, and delighting in the way it made him gasp and moan and thurst harder, matching his rhythm to hers.

Kaoru could feel the sensations building within her, the shocks of electricity running under her skin, the tensions increasing as she reached the peak and tumbled, helpless, clinging to Kenshin as she felt him shudder and cry out her name.

And, as she slowly felt herself float back towards reality, she could feel him cradling her against him, kissing her forehead as he wrapped her in his arms, murmuring sleepy endearments to which she responded in kind, planting drowsy kisses on his shoulder as she snuggled against him and slept.

The next morning, Kenshin awoke slowly, awareness filtering slowly back into his brain.

He felt a sense of warm contentment that he didn't quite understand, until he also registered the tumble of black hair across pillowcases that were definitely not his and the sensation of his arms wrapped around Kaoru's slim form.

'Oh...' he thought, memory returning with a rush. 'Oh, Kaoru..'

If he wasn't so enchanted by watching her sleep, so trustingly snuggled against him, Kenshin would have been tempted to crow with happiness.

As it was, he was fairly certain he was glowing with it.

He felt her stirring in his arms and looked down, watching as she blinked sleepy blue eyes at him. His heart flipped over at the lazy, contented smile that she gave him as she registered their situation, and he couldn't resist dropping several kisses on her forehead again as he held her.

Kaoru shifted and kissed him back before hugging him again and saying, "Morning..."

"Good morning," Kenshin responded. "Would you like me to fix breakfast?"

"Depends.. can you do it without getting out of the bed?"

Chuckling, he replied, "Well, love, I may have many skills, but unfortunately, that isn't one of them."

"In that case, no, not yet..." she mumbled against his shoulder.

She was so irresistable... he was hard pressed not to kiss her again, and keep kissing her for as long as either of them had the energy.

However, Kenshin told himself sternly, there would be plenty of time for that later, after a good breakfast, to provide needed energy, and a shower...

Thoughts of the shower were another distraction that he had to pull his mind away from, with great effort.

"Kaoru, love?" he queried.


"I'm going to go fix us some breakfast, and then I thought that we could figure out a plan for the rest of the weekend..."

She opened her eyes again and looked at him and said, "Well, the wedding is tomorrow... other than that, I don't have any plans, do you?"

Oh, he had plans alright... his eyes sparked amber as he said, "Well.. I have some ideas, but I thought we should talk about them first."

The way her eyebrow quirked upwards indicated that Kaoru had a fairly good idea what Kenshin's plans might involve, but she smiled at him and said, "That sounds good..."

Kaoru watched Kenshin appreciatively as he got out of bed and pulled on his boxers. He called back to her as he headed out to the kitchen, "Anything in particular that you'd like me to make for breakfast?"

"Whatever you want will be fine!" she called back as she got out of bed and looked for her bathrobe.

'Oh, yes,' she thought to herself, 'Everything is going to be more than fine...'

And Kaoru smiled to herself, a brilliant, cheeful grin, and went out to the kitchen to help Kenshin fix their first breakfast together.

Author's Note: The author, who is blushing furiously and hiding under a convenient rock, would like to comment that this is what happens when she accepts a five-item challenge (said items being: Countertops, mirrors, raspberry cream, hair ribbons, and fingernail polish) in an attempt to see if she could write citrus. She supposes that hiding under a rock is an improvement over the last time she tried to write citrus, when she literally got a nosebleed while typing. Before anybody in the story had done anything to anybody else.