Okay... this is what happens when Shiin is woken up at 5 a.m. by plotbunnies - very annoyingly persisitant plotbunnies.

!WARNING!

This fic is rated M! If you do not like blood, death, smut, more blood, more death and other nasty-type stuff don't READ!

You have been warned.

Thanks!

Shiin

Kaoru gritted her teeth and swung again.

One hundred and fifteen, she counted.

Her arms felt heavy but the repetitions helped her center and concentrate and served as a focus point for her mind which was currently whirling around in chaos.

How long had it been since she joined Ankoku?

'Six months,' her mind supplied helpfully.

And dammit Kaoru had worked too hard. She's sacrificed too much to be a part of this team and get a chance at avenging her parent's death. Trying to prove herself to her teammates was bad enough without having any crushes on them. She had fallen into a nice easy balance with them and she'd be damned before she did anything to threaten or compromise the teamwork that had been built up.

Aoshi wasn't a problem. He was too much of an icicle (and Kaoru thought this in the most affectionate manner possible) for her to ever entertain the idea of having an intimate relationship. No, nothing would ever emerge between her and Okashira.

Sano was the same. She considered him too much of the older brother she'd never had to even think about any other kind of relationship between them. Yuck the thought of her and Sano getting close like that made Kaoru feel dirty. No future between her and Zanza.

No blast it, it was Himura.

And he made it so damn easy to entertain such thoughts. With his long red hair and the way jeans clung to him… And that bloody smirk of his was driving her up the wall. Kaoru gave herself a mental slap and redoubled her swings. Oh he was nice enough, took over cooking duty – cooked better than she herself did and was a damn good operative. And sometimes when it appeared that she wasn't paying attention she could feel his eyes on her…

Yeah it was her and Battousai that was giving Kaoru problems. Or better yet what as never, ever was going to be between her and Battousai, which was giving her problems.

Himura had given her, her name.

Munin.

Named after the Raven from Norse Mythology, the name meant Memory. It could also be translated at 'Bold' and 'Desirous' and Kaoru was pretty damn sure Himura had known that when he'd given her, her codename.

Dammit he probably did know it.

Which brought her mind back to the mission at hand – 'and it doesn't include jumping his bones!' She snapped at herself.

Kaoru had come down for breakfast this morning to find Kenshin cooking – as usual – Sano demolishing an omelet and Aoshi sipping a cup of green tea and going over a manila file which looked to have just arrived.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Kaoru had accepted plate of food from Kenshin and promptly began eating it when Aoshi handed her the file to read.

"Your new mission."

Kaoru had nodded a bit absentmindedly and still shoveling food into her mouth began to read.

And then promptly began to choke.

She and Himura were going under cover.

Ok she could handle that, pretty easily.

No, she and Himura were going under cover in an S&M club.

Still wheezing Kaoru had re-read that line several times before it had sunk in.

"What the fuck is this?" She screeched once she could breathe enough to form words properly.

"Hah!" Sano crowed. "Told you she would freak! Kenshin you owe me five dollars!"

Kaoru whapped him with her spoon.

"Explain," she turned her eyes to Aoshi waiting.

"You've heard of Takeda Kanryuu?" He asked.

"The drug dealer? Yes." Kaoru nodded.

"He's expanded his network into other things and is getting out of control."

"What other things?" Kaoru asked warily.

"Human trafficking, organ harvesting and supposedly making a new batch of opium that is more potent and more addictive than the current kind he's selling."

"Busy, busy boy," Kaoru murmured. "I still don't understand why this involves me and Himura in an S&M club." She fought back a twitch as she said the words.

Sano began to laugh again and Kaoru smacked him with her spoon without looking at him.

"He's a frequent client at Jihi," Aoshi replied.

Kaoru's eyebrows rose, "an S&M club called 'Mercy'? That's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one."

Sano was still guffawing but Kaoru ignored him.

"So why me and Himura?" Kaoru asked, she looked over at Kenshin who appeared to be absorbed in making an omelet. She knew he was listening despite is oblivious appearance.

"Because you're the most likely team. You for the obvious fact you're a woman," - Kaoru twitched at this. "And Kenshin because he's the most obvious choice."

True she had to admit grudgingly. She couldn't imagine Sano in an S&M club – dammit she didn't even want to think about Sano in an S&M club. Kaoru shuddered, she felt dirty.

"So," she popped a piece of omelet in her mouth – which she would later regret – get Kanryuu alone and kill him?"

"He likes threesomes," Sano interjected, enjoying her discomfort.

Kaoru sputtered and began to choke again.

"I. Am. cough wheeze Going. To. Kill. choke sputter You." She snarled at Sano.

Aoshi waited patiently as she threw a spoon and it hit Sano between the eyes and then yelled at him for a moment.

Kaoru pulled her mind back to business with some difficulty. Oh she was going to kill the rooster-head for that particular remark. Himura was leaning against the counter and she could practically feel his eyes on her.

Idiot was probably enjoying this as well.

"So when?" She glared at Sano one last time and turned her attention back on Aoshi.

"Tonight," he replied. "Tae will drop off your… outfit later."

Kaoru shuddered, she didn't want to think of what she'd be wearing – or for that matter what she wouldn't be wearing.

She pushed her chair back. "I'm going to take a shower and a nap."

And promptly beat it out of the kitchen.

After practicing some Kendo to mull over the latest mission; Kaoru took a nice long shower – alternating between hot and cold – Kaoru had braided her hair, and taken a nap.

She awoke five hours later and opened her closet, tapping on the back wall so it slid away and revealed her weapons cache.

She didn't know what kind of weapons Aoshi wanted her to bring so she went with the safe, easy to conceal ones. A few small knives, her watch that contained garrote wire and jade chopsticks that concealed small daggers which she could wind in her hair.

There was a knock at the door and Tae entered carrying a slim black box.

Kaoru eyed it warily.

"How is it?" She asked Tae.

Tae smiled, "not too bad actually. Considering where you are going it's quite demure."

Kaoru wasn't sure the word 'Demure' was even in an S&M dictionary.

She grimaced and braced herself and opened the box.

Ok, she admitted to herself, considering what the possibilities could have been it wasn't bad.

She still hated it.

The top was Chinese silk done in a mock-Mandarin style with a low flared collar and flowing sleeves that reached her elbows. The pattern was black with purple jasmine blossoms floating throughout. It cut off abruptly an inch or two below her breasts leaving the entirety of her stomach bare. The skirt was long, falling to her ankles, and leather with a slit up the tight. Kaoru briefly offered a prayer of thanks that it wasn't a mini-skirt.

"Also brought some new accessories," Tae said cheerfully as she noticed Kaoru's disgusted look.

"What kind of accessories?" Kaoru asked.

"The kind you like," Tae replied, producing a black velvet bag from somewhere and pulling out violet chopsticks that were twins of the jade ones Kaoru already owned and a silver bracelet that twined its way up her arm, studded with amethysts.

"You just give it a flick," Tae said gesturing toward the bracelet, "and it turns into a dagger."

Kaoru smiled her thanks.

Tae did her hair – a braided and coiled bun at the back of her head, leaving several strands free to frame her face and artfully working the chopsticks in – and makeup. Dark kohl around the eyes and a deep red for her lips that remind Kaoru of freshly split blood.

"You're done," she said, producing at last a bare of black sandal high heels.

Kaoru glared at the pieces of footwear. High heels. Absolutely useless shoes. What idiot had ever come up with them? You couldn't run in them – unless you wanted to break your ankle – and you sure as hell couldn't fight effectively in them.

She smothered her protest and slipped her feet into them.

"You're ready now," Tae beamed.

Kaoru eyed her bed and briefly contemplated diving back under the covers and putting everything down as a bad dream caused by not enough caffeine and chocolate.

She sighed.

"Guess I am," squaring her shoulders she turned and marched out the door.

Sano whistled when appeared and she good naturedly gave him the finger.

Aoshi nodded barely perceptively in approval.

She turned to find Kenshin and sucked in her breath.

He was clad in all black – ok nothing new there. But the leather pants were fitting him like a second skin and Kaoru did her best not to imagine exactly how that could come about. He wore a black poet's blouse that showed a triangle of chest – at this point Kaoru was seriously considering staying in bed and delegating her mission to someone else – like Sano – though he would probably kill her if she tried. His hair was braided falling nearly to his hips and he wore knee high leather boots that emphasized the length of his legs and made him appear taller.

Kaoru eyed the liquor cabinet kept well-stocked by Sano. A shot of whisky sounded really good at this moment.

This was going to be a long, long night.

Aoshi suddenly tilted his head, listening. "You're limousine is here."

"We get a limo?" Kaoru asked.

"The kind of club you are going to, no one drives themselves. It's too low class."

Oh so apparently Jihi was a classy S&M club. That explained the absence of vast amounts of leather and chains and metal studs she was seeing in Kenshin and her uh… uniforms.

"You should leave now. Kanryuu gets there nice and early and usually has his partners marked out quickly."

Kaoru twitched. The only thing she wanted to be doing with Kanryuu was killing the greasy slime ball.

Kenshin nodded, "let's go then." He said to Kaoru.

Kaoru swallowed and nodded trailing after Kenshin.

The limo driver was another operative that Kaoru recognized vaguely. He opened the door for them and she slid inside, leaving as much space as possible between her and Kenshin. The privacy glass slid into place between them and the driver.

Kaoru glanced out the window ignoring Kenshin.

It worked for all of five seconds. The limo was too tiny for her to effectively ignore him. She could practically feel him in the car and it was not doing good things for her hormones.

"Where are your knives?" Kenshin's voice startled her out of her thoughts.

Kaoru blinked, "pardon?"

"They'll search you before we enter the club." Kenshin said softly golden eyes hard. "Where did you put your knives?"

"I'm not whipping them out in front of you Himura," Kaoru grit out.

Kenshin made a softly exasperated sound and the next second Kaoru found herself pulled into his lap, his hand trailing up her thigh.

"Kenshin what in hell are yo- mph!" Any protest was effectively cut off by his mouth.

His fingers found the knives she had strapped to her thighs and went higher finding the smaller knife she had placed. His knuckles brushed against the satin of her panties and she cursed against his mouth.

Unfortunately she was in no position to kick him in the balls so she bit him.

He let go and she scrambled off him.

"You enjoyed that," she hissed.

"Mmm…" Kenshin's eyes gleamed. He twirled the knives he had taken from her and then vanished them somewhere Kaoru couldn't see. She hoped he stuck them up his ass.

"We're almost there," Kenshin said.

Kaoru blinked as he suddenly produced a velvet collar and leash. Where in hell did he store…

"You'll be the one wearing that I presume?" She asked hopefully.

"You are," Kenshin's lip twitched in something very close to a smile.

Kaoru told him quite eloquently where he could go shove himself, how high the cliff he should jump off and exactly what she hoped he would land on when he did jump off said cliff.

She was cut off from her tirade when she found herself pinned underneath him.

"Get off!" She snarled, twisting.

"Kaoru," Kenshin's voice and eyes were serious. "You are going to need to wear a collar or you might as well be advertising yourself as fair game to anyone in the room. At least with the collar around your neck no one will bother you."

Kaoru stopped cursing him but her eyes still flashed.

"And," Kenshin continued. "You're going to want to stop getting so defensive every time I touch you or the mission will be blown. You're a submissive you must act like it."

'I'll show you how submissive I am…' Kaoru thought but she saw the truth in his words. She'd have to relax and at least with the collar around her neck she'd be less likely to have to tangle with anyone.

The mission depended on her ability to act.

To be convincing.

She sighed and Kenshin took that as acquiescence.

"Good," Kenshin murmured, he fastened the collar around her neck gently and then Kaoru stiffened as he buried his face in her neck just above it, teeth grazing her pulse point.

"What are you…?" Kaoru felt shocks race through her as Kenshin bit her.

"You're claimed," Kenshin said against her neck. "You have to make them believe it."

"What about you?" Kaoru shuddered as she felt his hand ghost up her thigh.

"I'll be holding the leash. They never look at the master only the submissive."

"You sound like you've done this before…." Kenshin bit her neck again and she swallowed a whimper.

"We've had a mission like this once or twice before." Kenshin lip's captured hers and she gave into him almost before she realized it.

Dammit this was not what she wanted to be happening!

Kenshin was only doing this because he had to look fucking convincing or the mission would fail.

'But why not allow yourself?' A voice at the back of her mind asked. 'He's doing it for the mission why not just let yourself go for the mission as well?'

'Because it's not right. It's not what I wanted. I know that relationships between operatives don't work – they cause tension at best, at worst destroy a team. And I won't do that to my team. I won't jeopardize my chances of avenging my parents like this. Ankoku is my best shot at finding the one who killed them; I won't throw it away for a damned tumble in the sheets!'

Kenshin had pulled away and was watching her, his eyes unreadable. "What's the matter?"

"Don't use me." Kaoru hissed. "We complete the mission – do whatever we have to do for the mission and that's it."

Everything that happens between us tonight is because of the bloody mission. Nothing more and nothing less.

Kenshin nodded, "of course."

"Just so we're clear on that," Kaoru scooted out from under him and tucked a piece of hair that worked its way loose behind an ear. Fuming she shook her head and left it. It was more convincing if she looked like she'd been pawed at on the ride there.

God she was starting to hate the word 'convincing!'

It was a short ride after that thankfully. Kenshin clipped the leash to the collar around her neck and got out of the car. She stepped out after him, lowering her head and eyes.

Submissive… submissive… submissive… she chanted to herself.

Out of the corners of her eyes she took everything in.

High class S&M indeed.

Everyone in the line in front of the door was clothed in silks and velvets and brocades with very little leather to be seen and tasteful at that. The colors were for the most part uniform, blacks and reds with a few whites and grays and the odd splash of green and blue here and there.

They'd fit right in.

Kenshin moved fluidly through the line of people and she shadowed him. Once at the front of the line he gave their names – fake ones of course – and they were let inside.

They were greeted by a woman and a man in matched silver outfits. Kaoru gritted her teeth but let herself be patted down and searched for weapons. Their hands were quick and professional and Kaoru didn't really feel the need to break their fingers.

They stepped through a hanging velvet curtain and were inside Jihi.

The scene was attempting to invoke Rome or Greece at the height of its grandeur. There was a water fountain which looked to be made of silver. Nude nymphs danced along the edges. Here and there Kaoru spotted long couches – some occupied, some not. Classical music played faintly.

It was tame to start out with – ever pairing you could think of mostly just kissing or heavy petting, nothing to really raise your eyebrows at. They went through another door and the lights dimmed slightly. Here it got a bit more… exotic.

Kaoru saw hooks and chains on the walls and some were in use. A threesome of a man and two women were quite active on one of the couches and Kaoru tore her eyes away before she started to turn red.

She looked up to see Kenshin looking at her with an amused expression and frowned at him briefly before lowering her eyes once more.

"He'll probably be in the next room or the room after that." Kenshin said softly.

Kaoru nodded. She didn't want to see what the next rooms would contain.

"Don't worry," Kenshin obviously saw the thought in her eyes. "It's nothing too bad since anything really explicit is taken into the private rooms."

That reassured her… a little.

She nodded and let Kenshin pull her in to next room.

She found Kanryuu leaning against one of the wall a glass of champagne in one – probably provided by the club since it seemed the type to do so – watching everything going on around.

"Okay what do we do now?" Kaoru asked. "Go up to him and knock him over the head and drag him into one of the rooms and kill him?"

"We have to grab his attention." Kenshin murmured.

Kaoru glanced at him, "that doesn't mean what I think it means does it?"

Kenshin nodded. "Anything you don't want me to do just say and I'll stop."

Let's see… complete mission… fear of being an exhibition…. Mission… exhibition… mission… dammit mission.

"Fine," she said softly.

Kenshin nodded and moved between the people to an empty couch in Kanryuu's line of view.

Kenshin sat down and pulled her onto his lap. Kaoru straddled, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"Anything you don't want me to do just say so," he repeated again.

Kaoru nodded an affirmative.

Kenshin brushed his lips against hers and she opened her mouth, his tongue twining with hers. Kaoru threaded her fingers in his hair and whimpered softly. He growled in response.

Kenshin's hands shifted from her hips to ghost along her sides. She arched against him as he cupped her breasts through the thin material of her top.

'Just go with it Kaoru,' she thought. 'Ignore the fact that you're in a room full of people who are probably staring at you.' Oh Aoshi was going to be in a lot of pain for this one.

She heard a soft cough and froze.

Kenshin still and pulled away, tucking her head underneath his chin and wrapping one arm possessively around her waist. Kaoru kept her eyes lowered but watched out of the corners.

Kanryuu.

"You seem to be enjoying yourselves," Kanryuu smiled and Kaoru felt like throttling him. She never did well with being in close proximities to sleaze balls.

"Mmm…" Kenshin replied noncommittally, his fingers making slow circles across the skin of her stomach. Kaoru kept her face carefully blank or otherwise she'd be breaking his wrist.

"She is quite pretty," Kanryuu reached to touch her and found his hand wrist caught in a viselike grip by Kenshin.

"Mine," Kenshin said, his smile showed teeth and Kaoru fought the urge to hit him hard.

"Oh you don't share?" Kanryuu's face drew into what would have been called a pout on anyone else.

"I might," Kenshin said. "If the price was right." He undid the top buttons of Karou's top, mouth following his fingers.

Kaoru didn't know what she hated more Kenshin flaunting her in front of Kanryuu or the fact that he appeared to be enjoying it. She balled her hands into fists, nails cutting into her skin.

The look on Kanryuu's face made her feel sick a mixture of lust and wanting and cold calculation and other dark thoughts swirling in his eyes.

She felt Kenshin touch her thigh going higher and stroking against satin and he bit down on the swell of her breast the same second he entered her finding the tangle of nerves in her center and hitting them just right. She stifled a cry, hips bucking against his hand at the dual sensations of pain and pleasure.

Kanryuu made a low hungry sound that snapped her out of the haze Kenshin had immersed her in.

Kenshin grabbed her chin with his other hand and kissed her. She could feel the smirk on his mouth against her lips and fought the urge to bite down hard. He stroked her again, fingers twisting inside of her and a whimper worked its way up her throat.

He pulled his mouth and hand away at the same time and Kaoru buried her face in his neck trying to control her breathing and reluctant to see what the look on Kanryuu's face would be.

"Enough," she murmured pitching her voice low so only he could hear. "Now."

She felt Kenshin nod barely imperceptibly.

Kenshin stroked her hair as one would a pet and gave Kanryuu a look that intimately and possessively male. "So what is your price?"

Kaoru closed her eyes and did her best attempt to block her ears as they worked out the contract between them. Safe word was Jasmine – Kaoru fought the urge to elbow him in the stomach – and it mainly consisted of her in chains – she'd kill him before she allowed him to shackle her to anything – no whips or other toys – Kaoru repressed a shudder at that thought.

Kenshin lifted her off of him she wobbled as she got her feet underneath her, nearly falling against him. His arm wrapped around her waist, pinning her against him and he easily dodged the kick she aimed at his shins.

"Remember I know where you sleep," she hissed softly.

Kenshin's eyebrow rose, "you asking for my invitation?"

"Be careful you don't end up with a scorpion in your bed."

"I think I'd much prefer you in my bed." Kaoru's fingers itched to slap him and she was acutely aware of Kanryuu watching them intently.

"Be careful you don't get your wish." She hissed.

Kenshin merely smiled serenely. "If we may follow you," he said to Kanryuu.

Kanryuu nodded and gestured for them to follow.

He made a perfect target Kaoru thought with his back exposed. Didn't drug lord/human traffickers know that showing your back to an enemy was a big no-no? She glanced at Kenshin and he shook his head.

There was a stairway going up the side of the room and they followed him. The second floor was darker than the floor below it with candles lit ever twenty or so feet. The walls she noticed were soundproofed – all the better.

Kanryuu lead them to the third door in the left and pulled out a bronze key which he fitted into the lock.

"This is my personal room," he bowed them in.

Once inside Kaoru fought her first instinct which was to flee. A large – she judged it could fit six people easily; oh yay for orgies. – bed was situated in the center o the room underneath a tangle of chains and leather which she was eyeing warily. There was a rack on the left wall which contained an assortment of whips and… other toys that her mind boggled at.

Kenshin touched her shoulder and gave her what she took to be a reassuring look.

"If we may get started?" Kanryuu suggested. The way he was looking at Kaoru was making her skin crawl.

Kaoru looked at Kenshin. How far was he going to take this farce?

Pretty damn far if the way he grabbed her chin and kissed her was any indication. Kaoru forced herself to relax even though her mind was chanting – kill the sleaze ball (Kanryuu) and run!

She let him maneuver her onto the bed. Kanryuu moved closer to watch and Kaoru was glad he decided not to participate. Had he touched her she probably would have slit his throat.

The fact that he was a son of a bitch had nothing to do with the mission at all.

"Now," Kenshin murmured against her mouth.

She nodded and he rolled of her but wrapped his arm around her waist.

"Come," Kenshin nuzzled her neck and she gave a moan that was only half-faked.

Kanryuu smiled – Kaoru felt like spitting – and came toward her. Kaoru sat up and reached for one of the chopsticks wound in her hair and twisted it as she pulled it from her hair, the tiny dagger at the end slipping free.

Kanryuu reached for her and she let herself be pulled against him. She smiled in what he hoped was a coy manner and plunged he dagger into his chest. Kanryuu jerked, eyes flying wide and Kaoru pulled another chopstick from her hair, twisting it and slicing it across his throat. He toppled backwards and fell to the floor, lying there unmoving, blood pooling around his neck and staining his suit.

She let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding and closed her eyes. The touch of something soft against her cheek made her open them again and she looked to see Kenshin holding a cloth for her to wipe the blood from her face. The rest that had soaked into her clothes wouldn't be easily seen – dim lights and black clothes and all that. She carefully cleaned the spatters from her stomach.

When she was finished she found Kenshin had removed the daggers from Kanryuu and she didn't want to think of where they now were.

"Ready?" Kenshin asked softly.

"Mission accomplished," she replied.

"Good," Kenshin nodded. "Let's go before any one discovers the body."

Kaoru was more than happy to agree.

They left the room and descended the stairs mingling easily with the crowd of people and headed toward the exit.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flicker of movement.

"No," She whispered eyes widening.

It wasn't him. It couldn't be him!

"Kaoru," Kenshin touched her shoulder and she blinked. "What's the matter?"

"I've got to go. There's something I have to take care of." She murmured.

Kenshin followed her line of sight and stiffened. "Kurogasa?"

"My own personal monster," she said softly.

Kenshin looked at her.

"Why did I join Ankoku? Because my parents were killed. Kurogasa killed them and left me for dead. And now it's my chance to kill him." She murmured.

"Munin you can't – you'll jeopardize the mission." Kenshin grabbed her arm.

"Have you ever come face to face with the monster that made you and had to be told that you couldn't kill him Battousai?" Kaoru asked.

"Yes," Kenshin's eyes were dark and there was a story there that she would have pried at any other time.

"Then you understand why I have to do this," Kaoru wrenched her arm from his grasp and broke the tie connecting the leash to her collar. She disappeared into the crowd before Kenshin could run after her.

Kenshin cursed softly under his breath and followed her.

It was a perfect shot. Kaoru worked one of her remaining daggers out of her hair and eyed the distance between them. She could make it – throw the dagger and it would pierce his heart, killing him instantly. Not as satisfying as walking up to him and stabbing him in the heart but dead was dead and however she did it the end result would be the same.

Kurogasa suddenly cocked his head to the side gaze roving. Kaoru felt a chill go down her spin as his gaze locked on hers and she fought back the memories that rose in her mind.

She was not eight years old anymore!

Guess she would get her face-to-face ending, Kaoru decided. She slipped through the crowd of people eyes never leaving Kurogasa's

"So… the little raven got wings." He said black eyes gleaming. "It's been twelve years if I recall."

"You remember me." Kaoru said softly.

"I've left only a handful of witnesses alive." He nodded at her.

"Good," Kaoru said. "You know the reason why I'm killing you."

The smile he gave her was one of an adult patronizing a child and she gritted her teeth.

"You're partner's looking for you." Kurogasa said.

"You're acting a lot less psychotic than the first time we met." She replied.

"I have my lucid moments." He said nonchalantly.

"I think I liked you better when you were a muttering psychotic loon." She told him.

Kurogasa smiled. "From you that's a compliment."

"Are you going to sit around talking to me all night or am I going to get to kill you anytime soon?"

"Patience is a virtue."

"I've been patient for twelve years. It's long since run out." Kaoru informed him.

"As you wish," Kurogasa replied. "Here? In this room?"

"They'll just think its part of the club – some act they're putting on." Kaoru said. She pulled the bracelet from her arm and gave it a hard shake. It straightened out and locked into place becoming a short but still affective dagger.

Kaoru reminded herself to thank Tae for giving her fun toys.

Kurogasa smiled and she snarled in response.

He moved to the left and Kaoru lunged to intercept him. He grabbed her using her momentum to throw her into the bar.

Kaoru bit back a yelp of pain as she crashed into the bar. The people around her backed away to stay out of the fight forming a ring around her and Kurogasa.

Kaoru got to her feet and shook her head.

Shifting her balance she adjusted her grip on the dagger. Kurogasa tilted his head invitingly, his arms crossed over his chest looking unconcerned. Kaoru circled him and his eyes followed her – turning only when she got to the edge of his sight.

She leapt at him again and he dodged. Twirling Kaoru attempted a side kick and bit her lip as he grabbed her ankle and threw her again.

Damn bastard was playing with her!

"Let's end this." Kurogasa murmured. The next thing she knew he had blurred so fast she could barely keep up.

She hit the ground hard with Kurogasa standing over a short dagger in his hand. Her dagger. She had lost her grip on it when she went flying. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

"And now little raven," Kurogasa smiled. There was a crazed glint in his eye. "I am going to k-" He jerked in surprise and looked down quizzically at the knife hilt protruding from his chest.

Another flashed and became buried in his throat.

Kaoru scooted back to get out of the way when he topped to the ground quite dead. The next thing she knew Kenshin had his arms around her and was picking her up.

The crowd parted and they seemed in too much shock to think about stopping them. Or maybe they still thought it was all part of some act. Kaoru didn't care as long as they got out of Jihi without any more incidents.

The limo driver was waiting for them and Kenshin set down in the seat and then settled himself next to her.

Kaoru curled up in a ball and closed her eyes. Kurogasa was dead. He was dead. She started to shake.

Kenshin touched her shoulder and she pulled away. "Don't… don't touch me…" Her voice cracked.

She didn't know how long the ride was. The limo slowed to a stop in front of the compound and Kenshin pulled her gently from the car. She stumbled and he wrapped his arm around her waist steadying her.

Sano opened the door, "you're back early," his eyes widened as he caught sight of Kaoru.

Kaoru felt her stomach heave and pulled free from Kenshin, brushing past Sano and just making it in time to the bathroom. She threw up until nothing came out and there was a bitter taste in her mouth.

She swayed as she got to her feet and turned on the shower. She stripped free of her soiled clothes and submerged herself under the pounding spray, curling up into a ball; her tears mixing with the water flowing down her face. She didn't know how long she stayed under the water, until it turned to ice. Vaguely she remembered pounding on the door but she didn't move or respond to it.

There was a crash as the door was shattered and the curtain was pulled roughly back. The water cut off abruptly and it seemed colder than before without the spray on her. Her teeth began to chatter and she shook.

A towel was wrapped around her and she didn't protest, her eyes were closed as she was lifted and carried out of the bathroom. She was deposited gently on the bed and blankets immediately were heaped upon her. Kaoru opened her eyes to find Kenshin looking at her with a very not pleased expression on his face.

"Go… 'way Himura," she croaked.

"What are you trying to do?" He asked his voice soft but with undercurrents of displeasure running through it. "Freeze yourself to death. Kurogasa's dead."

"You killed him," she murmured.

"With your knives if that makes you feel any better."

"Strangely it doesn't. I'd thought I'd be happy with him dead… but I'm not." Tears were slipping down her face and she choked back a sob. "He's dead and I should be happy, but I'm not!"

The bed shifted and Kaoru tensed as Kenshin pulled her against him. She would have hit him but he had effectively trapped her arms when he wrapped her in the towel. He was warm and smelled faintly of ginger, she noticed dimly. She felt the muscles in her body that had seized up under the cold water begin to unknot and relax. She let out a big breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and the tremors stopped slowly.

"Better?" Kenshin asked softly.

Kaoru shook her head and worked on freeing her trapped hands. Once she had one of them free she belted Kenshin in the face as hard as she could.

"Now I'm better." She said.

Kenshin blinked and gingerly touched his cheek, "what was that for?"

"For killing Kurogasa."

"Oh," Kenshin blinked.

"Will you get out of my bed?" Kaoru growled.

"I like your bed," Kenshin replied.

"Well I don't like you in it. Mission's over stop playing with me," Kaoru snapped.

Kenshin's eyes narrowed, "whoever said I was playing with you?"

Kaoru glared at him, "No. Don't even think about it. Get out now before I grab something and start beating you with it."

"Do you know," Kenshin informed her. "That Sano and Aoshi have been making bets about us?"

"Well they can keep betting because nothing is going to happen," Kaoru answered. She blinked at the thought. Aoshi… betting… oh dear…

"Relationships between operatives don't work." Kaoru said tensely. "My last team Akira was involved with Tomoe. He got his stupid ass killed in a mission and Tomoe freaked when she saw him die in front of her. She went after his killer and got herself killed. Shura and I got assimilated into other teams and that's how I ended up in Ankoku."

"I see," Kenshin murmured.

"Relationships don't work. Not in our line of business." Kaoru said. "I refuse to endanger the team."

"And what if the team agrees to be endangered in this way?" Kenshin asked.

"Then I'll switch teams. I hear Saitou's great fun to be around." Kaoru replied.

"Do that and I'm dragging you back here and locking you in your room."

Kaoru glared at him and he matched it.

"Get. Out. Of. My. Bed. Now." Kaoru reached under her pillow for the dagger she kept there and her eyes widened when she found it missing.

"Looking for this?" Kenshin's hands flashed and she found him holding her dagger. How did he do that!

"Give me back my dagger. Get out of my bed or I am going to hurt you. A lot. Preferably all in that order."

Kenshin smiled, "that a promise?"

"Yes," she hissed. "You masochistic idiotic son of –" her words were effectively cut off as he kissed her.

Kaoru pounded on his back and snarled.

"Now," Kenshin said conversationally. "What is it going to take to get you to see some sense?"

"You getting out of my bed for one." Kaoru growled.

Kenshin smiled, "your bed's bigger than mine."

Kaoru grabbed a pillow and flung it at him.

Kaoru seethed and threw back the covers, holding the towel against her she got out of the bed.

"Where are you going?" Kenshin asked.

"I'm sleeping on the damned couch." Kaoru snapped back. The laundry room was on the way to the living room…she could grab some clean clothes on the way.

"There's always my bed." Kenshin offered.

"No thanks!" Kaoru growled.

She reached for the knob and twisted it.

Nothing.

"…Kenshin… why is my door locked? From. The. Outside?" She asked a calm voice that would have sent any sane person running right about now.

"I didn't lock it." Kenshin replied.

Sano was so dead when she got her hands on him.

Or she could just take cooking duty for the next month.

That idea had possibilities….

She went over to her dresser and pulled out a bobby pin. Working it with her teeth she straightened it out and then went back to the door and worked at it until she heard a click.

"Hah!" She crowed and turned the knob and pushed.

The door still wouldn't move.

Kaoru could feel Kenshin's amused expression and seethed.

"He barricaded the door! The damn rooster-head barricaded the door!"

She eyed the window contemplatively.

"Hey Kenshin… how much is Sano betting?" She asked conversationally.

"A lot," Kenshin shrugged.

"Poor guy… he's losing all of it."

She mentally did some calculations. A twenty foot drop wouldn't kill her if she did it right…

"Turn around and close your eyes, I'm getting dressed."

"For bed?" Kenshin asked.

Kaoru glared and Kenshin mentally translated that as a 'No.' A very strong 'No.'

"Apparently not," Kenshin sighed and turned away and obediently closed his eyes as Kaoru got dressed.

There was suddenly the sound of an engine revving and Kaoru looked out the window to see a very familiar pair of taillights streaking away from the house.

"HE STOLE MY CAR!" Kaoru shrieked. She rounded on Kenshin. "How. Much. Does. He. Have. Bet?"

Kenshin named the sum and her eyebrows rose. "No wonder he's so desperate that'd pay of all his debts and still have a nice chunk of cash."

Kenshin looked at her and then at the bed.

Kaoru glared. "What are the terms of Aoshi's bet?" She asked sweetly.

Kenshin named them and she smiled nastily.

"Shut up and don't touch me for the next six hours. Like hell Sano is winning this after the stunts he just pulled."

"So…" Kenshin drawled.

"No." Kaoru snapped. She walked over to her book case and pulled out her leather-bound copy of Anna Karenina.

She curled up against the wall and propped open the book to where she had last left off. Now she remembered exactly why she hated reading Russian Literature. War and Peace wasn't too bad but Anna Karenina made her feel like falling asleep.

Which is what she promptly ended up doing.

000

Kaoru stirred sleepily. Warmth… Blankets… Body…

Her eyes flew open and she started. Kenshin was wrapped around her, head buried against her neck, arm thrown over her waist and legs tangled together.

"Mmm… you're awake?" Kenshin murmured softly.

"Yes, now get off me." Kaoru grumbled.

"Nope… You're comfy." Kenshin nuzzled closer and she contemplated elbowing him in the ribs hard.

She yipped as his fingers slipped underneath the hem of her shirt and his teeth grazed her neck.

"What are you doing?" Her voice sounded breathy and she hated it.

"It's been six hours. Six hours and forty five minutes to be exact." Kenshin nipped at the skin below her ear. Kaoru didn't resist as he turned her to face him and claimed her mouth with his.

Kaoru let go and let herself melt against him. His hand traveled upward to cup her breasts and she arched against him as he stroked his thumb across her nipple. Kaoru made a faint noise and he smiled against her mouth. He shifted against her and she mewled.

Kenshin let his hands wander against her sides, gliding over arms. He grabbed her wrists and pinned them above her head.

Kaoru stilled, eyes flying open, "what are you doing?"

"I never did get a chance to tie you up," his eyes gleamed and Kaoru choked back a hiss. Metal suddenly looped around her wrists and drew tight and Kaoru found herself pulled upward as Kenshin attached the other end to the headboard.

"Kenshin let me go now!" Kaoru twisted underneath him, tugging at the handcuffs.

"No," Kenshin murmured. "You've been too afraid of being powerless for too long. It's controlling you."

"And so tying me up is supposed to help?" Kaoru snapped.

Kenshin touched her face and she snapped at him.

"You were powerless to do anything when Kurogasa killed your family. He left you alive because it amused him to do so. "

"Stop it," Kaoru whispered.

"You don't want to trust anyone that you love because you're afraid that they'll die on you like your family did. Or that if you do love them and they die you'll go crazy like Tomoe did after Akira's death."

Kaoru shook her head but there were tears in her eyes. "Kenshin please…."

"You never put your trust in anyone except yourself." Kenshin's eyes burned and she bit her lip.

"That's not too I trust all of you every night we go on a mission."

"Ah," Kenshin said softly. "But you consider that your job. Your duty. You do it because you have to not because you want to," his voice grew husky. "Relax… I'll take care of you… Trust me…"

Kaoru closed her eyes and nodded. 'I can always kill him later…'

Kenshin must have read her thoughts because he laughed softly. "Anytime you want me to stop I will." He promised.

He kissed her gently and Kaoru made herself relax. Kenshin nipped at her lower lip and she opened her mouth his tongue tangling with hers. He trailed kisses along her jaw line to her neck and nipped gently just below her pulse point. He followed the dips and hollows of her throat and collarbones, tongue flicking here and there to taste and grazing his teeth against her skin. Kaoru sucked in her breath and yipped softly as he bit.

When he raised his eyes to hers they were smoldering and she felt something in her tighten. Something flashed in his hand and there were several soft 'snicking' sounds and Kaoru found her tank top cut away.

Any thought of protest disappeared as he lowered his mouth to her breast rolling her nipple with his tongue. The knives vanished again (someday she would make him tell her where he put the damn things – she thought distractedly). His hands roamed across her bare skin and he pulled his mouth away to follow, nipping here and there placing an open-mouthed kiss against her hipbone. His hands tugged at the sweats she wore and she lifted her hips to help him pull them off her.

Her underwear was similarly rid of.

"You're beautiful," Kenshin breathed softly.

Kaoru ducked her head feeling too exposed for her liking.

Kenshin grasped her chin and pulled her face up to look at him.

"Don't think about anything," he murmured. "Just feel." His hand trailed feather-light against the inside of her thigh and then slipped inside of her.

Kaoru gasped as his fingers found the spot at the center of her and she bucked against his touch. She made to close her eyes but a touch against her cheek forced her to open them.

"Keep your eyes open," he said softly. "I want to see you." His fingers continued to stroke her; coaxing her… she could feel pleasure building from her center racing through her blood like sparks of lightning.

"Kenshin… it's too…" too much and not enough at the same time… Kenshin covered her mouth with his swallowing her cries as she came body tensing against him and then relaxing against the sheets.

Kenshin made a soft purring noise of satisfaction and undid her handcuffs. Kaoru closed her eyes and panted softly aftershocks still vibrating through her.

"Come here," Kaoru said opening her eyes. "It isn't fair…"

Kenshin shook his head.

"Kenshin," Kaoru grabbed a lock of his hair and pulled his face down to hers. "Unless you would like to see how it feels to be tied up, I'd suggest you do as I'm asking you to. I want you, you idiot and you being self-sacrificing in the intent of being noble, is most definitely not amusing."

Kenshin laughed softly and lowered his mouth to hers.

This time Kaoru was allowed to touch him and she took full advantage of that fact.

000

Sometime later Kaoru curled up against him. Kenshin was playing with a lock of her hair, twining it around his fingers and letting it fall away to be recaptured again.

"We need some ground rules for this relationship," Kaoru murmured against his neck.

"What kind of ground rules?" Kenshin asked placing a kiss against her temple.

"So you don't do something moronic." She muttered.

"Like?"

"No interfering during missions. No playing hero. No coming to save me. Unless I'm bleeding – very,very profusely at that… or dead. You are not allowed to do anything that would constitute in your mind as 'helping me'. Don't interfere. I can take care of myself Kenshin."

Kenshin muttered something under his breath and she smacked him.

"Promise," she said.

"I promise," he sounded reluctant.

"Good," Kaoru murmured, pleased.

"Before and after and all the times between missions I am allowed to 'interfere' and you so nicely put it."

Kaoru shook her head, "I'm never leaving the bedroom and I have to eat all my veggies?" She translated.

Kenshin nuzzled her neck, "I don't know about the vegetables but you never leaving the bedroom sounds good."

Kaoru made to smack him again and he caught her hand and raised it to his lips.

Kaoru's stomach chose at that moment to complain that she was starving.

"Food?" She asked hopefully.

"I'll make you something to eat then." Kenshin smiled.

000

Sano yawned and rubbed at his eyes as he staggered into the kitchen. He found Kenshin seated at the table drinking a cup of coffee and Kaoru standing in front of the stove doing what was supposed to be called cooking.

Suddenly he had a sinking feeling in his stomach and made to disappear.

Unfortunately for Sano, Kenshin saw him.

"Morning Sano," Kenshin's voice sounded cheerful.

Almost too cheerful.

"Morning," Sano muttered eyeing Kaoru at the stove carefully in case something suddenly burst into flames. "How are you Kenshin?"

"Good I've got nothing to complain about." Kenshin sipped his coffee.

"That's good," Sano seated himself across from Kenshin so he could keep an eye on the stove in case it decided to explode. "How's Kaoru."

"She's got nothing to complain about either," there was a note of satisfaction in Kenshin's voice and Sano looked at him.

"So… you… Finally!" Sano grinned.

"Mmm…" Kenshin murmured. "You didn't win the bet though."

"I didn't?" Sano repeated.

"No you didn't," Kaoru informed him. She placed a plate which looked to contain eggs and bacon – the bacon was extremely charred and emitting smoke. The eggs looked glutinous.

Kaoru beamed at Sano and then went to grab herself a cup of coffee dropping a kiss on Kenshin's cheek on her way over to the coffee machine.

"So Sano…" Kaoru said conversationally. "You did remember to fill my gas tank up right?"

Sano closed his eyes and offered a brief prayer. He was in for a very, very long month of nothing but Kaoru's cooking.