D/C: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.

I got the idea of this one-shot during math class, and I couldn't wait to write it so I pulled out a notebook and started right away. The lesson was forgotten…of course, I paid dearly for that because I'm not sure I understand the concept very well. Oh, well. Anyway, enjoy the story!

Never Too Soon

I would never forget the first day I saw you. You were young then…nine years old…but that didn't stop me, the 18-year-old boy, from being attracted to you. You had just moved in next door with your parents. I remember seeing you through my bedroom window; you were laughing happily, jumping up and down on your bed, your black hair bouncing about your face and your blue eyes sparkling…it made me smile; something I didn't do so often.

I was happy your bedroom window was across from mine. I was able to watch you every day. I wasn't some kind of stalker; it just made me happy to look at you.

Kaoru, yeah, that was your name. But you didn't know my name; to you, I was probably just the neighbors' university kid…your parents mentioned me to you, but you didn't give me the same attention I had given to you.

I remember the first time you spoke to me. I was leaning through my window one morning and you pulled up the blinds of your window. You saw me. You smiled and waved your hand at me.

'Good morning!' you had said cheerfully.

'Good morning, Kaoru-chan,' I had replied.

You had gasped then and put your hands to your mouth. 'You know my name!' you had cried. 'But…but…I don't know yours! Is that bad?'

I had laughed then. 'It's alright, don't worry about it,' I had soothed you. 'My name is Kenshin…nice to meet you.'

'Nice to meet you too, Kenshin-sama!' you had said, bowing.

I was very happy.

I watched you grow through the years. I watched you jump from nine to ten to…twelve. Tow years of your childhood were wiped away when your mother died. I could see you crying…you cried for hours…my heart went out for you. Whenever you sat and cried, I've wanted to go and hold you, I wanted to wipe away your tears…but I knew I couldn't. I was just your Kenshin-sama whom you wished good morning and good night for the last two years…but you never did that again after your mother died. You had become subdued and quiet; there were no more shouts and laughs to be heard from your room again.

The next time I spoke to you was…different; yes, that's the word. I met you in a chat room; I immediately knew it was you, even though you hadn't actually mentioned it. You talked to me about everything; you opened your heart to me. I was there for you the whole time; I listened, I advised. You didn't know it was me, and it made me anxious to think about how your reaction would be if you were to find out that it was your Kenshin-sama talking here, and so I stalled whenever you asked to meet me.

But I couldn't escape for long. We met; you were fourteen and I was twenty three. Oh, how we laughed about it, both of us, when we found out who the other was. Of course, I pretended not to know either; I didn't want to embarrass you any more than you already were. The important thing is: you didn't look disappointed. In fact, you looked really happy.

It was different from then on; there were no more online conversations. Now, if we wished to talk, we'd just pop up our windows and talk. We used to talk for hours…sometimes we continued to talk all the way through midnight. I was always careful with my words, not wanting to lead you on…it was wrong to lead you on, right? After all, you were only fourteen.

Our first date…it wasn't literally a date…was in a café. I remember the books which were spread out on the round table…for it was a study date…the steaming mugs of cappuccino, the cookies…and you. You were sitting across the table from me, chewing at the cap of your pen as you tried to make head or tails of the trig question you were trying so hard to solve. I had made my first move then and pulled my chair up next to you. I started explaining the question, all the time fighting the temptation to reach out and touch you. You were probably oblivious to my desires; you were always so innocent, after all…with your big blue eyes and your rosy complexion.

But it was too soon to tell you…I couldn't throw that burden upon your small shoulders…

What tore me the most is the day you brought a boy back home from school with you. I was sitting by my window, and that's when I saw you pulling a boy by his hand into your house. You were laughing and you looked ever so happy…it sent a pang through my chest. I couldn't see what you two were doing because you were down in the living room the whole time. What I know is that your laughter seldom ceased…and when the boy left at about ten that night, you didn't come up to talk to me. You just went straight to bed without a second look at me. Oh, how I hated that boy.

You skipped out on other nights as well; those were the nights when you were out on dates with Sou…yeah, that was the boy's name. I know I had no business interfering between you and him…you were sixteen; you had the right to make your own decisions…but I wished I could do something; I just didn't know what.

I used to watch you everyday; you used to spend a lot of time with Sou…and a lot lesser time with me. But I didn't say anything; you were really happy and that's what mattered the most. I didn't care if I was miserable as long as you were happy. Heck, I didn't even care when my friends teased me about staying with my parents even though I was in University now. I ignored them when they did that. They didn't know that the only reason I stayed was so I could look at you every single day.

I thought the day would never come, but you finally broke up with him. You came up to my door, with tears streaming down your cheeks, and you hugged me and started sobbing into my chest. I was taken by surprise, and it took me a few moments to register what had happened before I finally put my arms around you. You felt so small in my arms. The sweet smell of your skin and hair tickled my senses and I suddenly felt like I couldn't trust my hands anymore. I pulled you away from me. I'm sorry if I were rude by doing that, but I was afraid I might hurt you…I was afraid I might do something I'll regret my whole life.

I led you inside and seated you down on my bed. I asked you what was wrong and the words came tumbling out of your mouth. Of course, I couldn't make out half the words you were saying as they were lost between your sobs, but I was still able to understand what you were at. I listened and tried to comfort you, while you just buried your face in my pillow and sobbed. You only stopped crying when you fell asleep.

I didn't wish to wake you up; you looked so beautiful while you were sleeping. I was prepared to ask your father to let you sleep over, but I knew that that would lead to some awkward questions and I didn't want to get you into trouble. I let you sleep for a while, though, and I sat next to you while you slept, stroking the hair off you forehead. The temptation was so strong, though…I'm sorry; I couldn't help it. I bent down and lightly kissed your pink lips.

You didn't wake up, and I was relieved. Mock me all you want, but that was the first kiss I've had ever since I met you…and to tell you the truth, those seven years of waiting were worth that one small kiss.

Was I to be ashamed of my feelings for you…of my love for you? How can you blame me? You, with your beauty and innocence and sense of humor and…if I go on, I don't think I'll be able to stop…but can you really blame me for falling in love with you? I wanted to tell you; the words were at the tip of my tongue but I didn't have the guts. I was afraid you might reject me when I tell you, and so I kept it to myself…which, I know, was the wrong thing to do.

My mom came into my room one day and placed the laundry on my bed. She looked kind of troubled and upset, and so I asked her what was wrong…I still remember her exact words.

'You know Kaoru, the neighbors' daughter? She was at a party yesterday and her friends got her drunk. She drove her car back home and crashed into a lamp post…poor kid.'

Time stopped for me then. I wasn't able to think properly…I wasn't able to think at all; my mind had gone completely numb. I was frozen stiff with shock. I didn't want to believe what I had just heard.

'Are you sure it's Kaoru?' I had asked in a hollow voice.

'Yes, I'm quite sure. I heard it from Mrs. Kinnichiwa,' my mother had replied.

'Is she…is she dead?' I had croaked.

'Oh, no! She lucked out! A broken leg, a minor concussion, a few cuts here and there…' she had told me, and paused at the look on my face. 'Kenshin, are you okay?'

No, I wasn't okay. I felt sick. I felt terrified. The next thing I remember doing is leaving the room without a second glance at mom. I went straight to my car, and that's when I remembered I didn't even know which hospital you were in. I hurried back into the house and asked mom. I only waited to hear the answer before taking off again.

I was driving blindly in the streets. I'm sure I was way past the speed limit, but I didn't pay attention to that. The only thing I was focused on was you. I wanted to get to you as soon as possible. I wanted to see you. I didn't trust my mom's words; I wanted to see for my self that you were okay.

I don't remember what I did so as to get to your hospital room. Point is, I managed to get there. My heart ached when I saw you. You were lying between your bed sheets, covered in bandages, a cast around your right leg. You looked in pain, and I wished I could exchange places with you so I can relieve you of all your pain, but I knew that that was impossible.

You opened your eyes when I came in. You smiled when you saw me. It was a pained smile, but it was still a smile nonetheless. I was glad to see that you hadn't lost your ability to smile. You called out my name and I moved closer to your bed. And then, without any warning, I pulled you into a hug and buried my face in your silky hair and I started crying. You were the one taken by surprise then. I held on tightly to you.

'Kenshin-sama…' you had said softly.

'Don't ever do this again!' I had choked. 'Don't go drunk and get yourself in a car crash again! Do you have any idea how worried you've made me?'

'Kenshin-sama, what on Earth…?'

'This time you lucked out, but what if you don't next time? What if next time, you die?' I had cried. 'What would happen to me? You know I can't live without you, Kaoru! I can't imagine a day passing without being able to see you…because…because…you're wielded deep into my heart, Kaoru…'

I could feel your small hands clutching at the fabric of my shirt. I could feel my shirt go damp with your tears as you buried your face into my shirt.

'That's because…that's because I…' I had said, and paused. I wasn't able to say it. Even though I had come here determined to tell you, I wasn't able to. I felt ashamed of myself. Why couldn't I say it? You were looking up so expectantly at me, but I still couldn't say it. '…because you're really special to me, Kaoru-chan.'

I couldn't explain the look on your face. Was it disappointment? Was it anger? I didn't know…but it certainly wasn't a pleased look. You closed you eyes, smiled and nodded. 'Thank you, Kenshin-sama,' you had whispered.

And now, a year from that day, I sit and wonder. I ask myself how could've been so stupid so as not to take my chance and tell you that day. I beat myself about it every single day…every moment I see you…and to think that if I had indeed told you then, we'd have been together…hopefully, we'd have been together.

I'm so ashamed of myself…because I haven't been able to say the one thing I've always wanted to tell you, Kaoru, which is, "I love you". Three simple words…and at the same time, not so simple.

-

Kaoru felt a tear trickle down her cheek as she finished reading Kenshin's journal entry. She closed the leather-bound book and set it back on the desk. Kenshin had told her not to touch anything on his desk while he went to take a shower so that they could go out to a funfair together, but she just couldn't resist. And now, she was glad she hadn't been able to resist.

She couldn't believe that Kenshin actually loved her. She had had a crush on him for a very long time, but wasn't able to tell him because she was afraid he might turn her down because she was too young for him. Even when she was dating Sou, she had kept thinking of Kenshin…and somehow, she had wanted to attract his attention to her by going out with Sou; she wanted to show him she was a young woman now, that it wouldn't be wrong for them to be together…and now it turns out that he had been thinking about her all the time too.

The door to the room opened and Kenshin walked in. His shirt was unbuttoned from the top and he was drying his long crimson hair with a towel. When he took it down, and looked at her, he froze to see her crying.

'Kaoru-chan, what's wrong?' he asked, concerned, moving towards the bed. He knelt before her. Kaoru hid her face between her hands, but he gently peeled them away and peered into her eyes. 'Why are you crying?'

Kaoru's eyes welled with tears and she threw her arms around his neck. She started sobbing into his shoulder. Kenshin looked uncertain, but he put his arms around her, anyway. 'Kenshin…oh, Kenshin…thank you,' she choked. 'Thank you so much. I never realized, but…thank you.'

Kenshin was confused. 'Er…you're welcome,' he said. 'But…what did I do?'

'I'm sorry…but I read your diary…' she said softly, and immediately felt him become tense. '…and I do not regret what I did.' She pushed herself away from him, took his hand into hers and smiled at him. 'Do you know how happy it made me to know that you love me? Do you have any idea how special it made me feel?'

Kenshin looked confused all over again. 'It…did?' he said. 'Really?'

'Don't you get it?' Kaoru demanded, wiping the tears away from her eyes with her other hand. She leaned forward so that her face was in level with his. She kissed him. Kenshin didn't react. When she pulled away, he only blinked, apparently dazed. 'I love you, too, Kenshin…I've always did.'

Kenshin stared at her. He started at her for so long it made her feel uneasy. Then he suddenly broke into a warm smile. 'It's funny, isn't it?' he said softly. 'For a girl to be braver than a guy when it comes to love? For the girl to make the first move?'

Kaoru was panic-stricken. 'Shouldn't I have? Is that bad?' she cried out.

Kenshin laughed. 'You know, that's what you said the first time we spoke…and don't worry, it's not bad,' he assured her. He stroked her cheek. 'I'm glad you're braver than I am, because if you weren't…well, let's just say I would never have gathered enough guts to tell you how I felt.'

'Chicken,' Kaoru said, smirking.

'Yeah…but I'm the chicken you love, aren't I?' he said softly. He leaned forward and kissed her. This time she returned the kiss…this was their very first shared kiss. Kenshin pulled back for a moment. 'I love you, Kaoru.'

-

A/N: Awww, wasn't that sweet? I thought it was really adorable; the whole lot of it…please excuse my universe-size ego. Well, anyway, if you thought it was good, please send a review…and if you didn't think it was good, please send a review as well…I'm waiting!

- S. N. B.