Disclaimer: Definitely don't own RuroKen…lucky for both him and Battousai!

A/N: A gift!fic for Neko Lady; my first shot at a Rurouni Kenshin fic, and a lemon to boot. I thought stripping a blushing Canon!Inuyasha out of his hakama was difficult enough, but Himura Kenshin made dog-boy look like a porn star…

This ficlet is set in the very small breathing-space between the Shishio and Enishi arcs of the Rurouni Kenshin manga. For those not familiar with RK, Himura Kenshin is an ex-hitokiri, known as the 'Battousai', a teenage assassin who prowled the shadows of the Japanese civil war that eventually brought about the Meiji Restoration. After the war was over, he vowed never to kill again and traded his conventional katana for a sakabatou, a reversed-edge blade….his eyes change colour from violet to gold when he switches to attack-mode, and he accidentally killed his first wife fifteen years previously in the course of a vicious battle, when she threw herself in between him and his assailant. The action in the manga takes place in the eleventh year of Meiji (circa 1879).

Kamiya Kaoru is Kenshin's seventeen-year-old love interest (he is twenty-eight but appears twenty) and owner of a kenjutsu dojo in Tokyo, Myojin Yahiko is a smart-mouthed orphan the two of them rescue from the yakuza and 'adopt', Sagara Sanosuke (Sano) is the cocky fist-fighting side-kick, and Takani Megumi a mischievous doctor with a soft spot for 'Ken-san'. Tae is the owner's daughter at the 'Akabeko', the local restaurant that functions as a second kitchen for the characters.

I am aware that in the anime Kenshin wears an odd-coloured magenta gi; in the manga, it is either dark red or blue, so that's what I'm going with.

I've found another conflicted swordsman with an inner demon, exotically coloured long hair and a dead 'ex' issue. At least Kenshin's 'ex' stays dead, and Kaoru ends up more than just kissed!

Bouquets to Alterfano for her editing efforts on the fic's behalf, and to Lady Rhiyana for her thoughtful suggestions!



Step, lunge, block, retreat.

Step, parry, lunge, block.

Retreat, step, lunge, parry.

Step, lunge

The slender, dark-haired young woman spun through the steps of the kata, her bokken slicing through the still, humid air of the dojo, her long ponytail scribing a graceful arc. Her brow furrowed in concentration, she repeated the kata twice more, the embodiment of elegant, controlled power. Out in the courtyard, dried leaves whirled and scuttered, as if echoing her steps, giving promise of rain from the towering cumulous clouds building up in the brilliant summer sky, charging the atmosphere with electricity.

Kaoru tossed her wooden practise sword up against her shoulder, wiped her brow and blew her bangs out of her eyes. I've never wished for rain so badly as today! Whew! The sliding doors of the dojo were wide open on the courtyard side; she debated opening the ones that faced the road as well. The low-pitched buzzing of cicadas punctuated the still air; everything else seemed to be holding its breath, anticipating the promise of a cooling summer storm. Kaoru cocked her head, thinking she heard the low-pitched rumbling of distant thunder. Wiping her face again, she briefly wished for Yahiko to spar with, but he had gone to the Akabeko for the afternoon shift. Sano was also not around to pick a fight with to pass the time; he was out annoying Megumi at the clinic. His injured right hand was healing slowly from his battle against 'Bright King' Anji in Shishio's lair outside Kyoto…

Thank goodness we all came home… Kaoru smiled softly at the one remaining member of what Yahiko had termed the 'Kenshin-gumi' as he dozed, propped upright against the dojo wall. Sleeping again…I wonder if he will ever completely rest? His long, bright red ponytail flamed against the darker red of his gi; Kenshin's head was bowed, his chest rising and falling evenly, his sakabatou leaning against his shoulder, his hands in his lap. Kaoru gazed at him yearningly, and bit her lip. If only…I wish … She shook herself, and sighed. I want Kenshin to see me as a woman, as desirable, as someone he might want to … Her cheeks flamed as a highly erotic image flashed into her mind, and then she looked down at her sweat-drenched gi. Plucking at the edge of the bandaging binding her breasts, she grimaced. How can I ever hope that he'll see me that way, when I usually look like I just came off the battlefield? Maybe Megumi's right; Kenshin wants a delicate flower that he has to protect instead of a girl that bonks him over the head as a form of affectionate greeting.

She padded noiselessly across the floor, intending to shake Kenshin awake and tell him she was going to start the fire in the bath-house, pausing when another low, growling rumble sounded from the darkening afternoon sky. The wind picked up again, and the dry leaves rattled across the beaten earth of the courtyard; the very air felt electric and her skin prickled. Perhaps it was the wild energy building up in advance of the storm; perhaps it was her innermost yearning distracting her so that she didn't carefully consider the possible consequences of her actions. Ever after, Kaoru wasn't sure what on earth possessed her to do what she proceeded to do next, and it was only due to Kenshin's superior reflexes that she wasn't seriously injured or even killed. After Kyoto, she really should have known better.

Instead of gently shaking his shoulder, she gave him a friendly poke in the chest with her bokken.

For most people, being awakened this way may be considered frightfully rude, but not suicidal. However, poking this particular someone was as dangerous as rousing a sleeping dragon, and his instinctive reaction was a spectacular demonstration of the hair-trigger response mechanism that saved his life so many times during the Bakumatsu.

Kaoru didn't have time to scream as her bokken flew across the dojo, the two pieces skating over the wooden floor until they thunked into the far wall.

She had no clear memory what exactly happened in the next blurred split second, when she was taken off her feet by the lunging rush of an aroused ex-assassin, but the moment of impact on the dojo floor was etched with crystal clarity in her mind's eye. Flat on her back, pinned under a tense, muscled body radiating the most powerful ki she had ever experienced in such close range, the first two things she noted with stark clarity were the blunt edge of the sakabatou's heavy blade pressing into her windpipe, and flaming yellow eyes burning down at her under the shadow of thick red bangs. Kenshin blinked, his fierce expression softening to puzzlement, and then fading to something akin to horror. He cursed in a very un-Kenshin-like manner, lifted the sakabatou and flung it away; Kaoru winced at sound of metal colliding with wood. She was too numb from shock to react right away when Kenshin slumped, leaning his forehead on the planking next to her ear, his chin brushing her shoulder, resting his weight partially on his elbows which were braced on either side of her body.

She listened to his panting breaths, felt his heart thundering through his ribs and into hers, became aware of the floorboards digging into her shoulder blades and hips as his slender frame pressed her into the unyielding wood. In the utter stillness of that moment, as if they were somehow transported into the eye of the storm, she heard the wind pick up and the definite growl of thunder; the charged atmosphere in the room was echoed outside in the elements. Listening to his strained breathing, Kaoru knew that she had to reassure him that it wasn't his fault; it was hers… What if he feels so guilty about attacking me that he leaves, in order to 'protect me'? I couldn't bear that!

She desperately sought for some way to show him…then it occurred to her that at this precise moment, Kenshin was exactly where she had been wishing he would be about five minutes ago…lying on top of her. Perhaps on a futon rather than on the dojo floor, and perhaps with fewer clothes involved, and maybe after a bath…but she'd be a fool to pass up this opportunity…wouldn't she? And if I'm holding onto him, he can't get up until we've talked! Kaoru slowly brought up her arms and hesitantly curled them around Kenshin's taut body, gripping the material of his gi in her fingertips. She thought she felt him quiver slightly; emboldened, she took a firmer hold of his clothing, fisting her hands into the worn fabric, clasping him to her. His breath fluttered over her ear, and she closed her eyes at the intimate touch.

"Kaoru-dono…forgive me…" Her eyes flew open at his rasping, hoarse words. He didn't say 'this one'…he said 'me'! That means he's still Battousai! Kenshin raised his head and looked at her with pained eyes…eyes that had darkened to become the rare colour of antique gold. Kaoru searched his face, so close to hers and then hugged him tightly.

"It wasn't your fault, Kenshin! It was mine! I wasn't thinking!" She buried her face in his shoulder without giving up the fierceness of her embrace, trying to communicate her need for him to understand that she took the blame.

"I could have killed you." His voice was flat, sombre, devoid of emotion.

"But you didn't. You knew it was me, and didn't follow through with your blow." Her voice, muffled by his gi, was very close to frantic

"But I…

"This is not your fault! Please, Kenshin…please…don't leave me…" Her voice trailed off into a near-whimper and she clutched him even more tightly, suddenly sure that if she let go, he would take up the burden of guilt and leave, and she would never see him again. I didn't fight 'Giant Scythe' Kamatari to lose him now! He moved restlessly, and the sliding of his body over hers awoke sensations that she had never felt before.

"Kaoru-dono…this is unseemly. Here, allow me to get up, and we will continue our conversation in a less compromising manner." The slightly deeper tone that his voice took on, when his violet eyes turned burnished gold and his finely-honed battle instincts surfaced usually gave her a nervous thrill, because it often meant an opponent in the near vicinity was going to find themselves spectacularly outclassed. This time, however, it was she who was within his 'zone', but there was no threat coming from him; instead, his voice was even lower in timbre… and almost intimate.

Kaoru came back to her current situation with a jolt, stubbornly shook her head, and clung to him limpet-tight. "No."

His body remained tense, but a mild snort shook his frame. "Do you mean to make me your prisoner, Kaoru-dono?"

She blushed furiously, but didn't loosen her grip. "I…yes."

He chuckled then, the sound vibrating through her. "It appears that I am unable to escape your grasp; what is the price of my freedom?"

Kaoru sucked in her breath. Do I dare? Kenshin would blush the same colour as his gi, but Battousai might… "I want…you to… kiss me," she whispered into his shoulder, sure that he could feel the heat from her blush right through his clothing. Above her, Kenshin's breathing seemed to stall, and out of the corner of her eye she watched his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed. His heart rate surged wildly, then he lowered his head and answered into her hair.


"Please, Kenshin." She adjusted her grip on him, sliding her hands up over his shoulder blades, ready to take fistfuls of fabric to prevent his escape. If he doesn't kiss me now…I just may as well fall on my bokken to spare myself the embarrassment…I'll never be able to look him in the eye again…

There was a very long pause; she felt his head turn towards her, and then his lips brushed her cheek, as softly as butterfly wings. Kaoru slowly turned her face towards him, conscious of his warm breath on her skin. That was it? Outside, the first drops of rain pattered across the dry earth. Kenshin sighed deeply, and his hand trailed across the planks until his fingertips tapped very lightly against the back of her neck, imitating the cadence of the raindrops outside. Kaoru made a little noise, her eyes fluttering shut. She felt Kenshin move, his weight shifting on top of her, and the way his hips pressed against hers made strange, tingling sensations pool in her belly. For the first time, she was aware of his warm, masculine scent, tinged with the spice of wild ginger. She inhaled deeply, smiling, and relaxed her body under him while not giving up her death grip on his gi.

The calloused fingertips moved to her jaw; Kaoru whimpered softly, arching her neck into the touch. Her heart began beating a little more rapidly, in time with the rain outside.

"Kaoru-dono." His voice was a velvety caress, warm and thrilling…nothing like Kenshin's usual light, cheerful tones that he used when bantering with others, keeping them all at arm's length. Kaoru discovered that she really didn't particularly care that it was the golden-eyed assassin and not her violet-eyed rurouni that she held so intimately. His fingers slid along her skin, sensitizing it, sending more tingles skating down her body, hardening her nipples and warming her in places that wanted more of his touch. "You know that I have yet to find the answer…" She could barely pay attention to his words as his fingertip came to rest just beneath her lower lip. Tilting her chin down, pouting the moist flesh, she could just kiss the tip of his finger, and the tremour that shot through his frame at the same time as a rumble of thunder told her how much he was affected as well.

"Kaoru-dono…" It was as much a groan as her name; Kaoru wriggled her hips slightly, innocently trying to ease the strain on her back, and he shuddered, then with a cat-like twist, tried to tear himself away. With a sharp yelp, the girl rolled with him, ended up straddling his hips and leaning her weight onto his chest, her long ponytail falling forward in a dark waterfall and tickling his neck. They stared at each other for a few moments. Now what…? His hands came up to circle her wrists; Kaoru wound her fingers in the material of his gi.

"Kenshin…I…I once told you that I wasn't asking Battousai to stay, only you…" His body stiffened at her words and his golden eyes flashed, so she hurried on. "But you are him, and he is you…and you both protect me. I-I don't know what I'd do without either of you…p-please, don't leave me?"

His whole frame went rigid, and he exhaled slowly before releasing her wrist and reaching up to run his fingers through her bangs, then cupped her cheek. Kaoru nuzzled his palm, never taking her eyes from his, nor giving up her grip on his clothing. Kenshin's golden eyes crinkled slightly, but he didn't smile, instead intently searching her face. Kaoru's heart began thumping wildly. His ki…it is almost overpowering…

"You know that I have not yet found the answer to atoning for my crimes as a hitokiri." His golden gaze was direct but not unkind; his calloused fingers continued to stroke her cheek.

Kaoru swallowed and let go long enough to clasp his hand against her cheek, then turned her head to press her lips to his palm, stalling for time while she gathered her courage. Her mouth felt dry, and the static electricity in the air…or was it Kenshin's ki?... raised the hair on the back of her neck. "You were fighting for what you believed in; your blade carved open the new era where we can all live in peace. You, who did so much to create it, have a right to happiness as well." She swallowed again before plunging on. "Crazy Jin-e called me 'your woman', Kenshin. He was right; I've been yours from that first night, and even he recognized that I belong to you. I've been too afraid to risk admitting my feelings, afraid that you might go wandering again. You came home with me after Kyoto… I-I've found my answer…and it is you."

Kenshin laid perfectly still beneath her, his golden eyes wide as he stared up at the girl who had just handed him her heart, and who was now biting her lip as she awaited his response to her fragile gift. The silence lengthened and stretched, then thickened between them. A bolt of lightning illuminated the entire interior of the dojo in an incandescent flash, and the answering thunderclap shook the walls. Outside, the heavens opened, and a veritable wall of water thundered down, the raindrops bouncing back into the air and filling it with vaporous light. Still Kenshin did not respond; tears prickled her eyes as Kaoru assumed the worst.

"Forgive me…" she whispered brokenly, sprang to her feet and bolted out into the storm, intending to disappear until Kenshin had packed his small bundle and left her life forever. Why did I say anything? Now it's all ruined…I pushed him too far…he'll leave…idiot Kaoru!

She didn't stand a chance against Kenshin's battle-speed and he caught her half-way across the yard. His chest absorbed the shock of the already-soaked girl blindly colliding with him, and his arms wrapped around her, keeping her close. Her heart pounded wildly, audible above the sound of the rain filling his ears. She's still so young…but she has become the world to me. Dare I take this moment of happiness without knowing the answer? Will it cloud my ability to see the path I must take? Do I deserve her? He held her chest to chest, hip to hip, steadying her as the rain thundered down, soaking their hair, running over their skin, drenching their layers of clothing and thinning the barriers between them. Hesitantly, Kaoru's hands came up to rest lightly on either side of his waist; her breathing slowed. "K-kenshin…?" Perhaps this moment of happiness…is part of the answer. He smiled into her hair, slid one hand up her back, the material of her almost-transparent white gi bunching slightly, until he cupped the back of her head and gently tilted her face up.

So beautiful…my Kaoru… She blinked rapidly, as the rain plastered her dark hair to her creamy skin, dripped into her hopeful eyes. She does not fear me, even though she knows of my past…it doesn't matter to her. Holding her still with one arm around her waist and his fingers in her hair, he pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, tasting the fresh, clean rainwater mixed with the salt of her sweat, and the jasmine essence that was Kaoru. Skimming his lips along her brow and down, he kissed her cheek, nuzzling slightly into her skin, felt both her soft sigh and her eyelashes fluttering. Moving very slowly, he tilted her head again, ghosted his lips across the bridge of her nose to tenderly kiss her on the other cheek. Her lips parted slightly, and she sought for him, her breath warm on his skin, but he only rubbed his cheek against hers before lifting his head and tucking her under his chin.

She exhaled when he cradled her close; he could almost feel her disappointment. Ah, Kaoru…there is no need to rush…I have waited fifteen years to feel this way again…I pray this is part of my redemption… Pressing her closely to him, he waited until her arms slid fully around his waist, and her fingers twisted into the back of his gi. Small rivulets of water released by that action ran down the small of his back and trickled between his buttocks; he was very aware of that sensation and when Kaoru nuzzled the skin bared by the open neck of his gi, he trembled violently all over. The girl innocently repeated the touch, and he curled his whole body around hers.

The sopping blue silk hair ribbon, the same colour as her eyes, drooped against the back of his hand. A bit mischievously, and also to test her resolve, he caught one end and tugged until it came loose in his fingers and her wet hair tumbled down her back. It was an intimate gesture, one only allowed to a lover…or a husband…and Kaoru snuggled closer into his chest, her breath puffing warmly across his collarbone. They stood, locked together in the downpour, the mist rising around them, joined into one being by the coating of liquidity. If he hadn't been holding her so tightly, he would have missed the slight tremour that announced she was becoming chilled. Pressing his nose into her hair, he murmured, "Come, Kaoru-dono…your bath is ready."

"How did you…when did…?"

"While you were practising katas I started the fire. You will catch cold if you stay out here any longer."

Since he made no move to release her, she tilted her head up to regard him, courage kindling in her eyes as water streamed over her skin. "Um…you're soaking wet, too…you should come and… warm up…" She blushed prettily as her fingers tightened even further into his clothing, releasing even more tickling water over his skin.

He curled his arm around her waist, and after tucking her hair ribbon inside his gi, held her hand in his free one, and led her across the yard towards the bath-house. Kaoru started, as if waking from a dream as he let go of her hand and opened the door of the simple structure; he watched a raindrop trickle down the column of her throat, stifling the urge to follow it with his lips. "The temperature should be perfect…" He pushed his wet bangs out of his eyes, smiling at her as he ushered her inside and closed the door after them. In the sudden semi-darkness, her eyes widened; the steady drumming of rain on the roof increased the sense of privacy, enclosing them in their own small world where time was suspended.

Kenshin found himself trembling slightly. Does she know what she does to me? I have kept myself from hoping for this for months… He caught Kaoru by the hands, drawing her close while kissing her fingertips. He was pleased when she stepped closer yet, freed one hand and slid it up around his neck to work at the tie holding back his hair. He released her other hand, and as she went at the tie with a will, he loosely circled her waist with his arms. Kaoru blushed, and finally freed his hair, her fingertips resting lightly on the back of his neck, then ran her fingers through his tresses in a manner so intimate that he had to close his eyes and enjoy the sensations. If I could purr, I would… Sliding his hands up her back, he hugged her tightly, sighing in contentment as Kaoru continued to stroke his hair, the heavy wet mass slipping easily through her fingers.

How will she react…? Only one way to find out. He began tugging on the sopping material of her gi, finally pulling it free of her sodden hakama, the heavy wet material of the latter barely hanging on to her hips. Kaoru trembled but didn't resist as he pushed the gi off her shoulders and down her slender arms, dropping it onto the floor. Moving very slowly, he spanned her narrow waist with his hands, admiring the silky skin now revealed, damp with moisture from both the rain and the steam. Kaoru's hands landed on his chest, and then she began working his gi and kosode loose; the touch of her fingers on his skin was almost too much. He leaned in closer and pressed his cheek against her hair, inhaling her scent, enjoying the contact.

With a wet 'thump', more fabric hit the floor, and then Kaoru swallowed as he let his fingers stray down the curve of her hip, over the sash of her hakama and lightly rest on the soft skin of her thighs bared by the side openings. Dancing his touch back up, past her waist, skimming over her ribs, he plucked gently at the strip of bandaging that covered her breasts, watching her with hooded eyes. When she reached for his own binding, he took that as approval, and they carefully, slowly unwound each other from the wrapping, until they were both completely bare to the hip. Kenshin curled his arms around her and pressed her close, his hair enclosing both of them in a bright veil, completely seduced by the sensations of skin on skin. Kaoru returned the embrace, sighing deeply as she moulded herself to him.

They stood like that for a long time, until Kaoru boldly began fumbling between them, pulling at the knot holding her hakama in place, and Kenshin released her. The clothing dropped to the floor at the same time as her eyes, and her cheeks flamed in the dim light. Kenshin stepped back to admire her, and then trapped her hands before they could fly up to cover herself. "Beautiful…you are beautiful…truly, I am a very lucky man." He leaned in and kissed the corner of her lips, before untying his own hakama and letting it drop.

Kaoru let her eyes roam over Kenshin's body, her blush deepening. His strong, finely-muscled legs connected to a lean torso…her eyes slid over his manhood surrounded by red-gold curls and quickly looked away…then returned for another peek. She stopped at the sight of the red and silver lines of both new and old battle-wounds criss-crossing his skin, gleaming in the light from the slatted window opening. So many scars! Her hands moved without permission of her brain, and her fingers began tracing those lines; Kenshin let her hands wander, taking the opportunity to admire the rest of her soft curves while he rested his hands lightly on her hips.

She was startled out of her reverie when he gently ushered her over beside the steaming tub, took a cloth and knelt, indicating that she should do the same. She looked down at him, his golden eyes glowing up at her, his red hair clinging damply to his shoulders and chest, and ran her fingers through his bangs before kneeling with her back to him. After a brief hesitation, strong hands began lathering her with soap, the cloth running firmly over her body. He moved her hair over her shoulder and she closed her eyes, a small moan of pleasure escaping her lips. His touch caused intense sensations that left her tingling, as Kenshin caressed her shoulders and back, his hands gliding sleekly over her skin.

He reached around her and began gently soaping her thighs, her belly, her breasts, his hand respectfully shielded by the cloth, but making her quiver with the intimacy. Sighing, she leaned back against him, was aware of his breath on her neck and turned slightly into it. His lips brushed her skin, and then he moved away, caught up the rinse bucket, and stood to scoop out some water and pour it over her. The curtain of water obscured his body from her gaze, and then he crouched in front of her and proceeded to wash her hair.

Kaoru nearly melted from the way his fingertips moved over her scalp; she leaned her forehead against his shoulder, listening to his breathing and feeling his muscles slide as he worked the lather through her hair, voicing a muttered complaint when he moved away again to refill the bucket. Tilting her head back, she kept her eyes closed as he slowly poured the warm water over her face and hair, slicking her bangs back, running his fingers through her tresses to make sure all the soap was rinsed away. Blinking the water out of her eyes, she blushed again at her proximity to his naked form, before reminding herself that this was Kenshin, and this was what she had hoped for.

He carefully twisted her hair to wring out the excess water, then patted the rim of the tub. "In you go, Kaoru-dono." She obeyed, settling herself in one corner, with her knees drawn up under her chin, turning pink again as she watched him soap himself. His flaming hair and pale skin glowed in the dim light; through the swirling steam, he appeared almost unreal, and she had to pinch herself to prove that she wasn't dreaming. I'm taking a bath with Kenshin…and it seems so normal, that it feels strange… When he stood up to pour a bucket of water over himself, she caught her breath, following the trail of water down his frame, watching his muscles flex.

She was bright pink, and it wasn't entirely from the heat of the water, when he slid into the tub beside her, wiping his hair out of his eyes. He smiled at her, his expression full of tenderness. "Will you sit with me?" he asked.

"Um…aren't we sitting together now…?" Confusion tinted her voice as she peeked at him from under her bangs.

"I would like to hold you, if I may." He waited until she nodded and began moving in his direction before he gently tugged her into place between his thighs, dropping his chin onto her shoulder. She held her breath when her body first gently bumped and then fully contacted his lean torso, including those short curls and the flesh they surrounded, then exhaled as he loosely wrapped his arms around her. She felt like she was floating, surrounded by warm water and contained within the tender cage of his body, touching and being touched in a sensuous, elemental manner. Kaoru sighed blissfully and rested her head back against his shoulder, dropping her own hands to his forearms where they draped across her hips.

The rain drummed down on the roof, a vigorous counterpoint to the languorously rising steam of the bath. Kenshin began softly humming, the vibration going from his chest directly into her body, his fingertips lightly stroking her skin. Kaoru twisted her head to look back at him; he brushed her temple with a kiss. They relaxed into each other for a long while in the steaming water, his body cradling hers, their heartbeats and the rain the only sounds in the small, moist room. Finally, Kenshin pressed another kiss to her shoulder and sat them both up; Kaoru muttered rebelliously and snuggled backwards. A soft chuckle escaped him.

"Too much heat isn't good for us." He released her from his arms and stood up behind her, then offered her his hand. Kaoru took it, and he raised her from the water, assisting her out of the tub. Stepping out beside her, he quickly wrapped her in a towel before draping one over himself. While Kaoru dried herself off, he patted her hair with another towel; she was mesmerized by a drop of water making its way from the divot in the centre of his collarbone down the flat planes of his chest…and gave in to the temptation to trace its path with her lips. Kenshin stiffened, his hands dropping to her shoulders, and he groaned softly. Encouraged, she repeated the touch, her kisses lingering longer on his skin.

Very daringly, and before she lost her nerve, Kaoru opened her towel and wrapped her arms around Kenshin's waist, pressing her naked body against his, inhaling sharply when the soft curls of his sex brushed against her belly and sent a rush of heat through her. Kenshin's arms went from gentle to steel bands as he crushed her against him, his breathing suddenly ragged, and Kaoru felt something harden and press into her flesh. "Kenshin?" she asked breathlessly, twining her fingers into his hair, breathing in the warm scent of his skin, listening to his heart race in tempo with the rain.

In answer, he pulled away and reached for a yukata, dropping the towels on the floor while draping the garment over her shoulders and guiding her arms into the sleeves. His movements were jerky as opposed to smooth; as he stepped further away from her, reaching for a second yukata, she saw his no-longer-soft manhood bob slightly, and blushed when she caught herself examining it intently, wondering what it would feel like inside her. Tae had spoken of what it was like to have sex once, after a few bottles of saké, describing it as a sweet pain, but had then clammed up tight once she'd caught Kaoru's shocked expression.

Kenshin shrugged into the other yukata, pulled his mass of hair free of the collar, retrieved the blue hair ribbon from his crumpled gi and tucked it into his sleeve, then offered her his hand. Kaoru demurely took it, holding her yukata closed with the other, and let out a startled 'eep!' when Kenshin swept her up in his arms before hooking the door open with his foot. They both peered out at the rain. "Hold on." Kenshin tucked her against his chest and every muscle in his body tensed…and then they were on the veranda, their clothing barely spotted with wet. He set her down gently on her feet, and opened the door for her. They entered the living quarters; Kenshin dropped the locking bar into the door's track almost as an afterthought.

Kaoru looked up at him, her eyes searching his, looking for…reassurance? She wasn't sure, exactly, but she knew that she trusted this golden-eyed man with both her heart and her life, and wanted him to understand that she accepted him completely for who he was. Kenshin cupped her cheek with a calloused hand, looking deeply into her eyes, then smiled a little and held out his other hand to her. Without looking away, she wove her fingers with his, and they walked through the common area and down the corridor until they stood outside his room. There was a brief moment of hesitation, and then Kaoru herself slid the door open and stepped over the threshold, pulling Kenshin after her. He willingly followed, closed the door and then fastened the latch.

He padded across the room and began laying out the futon and the bedding; Kaoru assisted with downcast eyes, biting her lip, and then tucked her trembling hands inside her sleeves as she knelt by the bed. Kenshin did not approach her; instead, he crossed the room and opened the shoji slightly, allowing the sound of the rain into the room. Kaoru looked at him silhouetted against the light, his red mane tumbling down his back…and wanted him more than anything. The strange, warm ache began in her belly again, and she shifted on her knees. I wish I could have talked to someone before, so I really knew what to expect…right, like I'd ask Megumi about this!

Kenshin knelt on the other side of the futon; his lips curved when he noticed her worrying her lip with her small white teeth. Moving slowly, he folded back the quilt and slid under it before tossing aside the yukata, then pulled the covers back up to his chest. He propped his head on his fist, watching her for a moment or two before he extended his hand; Kaoru seemed to exhale, straightened her shoulders, and then slid under the quilt. Her yukata wasn't tied closed, so much of it remained outside the futon. In effect, she was naked, with only her chest covered because she nervously clutched the light fabric closed. "Come lay your head on my shoulder…I will hold you for a while." The gentle tone reassured her somewhat, and Kaoru inched closer before cautiously resting her head on Kenshin's chest. He rumbled a noise…is he laughing at me?...and one hand began stroking through her hair.

She listened to his heartbeat, the pattering of raindrops outside and on the roof, enjoying the sensation of his fingers sliding repeatedly through her hair. Slowly relaxing, she found her body almost instinctively moving, until she was pressed against him, skin to skin. She tucked one arm around his waist and nestled closer; he contentedly hummed, like he had in the bath, his fingers continuing to glide through her tresses. Kaoru wasn't sure, but she thought she might have actually dozed off for a brief while; when she blinked sharply, the sound of the rain seemed to have diminished, and there was a watery sunlight brightening the room. I fell asleep! I don't think that's supposed to happen! She realized that Kenshin's chest was rising and falling evenly, and she was securely held within the circle of his arms.

"Kenshin?" She peered up at his relaxed face, sliding her hand up from his waist to his chest, twirling a thick strand of red around her fingertip. He scrunched up his nose; she giggled…and then golden eyes opened under dark lashes to regard her intently. A slow, very intimate smile meant only for her curved his lips.

"You are awake…I am glad that you find my bed so comfortable; I could very easily become used to your presence in it." His fingertip stroked lightly over her cheekbone as his hooded eyes scanned her face. Kaoru was spell-bound as the finger traced along her jaw and then brushed over her lips; she closed her eyes and nearly whimpered. "I believe I still owe you a kiss for my freedom." Her chin was tilted up, and Kenshin shifted. Before her eyes could fly open, he was kissing her on the lips…finally!... with such intensity and tenderness that all she could do was cling to him. It was over too soon. She blinked dazedly, as he rubbed his cheek against hers, his breath warm on her skin, stray strands of his hair catching on her lips.

"I think…I need another one…please…?" He chuckled, and complied, and this time Kaoru gave herself completely up to the sensations, pressing herself against him, fisting her hand in his hair. They finally had to break apart for air; Kenshin stroked his thumb over her lips.

"Is my debt repaid?" he whispered, his eyes twinkling.

"Not yet…"

"You are more difficult to appease than a yakuza." He bent his head to her lips, and while he kissed her, he slowly rolled half-way on top of her, one leg creeping in between hers, his erection nudging against her thigh. Does she realize how nervous I am? I want her so very much, but have not allowed myself to be in this situation for so long… Alert for any signs of tension, he very slowly ran his fingers down her throat, across her collarbone, under the thin fabric of the yukata, down and around the curve of her breast until his hand lightly rested on her ribs. Kaoru breathed a deep, shuddering sigh, and squirmed until she had freed one arm from the garment, baring herself to his touch and his sight. He helped her out of the other sleeve, and stretched over her to toss the yukata onto the floor.

As he reached across her, his hair swept over her skin and she shivered; Kaoru slipped her arms up around his neck and they regarded each other solemnly. Kenshin waited to see what she was ready for, ready to retreat if she showed any sign of indecision. I need her to be sure that this is what she wants. His heart leapt when the girl smiled softly up at him and pulled him down for another kiss. Slowly, he eased on top of her, gradually settling his weight, groaning into her mouth at the feel of her soft curves and softer skin against his. Her body tensed slightly, and he murmured tender endearments, nuzzling her skin until she sighed again, her body relaxed, and her legs parted, allowing his hips to settle between her thighs.

Kenshin echoed her soft gasp as the sensations washed over him, her warmth and softness and acceptance of his intimate caresses nearly overwhelming him. "Kaoru…" he breathed, and she absently noted the missing honorific, even as her mind was becoming a bit fuzzy around the edges. The warm, not-quite-fully aware feeling continued even when Kenshin's bangs tickled her skin as he kissed his way down her throat to her breasts. She let out a small 'oh!' when his lips closed over her nipple, and then she found herself making noises she didn't know she knew how to make, arching her back while pressing him against her, whispering his name over and over again as his tongue and lips sent tingling waves surging through her body.

The movements of her hips, her soft murmurs, the heat of her skin, her hands twisting in his hair and caressing his back sent the blood rushing directly to his groin, and he had to take a moment to collect himself, resting his head directly over her heart while wrapping his arms around her. Kaoru's heartbeat was racing every bit as quickly as his, and he fought to steady his breathing. Perhaps…protecting her happiness is the way to atone…? He raised his head, studying her flushed cheeks and listening to her gasping breaths, then smiled. Where Kaoru is, that is home…I am rurouni no longer. I will defend both her and the happiness of those within my sight.

Sliding up her body, he placed slow, open-mouthed kisses along her collarbone and up her throat, caressing her curves with his hands, moaning softly when she raised her knees and opened her thighs even farther. He was poised at her entrance, his knees actually shaking… and he felt like it was the first time for him as well. It has been fifteen years… "Kaoru…are you ready?" he murmured, softly kissing the sensitive skin in front of her ear.

Am I ready? I've been ready for months… "I-I think so…" she whispered back, and then wondered at his trembling limbs. Dark golden eyes fairly glowed at her from under his bangs.

"Do you wish me to proceed?" He rocked his hips a little, and slid just inside her; she gasped. Kenshin held still, watching the emotions flickering over her face like clouds scudding across the summer sky. He was caught a little off-guard when Kaoru whimpered and rolled her hips, causing him to sink in a little deeper, up to a point of resistance.

Ohhh…this…it feels so…ummm…I want… "Ken…shin?"

"Mmhmm?" He couldn't quite articulate anything more profound; he was struggling to control his desire to take her in one fast, hard thrust. So tight…so hot…can't take…too much longer

"Please." Kaoru slid her hands down his back and rested them on the curve of his buttocks, then pressed firmly while rocking her hips. Kenshin emitted an odd little pained noise, his breath coming in quick pants and his teeth gritted. "A-are you all right?" she asked, suddenly worried at his apparent pain.

"I-I am well…Kaoru…it will hurt you a little, this first time…"

She inhaled a bit. I wish I'd made Tae tell me more! "I-I'll be fine. It's only for a moment or two…right?"

"It is different for each woman, I suspect. Relax…"

The girl beneath him giggled. "I don't know if I can, now that you've told me to!" Cupping her face between his palms, he tenderly and deeply kissed her while slowly allowing his weight to drive himself deeper. Her body jerked; tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and he kissed them away while holding her tightly as her body tensed around him, taking his control to the very edge. Finally, her breathing steadied and her hands slid back up to tangle in his hair. He looked into misty blue eyes, rimmed by dark lashes, and the depth of love and acceptance he found there sent a rush of emotion through his body.

"Kaoru…I am yours forever, if you will have a penniless rurouni as your groom."

The blue eyes began to sparkle through the last of her tears, and she pulled him down for a kiss full of promise. "Of course I'll have you…there was none other for me as soon as I saw your smile."

"Was that the somewhat dazed smile after your bokken collided with my head?" He grinned crookedly, and kissed her chin. Kaoru giggled again and shifted under him, causing him to slide in even deeper until they were so closely joined that Kenshin thought he might lose his mind. She sighed softly and smiled, her eyes closing for a moment and then hugged him tightly.

"I-I'm ready, Kenshin."

"My Kaoru…" He rolled his hips and slowly began to move. Sweat beaded up on his forehead at the velvet heat surrounding him, and he tried very hard to make it last as long as possible, but… From the dojo to the bath to this…I can't… He gasped her name and gripped her tightly, his body shuddering violently with the strength of his release, collapsing on her much like he had in the dojo. "I…should…have…been able…to bring you…as much pleasure…"

"There's always next time…"

He raised his head to regard her with an arched eyebrow even as he panted. "Your faith… in my stamina… is appreciated…however, this will take a while…"

Her answering smile was a bit mischievous. "How long?"

"Long enough…" He began to pull out, trying to think of something else to try, and mentally cursing his lack of experience, but she locked her arms around him and prevented his withdrawal.

"I-I like the way…you feel inside me…please stay?"

"Of course. Whatever you wish…uhhh…" Kaoru did something with her inner muscles, sending a wave of pleasure rippling over him, and he gasped, blinking down at her in surprise. She did it again; his body twitched and parts of him hardened much more quickly than he originally thought possible. "Kao-ru…!"


"Don't stop…!"

Kaoru wriggled, and found that now the brief discomfort of his penetration was over, she was very much enjoying being this closely connected to him. Kenshin rumbled something, and then shifted his weight to one side, freeing up a hand to caress her breast while his lips roamed over her shoulders and throat. That warm, melting feeling begin to build again deep in her belly; a sensation that she couldn't describe but wanted more coiled tighter and tighter, winding her up like a spring…

Her hips rocked against his more urgently, and Kenshin found himself in the very happy position of being able to thoroughly respond. Kissing her deeply, delighting in the way she met him thrust for thrust, he was still surprised when she went completely taut, buried her face in his shoulder and cried out. Her body gripped him in a velvet vise, pulling him even deeper into her molten heat until he drove himself rapidly into her, and hissed her name as he let go in a powerful jolt.

Kaoru panted, little white lights exploding behind her eyelids, feeling oddly boneless. Kenshin's heart thundered in time with her own, and his breathing was harsh in her ear. She shivered a little when a light breeze gusted in the open shoji, chilling the sweat on her skin, and then quaked again when Kenshin's lips traced a path across her collarbone and up her throat to her jaw. He nibbled along her chin and then kissed her deeply. This time, when he pulled away, she only mumbled a little in protest; Kenshin curled in behind her, and pulled the quilt up around their shoulders. He nuzzled the nape of her neck and hugged her close, sighing contentedly. The slowing rain made statacco sounds on the roof, loud in the silence.

"You have made this one a very happy man indeed, Kaoru-dono," he whispered softly.

Kaoru's eyes flew wide open. 'This one'? 'Kaoru-dono'? She rolled over in his arms and cupped his scarred cheek, searching his now-violet eyes. He smiled lazily at her, and kissed the tip of her nose. She was about to say something, but instead smiled back, and tucked herself under his chin, cuddling close and listening to his heartbeat. My Kenshin…you've made me the happiest woman alive.

Outside, brilliant sunshine streamed through the moisture-rich atmosphere, drying up the little rivulets trickling sluggishly across the soaking ground until they turned to steam. Golden-hued water fell from the eaves of the Kamiya compound in a steady drip-drip-drip, and the rain barrels overflowed. Songbirds began to twitter again, and the cicadas set up their hum.

Sano frowned, jiggling the locked door of the living quarters. Puzzled, the tall, spiky-haired youth scratched his head and switched the ever-present fishbone to the other side of his mouth. Damn it…was hoping to mooch a free meal… Next, he tried the dojo door, and was surprised when it slid open. Removing his shoes and carrying them in his hand as he crossed the threshold, he was even more puzzled when he observed that all the shoji on the other side of the room were thrown open to the weather. This isn't like the little missy at all, leaving the dojo wide open like this! Glancing around, the fishbone dropped unheeded out of his mouth when he noticed the sakabatou lying discarded near the end wall, its scabbard tossed aside and crossed the space in three strides to pick up the weapon…and then saw the pieces of Kaoru's splintered bokken several feet away. What the heck happened here? Kenshin would never leave his katana…better check it out.

Moving stealthily, he stepped back into his shoes and began moving across the courtyard, his head swinging from side to side, alert for any movement. The door of the bath-house creaked gently in the light breeze; he changed direction and moved towards it. What the…? Sano stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the piles of wet clothing scattered haphazardly across the wooden planking…and a smirk began tugging at the corners of his lips when he realized who the discarded clothing belonged to. Well, well, well… the little miss finally worked up enough courage to tell Kenshin how she feels…looks like he was receptive!

Chuckling a bit, he pulled the bath-house door closed and turned back, intending to cut around the end of the dojo building and nip over the fence. Then he noticed that the shoji of Kenshin's room was slightly open; his grin became wider, and he made sure to make a bit of noise as he sloped off in the opposite direction. Reaching the front of the building, he carefully replaced the sakabatou inside the doorway of the dojo and closed the panel. Leaping the fence, he set off whistling, his hands stuck in the side openings of his gi pants, a jaunty bounce in his step. I'll grab Yahiko on his way home and take him back to Akabeko for dinner; Tae'll spot me a meal, especially with news this juicy to pass on

Inside the darkened room, golden eyes flashed as their owner tracked the path of the intruder, then relaxed when he was recognized. Kenshin nuzzled the drowsing girl's hair and grinned. Sano will start the rumour mill…looks like a wedding will occur sooner rather than later. He hugged Kaoru close and allowed himself to relax. Your love is part of my answer…I will find the rest of it and protect all of us in the new era…