Mwhahah! See I told y'all that I would update soon. So do the happy dance:) guess what…go on… guess….. okay, this is the last chapter in this part of the story! Eep! That's right folks, Mark my Love is now over. But don't freak out….the next part will start soon. (as a new story).. so be on the look out for it :)

I want to thank all my loyal reviewers who have followed this story from the first day. kagome-kogas-dream-date, Ladysongstress321, kimi.the.water.spirit, blooded wyngs, evilalternateendingstorywriter, black-lotusblossom, RedWingedAngel002, Dream Catcher Kenshin, and all the other great reviewers who never missed a single chapter. :) And to all my new reviewers who sat at the computer for hours reading the whole story at once.

Anyways. I won't keep jabbering on and on when I know all of you want to read the story. :)

Oh! Guess what I saw! Being that I've been so busy, I haven't had the chance to check out Christine Feehan's web site…but after some great procrastinating, I decided do drop by and see what was new…and it turns out that one of her short stories (and as in short I mean about 130 pages long) Dark Hunger is being made in a 200 page Manga! Sweet Cherry Cheesecake!! My two favorite things in the world… Carpathians and manga… all in one! Needless to say about 2 minutes after I found this out, I had a copy pre-ordered off of Amazon. LOL

Okay.. me done talking

I give this chapter a PG-13 rating.

I do not own Kenshin or the work of Feehan.

Chapter 20

Shishio hissed, spit and venom flew, how dare the battousai get in the way of his ultimate triumph. His claws were buried deep into Kenshin's stomach, pumping poison into him. Shishio didn't pause, if he couldn't kill Hiko, he would surely do whatever it took to kill Kenshin. The pair dropped to the ground Shishio landed on Kenshin and the force of the landing helped the vampire dig his claws up and in deeper.

Kenshin ignored the pain and used the momentum of the fall to throw Shishio. He placed a foot on the creature's chest and pushed, sending the vampire flying over his head. The force made Kenshin flip head over heals to land on his stomach where he calmly got to his feet.

Shishio landed in a crumple heap of bandages and bones on the ground. He instantly got back to his feet and hissed. Kenshin only stood there, blood poured from the wound in his gut, the venom slowly eating away at his insides, but he stood stone still with his head bowed.

"What's the matter Battousai?" Shishio gloated, relishing in the scent of spilled Carpathian blood. Kenshin didn't answer. He only stood there silently. Then, ever so slowly he lifted his head and turned to face the vampire. In his hand, was the still pulsing heart that he had pulled from Shishio. Kenshin held it out for the creature to see. Shishio froze and looked down to see the gapping wound in his chest where his black, rotting heart had been. The vampire screamed. It was a sound no one had heard before and it elevated to an almost painful magnitude. The windows of the house vibrated, flexing and warping until they shattered. The men blocked the sound before they could be damaged, but the innocent animals called into the fray had no protection, and those that did not escape, died.

Kaoru, Tomoe and Yahiko where protected under the ground in the house, but the sound still reached them. The trio covered their ears, pain lanced through them. But Tomoe recovered quickly and wrapped her new family in a small bubble of protection that took the sound and pain away.

Kenshin didn't wait for Shishio to grow silent; he commanded the elements, causing lightning to crackle in the sky before a bolt raced to him. The heart was thrown a few yards away and Kenshin directed the bolt to the heart. The heart exploded into a shower of glittering black bits and ash. Shishio himself caught fire and his screaming abruptly stopped. The creature exploded. The force of the blast was so strong that Kenshin and Hiko were forced back a dozen feet and the nearby trees were ripped up by their roots to tumble over. Parts of the vampire rained down and turned to black obsidian glass as soon as they touched the earth, after which they crumbled to a fine dust and blew away in the wind.

Shishio was dead.

…. . .

Kenshin instantly stopped his lungs and his heart to slow the progress of the vampires' venom through his system. He fell to the ground, looking dead to all the world; but the others knew better. The three males gathered around Kenshin. Sano looked a bit worse for wear, but the burns from the acidic blood were already starting to fade away. Hiko and Aoshi looked drained, but relatively fine.

"He must be healed before that poison does irreversible damage." Aoshi stated as he scooped Kenshin easily in his arms. "Bring his woman; he will have need of her." He added before vanishing into a mist with Kenshin.

Hiko sighed and turned his face to the wind as it already started to die away. "Clean up this mess Sanosuke…and then you know where to go." His voice was harsh, thick with emotion. Kenshin had taken a serious hit for him. He was prince, and was use to others throwing themselves in front of him to protect him, but Kenshin was his brother, and newly mated. It just didn't seem right.

"Why am I always stuck with the clean up?" Sanosuke protested in a slightly strained, humorless voice as he swiftly got to work. He commanded the elements to right the trees and remove the carcasses of rodents, bugs and birds. The crack that ran deep in the earth was slowly closed and mended. There couldn't be any sign of such a fight left over for humans to get suspicious about.

… . .

Kaoru knew the very moment Kenshin was wounded and turned his body off. What once was a raging fire in her mind and flickered down to a candle flame. A flame that Kaoru cupped in her hand, protected and willed to keep burning. She said not a word to anyone, nor shed a single tear. All her thought and concentration went into holding on to Kenshin. She felt Shishio as he died. It felt like a wave of electricity crackling over her, removing all traces of him from her body. She was clean of vampire taint, and it was like a refreshing splash of ice cold water. Tomoe ran to her lifemate as the Prince entered the underground room. His face was passive, yet a fire burned in his eyes.

"We must go." Hiko ordered gently, catching Kaoru's attention.

"What has happened?" Tomoe rubbed at her tear blurred eyes.

"All will be explained in time. Right now we must go and help Kenshin." He turned his dark face to Yahiko. "You are to stay here." It was a demand, plain and simple.

Yahiko opened his mouth to protest but caught himself. "Aw Hell, what's the use in fighting about it anyways." He muttered to himself and plopped down on Kenshin's bed.

Kaoru hardly took notice as she was swiftly lead up from the room and outside. There, Sano gave her a weak smile, but refused to really meet her eye. The Prince took her hand.

"As it is an emergency and the faster we travel the better, I'm sure Kenshin won't mind if I have a blood bond with you." He was calm, gentle, giving away nothing of how pressing the matter was. Kaoru nodded numbly and watched Hiko as he drew a line across her wrist with a sharp nail and drank from her. Instantly, Kaoru saw the image of an owl flashing in her mind and before she realized what was happening, the Prince was controlling her body, commanding that she transform into said animal. Kaoru turned inward, holding tighter to Kenshin and letting the others take over for her. What would she do if she lost Kenshin? She couldn't lose him; she refused to let that happen. She was finally letting her self be happy and now that damn vampire could still take everything away from her.

Kaoru didn't notice that she was now in the body of a large owl and that she was flying in the center of three other large owls. Her attention was only on Kenshin and the small bit of life she held alight.

… . .

Kaoru wasn't sure how long they had been traveling. It wasn't for long, but they were now out in the middle of the wilderness. They landed and transformed under the thick covering of trees next to a rather large rock formation that jutted out from the ground like a building. Kaoru looked around at the silent forest and the three equally silent Carpathians next to her. Sano took her by the arm and lead her after Tomoe and Hiko who opened up a gash in the small mountain of rock and vanished inside.

Kaoru was nervous about going in, but she felt Kenshin nearby and knew him to be inside the rock. Once inside, the rock closed behind them and opened up in front of them as they moved. It was like they were in a pocket of air that moved through the mountain. It felt like a tomb and was very claustrophobic to the girl. Slowly they wound their way down underground. Then, the rock opened up to a cave and inside was something Kaoru hardly expected. A room full of candles and healing herbs. In the center of the room was a raised platform of earth and on that mound of dirt was Kenshin. Aoshi was kneeling next to Kenshin and to Kaorus' utter shock, was as transparent as a ghost again.

"What's happened to Aoshi? Why does he do that?" Kaoru whispered, not wanting to disturbed the silence. She kept her eyes from Kenshins' body. As worried as she was, she couldn't bring herself to see his horrible wounds. Tomoe stood by her side and set a calming hand on her shoulder.

"Aoshi is a great healer. He can travel out of his body and into another's to heal them from the inside out. It takes a great deal of energy, but the healing is perfect."

Suddenly Sano let go of Kaoru and shouted into the shadows that the candle light didn't reach. "It's about time you showed your face!" he flexed his hands, wanting to make fists, and kept Kaoru shielded with his large body.

The Prince and the two females swung there eyes to the dark corner and a tall figure stepped from the shadows. Kaoru gasped and took a step back in surprise. It was another Carpathian. How long had he been standing there? Why couldn't Kaoru feel him before Sano made his presence known? He was tall, like Hiko; and had the same dark hair, but his hair was cut short; shorter than even Sano's. He wore black pants and a tight, deep blue blouse. The man was also thin, almost painfully thin with long limbs. But what caught her attention the most was the fact that he had striking amber eyes like Kenshin did when he was angry.

He was obviously Carpathian. There was an air of old world about him, extreme loyalty and a dark, dangerous beauty. But his eyes were hard and the grin he showed to Kaoru was cold, almost evil. It felt too much like Shishio…too much like a vampire.

"Kaoru…" Tomoe started softly as the two males glared at each other. "This is Saitou Hajime. Saitou…this is-"

"Kamiya Kaoru, Kenshins' lifemate." Saitou finished. His voice was like the other males, beautiful in its cruelness, perfect, calm and ensnaring. And yet it did the very opposite for Kaoru, it left her wary and almost shivering. His intense eyes caught Kaoru and held her. "Word travels." He stated simply as an explanation.

"You vanish as soon as Aoshi feels we're getting close to finding Shishio and the very hour that he dies, you show up again?" Sano snarled, clenching his hands into fists.

Saitou only shrugged. "I was out of town."

"You were out of the country!" Sano snapped back.

Dark power seemed to swell within Saitous' slight frame and he crossed his long arms in front of him. "I have allegiance only to the Prince. I told Hiko when I would be back, that was all he wanted to know." His sneer surprised Kaoru, never had she seen such anger between Carpathians. To her it seemed…unnatural.

"Enough of this quarrelling!" Hiko inserted himself between the two bickering males. His power surged and smothered both Sano and Saitou, silencing them. "Now is not the time, nor the place for exchanging of such words. Now calm yourselves and start acting civil." Hiko held Satious' gaze. The male was close to Aoshi in age, but nowhere near his power. Saitou kept his pride knowing that he was better skilled than Kenshin with a sword; yet only if Kenshin was having a bad day, and Saitou a good one. His age and lack of a mate put him at risk of turning, just like Aoshi. But unlike Aoshi, Saitou still held on to certain emotions, which held the darkness away. Most of those emotions though, were anger and arrogance.

Saitou nodded only slightly and dropped his defensive manner. "Kenshin had to save the day again, didn't he?" The man turned to look down at the red-head. The sight only added to how defenseless Kenshin seemed to be. The sight was painful to Kaoru. And it almost seemed as though Saitou was glad to see Kenshin's pale lifeless body laying there before him. Anger and fear welled up inside Kaoru. How dare this man look at Kenshin in such a way, after all he went though to protect them all.

Kaoru tore away from Tomoe and ran in front of Saitou, putting herself between her hurt lifemate and the newcomer. She fell to her knees by the low bed and she forced herself to look at him. He was white as death from blood loss, his abdomen and half of his chest was ripped open. His bloody gi clung to him in shreds. Yet his face was set stubbornness. Kaoru forced a smile and rested her hand on his cold cheek. She heard the males move behind her but she ignored them.

'Kenshin. Please be alright.' She spoke into the silence in her mind as she cupped the flame of his life so protectively. Hiko, Sano and Saitou gathered around Aoshi and set one hand on the healer, and the other hand on Kenshin. Kaoru watched as the three men chanted, in a low and deep voices, the healing chant in there native tongue. The men slowly started to grow transparent like Aoshi; though they never reached as ghost-like as the healer.

Tomoe kneeled next to Kaoru and wrapped an arm around her sister. "The poison is deep; but please don't fret. Everything will be fine, Kaoru." She said softly, her voice held a compulsion in it for Kaoru to relax. And the girl did find herself slouching against Kenshins' small sickbed. "The men are lending Aoshi their power to help him heal Kenshin. All will be well again." Tomoe set a kiss on Kaorus' cheek, then leaned forward and did the same to Kenshin.

…. . .

The sun was coming up. The men had been at it for hours it seemed. Kaoru watched from the side as one by one the men dropped away from the healing circle to leave the cave to feed and recover their energy. Aoshi was the only one who stayed put. Even with nothing but his transparent outline to look at; Kaoru could tell the Carpathian was growing weak. Aoshi would have to stop soon and take nutrition. But Aoshi was the only one who knew when that time would be. He would not stop a moment sooner, or later.

Kaoru knew she should sleep, the power of the sun would force her into unconsciousness eventually, but she couldn't tear herself away from Kenshin. Finally, as Hiko opened the ground for Tomoe, the prince approached Kaoru. Weakly, Kaoru lifted her heavy eyes to the Prince.

"As prince of my people, it is my duty to take over your care until your lifemate is well again." He said gently, yet in a tone that said he was to be obeyed. He watched her with his dark, solemn gaze and held his hand out to her.

Kaoru didn't want to leave Kenshin. She could feel the protest rising up within her. Perhaps it was his tone, or gaze, or the fact that Kenshin would want her to be well and safe, but something told her she shouldn't fight the Prince. Kaoru set a kiss on Kenshin's forehead and whispered tearful words of love to him before she took the Prince by the hand and stood. Hiko led her to the opened ground where Tomoe lay, already asleep.

"Your sister gladly keeps you company until the next rising." Hiko murmured as he helped Kaoru to her bed of dark healing earth. Kaoru curled next to Tomoe, who, even in the deep Carpathian sleep, bathed Kaoru in warmth and love.

"What about you, and Sano and Aoshi? He hasn't even fed yet." Kaoru asked softly. The Prince smiled and it was enough to almost bring Kaoru to tears.

"We will stay up as long as we can to help Kenshin, then we will go to ground. Though Aoshi and I are matched in strength, I have a lifemate and child to feed when night falls. Aoshi has so such thing to worry about. Do not fear for him. He knows what he is doing." Hiko gently passed his hand over Kaoru's eyes, sending the young woman into deep sleep. Her heart stopped, then her breathing. The Prince left the hole in the ground and carefully covered the females with the dark earth

…. .. .

Kaoru had always taken it for granted that Kenshin would always be there to remove her from the ground, clean her up, and place her in bed before waking her from the deep sleep. So when Kaoru woke to find herself still underground, she panicked. Carpathian instinct kept her from breathing, but she couldn't think of what to do to remove herself from the ground. She almost started clawing her way though the dirt when suddenly the ground split and cool, blessed air reached her. The ground heaved upward, pushing Kaoru up and out. She sat there coughing as the dirt slipped off her body. A lazy, yet deep voice broke the silence.

"Even I can not disregard a female in distress." It held a sarcastic tone. In the darkness a match was struck and the flash of fire lit up the face of the speaker for one moment. Saitou. He lit a cigarette as one by one candles sputtered to life around the dark cave. Healing herbs burned anew, filling the cave with the fresh calming scent. Kaoru quickly got to her feet and ran to Kenshin. His wound was still raw and open, but was packed with herbs and dark healing earth.

"W-where is everyone?" Kaoru looked around, alarmed that not even Aoshi was around. She watched Saitou take a drag from his cigarette before answering.

"They are resting. Even mighty Aoshi sleeps sometimes." His eyes narrowed even more as he sent her a smile that did little to relax her.

"Why are you not sleeping then?" he had contributed the same as Hiko and Sano.

Saitou shrugged, a movement that shifted his whole body. "I am not like most."

'No kidding.' Kaoru thought to herself as she looked Saitou over. He wasn't like the other males. The Carpathian males were like tigers. They were large, solid walls of muscle. Even Kenshin, who was leaner than Hiko, Sano and Aoshi, had defined muscle that gave him the look of such physical power. Saitou on the other hand was more like a cheetah. Super lean, super long limbs, but power rippled off of him the same as the rest. The man looked almost delicate in his thinness, until you looked into his face. He had eyes that would give even the most hardened human nightmares. Kaoru was unaffected, being a female Carpathian, she could see though the gaze to the man behind the power. But Saitou refused to let her hold his gaze long enough for her to see far into him.

"You shouldn't smoke." She blurted out, having no idea what to say to him. Saitou looked at her from the corner of his eyes as he took another drag from the cigarette.

"Why? It could kill me?" He pushed away from the wall he was leaning on and crossed his arms.

"It could." Kaoru said defiantly, tipping her chin up.

Saitou sucked on the cigarette and blew out the smoke in a sigh. "God I hope so." He whispered

Kaoru felt such desolation from the newcomer. It was almost upsetting to see such powerful beings give up hope after holding on for so long. Saitou let the cigarette hang from the corner of his mouth as he shoved his hands deep in his pockets. His yellow eyes glared over at Kenshin.

"Wake him up." He snapped.

"I beg your pardon?" Kaoru looked down at Kenshin's lifeless body. Deathly pale skin, blue lips and fingertips, dirt packed into his middle.

Saitou held his ground. "To Kenshin, that's a dog bite…a rabid dog bite… but nothing major to say the least. I've seen him in far worse shape." Smoke trailed slowly from the cigarette and curled lazily over his head. "Talk to him, tell him to wake up. You are his lifemate."

Kaoru didn't know what she should do. Like Tomoe said, she wasn't born a Carpathian; she had no clue what she could do. Could talking to Kenshin really bring him back? Was that something they expected her to do? Kaoru chewed on her lip as she fell to her knees next to Kenshin. It was worth a try, what did she have to lose? She worked at a hospital, she heard people talking to family members in a coma. Anything was worth it to have Kenshin look at her and smile again.

"Kenshin?" her voice wavered and she looked over at Saitou. He was leaning back against the wall and watched her. It made Kaoru feel a bit uncomfortable having his eyes at her back, hearing her every word. ' Kenshin, please, wake up.' It didn't seem like it was enough. Kaoru dove deeper into herself, finding that little flame of life inside her. Kenshin's life. She tried again. 'Kenshin? It's me…Kaoru. Please wake up. Everyone is worried.' A sob rose up, Kaoru tried to hold it back but couldn't; the sound of it echoed softly in the rock cave. She heard Saitou shift behind her. 'And I'm afraid.' Kaoru reached out and petted Kenshin's messy red hair from his face. 'Please Kenshin.' Kaoru pushed deeper within herself, tuning out everything around her. 'Kenshin, I love you so much. I know I may not act like it sometimes, and I'm stubborn and I make things hard for you, but I really do love you more than anything else in the world.' She felt hot tears running down her cheeks, but she rubbed them away. 'I love how you take care of Yahiko and truly adore him, like a little brother. I love how no matter how hard I make things for you, you are still gently and sweet. Kenshin!' Kaoru nearly started screaming in her mind. 'I'm not going to live in this world without you. You have a lifemate now and you have to get up and start taking care of her. Kenshin if you leave, I will too. So wake up!'

Kaoru nearly fell back when she heard Kenshin suck in air. His eyes snapped open and he started breathing again. He turned his hazy purple eyes to his mate and whispered softly. "I can do nothing….but obey."

… .. .

Everyone gathered around Kenshin and Kaoru. Kaoru was so deep within herself; she hadn't noticed when four Carpathians burst from the ground. Hiko, Aoshi and Saitou stood back in the shadows as Sano and Tomoe made a big fuss over the pair.

Kenshin felt like hell, he still had an opened wound in his middle, but the mix of good healing earth, saliva, and healing herbs, took much of the pain from him and he was healing at an amazing speed. He didn't like being so helpless that he couldn't care for his own lifemate, he almost had to look away as Hiko fed Kaoru from his wrist. Aoshi slit his own wrist and fed Kenshin. His ancient, powerful blood renewed Kenshin's energy and boosted the speed of his healing.

Kaoru watched in amazement at the packed dirt in his middle, what was not being pushed out by new growth, was being absorbed into him.

"It's as if you're made of dirt." Kaoru said as she petted his hair.

"We are of the earth Firecracker." Kenshin caught her hand and brought it to his mouth, where he placed a kiss on each knuckle. They were both vaguely aware that the other Carpathians silently left them via a tunnel they created for themselves. The cave sealed back up behind them, leaving to two alone.

Kenshin sat up as best he could and held Kaoru by both hands catching her gaze. "I felt you." He said simply, his purple eyes shimmered with deep, rich color. "I felt you hold on to me as my life slipped."

"Saitou said that the wound was not so bad." Kaoru protested as a blush flooded her pale cheeks.

"It wasn't my worse wound, but it could have killed me if I didn't have my family and friends to protect and heal me..." Kenshin paused, lifting her hand to his mouth once again to place kisses on her knuckles. "And my lifemate to hold tightly to my soul as I slept the sleep of Carpathians. I have never felt so warm, so loved and cherished…never."

"Kenshin." Kaours' voice wavered as she held tightly to Kenshins' hands. "It's how you make me feel every moment we are together…and apart." She fell into his arms then; and Kenshin caught her lips in a gentle kiss.

…. . . …. . . …. . .

Four Months later:

Seven Carpathians and one young human occupied the Princes' large manor. Kaoru sat close to Kenshin, almost pressed right against his side as they kneeled at a small table and sipped tea. They didn't really need the tea. But for Kaoru, the act was comforting, and Kenshin obliged her. Saitou was on the other side of the room gazing into the large fireplace. The fire reflected in his yellow eyes and made them almost dance with life. Almost. Sanosuke paced back and forth between the table and Saitou, hands shoved deep in his pockets to keep from pulling at his hair.

Yahiko stood at the large window that overlooked Hikos' garden. He had his bamboo sword with him and it bounced on his shoulder, the only sign of his nervousness.

"Why couldn't Tomoe just tell us if it is a male or female?!' Sano suddenly snapped, plopping down at the table with Kenshin and Kaoru.

"Sano." Kenshin said with ever calmness and continued to sip his tea. "You know Tomoe didn't want to know the sex of the child until it was born. She chose to ignore if it was male or female."

"Well then why couldn't Hiko find out for us?" Sano argued.

"Because, what Hiko knows, Tomoe will know." Kaoru said softly, turning her anxious eyes to Kenshin. "Right?"

Kenshin smiled. "Right Firecracker."

"I can't stand the wait." Sano wailed and fell over to lie on his back. On the other side of the room Saitou scoffed loudly, not bothering to hide his disgust with Sano.

"Silence you. Leave the woman in peace." Saitou hissed but with little malice. Last thing any of them wanted was to distract the laboring woman with negative energy on the other side of her door.

"Yeah be quiet already." Yahiko muttered, his sword still bouncing on his shoulder, eyes glued out the window. Kaoru smiled gently at his back. Along with the normal human bodyguards, Yahiko had been asked to be the new child's' daytime companion, being that he was the only one around, human or otherwise who was going to be closest to the age of the baby. He gladly accepted the request Tomoe and Hiko presented to him. And he took it with the utmost honor and seriousness. That is…if the baby lived.

There were no sounds of labor. No screams from Tomoe, nor orders being barked by Aoshi, who was the only other Carpathian in with Tomoe, other than Hiko. It was obvious that Hiko was taking the pain from Tomoe, thus her silence. But it was very unnerving for the rest of the people in the next room. It was nearly impossible to know what was going on. In a way, the silence was much worse that if they could hear Tomoe suffering.

'Kenshin.' Kaoru spoke to him privately 'What will happen when the baby is born?'

Kenshin wrapped his arm around his mate. 'If the child survives the birth, it will be raised as any normal child would be. The only exception would be that it would be spoiled beyond belief.' Kenshin chuckled in her mind and she relaxed. 'It won't be until the child is two years old that the fear of it dying will pass.'

Before Kenshin could continue, a thin, wobbly wail cut the silence.

The room froze. Even the flames in the fireplace seemed to pause for an instant. Everyone looked at each other for a few moments before the door opened. Five pairs of eyes swung around to Aoshi as she stepped from the room. He was missing his trench coat and his white shirt was rolled up past the elbows and he was immaculately clean despite helping with the birth. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath as they waited. It was obvious the child survived the birth, for its' weak yet loud cries could still be heard.

Aoshi slowly looked up at the group, surprising everyone with the tiny smile he wore.

A/n Woot! We have a baby! Is it a boy or a girl? Will it live? What about Sano and poor Aoshi! Don't worry, all will soon be answered. Please keep a eye out for "Trust my Love" I will post the first chapter here in about a week or so. Maybe even sooner if I get enough threatening reviews Mwhahah!!

P.S. that was my hint for "I hope you send me your reviews" lol please let me know how much you liked this first part of the story. It would mean a great deal to me :)

See y'all in the next part, until then, thanks for reading!