Disclaimer: I do not own the red head or any of the characters appearing on Rurouni Kenshin series.

Chapter 1: A friend

He sat silently on the worn out armchair at the corner of his room, his empty eyes not once leaving her small frame. Currently she was sleeping serenely. It was all she did for the past few days, when he found her in a corner, crying softly. Not hiding, just crying. As the view of the dead bodies of her parents was the only thing out of place in the cozy apartment.

Flashback:

That afternoon, two days before New Years Eve, the entire building was being decorated with snowflakes as well as his long, blood red hair.

"Ah, mister Himura, the weather is not that good today" said the land lord with a friendly smile. The young man nodded his head briefly, not looking at the man.

"Would you like to join us in our task of decorating the building?" offered the landlord's wife.

"I'm sorry, some other time" replied Himura politely.

The couple nodded with a small warm smile to the youth and turned back to their task. The young man went on his way. As he ascended the stair case he passed by other occupants with the same joyful mood the couple had. Not many greeted him, fewer knew he lived there, next to them. He arrived at the corridor where he lived.

"He lives here somewhere." Said a man in a deep voice.

Himura looked up, his cold blue eyes narrowing.

"Here, this one must be Kamiya's apartment." voiced the second man.

They both paused when the red head appeared on the top step. He walked pass them in the heavy silence that always accompanied his footsteps. In turn they waited until he unlocked his door and got in.

Once he was inside his plain apartment he carefully watched them from the peep eye on the door. Soon they left, taking the steps. He dismissed the two men from his mind until later that day. Then he heard a noise out in the corridor. He was reaching for the door when suddenly the bell rang. Upon opening the door he met the smiling face of the landlord.

"Yes mister Brown" said Himura stoically.

The landlord graced him with yet another warm smile. Himura could not help but wonder: "Doesn't he ever wipe that smile from his face?"

"Mister Himura, would you like to have a stoking with your name under the Christmas tree?"

"What for?" asked Himura.

"Exchanging gifts of course." Replied mister Brown cheerfully.

A child's voice echoed then.

"Can we give presents to anyone we want?"

The landlord turned and saw a young girl looking at him expectantly. Himura noticed her long black hair and huge blue eyes. "She must be about seven or eight years old.", he thought.

The other man nodded eagerly at the girl's question and then her blue gaze focused on her neighbor.

"Is your hair really red?" she asked with the distinctive innocence of a child.

"Yes, it is my natural color" replied Himura calmly. He was used to such kind of reactions about his hair, especially from children.

The girl beamed at him.

"You're so lucky. I wish my hair was red" she exclaimed. "Mum, can I have red hair?"

The landlord chuckled as the child's mother came and took her daughter by the hand.

"Kaoru, it is not polite to bother people with questions."she said sternly, but not too much.

The girl shrugged. "I'm not bothering him. We're friends, right?"

As a pair of warm blue eyes met his cold one's with a silent pleading message he found himself nodding.

"Really miss, your daughter is not a bother. She's a sweet child." He spoke up. Kaoru's eyes lit happily at his words.

"See!" beamed Kaoru. "He's my friend."

Early next day Kenshin Himura headed out of the complexion he was currently living. He never stayed in the same place over six months. His profession demanded it. Speaking of which, he had not received a call from his 'boss' for several days. He paused at the front door. There, under the tree he saw a stoking with his name on it. What caught his attention though was the stoking next to his and the name on it: Kaoru Kamiya. He frowned in thought, remembering the two men from the previous day. The moment he opened the door those two men walked inside and his frown deepened.

At the grocery shop he was still thinking about the two men he felt a tag on his sleeve. His eyes quickly darted to his side and he saw the girl smiling at him brightly.

"You know, you are my friend, but I don't know your name."she said in a sweet tone.

"My name is Kensin Himura." he replied. "And you are Kaoru Kamiya."

She nodded. Looking at the groceries in his basket she frowned.

"How can you eat this ?! It's green!" exclaimed Kaoru.

Startled, Kensin saw what she referred to, the lettuce.

"Don't you like food that is green?" he asked.

"No! It looks ugly. But mum says I have to eat it. She used to say that unless I ate it a demon would eat me, but I'm older now. They don't exist." said Kaoru seriously.

He chuckled. The serious look she wore on her face made her look adorable, even to his eyes.

"Mister Himura, is my daughter bothering you again?" asked the girl's mother.

"Mum! Kenshin is my friend! I do not bother him." protested Kaoru.

Kenhin's lips twisted into the tiniest of smiles. "Really miss Kamiya, Kaoru is not a bother." He reassured the mother.

Another of Kaoru's smiles was directed at him at the sound of his words.

The trio returned to the complexion together. Little Kaoru had not stopped once bubbling on and on about a variety of things. From her the red headed man was able to extract a lot of information about their family. The father was a police officer with a high rank, the mother a teacher at a local high school. As for Kaoru, she was eight years old and went to a music school for she was an extremely gifted violin player. The family had moved to the States when Kaoru was only one year old, leaving behind Japan and the enemies Kaoru's father had made there. In fact, Kaoru referred to them as "those bad people".

"I hope we weren't a bother to you. Kaoru gets very exited." Said Mia, once they reached the front entrance.

Kenshin shook his head. "Not at all" he replied.

"Mom, can I play with them?" said Kaoru as she pointed towards a group of peers of hers that played tag at the playground across the street.

"Please!"she said urgently.

Mia smiled and nodded. "Of course you can Kaoru-chan, but be really nice." Warned her mother.

Kaoru jumped on her mother and hugged her with a thrilled shriek.

"ThankyouThankyouThankyou!" she exclaimed.

Her mother rolled her eyes. "Just go and play Kao. Don't suffocate me."

"Energetic child" commented Kenshin.

"You can say that again" Replied Mia.

Upon reaching their floor Kenshin's cell phone rang.

"Business." Stated Mia knowingly.

Kenshin simply nodded, his face paler than before.

"I hope you finish early. In case we don't see you, Happy New Years!" she said.

"Happy New Years." Said Kenshin, decisively less enthusiastically than Mia.

Kenshin headed to his parking spot. A black BMW waited for him there, a man standing before it, smoking a cigarette.

"Takasugi" said Kenshin, his eyes miraculously changing. The cold blue hues were replaced with a lifeless amber color.

The man smirked and held up a black envelope for Kenshin to see. Kenshin frowned.

"You could have just sent it." Said the red head.

"Nope, not this one. It's risky. You must complete this before the end of the week. Then you'll leave Chicago for a while." Said Takasugi with a smirk on his face. "You'll need to change identity, house, everything."

Kenshin extended an arm. The other handed over the file.

"Remember, you have three days left." Reminded Takasugi. Then he turned and walked out of the garage on foot.

Once he was alone the youth tore the envelope open and frowned at his task.

"Better to finish with it now." He thought to himself.

His eyes focused on a particular phrase on the order: Use the Katana.

"Great! A blood bath on New Year's Eve." He though bitterly.

He took out his lighter and burned the paper.

It was dark when he returned to his house. His clothes splashed with blood in various spots. It had been messy, as he had feared. Now all he wanted- and needed- was a long bath before gathering his things and leaving this town. His gaze fell briefly on the park. A few kids were still out there, but Kaoru was not. With a shrug of his shoulders he unlocked the front door. Reaching his apartment he frowned. Something was wrong. Turning to the door across his, he shuddered. It was shuttered by bullets, as were other doors on this floor. Soon a familiar scent reached his nostrils. The one that was carved on his memories, the one he had carved on his memories.

"Blood." His mind supplied.

Remembering a pair of happy blue eyes he kicked down the door to Kamiya's apartment. Then he saw it. Mia lay on the floor; eyes open in horror, a pool of blood all around her. Next to her a male figure, face down, with multiple bullet holes on the body. His white shirt was painted red. His deathly eyes narrowed on the two figures that searched the library behind the bodies. They had not noticed him. Something was missing from the scene.

"Kaoru." He whispered.

She was nowhere to be seen. He walked stealthily across the room, carefully walking pass the bodies in search of the girl. The light wave of the curtains caught his attention. They moved despite the fact there was no draft.

A sob echoed trough out the apartment the very moment Kenshin realized what went on. The two men entered the room, guns in hand, but they had no time to react. As they raise their metallic weapons a shot was heard; a shot that came from a third gun.

The first attacker was dead before he hit the floor. The gunshot earned a fearful yell from Kaoru, who came out from behind the curtain that very moment. Her tear filled blue orbs immediately locked on the dead bodies. Kenshin reached for the child and took hold of her shoulders as they run out of the room, gunshots trailing right behind them. Kenshin shoved Kaoru in the nearest room, which happened to be her room.

"Don't come out whatever you hear." He instructed her as he placed his gun in the holder around his waist. The eight year old watched trough large eyes as "her friend" pulled a sword from under his coat.

"Remember…" warned Kenshin before leaving the room.

Kaoru stayed sheltered in her own room for several minutes. Her tears had stopped ever since Kenshin had hid her there. The child, however, felt very vulnerable sitting there alone. She stood up, swaying a bit at first, and exited the room. She went back to the living room. She peeked before going in the room. The sight of the bodies made her eyes sting and brought new tears. She walked past the dead body of the intruder.

"Did Kenshin kill him?" she briefly wondered.

She continued until she reached her mother. There she sat down by her side, looking at her, but she no longer shed tears.

Unknown to her a figure reappeared in the doorway, aiming at her.

"The younger Kamiya." Sneered the man.

Kaoru turned started by the noise. Then, seeing the man, she turned her attention back to her mother. The attacker was surprised at first, but then shrugged and readied to pull the trigger. He never got the chance. With a sickening scream the man died when a long, silvery blade pierced trough his heart. Kaoru turned then and seeing another body, she turned her eyes on Kenshin and then on the bloodied sword with something like fascination, before quickly loosing interest and turning her back at him.

"Kaoru…" he said in the most soothing voice he could remember himself using.

He seathed his sword and approached.

The girl seemed oblivious to his presence. Her gaze was focused entirely on the bodies of her departed parents and on the two other bodies. He blocked the gruesome view as he kneeled before her and raised a hand to stroke her tearstained cheek. The child blinked, though her eyes were still glazed over, even when they settled on his figure. Only then he noticed the blood on her light pink pajamas. He bit his lower lip guiltily. Blood should never have touched her.

"It's fine now. You're safe." he said earnestly.

The girl offered no verbal response, but she instead surprised him by hugging him tightly and crying on his neck. His hands closed around her as he hugged her back, whispering soothing words into her ear. When he felt her tears lessen, he lifted her small frame up.

"We'd better leave this place. Is that okay Kaoru?" he asked.

She did not reply. She simply kept looking behind him. He followed her gaze that focused first on her parents and then on their assassins.

"Did you kill…them?" she voiced softly.

He found it difficult to lie to her. She had also seen him taking care of the last one. So, ignoring an odd feeling of shame he nodded.

"Yes, I did. Do you mind?" he asked her.

She did not try to get away from his hold. Instead she leaned on him and closed her eyes.

"Can I stay with you?" she inquired tiredly.

His eyes widened in surprise at her request. He searched for her eyes, but paused.

"Kaoru…" he sighted.

She had fallen asleep in his arms. With another sight he took her to his car and eased her body at the seat. Then he placed his coat around her, to protect her from the cold, and returned back to the apartment. The entire building was quiet. Only his floor had been a mess.

"Better this way." He thought.

Silently he entered Kaoru's house again, grabbed a few of her stuff and followed the same process with his apartment. Before leaving his house he did not look back once. He only turned on a switch and harried out of there. He was a safe distance away when the sound of an explosion destroyed the joyful atmosphere.

End Flashback:

The red headed assassin walked over to the bed and pulled the blankets around Kaoru to warm her. Then he noticed she was crying in her sleep and his eyes flared again into that amber color in anger.

"You shouldn't have seen them die. You shouldn't have." He growled, pain mixing with anger.