Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin. It is the creation of Watsuki Nobuhiro.

Rating: M. Rated for adult situations

Warning: MATURE. This is a MATURE story; it tackles adult themes and situations. Content requires reader discretion. *krystalMage puts tongue-in-cheek as she writes this *


A Game of Chess

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Chapter 7: Pain

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Recap

Kaoru pulled away. "What is this, some kind of joke?"

He shook his head. "Why would you say something like that?"

"You're engaged to Tomoe, Kenshin! What the hell are you doing here, kissing me and holding me and ….and…?"

"It's not like it matters to you, does it? We're both adults. I want you, you want me. Simple as that."

"You're sick! I can't believe you've changed so much."

"Yeah well, it takes a little getting used to….but you know what kitten; I have found that's its a lot easier being a bastard than being a nice guy. I guess I just got sick of it. This suits me just fine."

"Get out. I don't ever want to see you again, never again."

"You don't mean that kitten."

"Get out!"

Kenshin smiled. He seemed to enjoy watching her crumple. "Call me anytime." He strode leisurely to the door. Kaoru hurried after him, eager to lock him out. He turned at the threshold.

"Oh and kitten, I just wanted to say, that sound you make when I kiss you, it makes me go wild."

Kaoru shrieked in exasperation and slammed the door in his face. She slid to the floor. Hot tears of humiliation and pain slid down her cheeks. She wiped her lips again and again, trying to erase the feel of his lips. She sobbed without caring. Kenshin had shattered her.

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Kenshin glanced at his feet. He sighed. "Sorry kitten. But it's time for payback."

End of Recap


Kaoru screwed her eyes shut and rolled over in bed. She pulled the coverlet over her head and buried herself deeper, where the morning light could not reach her. The drone of her alarm clock rang from somewhere in her room, she couldn't tell where it was, maybe it was underneath the bed, or behind the chest-of-drawers…or it could be in the balcony…the last place she remembered flinging it.

Kaoru groaned. The ringing wouldn't stop and the only thing she wanted to do right now was to disappear into her bed and not emerge…..ever. Last night's events played inside her head again and again in an endless loop. She wanted to forget each word said and every action. She wished she could erase them from her memory so she wouldn't have to relive the pain, humiliation and desperation that flooded her senses.

Everything that could have possibly gone wrong had gone wrong. Kenshin wasn't supposed to follow her but he did, she wasn't supposed to kiss Enishi like her life depended on it but she did, Kenshin was supposed to leave after seeing her like that but he didn't, instead he waited till Enishi left and was waiting for her at her apartment so that he could torment her with his questions and kisses and touch…..and then proclaim that he only wanted her for sex and love and emotions played no part in his future relationship with her. Thunderbolt.

No, she was just his little sex kitten, an addiction he'd never really gotten over and something he didn't intend to let go even though Tomoe was now part of his life.

As things stood, she had her best friend, a girl who had been nothing but kind and supportive towards her, she had a half-crazed ex-lover who seemed hell bent on twisting her psychosis, and now, thanks to last night's shenanigans, she even had a boyfriend, who was the brother of her aforementioned friend, whom she hardly knew as a person. Perfect. Her life was a tailor made soap opera…..one where she had no hopes of ever getting the guy she wanted and which was certain to end in grief for her.

She pushed herself off the bed and made her way to the shower. It was going to be a long day, a very long day. She gasped as icy cold water hit her face and chest. Unconsciously, she wrapped her arms around her breasts and stroked her arms. She stepped out after a few more minutes of icy torture and wrapped her towel tightly around her body. As she ran her fingers through her hair, her eyes fell upon her reflection in the mirror. She stopped and stepped closer.

Dark red spots covered her neck and the rise of her breasts. She gingerly touched the most prominent one, just below her collarbone. The blood that had collected under her skin owing to the pressure of Enishi's lips seemed to stare back at her accusingly, blaming her, quite rightly, for the unholy mess of emotions, lust and love she was caught in.

Enishi's face flashed in her mind. Enishi. What had she done? She leaned against the tiled wall. He didn't deserve to be deceived. And neither did Tomoe. How long would she be able to hide the truth about her relationship with Kenshin anyway? Sooner or later, the truth would come out and when it did, Tomoe would hate her…for lying and deceiving her, for using her brother to fend Kenshin off, and for everything that had happened last night as well. Kenshin was after all, Tomoe's boyfriend right now. When she found out about it, she would be furious and she'd never forgive her.

Kaoru bit her lip. There was only one thing to do. She had to come clean about Kenshin. She had to tell Tomoe that she had known him earlier and ….but it was not going to be easy. Kenshin and she…were so entangled in each other and the convoluted nature of their relationship was difficult to try and explain to somebody else. Especially Tomoe who liked everything about her life to be ordered and organized. Besides, she didn't have the courage to tell Tomoe yet. Maybe in a while when she composed herself once more, when she pulled herself together and figured out a way to counter Kenshin…this new bastardized Kenshin, that is.

That's what he was now. The sensitive, considerate man she remembered was lost into this ruthless, cruel spectre that played with her and left her panting for more and then walked away leaving her, stone cold.

Steeped in contemplation, she walked out towards her closet, dressed absentmindedly, was almost out of her apartment when she realized she was wearing different colored shoes. She groaned.

It was going to be a long day.

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Enishi sipped his coffee gently, savouring the taste and letting it spread back against the roof of his mouth before tilting the cup to his lips once more. Tomoe sat across him, briskly gulping down a bowl of cereal. Enishi glanced at his sister and sighed. She was wolfing down her breakfast again even though he'd asked her not to. She could be so careless about certain things. Her apartment keys, car keys, office keys, cell phone, lip balm, mascara, hand cream and wallet sat in a small heap beside her. Enishi watched as she swallowed the last of her cereal, grabbed her coat off the hanger, pulled her bag up to the table and swept all her things in.

"Why can't you do all this stuff when you go to bed? It'd save you time."

"Oh I usually do. Yesterday I got a little late so I didn't bother. Anyway, I'm not very late."

"Oh." He took another sip from his coffee mug. "Has Kenshin left already?"

Tomoe froze. She blushed. "Uh no. He…uh…had some work to do and so he dropped me back home and left." She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and avoided looking at her brother. "Besides, we….um….we're not living together or anything….so…."

Enishi looked at her curiously. His eyes narrowed. "Are you trying to tell me that he's your fiancé but you haven't slept with him yet?"

Tomoe blushed again, furiously. "Enishi! Who allowed you to speak to me like that? You can't go around saying things like that."

Enishi shrugged. "It's a simple question. You can choose to say yes or no."

"I don't see how it's any of your business."

"Of course it's my business. Some guy claims to be engaged to you but still hasn't managed to convince you to drop your ridiculous code of chastity….I think I see a problem there."

Tomoe rolled her eyes exasperatedly. "You think everyone is desperate for sex. Well, just so you know, unlike you, Kenshin is a gentleman. He knows I'm not comfortable about it so….so he doesn't want to force me…he just wants to give me my space. He's so considerate…you wouldn't understand. All you can think about is sex."

Enishi stared back at her. "First of all Sis, I'm not desperate for sex. Second, this has nothing to do with being a gentleman, and third, sex is fun, so why you're taking such a high-and-mighty moral ground on something natural is beyond my comprehension."

"I am not taking a moral high-ground on it. I just ….listen Enishi, there hasn't been much time. We haven't known each other very long and Kenshin is very intense about everything he does but he's just making sure I'm not awkward about it."

Enishi kept looking at her. The look on his face spoke volumes. He was not convinced. "All I'm saying is.....maybe the guy isn't so serious about the whole thing. Look, Sis, you're hot. Any guy who was with you would want you…I mean it…and this entire thing about being a gentleman is nonsense. It's just ridiculous Hollywood romantic comedy propaganda. There isn't a guy on the planet who doesn't want to have sex with the woman he loves. Making love is just a deeper way of showing love. How can a guy not want it and still claim to love you is just weird." He stood, walked over to the sink and rinsed his mug.

"You don't understand a thing about Kenshin!"

"Sis, you're getting hysterical." He leaned against the kitchen island.

"He's not that kind of guy."

Enishi pursed his lips together. "Alright Sis, he's an amazing guy, wonderful. I'm happy for you. Your fiancé is truly astounding. Does that help?"

Tomoe pouted. "You don't have to say it like it's a punishment."

Enishi rolled his eyes. "Then don't make me." He looked away. "If you haven't known him for very long what gave you the idea to get engaged so suddenly?"

Tomoe averted her eyes. "About that….um…Enishi….Kenshin isn't…well…he isn't my fiancé yet. I mean we are going to get engaged but we haven't decided the date and…"

Enishi stared at her incredulously. "Why did you tell me you were engaged then?"

"I didn't tell you, I told Kaoru." Tomoe replied in a small voice.

"What difference does that make?"

Tomoe tossed her head slightly. "It makes a huge difference. Oh I don't know. Yesterday, when I saw her enter, every guy in the club turned his head after her till as far as they could go. I don't know why but I felt very vulnerable and so…I lied to her about being engaged and …… "

Enishi stepped out from behind the kitchen island. "I can't believe you would do something so stupid and unnecessary. What were you thinking? You could have just said he was your boyfriend and that would have been the end of the matter. It's not like Kaoru was trying to steal him from you or something."

"I know, I know but I don't know what came over me. I just thought I'd tell her that Kenshin is my fiancé and I did….I mean it just felt like that was the right thing to say."

"Tomoe…." Enishi shook his head.

"You don't understand Enishi. Kaoru has an effect on men. They see her and then they can't see anyone else. It's like what happens when the sun comes out…the moon fades into insignificance."

"Are you listening to yourself? Kaoru is your friend, and she's not the kind of girl who goes about stealing other people's boyfriends. Sis, nothing like that is going to happen to you. You are a very beautiful and lovely person. No one in their right mind would dream of leaving you if they had you in their lives."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really, there's nothing about you that is undesirable but, these stupid stunts you keep pulling….to be honest Sis…they're kind of disturbing. Lying about non-issues like this can turn into a big problem somewhere down the line. Don't just shoot your mouth off like that. Think about what you're getting into when you say things."

"I'm sorry. I'll try being more careful about it."

"Yeah and I think you should try and talk to Kenshin and ask him where this relationship is going. I mean you say you're engaged when you're not, and he doesn't even react to it….to me, it looks like he doesn't care. Like he doesn't care whether or not you get engaged. It's like he's living in some other world in some other relationship. You find out about it. I don't want you getting hurt."

"Kenshin is not going to hurt me. He loves me."

Enishi sighed. "Sis, I'm not denying that. I'm sure he loves you but, what does he intend to do about it?

For once, Tomoe had no answer.

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Kaoru pulled the door open and sprang back in surprise. Her landlady was standing right at her doorstep. Her lips were painted a bright shade of red and she smiled down at her as though it was perfectly normal for her to appear at Kaoru's door, looking as though she belonged there. Kaoru stepped back.

"Megumi, how nice to see you. Umm…I was just about to leave so if you want to talk then maybe…."

"Of course darling, I'll come right to the point." Megumi strode in as though she owned the place, which wasn't entirely wrong but considering that Kaoru had the apartment on rent, wasn't exactly right either.

Kaoru took a deep breath and shut the door. Megumi was an eccentric character. She was barely a couple of years older than Kaoru but treated her like a child. Her parents had passed away when she was a teenager, leaving her this old, ramshackle building. Megumi had shown her spark for business by renting out all the apartments at premium rates. She ensured that her tenants paid the rent on time and lived by her rules – there were no others in this building.

Kaoru waited. Megumi probably had something to say, or she wouldn't be here. Normally she was very dismissive of Kaoru. People whose love lives and personalities were more complicated than the accepted standard were in love with pain according to her and Kaoru was a classic example of it. According to Megumi, that is.

She pulled a narrow piece of paper out of her pocket. She peered at it carefully and glanced back at her. "You are a month behind on rent."

Kaoru smiled nervously. "I know Megumi. I will pay it as soon as I get my paycheck."

"Paycheck? Gotten a job have you?"

"Something like that."

"That's wonderful…I think that you…." She trailed off and looked about curiously. She stared at Kaoru. "Did you have a man in here last night?"

Kaoru controlled the urge to throw her hands up in exasperation. This was precisely why Megumi was known as an eccentric. She would step into a room, sniff the air and tell you what you had for dinner last night. Or judging by the state of your room, she would ask you if you were feeling well or had you succumbed to the flu. The woman was clairvoyant…there was no other explanation for the kinds of insight she had into your life despite not exchanging a single word.

"No, Megumi, there was no man here last night." Kaoru spoke in a deadpan voice. Megumi looked at her quizzically.

"No? That's strange. Your apartment has remnants of a certain male aura wafting about. It's very strong." Megumi continued to look around. Kaoru groaned inwardly. Mad Megumi and her auras! It was enough to drive her completely insane. Megumi ran a fortune-telling and tarot reading business on the side…in one of the lower apartments actually. She was prone to saying things like, "your aura feels very dry today…how long ago was it that you had sex?" on a regular basis to her tenants.

She generally tried to steer clear of Megumi, preferring to drop her rent cheques in her letterbox and quietly tip toe away before Megumi felt her "aura" and emerged from her flat to talk.

"Well there must be some sort of mistake." Kaoru replied with finality. "I will get you the rent by today evening. Is that alright?"

Megumi raised an eyebrow. "That will be fine, but only until this evening." She gave Kaoru a sly, fox-like grin and walked out, firmly shutting the door behind her. Kaoru sighed and sank into the sofa. She hadn't had the time to visit the bank all these days and forgot that the rent was overdue.

"Great. Just what I need." Kaoru slung her bag over her shoulder and marched out of the apartment to attend a class she didn't have.

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The club didn't open until seven. Kenshin carefully steered his bike into the back alley behind the Renegade and parked it at a nondescript door. He lifted his helmet off his head and shook his head. His bangs kept falling into his eyes; it was becoming a nuisance. But Kaoru liked them like this and he wasn't about to change it any time soon. He was walking towards the door when it opened and a man came out. He was cradling a crate of empty beer bottles in his arms and he looked like it was taking a lot of effort. Kenshin lent him a hand.

After setting it carefully on the ground, the man looked up. "You haven't been around in a while."

Kenshin smiled. "Yeah, I know. Is Sano in?"

The man grinned. "The boss just flew in, about an hour ago, and he's already chewing Chou out for screwing up."

Kenshin laughed. "In that case, I better go relieve Chou from his misery. See you." He waved and walked inside. It was dark inside, but as his eyes got used to the dim light, Kenshin could make out figures walking about, setting the place up for the night.

Sano was seated at a table on an elevated room, overlooking the entire club. Kenshin strode up the stairs. He didn't bother to knock on the door; he simply walked in. Sano looked up. He was holding a sheet of invoices. His laptop was on and his bar manager Chou was standing in front of him, looking slightly sheepish and put down.

"How many times must we go through this stuff Chou? You can't keep giving people drinks on credit when you know they don't have the greens to back it up. This is ridiculous. We're losing money like water here Chou. You're killing me man…..you're killing me."

Chou pursed his lips together. "I'll make it good to you Sano."

Sanosuke sighed. He leaned forward and shut the laptop. "Chou, I don't pay you just so I can get some money back from you every month. I don't want you to be in a position where you have to dig through your cut to pay other people's dues."

"But the losses.."

Sanosuke shook his head. "This isn't the first time somebody played us on paying up and it won't be the last. But, I want you to make a promise – you are not going to provide any more drinks or food on credit, it doesn't matter who it is. Just make it a blanket rule. If there's any problem, come to me. I will deal with it."

Chou gave a brisk nod and left. Sano leaned back in his chair and ran his hands through his hair. Kenshin drew a chair up and sat down, watching the tired expression on his best friend's face with concern.

Sano rubbed his temples with his fingers. "When did you get here Kenshin?"

Kenshin smiled. "Just a few minutes ago. That sounded bad. Is everything alright?"

Sano grinned. "Yeah, nothing I can't handle. You tell me, what's up? I haven't seen you in ages."

Kenshin swept his bangs out of his eyes. Sano looked at him and rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Why don't you just get a haircut? Didn't we discus this last time? She's been gone three years Kenshin! You can let go of the bangs, seriously!"

Kenshin looked at Sano. He was angry and it showed. Sano had been furious with Kaoru for treating him the way she did. He would lose his temper and become irritated each time Kenshin spoke about her. Sanosuke wanted him to erase everything related to her from his life. His refusal to do so had become a sore point on their friendship, something that was only beginning to heal.

Kenshin debated with himself for a second. Maybe it was not a good idea to tell Sano about last night, but he would find out anyway. He always did. Not telling him would be a bad idea.

"I found her Sano."

"What?"

"Kaoru…I found her."

The expression on Sano's face said it all. He was furious. His jaw tightened and he ground his teeth before turning to him.

"This had better not be what I think its going to be Kenshin. You cannot be serious! After all that's happened. After everything that bitch put you through, don't tell me you're going back to her!"

"There's no question of going back to her….."

"Thank god! Good sense prevails…finally!"

"I never left her…." Kenshin replied quietly.

Sano broke the pencil resting between his fingers. The snap echoed in the silence of the room. "Kenshin, you can't do this to yourself again. It's no use; it's not worth the heartache. And anyway, you have Tomoe to think about. This obsession with Kaoru will destroy you. Why do you want to mess everything up? And what about Tomoe, huh? Don't you care if she gets hurt by all this? Doesn't she matter at all to you?"

"I don't want to hurt Tomoe, I really don't but Sano, it's Kaoru. I can't let her go….not just yet."

"Then you have no right to be with Tomoe. You can't string her along as a backup option while you chase after Kaoru. She's not a toy you can pick up and throw away when you like. Make up your mind. If it's Kaoru you want, then stop this charade with Tomoe. She doesn't deserve this shit."

"I know that. Tomoe is a very special girl and I don't want to hurt her if I can help it."

"Kenshin, you should forget about Kaoru. That girl is just bad news."

Kenshin looked away.

Bad news. That's what all of his friends thought she was, but they didn't know her the way he did. They didn't know how secure and loved she made him feel. They didn't understand how her craziness had brought life into his sterile, dry and cold existence. Before he met her, he was just going through the motions of living. Life for him began with Kaoru and ended with her. But he could not explain all of this to Sano. It was impossible to explain. They were meant to be together. Him and Kaoru. Two muddled-up, sad persons who could only be happy together.

Sano sighed. He cursed under his breath. Kenshin had finally begun picking up the pieces of his life and this happened. That girl….god he hated her, he hated her for what she had done to his friend. Sure, Kenshin hadn't been the happiest of people before but after she left, he had been shattered. He'd seen it all. He had been the one who was left behind to clean up the mess. He had been there when Kenshin would drink till he fell asleep or till he was so sick that he had to be taken to the hospital. He had been there night after night, watching Kenshin stare at her pictures as tears ran down his face. He had seen his pain and it had terrified him.

Sano cleared his throat and glanced at Kenshin. He was staring off into space, probably thinking about Kaoru. He felt his fingers curl into a fist. He'd seen Kenshin in pain once, but he had promised that he would never let that happen again.

Kaoru would never have him. Ever again. He would see to it. Nothing could stop him from putting an end to her role in his life, nothing, not even Kenshin.

Author's Note

I know I don't deserve all the love you guys give me. Hope you like this chapter. 

By the way, there's a new forum called The Readers Have Chosen. It's about recco-ing fanfics you like. So if there's any fanfics you want other people to know about, you nominate it and vote for it in a weekly poll and the winners get featured on the Weekly Recommendation Page.

Check it out if you get time.