How the Past can Change

By: Bunny

A Rurouni Kenshin alternate reality/what if Kenshin and Kaoru romance.

Disclaimer: The RK characters do NOT belong to me.

Warning: This story drastically alters the RK storyline, so beware of changes. There may at times be OOC and alterations of the RK story, as you know it.

Sensing trouble on the road, Kenshin paused and looked around. He observed a young boy take a wallet from and old man on the road with his grandson while the grandson was asking for some toy or other. Hearing the old man say he would buy the toy for the grandson, the young boy that had taken the wallet placed it in the hand of the grandson and walked away from them, towards where Kenshin was standing. Kenshin smiled at the young boy as he approached and said, "That was good of you to return the wallet."

"Oh yeah?" the young boy said, "Well, who asked you? You'll be next, you got that?" the kid said.

Before Kenshin could form a reply to the young boy, Kaoru had stomped back to him, noting he had stopped. Grabbing him by his ponytail and dragging him towards the restaurant said, "Kenshin, keep up with me, would you? I thought you said you were starving? Do you want me to treat you or not?"

He watched the young boy snicker at his predicament and repressed a sigh of frustration over Kaoru's poor timing. 'Another day, another time, perhaps,' he thought.

"Mou, Kenshin are you even listening to me?" Kaoru said, breaking into his thoughts.

"Ah," Kenshin answered.

"What did I say?" she asked.

Chapter Forty-Two – Things Change

Kenshin and Kaoru, having completely sated their appetites at the Akebeko were making their way back to the dojo at a slow pace. During the mess with the fake Hitokiri Battousai all their students had been forced to quit, which had broken Kaoru's heart, but left the two of them more time to spend together. It did hurt their wallet, that was for sure, but what Kaoru didn't know was that Kenshin had been busy amassing a bit of a fortune since her future self had left him. Yes, in fact, the government had paid him quite a bit of money both for his efforts during the war, and for his continued missions he'd done since then, to keep the Meiji government in power. Kenshin had reservations aplenty for being compensated monetarily for his bloodshed, but he'd taken it for Kaoru's sake. He was a married man, eventually, he hoped to have a family with his wife, and he needed to be able to provide for them. So, he took the money. He'd tell Kaoru when the time was right. Which wasn't right now while she was fuming mad at him and trying to punish him for keeping a promise her father had forced him to keep.

Now, with all that'd happened, retrospect was slapping him in the face. He now admitted, to himself anyways, that he probably should have just told Kaoru the truth years ago and made her promise not to tell her father he'd told her. It had been a lapse in judgment, thinking somehow that keeping Kaoru's father happy was more important that forming an established, trusting relationship with his Kaoru. In the end, it was Kaoru that really mattered, not the blessing of her father. At the time, Kenshin had thought that Koshijiro's trust was very important, and it was, but he probably wouldn't have had problems making Kaoru keep his secret. And Kaoru – well, she wouldn't be so upset with him right now. And stuck. He'd done exactly what he hadn't wanted to do – make Kaoru feel bound to him when she didn't want to be.

It didn't matter that she'd told him not to leave. It didn't matter that not that long ago she'd confided that he was her favorite person. It didn't matter that future Kaoru had visited to alleviate part of Kaoru's negative emotions regarding the whole situation. Kenshin felt like he'd trapped her. Married since she was four years old, that was a hard pill to swallow, no matter how you sliced it. It was on the official records, there was no getting around it. He was hoping by the time it was time to break his Kaoru the news, that she would be wanting to marry him, for real – as an adult woman, but that opportunity had been taken away. She'd had to find out everything by necessity and not exactly on his terms, or by his timeline. Although, admittedly, he hadn't counted on blurting it out in front of her while punishing a fake battousai for messing around with his woman.

Despite all that, she'd kept him. She hadn't sent him away, she was even being rather nice to him, considering. It just made him love her more. His sweet Kaoru, she was such a beautiful person. Somehow, he was going to make this up to her. He was going to be the best husband he could be. He would make her happy; he would do everything she asked of him. He owed her, and…she was his happiness. He wanted to be her happiness too. At least that much, hadn't changed.

As they were making their way across the bridge, Kenshin felt it. It was the young boy that he'd seen earlier that afternoon; he would recognize that fiery youthful kit anywhere. 'He must be here to take my wallet this time!' Kenshin thought with amusement. He was happy that Kaoru had taken it upon herself to empty the majority of the generous amount of funds he'd brought with him that day on her spending. He'd allow it, the boy to take it after all. Maybe he'd somehow be able to help the poor kid. Sure enough, a few minutes later, Kenshin felt the absence of his wallet being taken away. Kenshin hid a smile, which quickly became confusion.

Kaoru, also somehow having sensed what happened had pounced the poor boy into the bridge's floorboards and snatched the wallet back!

"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!" Kaoru yelled at the boy.

Sitting upon the lad, she looked back at the startled form of her husband.

"This kid's a pickpocket! Look Kenshin, he took your wallet!" she exclaimed.

Dumbfounded, Kenshin blinked. Well, he certainly wasn't expecting that to happen.

"Hey UGLY, get offa me!" the young boy yelled to Kaoru.

In an instant Kaoru was shaking the young boy by his collar, "UGLY? Are you blind in one eye and can't see out of the other, you little brat!"

Before the boy could infuriate Kaoru further, Kenshin stepped into the fray.

"Now, Kaoru, it was stolen fair and square, so stolen it is, here you go child," Kenshin said as he took his wallet from Kaoru's fingers and placed it back into the hand of the young boy.

Turning back towards the Kamiya dojo, Kenshin called back, "Let's get back home."

"Wait a minute, Kenshin!" Kaoru protested as she swiftly got up and followed after Kenshin's retreating form.

A second later, Kenshin was dodging to the side of what would have been direct impact by the young boy. Startled, the boy changed his direction and skidded to a stop in front of Kenshin.

"I'm not a child!" he protested as he threw Kenshin's wallet back at him.

Kenshin deftly caught his wallet and gave the young boy an assessing look. That direction change at top speed and halt the boy had maneuvered was pretty good.

"I'm Yahiko Myojin of a long line of Tokyo samurai! And I ain't so bad off that I need pity from the likes of you!" the young boy declared.

Kenshin hid a smile, knowing somehow that Yahiko wouldn't take kindly to that either. He didn't want to provoke him further; he was a young samurai in the making after all. Kenshin knew all too well how prideful a young man could be. It had led him off to the war and away from Hiko-sama, his teacher.

"Very well, you look like a child, but you have the heart of an adult. Our apologies for underestimating you," Kenshin placated.

"Feh!" Yahiko exclaimed before running off.

"RUDE!" Kaoru yelled after him.

Yahiko merely turned back towards Kaoru and stuck his tongue out at her.

"Cheeky little brat," Kaoru grumbled as she turned back in the direction of home.

"You know," Kenshin said as he fell into step with his wife, "In another era, that kid really would have been a fine samurai."

Kaoru gave Kenshin a sidelong glance of bright blue eyes filled with understanding, "I saw it too, Kenshin."

"You're a good teacher," Kenshin complimented.

"Hmmm," Kaoru hummed, deciding to give no further comment.

Returning back to the dojo, the young couple separated, Kaoru retreating to her room with her new packages, and Kenshin heading off to cut firewood.

Kaoru carefully unwrapped each parcel, smiling in contentment at her new wares. It was awfully nice of Kenshin to buy all this for her. Honestly, it was much more than she'd expected. Having concocted the idea that morning to have Kenshin pay for her shopping trip, she'd imagined getting a kimono, and maybe a ribbon out of the deal, but her husband's pocket had been surprisingly deep, and his generosity was apparently very great. Despite feeling a small twinge for being so spoiled in one day, she felt like she had got to know a side of Kenshin she'd never known before. He wasn't just being nice to her to make up for what had happened to them, he was genuinely happy to provide nice things for her, namely, all that she wanted, which was considerably more than she'd asked for.

What was even more surprising though, had been the way he'd dealt with the bratty little pickpocket they'd encountered on the way home. Kenshin had always treated her as an equal, though really she had thought of him as a kid when he'd arrived at the dojo. Sure he was an older kid, but he'd still been a kid, just like her. In her mind, it had just been them being kids, but really, older kids didn't usually treat younger ones with the respect he always gave her. He really had been rather young back then though, thinking about how he looked much more like a man now than the boy she'd first met was a bit startling. Kaoru hadn't ever really paid that much attention to Kenshin's aging; she'd been more occupied with catching up with him so they could get married. Which…hadn't mattered since they were technically married already anyways. Which…explained why Kenshin probably never really viewed her as, nor treated her as a child, he had viewed her as his wife from day one. Kaoru scowled, and then let out a defeated sigh. It would have been worse if he HAD treated her like a child all these years; at least he had been honest in his actions, despite keeping secrets from her. Still, she did learn today that Kenshin, that is, her adult husband Kenshin, was decidedly good with children. Not that she didn't know he did very well with really young ones like Ayame and Suzume, but he also apparently did very well with adolescents – prideful, needing a lot of help because they were obviously messed up ones at that. He would make a good father someday…and that was where she was going to leave that thought! Kaoru shook her head, vanishing away the very thought of having kids. She was much too young for that!

Putting away the last of her newly acquired goods, she made her way out of her room and sat on the porch to watch the sunset. She could hear Kenshin puttering around the yard, stacking up logs of wood for their cooking and bathing needs. He did take care of her, didn't he? She'd taken it for granted all these years, hadn't she? Having Kenshin living there, and the role he'd easily taken to of doing things like chopping wood, preparing her bath, doing the laundry, and cooking for her. Not to mention all the training and assistance he'd provided with teaching at the dojo. Now that she was seeing Kenshin in a new light, he had been acting as her husband all this time. Taking care of her, of her property, learning how to teach Kamiya Kasshin style so he could help her with her work, training her diligently so she could improve. She had to begrudgingly admit he'd also won the approval of her father, despite their age difference. The only husbandly thing he hadn't done was sleep with her, and that probably had largely to do with her father and how he would have likely skinned him alive for even thinking such a thing.

Kaoru suppressed a blush as her thoughts traveled to the short time they'd had together after her father had left and they had been sleeping together. He had not protested. Not once, and no wonder, Kaoru realized now it had really been okay. Here, she'd thought she'd been so sneaky and seductive, enticing him to want her, to break the rules, and he'd just been waiting for it all this time anyways. She felt pretty silly, and embarrassed if she was honest. Kenshin no baka. Why couldn't he have just told her? Even better, why didn't he just ask her to marry him as soon as her body had matured when she'd hit fourteen, or fifteen even if he was trying to play it safe?

Remembering Kenshin's excuse though, made her stop and rethink that. Had her father been preventing it all this time? Had he known all along Kenshin really did want to marry her? Or had Kenshin been too afraid to approach the subject with her father with so great of an age difference? Well, thinking about it, her father had always kept an eye on the two of them, so maybe he did think Kenshin's interest in her was real. However…even if her father had told him not to tell her about being battousai, why hadn't Kenshin just told her anyways? Hadn't they been best friends? Didn't he trust her to keep a secret from her father?

A/N: Okay…confession time from Bunny…I wrote this chapter last November. DIES. I know! I'm really sorry everybody because I wrote this all out, and edited it and everything and then completely forgot about it. I don't know if I was planning on finishing the story completely before I bothered to post anymore of it or what my thinking had been, but I deeply apologize! I stumbled upon this chapter when I went into my folder for this fanfic to start working on it again and couldn't believe that it was already written and edited and ready to post. I am working on this story again though. I know, it's been 4 years since I've updated it, I'm such a failure, I'm so sorry. Wouldn't it be something if I ever finish it? I've only been working on it for almost 10 years, oh yay! Is shot…

Oh and…just out of curiosity…is anybody out there still that was around when I first posted up this story 9 years ago? I'd love to hear from you. Much RK love from Bunny~~ Muah! xoxo