Sapphire Scales: A Dragon Love Story

A Rurouni Kenshin fanfic by Raberba girl

Summary: Responsible for many slayings, Battousai is finally caught, sentenced to death, and offered to a dragon. Out of guilt, he faces his fate bravely - except that the dragon doesn't seem to want to eat him, and he finds himself...feeling sorry for her? KK

A/N: Kenshin doesn't really have a split personality in this fic, so there won't be much of a distinction between him and Battousai.

Also, the fic might have been able to get away with a PG rating, but I upped it just to be safe.

Chapter 1 - The Death Sentence

He deserved this. The pain could not possibly be worse than what he had been suffering in his soul, so he resolved to make no resistance when the dragon finally came for him.

Himura Kenshin sighed and slid awkwardly down the wooden pole his wrists were tied to so that he could sit on the ground. He had been standing for hours. Apparently the dragon was either asleep or away, since he had not heard a sound from its lair all this time. The cave's rocky mouth yawned before him, growing blacker and blacker as twilight began to fall. Briefly, he considered shifting so that he would no longer have to look at that gateway to mysterious horrors...but no. He would rather watch anything that might emerge from it than be caught from behind.

An involuntary shiver ran down his spine. Of all things, to be eaten by a dragon... A warrior's fate should be to live and grow ever stronger, or to die gloriously in battle. Capture was shameful, and this sort of passive death sentence was even worse, but he had not been able to bring himself to honorable suicide. "Not like you're a true warrior anyway," he murmured bitterly to himself. "Simply a murderer lurking in the shadows. What a wonderful way to put your skills to use. Shishou would be so proud."

Kenshin closed his eyes, remembering the violent parting with his master and the things that had happened since then. Killing after killing, staining his hands crimson over and over again... He knew it was in a good cause, that it was for justice and freedom. Yet somehow along the way he had lost sight of that...which was probably even why he had been caught. Spiraling into depression, gone sluggish from guilt and shame, no wonder they had been able to overpower him in the end.

"Fat lot of help you are," he told the sword at his waist. It was almost a joke, the way they had taken away his weapons and replaced them only with a sakabat├┤. A 'sporting chance,' they had jeered. Theoretically he would be able to earn back his life and freedom if he was able to somehow kill the dragon with a backwards sword, since the success of such an impossible feat would be an indication of divine favor. Kenshin knew, however, that he would not even attempt to use the reversed-blade sword. After taking so many lives, he felt disgusted with the thought of trying to fight for his own.

His attention was abruptly snapped out of his own thoughts when he heard a rush of air overhead. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a dark shape swooping through the dimming sky, far too big to be a bird. His heart began to pound. He craned his head to follow the creature, but it had passed out of view and he could not find it again.

Trying to get back to his feet, Kenshin realized with a flash of horrified annoyance that he was stuck. The rope binding his wrists had snagged on the splintery wood. Caught in a crouch, he wrenched at the ropes until he was able to get his feet back under him, but when he tried to sit down again, he was prevented by the sakabat├┤, the tip of which was now braced against the ground. Cursing, Kenshin managed, with much difficulty, to work his foot out enough to kick the sword free, and finally plopped back down with a grunt. So it seemed like he would be facing death in an undignified huddle. Wonderful. He would have been better off standing - it's not like he would be worrying about sore legs in a little while, anyway.

A noise made him freeze. Apparently, the dragon had landed during his struggles and was now directly behind him. He could sense its enormous presence, feel the heat radiating off it, hear its low mumblings almost right over his head. The air suddenly felt hot and hard to breathe. He tried looking around for it, but all he could see were scales, deep blue in color.

Shuddering, he yanked his gaze back to the cave mouth, breathing hard. He had not expected to be this frightened. He never had been before - perhaps because he had never had to sit waiting calmly to be overtaken by what he already knew was coming. This time, death was literally breathing down his neck, and he was not supposed to fight back.

A gigantic reptilian head lowered down into his view, staring at him with hot sapphire eyes. He stiffened, unaware that he was pressed back as hard as he could against the wooden pole, staring back in terrified fascination. The head moved closer. He quickly shut his eyes and turned his head away, biting down hard to keep a whimper from escaping. 'Just get it over with!' he thought, and cringed when he felt contact.

The huge nose was sniffing at him, ruffling his hair wildly and speckling his face with drops of hot liquid. This time he could not hold back a strangled little cry as he imagined those huge jaws opening to crunch him up; so close, so close. The dragon's nose was soft and moist, like a dog's or a cat's. He thought suddenly that it would be a good place to drive a sword into, if one wanted to cause some damage. 'Shut UP, Himura,' he told himself fiercely.

There was a sudden rush of almost unbearable heat as the dragon sighed, its scalding breath washing over him. Kenshin made another stupid little strangled noise, this time of pain. Then there was a sudden cold emptiness as the head moved away. Kenshin braced himself for whatever was coming next, wondering idly why the dragon hadn't just chomped down on him right there, but that was stupid, who knows how a dragon thinks, who cares, just shut up and stop making your last thoughts so idiotic!

The ground shook with enormous footsteps...and it took Kenshin a minute to realize that the dragon was moving away. His eyes popped open in surprise, and he found that the creature was slowly entering the cave. Without supper? Perhaps it had already had supper...in which case he was probably going to be tomorrow's breakfast instead, if dragons even ate as often as humans did. Which meant that he was going to be tied up outside all night, if not longer.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Wait a minute!"

The dragon stopped. Then it arced around its long neck and stared at him. He gulped, wondering why he had been so stupid as to grab its attention again when it had clearly been about to move on. Still, he was not sure how much more of this he could stand, and it would take him a long time and some painful effort to work himself free. "You're just going to leave me here?"

The dragon growled. Kenshin swallowed, then steeled himself and shouted again. It made him feel a little more braver than merely talking did. "My arms hurt. This pole has been sticking into my spine for hours. However you plan to eat me, couldn't you at least have the decency to set me loose first? I promise I won't run away."

The dragon's eyes narrowed, and it suddenly roared at him. Kenshin sucked in a breath and jerked his face aside, unable to look at the menacing creature he had just angered. 'Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid...!'

Its heavy footsteps approached again, and it took all his willpower not to move or make a sound, even though he felt like a rabbit in an eagle's grasp. At least this way he would not have to wait until morning, the creature would put him out of his misery quickly-

He heard the huge jaws snap shut and he ducked instinctively, though he wondered why the sound had come booming down from over his head, rather than on it. Did the dragon have bad aim, or was it not able to see well in the dark? How odd.

'How odd? How odd? Why are you curious about something stupid like that at a time like this?' He gasped as the pole was suddenly wrenched upwards. The lower end of it knocked painfully into his legs and sent him lurching forward almost onto his face. The dragon had...closed its teeth around the pole, so that it could pull the thing out of the ground. The pole thunked down some distance away, and Kenshin cracked his eyes open. So the dragon had released him after all...

His heart jumped straight into his throat when he felt the dragon's foreleg on him, pushing him facedown to the ground. Frantically he turned his head, but all he could see were the blue scales again, the color now difficult to make out in the quickly fading light. Kenshin bit his tongue holding back another cry as pain shot through his arms. The dragon's claws had gouged his wrists, but he suddenly found himself free. Groaning, he lay there unmoving as his arms screamed pain at him, having been fastened uncomfortably behind him for hours.

When the circulation finally returned, he laboriously pulled himself back up, sitting there shakily as he stared at his bleeding arms. A dragon's claws were not meant for such delicate work, after all; he found he held no grudge for the injuries. 'Free,' he thought dazedly. 'For a little while, at least.' Kenshin looked up at the creature, who sat regarding him warily. After a while he tried to speak, but his throat was too dry, so he had to swallow several times before he was able to. "Th...Thank you."

The dragon's eyes widened, and it made a croaking noise. A little puff of smoke came drifting out of its mouth.

Kenshin winced, but then took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet. "Thank you," he said again, more strongly. "Such kindness was not...expected." He also had not expected the dragon to understand human speech. How much else was there he did not know?

At this, the dragon suddenly slammed its tail hard on the ground, just in front of Kenshin. He leaped back out of the way, then watched in bewilderment as the dragon turned almost angrily and stalked back into its cave. Kenshin stood staring after it, open-mouthed.

The dragon had just...left him out here? Didn't it think he was going to escape?

Did it...care if he escaped?

Kenshin thought for a while, pressing one hand to the worst of the cuts. The dragon could understand human speech. It seemed to have no interest in eating him, at least for now. It had seemed...upset. Not the thoughtless anger of an animal, but the more complex emotion of a person.

It suddenly occurred to Kenshin that the dragon, while feared for its strength and hated for its destructive capability, had never actually been known to kill a human. True, it frequently carried off livestock, and there was always the wild stories about its murderous exploits and the hundreds of people it had slaughtered (much like the stories told about Hitokiri Battousai, ironically). Yet the stories always tended to be fanciful and often alcohol-fueled tales of ridiculously transparent exaggeration. As far as authentic-sounding accounts, Kenshin could think of none. The dragon probably had less human blood on its hands (claws...) than he did.

Kenshin sighed. "I think I'm insane," he muttered. Then he straightened his shoulders and walked into the cave.

To be continued...

Author's Notes: I love dragons. I also love Rurouni Kenshin. After reading one great RK dragon fic that was never finished (Colleen's The Dragon and the Maiden) and another that was rather disappointing, I decided to write one of my own. I didn't think that a fic where Kaoru was the dragon would be very popular, but to my astonishment and pleasure, I was proved wrong. Thank you so much, guys!