Pairing: Kenshin x Kaoru

Genre: AU/Fantasy/Romance

Rating: M (sorry for the change from T, but I find it necessary for future chapters)

Warnings: English isn't my first language, so excuse any grammar errors and typos. Also, it's my first Rurouni Kenshin fanfic so be gentle. OOCness to be expected.

Status: In progress after many encouraging reviews! :D Thank you very much! I never believed it would get such a positive response from you guys.... XD (still in a state of shock)

A/N: This is actually based on a dream I had. It featured me and some made-up dream characters of course, and not any of the Kenshingumi. But I thought it would fit. Anyway, hope you'll enjoy! :D


oOo

o-oOo-o

S.W.A.K

o-oOo-o

oOo

Kamiya Kaoru was running out of money, and it was becoming painfully obvious as well. The students at the Kamiya Kasshin-Ryū dojo had decreased continuously over the last two years since her father died and left her the sole owner and (adjutant) master of his art. It had been slow, but she had been forced to realize she was far worse off than she had been willing to admit before. With only five students left, the income was painfully low and barely covered her living expenses. But with two more mouths to feed – a growing boy and a young man with a bottomless pit of a stomach – it was close to impossible if she did not redeem the situation, and fast.

That is why we find the young woman rummaging mercilessly through an old storehouse, paying no heed to the many layers of dust and piles upon piles of boxes threatening to fall over at any minute. Her clear, sapphire eyes are focused and her hands steady as she rips open yet another box, hastily eying the content before dismissing it. She had been searching for over forty minutes, but showed no signs of being deterred. When finally she stumbled upon something satisfactory, she gave a shout of victory before swiftly escaping the gloom and dirt of the storage room, a huge box in tow.

Outside, a boy and young man eyed her warily from their position on the porch; the latter's lips twitching in amusement. Ignoring their questioning stares, she dropped the box unceremoniously on the ground and pushed her raven hair out of her flushed face before immediately kneeling down. Rummaging through its content, she paid no heed to the obvious abuse she bestowed on the old box, mumbling incoherent words under her breath.

"Hey, missie, what are you---," the young man began, having removed the fishbone previously occupying his mouth. Her squeal of excitement cut him off though, and he blinked in confusion when for the first time after almost an hour, she acknowledged their existence by turning towards them, sporting a huge grin.

"Look at this!" she exclaimed, holding up an old ink painting of a mountain with beautiful kanji filling up most of the blank space of sky. She didn't give either of them time to react before she continued with a quick explanation. "My grandfather was an artist and has created a lot of valuable paintings. They would no doubt fetch a good price on the market, and pay for a month's worth of food each!"

The mention of food got a reaction, if nothing else.

"Hey, Ugly!" the boy shouted. "How come you haven't told us this before?! Dammit, you've almost starved us to death by now!"

Wincing, the young man bit down on the fishbone, pitying the boy for his stupidity. Somehow, he knew this would affect him too, so he prepared himself for the inventible.

"YAHIKO!" Kaoru growled, shooting up to a standing position before stalking over to the boy with a vicious expression grazing her otherwise calm face. Well, less furious, at least. "Have I been starving you?! Is it my fault I have two freeloaders doing nothing but eat my food, live on my money and sleep in my house? NO! YOU – and I mean you, Sanosuke, as well! – are the ones who empties my supply of food, YOU are the ones who do not contribute to the income and YOU, YOU are the ones who willingly let your own pouch remain empty so you can continue to leech off of mine!"

Pausing from her long rant, Kaoru panted and glared from one guilty face to another, growling when they tried to speak. With a deep, calming breath, she continued in slightly gentler tones. "So, I suggest both of you start looking through the storage house and find the other two boxes hidden in there somewhere, so that I can go through all the paintings and decide which ones to sell first. Go on, get to work!"

She didn't need to encourage them, as they practically ran into the dusty and dimly lit storehouse and she smiled, anger slowly running off. They were two leeching bastards, but she secretly didn't mind. She'd rather live poor and starving with them, than eat herself full each day – alone. Her darkest nightmare was not of the day her father's died, she guiltily admitted, but rather finding herself trapped in a suffocating loneliness where not even the memory of her loved ones could reach her. Pushing those depressing thoughts aside, she went about sorting through the box filled with old paintings and the occasional scroll containing a short story. Her work continued, as her two freeloaders finally emerged with their boxes, and she quickly ordered them to take the small piles of paintings and scrolls she had neatly repacked in her box and return it to the storehouse. She had already picked out three paintings to sell off, which would leave them with enough money to last at least a month or two. Until the money ran out again, they would leave the box of paintings in the storeroom.

"Now," she said to herself, "let's see what the other boxes have to offer."

oOo

Kaoru wasn't sure where she had seen this particular painting before. However, she most certainly knew it could not have been done by her grandfather. First of all, the old man had preferred tranquil landscapes and the occasional portrait. Secondly, he'd strictly stuck to black and white, with grey shadings or, sometimes, washed-out coloring.

This was far from tranquil, and most definitely not a landscape; not to mention the colors.

Depicted on the delicate paper was the form of a huge, crimson dragon. His body was uncurling, as if he was lunging forward in a desperate attempt to attack the viewer, and his fangs was bared in a vicious growl. He had his claws out, ready to tear the paper-prison to shreds, but this was only dimly noted by the young woman. Although the dragon radiated hot-blooded rage, it was not what amazed her. Tracing a finger over the rough surface, she stared. The strokes of the brush had been careful, mindful of every detail, and the creature's colors were stark against the bleak color of its canvas. It seemed almost as if the scales of the dragon shone in the light of day; so masterfully had the artist captured the shades and highlights. But the eyes, they took her breath away. Molten gold in color, they looked eerily alive as they met her stare, glittering with emotion.

After a few minutes, she came to the conclusion it had to be melted gold mixed with the colors used to depict the dragon's furious, unforgiving glare, because there was no way a mere painting could express the kind of emotion she read in those eyes. Shaking her head, she carefully put the painting down and sighed.

The dragon was one of the few paintings she had decided not to sell. Not only because it took her breath away with its obvious value and beauty, but something in the back of her mind tried to remind her where she had encountered it before. There was no signature to tell who had produced such a masterpiece, but she hadn't been looking for one. Somehow, she had known it wouldn't be there. Somehow, she knew who the artist was. If only she could remember.

oOo

She had decided to hang it on the wall beside her made-up vanity, which consisted of a low table with a mirror placed on it. There, she could stare as much as she wanted as she brushed and braided her hair before going to bed. It was hard to tear her gaze from it, the golden eyes drawing her own sapphires to it, but she shook off the compelling feeling to never look away and giggled at her silliness. It was just a painting, and she reasoned that if she saw it every day, it might cease to transfix her so. Thus she had promptly nailed it on the wall of her bedroom without further ado.

But now that the dragon finally graced her humble wall, she couldn't help but think it made the rest of the room look terribly bland, and unpleasantly bleak. She assumed it was the stark contrast of the dragon's beautiful coloring and the room's earthy tones of whites, browns and beiges, and the dragon itself was so wild and untamed compared to the neat, tidy and squared little room. It made her frown in annoyance as she tugged at the many tangles her kendo lessons had caused her hair today. Glaring, she let her eyes roam the dragon's uncoiling body once more before meeting his gaze again.

"I'm holding you fully responsible for my sudden dislike of my own room, Dragon," she spoke haughty, pointing her hairbrush accusingly before sighing and looking away. Regarding her reflection, her frown lessened. "You know, we finally have some money left over to shop something other than food. I should buy myself a new kimono, and ribbon, for my good work. Yeah, definitely should. I deserve it." Looking back to the dragon, she grinned. "I might even buy something to keep you company. This room really needs some color, don't you think?"

Sighing, she put her brush down and started braiding her hair with the swift motions of habit. "First time in ages I've held a conversation without yelling, and it's been with a painting. I should pay Tae a visit, haven't been to the Akabeko in a while. Best restaurant in town, just so you know. Anyway, I can only spend so much time in the boys' presence before going nutty. Apparently."

With one last glance at the dragon, she put out the light with a swift blow and crawled to her futon. Snuggling under the covers, she yawned before mumbling a quiet "good night".

She missed the way golden eyes shimmered even in the dark of night.

oOo

Days passed in the familiar way of routine, and Kaoru found herself immensely grateful of her grandfather and his paintings. Food was no longer an issue, only the cooking remained as dire as it had been before. None of the dojo's occupants could cook, and she was the worse out of the three, although she would never admit it out loud. She had briefly hoped to find a wandering, unemployed-but-looking cook hiding in the storehouse along with the paintings, though knew she shouldn't count her blessings. But it remained a rather amusing thought, so she allowed herself to entertain the idea for a couple of minutes before dismissing it. It had occurred early in the morning, when she had only just woken and risen out of bed, so she blamed her grogginess for the whole ordeal. Asking the dragon if he could fix her breakfast as a repayment for his release from the storehouse was also blamed on her sleep deprived brain, but it didn't stop her from wondering where the hell she got everything from.

She had, however, remembered where she had seen the painting before.

Actually, she had never seen it, but imagined it. Long ago, when she was just a young child, her father had told her about the priceless piece of art and done his best to describe its terrifying beauty. He said it was given to her grandfather when the old man was in his youth, travelling Japan as an artist. The painter was said to have been a sorcerer, working with ink and colors as magic and doing the most beautiful and dangerous spells. She had been horrified then, to learn that ledged told of the sorcerer capturing a dragon and sealing it with his magic only to die from the effort it took to bewitch such a creature. Her father said the crimson dragon had been a feared beast, Battousai, slaying hundreds and thousands of people, and the sorcerer had knowingly risked his life to stop it. But he'd had the heart of an artist, and the blinding beauty of the monster had prevented him from killing it. Instead, it was forever sealed on the blank canvas of ageless paper.

Kaoru had, as a child, feared the power of such a dragon. Was it really sealed, forever? What if it was released? Her father had been there to soothe her fears, and she had soon forgotten the tale he had shared that one night.

When she had remembered it after all those years, staring at the dragon in the flickering light of candles, the fear had returned for the span of a couple of silent, tense moments. Her father was not there to reassure her of it being a mere myth, but she was not a child anymore. She had met the permanently furious glare of the magical beast and frowned.

"You better behave, or I'll lock you in the storehouse again, troublesome Dragon."

oOo

It was time to sell another painting, but not because of need for food. By some stroke of divine blessing, it seemed as if her two freeloaders had briefly allowed their guilt to set them to work and finally help her pay for their dinner. She had a sneaky suspicion they didn't like selling her grandfather's paintings, despite her assuring them it was perfectly alright, but she stopped complaining when Sano returned home with a small pouch of coins. When he'd grumpily handed it over to her stunned form, she'd been overwhelmed by the feeling of fondness she held for her boys and had disregarded the money to engulf the tall young man in a bone-crushing hug. Since Yahiko had followed him behind, she had swiftly given him the same treatment in her moment of emotional weakness. Their blushing sent her giggling and she'd thanked them, sincerely. They probably had no idea why her voice had been laced with emotion, but she didn't care. She was still smiling when she retired to her room that evening, stomach full after treating both of them to dinner at the Akabeko.

Having changed to her sleeping yukata, she seated herself before her mirror and hummed, picking up her brush and starting to work on the tangles absently. She glanced up at the dragon and grinned. "Not even your sour mood could make me any less happy mister, so you might as well stop trying. Well, I guess that's impossible, being a painting and all."

She giggled, ignoring the way golden eyes seemed to glimmer, and continued brushing in silence for a while, pausing when she remembered something.

"I need to sell another painting," she said, smiling. "Did you know Yahiko's 10th birthday is coming up? To think it's already August. Times passes so quickly, doesn't it? Well, you would know, being timeless. Or ageless. Whatever. Hm, you know, at first I wasn't sure what to get him. But he's growing really fast, and those hakama and gi of his are starting to smell even after I've washed them. Anyway, I saw a set that would suit him a few days ago. Green gi and brown hakama, what do you think? No? Too bland for your taste, Majesty? Well, not everyone looks good in gold and ruby red."

After three weeks, she had stopped wondering why she spoke to a painting – something about it just called to her – so when she teased it and flung her hair over her shoulder in a haughty gesture, she didn't think much of it. Only that his eyes truly were fascinating, and that they had to be painted in gold. She had disregarded the possibility of it being mixed in colors, because nothing but pure, solid gold could shine like his eyes. Really, she should just tear them out and sell them. She told him as much, but cringed at the idea.

"I wouldn't want to do that to you, Dragon," she said, titling her head a bit as she had begun braiding her hair. "I love your eyes. They're the only things that aren't frozen in an eternal grimace of fury. Sometimes, I would like to imagine they're twinkling." She paused to frown, sending him an accusing glare. "I have a feeling you're laughing at my expense though. Bad Dragon! I might never get around to buying you something now!"

With an amused huff, she looked away and slung her braid over her shoulder before turning around to glance around the room.

"I told you I would get you some company, didn't I?" she mused aloud. "I ended up buying those ribbons and that blue kimono instead, and the red one. I blame you for the latter, honestly. I've never liked red until now. Personally, I don't think I look good in it. But it's always fun to try new things, isn't it?"

Crawling to her futon, she flopped down unceremoniously and groaned into her pillow. "Maybe I should just put up some more paintings on the walls," she muttered, her voice muffled and quiet when she failed to think of anything else. Plants just withered and died under her care, but a few soft cushions and a little table didn't seem so bad in the far off corner of the room. A bit expensive for her taste though, despite the paintings.

Her dragon would have to settle with the plain sight of her room, but hopefully, a few more paintings adoring the empty walls would make him seem less…lonely.

She never did like loneliness.

oOo

Yahiko's birthday had been a success. She could tell he was moved by her gift, and even more so by the little party she had organized at Akabeko after dinner. Many friends had come; several students from the dojo and even some of the ex-students had been welcome. She wasn't one to hold a grudge; she could understand why they didn't want to be taught by a woman, no matter how much they respected her talents.

However, no matter how hard she'd tried, the party had quickly become unsuitable for a ten year old. She blamed Sano, since he was the one who started the drinking, but she'd been powerless to stop it. Allowing herself a few drinks in a lame attempt to soothe her annoyance, she soon came to the conclusion that Yahiko had to be removed from the bad influence of Sanosuke and his friends. The boy hadn't been happy to leave, loudly declaring himself a man, but in the end, she won as always. He had a long way to go to defeat her, or even outrun her. Especially with liquor running through her system, supplying her with bubbling energy. It would only last for a few hours though, and it'd leave her head fuzzy and her limbs heavy. Long before that, she and Yahiko arrived home and she sent him directly off to bed. He had to get up early for his training, and she would soon be very sleepy and unable to entertain him for very long.

Entering her bedroom, she promptly stumbled inside and sat ungracefully in front of her beloved painting. With a silly grin, she reached up and traced the elegant strokes of brushes with the tips of her fingers; stopping to rub his tummy and giggling madly at the thought of him purring. He would probably bite her hand off, but she liked the idea of stroking his scales like she would an adorable pet.

"I've never been able to hold my liquor, Dragon," she cooed, moving a finger up to his snot and caressing the scales up between his eyes and down between his flaring nostrils. She could almost imagine the heat of fire and smiled, staring into his mesmerizing eyes. "Today was good. Yahiko was really happy; I think he liked my present. He would've liked to stay at the party longer though, but Sano started a drinking contest again. I don't want Yahiko in that environment. He's seen too much already, you know? I guess I'm just being a mother hen, huh?"

She paused only to fall backwards, splaying herself out on the floor and staring up at the ceiling with a thoughtful frown. "I wish you could've been there. I've told you many times, but I promise you'd love Tae's beef hot pot! It's delicious, mm… Do dragons eat beef hot pot, Dragon? Well, you would. I'd force-feed you. It's meat, so why not?"

Sitting up again, she stared up at the painting, titling her head. "My father told me about you once. You were trapped by a sorcerer, weren't you? I was told he died. He couldn't kill you, because you were too beautiful. So he merely sealed you. But he died. I wonder if he did so in vain? Father also said you killed many, many people Dragon. I've only heard of dragons that do, so perhaps that's in their nature. I wouldn't know, but Dragon, your eyes are beautiful. Have I told you that? Of course I have. I'm rambling now, stupid saké."

Sighing, she inched a bit closer, brining her lowered gaze up to his eyes. She had let her gaze flicker from side to side throughout her drunken ramblings, not focusing. Wrinkling her nose, she tried to focus this time. "I've talked a lot to you, Dragon. It's almost as if you're alive now. It's crazy, but it feels like you hear me. It's a strange but wonderful kind of feeling. You're like a diary, only, no one but you will remember my words. Not even I will remember. I wonder if you'll remain on my wall, Dragon? You'll get to see me grown old and wrinkly and finally die, isn't that a ball? I'll have to get myself a husband and a child, to whom I can entrust you once I'm gone. You don't deserve to be hidden in some dark, dusty corner of a storehouse. You're far too beautiful. I'll tell my child to keep you up on a wall, and maybe, my child will be better off than me. Maybe you'll be less lonely on my child's wall. Who knows?"

Leaning in, she let her breath ghost over the uneven surface of the canvas. She had never studied the painting this close, so she took her time. Moving up, slowly, she admired his scales and finally stopped by his eyes. Blinking, she stared. Flecks of violet were imbedded in the gold, violet she hadn't noticed until now. She was confused, because she could not understand how she could've missed it in the first place. The violet wasn't too small to spot after all. Shrugging, she assumed she had been too focused on the gold.

"I wonder what you'd look like with only violet in your eyes? Frowning like that, it'd look silly. I'd imagine you'd smile with violet eyes, Dragon. If dragons can smile, that is," she mumbled, leaning forward and placing a light kiss on the tip of his nose. Her lips tingled at the contact and she shivered, a wave of exhaustion crashing over her and she pulled back as quickly as she could, confused and unsettled by the strange currents of energy draining from her body. She shook her head, finding herself fighting to stay awake. It was a losing battle, and as she slowly sank to the floor, eyes fluttering close, she swore to never have so much to drink again.

oOo

"SANOSUKE!! YAHIKO!! WHERE THE HELL IS MY DRAGON PAINTING?!" Kaoru howled once her brain finally processed what it was she was seeing. An empty wall. No painting. Gone.

Scrambling out of her room, still in her yukata, she ran down the hall and entered the kitchen with a roar. She didn't come unarmed, having picked up her bokken on the way for some well-deserved beatings. The two villains choked on their meal, staring at her with wide eyes and wondering what had gone wrong this early in the day. Once they processed what she'd asked, in a less polite way, the groaned.

The painting was obviously gone. And Kaoru was obsessed with that thing. Sano personally thought that perhaps she had some personal attachment to it, family history and what-not, but Yahiko merely believed she had finally showed her true colors, as a nutcase.

"Missie, calm down!" Sano urged once he noticed she had started to advance on them with her bokken so tightly grasped in her hands that her knuckles were turning white. Never a good sign. "I swear I have not touched your painting! I haven't even looked at it since you found it in the shed!"

This seemed to calm her down somewhat, as she lowered her weapon a few inches. She was still growling though, and Yahiko wasn't of any help. The little brat.

"Yeah! I haven't done anything either, Ugly! Why the hell would I want to go into your room anyway huh?! And it's your own damn fault if you didn't even notice someone sneaking in and stealing it right under your nose!"

A resounding THUD was heard, followed by several others, as Kaoru released her pent up anger. She hadn't just woken up on the wrong side of the futon, because she hadn't even been on the futon in the first place. Waking up with a monstrous headache, grainy eyes and heavy limbs had done nothing to improve her temper. Chasing a brat throughout her dojo and delivering bruising blows on whatever body part she could reach helped with the venting, but once she finally decided he'd had enough, she was exhausted once again. It didn't feel like she'd slept at all, and the weakness of her muscles worried her; it was as if she had a fever, yet she didn't feel warm or dizzy. Merely sickly tired.

Pushing thoughts of sleep out of her mind, Kaoru kneeled down determinedly before her two freeloaders, because she had something to do before giving in to the sweet temptation of sleep.

"Okay boys, someone has stolen my painting. It was a sort of family heirloom and held some precious memories of my father and grandfather," she began, ignoring the winces of her boys but giving a few moments pause for a dramatic effect. She already knew they worked better with the motivator of guilt, and she would not let that go to waste. "I've been selling my grandfathers paintings to pay for your food and clothes, but this one? I had never, ever had any intention of selling it. Now, I really, really, really want it back, so this is what we're going to do. You're going to tell me about anything, anything at all, that was even the slightest bit suspicious yesterday. Anything. And, did you hear something or someone in the dojo? Did you sense a strange ki? Well?"

She waited patiently for their answers, knowing they probably had to think for a bit before their brains soaked up all the questions and started connecting them with whatever information they had. It proved to be a moot point, when none of them had encountered anything out of the ordinary. Yahiko had fallen asleep before her and had little talents in sensing ki, while Sanosuke had been out most night drinking and only returned this morning to have breakfast.

However, she would not yet admit to defeat. She wanted her dragon back damnit (she still remembered the violet flecks hidden in his golden irises and badly wanted to examine them sober). So she told them to look around in town, and got Sanosuke to promise to check out his many underground contacts in case the painting turned up on the black market. She would've followed them when they left for their search, but she was almost falling asleep where she stood by the gate seeing them off so she opted to stay.

Sighing, she turned and walked back to the dojo, slowly making her way to her bedroom in a light daze. Either she had tired herself out more than she remembered yesterday, or this was some mutated version of a hangover. She hoped it was the latter, because hangovers she could deal with. Memory gaps, however, were very unnerving.

She fell asleep before her head hit her pillow.

oOo

Faintly remembering someone calling for her through the door and telling her something had come up, and they wouldn't be home tonight, kept Kaoru from panicking as she searched the empty house for her boys. Settling down in her kitchen with a hot cup of tea, she breathed in the motions of meditation as she focused on the fuzzy memory telling her the whereabouts of her missing freeloaders.

Helping out at the Akabeko, because of some brawl resulting in a mess too much for Tae to handle…meeting some friends for sake (and gambling, she added wryly) to try and pry some information from them…

It would seem she was alone tonight.

Sighing, Kaoru tried to enjoy the unusual silence as she finished her tea. It wasn't uncommon for Sanosuke to spend the whole night out, even the following day, and neither was Yahiko's occasional stay at the Akabeko. They did, however, try to avoid being gone at the same time. She didn't know if she should hug them for the consideration, or beat them over the head with her bokken for the coddling she really didn't need. She didn't want them to adjust their life to hers just because she suffered from a slight paranoia of being left alone. Really. She knew they would always come back, right?

She slammed her cup on the table and growled, growing irritated by her already quickening heartbeat and pathetic thoughts. She hadn't had any dinner, but still felt too tired to do anything about it despite spending most of the day in a heavy slumber.

"If this continues I'll go to Dr. Gensai," she mumbled, having put the cup away to wash later. Rubbing her eyes, she steered out of the kitchen to return to her bedroom. She grimaced; knowing the strange pang of emptiness and wrongness would hit as soon as she stepped through the sliding door and gazed on the wall which previously displayed her beautiful dragon. She hadn't known it was possible to grow so attached to a painting, but now, she understood all those crazy collectors that paid insane amounts of money in order to possess a piece.

But somehow, she didn't think they loved the paintings for the same reason she adored her dragon. Who in their right mind would converse with a painting? She, apparently.

Worrying her lip with pearly teeth, she paused before determinately sliding the door open. She would just go straight to her futon, and not spare the wall a single—

"I advise you to not scream," a low, smooth and distinctly male voice breathed in her ear. The hand covering her mouth had appeared from nowhere, along with the body attached to it. Her heart skipped a beat, maybe two, and she could do nothing but stare in pure shock at the wall on the other side of the room. The mystery man's position didn't allow her to move her head unless she wanted to bump into his, which she at the moment, didn't even want to acknowledge. She was, however, forced to when his nose found her neck and nuzzled it; breathing in deeply as if savoring her scent. Shock gave way to fury when she finally admitted that yes, an unknown man had snuck into her bedroom, and yes, he was currently invading her personal space in a very uncomfortable manner. She ignored the lulling scent of ginger and male, along with the unnatural warmth radiating from his lean frame. Instead, she narrowed her eyes and did the first thing she could to free herself.

She bit his hand, hard, even as her knee came up to deliver a good one between his legs.

Her efforts proved to be futile when he didn't even flinch, and caught her knee before her foot was even an inch over ground. The warning growl emitting from deep within his chest had her shivering, and she gulped in undeniable fear, slowly removing her teeth from his flesh and hoping he would not be as strong as he was fast. Maybe she would be able to wrestle him to the floor, and hit him so hard in the head that he passed out? Any further planning of his downfall was interrupted when the man suddenly stepped back, jerking her with him and closing the door with a snap. How he managed that when one hand was occupied with her mouth, and the other imprisoning her wrists, she didn't stop to think about.

"Who the hell are you and what do you want?!" she demanded as soon as he had released her mouth, glaring hotly as she met his…gold…eyes…

Blinking, she openly stared. She allowed herself to take in the man's appearances, silently telling herself it would be good to have a description for the police, and swallowed nervously. His eyes were the same molten gold as her dragon, and his long, wild hair the same ruby red. His skin was pale, almost white, and his built was small (being not much taller than she), lean and possessing an unnerving strength that told her she would have little hopes in knocking him out. He was beautifully handsome, yet frightfully dangerous; everything her dragon had been. Shaking her head, she frowned. Her imagination was playing tricks on her, and it was not funny, but his smug smirk told her that at least to some, it was.

"I am many things," he said with a mysterious twinkle in his golden eyes, replying to her previous question that she had managed to forget in light of his startlingly attractive appearance. "But I want even less."

His cryptic answer made her head hurt, and she scowled, even when she knew she should probably fear him instead of working up a good deal of anger and impatience towards him.

"Listen here, you horrible, horrible man," she hissed, pulling against his grip of her hands in an attempt to free herself. "If it's money you want just take it and go, before I decide to beat you into a bloody pulp!"

Not the right thing to say she realized, as she found herself pinned to the floor before she could blink. Staring up into his mesmerizing (annoyed, by the look of it) eyes she held her breath, counting the quick, loud beats of her heart in order to distract herself from the dizzying thoughts pressing forward in the back of her head. She did not want to kiss those lips, which she tried to persuade herself were cold and unpleasant, but failing when his body's heat almost made her sweat underneath him.

"My dear Kaoru," he mumbled, eyeing her from her face to what was visible of her cleavage in her thin yukata, blatantly enjoying the sight of her chest heaving up and down to her panicked breathing. She growled in warning, feeling like a cornered animal beneath his smoldering gaze and secure grip, causing him to chuckle. She considered trying to knee him in the groin again, but her mind drew a blank when he leaned in to nuzzle her jaw and nibble on the delicate skin under her ear. Squeaking in dismay, a thought declaring the insanity of what was happening briefly shifted through her head. But before she could grasp on to it, he started speaking again, with a voice too smooth and pleasant to be completely fair in this situation. It made her think of seduction, rather than conviction, which was what she supposed he was trying to deliver, being her current captor and all.

"Kaoru," he began, lips moving against her jaw and causing her to whimper in protest. Her voice just didn't want to work, and she bit her lip in frustration at the pathetic sight she made. She tried to convince herself she was preserving energy for when an opportunity to escape presented itself rather than just being rendered powerless by his mere presence. "Do you want to know who I am, and what I want? Truly?" He paused to slip a hand up to cup her cheek, thumb caressing her lips gently. She swallowed, her stomach flipping at his touch, and nodded. Maybe if she entertained his monologue, she'd have time to think and find a way out of this. She held her breath, only releasing it when his velvety voice caressed her ears once again. "Then, let me tell you."

"I am the essence of every careful brush of color on that parchment serving as my prison. I am the image etched in your mind after hours upon hours of staring, admiring. I am what you talked to life with a flow of words each day. I am what you tempted with the sound of your voice; I am what you brought forth with your touch. But, Kaoru, it was your kiss that released me. It was your kiss…that sealed your fate."

Her gasp was lost in the burning heat of his kiss, silencing her protests and denials. He can't be my dragon; he's human!

Right?

Any further attempt at rational thinking was lost, and she didn't even deny the moan slipping through her lips as they parted wide for him. Questioning sanity could wait.

oOo

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oOo


A/N: Please review! :)