This was a conglomeration of a couple of fics I wrote for Rurouni Kenshin. And while it wasn't my first attempt, it was the first story I seriously put some time in. See, I hated the way the anime ended and at the time I hadn't read the manga. Although at this time I have and I don't care for the way the storyline ends there either. There is no payoff for Kenshin and Kaoru. We don't even get a kiss! So, I decided to rectify that and write my own ending. That being said, this is a Kenshin and Kaoru fic. It focuses on them and they will be together by the end. So don't fret! On that note, I'll let you go. Enjoy!

To add, for those who might have know, this story is published elsewhere under a different name. I wanted to publish it here again because this is where it started. But, as it storms outside where I sit, I want to retell this tale, as I enjoyed it so when I wrote it years ago.

And I don't own Rurouni Kenshin either. Just to let you know.

* * * * * * * *

The day had been long and hot. Summer had definitely arrived. Dinner had been a relatively quiet affair. Sanosuke had disappeared at some point and Kenshin was not one to ponder the man's whereabouts. He assumed his friend had visited Megumi. Her attentions lately had focused more on the tall mad and Kenshin was happy the two might finally resolve their tensions. She had recently stopped referring to him as 'my' Ken-san, though the nickname remained. He wondered if she used it more to taunt Kaoru, but he couldn't fully understand that logic.

Shortly after the meal, Yahiko had vanished into his own room while Kaoru sat on the porch steps watching the sky. Clouds had rolled in and he didn't doubt a storm would break before dawn. The woman had retired, giving him a small smile before disappearing behind her own door. Now he sat in his room, his violet eyes still open as he pondered his place.

It was nearly a year since he has first wandered into the woman's life. She had stopped him on the street, demanding a fight. Instead she had received a freeloader. But he couldn't bring himself to leave. He had tried once. It had nearly broken his heart to walk away from her during the short reign of Shishio. Instead of keeping her safe she had followed him to Kyoto.

Now he was willing to admit that leaving would not protect her. However, remaining would not either. Too vivid was the memory of him discovering her gone, taken by Enishi. The incident had forced him to recognize his true feelings for Kamiya Kaoru. He loved her. And nothing he did could ever erase that fact. So he stayed, protecting her, knowing that if he left she would follow. Even though she was still a danger if he remained, he knew he could prevent something terrible from happening if he was near than if he had been somewhere else. Life would have been so much simpler if he had never encountered her that day on the street.

Kenshin sighed and looked up at the flash of lightning that lit the room. The storm he had predicted was on its way. His love for her was what really kept him close. He couldn't bear to be away from her. However, he could not be with her either. She deserved better. But keeping her from his other self was so difficult sometimes.

Battousai craved her in a way that made resist nearly futile. The woman appealed to both halves. Her sincerity and grace drew the rurouni out of him. It was why he had initially stayed. But her strength and unyielding courage inflamed the passion that was the hitokiri. Only Kaoru could appeal to both his good and his bad side. Tomoe had never been able to stand up to the manslayer within his heart. Kaoru was also the only one who had ever managed to break through the façade that would inevitably be his downfall.

He wasn't even sure how she felt about him. There were times when he would catch her watching him speculatively. However, she had never made any open invitations. There were incidences that led him to wonder if she felt more than friendship. Vividly he recalled her reaction the time he had mistakenly proposed to her.

Color touched his cheeks at the embarrassing memory of what Tae had instigated. Not that he wouldn't hesitate in marrying Kaoru, but again, she deserved so much more than he had to offer. Another had happened one night when they had been stranded overnight with an elderly couple. During the night, she had awoken and taken his hand in hers. He had been aware and had often pondered the meaning of that. But since then, she had made no overtures as to where her feelings stood.

Thunder rumbled followed by another flash of lightning. Through the silent dojo, a soft cry was heard. Alert, Kenshin was on his feet. Grabbing his sakabatou he dashed down the hall. He paused outside of Kaoru's room. He strained to hear if someone was within, ready to pounce if anyone dared to touch the woman. Another soft cry reached him and he shoved the door open without hesitation as the blue light lit the room.

The woman lay sprawled on her futon, the sheets twisted around her legs. Her eyelashes fluttered violently, her bottom lip trembling. Kenshin let his breath out slowly. A part of him was relieved to know it had only been another nightmare. He stood there, watching her sleep as he had on countless nights. Nightmares plagued her most nights than not. Always he had awoken at her cry, hurrying to make sure she was safe. He dreaded to find her gone again. But she was here.

Kenshin leaned against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. Her face grimaced and she moaned again. His heart ached to be unable to help the woman he loved. Her dreams were the only place he could not reach. He briefly wondered what her nightmare was about, what he might do to alleviate her fear.

Thunder rumbled again, closer this time. It was warm. He felt his lids begin to droop. The heat was getting to him, along with the innumerable sleepless nights he had spent watching over her. It gave him a brief peace of mind to know she was safe. If anything entered the room, he would know it. Kenshin knew the woman was safe as long as he was close. He would never allow anyone to harm her again. With that thought, his eyes closed and he drifted into sleep.

* * * * * *

Something rumbled and Kaoru shook her head, trying to shake the dream. She saw something flash against the back of her eyelids and slowly she opened her eyes. Her room was dark and humid. The sheet had become tangled in her legs. Whatever she had been dreaming about she could not recall. Slowly she sat up as thunder boomed again. It sounded like quite a storm. She untangled her sheet from her legs and flung it out. Gently it settled down over her legs and she sighed. Stretching her arms above her head, her blue eyes caught sight of a dark figure against the wall.

She sucked in her breath and blinked as lightning lit the room once more. She blinked again recognizing the man sitting there. She gently crawled from her sleeping place. There was no mistake. Kenshin sat there against the wall, his head bowed, his chest rising deep and even. She sat back on her heels studying him. Why was he here in her room? She glanced to his side and saw his sakabatou resting there. The house was the one place he didn't consistently carry his weapon and she wondered now why he would bring it to her room in the middle of the night.

Kaoru had been having a nightmare and must have cried out. He heard her and came running. It was the only explanation she could ascertain that made sense. Her heart warmed at the idea of him hurrying to her aide, even though it was an evil he could not fight. She sighed again and another thought came to her as thunder rumbled yet again.

She had endured many nights plagued with horrible dreams. Some consisted of him not returning from his final showdown with Shishio. Sometimes she dreamed of her time with Enishi; others of him not returning and leaving her to her fate at the hands of Jin'eh or Gohei. However, mostly she dreamed of him leaving and never coming back.

Now Kenshin sat in her darkened room, lightning flashing around her. She studied him as she had studied him before when he slept. Somehow this time was different. Maybe it was the way his shoulders sagged, his deep red hair falling over his face. He breathing was deep and even, a soft snoring mingling with the rumbling storm outside. She smiled to herself to know the rurouni did in fact snore. Then it struck her.

He really slept. Normally he appeared slightly tense, even in sleep though his breathing was even. Usually it was after she had awoken from a nightmare, usually him abandoning her and she would rush to his room to make sure he remained. For long minutes she would stand in his doorway watching him, assuring herself he was not an illusion. Now she wondered if his trip to her room had not been the first. How often had he stolen to her room, his weapon at his side to aide her if she needed it?

Her breath caught and she took a shaky breath and lightning once more lit up the room. Thunder sounded again, louder and closer. She bit her lip and crept toward him, not wanting to miss this opportunity, whatever it may be. Carefully she watched him as his lids fluttered softly. Kaoru wondered what plagued his dreams. Did he still have dreams of the revolution, now nearly twelve years past? Bad memories of his battle with Shishio or Enishi? Did he still dream of Tomoe? She cringed to think he still thought of his first love. His lips parted gently and her eyes widened when he murmured her name.

Did he possibly dream of her?

Not wanting to believe it she held her breath. Tentatively she reached out and touched a long strand of auburn hair that fell across his shadowed face. She brushed it away from his cheek, her fingers skimming his temple. Still he did not move and she felt bolder. Tenderly she caressed his skin, her fingers tracing over the cross-shaped scar on his left cheek.

Thunder sounded and the man jerked beneath her fingertips. A hand seized her wrist and Kaoru gasped as she found herself staring into the startled violet eyes tinged with golden flecks. She had seen that look before, thought not often. It usually elicited the rise of Battousai to the surface. Fear gripped her as she stared into the man's eyes.

His gaze softened as his fingers moved up her wrist to grasp her hand. Her chest heaved as his other hand gingerly came up to her face. His fingertips hovered just over her skin. Kenshin's gaze strayed towards her cheek and his fingers turned to caress her flesh with his knuckles.

Kaoru's eyes closed at the tender caress, her breath catching. His knuckles paused at the corner of her mouth and his thumb moved to lightly trace over her bottom lip. She moaned softly in the dark room. His hand stretched, cupping her face in his palm. In a daze she forced her eyes open to see him.

In the lightning flash that illuminated the room, she saw his gaze studying her mouth. Her eyes widened slightly. Was he going to kiss her? Thunder reverberated through the room causing the walls to rattle. Abruptly the moment was broken and he pulled away.

"Wha-?" She groaned, reaching for him. He rose swiftly before she could grasp him. Confusion and pain soared through her. Why was he turning away now?

The answer came to her slowly as she heard feet pounding down the hallway. The door was tossed open and Yahiko stood there. "Wake up busu! It's a tremendous storm!" He cried gleefully. He tore back the way he came, waiting for her to give chase.

Normally, she might have, knowing he would have awoken her if the storm hadn't yet. Yet her gaze was still fixed on Kenshin.

"We should make sure everything is secure, that we should." He told her huskily in the dark.

Reluctantly she nodded and rose. He stared at her one last moment. "Kenshin!" The young boy called out. "You're missing the show!"

Without another word, the redhead turned and strode away.

* * * * * *

Sticky. That was the only way to describe it. The day was almost as humid as the day before. Rain had not come and the humidity that ensued had quickly raised the temperature. Sanosuke glanced at the sky and wondered if there would be another storm tonight. They might not be so lucky again. Distantly he heard Kaoru yelling at Yahiko about something. The woman had seemed in a bad mood today, her temper on edge often lately. Absently he rubbed his head. The bump she had given him two weeks ago had finally gone down. He wondered what could be driving her frustration. He ran a hand through his short brown hair and his gaze strayed to Kenshin.

The rurouni was doing laundry, as always. Sano marveled at how three people could constantly have clothes to wash. He rarely washed his white gi and pants, maybe only once a week. Then again, maybe if he did keep cleaner the kitsune would spend more time with him. He sighed and flopped down on the ground next to his friend. "What do you think Jou-chan's deal is today?" He asked.

Focused on his work, Kenshin didn't answer. Sano studied him and noticed the far off look in the man's violet eyes. He snapped his fingers in front of the man's face. "Oro?"

"Jou-chan? Why is she so violent today?"

"She didn't get much sleep last night, that she did not." The man answered in typical Kenshin fashion.

Sano raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Wild night last night?" The man colored slightly and Sano sat up a little straighter. That was not typical Kenshin. "Was it a wild night last night?" He asked, more serious than he had initially asked.

The gaze flicked in his direction before Kenshin rose to hang the material in his hands. "She had a nightmare before the storm awakened her, I imagine."

"And how would you know she had a nightmare?"

The redhead paused before turning around. He didn't meet Sanosuke's eyes as he knelt back down, reaching for a sheet. "She has had them before." He answered softly.

"And how do you know this?" He pressed. There was an element to this story he was missing. Somehow the rurouni knew of Kaoru's dreams; knew that one had afflicted her the previous night. Sanosuke knew what the young woman feared more than anything, the idea of being alone. More importantly, she feared life without Kenshin. His friend was a different situation. As well as he knew the man, he had no clue of the inner working of Kenshin's mind. He knew the rurouni cared for the woman, even suspected he loved Kaoru. How deep his feeling went, Sano could not even fathom. "Did something happen last night?"

Kenshin's actions paused and a definite shade of red tinged his cheeks. "No." He retorted.

"But you wanted it to." Now his face flamed and he lowered his head. "What happened?" Sano demanded softly.

The man squirmed underneath his focused inquiries. It hit Sanosuke then that the man was nervous. Now his attention and curiosity were really struck. Kenshin rarely if ever got nervous. The man had fought during the revolution, had helped bring a new era to birth. He had faced enemies so powerful, that Sano himself could not imagine living through those battles if he had not witnessed them first hand. And now the redhead was anxious because of a woman. Not just any woman, but Kaoru.

"I heard her cry out." He admitted, lowering his eyes. He began to scrub the linen in his hands again. "I went to her room to make sure everything was safe." Kenshin replied absently, trying to make the action seem insignificant.

He knew better though. Many had not given him credit for being bright, and though sometimes he was slow on the uptake, Sanosuke was not as ignorant as those around him seemed to think. "And?"

"And………I must have fallen asleep."

"In her room?" The man didn't answer. Instead he rose once more, draping the sheet over the clothesline. Once more he heard Yahiko and Kaoru carrying on, closer this time. "You're killing me Kenshin? Did you kiss her or not?" He saw the back of the red head shake in the negative. "But you wanted to, right?"

The back of the purple gi was rigid. Sano watched intently, knowing that the slightest nuance would give him the answer he sought. After a moment, the shoulders sagged. "Hai." Was the whispered response.

"Why didn't you?"

"Yahiko interrupted us. Besides, I don't deserve her."

Sano groaned in frustration and rubbed wearily at his dark brown eyes. He had heard this argument before. Many times he had pleaded the woman's case to Kenshin, and always the rurouni had claimed to be unworthy. However, before Kenshin had never admitted to his attraction to the dark haired woman. This afternoon, however, something had changed. "You say Yahiko interrupted?"

"Hai."

"Jou-chan woke up while you were there in her room then?"

He smiled as he saw the shoulders tense ever so slightly. Jackpot! "She did." He returned slowly.

Impatiently, he leapt up and spun the man around. "Did you tell her or not?"

"Ano—"

Right then. Yahiko came tearing around the corner of the dojo, Kaoru fast on his heels. The boy came dashing up and quickly glanced between the two of him. Then his eyes settled on the tub of water and quickly he hoisted it on his shoulders. He whirled. "Here busu!" He cried. "You need to cool down!" He shouted as Kaoru skidded to a halt. Before she could react, the boy had tossed the entire contents of the tub onto her.

Surprised, Sano let go of his friend and stared at her. The wet material of her gi clung to her, her pale skin giving the white garment a pink tinge. Her breasts were bound, so there was nothing fully explicit in her appearance. However, the dark hakama clung to her well-toned calves, her slim waist easily displayed. Her dark hair hung limply in her blue eyes. She appeared strangely sensual, water dripping from her. If he hadn't been nuts about Megumi, he might have fallen for her on the spot.

Kaoru stood there in her shock, her azure eyes wide and unseeing. Yahiko grinned gleefully and then dropped the bucket. He went running off, leaving the two men staring at the woman. She blinked slowly and closed her mouth. Her gaze darted between the two of them and then she turned on her heel and ran for the dojo. Sano glanced at Kenshin and a small smile touched the corners of his mouth.

The redhead stared after her, something akin to lust evident on his face. He elbowed him and grinned slyly. "She looked quite delectable, wouldn't you say?"

Golden eyes flashed in his direction and Sano took a step back. "I'd be careful what you say." He growled.

Sanosuke blinked as the man turned the tub right side up and went about filling it again with clean water. Had he struck a nerve? What on earth had threatened to bring Battousai to the surface? And then he knew. Kenshin's feeling towards Kaoru might be slightly muddled, but Battousai's were clear. While the rurouni was protective, the hitokiri was possessive. He had come to the surface at the idea of Sano going after her.

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Kaoru storm towards the bathhouse. He grinned devilishly, knowing Kenshin had not spotted her. What would happen? He knew Kaoru's intentions, though he knew indirectly through Megumi. They were obvious to everyone but the redhead. The worse that could happen was Kenshin would end up with another bump on the head. But if he succeeded………maybe the two would finally resolve the sexual tension between the two of them.

"Oi, Kenshin! Did you remember to gather the towels in the bathhouse?"

"Hai." He answered, adding soap to the water.

Damnit! "Are you sure?"

The violet eyes looked up and blinked as doubt crept over the shorter man's face. "I should check, just to make sure."

He turned and strode towards the bathhouse where moments before Kaoru had entered. Sanosuke rubbed his fingers together and slowly followed. He wanted to hear the fireworks he had created.

* * * * * * * * *

Kenshin paused as he pushed open the door to the bathhouse. A sense of de ja vu swept over him. He vividly recalled having done this already today. In fact, Sanosuke had been with him, ranting on about Megumi. Why would the man want him to come in here? He shrugged. He might as well double check and make sure he had gotten all the towels.

He found one he had obviously missed. It was still damp and he frowned. Kaoru's scent lingered on the fabric and he closed his eyes. He thought back on the previous night. Her touch had awoken him, so light and tender on the marred skin of his left cheek. The jolt had caused him to jump, Battousai stirring ever so close to the surface. She had been so near, her smell intoxicating him. Like a drugged man, he had touched her, desperately wanting to feel her soft skin underneath his fingertips, and yet fearful to find he still slept.

Her groan had been real, her reaction electric. He had wanted to kiss her, possess her, the passion of the storm raging outside magnifying his need for her. And then he had sensed the boy, coming closer and he had felt his senses reluctantly return. With his last ounce of willpower he had walked away from her. He did not warrant her love, and within him the hitokiri raged selfishly.

A sound from the inner room broke his reverie. He cocked his head to the side listening. Silence greeted him and he approached the door cautiously. Yahiko had run off and Kaoru had disappeared into the house after being doused. He felt his darker side growl at the memory of Sano's appraisal of the woman. If anyone had a right to gape at her, it was he and he alone. Then he recalled she did not belong to him. His teeth gritted to think any other man might ever have the privilege of touching her, tasting her lips. He had not done it, but that gave no other male the right to lay a hand on her.

Kenshin shook his head. Arguing with himself would get him nowhere. He would protect her at all costs, that was all he could do. He did not know her feelings for him. How could she possibly love him when his hands were stained so thoroughly? Firming his resolve, he pushed the door open to the inner room and froze.

******

What do you think? Please let me know! Thanks!