Rurouni Kenshin OVA (Independent Series)

"Dominating Fate"

By: Goddess Nekko


Disclaimer/Warning: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters, I just felt like creating my own OVA series, and so I will. Do not bother to sue me, I have no money anyway - this is just all in good fun! I must warn there will be descriptive sexual acts, so those of you who find it offensive or shouldn't be reading it, you may want to skip chapter 2 (I didn't want to rate the entire thing NC-17 if other chapters are only PG, ya know?). It is because of the different events in this fic that I am going to be rating each chapter individually! Anyhoo, you're free to continue, and, NO - they will not be tasteless acts of sexual desire! Those of you who have read my previous works will believe me on that. ^_~


Author's Notes: Hello! Glad you have decided to read (and review! *hint hint*) my fic! I had attempted something like this before, Tomoe survives and what happens next, but that first attempt was a flop ("Taming of the Heart") and I have somewhat more insight now - more or less a better approach… Please behold - THE SECOND ATTEMPT! This version shall be written and completed, so hopefully no one will be mad I trashed the other one (this in no way will lose the vibrancy, intensity, or insight of the other)! Anyway, before I begin, I just wanted to bring to light the subject of Kenshin and Tomoe's sex life - First off, their whole relationship is hidden, the manga and OVA leaving things to be desired, but that's where I step in. Tomoe is more than a stoic, cold, emotionless woman - Her warmth is what calmed and centered Kenshin's torrential soul. So, to fill the gap left by our wonderful Watsuki-san, I give you this fic, dancing along the lines of alternate reality simply because I have dubbed myself Fate, and given this eternal couple a chance at love and life. By the way, you'll find out I don't believe in short chapters.


Chapter 1: The Ocean at Midnight


                The midday sun was shrouded by a thick blanket of gray rain clouds. The initial downpour from the early morning had passed, leaving the earth cold, wet, and dark. Kenshin gazed at the rain sodden land from the doorway of his makeshift home, his pacifistic face trying to assess the damage done by the heavy shower. Silently Tomoe appeared at his side, delicately gripping her umbrella aware the heavy rain clouds were still capable to produce a steady rainfall in a moment's notice.

                Acknowledging her with a slight glance, Kenshin and Tomoe tread slowly over the damp, muddy earth to their modest garden. Puddles of water rose between the tiny peaks of sprouting seedlings, droplets of water gathered and dripping from the delicate leaves.

                "There has been so much rain. Will these survive?" Tomoe inquired in her usual quiet tone. In answer Kenshin kneeled near a row of plants, carefully brushing the excess water from one of the small plant's slightly drooping leaves.

                "It'll be fine. At least half of these should survive, but hopefully the weather will let up a bit," he added, his voice soft, detached, as he mused over the success of his idea. Tomoe gave him a small acknowledging nod, but to his disappointment, nothing more.

He sighed softly, regretful so few words passed between them. That simple truth reminded him how thankful he was for even their small conversations like this, never letting that gratitude slip away even if it was only the bad weather he could thank. Her voice was soothing to him, though he oftentimes found it too soft, too obedient… Does she hate that she has to stay with me? That she has been asked to play the part of my wife in this ruse to hide our true identities…? Will she ever tell me the truth about herself, her feelings…? Could I… could I really be a man, a husband, worthy of her love…?

He closed his eyes and exhaled. He had encountered these questions several times, though he had never chosen to confront them, stirring his subconscious to scold him with an oft repeated, torturing phrase - You run from the truth, hide in the shadows of your own denial…

That was… until now. Ever so slowly a strange emotion had begun to dominate the others that oftentimes left him confused and anxious, in a constant fight to push the unfamiliar feelings away. Something deep inside his soul was forcing him to face his innermost self, and the battle raging inside him that demanded to know the truth was screaming so loudly he could no longer ignore it.

                Absentmindedly Kenshin fiddled with a small plant, bringing his hand to his face to wipe away a small droplet of water that had suddenly dripped onto his cheek. So cold… He had spent many months living with Tomoe, plagued with a fear that she regretted her agreement to flee with him. He knew close to nothing about her, a nagging thought that quietly became more insistent. Yet, he had often observed her interest in discussing his way of life, realizing it was only these conversations where she seemed strangely eager, a certain flicker in the darkness of her eyes. He often forgot his suspicions of her as he frequently began to search his inner-self, encouraged by her quiet words, his subconscious welcoming the intrusion as it too sought answers. Nevertheless, her curiosity did not go unnoticed, especially when she would catch him constantly off-guard with a question or comment he could never readily respond to with his true heart.

Inwardly he laughed bitterly at himself, realizing he was finding answers he had never consciously sought, thankful for her presence when he knew he was not worthy of it. It was now he discovered most of the quiet between them had been born from his own silence as he searched his soul for truth - the truth of his actions, the truth in their results, the truth lying in his own struggling heart.

                As always, in the secret quiet of their surroundings, Tomoe observed him. She herself had seen something she could never fathom - the gentleness of Battousai. The name shook her to the very core, stirring memories she often shut out to avoid losing her direction and merely killing herself instead of leading Battousai to his much deserved execution… Yet, things were changing inside her. Feelings began to contradict each other and her long-believed truth he was to blame slowly began to crumble as her blood cooled and the hatred she had carried for so long began to shift to a new victim - herself.  This Himura Kenshin… Is he really Battousai? The insane demon who wields a sword dripping with red death? The man who brings the bloody rain…? This gentle man with blue eyes that glitter like the ocean during a full moon…? I sought your death… for selfish reasons… and I have brought myself to a level of hatred I have never seen you hold…

                She realized then, following the haggard features of his young face with her careful eyes, he was a boy who had been thrown into the world of adulthood, coming of age years before what was expected. True, she had believed him to look as innocent as a child in sleep, but he was trained beyond that kind of innocence. He was a boy who had seen and done much, now a man who could never hope to find the lost childhood hidden and falling deeper into the past.

Seeing his flaws, silently observing him day after day, hate transformed into respect, anger changed to understanding. He was like any human, any man, and there was still so much to learn… Slowly kneeling beside him, she led her finger over a soft leaflet, gazing at the beaded moisture gathered and dripping from her finger before absently tracing a kanji character into the wet earth.


                A long silence followed the word, so softly spoken it seemed as though the slight breeze in the air had been the one to whisper her name before carefully taking flight to hide in the gray sky the instant it had been uttered. Her eyes now drawn to the man beside her, she gasped silently as he looked toward her. Kenshin's blue eyes widened slightly, met with the intense dark almond of her own, finding something dancing in her eyes he could not name - had never seen before. His mouth parting in surprise, he merely stared as she brought a hand to his cheek, running a delicate finger along the softness of his face, careful to avoid touching the scar engraved on his left cheek.  Yet, she saw beyond the wound running its red path from high on his cheekbone to just slightly below his lip, Kenshin's reflex to pull his face away numbed by shock.  She had never touched him before…

                Again he saw the glitter in her eyes, his gaze drawn inquisitively to the motion of her lips as they fought against…

A smile…?

Unsure of himself, he looked away, staring into the mirror-like reflection of the water at his feet. It was then that he saw what had caused such a reaction from her. Along his cheek was a line of brown earth, the initial marking smudged by her own addition of wet earth. Laughter… That was what he had seen in her eyes. He could understand completely - how awkward, unusual, to see Battousai, feared and deadly, with mud unintentionally smudged onto his cheek. Tomoe's own amusement had shocked him, yet that tiny telltale reaction assured him she did not fear him, maybe even trusted him. Even when the dark voice in his mind scolded him for the thought, he could not deny the relief he felt. The tension of so many months began to melt away as Kenshin shared in the surprised delight sparkling in Tomoe's eyes. Her warmth spread through him, relaxing his long-abused, wary-stiffened body. Yet, this urged him to tread the waters he had for so long avoided - almost feared to disturb…

                With a shy smirk born from uncertainty and determination, Kenshin secretly led his fingers through some of the thick mud, turning to Tomoe and spreading a line of wet, brown earth over her pale skin. She looked up at him, startled, the thick substance cold and sticky on her cheek.  This was something she had not expected from Kenshin…

For a moment he felt he had disrespected her, watching closely for her reaction. He had chosen to take hold of the seeming opportunity offering to reveal more about her, this mysterious woman…  But even more to indulge in a playfulness he had left untouched for so many years. The sensations were more than welcomed by his starved soul, his curiosity becoming a dominant driving force over his actions.

Patiently, silently, he waited. What will she do? Something about the way she held herself told him to keep on his guard. He could not ignore the fact he found no anger or irritation, just innocent surprise, shaping her delicate features.

                Her face deceptively sedate, Tomoe gracefully reached to a puddle to gather water to wash the mud from her pale cheek, Kenshin frowning with slight embarrassment as he looked away, believing himself to have made a grave mistake in reading the situation. What was I expecting? For such a beautiful and refined woman to 'play'? Will I ever have a chance of reading you correctly, my mysterious Tomoe…?

                "Gomen nasai… You had mud on your cheek… I had not realized there was some on my hand before I reached to wipe it away," she apologized sincerely, her voice once again much too submissive for Kenshin's liking. He kept his gaze averted, knowing she kept her head bowed and out of his sight, his face emotionless as he then looked to the sky. 'My'…? I have no right to think of you that way…

                "Sumanu… I should not have put any on your-"

                Kenshin faltered in his words as he happened to look toward Tomoe, her hand sporting a generous amount of mud as she captured his gaze.

                "Cheek? Yes, it's very disrespectful," Tomoe teased softly, her voice surprisingly steady, her outward appearance calm. He could only stare as she spread some of the wet earth over his nose, the rest she used to paint his chest. Kenshin gulped inwardly, chills sparking in his body as Tomoe's warm fingertips slid over his cold, mud-covered flesh. His outward expression displayed nothing but surprise, shock, but inside he became resolute. He decided then and there, to pull from her the small smile dancing, teasing, at the edges of her rosy lips, he would join in this battle. He couldn't deny the strange pleasure he found in his inability to suppress the grin he felt surfacing from deep inside himself.

                "I'm sorry… I apologized," Kenshin replied, the beginnings of a grin adorning his face as he gathered a small pile of muddy earth onto his fingertips. Tomoe watched Kenshin attentively as she attempted to gather her wits, finding trouble in keeping her emotionless mask in place. Such an unusual yet welcomed delight had run through her when she had first seen the mud on his cheek. Like catching Battousai off-guard. Swift reality struck, reminding her it was simply a man she stayed with. A man who felt and hurt as any other… She had been shocked by his response, unprepared for his gentle yet mischievous intentions, but his childlike actions eased her uncertainty and the last of her sorrows were being remedied by his promise of light-hearted play. The deepest part of her that had seen happiness - that had longed for the carefree days of summer and games - was beginning to surface.

Her expression remained steady, hiding the last of her uncertainty, yet she was breathless staring into this new world that lay before her, a new world that promised a new life. I could never imagine… playing in the mud with you, Akira-san… I believed it was impossible for my wounds to heal, yet these same wounds you have inflicted, Himura,, are being mended by your touch… I still believe I should avenge the unjust death of my first love, but even in dreams, my fiancé looks upon you expressionless with a fallen blossom in his hand… No anger, no sadness… I feel as though he is urging me to stay with you, to accept you as the man you are, to share in the comfort I have begun to feel when I am with you… Though it makes me wonder… What happened that night, the night everything ended and began…?

                Tomoe cried out in surprise as she was pulled from her musings by the feel of cold, wet mud being spread thickly over her cheeks. She stared at Kenshin who was now grinning quite openly. It eased her heart to see the truth in his smile, and conscious thought left her in that delicate moment.

                "I never would have thought… you could act like such a…"

Tomoe watched him carefully with wide, glittering eyes, the deep blue of his own darkening with some unknown emotion as he moved towards her and cupped her cheek in his hand, slowly closing the gap between them. Never before had he felt such acceptance, such caring from a single person, and it drew him to her. Did she realize she was smiling now, willingly showing her hidden self to him? A part of him was awakening, and it made his fingers tingle, wanting to touch this almost surreal being that brought humanity to the darkest part of his soul.

The warmth of his hand tingled against her skin, bidding her unable to move, unable to understand his sudden change in mood.

                "Such a…"

Tomoe's heart began to quicken as he leaned closer, mere inches separating his lips from hers. A chill ran up her spine as a devilish golden flicker flashed in his eyes, trapping her in his gaze. Unbeknownst to Tomoe, Kenshin's savage, hungry shadow titled Hitokiri Battousai had been challenged by her mysterious ways, her gentleness. She was the only person he had ever been unable to read, never capable to know in the slightest what she was thinking, feeling… and it drove that deepest part of him into a submission and want. However, Kenshin recognized the intense feelings and tamped down on them, controlling the part of him that wished to scream 'I want you'… Because I care for you…

Through all they had experienced, all the quiet, she had taken hold of his heart. He was surprised by what he found in her these last few moments, few weeks, but he would never trade it for anything in the world. For everything she had taught him, for everything she had forced him to face within himself - he wanted to thank her. He wanted her to know he understood the quiet, subtle joys of life, of her company… He wanted to tell her what he had seen in her. His opportunity was laid bare and he would not let it slip away.

                "Such a tomboy," he finally finished. Tomoe felt her jaw go lax, trying to control it from dropping too visibly in utter surprise as Kenshin carefully placed a muddied finger against her nose, grinning lightly, contentedly, the faint golden flicker fading from his eyes. Battousai…? Yet the thought was instantly forgotten and the present remained - and for the first time she let herself react.

The simple way he had so confidently titled her apparent playfulness struck a chord in her pride, and with little thought she gathered a handful of mud into her palm and plopped it onto Kenshin's head. He blinked, the mischievous flicker gone, suddenly aware of his closeness to her. He continued to smile in spite of himself seeing the slightly confused pout on Tomoe's face, grinning apologetically as he then distanced himself once again.

                "Tomboy?" she echoed curiously, her voice betraying subtle bemusement. Kenshin grinned good-humoredly as he watched her rise to her feet, wondering how to explain himself. He inhaled deeply as he readied himself to clarify his reasoning.

                "You're so beautiful, so refined… however, woman like that are very unlikely to participate in a mud fight the way you have, " he explained with a light chuckle. "You hold a definite pride about you, and over the last few weeks I've noticed a certain fire in your eyes, low, but there. I was willing to risk any punishment if I could learn something about you."

Tomoe quickly looked away from him, Kenshin's expression softening in its seriousness. His outward appearance did not hint even slightly the shock he felt from his own words, his heart beating faster as he swiftly searched for what was to blame for his loose tongue. No… I truly feel this way, even if I had made up my mind never to care, never to ask… I lied to myself believing it was unimportant… I want to know everything about you… and why I have come to feel this way… I want to protect you… though first I must find a balance in my soul even if it means answering the questions I have been running from… I believe, even if I'm unworthy of it, that if you're by my side… I can…

Tomoe felt her cheeks begin to burn from the outward compliment, though guilt swiftly took its place. Will I ever be able to tell you the truth…? You trust me, I can see that now… I've only been shaming myself clinging to this idea of handing you over to the soldiers of the Shogunate… Though the thought brought her pain, it was immediately disrupted as a generous amount of mud landed with a heavy splat against her shoulder. Instantly her eyes were on Kenshin, the young man grinning as he too rose to his feet. Struggling slightly in her constricting kimono, Tomoe kneeled down to gather more mud for a counterattack - but Kenshin was quicker.

                Tomoe gave a slight cry, still kneeling on the wet ground as Kenshin gathered more of the wet earth in his hand and got behind her, placing the cold, wet sludge over her neck. Immediately Tomoe was on her feet, two handfuls of mud in each fist, turning and rushing toward Kenshin who in turn began to retreat. Yet, as he shot a glance over his shoulder he was suddenly unable to move, ensnared by the enchantment of her smile. Tomoe, however, was unaware he would stop so abruptly, slipping in the mud as she tried unsuccessfully to get a new foothold. Kenshin reflexively tried to catch her as they collided, but he too lost his footing and the two of them went sliding helplessly over the slick ground before falling most ungracefully to the wet, hard earth.

                Kenshin could not, would not, control the laughter that overcame him, a sound that was strangely pleasing as it escaped its confines to harmonize with Tomoe's quiet laughter as she looked up at Kenshin's mud-covered face. Tomoe smiled, gazing into his eyes, lying over Kenshin's chest as he kept his arms tight around her, clutching her to him so he would take the impact of the fall. His back gave a slight twinge of objection from the recent abuse, but Kenshin could hear nothing except Tomoe's angelic laughter, see nothing but her curved, rosy lips. The infinite depths of his blue eyes were caught in the storm of emotion that glittered like dark topaz in Tomoe's gaze. The quiet, the closeness, Kenshin's lips were tingling, yearning, trembling, and without conscious thought he raised his hand to carefully cradle her head, urging Tomoe's lips to his as he raised his head.

                Tomoe did not pull away, gasping softly the moment their lips touched, her mind flooded with wordless emotion that tangled in her senses and made her lightheaded. The warmth, the softness - Kenshin's mind blanked completely, aware of only Tomoe and the heat that streamed through him. Carefully threading his fingers through her silky, raven strands, he gently held her closer to him, needing a deeper caress, deeper contact. Tomoe granted him what he silently asked for, unable to breath until suddenly Kenshin broke the kiss, his breathing just noticeably unsteady as he gazed into her eyes. Yet, the uncertainty in his azure orbs led her to question her own willingness of such intimacy, and her cheeks flushed. Carefully averting her gaze, Tomoe moved off of him, quietly kneeling beside him.

                "Tomoe… Sumanu," Kenshin stammered under his breath. His heart beat restlessly as he struggled to gain control of his rational mind, but he realized then his nervousness, fears, and doubts were all being overshadowed by one dominate emotion - his love for her. I refuse to deny my feelings any longer… if I can again see that look in your eyes…

Kenshin wondered mildly how he had mustered the courage to instigate such intimacy, but in answer his subconscious reminded him how naturally the action had taken place, how soft and warm her lips had been against his own. Not only had he found confidence observing first-hand as Tomoe's cold, rigid attitude toward him slowly melted away, but he found a gentleness in himself he had never known - and his breath caught in his throat knowing for the first time he felt content, felt love. Her happiness… He wished to protect it… To protect the light that had come into her eyes. He sat up slowly, mud caked to the back of his clothes and hair, his head drooping as realization hit him. Does she… could she love me? I, the man who brings the bloody rain…? What a foolish thought when I know I am unworthy of such warmth… Yet, how…?

                "How can you do this to me…?"

                Tomoe turned to Kenshin, wondering dimly if she had imagined his almost inaudible question. She caught his gaze, finding self-denial and yearning mixed into a glittering tidal wave of emotion that shimmered in his eyes before he quickly turned his head away.

Now was the time. She had to face her heart, answer his question… The true question she knew he could never voice, that she herself could never speak. Gracefully she positioned herself to face him fully, using the gentle urgings of her fingertips to lift his face to meet her gaze. A sharp pain struck her heart when she saw the almost hopeless expression of his features. She decided then, knowing there was no turning back, that she must answer him.

                Kenshin watched her for only moments before he let out a deep sigh, his eyes closing, unable to face the woman always in his dreams, in his thoughts. Her soft voice, silken hands… I am not worthy of you… my hands will always be dripping with blood… He shivered undetectably as Tomoe gently stroked his hair away from his face, placing feather-light kisses on his closed lids. He let out another sigh, opening his eyes as she sat back, once again finding himself lost in her gentle smile - the sweet, tender smile that reflected in the deep almond of her eyes. She took hold of his hands, and when he gazed down at her delicate fingers his entire body relaxed. There was no blood, only the brown earth of the field they worked side by side. Yet, there was something else as well. Ever so faintly he could see her shivering, could feel the slight tremors, looking up at her again worriedly.

                "Sumanu! We should get cleaned up and dried off, you're shivering!" Kenshin stated worriedly as he hurriedly got to his feet, helping Tomoe in turn.

                "I'm fine," Tomoe assured him, but Kenshin ignored her claim as he searched for something to warm her with. They were covered in mud, wet and dripping, and he didn't want to dirty the home Tomoe had spent the morning cleaning.

                "And the firewood is soaked through… shikashi…"

                Tomoe looked at Kenshin, baffled, especially as his expression suddenly changed. There was something dancing in his eyes she did not recognize. Again she tried to tell him she was fine, but he was already intent on tending to her comfort and did not hear her.

                "I know the perfect place… I'll be right back." Without any further explanation, Tomoe watched as Kenshin hurried toward the bathhouse, mud falling intermittently from his earth-caked clothes. She watched him curiously as he disappeared inside, returning moments later with two robes in his hand. He gave her his smile as he reached for her hand. Still watching him with questioning eyes, she placed her hand in his own.

                "Follow me."

                Tomoe knew she could do no more than simply follow his lead. Carefully Kenshin guided her away from their home, deeper into the adjoining forest nearby. Tomoe quickly gathered her wits about her, shook from her stupor feeling her hand clutched so protectively in Kenshin's.

                "Where are we going?" she asked quietly. Kenshin turned his head to smile at her, making sure she was able to follow easily even in her awkward, binding kimono.

                "When we first came here, while you were fixing up the house to make it livable, I searched the area for anything suspicious. I got… sidetracked… and wandered further than I'd intended, and that's when I came upon it," Kenshin explained. Tomoe loved the new sound in his voice, the excitement, but it baffled her even further.

                "Came upon what?" she asked, wondering if he would tell her. He seemed to enjoy the secret he held. As she suspected, he flashed her another warm grin and continued on without explanation.

                "You'll see," he replied simply. Tomoe tugged on his hand, though the only response she received was his smile. Yet, the wind was beginning to pick up, and the cold blew over her face, distracting her from her thoughts feeling the uncomfortable chill piercing her fingers. This only brought her to worry about Kenshin's comfort, though she giggled softly to herself remembering a layer of mud protected his partially exposed chest.

                Kenshin breathed deep of the inviting scents of the forest through which he lead Tomoe, so clean and fresh, the scent of rain still heavy in the air. Another deep breath and Tomoe's sweet scent filled his nostrils. Haku baiko… He gripped her hand more firmly in his own as they walked, moments later pulled from his intoxicated state as he spied the mists rising from the ground just a few feet in the distance beyond the next grouping of trees.

                Tomoe wondered dimly how much further he was planning to take them, though she was glad to watch the beautiful scenery as she followed close behind Kenshin. The trees glistened with moisture, the atmosphere almost surreal in its perfection. Or perhaps it was her own happiness that changed her perception, safe in the hands of her love. Again another pang of guilt made her flinch, and Kenshin threw her a curious glance over his shoulder as he felt the slight clenching of her hand. She merely smiled, trying to catch up with his hurried pace, wondering if he was aware how he had begun to speed up the closer they got to their destination. She smiled inwardly, captivated by his enthusiasm.

                "Are we close?" Tomoe inquired, a slight shiver causing her body to shake as a swift breeze came and went. Then she saw it, the mist rising in a thin cloud from the earth, just barely noticeable. Kenshin turned around then, grinning, as Tomoe realized where it was he had brought them.

                "A hot spring?" she mused. "You did wander a bit far, didn't you?"

                "Aa. Shikashi, I believe this is the best solution to our, well, situation," he replied. He seemed to realize belatedly that bringing her here meant they would be alone… together… unclothed… Yet, when he nervously looked to Tomoe she reassured him with a smile.

                "This is perfect. I haven't enjoyed a natural hot spring for a long time, though I wish I had my…" Tomoe became silent, biting her tongue so she wouldn't sound ungrateful he had been so considerate to bring her here at all. Yet Kenshin nodded, already knowing, moving apart the robes he held to reveal the scented oils and soaps she was so fond of. He hadn't needed her to tell him her delight - it was obvious in her eyes, along with her relief. Tomoe then shifted her gaze to the hot spring, Kenshin doing the same. It looked more than welcoming as the cold wind lashed out at their faces once again, but neither moved.

                Long moments passed as they walked slowly towards the tempting liquid heat. A tree nearby offered a limb perfect to hang their clothes. Kenshin then turned to Tomoe, his expression soft.

                "I'll hang our clothes over here, if you'd like to get in first," Kenshin offered. Relief washed over Tomoe. Though she expected a situation of this nature might occur, her modesty overrode her calmness. She had never been naked in the presence of a man before. Her relationship with Akira had not gone beyond gentle kisses. She smiled, flushing inwardly, wondering if Kenshin was as nervous as she felt. Upon watching him, however, she could trace no hints of it. She wondered dimly if he had ever been to a whorehouse, though he was so young. Oftentimes soldiers were given the opportunity when they became restless. She quickly decided it was very much unlike him, realizing then that she may have been the one to accept his first kiss…

                Tomoe nodded, slipping off her sandals and removing her tabi. The ground was cold, especially against her instep, but she ignored it as she reached to untie her obi. It was a task she had learned to deal with on her own, however it was still difficult by herself. Kenshin seemed to notice this, and was almost instantly behind her, carefully pushing her hands away so he could assist her.

                "Arigatou," she whispered as he completed the task, holding the obi as she turned to face him, but he merely nodded and turned his back to her.

                "I promise I won't look," he whispered, surprised by the sound of his voice. Tomoe smiled at his first demonstration of nervousness, though she could almost believe there was something deeper, more desperate hidden within the undertone. She parted her kimono, the robe underneath, and let the clothes slip to the ground before she carefully, yet quickly, stepped into the heat of the spring. Unable to prevent it, she let out a contented sigh, the hot liquid caressing her body and soothing her muscles as she sank into it, the almost unbearable heat causing her to clench her teeth momentarily as her body adjusted.

The soft rippling of the water signaled to Kenshin that it was safe to turn around. His eyes followed the ground, having heard the clothing drop there, gathering the pile and secretly breathing in the scent lingering on the fabric as he hung it over the limb next to the clean robes he had brought. He let his fingers slide over the soft, light blue fabric of her kimono before turning toward the spring.

                His breath caught in his throat the moment he dared to turn around. Tomoe's back was to him, her shoulders visible above the water as she struggled to gather her hair on top of her head. He watched, hypnotized, as her delicate, slender fingers struggled to tie her hair into a bun, loose strands dangling temptingly around her neck.  The steam of the water danced enchantingly over her bare skin in the glow of the storm-cloud hidden sun. He gulped. As she moved, the roundness of the front of her chest peeked out.

                Once satisfied her hair would stay up for the time needed, Tomoe dropped lower into the water and turned to face Kenshin. As her eyes met his, he coughed, seeking some excuse to look away. She smiled in fond amusement, the seconds she had seen his face awe-stricken and wide-eyed a picture she would lock into her memory. Seeing him so nervous, a certain courage - playfulness - took hold of her.

                "Are you coming?" she asked quietly, her tone almost teasing were it not for the provocative undertone. She lowered herself more into the steaming water, her shoulders submerged, watching Kenshin through her lashes as her body relaxed in the large spring.

                He nodded, nonchalantly loosening the tie of his hakama, staring at the ground. He could still feel her eyes on him, and though it sent a certain thrill through his body, he also found something else he hadn't given much thought to - modesty. Suddenly he tightened the knot, and Tomoe watched him curiously. He reached down and picked up the items he had brought, walking to the edge of the spring and setting them down. Tomoe smiled at him, the water rippling against her slim shoulders, her skin slick and shining.

                Again Kenshin's breath left him, and he turned his attention toward organizing the soaps.

                "Didn't want to forget these," he explained before turning back to his original task. He heard Tomoe move in the water and glanced over his shoulder, finding Tomoe's back to him once more.

                "You turned away for me, so I shall do the same for you," Tomoe stated, answering his unvoiced question. Kenshin laughed inwardly at himself as he felt a great wave of relief splash over him. Hurriedly he untied the knot of his hakama, removing his tabi as he stepped out of the pile of fabric. He hung it over the tree branch and couldn't help himself from glancing back at Tomoe to see if she still had her back turned. He laughed at himself again as he found her merely trying to wipe the mud from her cheeks. Why am I so nervous? I would have heard her if she had turned around… Again the mocking laugh resounded in his head and silently he screamed at it to go away - point made, point taken.

He frowned. She was calm as could be, and he should feel the same. It was just a simple bath. He had taken many baths before… though not with women. He had no reason to be embarrassed by his body… though he was still undergoing puberty.

                He ignored the thought. In his mind, he was a man. Through all the fighting, all the assassinations, he realized he had been denied even the right of the natural passage of time. His body was trained, sculpted, his long, auburn hair its own silent rebellion.

                Quickly he removed his gi and turned around, ready to make a mad dash into the privacy of the water, but he was frozen as beautiful, dancing brown eyes met his. Kenshin swallowed hard as he felt a flush come to his cheeks, though he mustered all his courage and pushed it away, striding toward the spring and slipping in. Tomoe was an arm's length away from him and she giggled as he flashed her a frustrated, disapproving look.

                "You promised," he mumbled. Tomoe smiled softly, Kenshin's slight frown once again overpowered by his recently dominant grin.

                "You have nothing to be ashamed of," Tomoe reassured him, much too casually. Kenshin coughed, turning away slightly as he sought a comfortable place to lounge - anything to distract himself from the blunt comment. He felt around the water for a few moments before finding a satisfactory seat, leaning against the edge of the spring as he watched Tomoe. It seemed she had given up trying to get all the mud off, a few smudges remaining on her cheeks, and to his delight the slight smudge on the tip of her nose. Yet, he was entranced with her delicate beauty, observing silently as she gathered water into her cupped hands, watching as the sparkling liquid escaped through her fingers.

                "Would you let me wash your hair?"

                Kenshin was silent, staring. Broken from his quiet observations, he stared down at the water, unaware of his grip on the rock just below him. For a long moment, he was unable to speak a word. Such a simple question, why was it so hard to answer? No one had ever offered anything like that to him. Ever. It seemed so strange, someone wanting to do something for him. Though, Tomoe had done so much for him, numerous things he knew he could never repay… Tomoe…

After a few moments of his silence, Tomoe looked up questioningly, worried she had crossed a line he was unwilling to tolerate.

                "Gomen nasai, demo-"

                "Tomoe, I… would love it if you did," he interrupted quietly. He hadn't liked the way her expression changed when he had been late to answer - sorrowful as if he had rejected her - and he knew this simple act would aid in the demolition of the wall that had been for so long standing between them. He could prove his trust… his affections.

                Tomoe seemed surprised by his answer, but more than willing to comply. She moved toward the edge of the spring where Kenshin had placed her soaps, but then stopped and turned towards him. Kenshin had been attempting to clean the mud off of his face and looked up curiously. There was a small smile playing on her lips, the look on her face almost mischievous. He watched her, waiting, wondering.

                "Not until you clean the mud off my neck you so graciously supplied earlier," Tomoe stated. Kenshin grinned, splashing a bit more water on his face, dripping from his bangs as he moved towards her.


Tomoe watched him as he first went past her, but he merely took hold of the soap he had brought, returning to her moments later. His face looked gentle, caring, holding something she couldn't name that sent warmth rippling through her already heated body. He held her gaze as he moved toward her, placing a careful hand on her smooth shoulder, urging her to turn so her back was to him.

Tomoe's shoulder tingled under the feel of his hand on her skin, her stomach tumbling from his closeness. Unknown to her, Kenshin inhaled deeply, readying himself to touch her. Such beauty, such softness, directly under his fingertips… Carefully he lathered his hand, pressing it against the base of her neck before stroking over it repeatedly to remove the dirt. Contentment washed over him, the simple act soothing, careful not to miss a single spot as he continued the cleansing that had deepened into a light massage. Her skin was softer than he had imagined, intrigued as she moved into his touch, leaning back. Unbeknownst to him, Tomoe's nervousness was slowly fading, frustrated his touch was so light.

                "How am I to get clean if you treat me like a porcelain doll?" Tomoe voiced softly. Kenshin smiled, giving her a firmer touch. True enough, the added pressure quickly rid her skin of the wet earth, and with the initial task done he bid his hands to trail along her jugular and forward just enough to play against her collar bone before retreating. He lightly splashed some water onto her, removing the thin layer of foam.

                Tomoe's eyes were closed, indulging in his gentle touch. The warmth of his hand against her bare skin was enough to make her dizzy, the rough feel as he carefully cleaned her shoulders sending a pleasant shiver over her body, nestling low in her belly. The thin mists continued to rise and dance around them, Kenshin placing both his hands on Tomoe's shoulders, simply rubbing. He gazed at the pale skin, skin he had been given the permission to touch - his lips yearning to sample the flesh.

                A sudden pulse between his legs made him start, and he backed up. The part of himself he had never given much attention to - never really thought about - gave a decisive twitch. Unsure of the sensation, he stood helpless gaping wide-eyed at Tomoe's back. She seemed to notice his sudden actions and turned toward him, a confused expression on her face. He simply smiled, closing his eyes, trying to control the strange feelings beginning to overwhelm him.

                Kenshin started suddenly, sensing Tomoe encircling her arms around him. She did not, however, make contact with his body as he stared intently at the water's surface, leaving him confused until he felt her tugging on the tie in his hair. Quickly she freed the auburn strands, letting them cascade over their master's shoulders. She gave a content sigh, smiling slightly as she saw Kenshin tense. True enough, it was then that Kenshin realized how close she was - a private, tempting part of her just below the water's surface slightly obscured from view. Firm and peaked… Kenshin suddenly felt a yearning to wrap Tomoe in his embrace, taste every inch of her pearled flesh. That yearning rippled in a wave of sensation through his body, the center once again pitting at his groin.

                "Tomoe…" he breathed. He looked up as she moved away from him, realizing he didn't want her apart from him. Not now… He watched breathlessly as she scanned the various items on the shore, careful to keep below the waterline as she finally chose a small bottle. She smiled appreciatively as she poured some of the contents onto her hand and turned back to Kenshin.

                "Turn around," she whispered, and Kenshin followed her instructions, first dipping under the water to wet his hair through. Once he had thrown his hair back after shaking it out a little, Tomoe set to her task. She carefully guided her fingers through the tangled strands, massaging his scalp, met with an extraordinary surprise finding his hair soft to the touch. In the back of her mind she wondered if he had inherited it from his mother, but the quiet thought came and went with the breeze.

Tomoe smiled to herself feeling Kenshin relax, enjoying her ministrations. Her fingertips carefully massaged him, continuing to thread through his hair, the sensations so new and so intimate he had to take a deep breath to calm himself.

He let out a contented sigh, an undisguised plea for her to continue. In answer she gathered his crimson mane into her hands and lightly rubbed, thickening the foam, making sure the soap reached every strand. The slight tugging tickled Kenshin's scalp, and he kept his eyes closed, simply indulging in the pampering she bestowed upon him. Tomoe then let it fall into the water, suds gathered around them as she continued to cleanse the top of his head. The insistent massage cleaned the mud free from his hair, and Tomoe moved back after a few long moments.

                "Alright, now you can rinse," Tomoe instructed. Kenshin's head bobbed in an acknowledging nod and he disappeared under the water, splashing a bit as he came back up. Tomoe giggled softly as he turned towards her, his face hidden under a waterfall of dark crimson. Timidly reaching to his face, she moved his bangs apart like a curtain and was met with his grinning face.

                "There're too many suds over here now," Kenshin observed, slipping his arm around her naked waist and pulling her to the opposite edge from where he had first been situated. He then released her and dipped his head under once more, shaking out the excess water as he resurfaced, shiny droplets sliding from each strand. Tomoe smiled, the strange feeling low in her stomach intensified by the contact of his encircling arm, and silently she wished… she wished he had never let go.

                Kenshin watched her curiously. He wondered if the yearning he saw in her eyes - the slight movement of her hand, as if she was trying to reach out to him - was more than a figment of his imagination. She had looked away before he could be sure, but a part of him demanded to know the answer. He moved closer to her, stroking the underside of her chin until she looked up at him, and then he knew. Her eyes now completely void of detachment, indifference, he glimpsed another part of her deepest self. He shivered at what he found there, moving without thought as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into his strong embrace.

                Tomoe gasped softly, but simply went limp in his arms, overcome with emotion. She could no longer deny all that she felt for him… She wanted to heal his pain, to see his smile, to feel his warmth… Silent tears began to stream down her cheeks and she wrapped her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his hair, holding onto him as if she was afraid he might disappear at any moment.


                He whispered her name almost sadly, sensing the slight shake of her body as she fought back tears - tears of relief, tears of acceptance, tears of happiness… And quietly Kenshin murmured to her, wishing nothing more than to comfort her… this delicate woman who had been through so much with him…

                "Shh… Tomoe… I'm here… I will protect you… Please," he begged softly. "Please don't cry…" It hurts me more than you'll ever know… He was reminded of the first few months they were together, how she had cried every night… At the time he felt helpless, as if it was not his problem to worry about, and so he ignored it. Why? Why didn't I try to comfort you…? Yet, the answer came swift and fierce - He couldn't. Not as he was then… but he had changed so much since being with her… His own numb approach to life was no longer an option… No longer… No longer would he choose to ignore her pain. He realized now that it was even impossible… He would not let her suffer alone…

                "I'm sorry…" her soft voice broke through his thoughts, "Just being with you… the warmth… I thought… I thought it was…"

                I thought it was impossible to love again…

                Kenshin leaned down then, silencing her broken words with a kiss. His body shook, painfully aware of her softness pressed so tightly against him, but willing himself to concentrate solely on healing her pain, wishing nothing more than to stop her tears… To watch her doubts disappear with them.

                "Tomoe… You know who I am, and still you have accepted me… You have given me a chance to live… Through you I have learned of the small comforts that make life livable, that make it worth protecting… You helped me realize how misguided my own ideals were… That I should create life instead of destroying it… I owe you my life, my humanity…" he whispered, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, loosening his hold so she could lean away from him.

                Wiping the tears from her eyes, Tomoe looked at his face. She watched silently as his lips formed unspoken words…

I'm so unworthy, but I… I…

Gentle hands resting softly against his cheeks, she delicately urged him to raise his face. Hesitantly he met her gaze, uncertainty dominant in his sapphire orbs. She smiled, eyes glistening with unshed tears, and placed her lips upon his own.

                Wide eyes slowly softened as he sank willingly into her kiss. So few words, but her actions… so resolute, so trusting… assured him of all she felt. He broke the kiss to gaze into her lovingly worried eyes… and smiled. A private smile he could give only to her, holding the same meaning as the one she had given to him.  And softly, pulling her closer, he whispered his devotion into her ear…

                "Koishii… I don't want this to be a ruse… Please… Be my wife."


Translations (if you need them and how I use them):

Gomen nasai = formal 'I'm sorry'

Sumanu = Kenshin's* 'I'm sorry' (form of sumanai = unpardonable; inexcusable; regrettable; sorry)**

Haku baiko = 'white plums' (Tomoe's perfume)

Aa = Kenshin's 'yes' (also works as = oh; I say; like that)

Shikashi = Kenshin's 'however' (also works as = but; still; and yet; nevertheless)

Tabi = the thick socks they wear

Arigatou = semi-informal 'thank you'

Hakama = Kenshin's pants

Gi = Kenshin's shirt

Demo = another form of 'but' (also works as = even; so; as well; still; though; if; yet)

Koishii = intimate pet name 'beloved' (also works as = dear; darling)

*The reason I say 'Kenshin's' is because it is a way of speaking either suited for men or that he himself uses it more than any other way.

**Translation taken from Kenkyusha's New School Japanese-English dictionary.


Author's Notes: Alright, I have poured my heart and soul into this, along with my sweat and blood. I just had to help people see Tomoe for who she truly is, to help them understand her. I wanted to help everyone understand their relationship as well, and I hope I have succeeded. There is still a lot to come, but with school starting and training for the recent promotion at my job, please expect updates every 1 or 2 weeks, ok? If you read above, as well, you know I don't believe in short chapters, and that really is why it takes me a while, along with the fact that I'm a perfectionist! ^_~;; I really want some feedback, so if you have a moment, I'd appreciate a review. Next chapter will be a lemon, but if you can't or don't want to read it please be patient for chapter 3. Thank you so much, and have a wonderful life!