Rurouni Kenshin: "Peace"

Rating: G (amazing for me, I know!)

Summary: He wakes like this, sometimes, in the quiet mornings.

Thanks to everyone who made this one possible. ;)


He wakes like this, sometimes. Just before dawn, the world a little brighter, but not by much. Through the shoji, everything is tinted white, from the heavy beams of the ceiling to the haze in his eyes. It is peaceful. It is quiet.

He checks for his sword, still resting within its sheath to the side of the bed. All pieces of it are still firmly in place, from the decorative tie wound around the base to the thick braiding on the hilt.

The longer he stares at it, the clearer the grains in the fiber become.

The array lays just beyond his hair, a rusty river spilled out to the side with dull copper streaks along its flow. He doesn't tie it up in any typical fashion, and today it has decided to weave along the tatami, no doubt some of it stuck fast.

For a while, he watches it, the curving red that emanates from his head and terminates just under his sword's hilt.

Kenshin closes his eyes and listens. The room is composed of conspicuous silence, and there is no breeze yet, it seems. His heart beats in his throat, for no reason other than to tell him he's alive.

He takes a breath, and it is chill. The scent on the air is crisp and clean; he could be anywhere. The mountains, perhaps.

All is still. All is "fine."

Yet he still feels the scraping of the braided hilt against his palm.

Cold air drifts by his face, cooling his cheek and leaving an outline of warmth in the long shape of "Me," from eye to jaw.

Under his hair, it is warm. On his scar, it is warm. And beneath the shared blankets, it is searing.

Kenshin sighs and turns to his other side. A white shoulder greets him, and a head of black hair that is turned away.

But it is all right. She is always cold at night. She won't mind.

Quietly, he shifts over and lies next to her frame, his chin curving around her shoulder. His marred skin lays hidden against the floor, the feeling of it lost in the complex weave of her hair and the comforter's creases. She smells like the newest soap she's come home with, some sort of flowery mix, mingled with a little bit of dust in her hair.

A dusty flower. A woman close to the earth. He can accept this.

Perhaps even . . .

Kenshin lifts his hand and draws one finger lazily down the arm exposed to the elements, tracing a snaking river of heat into her skin. It depresses easily, soft, and graceful, like he will never be.

He will never understand how they can be so strong.

Her breath hitches, a slightly longer, deeper intake of the cold. For a moment, he wonders what he smells like to her; if it is anything of interest, a scent that equates to safety, or kindness. If it is something that she looks forward to discovering anew every morning.

As she shifts away from him, his hand finishes tracing down her arm, and under the covers he entwines his fingers with hers.

Her breathing evens out, and in a moment, her captured hand flexes, searching. She brushes her fingertips over his knuckles curiously, and then closes her hand as well.

"Good morning," she says. The sound dies into the futon.

A smile curls into the back of her neck. "Sorry."

She huffs, the little noise she makes when she's trying to deny something and not to smile at the same time.

He molds against her side, pulling her into him with the hand he had trapped.

Maybe like this . . . just a little bit of warmth could bleed into her, and she wouldn't have to feel so alone.

She flips over to face him, the warmth against his chest dissipating like pain. The woman gives him a look with glimmering eyes, bright even in the sheltered glow of the shoji.

This was Kaoru, with the soft, dark hair draping over her shoulder, and a devious smile reserved only for him.

She pulls his lost hand against her chest, tightly clasped by hers. "You silly," she says, petting down the back of his head until she reaches his ponytail. "Why would I ever be sad to see you?"

She draws his hair over his shoulder, easily disentangling it from the mats. Kenshin stares, his heart caught in his throat, as she pulls it between them and playfully curls the very end over her fingers, time and again, like there is not a weight to the red at all.

"Did I ever tell you that I like your hair?" she asks, in the soft way only a voice in morning can. "It's so ... alive."

His eyes flicker back and forth, his hand twitches once beneath hers. She shakes her head and brings the back of his hand to her lips, planting a kiss over the veins and knuckles, over the nicks and scars.

Warm. . . . So warm, the buzz of the wounded skin and memories of swords is slowly being replaced with the tingle of her caress.

She was . . . She is not Tomoe. She is ... something else entirely.

Kaoru's kiss moves up his arm, until she gives up, impatient, and draws him forward by the neck.

She is a different love for a different life. It shouldn't be so strange, but it is.

Kaoru kisses his forehead once, and then, lifting his face by cupping his cheeks in her hands, she places her tender lips upon the marr across his cheek.

Why does it still surprise him so that there is something for him here that is not despair?

The scar does not bleed; it does not hurt. The only thing he can feel is her, and the light she has implanted in his soul.

She withdraws, and he wraps his strong arms around her back. He clasps his wrists tightly, and hides his face against her skin. Like this, he can hear only one heartbeat. "I love you. Kaoru."

"Stay with me," she whispers, her arms enfolding him, her fingers in his hair. "Because I love you back."

Is this what forgiveness is?

He wakes like this, sometimes: weeping in the arms of peace.