Howdy people!! Yes I am back.let me tell you a quick little story.Imagine this if you will..Chibi Hatokirei is seen sitting at her computer table after a long day of work. Finally she does what she's been meaning to do and check's her e-mail after about a month ::snicker:: 254 messages for me.hmmm let me see.. porn. delete. porn. delete.oh wow lots of reviews.click and read.sugoui!! People are so nice!!! Porn.delete.enlarge your WHAT!! First of wrong gender.delete. and so on and so on until I get deeper into the e-mails.. and realize oh crap.I haven't update my story in a while.as noticed by such wonderful readers.some of whom threaten to.. how should I say this.tear out my innards.use them to tie me to the bed and force me to write.::sweatdrop:: I really feel the love. So for the sake of me and my innards.I think I'll write some more. Oh and I know it's not really much but I really want to dedicate this chapter to Q-chan aka Akiko who was the first one to e-mail me a suggestion.which I planned on using. As always I don't own Kenshin. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Quietly she turned away from him. "Kenshin, answer me something quickly." He glanced at her curiously. "Kenshin, tell me what my name is?"

He stood shocked. He opened and closed his mouth several times, it was only when she sighed impatiently that he answered.

"Kaoru-dono, are you ok?"

She turned slowly around. "You haven't called me that in a couple of days." She raised her hand to brush away his bangs from his purple eyes. Then turned and went to her room closing her door.

Kenshin watched her leave in stunned silence. 'What the hell was going on here?' He pondered. To his best, yet still a little fuzzy recollection he didn't remember making her upset. He shrugged it off and just placed it under the category of the mysteries of women, and went to go to the kitchen; maybe breakfast was what Kaoru needed to be a little more.ano.Kaoru.

Treading softly toward the kitchen, he came across the eating area. Puzzled he picked up the cup of tea that had been there for quite some time due to the temperature and stained appearance on the rim of the cup where some of the tea had evaporated. For some unknown reason he found himself staring at the tea with a strange fascination as images to fuzzy to fully recognize danced through his mind. A raven-haired beauty calling his name, and playfully teasing his senses with seductive kisses. A wave of emotion over came him along with a wave of pain. It felt like forgotten memories were trying to burst through all at once, creating a blurred vision and one hell of a headache. Slowly he brought his hand up to his head trying to ease the pain by massaging his temple. It did nothing however, the pain continued to grow and he felt for the first time in a long time like he was blacking out. The cup he was holding fell to the floor and shattered. And another image flew into his mind, that of a music box that Kaoru cherished being broken on the wall.

Kenshin groaned in pain, as his world faded to black.

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"Idiot." A voice in the distance growled.

Slowly Kenshin opened his eyes and glanced around with awe. He was in the middle of a field surrounded by a cool misty fog that turned the world a dull gray. In fact the only color in this world was him and.

His eyes widened as a pair of golden eyes leered at him. Quickly Rurouni rose to his feet feeling for the sakabato he always had at his side, only to find air.

Battousai glanced at him in amusement. When he spoke his voice was taunting and held half malice and half mockery. "I would expect that reaction from me, not you Rurouni."

Kenshin stood with his mouth open in amazement. He was looking at a perfect replica of himself as Battousai. 'This can't be happening,' he thought. 'This is a dream, this is just a stupid dream.' He kept repeating.

Meanwhile Battousai kept staring at him. "What amazes me Rurouni" he said with malice. "Is the fact that she even cares about you." He began to walk around Kenshin looking him up and down like a cat to a mouse. "Look at you, you can barely talk to yourself much less to her." He said as he came around full circle to look at the other's purple eyes.

He gazed back finally finding his voice. "What are you talking about?"

Battousai stared in contempt. "What the hell do you think I'm talking about, I am talking about Kaoru."

"Kaoru has nothing to do with you, so shut up and stay away from her."

"She has everything to do with me, baka."

Purple met amber as both men tensed, reading each other's intentions. Finally the Rurouni just sighed.

"Look," he spoke biting off each word, making sure the other knew the seriousness behind it, "I don't know what is going on here, but I'm not going to let you hurt her. You have nothing to do with my life now, you are nothing but the past."

Battousai narrowed his eyes. "Yes I am part of the past, a past you can't seem to forgive, and until you do, I will always be here watching you blunder through life like a lifeless idiotic doll!" he yelled, stepping closer to Rurouni who held his ground, purple eyes blazing in anger. "And you don't need to worry about me being the one to hurt her, you do that just fine without me!"

Kenshin felt the anger welling up inside him as his other half accused him of possibly harming Kaoru. The mists around both men swelled as battle aura's pushed the air like gusts of wind. And both men let out battle cries as they charged one another in a lethal combat of fists.

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Kaoru was in her room hugging her blanket in a childlike fashion for comfort, when she heard the cup break. Curiosity nagged at her, until she finally left the confines of her protective barrier to see what was going on. She quietly crept out of her door, and went toward the kitchen, trying desperately to see what had happened without being noticed by Kenshin. The last thing she wanted right now was to talk with him and hear the honorific to her name again. Unfortunatly fate wasn't as kind to her as she would have liked it to be. Worry ebbed through every vein in her body as she saw the very person she least wanted to see, fall to the floor in a heap of what looked like pain.

Quickly she ran over to him, screaming both his name and Yahiko's. She cushioned his head on her lap and felt his forehead, surprised to feel no temperature. Yahiko burst through the door with his hair flying all over the place and gazed in horror at the site of Kenshin unconscious on the floor. Without being told he ran through the door to bring Megumi.

Kaoru began trying to shake him, calling his name repeatedly but to no avail. In frustration she tried everything from gently slapping the sides of his checks to hitting the floor by his head. 'Kami,' she prayed, her eyes closed. 'Make this stop. Make him be ok. I don't care who he is, as long as he is alive.' And as she prayed she began to cry, her tears running unchecked down her face and falling unto Kenshin's cheek.

So deep was she in her prayers that she didn't even feel the feather light brush against her cheek. It was only when she heard the gentle voice of her Rurouni calling her name that she opened her eyes, and saw the beautiful eyes of Kenshin kneeling down beside her staring at her in concern.

"Kenshin!" she cried throwing herself into his arms and hugging him crying more out of relief than anything else.

He held her gently stroking her hair and whispered. "Shhhh..It's ok" repeatedly. Slowly her sobbing slowed and she rose from him looking at him with concern.

"Kenshin, are you ok?"

"Mm.I'm fine." He said with a smile.

"What happened.? I was so worried.I didn't know what to think.I" she couldn't finish her assault of questions as he silenced her with a soft finger to her lips.

"I had a talk with myself." Was all he said before Megumi and Yahiko came running through the door.

"Kenshin!" the older woman panted. "What happened, the only thing I got from Yahiko was that you collapsed!"

"Ah..maa maa gomen ne Megumi-san. I didn't mean to worry you.both." He added looking to Yahiko.

Megumi straightened herself and put on her bossy professional look. "None the less you did collapse, I insist of giving you an examination!"

"Hai Megumi-san, that's fine with me, but really I am fine now." He said with a smile.

The female doctor peered close at the man on the floor. Aside from a few water stains on his shirt that she suspected where from Kaoru's tears, she saw nothing unusual about him, except for.his eyes.

"Kenshin can I talk with you for a moment in private?" She asked.

He nodded and stood to leave, giving Kaoru a reassuring smile as he followed the doctor into the other room. Yahiko and Kaoru gave each other curious looks but kept where they were in most unusual fashion.

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"Has she noticed yet.umm" Megumi started

"I don't think so, she didn't have much time to look when you two came running through that door."

She sighed. "So what are you going to do then?"

"Tell her of course."

Megumi stared at the handsome man before her. Her inner emotion were in turmoil, a part of her loved this man, possibly ever since she had seen him sitting in that run down old shack with rooster head. It seemed so long ago that her heart ached whenever he gave smiles to the child like Kaoru. Smiles that were never the same with anyone else; even her. At first it was a game for her, to win this man over from a girl with little to offer, and who couldn't even cook. But she soon realized that it wasn't a game she could ever win. Slowly and almost unwillingly she raised a hand to his scarred cheek only to have him catch it before she could make contact with his skin.

"Gomen Megumi-san. I don't want to hurt you."

She stared at him wide-eyed. "How long did you know."

His smile was soft. "Not long, I am a little dense sometimes."

She laughed at him. "Sometimes?"

His smile faded. "Megumi-dono, I think there is someone else for you, someone close to you, to all of us."

She choked down a tear. Yes there was someone for her, someone who had begun replacing her dreams of Kenshin. She smiled ironically, "Who would have thought rooster head would become the man of my dreams ne?"

Kenshin chuckled. "Well as long as he is not the man of MY dreams, it's ok."

Megumi stared at him, and then slowly began to laugh harder and harder until tears came down her checks. Tears of both happiness and the small sadness that her game was over, Megumi the woman had lost over Kaoru the child. And yet little Kaoru had given her so much, so to her it wasn't much of a loss.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Kaoru and Yahiko sat still outside; waiting for Megumi to finish whatever she was talking about with Kenshin. Kaoru began to wring her hands together in anticipation when she gave a quick yelp of pain. She glanced at her palm to see a deep gash.

Yahiko came over to see what was wrong. "What did you do Kaoru?" He said carefully taking her hand and looking it over to inspect.

"It must have happened when I was trying to get Kenshin to wake up." She explained.

"How were you trying to wake him up?" He asked raising an eyebrow, "Bleed on him?"

"Oh just shut up and get me some water and the bandages by the sink." She countered.

Grumbling something about 'being to dense to feel pain until now' Yahiko went into the kitchen and emerged with some water and bandages. He was just about to help her wrap them around her palm when Megumi and Kenshin emerged from the room. They all looked at each other and Megumi motioned for Yahiko to move aside so she could inspect Kaoru's hand. Kaoru kept her eyes to the floor as the older woman turned her hand around to inspect for any other cuts.

"Well I can certainly see how you cut yourself baka," she said motioning to the floor that was still littered with shards. "You should at least learn to take care of yourself a little better."

Kaoru's head snapped up. "I was a little distracted by other things Megumi-san."

Before Megumi could counter attack she caught Kenshin's eye. Quietly she stood up. "Fine then, you take care of it yourself." She turned to Yahiko. "You need to come with me."

He turned to look at Kenshin, then back at Kaoru. "Me? Why?"

"Yahiko I need your help at the clinic." Just as he was about to argue, she laughed, and fox ears popped out of her head. "Young man, was it not you that burst into my office and made me leave all of the people there to run around town?"

"Yah.but"

"No but's Yahiko, I'm going to have a line of sick people in the clinic and I need you help."

Grumbling yet again, Yahiko left with Megumi for a fun filled day of whining kids and groaning adults.

Kenshin went over to Kaoru, gently took her injured hand and began wrapping it in the bandages. She struggled to get a look at his face, however he kept it carefully hidden in the shadows of his bangs.

Finally after he was finished he stood holding out his hand for her good one and helped her to her feet.

"Stay here." Was all he said to her as he went to his room.

For a couple of minutes Kaoru stood in silence wondering what he was up to, when he finally came out with a package in his hands. He quietly gave it to her and went about cleaning the glass around her.

Almost as if in a stupor she just stared at the package. "What is it Kenshin?"

He stopped his cleaning and smiled at her. "Something I promised."

Her curiosity could take no more as she tore into the package, and gasped in delight as she held her newly fixed music box.

"Kenshin, when did you.?"

"Last night." He said as he went up to her.

Kaoru could only stare at him, as his hands slowly went up hers and took the music box from her and set it on the table.

"Kenshin?"

"Want to go for a walk Kaoru?" He smiled turning his back toward her and heading toward the door.

Kaoru had no choice but to follow. She watched Kenshin's back as they went outside. He had still not turned to her so she allowed her thoughts to wander. As they walked she thought about what they had shared the past couple of days. The warmth she had felt from the other side of him, the side he, and everyone else had feared, yet had showed her nothing but kindness and compassion. With the Rurouni back, it seemed like she was losing part of that warmth again. Though that thought hurt her deeply, she knew that as long as he was still there, smiling at her, she might be able to live without it.

So deep was she in thought, that she almost ran into him when he had stopped.

She glanced around and saw that he had leaded her to the place where he had said goodbye, so long ago. At that time it had been night, now it was daylight and instead of the fireflies, there was a gentle breeze drifting through the leaves. In fear she looked up to him, however his back was still towards her.

"Gomen." He quietly said.

"Masaka." Sadness and horror swirled through her in a blur. He was going to leave again? "Kenshin?" she whispered reaching up to him, slowly she saw him turn to her.

"You remember this place as being one of pain." He began reaching for her outstretched hand. "I don't want you to think of it as that anymore." He pulled her close. In confusion she held onto him, half afraid that if she let go, he would disappear.

"I can't tell you how much I hurt when I left you," he whispered in her hair, "but I know, that pain was worse for you. And I want to let you know." gently his hand grasped her chin and tilted her head upward to meet his eyes. "That if you will allow me, I will stay with you for all of time." He carefully wiped away the single tear that fell from her eye.

"I also want you to know, that when I was unconscious, I was in a strange place. I actually got to talk to myself." He shushed her before she could ask any questions.

"Both Rurouni and Battousai fought. I suppose you can say we knocked some sense into each other. For a long time I have been afraid to get close to anyone else again. I was afraid that I would hurt them like I had Tomoe. It took me a beating from my old self to realize what I was doing." His hands gently caressed her hair as he continued. "I realized that I was the one hurting you by denying my feelings, though you openly shared yours."

He came closer to her pushing her body up against his. Very slowly he lowered his head towards hers. "Kaoru, I knew all along, but I was to afraid to admit that I did, so I pushed it all away and tried to believe that I wasn't in love with you." His hand caressed her cheek. "I am a fool." He left a small kiss on her cheek, and place one hand on the back of her neck, drawing her closer to him.

Kaoru smiled in happiness as his lips pressed down on hers in the most tender of any of the kisses he had ever given her.

Slowly he drew away only far enough to where he could see her whole face. His eyes caught hers and she was able to see all of the emotion flashing through his eyes. She looked closer. His eyes where purple flecked with amber outline.

"Kenshin?"

"We both agreed." Was his answer to her unspoken question. "Though I am still not proud of the past, I can not change it, or who I am. I can only look toward the future." He smiled down at her, a true smile. "Kaoru, the future is something I can look forward to as long as you are in it." He drew her in for another kiss.

"I love you Kaoru."

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Kenshin and Kaoru walked hand in hand down the road leading toward the dojo. Both wore smiles.

"Ne Kenshin?"

"Hmm Kaoru?"

"Do you suppose this would have ever happened without that incense lady?"

He smiled at her. "I don't know, maybe in time, but then again.I just don't know."

Kaoru stopped mid-stride and gasped in disbelief.

"What is it?" Kenshin asked

She pointed over to the stand in the corner. Kenshin choked in disbelief. "Speak of the devil!"

Quickly both of them ran over to it searching before they got there for the woman that started all of this. However the person at the counter was not the old woman, but a younger one that was sitting on a chair cleaning bottles.

"Where is the old woman that sold incense here?" Kaoru asked.

A girl that couldn't have been more than 15 stood and wiped her hands on her apron. "Konnichiwa! My name is Akiko, how can I help you?"

"The woman," Kenshin began trying to keep a flustered Kaoru down. "There was an old woman that ran this stand about a week ago.where is she."

The girl's face saddened. "My grandmother is the one who used to run this. She passed away three days ago. I am now in charge of her business."

Kaoru looked at the girl with sadness. "I am sorry to hear of your loss." she began.

The child smiled sadness still evident in her face. "Where you customers of hers? She would be pleased to know that you came, I will tell her when I visit her grave."

"Hai." Kenshin said. "And tell her, thank you."

"For the bottles or what?" She questioned.

"She will know." Kaoru interjected grabbing Kenshin's hand.

"Hai, I'll tell her that you gave your thanks." The girl said wiping her tears away. "I'm sure she'd want me to say your welcome." Her face brightened. "Oh since your such good customers would you like a free stick of incense?"

Both Kenshin and Kaoru held up their hands and slowly backed away from the stall with looks of mock fear on their faces.

"Iie!" they both said in unison.

"That is..Umm.we need to be leaving." Kenshin began.

"Yah.I uhh.have dinner to prepare." Kaoru finished Quickly they both left, promising to stop by and visit Akiko later. Both unaware of what the future may hold, but both knowing they had tried their last stick of incense.

FIN

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Ok minna the end. How did you like my little story? Sorry the fight wasn't as big as what I had hoped it to be and I didn't get to put Saitoh in the story. I had a great time working on this, now hopefully I can get to work on Kaoru's Mission. Hope everyone enjoyed. Please R&R! (