Now I lay me down to sleep…

 Battousai opened his eyes and let a rare smile cross his usually stern face as he watched her. He knew this girl had stolen Himura Kenshin's heart, his whole being, and one day he planned to do something about it, no matter what feeble protests that the rurouni side of him attempted to make. He loved everything about her, from the way her hair fell in dark black waves on her curves to the way her sapphire eyes burned with passion when she talked about something dear to her.

  Even the way she was becoming friendlier with the other men who were coming around the dojo as of late? The way they came around, asking HIM for permission to court her, like he was an older brother or a father to her instead of one of them, a love struck, simpering idiot?

  Battousai cursed, his smile vanishing as his inner doubt ruined the moment. Her sleeping countenance grew pained, as if she could feel his anger and agony.

   It was true, however. Many more young men had been becoming bold enough to challenge the Battousai and come to the dojo, bearing gifts of flowers and candy and promises of ridiculous things. After one of the more poetic suitors had come to try his luck, Kaoru had surprised Kenshin by blushing at his proclamation that he would give her the moon and stars.

  She had used to scoff at that claim when it was made, used to confide to him that the sun and the moon and the stars were no one's to give. How she used to sigh that she would just rather have their love, and their company. Of course, the rurouni, as stupid as he was, refused to take the bait.

  Battousai cursed that missed opportunity.

Oh, hush. You know not what you ask of me.

  I know that you missed another opening, you stupid rurouni. Your slow pace is going to be the death of you, do you know that? Surely she is tired of being alone.

   She is not the only one who is tired, Battousai. This is hard for me as well.

Then why fight it? She isn't going to wait forever, no matter what you may think. I might have agreed with you earlier, for she is a stubborn girl, but with all these other men…why?

  Because…because I want her to be happy.

   Coward.

I pray the Lord my soul to keep…

"Kenshin?" a soft voice sleepily muttered, taking him by surprise. Tired, but still impossibly bright blue eyes met his amber ones. "What are you doing in here? Isn't it late?"

  Battousai frowned in thought. She was not recoiling from him; not screeching for the rurouni to come out of whatever he was in…was she not awake?

  "I'm awake, Kenshin," she answered as if she could read his thoughts. "I'm just not scared of you. The hitokori is just a part of you as the rurouni, ne? And how can I have the rurouni as a friend if not with Battousai as well?" She held his amber gaze without flinching or looking away.

  "A friend?" he murmured, golden eyes dying at her words. "Am I your friend, Kaoru?"

"Of course, silly."

And if I die before I wake…

  You idiot.

What do you know? I am happy to be her friend.

 Yes, you just might be given the honor of taking care of her children, you lucky, lucky man.

The rurouni remained silent, pain lashing through him at that particular thought.

I want her to be happy. He finally said.

  Yes, but happy with me. Me, Himura Kenshin. I want her to be happy with me.

Their inner struggle was cut off as soon as he felt soft lips on his scarred cheek.

"Silly man, even when you are Battousai you know nothing, don't you," she giggled, stroking his crimson locks with her pale, slim hands, tugging on his long bangs. "Do you, Kenshin?"

  He could only stare at her in bewilderment, relishing the feel of her wondrously soft hands.

"Do you think that even if there are young men lined up at my door that I would abandon you? Idiot, even if there were handsome men lined up at my door from here to China, I would never forsake my love for you. So there is no need to be jealous, no need to be worried."

  "I…I wasn't jealous," he tried to protest, but she silenced him with a light laugh that flooded his senses and captured his heart. Gone was the cute little tanuki girl he adored, and in her place was a beautiful goddess…one that was painfully unattainable. But also one that he would defy all reason to have. "And I…I wasn't…" he trailed off as she moved to caress his face, her warm hand as soft as a mother's touch, and as calming as one. "…Worried…"

Well, almost…a mother's touches weren't ones that made you yearn to seize and do unthinkable things to her. It was supposed to cool you, not to make you as hot as a dragon's flame. It wasn't one that was meant to make you fall in love with her even more than he ever thought possible.

  "Kaoru…" he struggled to get out. What was this? Was he tongue-tied over a woman?

Ah, but not just any woman. An angel that holds our salvation.

 "I, Kamiya Kaoru, love you, Himura Kenshin, not the rurouni, not Battousai, I love you," she whispered gently, her breath fanning over his heated face. She chuckled once more as she viewed his blush. Did anyone else know that the Battousai could blush? And what a deep red…

  "…Ore…" he visibly gulped and tried to make out an intelligent sentence. "Kaoru…"

Her hands left his face and he immediately craved her warmth. Nearly crying out in withdrawal, he looked to see her sad smile, the tears in her beautiful ocean eyes.

  "But it was nice to feel loved, to feel adored and wanted and desired. I presume you love me; after all, I can see some kind of love in your eyes, but I tire of this silent affection, you know. A girl likes to be promised the sun and the moon, even if she knows they are impossible to give."

 "But you're wrong, Kaoru," he smiled, his grin growing wider at her confusion. "I can give you the sun, the moon, the stars, the Earth. Because you have already given them to me."

  She pouted prettily and asked, "I have? Why wasn't I aware of this?"

"When you laugh, I see the stars in your eyes. When you smile, I see the sun in your smile. When you cry, I can see the moon in your tears before you smile and chase it away with the sun," he whispered, taking her hand in his. "I see the moon in you, Kaoru, when you are calm and serene, but I prefer you alive and energetic, with the stars and the sun."

  "And what of the Earth?" she asked, looking up into his eyes, which now held speckles of amethyst as well as the amber, like paint swirling and melting together. It was the most dazzling combination of both that she had ever seen.

  Kenshin broke out into a wolfish grin that made her giggle with delight. "The Earth?"

"The Earth," she confirmed, giggling. She drew closer, tilting her head up to look at him from beneath her long lashes, pouting her pink lips and mentally cheering when his eyes widened.

    "T-t-the Earth…" he faltered, gulping nervously as she was now only a breath away from his face. "When…when you touch me, Kaoru…I feel as if I can conquer the world."

  She threw her head back and laughed, shoulders shaking with mirth as she held his hand. At his indignant huff, she squeezed their entwined hands in apology, catching her breath before looking him in the eyes. He huffed in annoyance, but couldn't resist the smile that was tugging at his lips. The sun in her laughter was contagious. 

  "You silly man, you. That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. I was just thinking about how Keisuke was reciting that when we would become joined on our wedding night, if I chose him, I would surely see stars," she laughed, cerulean eyes tearing up with her amusement.

 Kenshin could briefly remember when one suitor had left; Kaoru had excused herself and ran to her room. Moments later, he heard muffled laughter. So that's what he had said, had he? Why that no good, little…he should murder him…

  "Kaoru-dono, Sessha thinks that you would be happier with a person with a less stained soul, de gozzaru…"

I pray the Lord my soul to take…

IDIOT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!

The rurouni had taken the opening left by the Battousai while he was contemplating assassinations.

   Battousai's rants were interrupted with another soft kiss on his forehead.

"Stupid man," she sighed, stroking his bloodstained hands with her slim fingers. "Your soul is not stained. It is just weighed down with guilt that you will not let go of."

  He watched, spellbound, as she touched her nose to his, their lips mere centimeters away…

"Sou da ka?" he asked, transfixed on her twinkling eyes.

   "Uh, huh…but…I can tell you a secret…"

"And what is that?"

    "Guilt is lessened by happiness."

"Really…" her lips begged to be kissed, but he dared not move.

   "And I think I can make you happy."

"Sou da ka?"

   "Mm Hm…"

"Why is that?" Control…but she was so close

    "Because I love you."

"Oh? That makes me happy." So close…so close…

    "I thought it would… And, ah, Kenshin?"

"H-hai?"

    "Aren't you going to kiss me yet?"

That was all the encouragement he needed. With a playful growl, he lunged forward to the music of her shrieks of mirth to capture her lips with his.

  Much later, they sat on the futon together, breathless and exhausted after their last kiss. Tired, he yawned and stretched like a cat and laid down, taking an amused Kaoru down with him, nestling her head in the crook of his neck and tightening his arms around her possessively before closing his eyes and giving himself to sleep, the cool silk of her yukata like water against his heated skin.

 She regarded him lovingly, stroking his crimson hair out of his face and kissing him softly on the forehead before nestling against his warmth. Placing one more kiss on the golden column of his neck, she closed her eyes.

  "Your soul is safe with me because I love you, Kenshin," she quietly yawned before dozing off. "You don't have to be afraid…I'm…not going…anywhere…soon."

His eyes opened and he gazed at her with soft surprise before whispering, "I know."

  She really is the angel who holds our salvation…

There was once a man I knew who fought for what he thought he believed in, shedding the blood of others for his cause. His hands became so stained and his soul so weighed down with guilt that he thought he would never reach heaven…

  Until an angel he loved came and gave it to him.

author's note

   Just a bit of fluff that I had in my system. I never really liked Kaoru being seen as a helpless little girl who feared and was disgusted by Battousai. Personally, if I were her, I'd think he was pretty darn sexy, tee hee J Another note: expect the next chapter of Coward soon! I finished it-it's just on my other computer , so it'll be up like tomorrow or something. Ja!

          Liz

*June 29: I was looking over some old stories and flinched when I saw the awful paragraphing and stuff. Since I now know how to fix these things, I decided to re post. ^-^ thanks for reading!