Disclaimer: If I've said it once, then I've said it once… wait, that doesn't sound right. Okay, I don't own any of them. Only the idea. Sort of.

Notes: Yes, I realize I offended all sorts of people with my last fic. I promise, this one is better. In fact, there is not a word of bashing in here that is not completely normal for the characters. I may write them a bit out of character, but I really will try to keep it neat.

This is something I wrote not too long ago, and I feel guilty because it is, in a way, similar to my 'Young Again' fic. What with the sci-fi/supernatural edge to it. Anyhoo, this first chapter is totally and one hundred percent sap. You Kaoru/Kenshin lovers out there may like this. It takes place after they got married, as I am terrible at writing that kind of romance. There are no spoilers to speak, although there are minor references. And while overall, I will have this fic as a PG-13, I do consider one chapter as R, and it will be clearly marked. No lemon here, folks. I have not the confidence to post anything like that.

Now that we're done with these horribly long notes, I hope you enjoy. Honest. I do.

Path of the Sword

Prologue: Bliss

            The morning was cool, that snap of approaching snow in the air. Darkness lightened into twilight with the rising of the pale sun. The dojo was still quiet, the time too early even for Kenshin to be up and about.

            That morning, Kenshin was looking forward to some time with his wife. Yahiko had spent the night in town and was going straight to the Akabeko for the morning rush. He would not be returning until sometime that afternoon, which left Kaoru and Kenshin alone in the dojo.

            The cold was always a thing Kenshin avoided, even now, almost fourteen years after that bitter event that had created this aversion. He was aware of the growing acceptance in his soul, but the pain, he knew, would never completely disappear. It faded, was even forgotten for short periods, but it was not gone.

            Now, he had found a woman who accepted him for who he was. Not only that, she loved him in spite of it all. It was one of the many things that had so endeared her to him. He loved everything about her, even the temper that frequently got him into trouble. Kaoru was, without a doubt, the most important thing in his life.

            Shifting under the blankets of the large futon he shared with his wife, Kenshin mentally groused at the shivers that swept up his spine. He rolled over, intent on gathering Kaoru into his arms and cuddling in her warmth. His hand reached, but all he hit was empty air--very cold, empty air. Kenshin blinked, turning over to stare at that barren spot on the futon.

            "Kaoru?" he said blankly. She was never awake before him--rarely, in any case. But he was alone in the room.

            Glancing around, he spotted the woman's kimono, still hung neatly by the wall. He frowned, cautiously crawling out of the safety of the blankets. Wincing as the cold air hit his skin, he quickly snatched up a heavy over-yukata*, threw it on over his yukata, and made his way to the door. It was open, left that way by Kaoru, no doubt.

            The yard was empty. Occasionally, Kenshin woke to find Kaoru outside, in the middle of the night, just staring up at the stars or standing in a warm rain. Sometimes he left her alone, while at other times he joined her or coaxed her back to bed. This time, though, she was nowhere to be seen.

            "Kaoru?" he called again, forgetting his geta and stepping onto the frozen ground in bare feet. The frost-covered grass burned his feet, but he ignored it, following the soft sounds of someone coughing. He stopped outside the backhouse, hesitating at the door and listening.

            Kenshin had been mistaken in thinking that someone was coughing. Certainly, it sounded like a cough, but there was more. It was the awful sound of retching, sick and unhappy.

            Worried, Kenshin called out to his wife once again, asking if she was okay, even as he knew she was not. Throwing up was a sure sign of someone not being okay. Dense though Kenshin may have been, he knew that Kaoru was sick.

            The gagging stopped abruptly, and he smiled anxiously. He could picture Kaoru, wiping her mouth and face and trying to make herself presentable. She hated for him to see her as weak. Kenshin made a mental to tell her more often how strong she was.

            "I'm fine, Kenshin," her weak, wavering voice belied her words. Kenshin sighed and shook his head. Not yet willing to intrude on her, he placed one hand on the door and tilted his head forward to rest against it.

            "Koishii, you have to stop this," he said gently. "You have been saying 'fine' for a week now."

            He waited, forehead against the back of his hand, listening to the sounds of Kaoru's labored breathing through the door. After several minutes of quiet, he tried once more.

            "Kaoru?"

            Still no response. Fisting his hand in frustration, he glared at the door for all he was worth. The door was not impressed.

            "Kaoru, I want you to go see Gensai-sensei today," he said firmly. He kept speaking before she could voice a protest. "Even if you are fine. Please..."

            The door slid open abruptly, and he faltered forward, unprepared for the sudden lack of support. Kaoru must have moved while he was speaking. She gazed at him uncertainly, caught in his anxious, wide-eyed stare. A tiny smirk crept across her face when she saw that she had caught him off balance, and she reached out to steady him.

            "If I'm fine, then why should I bother with seeing a doctor?" she asked him, her voice low with quiet defiance. "You're the one who can barely stay on his feet."

            Kenshin sighed, frowning worriedly.

            "If you're fine, then you can let me feel silly afterwards for worrying," he gripped her arm, steering her toward the house. "Please, Kaoru-koishii?" he looked at her, violet eyes beseeching. It was a look Kaoru had never been able to resist.

            "Oh, all right!" she burst out in exasperation. "Just stop staring at me like that."

            Her husband smiled triumphantly. It was not often that he won in these domestic arguments. If he tried to count the occasions since he and Kaoru had finally gotten married, he would have been able to do so on one hand.

^_^

*I apologize for that horrible wording. If anyone knows the word for that little over-coat like thing they put on over their night clothes, I would love to know it.

^_^

            Kaoru stared at Megumi as if the woman had suddenly sprouted flowers from her head and said that she was running away with Dr. Gensai. Well, maybe not that second one. In either case, she was shocked. Her mind was utterly blank but for one thing.

            "Pregnant?!"

            Megumi nodded happily. Kaoru put a hand to her forehead, suddenly dizzy with the emotions sweeping through her.

            "Pregnant..." she whispered again.

            "Kaoru, I'm so happy for you!" Megumi said with a broad smile. Her face grew sly. "Although it's not all that unexpected. Ken-san has always been the fast one."

            Kaoru turned beet red, and she glared at Megumi murderously.

            "Megumi-san!"

            "We'll have to prepare," Megumi continued, seemingly oblivious to Kaoru's embarrassment. "First off, you have to tell Ken-san. I have some tea I can give you that will help with the morning sickness. Then, you'll have to prepare for when you start to grow-"

            "Grow?" Kaoru murmured anxiously.

            "Ohohohohohoho!"

            Kaoru was getting nervous. Megumi continued to smirk with the knowledge she had that Kaoru did not.

            "Giving birth is a miracle, Kaoru-chan," she said confidently. "You carry around a child in your stomach for nine months, endure the emotional ups and downs, the aches of carrying another twenty or thirty pounds around, strange cravings, getting fat, and then the agony of giving birth. It's wonderful!"

            If Megumi thought she was being encouraging with this little lecture, Kaoru was not getting it. With each word the older woman spoke, Kaoru felt herself grow paler. She swallowed with some difficulty, feeling the remainders of that morning's nausea.

            "Um... Megumi-san?" she squeaked.

            Megumi looked at her, not having expected the girl to interrupt. She smiled at the girl's wild-eyed stare.

            "Don't worry, Kaoru-chan," she tittered. "You'll survive."

            Kaoru thought she might faint.

^_^

            Kaoru stared at the unconscious man in her arms. She had not fainted, and she certainly had not expected Kenshin to, but here he was, out cold. Of course, she had just walked into the room and announced that she was pregnant without prelude. Fortunately for Kenshin, she had been standing near enough to catch him before he found himself going to the doctor with a concussion from the fall.

            "Kenshin no baka," Kaoru muttered affectionately, kissing the man's temple lightly. He mumbled and shifted against her, his eyelids fluttering as he swiftly regained his senses. He stiffened.

            "K-Kaoru?" he stuttered, his eyes flying open as he realized the situation.

            "Kenshin no baka," she said again. Doubt filled her, and she bit her lip, watching her fingers stroke through Kenshin's red hair. "Say something?"

            Kenshin could sense her uncertainty just as sure as if it was his own, and he could not help but chuckle in response to her worry. She tensed, her fingers clenching in his hair automatically.

            "Kenshin?"

            "Kaoru... no..." he lifted his head from her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her gently. "Baka."

            She blinked. "Oro?"

            He laughed and shook his head, burying his face in her hair.

            "You call me stupid, but you must be the stupid one if you think I'm not happy," he murmured lovingly. "This is wonderful."

            Kaoru blinked again, this time to clear the tears from her eyes. She smiled and hugged her husband tightly.

            "I don't deserve you," she declared.

            "It is I who do not deserve you, Kaoru-koishii," Kenshin replied, pressing a light kiss to her lips. "I love you so much. Don't ever think that I would be upset over such a miracle."

            Smiling through her tears, Kaoru shook her head.

            "I'm glad," she said sincerely. Her smile faded to be replaced with an expression of blatant anxiety. Kenshin frowned.

            "Kaoru?"

            "I'm scared, too," she whispered. "Megumi-san... she told me everything involved in having a child, and... and I don't know if I can do it."

            Kaoru let out a soft, startled 'eep' when she found herself swept up into Kenshin's arms, lifted from the ground entirely. He pinned her with a look that took her breath away, reproachful and loving at the same time.

            "You, Kamiya Kaoru, are the strongest woman I have ever known," he declared solemnly. "You will do just fine."

            He carried her to their room and gently laid her on the futon, sitting down beside her. She looked up at him, still too pale and frightened. Kenshin sighed and pressed a comforting kiss to her forehead.

            "If I could take your place, I would, Koishii," he said softly. "I would take the burden gladly. But I know you will be perfect. And I will help you through all of it."

            Kaoru sniffled and reached up to touch her husband's face. His eyes widened when she took her fingers away and turned them to show him the shiny wetness. Then, she caught his face, drawing it down to her own, and kissed him deeply.

            "Ai shiteru, Kenshin," she whispered against his lips, loving the dampness of his cheeks against hers. He rarely cried in front of her, and when she knew they were not tears of pain, she felt a warmth flood through her.

            When they parted, Kenshin moved lower, kissing her jaw, her shoulder, her neck, and slid down to kiss her stomach. Even through the many layers of her kimono, Kaoru felt the light caress, and she shivered. When she looked at Kenshin, she could not help but smile. His face was a confusion of love, uncertainty, and awe. He lowered himself beside her, curling up on the futon and resting his head on her chest. Gazing at her stomach, he cautiously laid his hand over her belly, not to grow for another few months. Kaoru's heartbeat steady and strong beneath his ear, he relaxed, content to gaze at his fingers splayed over her stomach. They laid together like that, deep into the night.

End notes: A bit sappy. Oh well, it's nice to have something cute for a change. Review please. And I put a great deal of work into this one, so constructive criticism is appreciated.