~Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or Rurouni Kenshin characters. This story was not written for sale or profit.

This story is yaoi and due to fanfiction's new ruling regarding their ratings, I will keep my story PG-13. Once our web site is finished the complete uncut version will be posted there. I will post the address here at that time.

The pairing for this story is Aoshi x Soujiro, if you have a problem with the context or pairing in my story then you should not read it. Otherwise please be my guest and don't forget to review.

A Reason for Love

Chapter 1: The Seed of Love

~After Shishio's speech to the newly arrived members, Aoshi followed Soujiro down the dimly lit hall of Shishio's stronghold. Pacing himself to Soujiro's gait, he couldn't help but wonder why the young man had insisted that he come to Lord Shishio's hide out and be a part of his so called takeover of Japan.

He didn't have the slightest interest in what happened in the world. For Aoshi's world consisted of one fight, to prove that he was the strongest so that he could put flowers on the graves of his fallen comrades. So why had the young man been so persistent in bringing him to meet Shishio? Why did he have to make the trek into the mountain stronghold, when just giving him the information would have guaranteed the death of Battousai?

His first meeting, when the young man had made his offer to join their group, had intrigued him. Then when he arrived in Kyoto, he had followed him again offering him a part in Shishio's plan. When that had failed, he lured him to the stronghold with information. Yes, yes; the young man was indeed a complete mystery to Aoshi.

Mulling over these thoughts, he almost failed to notice when Soujiro started walking beside him.

"Shinomori-san, with all the members converging here, I am sorry to say that there isn't sufficient sleeping quarters. So I have taken the liberty of setting out a futon in my room for you to use, do you mind? " the young man cheerfully asked, flashing his perpetual smile at Aoshi.

"No" came a soft reply.

Soujiro then took control of the conversation, showing Aoshi where the rooms that he would need could be located in the stronghold, slowly gaining the lead to point to the different rooms. Aoshi quietly followed nodding his head at the appropriate time to indicate that he understood.

"The food here is very good and as it is close to the evening meal, I can get someone to bring the trays to my room. And it would be my pleasure to dine with you, Shinomori-san." The young man made his statement sound like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to say.

Taking a few more steps, Aoshi stopped, his eyes opened in surprise then slowly softened as he looked at the young man in front of him.

Immediately noticing that Aoshi had stopped walking, Soujiro complied while turning around fearful that he may have overstepped the boundary of being a good host but when he saw Aoshi's face his smile relaxed just the tiniest bit.

The change in Soujiro's smile was only for an instant, but it didn't go unnoticed by Aoshi who once again gave a nod of his head before moving forward indicating that Soujiro once again take the lead.

~While staying at Shishio's hide out, Aoshi's intent was to keep in the back ground as he had no desire to talk to anyone unless it was required or they had information as to where he could find Battousai.

When the remaining Owl had returned with Okina's challenge, Aoshi had been summoned. He was aware of the place and knew that he couldn't let this challenge pass without responding to it. Showing up at the appointed time, Aoshi had met the challenge and won the fight but he also lost more of his past.

On his trip back to Shishio's, Aoshi suppressed all his feelings, the good along with the bad, to keep things from spinning out of his control. He had held back in the fight with the old man because deep down, he knew that Okina would die before giving him any information. He had hoped that the old man would understand, but Okina had been stubborn and refused to divulge the information.

Entering the room that he was sharing with Soujiro, Aoshi felt a calming force over taking him. The young man had only spent the first night in the room before leaving to do errands for Shishio, but in that short time Soujiro's presence had affected Aoshi enough to make him want to return after his fight with Okina.

~ The party that had been on the ship that was to sail to Tokyo returned in the late afternoon, just in time for the evening meal. Soujiro inquired in the kitchen to see if Aoshi had been there for a tray, when he found that he had not appeared yet, he had two trays made up.

He slowly walked down the hall, carrying the stack of two food trays. Stopping outside the door, Soujiro balanced the trays on one hand, before opening the door. Quietly he slipped through the opening, closing the door behind him.

Soujiro boldly carried the food trays over to where Aoshi sat with his kodachi resting comfortably across his folded legs, his trench coat, which had been impeccably folded, lying next to him.

Setting the trays down, Soujiro patiently waited for Aoshi to set his kodachi aside so they could begin to eat.

They ate the complete meal in silence, both enjoying the small amount of comfort that the moment allowed them. When they were finished, Soujiro picked up the trays and set them outside the door to be picked up by the servants then returned to sit in front of Aoshi.

While Soujiro related all the day's events, including the sinking of Shishio's ship the night before, Aoshi noticed that Soujiro seemed to be more talkative that usual. He had grown use to the hum of Soujiro's constant monologue after each meal they shared but tonight there was something different about his voice that Aoshi found disturbing.

As he listened to the young man continue to talk, Aoshi took particular notice when he heard about the challenge that would be met by Battousai the next day.

~Feigning sleep, Aoshi relaxed his body as he lay on the futon. Tomorrow he would face Battousai and his victory would be his final act before joining Hannya, Shikijo, Beshimi, and Hyottoko. He would take the memory of their loyalty and devotion, along with the sacrifice of their lives to save his, to the grave with him.

Not caring, Aoshi had let Soujiro decide where he slept, but he found that sleeping in the same room as the young man had a very calming effect on him. At first he had attributed it to the paternal instinct that had arisen in him while Misao was in his care, but staying in the room when Soujiro was not there, he began to think that there might be another reason.

Aoshi had wondered if there was a dark secret that lay hidden behind the smile that was as much a part of his face as his nose. In another time and place, he would have tried to find out, but he was running out of time and so the young man's secret would be lost to him.

He slowly opened his eyes, turning to silently watch the sleeping young man. Aoshi was transfixed by the long dark eyelashes that gently lay against the bottom eyelid while the rest of the boy's face relaxed around the delicate bone structure that his constant smile masked.

His thoughts were interrupted by a moan, followed by a small cry from the young man, his face scrunching up, taking on the scared look of a small child.

As Aoshi watched, tears started to fall from the corner of the young man's eyes before he sat up, clutching his knees, softly whimpering. Pulling his arms up to protect his head, the boy's whimpers turned into soft cries.

Going with instinct, Aoshi abandoned his futon and quickly reached Soujiro, gathering him into his arms. At Aoshi's touch, Soujiro slowly relaxed into the comforting embrace, burying his face in Aoshi's chest. With both hands full of Aoshi's yukata, Soujiro pushed back far enough to look into his face. Although the tears had subsided, Soujiro's face was wet, giving him an intense look of terror.

"I. I killed." was all he could say before fresh tears started, blocking any more words.

"Shhh." Aoshi whispered, pulling him back into his embrace, feeling the young man's strong arms encircle his body.

"I. was strong. that made it right," Soujiro softly said, the words echoed in Aoshi's thoughts.

Aoshi's eyes widened, surprised at hearing the young man's words. He tightened his hold on Soujiro as if by squeezing him enough all the misery would dissipate.

Unable to say anything, Aoshi patiently sat holding him, gently rocking back and forth. Running his fingers lightly through the young man's hair and humming a tune that had always worked with Misao, Soujiro finally fell asleep.

Holding him in his arm's, Aoshi was suddenly aware of Soujiro's soft cheek pressed against his bare chest and the warm heat as he expelled each breath into his open yukata, causing emotions to stir in him that had long since been locked away.

He needed to get the young man back in his own futon so that he could return to his. But Soujiro was not cooperating. For as soon as Aoshi tried to let go, Soujiro instinctively held on tight, refusing to let go.

"Please, stay," Soujiro whispered, pressing his cheek tighter against Aoshi's chest.

Aoshi's response was to gently take the young man's arms from around his chest and lay him down. He then lay down beside him, finding that he needed the comfort as much as Soujiro did.

Feeling secure cradled in each others embrace, they slept peacefully for the remainder of the night.

In the early morning, Aoshi woke to the smell of his favorite tea. Looking around the empty room he noticed a tray of food sitting on the floor next to the futon with a note that said simply "Arigato"

~Sitting on the couch in Houji's study, Aoshi waited for Battousai, knowing that he would stop and take the challenge that Aoshi set before him. With great effort, he pushed aside the feelings that had emerged from his encounter with Soujiro last night.

As the door slowly opened, Aoshi steeled himself to take on the task of proving he was indeed the strongest.

~Soujiro listened as Houji read the telegraph that Yumi had sent after the fight between Aoshi and Himura. He had been aware of Shishio's plan to use Aoshi to kill Himura and although his loyalty lay with Shishio, he couldn't help but feel very relieved upon hearing that the fight was over with Aoshi still alive.

~Soujiro watched as Yumi disappeared through the secret door that would lead her directly into Shishio's room. He now had to begin a long and arduous journey. Himura had beaten him when it should have been a simple fight, proving him the stronger of the two, thus proving him right. But the words that Himura had spoken had put pressure on his already cracking foundation, leaving him with a collapsed building.

As he walked down the long hall, Soujiro hesitated, standing outside of Houji's study wondering what he would find inside.

As Aoshi came into his view, Soujiro's eyes widened in surprise.

"Shinomori-san." Soujiro whispered when he saw the red welt running diagonally across his chest.

"Aa," Aoshi said in an exhaled breath.

"Are you leaving?" Soujiro asked, hoping for a positive answer.

"No," Aoshi answered with his next breath.

"I understand," the young man said, looking at the floor.

Aoshi leaned against the door trying to gather his strength to continue on.

"I was wrong," Soujiro said looking up into Aoshi's ice blue eyes.

"So was I," Aoshi responded softly.

Soujiro reached up, brushing his fingers through Aoshi's long hair letting them slide down and stop against Aoshi's cheek, feeling his fingers tingle. He was surprised when he felt Aoshi's hand grasp his, holding it to his cheek before bringing it around to his mouth, giving the palm a gentle kiss then letting it go.

"Will we." was all Soujiro was able to say before his mouth was stilled by Aoshi's fingers.

"The future will be what we make it," Aoshi quietly stated before starting his journey to the spot marked on the map that Saitou had given him.

Soujiro stood watching until Aoshi was out of sight before he said, "We will meet again someday, Aoshi-sama."

~Using as much energy as he dared, Aoshi climbed the stairs leading to the top floor. The numbness that had engulfed his chest shortly after the last attack between him and Kenshin began to dissipate, leaving a dull pain that grew with each step of the seemingly never ending stairway.

As he reached the top, he could hear Saitou yell his attacks. The dull thud of a body falling confirmed his suspicion that Saitou had failed.

Sanosuke was next to try his abilities to stop Shishio. Within minutes Sanosuke was tossed aside like a rag doll. Aoshi surveyed the scene before him, knowing that he had to fight, giving Himura enough time to regain consciousness.

Stepping through the doorway and into the arena, he surveyed the damage done to the ones that opposed Shishio. Believing in Kenshin, Aoshi became Shishio's next opponent hoping to stall for enough time.

~Aoshi stood watching as Saitou backed up to ready himself to open the steel door that was blocking the escape from the burning oil.

One swift movement and the door burst into pieces, eliciting a smirk on Saitou's usually grim face. Saitou causally walked back across the bridge as if he were going on a stroll in the park.

The next explosion caused the midsection of the bridge to fall with Saitou trapped on the wrong side. Aoshi listened as Saitou began yelling something at Sano about a map. Remembering the map that Saitou had tossed to him earlier, Aoshi quickly started through the door pulling the map out of his pocket, leading them out of the burning building.

~Leaving his past life behind him, Soujiro slowly walked away from the burning mountain. He would remember and always be grateful to Kenshin for setting him free from his past and showing him a different path to take.

The soft breeze caressed his cheek, running its invisible fingers through his hair, reminding him of the gentle man who had held him the night before, allowing him to feel a different side of the human race, giving him hope for his future.

~On a small hill, a safe distance from the burning mountains, three men paused to watch the fires lick at the skies, the dark clouds of smoke billowing around the mountain like a curtain of doom.

Leaning against a tree for support, Sano gently held Kenshin while still cursing Saitou for dying before their fight could be completed.

Aoshi watched as the fire raged out of control, thinking that now he could put flowers on the graves of his followers, for his vendetta was complete. Kenshin had shown him a different path and he was now able to take it.

Only one thing tugged at his mind: the young man who had, for a brief moment, unlocked the feelings inside of him that he had locked away so long ago.