A few japaneses terms:
kodachi: a short sword. slightly curved like all of them.
katana The most known japanese sword. Lightly curved, it's the longest one of the set of two swords known as the daisho, the shortest one being a wakizashi. They were very efficiently designed and used. It's said that a drawn sword could cut through the air at the speed of a gun bullet And the differential temper made the cutting edge very hard while the dull edge was more supple to better absorb impacts. But I'm digressing here...
daijobu ka? are you/is it all right?
ore: Batousai's way to refer to himself. Means "I" on a manly way, so it's used by most men.
Kami-sama!: Kami is the word for God, Ended with the highest honorific, it's adressing them... like "Oh God!" or "My God!"
baka: silly, fool, idiot.
ohayou: good morning
oro: That's a unique Kenshin expression, used like the feminine "Ara." he says that whenever he's surprised or confused.
amado: sliding wooden shutters closed for the night when it's cold.
busu: ugly woman. A very very rude word.
chan: One of the endings put on names. -san is the most used, being equivalent to our "Mister, Miss and all". -chan is more an endearment, used by women to each other when they're close or when addressing children. Since Yahiko is a male teenager, it's making him feel like they consider him a child.
Kaoru's eyes fluttered open at the sound of clashing steel. Turning her head to the sound, she spotted two forms in the dim light of early dawn. Between her and the opened door of the room, his back to her, was a small silhouette in white yukata, long red hair spilling freely around his shoulders, wakizashi in hand. (Kenshin?) Facing him just out of immediate reach, in the hall was a tall slender man, covered in black, a kodachi in his hand. A ninja.
Neither moved for a second, seemingly assessing the situation, when Kenshin leaped forward, blocked the trust of the kodachi with a horizontal slash to the right, avoiding the kick aimed at his side by stepping to the right and continuing forward, while his sword, continuing its motion, disengaged. Being now just behind his opponent, Kenshin whirled, his sword swinging back to the left and connecting with the ninja's neck. Kaoru heard the sickening sound of steel cutting through flesh and bones. Her eyes widened when the ninja's head fell, blood splashing the walls and floor of the hall, and his body slowly slumped almost silently to the floor.
She wanted to scream, but no sound came. This was pure nightmare. Her fogged brain distantly noticed Kenshin - no, the hitokiri Battousai - cleaning his sword, stepping in and closing the shoji behind him, perfectly calm and focused. His features were softer - he must be very young - and he had no scar on his cheek, which made him look even more delicate and young. He could almost be mistaken for a girl. He seemed to strain his senses, searching, probing for any sign of another assailant for a few seconds, then relaxed a bit. His eyes locked with hers, and she gasped loudly. There was an amber fire raging in his eyes. They were so cold, cunning and at the same time fierce and piercing. They had immediately softened when his gaze meet hers, but the warm tenderness was still something wild, authoritative. (He's unrestrained... but perfectly controlled and focused). "Kaoru, daijobu ka?" the voice vas firm and almost emotionless, barely tingled with concern.
She shivered under his probing eyes, she felt as if he could see through her, could read her. (Well, he surely *could*. Reading people's emotions was one of his fighting skills. It helped him manipulate his opponents and anticipate their moves.) "Ha... Hai" was all she managed to stutter. He could be really frightening sometimes. And waking up to see someone get cut down was not something she could get past easily... "Don't worry for the mess, they'll take care of it," he said in the same casual tone. (They? ...Ah! the Ishin Shishi. The bakumatsu was still raging and they were on Ishin ground.) "Sorry to have awoken you but I didn't sense him before he was at our door. I know how much all this display of violence disturbs you." he added more softly. (That is an understatement!) she thought ruefully. He was clearly concerned, and somehow regretful. He gave her a small smile, trying to ease her. (Ore, he had said... assuming Battousai's speech pattern) she thought absently.
While speaking, he had put his sheathed wakizashi down parallel to the head of the futon, hilt to the right, next to his katana, and laid himself down on his side, propped on his elbow, on the open futon. Kaoru was visibly confused and perturbed by the death she'd just witnessed. She was lying on the futon, completely still, trying to calm down and gather herself enough to get coherent thoughts as Battousai's callused finger was softly stroking her cheek. She was beginning to feel better now, dismay slowly fading away, only to get confused again - for other reasons - when she was finally aware of his caresses and their appeasing effects on her. She looked back at Battousai to find him staring at her, adoration in his eyes. "Please, try to forget. I don't want your day to get spoiled even before you awake..." He sounded so tender! gone was the cold hard stare and voice. But his presence was still very impressive. "...So let's try it again..." He said softly with a roguish smile. And then, he gave her a joyful "Ohayou!" and prevented any question or answer by a soft, playful kiss on her lips.
Kaoru felt her heart pound loudly in her chest as a warm feeling flooded her senses. This was what she'd always wanted, what she'd been dreaming about before. But... he was a hitokiri! She was the master of a sword that protected life. She couldn't be attracted to a killer! And yet, he was so bold then, so sure of her welcome. It was at the same time frightening and exciting. She was feeling strongly attracted and that made her feel guilty at the same time... (Kami-sama! what should I do! It's Kenshin. I can't deny him, can't deny my feelings for him!) Unable to think anymore, she dismissed any interrogations, willingly sinking into the surge of sensations, kissed him back with all her heart. His gentle, soft kisses were becoming more ardent now, more demanding. It felt as if he were drinking her very soul.
He came to lay half on top of her and slid an arm around her waist. (Kami-sama! I used to think he was demure) She was at a loss for an appropriate reaction. The welcome weight on her upper body was making her heart melt, and she could feel the heat on her flushed cheeks slowly extend to her whole being. Tingling sensations were flowing through her body, and she realized that she wanted more, wanted to feel all his body pressed against hers. Blushing even more, she gave in to the urge to hold him, to seek more contact and, hesitantly, reached for his shoulders. But then, he deepened the kiss, and she felt her heart stop. This was simply too much, too much raging emotion. Of course, she knew all the goings on between men and women, but she couldn't expect the intensity of the sensations he could make her feel. And it was all so sudden! Her body shuddering against his, feeling like she was falling though she was still lying on her futon, she tightened her arms around his shoulders and neck, suddenly needing support against all this dizziness, and experimentally flicked her tongue against his.
She felt him tighten his grasp around her waist, pulling her closer. He broke the kiss and lowered his head, nuzzling into her throat, his breeze warm against her skin. (Kami-sama! How could he make her feel that much!) She reveled in the sweet ache his touch had awakened in her, she wanted - needed - more touches, more kisses, more of his body pressed against hers...
Kaoru was awakened by a sudden sneeze, and reached down to retrieve her blanket, confused, frustrated that it was only a dream, and at the same time a little ashamed at the thought. Not ashamed at the situation. She had always openly admitted her love for him. Rather, she was ashamed of having thought of Battousai in such a sensual way. Why on earth had she dreamed of that part of his life. She was even too young to have any memories of the war! But the longing for his touch was still there. She couldn't deny that reality. It was still dark outside, it was too early to rise, but she doubted she could resume sleeping. Shifting to a more comfortable position, she let her thoughts wander. (I really wish he would kiss me. He always keeps such a distance between us... If only I knew how he felt about me... of course, he is very protective, but he's like that with everyone. He fought against a whole gang to save Megumi when we met her. With him living here, people tend to think I'm his woman, and that makes his enemies use me to get to him. But he treats me much more like a younger sister... He must like me very much, though, since he said farewell only to me when he went back to Kyoto... But then again, I was the one who asked him to stay in the first place, and told him I wouldn't forget him if he were to go without a farewell. We met all the others afterwards, and he's staying at my dojo so he could have thought that the others wouldn't mind his departure so much. He rarely lets me cross the distance he puts between us. Some few moments... his arm on my shoulder, my head shortly resting on his back... the only time when he took me in his arms was to say his farewell... Well, let's say the only time he did it on purpose. The times when I 'accidentally' tripped and fell to end-up in his arms as he catches me don't really count...)
(Why would he love me? I'm certainly not a good choice for a wife... I can't cook... I'm short tempered, regularly beating him - not like the baka doesn't deserve it each time - and I just know he deliberately doesn't dodge. I'm teaching kendo which is certainly not a feminine activity... He's even the one that does almost all the house chores...) (And even if he did love me, would he allow that feeling? He always seems cheerful, always caring for others, always trying to help people, but he never asks for comfort, always keep us out of his troubles and preferably unsuspecting that something is wrong. He's giving so much, and it's so hard to make him accept anything back... All because of his guilt for all the lives he cut short during the bakumatsu and his need to atone for it, to find forgiveness. But it's his own forgiveness that he needs. We all accept him as he is. The rurouni and the hitokiri.)
Kaoru shivered at the thought. (Do I really accept the Battousai? I know he's a part of Kenshin, but he's so different...) The fact that she had dreamt of him as the Battousai was so troubling. Having merged her worst nightmare and her best dream, her worst fear and her best hope, was somehow very disturbing. Did she really think that - if he could love her - Battousai wouldn't distance himself, and accept her feelings? Would he be the only one to allow himself happiness, to accept that he deserved it? But she knew and loved him as the rurouni. They both wanted that dark side of him to remain buried... Each time she had seen him revert to his old self during a battle, she had been afraid. Not for herself. It was still Kenshin. He would never hurt her. But he was so rough then, his voice, eyes, and manners, cold, relentless, scary. Not the cheerful, soft, and polite rurouni, but the complete opposite. A calm, cold-blooded, cunning, calculating warrior, holding back all emotion, entirely focused on his purpose. One that killed mercilessly without a second thought.
But the guilt was there nonetheless... only held in check as well as his other emotions, preventing them from influencing his reason and efficiency, showing no weakness to his enemies. At those times, she was so afraid that he might break his non killing vow... Afraid of what it would do to him. (Not afraid *of* him, afraid *for* him.) Or perhaps the Battousai in her dream was just a twisted way to reach to the feelings that her rurouni cautiously held in check with his over-politeness, to break the distance he maintained with everyone, including her... especially her. (I'm wondering how Battousai would have acted around me... He certainly doesn't despise himself when he's in that state of mind, so *if* he loved me, perhaps *he* wouldn't hold back like the rurouni would...)
(Eeek! That's insane. I must be desperate to go so far as to even consider the Battousai as a mate!) (Sheeshhh! Stop that, Kaoru! You know he sees you the same way as he sees Yahiko, Megumi and Sano: as his family, his little sister. The only difference is he's feeling grateful to you who’ve made it possible. At least he's living with you, as Yahiko is. You're not alone. Most girls may be married and happy far before turning twenty, but at least you're still younger than Megumi and Tae...) But she knew it wasn't enough. Not anymore. She had fallen desperately in love with him and just couldn't get over it, couldn't even help hoping it might be, one day, shared love.
Noticing the dim light of dawn filtering into her room, Kaoru stretched, quickly got dressed and headed to the kitchen. Kenshin might not be preparing breakfast so early, so for once she could do it for him.
When Kaoru entered the kitchen, Kenshin was already there, disposing the food on trays, smiling at her as she paused at the doorway. His hair was casually held back at his neck by a small strip of cloth, loose shorter strands still framing his refined pretty face. Her eyes lingered on the cross scar on his left cheek, one long slash from below his temple to his chin and a shorter one from near his nose to the back of his jaw. It didn't alter his beauty, merely added a rough manly touch to what looked like a young boy's complexion.
"Ohayou Kenshin." She couldn't help blushing, as unsolicited memories of her dream, too vivid, came back in her mind. His beautiful lavender eyes were so soft, so sweet, they held her captive in their gaze, a small shy smile floating on her lips. (He's sure sweeter and softer than the Battousai in my dream, but I wouldn't mind seeing that sort of wild tenderness his eyes had then. They seemed so possessive. It was not an unpleasant feeling...)
(Oro? she's blushing? what's with her today?) "Ohayou Kaoru-dono. You rose very early this morning. Has something disturbed you?" He greeted her sweetly, offering her his most innocent smile. She only blushed further, making a lovely sight. And... perhaps it was because of his dream, but he was suddenly very aware of the woman she was. Today, he couldn't just see her as his young, innocent angel. (She's adorable!) There was a definite sensual haze in the air that made him feel uneasy.
Kaoru had sensed it too, his gaze was different now. Intense, roaming all over her, almost... hungry? He seemed suddenly more serious, slightly flustered, but there was something wild in the depth of his eyes, not the cold feral gleam of the Battousai. It made her feel warm... His gaze was almost like in her dream, holding her, helpless and lost, making her heart pound loudly in her chest and dizzying her mind.
(Could it be?) There was longing in her eyes, but he didn't want to see it, couldn't accept feeling desire radiating from all her body. He knew he should look away, but he couldn't. An image of Kaoru, her hair down and spilling on the futon came from his morning dream. Sensing he had stepped on slippery ground, he closed his eyes, pushed the disturbing thoughts aside, and hastily turned back to his task, afraid to let his eyes show too much of his feelings, afraid that the sight and feel of her raw emotions would further shatter his control. He needed to break this sensual haze, to drift their attention to a more safe matter.
Turning away from her, he shifted his attention back on the trays. "It's beginning to get very cold at night for the season. I'll close the amado tonight". His voice was blunt, casual. He took a glance at her. (There. At least she's stopped blushing.)
Kaoru was taken aback by the sudden change in his tone. The magic of the moment now dispelled, she wondered briefly if he had sensed it too. (It must have been my imagination. I saw what I wanted to... time to wake up.) She gave him a sweet smile. "That's good. I was a little cold this morning". Seeing concern in his eyes, she immediately added, "Not that cold, I'm not about to get sick!", grinning as she watched the faint trace of worry disappear from his eyes. (Geez, he *does* worry too much!)
"Breakfast will be ready soon. Why don't you bring these to the dinner table, I'll join you with the rest when it's ready." Taking in his joyful expression once more, she picked up the tray and headed to the main room, pausing at the door, grinning mischievously "I'll wake up Yahiko in the meantime" and disappeared from his view. Soon after, he heard the beginning of the commotion. "Yahiko, it's past dawn, get up!" (That rustle... she had probably cast his blanket aside) Grinning as he pictured a cold drowsy Yahiko abruptly waking, Kenshin took the last tray and headed to the main room.
"Hey Busu! Couldn't ya wake me more gently? What's with you this morning? having bad dreams?" And then a pissed-off Kaoru could be heard. "Don't you dare call me Busu! Yahiko-CHAN! Show respect to your master!"
"Don't call me -chan, hag!"
"That's it, brat! One more word and you'll clean the dojo floor before breakfast!"
"Hey! I can't! I work at the Akabeko today!"
"That's right, and you wouldn't want to make your little Tsubame-chan wait, would you?"
"Hey! What does Tsubame have to do with this?"
Kenshin chuckled softly as the sounds of arguing and fighting increased. "Yare, yare! Things are back to normal..."