There were many things I dreaded, when he asked me to marry him by choice. I accepted without revealing my thoughts, of course - I am not one to share my fears, and I never will be, I believe - but it was so strange, how he simply knew them without asking.
The first night, after we had spent the day unpacking and readying the cabin for our stay, I was terribly exhausted and began preparing myself for bed without thinking. It hit me as I unfolded the futon - a double sized rather than single - that he may want me for reasons other that what I had previously guessed. Underneath he may have been just as terrifying as the men in the bars, who gaze at me with their eyes and only that, who seek to carry me away, and... and...
I used to think that I was protected by that. If I showed no interest... if I was careful...
For that was a husband's right, was it not? Or, if anything, a lady's choice.
A husband's right. I looked at him again, and I caught his eye. He gazed at me for a moment, his amber eyes unsure, so different than what I had seen in him as he fought. There was fear, and hesitation.
He must have seen something in my eyes that somehow echoed what I felt, for he casually moved behind the screen between rooms, changed, and after a moment returned in a soft white yukata. His sword was in his hand. My heart pounded in my chest, and I resisted the urge to curve the neckline of my own clothes tighter, to hide whatever I had that might tempt him.
He didn't even look at me a second time.
"Oyasumi," he murmured, bowing his head slightly in my direction, and settled himself against the wall, his sword curved into his shoulder, in that same position he had slept in since the day we met. I hoped he didn't see my surprise, or, shamefully, my startled relief.
Shame, for he is my husband, after all.
A husband's right. He had given me a choice.
Oh, he is so young...
I reached for the candle beside my futon, to blow it out and try to rest, feeling strangely peaceful.
And then, I heard him whisper, into the darkness, so softly I doubt I was meant to hear it, "Together, only in love. Only in love..."
My hand froze, the flame flickering mere inches above my hand. He knew it, somehow. He knew I did not love him. And for some reason, that didn't matter to him.
Or perhaps it did. "Together, only in love..."
He is willing to wait for me. Or, even, to not have me even if I refuse to love him for the rest of our lives.
Akira-san, am I betraying you, still? Even the choice of one word changes everything.
But am I betraying my husband, now? For whether I love him or not, we are married, bound together by law and honour. I carry his name as my own.
I am not Yukishiro. Nor am I Kiyosato.
I am Himura Tomoe, and my husband does not touch me.
It is a husband's right.
A lady's choice.
But oh, such a difficult choice. There are many marriages where love is not required. Arranged, agreed to, done without the permission of either man or woman.
He asked me. It was my choice.
And I said yes.
His eyes were so tender, so beautifully warm in the sunset, as he asked me. Part of me could not refuse. There was admiration in those eyes, and some surprise - perhaps he had not expected himself to be so bold as to ask for my hand - but there was such a strong emotion in him that, if it was not love, if was certainly something he had never felt before.
Something that I... I had seen...
Oh, Akira-san, why did I accept this challenge? Why did I agree to help kill this man?
... why did I accept his proposal...?
For, watching him then, and now - and perhaps even mere moments after we met on the street, nearly a year ago - I am beginning to realize that I cannot kill this man.
I slept fitfully that night, and I continue to do so, even as our life together grows more and more enjoyable, natural.
I am adjusting - accepting - this life. I think of the cabin around me as my home.
I respond to questions about him, without even thinking anymore, with the words, "He is my husband."
But no one ever approaches him, curious to know of the dark-eyed woman who follows him day after day.
What would he say, if asked?
"This is my shadow, a woman who has followed me since the day I met her in a tavern and saved her from two men who wanted her enough to threaten her life."
"They wanted her in a way that I could have her, and yet do not."
Is he a fool? Does he not know what power he holds in his hands?
But... he does not desire power. He spoke that way once, not long ago. He only wanted an era filled with peace, happiness for the people, equality for all classes.
He holds this power, yet he has handed it over to me.
What am I to do with it?
I cannot do a thing. Not with him, not with the man who destroyed my beloved, and - and -
... asked for my hand in marriage. I, who accepted his proposal, yet can never accept him.
For... those words echo in my heart, whenever he turns his eyes on me. Those eyes, once burning golden in the darkest of nights, now glow with the beautiful violet of love and life. I can't even recall when I noticed the change occur.
"I protect... protect you..."
He promised to protect me. I, who accepted him, yet cannot bear to trust him, to love him the way I loved...
Akira-san never did that. He promised me happiness. He left me and went far, far away, to die, to bring me happiness.
My husband has not promised me happiness. He must know that if I am to be happy, I must take what he offers without him forcing anything upon me. He is very wise.
But so young...
But... he is my husband. And he has given me a choice. A lady's choice, a woman's gift to give freely, without restraint or reluctance, to her husband, her chosen...
... her beloved...
I make my choice, freely. That is my gift to you, my husband, my love.
And... maybe someday, we will bring ourselves happiness... together...
This idea entered my head and wouldn't go away. I kept thinking how honourable it was of Kenshin to (in the OVA; in the manga we never saw, but could assume he did the same) sleep against the wall, rather than with Tomoe, his wife. This is sort of a mix of both manga and OVA stories, where in the manga they *did* get married (rather than just for cover), and in the OVA he promised to protect her.
Calger459: Thanks for the correction, but I think we were both a little bit wrong; you're correct for the OVA timeline, but I always follow the manga as far as dates and such go. According to the manga, Enishi says to Tomoe when he arrives at the cabin, "I left for Kyoto a year ago, just after you did." So it wouldn't have been much longer after that when she met Kenshin. Sorry about the misunderstanding.
Thanks for reading.
Written January, 2003