[This has been sitting on my harddrive for awhile... so some dates might seem inconsistent.]

Disclaimer: Don't own RK, or it's characters. I just write the stories here.
WARNING: Spoilers. Contains THE ending of RK.
WARNING 2: Author will hunt you down and kill you if you plagerize anything written in this story. No songs/poems or anything written below belong to anyone but... well... me -- excluding RK characters (who I can count on one hand -- Kenshin/Shinta, Kaoru, and Kenji). Blue will drag your bloody carcass around and torture you for fun -- like her much admired Enishi-sama -- and keep you alive till the very end! Don't mess with blue...(is crazy and talks in third person, please continue to story. Author hopes she did not scare you away. [goes to commercial])
. blue .
. blueweber@hotmail.com .
***

The time is up,
Farewell, good day,
Don't wait up,
And please don't cry,
Love has yet to say goodbye.

***
. blue .
. blueweber@hotmail.com .
* * * * *
Last Fall
* * * * *

I caught you in my arms, one last time. This I knew when I first saw you standing there in the lane lined by sakura petals falling. I don't know what to say, how to describe how much I hated the ways things were ending, how glad I was at the same time to see you for at least, one last time, and how much more I loved you in that moment when I knew I would lose you forever.

Forever.

It's spring, and the sun is warm on my back as I waited for your arrival at the door of the dojo. And the smile you greet me with is not so weary as your body tells me that it is. Seeing me, you must have thought that by some chance or luck, I had stepped out to greet you. But who am I to ruin that belief when in reality, I have always waited here by this door every morning, at this hour, since the time you had left with nothing more than a promise of returning.

And I always will.

Seasons came and went while I had stood beneath the dojo doors. Our son grew from a baby to a toddler, and from a toddler to a young boy. Day by day, he looks more and more like you. Oh, how proud I am when I see him and how much more my heart aches when that look on his face matches his father's so perfectly. And there you are, down the road, and here I am, waiting.

Our final farewell.

You promised, didn't you? And you have never broken a promise to me, whether a promise to love me or a promise to protect me through the harshness of my days. My loneliness melted away when you had came, and even if you could not stay -- a true wanderer at heart as one had ever been -- you left me our child, our son, in your stead. It is enough, it will always have to be enough.

Because, I love you, both of you, so very much.

The sakura was blooming when you left those years ago. I remember how Kenji had gripped your jacket so tightly with his little fists, but even he could not keep you. I had tried for years already, and you had always returned here, where you had called your home and now, now I think I'm beginning to understand you a little better. Protecting our son, watching him grow with that sweet ache in my breast. I am learning now how you must have felt, that desire to protect no matter what the cost. But my love is selfish, and I wish, always, to keep you by my side.

But you are a man grown, the man who had captured my heart so thoroughly that I am left breathless without you. And you, you are returning to our home one last time.

One last time...

"Welcome home, anata," I greet you with the best and brightest smile I could muster. It's the smile I reserved for you alone. That smile I feel deep in my heart, spreading with gladness at the sight of your face, scarred and yet so beautiful to me. I know there is one promise you must break. That night, when we had lain next to each other after the first time. Do you remember that night? After the wedding was over, when the guest have left and I had become a woman?

Do you remember how you had held me, whispering dreams into my ears, and I, replying with my tired smile. And then you said to me, "Let's watch our grandchildren grow up together," and I remember my amusement.

"How many?" I had asked, teasing you as only a wife could do. That moment had been so precise to us both, that peace you were seeking and the warmth of love and company that I was searching for. In each other's arms, we found it, did we not?

"As many as possible," you told me and I had to laugh.

I played with our fingers, laced together. That tender moment, I wished to remember forever in my heart. "I love you," I closed my eyes to sleep.

"Aa, kioshi," you murmur tenderly in my hair. "As do I, you."

The moon was a smile in the sky that night, I still recall. And as I laid there holding you in my arms, curling my fingers around the covers of our futon, I knew I had never felt more at home than in that moment shared between the two of us.

But the past is over and time passes so quickly now. I realized then, that even as an old, samurai's daughter, who was taught, and did, love the sword so much, that I was not ready for this age old thing called goodbye and parting. I did not wish to whisper "sayonara" in your ear. I did not want to let you go...

"Okarei nasai, kioshi," you whisper in reply through your travel-worn lips, bring me back from the past and my memories. My eyes widen, eyes that you say are of a color that you loved to drown in. You were falling, oh so slowly. And I rush, rush to catch you when you fall, as I had many times when you had returned to me, battle weary and life-worn.

Time seem to slow and, somehow, I am kneeling with tears in my eyes. "Don't go," I whisper over and over again. Clutching you to my heart, your red-hair that I had so admired as a girl and adored the more as your wife, was such a contrast to my white-gi -- one that Yahiko once teased me of never growing out of even after our marriage, and motherhood.

You were my life's blood, how can you leave me behind to where, this time, not even I, in all my stubbornness, could follow?

"Kioshi," you whisper, hot breath fanning against the white cloth. My skin heats beneath at so many memories of your touch and your breath, so close to my heart. "I love you," your fingers curl around my waist, soft material bunching before your grasp begins to relax, letting me go as you had once said you've always feared doing, "Never forget..."

"Shin-ta," I whisper the worn name, stumbling over the syllables I loved. And no ocean of tears could fill the void you left when you died in my arms. So I clutched you instead, so much the tighter.

"Okaa-chan," the voice of our young son calls. "Are you alright, Okaa-chan?"

Shaky breath escapes my lips and I am unable to answer him, as he runs next to me, his chubby fingers tugging on my clothes. "Is that Otou-san? Is he back? Why is he sleeping? Why isn't he sleeping inside like normal people?"

Innocent little questions, piercing my heart more deeply than a katana could. "Y-yes, my sweet, otou-chan is just sleeping." I whisper through my lips.

Satisfied with my answer, he turns his curiosity, "Why are you crying, okaa-chan?" our child asks, as I forced a smile on my lips.

"My little man, go back to the house and wait for your silly mother and father, hm? And if you see Yahiko, tell him I need a hand." I tell my son weakly.

"Silly, Okaa-chan," the little red-head shook a finger at me, "You know Yako-baachan won't be home till dark!" I almost laugh at the nickname that my little boy gave to my best student and adoptive brother.

But I ended up half-choking on my tears, "Kenji," I whisper and my son grew alert at my use of his name. I had not realized his tenseness before I told him to go inside.

"Okaa-chan," he looked so solemn before I finally gave up and let him rest himself against me as I propped myself against the wall of our dojo. Shinta's head rested on my lap as I stroked his hair, while our son rested in my arms.

"When will baka-otousan wake up?" Kenji finally asks, tugging somewhat angrily at a piece of his father's hair as he was wont to do when he had been younger.

If I could laugh, I would have. But in that moment, the realization of all the times that were lost to me, of what is now missing in my life, overwhelms the little resolve I had remaining. So, instead, I found my silent tears to be the only answer I could give my little boy, while I shed each, pain-filled one into his hair, hair that was so like his father's.
***

The petals fall,
Cover my steps,
But do not be detered.
For no matter where my wonderings lead,
I'll come back home to you,
I'll come back home to you.

***

I see you up that road I climb and even my bones can feel, already, that I am coming home. I can see in your eyes so much worry, and yet, you still had room to fill it with the joyous warmth of welcoming love you had always showered on this underserving man. Why you ever decided to marry me, I still find to be half a miracle. And if I were as blind as I had once been, I might have thought you crazy. But I know you, and to disrespect your love and your knowing is like throwing a gift that kamisama gives to mortals like me.

And I know that if anything, you are a gift from the kami to me.

The cherry blossoms fall, a symbol of new life beginning and old glories fading. Fading like I am fading, like the Bakumatsu has faded into history and legends. It is my time now to fade into history, and for you and our son to move on in time without me. Yet, even so, my beautiful and stubborn wife, you still refuse to let me go.

This lane I've walked a thousand times, greets me, as you greet me, with you waiting ever so patiently at the end of the long road. Your youth has faded, and I see a beautiful woman standing in your place. A woman who is the mother of our son, our *son* -- another underserving gift for one such as I. I still look back and remember the days with wonder, and you, you were always at the center of it all.

My little goddess. My home, my shelter from the storm and the world that plagues me with a past I cannot forget. And now, now I'm finally letting it all go. I hope, I can make it to your arms one last time. Just to smell your hair and feel the steady beat of your heart, a sound I had come to cherish listening to in the short time of our marriage. It will be enough to help me move on to the next life where you would surely be waiting for me as you always do.

You never asked me about my past, never troubled me about who I used to be and what I used to do unless you saw it troubling me. You always were so willing to put others before yourself, my strong and beautiful kenjitsu shihondai. I know that letting me go would be another pain I had laid upon your unbounded love and open heart.

I am sorry for so short a time of joy, for not being able to make up to you all the joy you have given me. I just want to return to your arms, and never leave it again in a foolish quest to end my guilt. But our country, our home, and our family are safe now. And if the sacrifice of my life is the cost for such securities, I'd do it all over again just to know that you and our child are safe. Just to know our son and his future are as steadfast and secure as our love for him.

I love you, kioshi, and I wanted to return and tell you this one last time.

The last step I took, with you so near, I stumble and fall. And like many times in the past, you catch me. Aren't I supposed to be the strong one? Am I not, once renounced, the greatest swordsman of Japan? And here I lay, caught in the arms of a woman. My woman. My wife who, in reality, is much stronger than I had ever been.

And I, I have returned to tell you I love you, hoping that these last words would keep you strong till the ends of your days even if I am not there to make sure of it. But alas, my weary body is giving out, and my journey is finally coming to an end.

In that moment, as I fall, I saw in my minds eyes. You, so young and beautiful, clad in a scandalously tight, white shirt and short, short hakama as one I've never seen. And you are wearing that smile of determination you wear when you are sure you would win a kendo match against Yahiko. You are sailing through the air, jumping so high. I saw the shadow of the two of us meeting under a cheery tree, where we shared our first, childhood kiss. I saw and remember the feeling of your hand slip into mine for the first time, a prelude to the many happy times to come. I saw and remembered best that you did not let go as we walked down the lane into the sunset. I saw happy years sped by, and wonders unimaginable.

And then, time sped back to now as I remembered this life. I remembered that look on your face when you held our son for the first time. Your sweat and tears were still glistening on your face as they slowly evaporated and dried. And there was that shine in your blue eyes, so bright that I would think they outmatched any jewel, or any star. I remember the glow of the candle-light that caught your face the night you sat by my bed after the showdown with Shishio's. I remembered the smile you wore on our wedding day, and the red kimono you put on that brought out the happy, shy blush I was so unused to seeing. I remember you slipping your hand in mine when we watched our son take his first step and the laughter on your lips when you kissed me goodnight again and again.

I remember your heartbeat as I listened to it the first night we slept together on our shared futon. And I realized, I was just as unwilling to let it all end as you are. Now, now I am finally able to attain everything that Shishou had been trying to show me those years ago at the cliff when he passed to me the succession technique of the Hiten Mitsurgi. Yet, as late as it seems, I struggle to hold on to this moment like I had been trying to do every moment I had spent with you, my Kaoru, my kioshi.

I remember Tomoe's sacrifice and now, now I am thankful I had lived long enough to see this, and I thank her for giving me this chance that she herself had not been able to experience. But my guilt finally leaves me for a brief second and I am in your warm and welcoming arms.

"Kioshi," I whisper to your heart so close to me and yet so far. I am so lucky to have been the one you chose to be given the privilege to coddle so precious a treasure as your love. "I love you," the world is dimming and I am oh, so weary. But I want... I want to live! "Never forget..."

The world blackens and my breath leaves me. But I still struggle to tell you what I want to tell you for the rest of your life, for as long as your heart beats and beyond that if I could follow so pure a soul as your own. But that is not to be, as this unworthy man falls with the sakura blossoms as all warriors are doomed to fall, and slowly, eternity stretch its black hands towards me. In my mind, I saw Kenji solemnly standing beside you while your smiling, impatient face greets me as you stretched out your waiting arms, reaching to pull me passed that great beyond.

Oh kioshi, I'm coming, my weary mind laughingly thinks as the last beat of my heart stills to silence in your arms.

Never forget, kioshi...
... that I love you and our son, so very much.
***

Someday,
There will be a place for you and me
Where we can love each other peacefully.
With nothing between us, like yesterdays,
Someday...
That I promise you.
***
( 1992 )
The cherry blossoms fell as she stood beneath the tree, her face turned to the blue skies. The caress of the late spring breeze, ladened with promises of long ago lovers, and filled with new hope, lifted her spirits. She loved this time of the year best, when the sakura blossoms fell, and yet, somehow, it made her sad as well.

In class today, they were using the sakura as analogy to by-gone samurai soldiers who had given their lives away at a bright, young age to battle for glory and honor. And she wondered, when they had died, what they regretted the most.

"Love," she blinked and turned to see a boy with a fist full of badly chopped, red-hair and tried desperately to hold back a giggle. "Hey, I'm trying to be serious here!" He complained.

"Please, never let your father near your hair again if you don't want me to laugh," she teased him with laughter still in the corners of her words. "Anyway, how do you know what I'm thinking?"

He smiled knowingly, "I've known it long before I was born, before you were here even!"

She stuck her tongue out at him playfully, but nevertheless, her heart still fluttered at his smile. He was the romantic out of the two of them, she was sure of that as she slipped her fingers through his, "Ne, you really think it's love that the samurai thought of last before he died?" She asked him questioningly.

"Of course," He shrugged, "what else would make a man want to live longer?"

She poked him, "You're so unrealistic, anata," she sighed dramatically. "They could be thinking of reveange, or... or that they hadn't any sake like your father's always going at that sake jar of his!"

He laughed embarrassed, "If I were a samurai, that's what I would think," he added sulkily, but she knew he was only acting.

"Hey! You hate violence, and you've never been able to stomach blood... and just imagine how much blood and gore you'd see as a samurai!" She laughed at the green on his face, "But I love you, just the way you are." She told him as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

"Maa, maa," he conceded happily, "you're the katana-wielder out of the two of us!" He admitted with a laugh.

"Bokken, baka," she corrected him as she pulled back and lightly tapped him on the nose.

They were silent for a long while, watching the sakura fall in their quiet happiness, "Ne, Kenshin?" She whispered as she leaned her head on his shoulder. The midnight hue of her shoulder-length hair fluttered against the material of his jacket. There had been a time when she remembered Sanosuke teasing him about looking like a pretty-boy with the dark-navy suit that her hair blended so perfectly in. She could even recall the shade he was in when he had heard the comment, he was so adorable when he blushed like that, she thought with a wicked gleam in her blue eyes.

"Yes, Kaoru?" he replied with a teasing light in his own soft, purple eyes.

"Someday, we're going to get married and live in a big house," she told him confidently.

"Oh?" He chuckled again as he put his arm around her, but the idea was extremely appealing.

"Yup," she laced her fingers with his. "And I'll run a dojo, and boss Yahiko around in it all day! And... and we can have Sano and Megumi over too!"

He smiled as he watched her lace their fingers together, "And kids," he whispered shyly into her raven hair.

If her fingers weren't occupied with his, he would have found an elbow in his stomach, "Having those hurt," she complained with a pout.

"Lots of kids," he added more confidently with a loving smile down at her, but she did not miss the amused light in his eyes.

"Mou, Kenshin! You're only saying that because you wouldn't have to give birth to those kids of yours!"

"Ours," he corrected her, but it was his story now. "And then, in the evening, when it's quiet, we'll watch the stars fall from the roof with our entire family." He sighed dreamily.

"If your family would stop fighting and if we could see even one star through the smog," she grumbled, pretending annoyance she didn't feel, and he knew her too well for it to deter him anyway.

"And we'll spend our whole lives together, Kaoru," he hugged her close to him then and a part of him, somewhere deep inside, was suddenly afraid to let her go.

"Kenshin?" she whispered worriedly in his hair, but he didn't budge. A wasteful smile came over her lips as she watched the sakura blossoms fall over his shoulder. It was so beautiful and sad at the same time, the sight before her, but she knew not why. Gently, she wrapped her arms around him, to reassure him that there was no place else in the world she would rather be, and also to reassure him that they would not be parted, not this time. This time, it would be the happy ending they had promised each other so long ago that neither could remember it anymore. But... their hearts still had that same promise to keep. "I'll love you forever," she told him, half a reassurance to him, and half, to herself.

"Aa, kioshi," he answered, "As do I."

And this time, there will be life. This time he will be there to catch her when she falls. This time they'll watch their children grow up together, and then smile as they spoil their grandchildren. This time he will keep all of his promises.

Never forget that I love you...
...and this time, we'll walk through the falling sakura, together.
***
Someday when the world is calmer,
When the battles end,
I'll find you again in that field of ours
And love you till the end of time...
***
To Kaoru and Kenshin.
To love like theirs that have suffered and endured.
To lovers and dreamers and happy-endings, after sad ones has passed.
To a brand new year...

Welcome, 2-0-0-3

And to my very good friend Bevy-chan, who needs the cheering up!

Translations:

* Aa - Yes ( masculine agreement )
* Anata - darling ( wife to husband )
* Bakumatsu - End of an old age and the beginning of a new. In the
anime, this is when Kenshin met Tomoe and did all the stuff he
felt guilty for for the rest of his life. Just before the Meiji era.
It is the era that the Battousai is made famous in.
* Dojo - a japanese structured hall, built for kendou and practicing
your funky martial arts/sword arts ^_^;;
* Gi - Think Shirt/jaket ( Kenshin saw Kaoru in a tight t-shirt :D )
* Hakama - think Pants ^_^;; ( Kenshin saw Kaoru in shorts O_O imagine
his reaction to that if he wasn't half-dead :D OHhohohohohoho! )
* Kami/kamisama - god(s) (Back then, everyone was a Buddist or Shinto,
or a combination of both, in Japan.)
* Kioshi - darling ( husband to wife )
* Kenji - the cute li'l bugger that popped out of Kaoru ('scuse the
"popped", painfully squeezed out of Kaoru is probably more
like it... )
* Mou - something like "Geez!" or "Goodness!"
* Ne - right; in this case, Kaoru's using it more along the lines
of a "hey?" but it could also mean "right?".
* Okaachan/Okaa-chan/Kaa-chan - Mom/Mommy/Mother (author's too lazy to
look back and check to see which version she used.)
* Okarei nasai - I'm home/I'm back
* Oro - saddly lacking in this story, but I had to add it because
it's cute, and a much needed presence in any Kenshin story.
* Otousan/otouchan - Father (if you haven't already guessed it) Kenji is
using the formal version of it because... he doesn't like his dad
very much, for various reasons... most likely one I can think of
is because the two are too much alike and they both adore the ground
that Kaoru walks on. Kenji might also associate his father with his
mother being sad and all that, so he's kinda mad at his father for
leaving her and well... Kenshin wasn't always there...)
* Sakura - cherry blossoms
* Samurai - Japanese warrior elite class, think of European knights,
they're of the equivalence... except Japanese ^_^;;
* Shihondai - swordswoman

Explainations:

* Kenshin/Shinta - some clearing up to do. Kenshin wanted Kaoru
to call him Shinta at the end of the last arc in RK... well...
when he died *hands tissue to readers* (There there, you can
always go back to the beginning of the manga where he's alive
again... ^_^;;) Anywho, but since, in the future (1992) --
author's one attempt at future/reincarnation/all-that-fun-messy-
stuff -- since Hiko is Kenshin's father now -- in blue's messed-
up reincarnation tale -- and since in the anime Hiko thought
Shinta was a whimpy name, I thought it was so UN-Hiko-esque to allow
he's son to be named Shinta. And since, this time, Hiko has free
reign at what Kenshin's named regardless -- no Shinta from
the past -- well, living past -- Kenshin fits the latter part of
the story better. Don't you think? (Anyway, author agrees with
Hiko-sama, Shinta's a whimpy name and Kenshin's just so much more...
spicy and hot and cooler! *dreamy sigh* ^_^v)
* Yes, took out most of the japanese, but it slipped out now and again,
but I couldn't help it! *pleading, puppy-dog eyes* I TRIED!


. blue .
. blueweber@hotmail.com .