3/5/2004: Not an update, but I'm going through and fixing mistakes in each chapter, editing it a bit here and there. This story is finished. -Gem

There is no rational explanation for this story. Ti many martoonies, I guess. I've been in a pirate-y frame of mind lately, egged on by the impending release of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' where I hope to get an overdose of Orlando Bloom-ie goodness, and this one episode of Spongebob with the Flying Dutchman. (Gemini sings, "Plaaaasssstttiiiccccc!")

I know, I'm lame. Lame, lame, lame! A 23 year old woman watching Nickelodeon and dreaming up Kenshin fanfics where I have an excuse to give Hiko a peg leg. Bwahahahaaaa!

Between the Devil and the Deep

A Rurouni Kenshin Alternate Universe Fic
Rated PG-13 for now. (Mostly because of Hiko's parrot)
Rurouni Kenshin is owned by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Shonen Jump and a bunch of other people
I can't recall and am too lazy to look up. But, the main point here is that I do not own it, nor am I making any money from this fic! (Ha!)


The young, red haired man trudged wearily up the muddy, rain slicked street. He seemed indifferent to both the drizzle that fell on him and the darkness that surrounded him. His eyes were fixed ahead on a single point of light in the distance: a candle that flickered in a window of a small house. He was cold, he was wet and hungry, but none of that mattered. All that mattered was getting back to her, his Tomoe. He was bursting with good news. Finally, after all the years of waiting, after everything that had conspired to keep them apart, they could be married. He had been given command of his own ship. They could live quite happily on what he would be making as a Captain, without his uncle's money or approval. Kenshin smiled and shouldered his bag, the weariness giving way to excitement. His step quickened and soon, he found himself shivering on her doorstep.

Not worried about knocking on his fiancée's door, he burst in, eager to give her the good news. Tomoe was sitting in front of the stone fireplace, sewing contently in the dim light it gave off. She hummed as she worked, a tune he recognized from their childhood. Her humming stopped abruptly as she turned in her chair to see who had come in uninvited.

She dropped the cloth and started out of her seat, like a jack-in-the-box. "Kenshin! When did you get back?" She looked a trifle pale.

Kenshin mopped his rain-soaked face and smiled, dropping his heavy bag on the ground with a wet plop. "Just now. Our ship hasn't even docked yet, but the captain let me borrow a skiff. I have news, Tomoe, wonderful news!" He stepped forward to embrace her, but she stepped back.

"I have news, as well." She said quietly.

His brow wrinkled with concern. "Is everything all right? Are you sick? Or hurt?" He asked, reaching a hand out to her.

She shook her head and did not take his hand. "Everything is fine…perfect." She dropped her gaze to the floor. "I've fallen in love.

Kenshin laughed and, ignoring her protests, he picked her up and swung her around in a tight embrace. "Well of course you have, but I know that! I love you, too. The wonderful news is that the Navy has seen fit to give me my own ship, we can finally be married! Tomorrow if you want!"

She shook her head, pushing away from him with surprising force. "I'm in love, but not with you, Kenshin…not like that, not anymore."

The smile dropped off his face as he released her. "What are you talking about, Tomoe?" He asked, his voice low.

"I met him last year, just after you left. He's a wonderful man, Kenshin…a pastor. He helps run the orphanage on the other side of the island. I was volunteering there and we became friends and then…" She wrung her hands, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. "I never meant to betray you, but…"

"You did." Kenshin finished for her.

She shook her head sadly, and looked up at him, heartache in her eyes. "I don't want to hurt you, Kenshin, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn't love you like I thought. You're my best friend, my dearest friend, but I couldn't make you happy…"

He raised his hand to stop her. "So you don't love me anymore?" He asked, his voice a monotone.

"I'll always love you, Kenshin, but not like I love Akira." She said softly.

"I see." He stepped back towards the door and picked up his bag, he felt strangely numb, like he was watching their exchange but not participating in it.

"Wait, please…let me explain…" She entreated, rushing forward to stop him, reaching out a pale, slim hand to grasp his wet coat. "I don't want things to end like this…"

"Please, Tomoe, I don't really want to talk about this anymore." He said quietly, brushing her hand away. He needed to be alone, to sort out this rather unexpected and unpleasant turn of events. He suspected that when the numbness wore off, he'd say or do things he might regret later. And, despite everything, he still didn't want to hurt her, his beloved Tomoe. "I'll leave you now and don't worry, I won't bother you anymore." He opened the door, but paused before leaving. "All I ever wanted was for you to be happy." He said, his voice catching slightly. "Ever since we were children, and if this is what you want…" He shook his head. "Never mind. Good-bye. I wish you all the happiness in the world." He stepped out into the cold night and slammed the door behind him.

9 Years Later

The house had been built with a bride in mind, full of rooms to house children and servants, but its original owner had died before he could bring his new wife home. Grief stricken, she had sold it and it had passed through numerous hands over the years. It acquired the reputation of being haunted, and indeed, it looked the part, situated on a cliff, staring moodily out to sea, more than half of it dark and shrouded with shadow, unused and dusty. No children played here.

Kenshin had purchased it not for its appearance, but for its location. He couldn't sleep unless he could hear the ocean, an affliction that had come upon him after spending better than a decade sailing the sea. The rather unexpected windfall that had allowed him to purchase the large home had come in the form of an inheritance he didn't even know he was entitled to. At the age of 25 he had suddenly become quite wealthy, a rather bittersweet event, since the reason he had joined the Navy was to make a living for himself and his future bride when his uncle had cut him off. And his being constantly at sea was what had driven his fiancee away. If only he'd known...

He scowled and walked the edge of the cliff restlessly, wondering why he was suddenly beseiged with such thoughts. Normally he kept such depressing musings at bay, but for some reason, the night before he had been quite unable to stop dwelling on every unpleasant thing that had ever happened to him. The death of his parents, his lonely childhood, the loss of Tomoe, his currently lonely adulthood, he pondered them all and became rather irritated with himself all the while. But despite his almost desperate wish to simply let things be, he couldn't stop his mind from reeling forward, recklessly pulling every failure, every loss out from where he normally kept them locked away for him to study in excrutiating detail.

Hands clasped behind him, he stopped pacing and simply stared out towards the horizon, lost in a thousand thoughts and regrets. This was how his servant found him a while later, a white envelope clutched in her hand.

"Sir?" Her voice quavered ever so slightly, as she was afraid of him.

He turned and regarded her with his usual expressionless face. "What is it, Sakura?"

She thrust the envelope out at him. "This came for you sir." He took it from her hand and she scurried away, relieved to be out of his presence.

His name was scrawled on the envelope by an unfamiliar hand. Frowning slightly, he broke the seal and scanned the contents.

Captain Kenshin Himura,

Sir, I write with deepest sadness to inform you of the passing of Tomoe Myoujin. She follows her husband, Akira, who died earlier last month. As you might be aware, the entire island has come under attack from a virulent influenza which has mostly spread through our lower class citizens. The Reverend Myoujin and his wife ignored these dangers and continued to minister to these citizens and unfortunately, became infected.

My reason for writing you is thus: Captain Himura, in Mrs. Myoujin's last will and testament, she indicated that you should be given custody of her son, Yahiko, in the event of her death. She wrote this will soon after the death of her husband, when she realized that she too would succomb. She told me herself that I was to make sure you took him in. Yahiko is eight years old, and an only child. As you well know, Tomoe has no other family and Akira's only living relative, a cousin, has no interest in the boy.

I will take charge of Yahiko until you can come and retrieve him. It is my sincere hope that you will see fit to do so. If you decide not to take him in, I will have to send him to an orphanage. Please respond as soon as this letter finds you so that I may begin a course of action.

Yours Sincerely,

Kei Aritomo
Attorney at Law

Kenshin read the letter twice before the implications fully dawned on him. Tomoe was dead. He crumpled the letter and threw it into the wind, watching dispassionately as it was carried down into the water a hundred feet below. She was dead. He turned his back on the ocean and looked at his house. She should be there, waiting for him. She would have planted flowers and hung paintings and done a thousand things to make their home cozy and comfortable. They had dreamed of such things while they were engaged. A house, children, a life together. At that thought, something inside of him broke. He felt tears well up in his eyes as he stared at his cold, empty house. She was dead.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, counting to ten before opening them again. She wanted him to take in her son. He frowned slightly. What did he know about children? Nothing. He briefly considered writing to the lawyer and telling him to send the boy to an orphanage.

Kenshin's own childhood came back to him at that moment. His uncle always made sure the little boy knew that he was not wanted. He knew the pain of rejection and loneliness and how it could still sting, even many years after the fact. Knowing this, he could not seriously consider sending the boy to an orphanage. He could never inflict that kind of misery on anyone, especially a child of Tomoe's. A child that, if things had turned out differently, might have been his own.

He sighed and turned to look again at the ocean. It was a steely gray, dark and foreboding as it often was this time of year. Not a good time for sailing, but he had little choice. He straightened his shoulders and walked resolutely towards his house, his mind running over the many tasks he had to get done in order to set sail for his childhood home by the end of the week.

Yahiko Myoujin was small for his age, and slept like the dead. These were the only two observations Kenshin had made so far. The two had exchanged perhaps a dozen words or so over the two days they had been together, but Yahiko had mostly slept since his retrieval from the lawyer's home. Kenshin wondered if it was healthy for the boy to sleep so much.

He looked around the small cabin they shared and wished he was on his own boat. His ship, The Ryuu, was dry docked for the winter and undergoing repairs. There was no way he could have put it in the water with a great portion of its bottom torn up. Any captain with an ounce of sense docked for the winter and waited out the fierce storms that came with the season, occupying themselves with ship repairs and maintenance. This captain did not seem to possess much sense and his boat had clearly not spent much of its life being repaired or properly maintained. But, at this time of year, it was the best Kenshin had been able to do. The boat creaked loudly and a low rumbling of thunder in the distance warned of an incoming storm.

Kenshin glanced out the porthole and frowned. The sky was purple, the sea a leaden gray color and smooth as glass. A bad storm was coming and he didn't trust the drunken oaf at the helm. He rose from his seat and, with one last glance at his sleeping charge, he went in search of the captain.

Author's Notes…

There is no time or place to this story. Meaning, it's not specifically set in Japan during the 1800s. I use Japanese names, but I'm trying to avoid setting it anywhere. If you are absolutely determined to have a time, then, let's say…the 1700s. And place? Well, we know that the Japanese were not exactly the outgoing type, nor did they have an Imperial Navy. I'm using England as my research fodder, so, whoops, I guess I did kind of give it a time and a place, but not really…oh crap, I've confused myself.

What about the name? It's a naval term. According to the naval terms section of the Nautilus Homepage,
'Between the Devil and the Deep' means…
"In wooden ships, the "devil" was the longest seam of the ship. It ran from the bow to the stern. When at sea and the "devil" had to be caulked, the sailor sat in a bo'sun's chair to do so. He was suspended between the "devil" and the sea, the "deep", a very precarious position, especially when the ship was underway."
Why I chose the title should become clearer as the story progresses.