Letter of Marque
Sequel to Between the Devil and the Deep
A Rurouni Kenshin AU Fic
by Gemini

Rated R: For cursing and other naughty things

Disclaimer: This Rurouni Kenshin franchise is owned and operated by Earl "Nobuhiro" Watsuki,
Tim "Shonen" Jump and "Sony" Jones. There are also a few silent partners I can't recall.

The events in this story take place one year after the end of 'Between the Devil and the Deep'

Chapter 1 : Missing

The wharf-side tavern had, quite possibly, never seen better days. Its outer decorations included three drunk and passed out bums, a weathered wooden sign so battered by the elements that the name of the place was no longer visible and a large front window with glass panes so filthy it was impossible to see in or out. Kaoru loved it and never missed a chance to visit when her ship was docked.

The dark, musty corners lent themselves exceedingly well to clandestine meetings and the bar's staff and regular patrons knew not to ask questions or be curious about what went on there. That the beer was more water than hops, that the entire establishment reeked of smells better left to the imagination and that there were more rats than paying customers didn't bother her in the least. The Cat O'Nine Tails was her absolute favorite dive.

She had arrived an hour ago and sat patiently waiting for Sano to return with some information. She entertained herself by watching the other customers, the usual drunken rabble that was to be found in a place such as this and by shooing off inebriated and therefore uninhibited potential suitors. She finally got so annoyed she pulled out her rather wicked hunting knife, over 12 inches of razor sharp tempered steel, and spent her time toying with it in ways that kept the amorous men at bay.

"Someone trying to get into your britches?" Sano dropped down into the seat next to her, wincing slightly as the rickety old chair groaned and threatened to give way. The bartender immediately swooped by with a mostly clean mug of weak beer for him. He always treated his regulars well, especially the dangerous ones.

"What did you find out?" Kaoru asked, ignoring his question. Now that Sano was around to scare off anyone stupid enough to approach her, she put her knife away and began playing with her mug of warm watery beer, twirling the glass in her hands.

"No one's seen him in a while, about a month, I reckon." Sano said quietly, taking a swig of beer.

"And they don't know anything? Like what he was doing?" Kaoru leaned forward, her brow furrowed in worry.

Sano shook his head. "The best I got was out of old Kuro, you know, at the print shop? He said that Katsu had been acting real strange for a while, kept talking about corruption and the Navy."

Kaoru cursed softly. "That idiot. How much you want to bet that he's gotten himself into some sort of trouble?" She muttered.

"I'm not gonna take that bet, Captain, 'cause the odds are shitty. Do you think he's dead?" He scowled, not wanting to think about his old buddy being six feet under.

"I hope not, but knowing what an idiot he can be, it's a possibility." Kaoru murmured, pushing her mug of beer away, feeling slightly ill.

"Well, now what?" Sano downed the rest of his beer in one gulp.

"Well, I guess we're going to have to find out what happened to the moron." Kaoru replied, tapping her fingers thoughtfully on the worn, splintered old table.

"Where do we start?"

"With the Navy." She felt a small twinge at that, a tiny little burst of hope that maybe she'd see Kenshin again. The moment quickly passed and she buried the thought, her rational mind telling her that it had already been decided between the two of them, that they both knew it could never work. Besides, he was getting married.

A/N: This chapter is more of a teaser than a chapter, just to show what's going on.
What?! Kenshin's getting married? (ducks flying bricks) Lord, it's fun to be evil, except for the bricks. Where's the Advil?
Appearances by Okita, and the rest of the Shinsengumi (because these days I'm addicted to Peacemaker Kurogane) Tae,Katsu and some surprise guests! Wahoo! Stay tuned and thanks for your nice (and scary) reviews for BTDATD.