Living in the Past

By Henrika

Chapter 5

Henrika- Holds up hands Don't kill me! Sweatdrops at angry mob Don't hurt me too bad! I finally managed to translate the majority of my pencil smudges into the end of the story! So I decided to give it all out. Thanks to all my loyal reviewers and anyone who enjoyed this story. Enjoy!

The bitter cold was the first thing Kenshin felt. He vaguely registered the fact that he was sitting against a tree trunk in a snowy forest. His limbs were numb and he had the notion that he had been in this place for some time now. "Anata?" A vision in a pristine white kimono came through the trees and stood in front of him.

He turned away from her, looking at a small tree that had struggled through the snow as he spoke. " I'm sorry I stole your happiness. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. I'm…" He stopped as Tomoe knelt by his side and gently turned his face toward her.

"I forgave you that day. I forgive you again. Kiyosato, my fiance, has forgiven you. Enishi has taken his vengence on you. Your friends don't care who you were. Yet you continue to linger here, dwelling on a past that can't be changed. Why?"

"Every nameless person I slaughtered, how could I possibly be forgiven by them?" The bloody nights of Kyoto dominating his thoughts as he spoke.

Tomoe smiled. "You have to forgive yourself anata."

"I'm not worthy to be forgiven for the blood I spilled." He said slowly, feeling the pull of an eternal sleep.

"Your friends seem to think so. The one who wishes for your smiles thinks you are worthy enough to have another chance."

Kenshin's breathing slowed as he succumbed to the cold. "Another…chance." He managed to say.

"Breathe. Breathe in and…breathe out." Tomoe guided him. Kenshin drew in a shuddering breath and ended up coughing violently into his hand. Specks of blood shimmered in his hand. "I want you to recover completely this time. Remember, the weight of the world is not on your shoulders. You have others to help your bear this lode." Kenshin still felt the bitter cold as Tomoe kissed him lightly, but there was a warmth in his heart that hadn't been there before. "Live happy anata. We'll meet again and I'll always smile over you." The forest disappeared, as did Tomoe, leaving only a shining prick of light in the darkness. He began to drag himself towards it, the smell of strong herbs drawing him further and giving him new strength.

Kenshin began to shiver uncontrollably as the time passed since Megumi had set the herbs to work. "Are there any more blankets?" She asked. Sano shook his head. Kenshin's head fell to the side and a violent cough racked his thin frame.

"Megumi." A wide-eyed Yahiko said. The others turned and saw the spray of blood on Kenshin's pillow.

"I was afraid of this." She said.

"Afraid of what?' Kaoru asked fearfully.

"He developing pnemonia."

"Damn." Sano cursed as Megumi's diagnosis hit.

"He has a chance to pull through, but…" Megumi trailed off.

"He'll make it." Kaoru said forcefully. "He has to."

"What I don't get is how he got it in the first place." Yahiko said.

"A good question, but it could have been a number of things. It was probably the cold." Megumi added.

"Kaoru." Everyone looked over as Kenshin struggled to open his eyes. Dull, glassy violet eyes glanced around the room, taking in the occupants as they tried to focus.

There was a gasping breath before Kaoru could manage "Kenshin!" . It took all of her willpower not to hug him.

"Good to have you back Kenshin." Sano said.

"How do you feel Sir Ken?" Megumi asked.

"The truth." Kaoru added.

"Sick." Kenshin admitted when he saw that he couldn't weasel his way out of answering.

"That's to be expected. You've been through quite an ordeal." Megumi laid a hand on his forehead. "Although it does appear that your fever is breaking. Why don't I get you something to eat." She stood up, grabbing Sano and Yahiko and dragging them out with her.

"Ow Fox, what the hell was that all about?" Sano when she unceremoniusly dropped them in the kitchen.

"Think about it idiot. Kaoru is the only one who is going to be able to get Sir Ken to confess what he was really dreamin about."

"Oooo. I get it. Kenshin won't say anything when we're there because it would make us worry. Ugly's still gonna have a hard time getting anything out of him though." Yahiko said with a great amount of insight for his age.

"Right. We're just going to have to hope. Now help me find my way around this kitchen." Megumi said.

"I…apologize…Miss Kaoru."

"Whatever for?"

"I…didn't finish… the laundry…that I…didn't"

Kaoru's eyes shimmered with tears. "Kenshin, you idiot. I don't care about the laundry, I care about you! Eep." She turned a flaming red as she realized what she had said. Very eloquent confession Kaoru. She mentally berated herself Now what do I do?

"I'm sorry to have…worried you… Kaoru." The lack of the honorific snapped Kaoru's attention back to the present. She stared at Kenshin, whose eyes were shut, but there was a gentle smile on his lips.

"As long as you're safe, I forgive you." Kenshin sighed, a mix between happiness and pain.

"I…I didn't talk in...my sleep, did I?" Kenshin asked apprehensively.

It was Kaoru's turn to sigh. "You did. Do you want to talk about it?"

"What…did I say?"

"At first you were asking someone to make it stop."

"I was back in Kyoto, in the old days." Kaoru was surprised that Kenshin was actually being forthcoming about this, when he had hid so much else from them, but she decided not to interrupt. "It was rainning blood…and all the people I killed during the revolution…wanted their revenge." Kaoru held onto Kenshin's hand for support, whether for himn or for her, she didn't know. "They found me and everything went black. What else did I say?"

"You were yelling for Tomoe, then for me."

"I killed her, then it was my fault you died." His tears began again as the familiar guilt twisted his face. "I should have protected you. It was all my fault. You've been kidnapped and nearly killed because I didn't want to remember the truth of what I am!" He struggled to sit, barely managing it before Kaoru could help him.

"Oh Kenshin." Kaoru embraced him, being mindful of his wounds. She felt him stiffen underneath her.

"Miss Kaoru, I'm not worthy of…" Kenshin started, but he was violently cut off.

"You're not worthy of what Kenshin? Friends? Happiness? Compassion? Love?" Kaoru wasn't finished though. A dam had broken inside her and years of frustration were pouring out. "If you think that's true than I hate to say that you have friends that love you. We're not afraid of who you used to be!"

Kenshin snapped back. "I need you to be!" Golden eyes blazed, but Kaoru refused to flinch.

"Why?"

Kenshin lost his composure at that. "Can't…can't. Guilty…stained…easier to say goodbye to a monster." He hid behind his bangs. Kaoru resisted the urge to sob.

"We love you Kenshin. We love you for who you are right now, and we forgive the sins of your past Kenshin. Please move forward, move on." She hugged him again.

"Miss Kaoru…I." Kenshin couldn't finish the thought, hearing Tomoe's words echo across his thoughts. Forgive yourself. There are those who think you deserve a second chance. Kenshin was overwhelmed and did the only thing he could think of in his half-delirious state, which was returning Kaour's hug as best as he could, clinging desparately to her.

"Kenshin." Kaoru asked softly after a minute.

"Miss Kaoru, do you really think this unworthy person could ever deserve another chance?"

The question threw Kaoru off slightly, but she answered instantly. "Of course you are!"

"Thank you for everything Kaoru." His grip slackened on her back and Kaoru pulled back a bit to see that he had fallen asleep with a contented look on his face. Kaoru settled back down and stayed in Kenshin's arms.

I could get used to this. She thought dreamily. "Sweet dreams Kenshin." Kaoru whispered as she herself drifted off.

Thwack! "Owwww!" sano cursed for a moment, dropping his spoon and hastily withdrawing his stinging hand out of the range of the miso stew. A smirking Megumi brandished the hot stirring spoon at him.

"I told you, this is for Sir Ken. Besides, you wouldn't want it anyway." She said as she began stirring again. Sano stopped blowing on his hand for a minute.

"Why not?" Megumi laughed as she produced a small bottle.

"Isn't that…?" Yahiko asked as he and Sano got a closer look at it.

"Yes, it's the same paralyzing potion I was planning to use on him to keep him from Kyoto." She dumped a portion of the contents into the soup as Yahiko and Sano sweatdropped, remembering the other thing Megumi had brought along.

"You don't still have…the collar, do you?" Sano asked. Fox ears and a slightly lecherous grin served as his answer. "Forget I asked."

Megumi ladled some soup into a bowl. "If we don't drug him, he'll try to get up before he's healed." Megumi said matter-of-factly. "You know it, I know it, and Sir Ken knows it."

Sano sighed. "You're right, but it would be best to have Kaoru with him when he goes down and wakes up. That way he won't suspect that he's sleeping so much."

"A good idea and you admitted that I was right. Are you feeling okay Roosterhead?" Megumi laid a hand on his forehead as Yahiko rolled his eyes.

"Geez, would you two stop flirting already?" Sano and Megumi only paused for a second before they knocked Yahiko out through the open kitchen door.

"After you Megumi." Sano exaggerated a bow and swept a hand towards the door.

Megumi, who miraculously hadn't spilled the soup, made her way out while blowing on her fist. "Why thank you Sanosuke." They walked side-by-side down the porch, ignoring the unconcious kid in the yard.

Megumi put a finger up to her mouth before she opened the door. They found Kaoru curled in Kenshin's arms, with his chin resting on her head. Backing out of the room, Megumi couldn't keep the smug grin off her face. "I told you she'd get through to him."

"Your wounds have healed up nicely." Megumi told a groggy Kenshin. True to her word, she had drugged him for the better part of his recovery.

"So you'll finally let me out of bed?" He had been stuck in his room for nearly two weeks and he was beginning to get cabin fever.

"Yes." She smiled. Kaoru walked in. "Perhaps Kaoru could take you for walk." Megumi suggested. They both nodded and with a bit of assistance the pair were on their way.

"Miss Kaoru?" Kenshin asked after they had made it to the riverbank.

"Yes?"

"I think that I'd like to spend the rest of my second chance with you."

She smiled. "I'd like that too."

Henrika- Bit of a sappy ending, but it just seemed to write itself in. Please review and tell me what you thought about the end of the whole story. Ja ne!