Title: The Geas

Author: Dragon's Daughter

Fandom: Rurouni Kenshin

Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. I am making no profit by writing this fan fiction. It is intended for recreation purposes only.

Pairing: K/K A/M

Rating: R / NC-17

Summary: Life hasn't been good for Kaoru since the day her father died and her evil witch of a stepmother turned her into a literal slave. A spell binds her every movement and hides her from the sight of the world until she happens across the path of Kenshin, a veteran of the Revolution who can not only see her, but is instantly smitten with her!

Archiving: Shattered Theories, Adult The unedited version of this fic will be available at Adult and at my personal web page, Shattered Theories.

Chapter Eight: Culmination

Kenshin was very beautiful when he was asleep. Kaoru had been quietly watching him ever since he'd dozed off after their makeshift supper. For the first time in years she was warm, well fed, and utterly at peace, but as the minutes ticked by Kaoru felt the protections Aoshi had carefully placed about her begin to crumble.

Oddly enough it didn't hurt as much as she'd thought it would to stand up and leave her husband. It still hurt, but somewhere deep inside she knew she'd taken as much as she deserved from him. Most people didn't even find this much love in their entire lives, but just this one night had been enough to make up for eight years of neglect. She'd heard people talk about being able to 'die happy', but she hadn't understood until now what they'd meant.

She could go to her death in peace feeling complete and her only regret would be that she never got to tell him to his face what he'd done for her.

Kaoru dressed quickly in the underclothes she'd worn beneath her gown. There was no chance in hell that she was going to wriggle back into that monster of silk and lace. Instead she made silent apologies as she took the inner coat from Kenshin's costume and wrapped it around herself. Instantly his scent surrounded her and made her heart pang.

With tears prickling her eyes, Kaoru knelt by Kenshin's peacefully slumbering form and gently tucked the blankets in around him. Then she pressed one last kiss against his lips and whispered the one thing she'd been longing to tell him all night.

"I love you, Kenshin." She swallowed on a lump in her throat. "Good-bye!"

She turned then and ran through the barrier Kenshin had made of the Hedge Maze. She didn't see her husband's eyes snap open nor did she see him roll to his feet and lunge for his pants.

'I should have seen it coming,' Kenshin snarled to himself as he struggled into his clothing as quickly as humanly possible. The lovemaking, the little marriage, the way she'd been committing every last detail to memory; only a dying woman would have done that.

'…and stupid me, I mistook it for love…'

Kenshin barreled out of the Hedge Maze in full Hitokiri mode. He could see the marks of her passage on the windswept streets. He'd tracked killers three times her skill through rain and stone. Kaoru had given herself to him and she was going to learn just whom she belonged to now.

The Battousai didn't give up what rightfully belonged to him.

Kaoru raced through the dark streets of Tokyo as through the devil himself tread on her heels. She took every shortcut she knew to reach the Dojo before the stroke of Midnight. As far as she knew Aoshi was still at the Masquerade and Misao would have left to check on her people as soon as the carriage had left.

That meant there'd be no witnesses.

'Quick and easy is the best I can hope for.' Kaoru reasoned to herself. Hopefully Yumi was mad enough that she'd just make Kaoru's heart stop or smite her on the spot. At worst she was looking at a half hour of whatever she could come up with. Any longer and she'd risk discovery.

The run kept her blood pumping through her system and warded off a bit of the night's chill. Kaoru held Kenshin's jacket tightly around her chest. If she pretended hard enough it felt like his arms were still around her. She didn't dare stop to try and catch another whiff of his scent, although her heart wanted nothing more than to turn around and go back to him. However she'd made her bed and now she was going to die in it.

Yumi had arrived home long before she had. Kaoru stepped in the gates of her ancestral home for the last time. Every light in the Dojo was on and Yumi was standing in the front door flanked by two large men waiting for her.

"Well, my traitorous child returns." Yumi said coldly as Kaoru approached her. "You've done a fair piece of work tonight, but even with your little allies you have to come skulking home."

Kaoru listened numbly and didn't dignify Yumi's bile with a reply. 'Get it over with' she wanted to say. 'Do it before Kenshin follows me and does something foolish.'

"Enough. I've done with you." Yumi spoke a word. It rippled and flowed the way Kenshin and Aoshi's had, but there was something different about it. The power the Word called was scummy and clung to Kaoru's skin like fish slime. However the effect was enough to knock her to her knees.

She'd felt the Geas ease off enough in the past few days to recognize what Yumi had done. The geas blew away on the wind of magic and tore apart like cobwebs. For the first time in nearly ten years Kaoru was completely free. She looked up at Yumi in shock ready to ask 'why?' only to see the two men converging upon her.

As their grubby hands closed on her arms she heard Yumi call out, "She's all yours gentlemen. Make sure she's out of the country by tonight. I'm sure you collected enough of the city tramps to make a decent shipment."

"Aye, Ma'am. She's Chicago-bound…" One of the men grunted as he gagged Kaoru.

'Chicago?' Kaoru felt her blood turn to ice water in her veins. Misao had mentioned these men before. They were the slavers in the Harbor! She'd heard the stories of girls taken from the Orient to the Americas and forced into prostitution for little to no money. The stories usually had them dead of drugs, violence, or alcohol within the year…

Trust Yumi to come up with a fate worse than death. Kaoru whimpered as her hands and feet were roughly bound and a bag was tied over her head.

'I should have stayed in the Hedge Maze…' she thought as the men lifted her and began their journey into hell.

Yahiko bolted from his cover in the storehouse as soon as the Courtyard cleared. He'd been hiding ever since Yumi and Shura had returned home several hours ago and started packing as though their lives depended on it.

Now he realized that they probably did.

The Dojo was completely deserted. He'd heard Yumi board a carriage shortly after the Men who'd taken Kaoru with them drove their wagon off into the night. From his hiding place he hadn't been able to hear much, but what he had heard was enough.

He'd been listening right alongside Kaoru on the night when Misao had complained about the Slavers in the Harbor. Well if she'd been looking for evidence against them she had it now! Speaking of, Misao would know exactly where they were headed and she'd know how to get Kaoru away from them: time to find Weasel-girl.

Yahiko got perhaps two steps out of the dojo before a hand shot out of the darkness and twisted in his gi. He found himself lifted off his feet and held level with a pair of blazing yellow eyes framed by hot red bangs.

"I'm looking for a girl. She'd have passed by here a few minutes ago: black hair, blue eyes, gray coat." The man snarled. "Where did she go?"

"K-Kaoru?" Yahiko couldn't scrape together the presence of mind to lie. He'd seen a lot of dangerous men in his days on the streets, but this one blew them all out of the water. "The slavers took her. I need to find Misao. She knows where they're going…" he babbled.

If anything those eyes blazed even brighter. "Where do I find this Misao?" The man bit the words off so hard Yahiko felt like they would be bleeding.

"Yahiko?" Misao's voice echoed through the street behind him. "Hey, let him down you bastard!"

"Himura?" Shinomori's voice followed Misao's so closely that it might as well have been a masculine echo of hers.

Yahiko struggled in the man's grip and was immediately dropped. He caught himself and threw himself in Misao's direction. "Misao, Yumi sold Kaoru to the slavers in the harbor!"

Misao and Shinomori were standing by a carriage, having obviously just arrived just after the nick of time. The red haired man pushed past him and they followed without question as he boarded the carriage.

"You know where they're taking her?" he growled at Misao who nodded firmly. "Then direct the driver."

Yahiko found himself tossed onto the smooth leather seats a few seconds before Shinomori slid in beside him. The red haired man… Himura, by all accounts, settled restlessly across from him. The carriage took off with a lurch and soon they were flying down the streets as fast as two horses could bear them.

Yahiko watched Himura in silence. This was the man who'd been romancing Kaoru? Yumi had called him Battousai and after seeing him Yahiko could believe it. The man's eyes burned like hell-fire and tension sang in every line of his body. A sheathed sword was braced against his shoulder and Yahiko had no doubts that he was very well versed in its use.

What in hell had Kaoru brought home?

Kaoru knew they'd arrived in the Harbor by the scent in the air. She was still bundled up like a bag of potatoes, but her other senses were working just fine. She was sporting several bumps and bruises from her rough handling and unless she did something quick she was looking to acquire more than a few more before the night was over.

'If worst comes to worst, at least I lost my virginity where I wanted it.' She thought acerbically.

Seriously though, there wasn't an evil spell binding her anymore. If one of Yumi's goons was dumb enough to unbind her then she was going to be gone so fast there'd be a void left in the air by her wake.

She'd been prepared to go to her death quietly, but now all bets were off.

The ropes binding her were securely tied, but Kaoru hadn't been living with a pickpocket and an aspiring ninja for nothing. She'd already gotten the bindings on her wrists loose and when she felt like she had a chance the ones on her legs were going to be gone along with them.

Kaoru bit back a shriek of indignity as a calloused hand brusquely fondled her chest. A second hand probed the folds of her skirt, but the wagon clattered to a halt then and the hands retreated. Voices shouted back and forth in languages she couldn't comprehend, but when the same hands from before hefted her over a broad shoulder and knowing chuckles came from all around, she knew what came next.

'Not if I get any say in it, bastard!' Kaoru seethed and struggled as much as she dared, but without being able to see it was sort of a losing battle. Sea spray slapped against her skin and she knew they were boarding a ship when the world bounced a bit, like her human transport was walking up a gangplank.

Whistles and catcalls she couldn't understand sprang up from all directions, but the faded quickly. The spray cut off suddenly and she heard the distinct sound of a door closing. Next thing she knew she'd been tossed into a yielding surface and the man was pawing at her clothes again.

The bag came free and Kaoru glanced around to confirm her surroundings. She was in what appeared to be the main cabin of a typical schooner. The man who'd brought her there caught her by the chin and jerked her around to face him. He had that weathered look that all sailors got when sea, wind, and sand have eroded their features like driftwood. He had a thick bristling beard that did nothing to disguise the leering grin behind it.

"Well, aren't you a pretty-pretty?" he cooed in a voice that made Kaoru want to vomit. "Do you know where you're going, pretty? You're going to America, the Land of the Free! Wasn't it kind of your stepmother to pay for your passage? There's work there for a strong girl like you and for a little…" there he paused to caress her cheek, "consideration I'll be sure to put you in for a good job when we arrive. What do you say?"

Kaoru did her best to look cowed. "R-really? What would I be doing in America?" She put on her best 'stupid Japanese girl' accent while she worried at her bonds. 'Keep talking you smelly gaijin.' She told him silently. 'Give me time to get loose!'

"Oh, there's all kinds of work: a smart girl like you could get a good position as a maid in a big house hold or as a waitress out west where the cowboys tip with gold nuggets! I bet a pretty girl like you would have no trouble attracting the eye of some rich American. You know they're all millionaires over there. So what do you say…"

Her hands were free! Kaoru smiled sweetly and the ugly foreigner took it as agreement right up into the moment her slender white hand connected with his jaw. The man dropped with surprising ease, but then Kaoru knew how to lay a man out with minimal effort. She briskly untied her ankles and peeked through one of the portholes in the front of the cabin to assess her chances of escape.

Not good…

The deck was fairly bristling with cutthroat vermin. Kaoru cast a leery eye at the black water lapping against the side of the boat. It was insanely cold in the water this time of year, but then again her chances of survival were doubled in the water than on the deck. Plus, hypothermia was such an easy death compared to being impaled or gang rape.

She had just about made up her mind to jump when the first scream sounded. A quick glance showed several shadowed forms working their way through the crew. Bodies and a fine blood flew in every direction.

"She would…" Kaoru whispered. It would be just like Yumi to take payment for her and then arrange to have her killed anyway. That was it then.

Time to jump.

The Oniwabanshuu had beaten them there. In retrospect Kenshin realized that they'd probably been hot on her trail from the second she'd disrupted the protection spell on the Hedge Maze. Hanya was a good enough mage to have felt it go down and if Yumi had escaped then they'd obviously have known to follow Kaoru back to the Dojo where the witch was holed up. Unfortunately that didn't occur to him until much later.

No, they arrived at the ship just in time to hear the slaughter begin and to see a slender white figure go over the side of the ship.

There wasn't time to think. There wasn't time to speak. The cold water hit him like a hammer and he was vaguely aware of Aoshi bellowing out a Water Elemental summons as he sliced through the frigid water with powerful strokes of his arms. Kaoru was floundering a few feet away from the dock, but she righted herself quickly and began swimming towards him.

The water leeched the strength from his limbs and Kenshin knew he wasn't going to make it to her. The water in Tokyo during July could kill in a matter of minutes. Even if they got out there was no way they'd ever get warm enough in time to survive.

So what?

All he has to do was get to her. That was all that mattered. Kaoru wasn't going to survive any more than he was. If he was going to die then he was going to do it in her arms, if only to prove her wrong. She was his and if they had to be together in the afterlife then so be it!

Two feet… one feet… almost there… Kaoru came into his arms like she'd been doing it all her life. Treading water with his legs, Kenshin cupped her face in his hands and hauled her in for the kiss he'd been waiting his entire life to give. Kaoru opened for him with a whimper and he lost track of time.

Neither of them even noticed when the water slipped over their heads and they started to sink.

"So… does he do things like this often?" Misao asked as she watched the pale sinuous forms of the kappa that Aoshi had summoned bear her step-sister and Himura out of the water. She worked quickly as she spoke, stripping off their wet clothes and bundling them in blankets retrieved from the coach.

Aoshi made a noise that in any lesser being would have been an exasperated sigh. "There is a reason the Government strongly recommended that Himura have a twenty-four hour watch in place. He is prone to… how shall I put this gracefully? Dramatics."

"I can see that." Misao murmured a feather-light charm on her sister's comatose form and lifted her off the ground. "We need to get them warm. I put a heating cantrip on the blankets, but they won't do more than buy us some time. The Dojo is too far away."

"Himura's town home is closest. I'll send a sprite ahead to warn the staff to have two hot baths waiting." Aoshi hefted his employer without the aide of a spell and placed him alongside Kaoru. "They're used to those sorts of things, living with the Battousai as they do."

"Those poor people… I hope they get paid enough for that." Misao shook her head. "I hope you get paid enough for this."

"I assure you that I don't, but that is not the issue." Aoshi handed the small ninja-ko up into the carriage and then boarded himself. Between the two of them they managed to heat the interior of the coach enough to last the ride back.

Kaoru awoke in a bedroom she didn't recognize. After a moment's panic she realized that she wasn't on the boat and moreover she was still in Japan. The room was decorated after the Western style, but she could hear cheery voices in the distance and they were speaking Japanese.

"Where am I?" She wondered out loud as she sat up. To her surprise she was dressed in a fresh white nightgown that sported a veritable fountain of frothy lace at the neck and cuffs. Her movements dislodged several hot water bottles and heated bricks… no wonder she'd felt so warm…

A shudder chased through her shoulders as she recalled the icy cold water of the bay and the last thing she remembered was Kenshin swimming out to her before the cold had drained her energy from her limbs. Her head snapped up. Was this Kenshin's home? Kaoru shoved off the comforter and blankets to swing her legs over the side of the bed. It was a little odd sleeping so far off the floor.

Her feet encountered a pair of soft blue slippers and Kaoru regarded them with shock. Shoes? In the house? She shuddered again. That was just so… unclean!

After a bit of examination, Kaoru realized the shoes weren't meant to go outside. Instead of good wood or leather soles, they had thin layers of cloth on the bottom. These were strict indoor shoes. She snorted. Only gaijin… well, maybe they were something like tabi? She recalled the stockings she had to wear to the ball. They'd been too thin to wear without shoes. These slippers were probably what westerners used to protect their uselessly fragile stockings inside.

It was too cold to go barefoot, so Kaoru slipped her feet into the silly shoes and retrieved the robe that had been laid across the foot of her bed to cover the ridiculous nightgown she'd been dressed in. Really, she'd have to get her yukata back from the Dojo if this is what people wore to bed around here…

Quiet as a whisper, Kaoru padded out of the room and into the empty hall. There was another door across from hers and a staircase at either end of the corridor. The staircase leading down was far more attractive than the one going up, which she found could be hidden behind another sliding door disguised to look like a blank wall. The other door was ajar and she peeked inside.

It was another bedroom; larger than the one she'd woken up in and the furnishings were different. Where the other room had been unisexual and decorated more with aesthetics in mind, this room was strictly masculine and designed as a living space. Somewhere in the back of her mind Kaoru made plans to explore a bit more thoroughly, but her eyes were drawn instantly to the bed.

Any doubts that she was indeed in Kenshin's home fled her mind. He was laid out on the bed, packed in with twice the heating apparatuses than she'd had, but he was still pale and unconscious.

Kaoru slipped into the room and closed the door behind her as quietly as she dared. Kenshin didn't stir as she approached. The only sign that there was any life in him at all was shallow rise and fall of his chest. His cheeks were pale and his skin felt cold when she laid her hand on his brow.

"…but you weren't in the water any longer than I was." She whispered in confusion. "Why are you still like this?"

Her jaw tensed up and with a grim kind of resolution Kaoru removed some of the heating pans from the bed before stripping out of her nightgown and robe and then crawling into bed beside her husband… where she belonged. Underneath the covers he was nude as well, letting the hot water bottles do their work without clothes to impede them. She wrapped her arms around Kenshin's neck and pressed her body close. As good as the other things were, there was really nothing better for heating up a bed than a human body.

Up close, she could smell the wonderful ginger and citrus scent around him. Once again she smelled of jasmine so she had to assume someone had bathed them both while they'd been asleep. Kenshin stirred a little in her arms and was delighted when he automatically moved to put his arms around her.

"You're going to fine, my love." She murmured into his ear. "Or I'm going to make you regret it."

Misao was grinning like a maniac.

The holding cells in the police station were small and grubby, not at all the kind of accommodations her darling mother and half-sister were accustomed to at all. She stood in front of the wood bars holding them inside and examined the eerily glowing wards painted onto the walls of the cell to suppress Yumi and Shura's natural talents.

"Comfortable in there, most honored Mother?" she asked sweetly and earned herself a glare that –if looks were blades- should have slit her throat.

"I see Kojishirou's little tramp managed to subvert you as well." Yumi spat as she drew herself up off the splintered prison bench that served her as a bed as well as a seat. Her make-up was long gone and her usually immaculate hair was limp with sweat. The police chief's interrogators had not been kind.

"There wasn't much work for her to do." Misao replied cheerily. "After all I come from a long line of liars and backstabbers. The fruit never falls far from the tree, mother –dear."

Shura as usual faded into her mother's shadow to glare malevolently at her younger sister. It had never been more apparent how estranged the girl was from independent thought. In fact, she hadn't said a word since the police (on an anonymous tip) had pulled their conveyance aside on the road and their mage had gone into a hysterical fit from the scent of blood magic reeking off Yumi. Cut off from her power source and drained from the night's exertions, Yumi hadn't been able to escape her pursuants. When a young girl had been discovered in the conveyance with them with her wrists slit and slowly dying of blood loss they'd been taken in.

She'd probably been planning to use the energy raised by the girl's death to call up a spell of protection to keep the hounds off her heels. By then she'd had to have known that Kaoru and Himura were connected and was rightly afraid for her life.

Misao had been brought in for questioning, but Aoshi had put in an appearance and their mage hadn't been able to find any traces of the dark spells on her. Now she was here to inform her iniquitous mother of her fate.

"Himura really isn't happy with you." Misao drawled and was pleased to see Yumi's face go a few shades paler. "Come to think of it, no one is really happy with you. Not only have you been polluting an uncharted Node for the past ten years and consequently messing up the earth energies for miles around, there was that little activist group you were involved in before you came here. Emperor Meiji has been looking for you for a long time. You're in a lot of trouble, Mommy-dearest."

Yumi regarded her stonily and remained silent.

Misao grinned toothily. "As it happens, you know some things that a friend of mine is interested in. He can't… or rather won't protect you from the legal consequences of your action, but he has a certain leeway in the matter of Himura and you know which one of your problems is the bigger one. Sing like a birdie and you have a chance of getting to jail alive!"

That penetrated. Yumi's gaze sharpened into something resembling the hauteur that had defined her life until now. It was disgusting, but even in a plain prison yukata Yumi still had her presence and dignity. A woman like her should have been pathetic and weeping now, but Yumi had never wept in her life. There was steel in her still and Misao realized that maybe she'd inherited a bit of her mother after all.

"What does he want?" Her voice was firm and did not waver.

"Names." Aoshi stepped into view behind Kaoru and for the first time Yumi showed signs of crumbling. "Greetings, Komagata-san. I haven't seen you since Himura killed Shishio."

"Don't you dare speak my Shishio-sama's name so familiarly!" Yumi spat. "You aren't fit to lick his boots, Shinomori! You couldn't even catch me and I am not a fraction of the warrior he was!"

"Perhaps not." Aoshi allowed. "However, you have contacts on all walks in the criminal underground of Tokyo. You'll make my life so much easier if you provide me with names and addresses. Misao has told you what I'm willing to offer in return. The decision is yours."

In the end, Yumi made the only decision she could. Misao left the police station on Aoshi's arm with a copy of the list he'd drawn up in her pocket. There wasn't a carriage this time, but she was perfectly happy to walk alongside her new… lover? Suitor? Well, whatever the hell Aoshi was she preferred his presence to any smelly horse.

"Do you think they've woken up yet?" There wasn't any question of who 'they' were. Misao had last seen Kaoru peacefully sleeping off her swimming bout in Himura's guest bedroom.

"Your sister has no doubt. She was fighting to stay awake when we pulled her from the water. Himura on the other hand…" Aoshi paused. "I believe he went into the water intending not to come out again. He fought the healing I worked on him. He will awaken eventually, but he is being stubborn."

"When Kaoru wakes up she'll get him out of whatever funk he's gotten himself into." Misao said firmly. "She's good at making people see sense… with a bokken if necessary."

That earned her a rare chuckle. "Indeed. I've seen the results of one of her 'persuasions.'" He looked away. "Hopefully she'll wake up before he wills himself into a coma."

"Don't worry." Misao repeated. "She always comes through."

Kaoru woke out of a light doze to the feel of fingers brushing her bangs out of her eyes. When she looked up she found Kenshin leaning over her with one elbow propped on the pillow as he ran his fingers through her hair.

His eyes were the color of antique gold as he looked down at her and his mouth was grim, otherwise Kaoru would have smiled to see him awake.

"You left." He said simply.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. "I… I didn't want you to be hurt." It was a weak defense, but it was the only one she had. Kenshin was the one thing she'd ever wanted for herself and the thought that he'd be killed defending her…

"Did you think it wouldn't hurt when I woke with my wife gone overseas to be sold as a whore?" he demanded. "Did you think it wouldn't kill me if you'd died?" Kenshin's grip on her hair tightened, but not painfully so. "You swore to me and then you left… Kaoru, did you think that I couldn't protect you?"

"I…" Kaoru's throat went dry and she had to swallow. "Kenshin, you're… you're the only one I've ever wanted and you're the only one I'll ever want, but if anything happened to you because of me I couldn't have borne it." She touched his shoulder with trembling fingers. "It's been so long since I've been able to have something I wanted without having to see it torn away. You terrify me, Kenshin, because… I'm so afraid something will happen…" her voiced cracked and tears prickled at her eyes. Instantly her husband was there and kissing them away.

"Koi… when you swore…" he murmured between kisses. "Did you mean it? Or was that just making the most of your last few minutes?" He backed away and looked deep into her eyes as she answered.

"I meant it. I'm yours." Kaoru swallowed. "I was yours a long time ago."

"Then that means that you have to trust me to take care of you." Kenshin insisted. "If you can't… then this means nothing. I love you and I want to provide for you, but I can't do that if you won't let me."

"I… I don't know how…" Kaoru bit her lip. "I love you too, Kenshin. It frightens me how much I love you."

"Then let me show you, Kaoru." His eyes were flickering madly between amber and violet as though he could decide what emotion he was feeling. "Please, Koi. Let me?"

Kaoru licked her lips and smiled tentatively.

Then she nodded.

fin

End Chapter Eight

Seiyuu: There's a epilogue to come, but it's pure fluffy lemon so I doubt it will be posted here. If you want it then go ahead and request it in your review (no, this isn't a plea for reviews) and I'll post it!