To Forgive

Spoiler: Not really, here and there.

Kaoru tried to wiggle out of her bonds, curse words she had learned from Sano running through her mind. A sword point to her throat stopped her in her tracks. "Quit trying to escape. You've already made yourself a nuisance. I might just kill you now before Battousai gets here." She stopped struggling and felt tears prick her eyes. Why did this always happen? Just when things were starting to settle down and get back to normal, just when Kenshin seemed to be on the verge of admitting his feelings, some psycho with a grudge kidnapped her and challenged him. This would set her back weeks. Kenshin would feel guilty, avoid her for a while, and she just KNEW that the second he made up his mind to tell her his feelings some other psycho would interfere.

She sat there, a picture of dejection. The ropes were chafing her wrists and she kept gagging on the cloth in her mouth. Tears flowed down her face and soaked the gag. Her kidnapper knelt in front of her. "Well, you certainly have spirit." He said, rubbing the large bump on his head that she had given him. His left eye was starting to swell shut as well. "I can see why the Battousai likes you. You must be quite lively in bed." Her face flamed and she shook her head vehemently. "No? A cold fish?" he asked a smile on his lips. She shook her head harder. "What?" Curious, he removed her gag. "We've never…." She suddenly felt ridiculous trying to explain their relationship to a psychotic swordsman.

"Never ever?" he teased. Kaoru gave him her fiercest look. "Unlike you, Kenshin is a gentleman." She growled. He smirked. "Touché." He ran a finger along her jaw. "Either he doesn't like women or he has remarkable self control. I know I couldn't live with a beauty like you and resist the urge to taste." Her face went from red to white. She tried to pull away from his hand, but he grabbed her head and kissed her hard. She bucked her legs and hit him square in the crotch. He jumped back with an anguished howl. "You bitch!" he roared. He pulled his sword from his scabbard and pointed it at her throat. "Stop right there." A soft voice murmured fiercely. Kaoru released a sigh of relief. Kenshin was here.

"Kaoru-dono…are you okay?" he asked. She nodded, rubbing her raw wrists. She looked down at the man who had kidnapped her, he lay on the floor, the victim of several of Kenshin's signature moves. Was it just her or did Kenshin seem a little more harsh than usual? He had nearly killed this one. He took her elbow and steered her out of the small hut where she had been kept prisoner. "I'm sorry…" he murmured, his face hidden by his hair. "Don't worry about it. He didn't do anything…" She smiled at him, but he didn't notice. He nodded at the police who stood waiting in the clearing. Saitoh ground his cigarette out and walked towards them. Kaoru felt Kenshin's grip on her elbow tighten slightly.

"Next time, Battousai, you might not be able to save her." Saitoh said with a smirk. A shudder went through Kenshin's body. "There won't be a next time." He said, his voice quiet but determined. Kaoru looked at him, but he looked so fierce that she didn't dare ask him what he meant. The walk back to the dojo was quiet, he was deep in thought. Yahiko, Megumi and Sano were waiting for them when they got back. "I knew he'd save you, busu-sensei!" Yahiko said merrily. Now that he saw she was okay, he went back to practicing. Sano walked up to the two of them. He gave Kaoru a brief squeeze and grinned. "Good. You're okay. I knew Kenshin would save you!" Grinning, he sauntered off, saying something about gambling. Megumi examined Kaoru's wrists and applied a balm, gently wrapping cloth around them. "Keep these dry and clean, change the bandages twice a day." She said, handing the young girl a jar of the balm. She left soon after, heading back to the clinic to help Dr. Genzai with the day's patients. Yahiko ran past Kaoru. "I'm going to the Akabeko!" he yelled as he ran out the dojo gate. She looked over at Kenshin, who had been silent since the walk back. They were alone.

"Kenshin?" she asked, nervously. He didn't reply. She reached out a hand and gingerly touched his shoulder. "Kenshin?" he jumped a little at the contact and then turned to face her. "Kaoru-dono, I'm sorry. What's wrong?" She shook her head. "Nothing, I was just worried about you, you seem a little distant. Are you okay?" His gaze drifted to the hand she put on his shoulder, to the bandages around her wrist. His eyes darkened. "I'm fine." He rose and went to prepare dinner. She watched him leave, tears rising in her eyes.

Dinner was quiet. Yahiko was still at the Akabeko and Sano must have won some money and treated himself to dinner, or he was running up his tab with Tae. Either way, he wasn't around. Kenshin ate methodically, not seeming to notice the food. Kaoru felt like shaking him until he told her what was wrong. "Kenshin?" she asked carefully. He blinked and looked up at her.
"Hai, Kaoru-dono?"
"Are you okay? You're acting strange." He smiled but it was strained. "Daijobou."
She shook her head. "No, you're not. You've been acting strange since you rescued me. Was it what Saitoh said? Please, Kenshin, tell me what's wrong!" He shook his head. "It's nothing. I'm just a little tired. Don't worry, Kaoru-dono." He stood and cleared the dishes. Kaoru stared after him, the sound of water splashing as he cleaned the dishes. "Kenshin…why won't you tell me what's wrong?" she whispered.

Later that night, she was preparing to go to sleep when there was a knock on her door. Tightening the sash on her sleeping robe, she went to see who it was. Kenshin stood there, a mere shadow in the dim light. "Kenshin? she asked. He smiled . "I just wanted to apologize again for putting you in danger. And…I wanted to thank you for your generosity." She stared at him. "Kenshin, you're not thinking of leaving are you?" she asked. He started. "No, no. I just wanted to thank you." He took her hand and gave it a squeeze before turning and walking to his room.

Kenshin felt his stomach twist when he lied to her. He had to leave. It seemed that every day someone else was threatening her. He couldn't stand it anymore. He had hoped that once Enishi was taken care of, that maybe he and Kaoru could start a life together, but something always got in the way. She was in danger just by knowing him. They all were…Sano, Megumi, and Yahiko. His mere presence was a danger to them. He walked into his room and took a long look around. His room. His home. For a year he had a home. She had given him a home, people to care about. But it was a double-edged sword. His enemies could use them to get to him. They would be safer if he left, if he became a rurouni again.

He'd fought the urge to leave, he didn't want to. But this was the last straw. Her life could not be in danger any longer. What Saitoh had told him had only strengthened his resolve. How could he think he could stay here and marry her? He'd lost someone he loved dearly once, and it had been his fault. He was not going to lose her too. Just knowing she was alive and safe in the world would have to be enough for him. He packed his few belongings and sat down to wait for Kaoru to fall asleep.

While he was waiting, he decided to write her a letter. He had, in his own way, said good bye, but he couldn't just leave her with nothing. He found some ink, a pen and a few sheets of paper and began to write. At first, he hesitated, unsure of what to write, but then it came to him, all his emotions came crashing to the surface and he wrote his feelings, his fears. He wanted her to understand why he had left; he wouldn't be able to stand it if she hated him.

A few hours before dawn he set out, with some food and his small bag. The note he left in his room. He sighed. He was a rurouni again.

Yahiko walked into the kitchen and was surprised to see it empty. Usually, by this time Kenshin was up and making breakfast. But he was nowhere to be found. The boy shrugged and went to find Kaoru. She wasn't in her room. The door to Kenshin's room was closed and he could hear noises coming from inside. Was it moaning? He made a face. Ewww…. gross! Suddenly the door flew open and a disheveled Kaoru came storming out. "That BAKA!" she roared. She had tears running down her face. "Uh, Kaoru? What's wrong?" Yahiko asked, timidly. She looked at him, waving a letter in her hand.

"He's gone!" she sobbed. "He said…he said…." She couldn't finish; she just slid to the floor and sobbed. The letter fluttered to the floor and Yahiko could see a small part of it. His reading skills had improved vastly since Kaoru had taken him in, but Kenshin's handwriting was messy. He picked out the phrase: "I'm sorry, good bye." His eyes grew wide. Kenshin had left them. Yahiko turned and ran out of the dojo.

Sano groaned. He'd had a late night. And his hangover was not being improved by Yahiko's yelling and shaking. "What is it? Can't you leave me alone?" he growled and snuggled into his futon again. Yahiko was on top of him, gnawing at his hair. He gave up trying to sleep and set out to do the infinitely more difficult task of making Yahiko calm down enough to make sense. The boy was babbling. It was now Sano's turn to grab him and shake him. "QUIT BLUBBERING AND TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG!" he yelled.

"Kenshin's gone!" Yahiko wailed. Sano stopped shaking him. "What? Why?" Yahiko shook his head. "I don't know…Kaoru found a note…" Sano dropped him. "How's Jou-chan handling it?" his eyes were fierce with concern. "Not good. She was crying!" Sano helped Yahiko up and the two went to find Megumi and Dr. Genzai. It was time for an emergency meeting of the Kenshin-gumi.

Megumi and Dr. Genzai were terribly upset by the news that Kenshin had gone wandering again. They were even more concerned about how Kaoru was handling it, the memory of her reaction to Kenshin's leaving to fight Shishio still fresh in their minds. When they got to the dojo they found Kaoru in the exact same state Yahiko had left her in, on the floor in her sleeping robe and sobbing.

Megumi helped her up and gently led her to the bath. While she was doing that, Sano's eyes fell on the letter Kenshin had left her. Ignoring the little voice in his head that said it was probably private, he picked it up and began reading it.

His eyes widened as he read the contents of the letter.

Sano fought the urge to cry. That idiot! If he loved her so much, he should have stayed! He punched the wall angrily, putting a hole in it. "Sano!" He turned to find Kaoru in a hakama and gi, her face fierce. "I'll ask you not to destroy my home." She said, irritably. Megumi hovered behind her. Kaoru's eyes fell on the letter in his bandaged hand. Her normally friendly blue eyes narrowed. "Did you read that?" she hissed. Sano had the good grace to look sheepish. "Ah..well…no…that" "BAKA!" she flew at him and tore the note from his hands, her bokken repeatedly smashing his head. "How dare you?! How…" she was sobbing again. Yahiko and Dr. Genzai had heard the commotion and watched in shock as Kaoru completely lost it and pounded Sano into the ground. Megumi came and gently pulled her away from the bruised and broken street fighter. After casting him an evil look, the doctor led Kaoru to her room and went to make some tea.

After Megumi had led her away, Dr. Genzai went to the smear on the ground that was formerly Sano and gave him a quick examination. "You'll live. Maybe next time you'll think before you read someone's private letters." The old man said, with a hint of amusement in his voice. Sano sat up and rubbed his head. "Che, she's really taking this hard!" he muttered. Yahiko nodded.

Kaoru sipped her tea miserably, fighting the urge to cry again. That idiot! She thought. He loves me so much he leaves me? Jerk. I'll get him for this! I'll pound him! And then I'll marry him! "Kaoru?" came a quiet voice. She looked up to see Megumi hovering over her. "Daijobu. But, is Sano okay?" Megumi nodded. "You'd have to do more than that to injure his thick skull." She said merrily. Kaoru nodded and turned back to her tea, the evil thoughts of what she'd do to Kenshin when she found him comforting her. "What are you going to do?" Megumi asked. Kaoru looked fiercely into her tea. "I'm going to find him. And then I'm going to pound him into the ground." She muttered.

"Ano, Kaoru…are you sure he wants to be found?" Megumi asked carefully. The other girl regarded her for a moment. " What he doesn't understand is that if being in danger from time to time is the price I have to pay to be with him, then I'll gladly pay it. He needs to come back home. Not just for me, but for all of us. We need him as much as he needs us." Kaoru stood and handed her cup to Megumi. "He has underestimated the Kamiya family! None of us were quitters! If I have to travel to the end of Japan and back, I will find him! And then I will beat the living hell out of him for making me worry and then we will come back here and live happily ever after." She found a sack and began packing some clothes and supplies. A search into the storage shed revealed matches and other useful things for travel. She packed herself some food and borrowed some money from Megumi to add to her small stash.

"Megumi, Dr. Genzai, take care of the dojo for me. I don't know how long I'll be gone. Sano, I'm going to be leaving Yahiko in Tae's care, so you don't have to worry about him, but stop by the dojo from time to time and make sure he's okay, all right?" she asked. They nodded and wished her luck. She left the dojo around noon, stopping briefly at the Akabeko to fill Tae in on the details and ask her to look after Yahiko, and then she was gone. She left Tokyo behind and went to find the man she loved.