Author's Note: Here's part 2 of Ended With A Cry, with angsty fluff for every Kenshin/Kaoru fan. And the Neil Young song "Expecting to Fly" does not belong to me but is in my opinion the most poignant and beautiful rock ballad ever and perfect for the final scene. If you can find it listen to it and you'll agree.
ENDED WITH A CRY, PART 2
At the beach house Kenshin had the heavy front door bolted and chained as the police had instructed. He sat in the dimly lit main room, the bamboo shades drawn over the one window and the curtains over the sliding door. They were thick linen but not so thick that the sound of the crashing waves could not be heard filtering through. It was a soothing sound but Kenshin was tense, his ki on fire as he sensed an ominous presence outside. He stared at an object on the bar near him with a sense of ambivalence.
It was a loaded 9mm pistol, left earlier by Saito as he and Okura came to fill him in on the plan for his "disappearence". The two detectives had come to let him know that paperwork was being drawn up to explain why he vanished for the university and Hiko since he was still his adoptive father and only known family member. After that was explained to him, they gave him back his sword, which he was glad of and left the gun, much to his dismay.
Kuso Kenshin swore as he picked up the weapon, and felt how uncustomary its heaviness was in his palm, not like the hilt of a sword which felt as almost an extension of his hand as his soul united with the soul of the blade. Although Hiko had taught him how to handle a gun as well as a sword with this cold feel of the steel he could sense the grim promise of death in the gun and it sent a chill through him. But he had also accepted the fact that he was now thrust into a position of kill or be killed, a vicious cycle that started with the first life he took in that rainy alley days ago. Saito and Okura had made that clear when they left the weapon.
Morbidly curious Kenshin slipped open the magazine and saw the cartridge, loaded with carbon bullets, the ones that explode upon impact. Okura explained that although they still shot to maim and not to kill, when dealing with the yakuza frequently one had to revert to their level, pure survival of the fittest in the concrete jungle. It was an excuse that rang hollow and tasted bitter to him. With a snort of disgust, he snapped the magazine shut and replaced the gun back on the bar then got up to go into the kitchen for a beer.
He opened the refridgerator and withdrew a bottle, twisting off the cap but as he was about to take a long draught, his ki rung inside with urgency. He put the bottle down, going to the bar and taking the 9mm in hand, Kenshin crept over to the glass door, his ears keenly seaching for any noise but the rhythmic crashing of the surf. Hearing nothing but the sounds of the sea he was about to return to the kitchen to retrieve his beer when he heard a small rustling, between the sound of the waves.
Now sure that someone was out in the woods that surrounded the house, Kenshin flipped off the safety and dousing the one lamp, slid the door open and tiptoed onto the weathered deck. The night was dark, the last quarter of the waning moon hidden behind a long cloud bank but his adenaline flowed and heightened his senses as he cautiously made his way to the wooded area flanking the house. Kenshin walked with the silence of a cat, his dark side aiding him by making him acutely wary as one who is the hunted.
Holding the gun at the ready, Kenshin made his way into the thick brush, scanning the foliage, alert to any movement as he made as little noise as possible. He was nearly to the clearing at lands end when his sharp eyes spotted a shadow in a line of bushes in the distance near the cliff and so alerted he hit the dirt as a pop sounded and a bullet nearly grazed him. His heart pounding, Kenshin could feel the fury of his dark side emerging in self-preservation. His now amber eyes began to seek out his attacker ready to turn the tables as he saw the shadow moving so he got up and took aim, firing at the shadow as it leaped into the brush, ducking for cover.
In the bushes Isao the yakuza assassin was panting as he realized that this was no random sitting duck hit, but Himura was armed and knew how to use the rod he was packing. He took a deep breath to regain his composure and looked up at the clouds still obscuring the moon, cursing.
Kuso, I had no idea this kid was like this. This ain't gonna be an easy job here in the dark, figures the moon would be hid. Isao opened his clip and examined the bullets in the chamber of his revolver, now regretting that he did not have his automatic as he might have to reload if this cat and mouse game lasted…
Meanwhile Kenshin remained motionless as he tried to figure a way to disable his predator, his mind coldly calculating his next move. He was glad that he had done some exploring of the surrounding area earlier, ennui driving him out of the house and so he felt he was one up on the killer. His eyes scanned the bushes where he had seen the man leap as his shot was fired and he was dismayed as he saw nothing. Then the moon peeked out as the seemingly endless bank of clouds passed and its pale light offered some illumination, shining directly onto the bushes that were nearly in the clearing before the cliff…
Isao saw the moon and with an oily grin he saw the provision and felt fortuitous. He now used every bit of experience as the Honshu's top assassin as his eyes focused on the brush in which he knew Himura was hiding and then gleefully noticed a patch of white in the brush, the kid's T-shirt. He cocked the revolver and checked the silencer before he moved out, unaware it would be his last move…
But Kenshin's keen ears heard the click of the hammer and so mobilized moved swiftly to the rear, remembering Hiko's teachings of Sun-Tsu using the scenery as his cover. He saw the shadow of the killer move out into the clearing almost right before him and still under cover, took aim and fired hitting Isao in the chest.
"Ahhhh!" the killer screamed as the force of the almost point-blank bullet sent him staggering to the edge of the cliff and he toppled over, his death cry echoing among the whooshing of the pounding surf.
Taking a deep breath, Kenshin extracted himself from his cover and still holding the smoking gun, he got down on his knees and peered over into the swirling eddies caused by the breakers. He saw as the tide took the corpse of the man who wanted to kill him into the depths of the sea, lit by the dim glow of the crescent moon. After a while he then rose slowly and with no expression, headed back to the house.
Once inside, Kenshin plodded over to the bar and put the 9mm down, flipping the safety as he stood back detesting it as if it were some vile thing. He then turned away and staring at his right hand in the dark said tonelessly, "Another life taken by this hand."
He then headed to the bedroom to try to sleep.
The next day was bright with an early summer sun, blue sky with puffy cumulous clouds dotting the clime like cotton balls. In spite of that Kaoru drove slowly along the road with great care, not wanting to miss the dirt road that led to Tsunan's hideaway. She gripped the wheel with steely determination as she spoke a silent soliloquy.
Kenshin, that baka! I'm not just going to accept his turning from me, from us. Whether he wants to or not he's going to accept that I'm as deep in this as he is and he'd better get used to that.
Her indigo eyes focused behind sunglasses, Kaoru scanned the directions Tsunan wrote for her tacked on her visor and the Celica crept along, the road becoming more narrow as she got closer to the road's end. Then she saw it, the landmark of a huge boulder just before the turn so she slowed down to stop.
She took a deep breath, her heart hammering as she said, "Well, this is it," and turned into the dirt and stony road leading to the cliff. . . .
After a sleepless night in his futon still clad in just his shorts Kenshin lay with his titian head propped in his arms, brooding over how in the space of less than a week, he had become a cold blooded killer. Although fear of what he did was prominent the thing that frightened him most was the ease of which he had done so. Last night and the night he killed Tobei his dark side took over and his heart felt void and remorseless as he reasoned away the two slayings, one being to protect his life and the other his beloved yet his soul felt cold and barren, bleak as a winter landscape. Considering what had happened last night with what was obviously a yakuza hit man, he began to seriously wonder if staying at the beach house was wise.
Humph, if they were after me before, they'll really be after me now. Maybe I should just get lost, fast.
Dark thoughts engulfing him, Kenshin was preoccupied with thoughts of fleeing until his ki alerted him that someone had come, the sound of a vehicle stopping and a car door opening prompting him to shoot out of the futon. He quickly donned his jeans and headed out to the main area of the beach house, grabbing the automatic. Slipping off the safety, he crept over to the door as he heard soft footfalls, flipping like the person was wearing sandals. Deciding that whoever the visitor was would have to seek him out in the beach house, Kenshin quietly unlocked the front door and cracked it open, looking for a vehicle and seeing the car down the road, he stepped cautiously out to see who it was…
Meanwhile, Kaoru was walking around the beach house, scanning the building and noticing thedarkened window she wondered if Kenshin was really in there. She got right up to the side and standing on her toes, tried to peek inside.
Kenshin, however, only saw the pert feminine form from the back, her long raven locks blowing in the offshore breeze and mused in disgust how the yakuza was now stooping to sending women to do their dirty work so he made his way steathily and raised the gun to point at the girl.
Well if she's trying to take me out, I won't go easy on her either "Turn around slowly and don't make any sudden moves," he growled, his eyes amber slits.
Shocked and frightened by the threat Kaoru did as she was told and was face to face with Kenshin whose eyes widened and changed to lavender as he recognized the woman who owned his heart. "K-Kaoru?" he sputtered as he lowered the automatic. "What are you doing here?"
Her sapphire pools were wide as saucers as she recovered from her initial surprise and then she responded in typical fashion by boxing Kenshin smartly on the ears. "Kenshin no baka! You scared me."
"Owww!" he protested as he rubbed his ears with one hand as he flipped the safety and tucked the gun in the waistband of his jeans. "That hurt."
"Humph! You're lucky I don't have a bokken, baka. Now tell me what in Kami's name are you doing with a gun?" Kaoru demanded, her hands on her hips.
Relieved but still wary, Kenshin glanced around and saw nobody else so he took hold of Kaoru's elbow and urged, "Let's go inside and I'll tell you."
He guided her to the front door and led her in, following and closing the door, locking it securely and using the chain as Kaoru strolled to the middle of the room and glanced around at the casually furnished beach house. She was admiring a watercolor of a tidal pool over the mantle when Kenshin sighed heavily and strode over to the bar to perch on a stool.
She kept staring at the painting as she asked, "So tell me, Kenshin. What are you doing carrying a gun?"
He deadpanned, "You answer me first, Kaoru. What are you doing here?"
Kaoru turned and faced him dead on. "I came to talk to you."
Unnerved by those ocean pools he turned away and said flatly, "I said everything I wanted to you the other night. So it was a wasted trip."
Her gaze never wavered. "I don't believe you,"
He snorted, "Suit yourself. But I meant what I said."
Now Kaoru was annoyed as she came to Kenshin and inquired, "Then why couldn't you look me in the eye and say it?" She reached for his chin to turn it to her. "You still can't, huh?"
At her challenge Kenshin's amethyst eyes defiantly met hers then he wrenched away and suddenly leapt up grabbing her by the shoulders, his hands biting into the soft flesh. "Do you really want me to hurt you so much?" he snapped as he leaned close with a scowl. "Do you?"
Bravado chased away by a fieceness he had never displayed toward her Kaoru shook her head and so he continued, "Then do us both a favor, Kaoru. Leave now and forget you ever saw me." he pushed her roughly away and muttered, "Go on and live a happy life."
She stood there suspended by the harsh words of rejection, blinking back tears as she whispered, "I can't, not without you."
Kenshin closed his eyes as her words caused them to sting with tears. But he swallowed hard and tried to be as cold as he could. "I'm afraid you'll have to. Now get out of here."
Kaoru was still frozen, her heart constricting painfully as she shook her head in disbelief, not wanting to accept the words he spoke so he tried again, this time shouting the words.
"Didn't you hear me? I said GET OUT!" Kenshin roared, his eyes showing an amber tint.
That did it. Now sobbing brokenheartedly Kaoru wanted to get away from him as fast as possible so she ran to the door and fumbled with the lock. She managed to get the door unlocked but her vision was completely blurred by her tears so when she opened the door to flee, she realized that the chain was still on so she tried to undo it, failing in her efforts and causing her to sob harder.
The sound of Kaoru's anguish and the sight of her futile attempts at undoing the stubborn chain lock was what did it for Kenshin. His resolve shattered like fine crystal on a stone floor and he sprinted to her, encircling her in his arms as he buried his face in her hair, murmuring words of comfort in her ear.
"Shhhhh, don't cry aka-chan, onegai don't cry I can't stand it. Forgive me for hurting you so."
He took hold of Kaoru's shoulders and turned her to face him. Her face was veiled by her midnight strands so he took hold of her chin, tilting it up so he could look into her eyes. With his fingers, Kenshin tenderly brushed the rivulets away while her sobs subsided then cradled her face as he brought his lips down on the tracks left by her tears and then on hers, kissing her like a starving man devouring a meal. She responded with a soft moan, snaking her arms about his bare chest and pressing herself into him. They contined kissing each other with a desperation borne from being apart and then finally they drew away, gasping. Kenshin then wrapped his arm about her shoulders to lead her down to the living area where they sat together on the sofa as he mused in a soft tenor.
"Why is it that my strongest convictions and firmest resolves fall totally apart when I see tears in these beautiful eyes?" Kenshin's fingers caressed her drying cheeks, wiping away the remaning residue of her sorrow as she pulled away to look right at him.
She murmured, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Why are you hiding here and carrying a gun?" Kaoru asked quietly. "Onegai Kenshin, answer me."
Kenshin sighed and withdrew his arm from around her to lean forward and stare ahead sullenly as he mulled over her question, trying to come up with a truthful and believable answer, not an easy task.
"Because of what I did." His voice was low and weighed down with the simple but blunt statement.
Kenshin nodded as he added, "To begin with. And especially after last night."
Kaoru was instantly alert. "Why? What happened last night?" At her question Kenshin turned away from her probing eyes. "Kenshin, tell me!"
He got up wearily and began to pace. "Koibito, Tobei was a lot more dangerous than either of us figured. First of all, Saito and Okura said it was him that shot at us at the river that day."
"It was?" Kaoru was incredulous. "How did they find that out?"
"Saito searched his truck and found an automatic rifle with shells."
She swallowed hard as she said, "Is that true?"
"Aa." Kenshin continued, "And that's not all." He ran a nervous hand through his unruly and unbound red hair as he went on. "He was a family member of a drug lord of the Honshu yakuza, selling drugs at the university and smuggling them in from the continent."
Stunned, Kaoru said slowly, "And all this time I thought he was just a creep who wouldn't take no for an answer stalking me." She clutched her arms and shivered, fear sending an icy finger down her spine. "Kenshin, he wanted to get even with me for the time I hit him."
She became panicked as she said trembling, "He was going to kill me." Then realization dawned as she knew the truth and trembled even more.
Kenshin came forward and enfolded her in his arms. "He's dead now, tenshi. You don't have to be afraid." His hand cradled her head and pressed it to his shoulder but Kaoru shook it free and she pushed back to look directly at him.
"I'm not afraid for me, I'm afraid for you." She distentangled herself as she added, "I know what this means for you, Kenshin. It means that the yakuza will now come after you." Her eyes then lit with dread as she stated, "That's what happened last night, isn't it?"
Reluctantly Kenshin nodded as he replied, "I sensed someone outside and went with the gun to take a look. Then I saw him and we both exchanged shots. But he was unacustomed to the area and came out of hiding looking for me so I shot him and he fell over the cliff." He ran another hand through his hair as he sat down put his head in his hands and muttered, "In one week I've killed two people."
Her eyes soft with sympathy Kaoru sat beside him and wrapped a slim arm about his slumped shoulders. "To protect me and defend yourself, anata. He was going to kill you. In either case you had no choice."
"Maybe," Kenshin said tonelessly. He raised his head and stared blankly in place as he continued, "And maybe if my darkness hadn't taken control of me, I would have stopped before they lost their lives." He got up and almost shouting went on.
"Both times I lost to the dark side. It happens every time I lose my temper or I'm threatened. But that's not the whole story, Kaoru." He knelt before her and clasped her hands as he entreated to her. "I don't remember when I slip into darkness and it's like I'm in another dimension, like I have tunnel vision and I become almost a machine, not satisfied until my enemy is defeated." He squeezed her hands as he finished, "It happened that time at kendo practice when I faced you. Thank Kami that I had a memory of us at the river, it snapped me out of it and I refused to fight you."
Kaoru nodded, "I remember."
Kenshin lowered his head and spoke in a broken voice. "It scares me, aka-chan. Those times become like voids in my mind and when I come out, someone's hurt or now---," he paused and looked up with tears in his eyes, "dead."
Kaoru bit her lip and threw her arms around him holding him as he wept. "Oh Kenshin…"
It was late afternoon and the sky began to be colored with its golden cloak of the waning day, spattered with purple mackerel clouds edged in pink as the sun made its descent into the waves. After his anguish was spent, Kenshin and Kaoru went out into the bright afternoon sun to stroll along the beach, talking but mostly sharing deep kisses full of love and longing. They were acting as if it were their last time together, believing that indeed it was and as such their embraces were desperate and haunting. Now several hours later they sat on the sea wall, entwined in each others' arms, watching the evolving seascape as the stereo sent strains of Neil Young from the open glass door.
The words from "Expecting to Fly" floated over on the breeze as the couple were locked in their own world and their own thoughts, each unknowingly thinking the same thing. And the words of the song playing over and over just enforced the knowledge of the inevitable parting.
There you stood on the edge of your feather,
Expecting to fly.
While I laughed,
I wondered whether
I could say goodbye
Kaoru sighed as she lay against Kenshin's chest, "That song is so sad but so beautiful." She turned to look up at him and remarked, "Neil Young was playing the night we first met, remember?"
He gazed down lovingly as he nodded, "I remember, tenshi. I came to bum dinner from my friend Misao and met the beautiful artist who became the best friend I ever had and the love of my life." He captured her mouth and drank once again of its sweet nectar, his tongue savoring her as his hands reached beneath her top and his fingers caressed the satin surface of her skin.
Kaoru moaned softly as she tasted him with as much gusto, matching him tit for tat as her hands fluttered over his bare skin. He was still clad in only his jeans, his long titian locks flying in the sea wind, mixing with her own raven tresses as they remained locked together.
By the summer it was healing,
We had said goodbye.
All the years
we'd spent with feeling
Ended with a cry,
They drew apart and Kenshin said quietly, "As much as I don't want this to end, we have to face facts. I'm a hunted man now and because of that, we have to---,"
A slender finger to his lips hushed his statement. "Don't say it, Kenshin."
He took hold of Kaoru's hand and kissed the finger she used to shush him. "I have to, koibito. We need to accept that whatever plans and dreams we had are not going to happen."
Kaoru hook her head and buried it in his chest. "Iie, iie!" Her eyes filled with tears again as she clung to him, sobbing brokenly.
Sighing Kenshin closed his eyes as at the sound of Kaoru's sobs it was like his heart was being torn from his chest, piece by piece. He gently stroked her as the music surrounded them with melancholy.
I tried so hard to stand
As I stumbled
and fell to the ground.
So hard to laugh as I fumbled
And reached for the love I found,
Knowin' it was gone.
If I never lived without you,
Now you know I'd die.
If I never said I loved you,
Now you know I'd try,
The sky above was darkening as the sun dipped lower into the sea. Soon it would be nightfall, and with it the new moon, pitch dark making safe travel back to Tokyo near impossible. So Kenshin reluctantly released Kaoru and rose to his feet, offering his hand down to assist her.
Sniffling, she glanced at his hand waiting silently, patiently so she reached inside for the last scrap of resilience she possessed and took hold of it, getting to her feet as he gazed at her with warm amethyst orbs filled with love.
"Come on, aka-chan. I'll walk you to your car."
She nodded gravely as she fell in step with him and he wrapped his arm about her, walking around the house to the dirt road where her Celica was parked. He stopped just at the front of the hood and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"So you'll be leaving here?" Kaoru asked in a little girl voice.
Kenshin nodded. "Since the yakuza knows where I am it makes sense. I don't want to put Tsunan in danger and if I'm at a house he owns, they'll start hounding him. I don't want that on me so right after you leave, I'm splitting."
Kaoru's eyes brightened with a brief spark of hope. "I can go with you." But it was extinguished with his next words.
"Absolutely not." Kenshin shook his head adamantly, not brooking any argument.
However Kaoru was undaunted. With a bright smile she continued as if she had not heard him. "Why we could leave right now and head anywhere you want. I'll clean out my bank account and---,"
But Kenshin was the proverbial immovable object even against the irresistable force of his beloved, his desire for her safety was the buffer against her wiles and he stood his ground.
"You can not go with me Kaoru, it's too dangerous and I won't have you involved."
"But I'm already involved," she insisted but he put a firm hand on her shoulder and shook his head again.
"The answer is NO. And that's final."
Kaoru's heart plummeted as reality sunk in and she knew he was not going to change his mind no matter how much pleading she did. With a sigh she nodded, her head low and eyes averted. "W-where are you going to go?"
He shrugged. "Don't know. Maybe head north or south, wherever I can hitchhike."
"What about the plan with the police to give you a new identity?"
Kenshin shook his head in doubt. "Since last night I've been thinking about that plan and I don't see how I can wait for them to set it up. I mean, nobody was supposed to know about this beach house here and there was an attempted hit on me. So I figured it's best for me to go and try to disappear on my own."
Kaoru sighed as she said, "I guess." She asked, "So that's it, huh?"
"I'm afraid so." He smiled, a pain filled bittersweet expression that sent another knife into her heart.
Swallowing hard Kaoru nodded as Kenshin took hold of her hand and reached in his jeans pocket for something. He drew out a shell; the one he found the other day on the beach when he first arrived, and placed it in her upturned palm then covered it with his own.
"Aka-chan, listen to me. I want you to have this shell as a reminder and a special wish from me to be strong. I need you to be strong for me Kaoru, as I know you can." He reached and took hold of her chin to raise her head to meet his eyes. "Promise me you will."
She nodded barely able to speak. "I promise."
"And when you feel alone and are losing hope, take out this shell and remember that no matter where I am, I love you and will love you forever." His eyes glowing like jewels he took the hand of hers holding the shell and held it to his chest. "My heart is yours for always."
With his declaration the tears began flowing like a flood. She sobbed, "W-will I ever see you again?"
Kenshin smiled another painful smile. "Who knows? Maybe when this all blows over, we'll find our way back to each other."
At those words Kaoru threw herself into his arms, her heart shattering as she begged him, "Onegai Kenshin, tell me everything's going to be all right."
Her tears wetting his chest as his arms crushed her tight Kenshin's own voice broke as he replied thickly, "I wish I could tenshi, that I truly do. But I can't, not now. That's why you have to be strong." He cupped her tear-stained face in his hands for one last kiss, warm and insistent as his mouth drew the honey once more to commit the taste of her to memory.
Kaoru responded, reveling in him as she kissed him deeply to leave an impression that he could carry until they met again. And there in Kenshin's arms she resolved we will meet again.
They finally broke apart as the red glow of the sunset caused the shadows to lengthen and fireflies fluttered around them, tiny pinpoint glows that added to the aching beauty that would be etched in their memories for all eternity. Kenshin said gently but firmly, "You'd better get going, the light's fading fast. And don't forget to wear your safety belt."
"Uh, yeah." Kaoru went over and opened the car door then climbed behind the wheel. She inserted the key into the ignition and started the car, making sure she buckled the safety belt as per Kenshin's directive.
He leaned over the open window and met her lips in a final kiss then pulled away. "Sayonara, watashi no koishii Kaoru. Be good."
She murmured, "Sayonara, watashi no itoshii Kenshin. Take care of yourself."
He grinned and gave a thumbs up and so she shifted into reverse, backed and turned to head down the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust as Kenshin watched her drive slowly away, his heart in shreds. When she had vanished, he turned around and walked back into the beach house.
An hour later the sun had gone down and darkness shrouded the beach house as the front door opened and Kenshin emerged, carrying his duffle bag, the hilt of the heirloom sword protruding from its top. He closed the door tightly and after making sure it was secure, headed down the dirt road that led to the main one. Fireflies blinking in accompaniment, he used his sensitive vision to use the faint starlight in the night sky to guide his way and within another hour, he was at the main road.
Kenshin sighed as weariness set in and he looked down the road, seeing no one in sight so he hoisted the bag and began his journey. His heart was heavy but he steeled his resolve and made himself a promise…
Whatever the road ahead held, whatever bumps and curves, he would do two things: one, stay alive and two, make his way back ….to Kaoru.
Because he had to.
TO BE CONTINUED IN BOOK 2…..BLUE PERIOD---BLUE SKY