Disclaimer - I don't own RK

Note: If you've read this fic before the content hasn't changed I just edited it to read better. If you haven't I hope you enjoy it.

Cruel Fate

The sun was high in the sky shining down through the trees in the park casting flickering shadows on the ground as the wind blew gently through the leaves, the light breeze caused Kaoru's raven locks to whisper gently across her face as she watched the children laugh and play in the September sun. Tucking her hair behind her ear a small smile played across her lips her mind traveling over all the times she and Kenshin had done the same in this very park. It seemed like a lifetime ago since she'd been so carefree, times had changed so much since she and Kenshin had been children, pain shadowing those once carefree days. A cloud passed over the sun causing her to shiver slightly, pulling the light sweater around her more firmly she glanced at the entrance to the park waiting to see a familiar redhead and his wife come walking through. Not seeing them yet she let her mind wander over the painful events that had driven her away.

It had been almost 5 years since she had seen Kenshin, 5 years since that fateful night when her dreams had come true but had left her steeped in guilt. She'd loved him since they were children, her childish heart set on having him as her husband. What had began as a close friendship, had for her, blossomed into a soul searing love that left an ache in her heart every time she was close to him, but he had never shown any feelings for her beyond their friendship. Afraid of losing that friendship she had never told him how she felt and had watched quietly as he fell in love with her best friend Tomoe. Tomoe was everything she was not, beautiful, graceful and polite to a fault. They had made the perfect couple and she'd kept her feelings well hidden, never giving anyone a glimpse into her heart. When they had announced their engagement she'd been crushed, but had saved her tears for the privacy of her bedroom, congratulating them and even going so far as to help Tomoe plan the wedding, because though she loved Kenshin, she had thought of Tomoe as the sister she'd never had and didn't want to lose their close friendship. Tomoe had been her best friend and she'd betrayed that trust to follow her heart for just one night.

That night she and Kenshin had been roughhousing in his livingroom like they had done most of their lives, seeing who could trap the other the longest. It was a game he usually won and that night had been no different. He'd pinned her to the floor by her shoulders, his legs pinning her hips, with an evil glint in his violet eyes. He'd been smiling at her like a cheshire cat when suddenly a look had passed through his eyes. Before she even had a chance to comprehend what the look had been his smile vanished and he'd leaned down slowly, placing his lips against hers in a chaste kiss. She'd been so shocked she hadn't responded right away, not until she felt him begin to move away. Not wanting the moment to end she had placed her hands in his thick hair holding him to her. He hadn't tried to pull away again but had deepened the kiss instead leaving her senses reeling. Things had progressed quickly after that, she'd given herself to him completely that night but when she'd awoken the next morning a feeling of utter shame and guilt had driven her out of his bed and home where she'd cried herself to sleep, broken and alone, refusing to answer the phone or the persistent knocks at her door. She'd never understood why that night had happened, he'd never shown any feelings of love or desire towards her before that. It had left her shaken and confused. She hadn't seen Kenshin or Tomoe since then, choosing instead to disappear leaving them to their happiness.

ooooooooooooooooo

Walking slowly towards the park, absently sidestepping around the others traveling along the sidewalk Kenshin's thoughts traveled back to the message that had been on his machine when he'd gotten home the night before from a tiring business meeting. Please meet me in the park tomorrow at 2 pm and please bring Tomoe. It had been a simple message in a voice he'd thought he would never hear again. A voice he'd been searching for, for the past five long years. That voice had brought back all the pain and loneliness he'd felt for those years tenfold. He'd lain awake all night tossing and turning, watching the clock on his nightstand tick away the minutes, wishing time would fast forward so he could finally see her again and find out why she had left him that night long ago.

Drawing closer to the park, his anticipation changed to anger as all the questions he'd harbored in his heart came screaming into his mind.'Why did she leave?' He thought angrily. 'Why hadn't she answered his phone calls the days following that night? Why had she felt the need to disappear without saying a word? Did she think he didn't love her? He'd wanted to tell her what he'd discovered that night but she'd never given him the chance. Instead she'd left him with only the memory of her soft skin pressed against his and the contented smile on her face when she'd fallen asleep in his arms.'

His tightly clenched fists snapped him back to the present and he realized he'd finally reached the entrance to the park they had played in together. Entering the park he lifted his eyes to look for the one person who had shown him what true love really was.

Shaking herself out of the painful memories, Kaoru glanced again to the park entrance, not noticing the lone tear tracing down her cheek. The old ache flared up in her chest as she saw the man that had haunted her dreams these past years walk in and glance around, his violet eyes scanning the park, the sun gleaming in his fiery red hair.

Kenshin spied her sitting quietly on a park bench, a slight smile coming to her lips when his eyes finally landed on her. Walking closer he noticed her skin was unusually pale and she had a drawn look on her face that whispered of a long endured pain. He lifted his eyes and violet locked with shimmering sapphire. It was then he noticed the tired look that marred her beautiful eyes. He closed the distance between them and sat down beside her, reaching out a hand he traced the tear stain down her cheek, all the anger he'd felt a moment before fading away as he smiled at her, happy to be feeling her soft skin under his fingers again after so long.

"Kaoru" he whispered, still not quite believing she was here in front of him, afraid if he spoke too loudly she would vanish again.

A shiver raced down Kaoru's spine as his voice washed over her, loving the sound of her name on his lips after so long. Locking down her wayward emotions she smiled as brightly as she could and met his eyes. "Hi Kenshin!"

Her feigned cheerfulness hiding her pain at the next question she cast a curious look over his shoulder " Where's Tomoe, will she be coming?"

Kenshin dropped his hand into his lap, his smile vanishing and shook his head. He hadn't come here to talk about Tomoe, he needed answers to the questions that had been eating away at him little by little since she'd left. With anger igniting in his eyes and steel in his voice he asked "Why did you leave without saying a word!"

Kaoru flinched, lowering her eyes at the sharp tone. She'd been dreading this question and the answer that would bare her soul to him, leaving her open for the rejection she knew would come. She shook her head not wanting to discuss this just yet and decided maybe it would be best if she got down to the business she had asked him here for.

Raising her eyes to meet his she asked hesitantly "Will you come with me to Sano and Megumi's, there's someone I'd like you to meet?"

Jealousy washed over Kenshin in a great wave, his hands fisting in his lap so tightly his knuckles turned white. "Is That where you've been?" he grated between clenched teeth

Ignoring what he implied, Kaoru shifted her eyes to the children playing around them and answered tiredly "I've only been there for the past couple of days. I'll tell you everything later but first" turning her hope filled eyes back to him "will you come with me?"

Searching her face for some hint of what this was all about Kenshin finally nodded his assent, letting his question go unanswered for the time being the jealousy continuing to surge through him unchecked.

Relieved Kaoru rose slowly from the park bench, twinges of pain causing her to hesitate slightly, a grimace coming to her face.

Seeing her discomfort Kenshin stood up and grasp her elbow to help steady her. "You don't look like you feel very well, are you ok?" he asked anger and jealousy fading away at her pain.

Kaoru straightened and pulled her arm from his grasp. "I'm fine. Are you ready?"

Nodding Kenshin took ahold of her hand, and started walking towards the entrance. As they walked silently out of the park his mind kept whirling around this unknown person she was taking him to meet, causing jealousy then possessiveness to course through him in equal measures. He was on the verge of telling her how he felt when a stray thought passed through his mind,

'Maybe she doesn't feel the same way.'

Pain lanced through him, stealing his breathe away. Pushing the possibility out of his mind he claspedher hand tighter determined not to lose her again.

Kaoru was acutely aware of his warm hand clasping hers as they walked down the sidewalk in silence. She could feel the gulf between them close slightly when he tightened his grip but was still afraid of how he was going to react when he was faced with what she had to tell him.

ooooooooooooooooo

Megumi watched Kenshin and Kaoru slowly make their up the sidewalk towards her home, hands clasped, both lost in their own thoughts.

Opening the door, a teasing smile settled on her face, "Ken-san, it's been a long time since you last visited."

A grin flashed across Kenshin's face and he shrugged sheepishly "I've been kinda busy with the merger. Where's Sano? "

"He went out to get what I need for dinner at the market, he should be back soon."

Turning her attention to Kaoru, Megumi saw the flash of unease pass over her friend's features before her face lit up in a smile.

"Where is he?" Kaoru asked as she walked past Megumi into the house, Kenshin following close behind.

"He's in taking a nap. Sano tired him out." Megumi replied, a wry smile touching her lips.

Grinning, Kaoru could barely contain the mirth in her voice as she replied "I'm not surprised. They're the same age, aren't they?"

Laughing, Megumi nodded and closed the door.

Not looking back to see if Kenshin was coming, Kaoru started walking towards the back of the house anticipation hurrying her steps, her unease temporarily forgotten in her excitement to see the one person her world revolved around.

Following her down the hallway, Kenshin watched her raven hair gently caress her back as he fought down the twinge of jealousy that kept rising up in his chest, he wanted to grab ahold of her and never let go, more than ready to fight this unknown person if need be.

Finally coming to a closed door at the back of the house Kaoru silently opened the door and stepped through, leaving it partially open for Kenshin to follow.

Unsure if he should enter or not, Kenshin remained standing in the doorway, afraid of what he might find. He glanced around the room and took in the suitcases on the floor, one wide open, with what looked like children's clothes in it, and a few toys scattered around the room. Realizing what he was seeing he pushed the door wide open and cast his widening eyes to the bed situated in the corner of the room, where a small sleeping face framed in bright red hair peeked out from underneath the blankets.

Shocked, Kenshin swung his eyes to Kaoru, who was standing at the foot of the bed gazing at him with a look of apprehension on her face.

Nervously chewing on her bottom lip she said softly "Kenshin... I would like you to meet your son, Kenji."

Kenshin was struck speechless. He snapped his eyes back to the sleeping child who looked exactly like him and slowly walked to the edge of the bed. Kneeling down to look at this miniature version of himself he was startled when the boy's eyes popped open and looked him square in the eye. Not fully recovered from the first shock, Kenshin wasn't prepared for next one. Instead of having his violet hued eyes Kenji's eyes were the carbon copy of his mother's, a deep sapphire blue. His son gazed at him with curiosity for a few moments before he sat up and found his mother at the foot of the bed.

Squealing with delight Kenji bounced up and flung himself at his mother, snaking his arms around her neck, hugging her tightly. A laugh escaped Kaoru as she hugged him back, kissing him on the top of his head.

Untangling Kenji's arms, Kaoru set him down on the floor and kneeled down next to him "Kenji, remember all the times you asked me where your daddy is?"

Nodding Kenji stole a shy look at Kenshin.

Kaoru glanced up at Kenshin, then looked back down at her son and smiled. "Well Kenji, that man right there is your daddy and he has come to meet you."

A slow smile lit up Kenji's face and with all the innocence of a four year old he extended his hand towards Kenshin, "Nice to meet you daddy."

Kenshin's face broke into a wide grin, all the jealousy he'd felt quickly being replaced by a feeling of wonder at this little boy who was undeniably his. Walking over he reached down and scooped his son up into his arms giving him a big hug, Kenji giggled hugging him back then snuggled deeper into his arms contentedly.

With a questioning look, Kenshin caught Kaoru's gaze and saw a bittersweet smile form on her face as she watched the two of them take to each other so easily. Noticing the slight drooping of her shoulders and the look of fatigue pass through her eyes, he silently wondered why she looked so worn out.

Setting Kenji back on his feet he said "How about we all go outside so you can play, your momma and I need to talk for a little while?"

Nodding, Kenji smiled up at him "I'm so happy you came to meet me daddy." Grabbing his hand Kenji led him to the sliding glass doors along the far wall. As soon as they reached the porch Kenji dropped his hand and ran off to play with the two black lab puppies that were currently sleeping under the large willow tree in the backyard.

Following them outside Kaoru sat down on the porch and dangled her feet over the edge waiting for the inevitable questions to begin. As the minutes passed by the only sounds made were that of the windchimes tinkling over her head and Kenji's laughter as he played in the yard. Not liking the silence she looked up at Kenshin, who was still standing behind her with a dazed look in his eyes. "Kenshin, where's Tomoe?" she asked confused.

Kenshin glanced down at her, shrugging his shoulders he sat down beside her." I imagine she's home with her husband enjoying the afternoon or maybe shopping, I don't really know."

Now it was Kaoru's turn to be shocked. She stared at him wide-eyed, not able to understand what that statement meant." What do you mean, aren't you two married?"

Shaking his head, Kenshin locked gazes with her. "No, we never got married. When you locked yourself in your house, not answering the door or the phone, she came to me and asked me if I knew why you were acting that way. I told her what happened that night between you and me, then I told her that I couldn't marry her because I loved you and hadn't realized it until that night. When I was done explaining everything to her all she did was give me a sad smile and said "I was wondering how long it was going to take you to follow your heart." She had known how I felt about you all along, even before I did. Since then we only talk when she calls and asks me if I've found you yet. She got married about two years ago to a business associate of mine, Akira Kiyosato."

Reaching out his hand he ran his fingers through her thick hair and placed a light kiss on her slightly parted lips. Smiling sadly he whispered "I was content with Tomoe, but I love you Kaoru... I wish I had realized that before I chased you away."

Kaoru sat stunned, unable to believe what she was hearing. He had said he loved her. She'd longed to hear those words for so long but now...

With silent tears coursing down her face she closed her eyes. Fate was cruel indeed.

Confused by her tears, Kenshin kept silent wondering if she truly didn't love him back. The pain of that thought ripped through him leaving him feeling empty and alone.

Pushing her thoughts away Kaoru focused her blurry eyes on her twisting hands, "You didn't chase me away. I couldn't face you or Tomoe after that night, I didn't think you loved me and I didn't want to be the cause of anything happening between you two. That night confused me and I was scared it would end our friendship." Pausing she looked out into the yard where Kenji was currently chasing one of the puppies. In a shaking voice she added "I...I love you and I couldn't stay and watch you drift away from me, so I left."

His elation at hearing she did love him back died when he saw the sorrow evident on her face, gathering her in his arms Kenshin cradled her in his lap as the tears flowed from her eyes, silent sobs shaking her small frame.

When her tears lessened and she lay quietly in his embrace Kenshin asked in a pained voice "I've been searching for you all these years and I couldn't find a trace of you anywhere, where did you go?"

Kaoru sighed, "I went to stay with my aunt and uncle in New York City. They had wanted me to come and visit for a long time, but I never found the time so when I called and asked if I could stay with them for a little while they agreed and bought me a plane ticket. I left three days later." Shifting in his lap she looked up at him "There where many times I picked up the phone to call you or Tomoe but never got up the courage to dial the number. Now I wish I had."

Hugging her close Kenshin rested his chin on the top of her head. "So do I Kaoru, so do I"

They both sat in silence after that watching their son romp and play with the puppies, thinking about all the misunderstandings that had lead to so much pain for both of them. But one question kept haunting Kenshin as they sat together quietly in the late afternoon sun.

"Why didn't you tell me about Kenji?"

Kaoru made to raise up but his arms locked around her, holding her in place. She sighed and rested against him, "Because you were supposed to be happily married to Tomoe and I didn't want to upset that happiness."

Kenshin tensed at her statement, anger surging through him at what she implied. "You should have known that even if I had married Tomoe I would still want to know about my son."

Minutes passed before she answered him in a broken voice "I know Kenshin... I'm sorry"

Silence descended heavily between them, drained from the emotional afternoon, Kaoru drifted off to sleep with the steady beat of his heart in her ear, the last thought to pass through her mind was that she hadn't told him everything yet.

ooooooooooooooooo

An hour later Kenshin was knocked out of his thoughts when the crash of a screen door slamming sounded off to his right, making him snap his head around.

Sano stood on the porch looking at him with a huge grin on his face "Hey Kenshin, it's been a while"

Noticing Kaoru sleeping in his arms Sano lowered his voice "I see you've finally found the little missy, or should I say... she's found you."

With a contented smile forming on his face, Kenshin nodded "That she did Sano, that she did."

"Well I hate to interrupt this cute little picture but the fox sent me out to tell you guys that dinner will be ready soon, so you might want to get Kenji cleaned up" Sano said pointedly looking out into the yard.

Turning his attention to his son Kenshin found him grass stained from head to toe, leaves sticking out of his fiery red hair, and a huge grin on his face as he attempted to carry one of the puppies up to where his parents were, the other one following at his heels.

Seeing everyone's attention trained on him Kenji dropped the puppy and ran over to the porch. "Hi Uncle Sano!" he chirped, with a look of sheer happiness painted on his face he pointed to Kenshin, "This is my daddy, he came to meet me!" and after a slight pause he added "I'm hungry, is Aunt Meg done cooking yet?"

Laughing, Sano nodded. "You better go get cleaned up or Aunt Meg isn't going to let you anywhere near her table" he said teasingly.

Kenji shot off into the house, his mind focused on the food that was waiting for him, all else forgotten.

Kenshin rose from his seat on the porch, cradling Kaoru in his arms he looked over at Sano " Where's her room, I don't want to wake her?"

Sano tipped his head towards the open sliding glass doors that lead to Kenji's room, "She sleeps with Kenji, she doesn't like to be away from him for too long."

Confusion passed through Kenshin but he shrugged it off and walked into the room. Gently laying Kaoru down on the bed, he pulled the blankets over her and dropped a light kiss on her forehead. Closing the sliding glass doors he pulled the curtains closed to send the room into shadow and left to find his son.

Kenshin found him in the bathroom covered in soap suds up to his elbows, gleefully flinging suds at the walls. Chuckling he helped Kenji finish cleaning up, when they finished he lead Kenji out to the dinner table where Megumi and Sano were already eating.

Kenshin helped Kenji fill his plate then filled one for himself. Still a little shocked at finding out that Kaoru loved him and that he had a son, he ate quietly his mind still trying to grasp all this new information.

Casting a guarded look at Kenshin eating quietly lost in his own thoughts, Megumi wondered if Kaoru had told him why she had come back yet.

Not thinking she asked "Did Kaoru tell you why she came back, Kenshin?"

Shaking his head Kenshin shot a suspicious look at her "No, she asked me about Tomoe and told me where she went but she didn't say why she came back."

"I know why we came here." Kenji piped up looking at Kenshin.

Seeing her mistake too late, Megumi lowered her eyes to hide the tears that had formed when she realized what she'd done.

"Momma's sick and she said that she wanted to bring me here to live with you because she wouldn't be able to stay with me very much longer and she wanted me to be with my daddy." Done with what he had to say, Kenji turned his attention back to his dinner, not seeing the dumbstruck look that formed on his father's face.

Kenshin snapped his eyes to Megumi and saw the watery look in her eyes. She shook her head and glanced at Kenji, silently telling him not to ask anymore until Kenji was in bed.

Shocked, Sano locked gazes with his wife wondering what she wasn't telling him but kept silent.

When Kenji finished eating, Kenshin helped him get ready for bed and tucked him in beside Kaoru, kissing them both on the forehead he left and walked back out to the kitchen, determination in his step.

Sitting down slowly Kenshin leveled a piercing gaze at Megumi.

"Talk." he said in a steely voice. "What did Kenji mean?"

Fidgeting under his intense gaze Megumi rose from the table and started to clear the dishes away, avoiding his angry eyes.

"Meg, what is it your hiding?" Sano asked following her nervous movements around the kitchen

Putting the dishes into the sink Megumi turned around and leaned against the counter. Dropping her head to shadow her face she tried to work up the courage to face Kenshin and tell him that everything he had waited for was never going to be.

Looking up she met his piercing gaze. As tears formed in her eyes she whispered "She's dying Kenshin."

The look of anguish that passed over Kenshin's face shattered Megumi's heart. She had never seen that kind of raw pain in his eyes... ever. Not even when his parents had died ten years ago.

She glanced at Sano, who sat gazing at her with hurt in his eyes." Why didn't you tell me!" he demanded.

"Because she made me promise not to. She wanted to tell you both herself." Megumi whispered looking down at her hands, unable to face either one.

Kenshin sat in stunned silence, Megumi's confession echoing in his mind.

'This can't be happening'he thought, 'this has to be a nightmare. He'd just found her... they even had a son...they had their whole life ahead of them... Kaoru couldn't be dying.'

Remembering the worn look Kaoru had had that afternoon Kenshin knew what she said was true. "How?" was all he could think of to say.

Megumi raised her eyes to meet his "She has some type of disease that is eating away at her body. All the doctors she's seen have never seen this disease before, they don't know what it is, just that it's attacking her muscles... including her heart. They've tried all kinds of medicines and treatments to stop her muscles from deteriorating but nothing works. The only one they haven't tried is radiation but her body is so far gone now it would probably kill her before it could help her, so when they asked if she wanted to try it she told them no. Dr. Genzai looked at her two days ago when she got here, he took some blood and tissue samples but he won't have the results for a couple of weeks. They faxed him her file from New York and his initial examination coincides with what the others have found. Nothing, except that her body is weakening at an alarming rate and will continue to until she can no longer move."

Confusion joined the pain in Kenshin's eyes "How could she have gotten this disease?"

"Her file says she may have contracted the disease when she had Kenji. She hemorrhaged while giving birth and she needed a blood transfusion due to the excessive blood loss so the doctors think she was infected then and it simply didn't show itself until about nine months ago, but if that were true there would be another case somewhere." she paused, then added in a quiet voice "We may never know how she got it. She has accepted her fate and all we can do now is make her time left as happy as we can."

"How long?" Kenshin heard himself asked, numbness settling over him.

"The doctor's figure she has about two months before her heart gives out."

Megumi broke into quiet sobs, the tormented look that came to Kenshin's face at the confession tearing at her heart. Sano rose from his chair and hugged her tightly, silently soothing her pain.

Needing to be alone Kenshin rose from the table and headed out the backdoor. In a daze he sat under the willow tree and stared up at the night sky, not seeing the stars glowing softly but instead a pair of gleaming sapphire eyes in a smiling face framed by raven black hair. He sat there quietly, going over everything Megumi had said again and again trying to find some way to stop this horrible nightmare from happening.

Leaning back against the willow, Kenshin agonized over how he could defeat this enemy... there had to be some way. If this was a physical enemy he would simply beat them to within an inch of their life, like he had done when Enishi had tried to take advantage of Kaoru one night, but this enemy was one he couldn't deal with. It was hidden within her, untouchable by him and it seemed untouchable by all modern day medicines too.

By some cruel twist of fate he had finally been given a second chance just to have it snatched away ruthlessly.

Clenching his fists, he thought angrily 'What did we do to deserve such pain.'

Running his hands through his hair in frustration, Kenshin got up and walked back into the kitchen where Megumi and Sano where still holding each other, talking quietly. As he walked in they looked up, sadness etched in every line of their faces.

"I'm sorry Kenshin." Megumi whispered in a small voice.

Kenshin sat down at the table and shook his head "Can I stay here tonight?"

Nodding, she moved past him "I'll go get you something to sleep in."

Watching his friend sitting there looking completely alone, Sano put a comforting hand on his shoulder, "You gonna be ok Kenshin?"

Kenshin sat staring out the window with a empty look in his eyes. "I don't know Sano, I don't know."

Megumi walked back in and handed him a sleeping yukata. "You can stay in the other guest room, it's right next to Kenji and Kaoru's" she said tipping her head down the hallway.

Silently leaving the kitchen, Kenshin went to his room and changed. Needing to see that Kaoru was ok he walked over to her room and gazed at her sleeping form curled around Kenji. Reaching out a hand he gently brushed a stray lock of hair off her face, not wanting to be away from her he laid down beside her and curled up against her back, holding her as she was holding Kenji, drifting off to sleep with the scent of jasmine teasing his senses.

ooooooooooooooooo

Kaoru awoke to a feeling of warmth surrounding her. Her sluggish mind not quite understanding this she slowly opened her eyes and saw that Kenji had moved away from her sometime during the night and was curled up against the wall sleeping soundly. Feeling a weight draped over her hip she glanced down and saw an arm wrapped around her middle holding her possessively against a warm body. Surprised she lifted the arm slightly and slowly rolled over onto her back to see Kenshin sleeping peacefully beside her. A slight smile came to her lips as she gazed at his sleeping face, so like his son's except for the cross shaped scar he had gotten when he and his parents had been in the car accident that had taken his parents lives. Still a little confused but to tired to worry about it she curled up against his chest and drifted back to sleep.

A feeling of being stared at brought Kenshin slowly out of his slumber. Opening one sleep hazed eye he saw that Kenji was gazing at him with a confused look on his face from the other side of Kaoru who, he noticed, was curled up tightly against him, her face buried in his chest, hands fisted tightly in his yukata, deeply asleep.

"Good morning daddy, what are you doing here?" Kenji asked tipping his head to the side inquiringly.

Raising a finger to his lips he shushed Kenji and rose from the bed trying not to disturb Kaoru. He reached over her prone figure and lifted Kenji off the bed, grabbing some clean clothes for him out of the suitcase he headed over to his room trying to think of what to say to his son.

"I haven't seen mommy in a long time. I missed her and wanted to be close to her, so I decided to sleep with you two last night." Kenshin finally answered setting Kenji down.

"Oh...Ok...I'm hungry, can we go get something to eat?"

Chuckling Kenshin nodded. When they were both finished dressing he led Kenji out to the kitchen to fix him some breakfast.

Megumi came in as they sat down to eat and started heating water for tea, glancing over at Kenshin she asked, "Sano and I want to take Kenji out for the day, is that ok?"

Kenshin nodded "I'd like some time with Kaoru, we have alot to talk about" he said, one question whirling in his mind... Why hadn't she told me she was dying?

Finishing up with breakfast, he set about getting Kenji ready to go with Sano and Megumi and once they had left he made his way out to the willow tree and sat beneath it gazing out over the open field that lay beyond the backyard absently petting one of the puppies waiting for Kaoru to wake.

The sun was high in the sky when Kaoru awoke for the second time that morning. Glancing around she found she was alone in bed and wondered if Kenshin sleeping beside her had been a dream. Shaking herself from her musings she got up twinges of pain slowing her movements and collected some clean clothes. Heading off to take a shower she idly wondered why the house was so quiet.

Finishing with her shower Kaoru swallowed her pain medicine and walked into the kitchen, spying a note laying on the table she picked it up,

Sano and I took Kenji to the park for the day so you

and Kenshin could have some time alone.

See you later,

Megumi

Smiling to herself she fixed herself a bowl of cereal and sat down to eat. Thinking over the conversation she'd had with Kenshin the day before it suddenly hit her...today she had to tell him why she'd come back.

Losing her appetite she pushed away the cereal as a dull ache gripped ahold of her chest, 'How am I was going to do this. How am I going to tell the man I love that I'm dying?'

With tears forming in her eyes she realized what really hurt was the fact that she had just found out Kenshin had loved her all along and now there was no time left.

Wiping the tears from her eyes she wandered around the house looking for him, not finding him inside she wandered out to the backyard where she saw him leaning against the willow tree, his back to her, looking out over the gently rolling landscape.

She walked up to him slowly, admiring his fiery red locks glowing in the morning sun, her fingers twitching at the thought of running them through his silky hair. Reaching his side she sat down and pulled her knees up to her chest, laying her crossed arms on them she rested her chin on her arms and gazed out over the golden field trying to figure out how to say what she had to say.

Kenshin felt her sit down beside him, not looking over he waited until she had settled herself then whispered "Why didn't you tell me?"

Surprised Kaoru looked over at him and saw the pain etched in his face. She knew then that Megumi must have told him everything while she was sleeping.

Relieved by her friend's breaking of their promise Kaoru silently thanked Megumi for taking this painful conversation out of her hands. She continued gazing at his profile and said "I didn't know how."

Kenshin turned his eyes to hers and saw the fear and pain lingering in their depths. Seeing the fear in her eyes shook him, she was always so strong, she had been the one to help him through his parent's deaths, never allowing him to linger on his loss but pushing him to keep living.

"There's nothing the doctor's can do?" he asked quietly, hoping Megumi had left something out.

Shaking her head "No, they've tried every known treatment and medicine available except radiation. I don't want to try that because it will kill me before it can help and I don't want to leave Kenji any sooner than I have to" tears formed in her eyes, trailing wet paths down her face " I can't leave him yet, I have to know he's going to be ok. That's why I brought him to you hoping you and Tomoe would take him in, so he could grow up happy" she paused looking back out over the field "Will you take care of him for me?"

Surprised by the question, he leaned over and wrapped his arms around her, "You don't even have to ask, he's mine and I wouldn't want him with anyone else."

A relieved sigh escaped Kaoru's lips, happy that he had accepted Kenji so easily into his life and she didn't have to worry about her son anymore, knowing he would be loved.

They sat in silence, Kenshin holding her in the late morning sun, a gentle breeze eddying around them causing their hair to mingle in a lover's dance.

"How did you know I was gone?" Kaoru asked finally breaking the silence.

A sheepish grin came to his lips, "When you didn't answer the phone or the door for a week, I asked your neighbors if they had seen you. When they told me it had been a couple of days since they had I went over and kicked in your front door, ready to drag you out of the house if I had to but instead I found you, your clothes and suitcases gone."

A chuckle escaped Kaoru at the thought of him kicking in her door. "So That's why I had a repair bill to pay for before I could sell the house. I thought someone had broken in to rob me."

The grin fell from his lips, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you I just wanted to see you." Kenshin paused feeling the pain of that discovery all over again "Then when the house went up for sale I tried to trace you through the realtor but they wouldn't give me your phone number or address or even what country you were in."

"I asked them not to, I just wanted to sell it and disappear." Kaoru said quietly, wishing now she hadn't made that mistake.

Kenshin sighed and rested his head against hers "I had Aoshi and Misao searching for you too. The connections they have in the government made it easier for them, but even with their help not a trace could be found. It was like you had fallen of the face of the earth."

"I'm sorry Kenshin" Kaoru said pulling out of his grasp staring out over the landscape unseeing, "If I hadn't been such a coward things could have turned out alot differently, Kenji would have had you all along and maybe... I would have too" shaking her head she added in a whisper "So much time wasted."

Kenshin reached out his hand and lightly grasped her chin, turning her to face him, "You were never a coward Kaoru, you just didn't understand and though we don't have much time left together now, we do have some." Slowly leaning forward he captured her lips in a soul searing kiss, happy when she responded with as much passion as he felt.

Kaoru wrapped her arms around him tightly molding herself to him, desperately wanting what he was giving.

Needing air Kenshin pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers breathing heavily " Are you sure we can do this?"

A mischievous smile settled on Kaoru lips "Oh yes" she said breathlessly "I've wanted this for too long to let anything stop me now." She leaned forward and locked him in a passionate kiss, showing him that she may be dying but she wasn't dead yet.

They came together there in the warm September sun, limbs tangling in a feverish dance, saying without words how deep their love was for each other, that love wrapping them in an unbreakable shell.

Afterwards Kenshin gazed down at Kaoru's sleeping form snuggled against him, her head resting over his heart, raven locks spread across his bare chest in a silky blanket wondering how he was going to be able to let her go...leaving him all alone again.

Two Months Later

Kenshin's mind traveled back over the past weeks as he leaned against the wall just to the side of the partially opened sliding glass door, watching Kenji play in the late November sun, his laughter filling the unseasonably warm air as he chased the puppies around the yard.

'How quickly the time has passed' he thought, a heaviness settling in his chest pulling at his heart.

In the beginning most of the days had been filled with some activity that the three of them would do together, Kaoru desperately wanting to spend as much time with them as she could. Some days they would walk down to the park to have a picnic lunch and play a game of tag, other days when the weather was cooler they would travel into the city to shop and have dinner out or go to a movie. And some days they would just stay in and play with Kenji in the livingroom building huge castles and leaning towers with his beloved legos or coloring in his favorite coloring book. Everything seemed so normal, you could almost fool yourself into believing that there wasn't a shadow laying over them waiting to tear them apart.

One day about a week after Kaoru had come back, he'd called Tomoe and told her he had finally found Kaoru. She'd been so excited she'd come right over, not giving him the chance to explain all that was happening. He'd met her at the door and walked her out to where Kaoru and Kenji were laying on a blanket in the yard drawing and coloring. Tomoe had been shocked to see Kenji, and had turned to give him an inquiring look, he'd simply shook his head and lead her over to them collecting Kenji to lay him down for a nap, giving Kaoru and Tomoe some time to themselves. He'd watched them from the porch as they sat together talking quietly, tears rolling down both of their faces as Kaoru explained everything, the gulf between them being mended through their pain. Tomoe had left about two hours later, a shadow in her eyes as she hugged Kaoru and promised to visit as often as she could, tears starting to flow from her eyes again as she turned to leave. She'd held to her promise and visited often, their friendship blooming once again.

Then came the day about a month ago when Dr. Genzai had come over to tell Kaoru the results of his tests, he'd found that the only thing to attack the unknown disease was the radiation they hadn't tried, but it hadn't killed the virus even after repeated infusions. You could almost hear her heart shattering as her one last hope was stolen away. He hadn't realized the secret shread of hope she had held deep in her heart that Dr. Genzai would discover something the other doctors hadn't. She'd wept brokenly in his arms, her slight form shaking with her violent sobs, her anguish tearing at his heart. After that she'd simply lost her will to live, letting herself begin to fade away, only smiling when Kenji was near, not wanting her son to see her broken heart.

She now lay in the room behind him unable to get out of bed, her muscles so far gone that she needed his assistance to do anything that required movement, her heartbeats erratic.

From the open door he heard the soft calling of his name, snapping him out of his thoughts. Glancing out into the yard to check on Kenji he rose from his seat and walked into the bedroom, his heart twisting painfully at the site of Kaoru laying there helpless with a sad smile on her lips. He lifted her up far enough to sit behind her letting her head rest in his lap, combing his fingers through her hair lovingly he gazed deeply into her beautiful sapphire eyes.

"What is it?" he asked softly running a finger along her full lips that lacked their normal ruby color.

"Where's Kenji?"

"He's outside tormenting the dogs, chasing them around in circles."

A slight smile came to her lips, she kissed his finger and whispered as her eyes drifted shut "Love you, Kenshin" passing from this world quietly, leaving him all alone.

Tears began tracing paths down Kenshin's face for the first time since he had found out she was dying, aching for his loss and the unfairness of it all.

Five months later

Kenshin and Kenji walked hand in hand quietly through the cemetery, heading towards the lone cherry blossom tree standing in the far corner. Reaching their destination they both gazed silently at the marble headstone that simply read Kamiya Kaoru, standing underneath the heavily laden branches.

"Do you think momma can see us daddy?" Kenji asked glancing up at Kenshin

Kenshin turned his attention to his son, reaching down to pick him up, "Yes, I think she will be watching over us for the rest of our lives to make sure we are ok."

A smile came to Kenshin's lips as he gazed into his son's sapphire eyes realizing that even though Kaoru was not here with him he would have a little part of her with him always.

Casting one last glance at the resting place of his beloved he turned and began walking out of the cemetery content in the knowledge that some day he just might see her again.