Rating: M for angst, smut, and some gore and dark situations (Right now listed at T because it was originally so, but rating will be changed with the next chapter as it's going to get dark...)
Summary: AU, sequel to Broken Pieces. All Kaoru wants to do is forget the past and move on with her life. But when Kenshin becomes involved in an investigation that will unearth their forgotten history, they find themselves unwillingly drawn into a bloody power struggle.
Hey all, long time no see! For those of you still reading this, thank you for sticking with me – it's been 4 long years! I've reread the beginning of this sequel, and although I am itching to go back and edit, edit, edit, I will restrict myself to forging forward with new chapters. Just so you know, chapters may be short in the future – but I figure short is better than none at all…hope you enjoy!
**Edited some city names! Thanks for pointing it out
Chapter 6: Instinct
When a heart breaks it also opens.
Their kiss had been all joy and fire; his hips between her thighs, his calloused fingertips inching up her spine under her shirt, his lips and tongue moving with hers.
Kaoru touched her lips with a sigh; how she'd wanted to pull him into herself, to let him take her again and again until they ran out of strength. But they'd stopped just before the point of no return, breaking apart with ragged breaths and eyes wide in discovery. Then, Kenshin had let her legs slip from his hips and folded her into his arms, tightening his hold as she wept into his shirt. He'd asked no questions and made no accusations – for which she was grateful. Instead, he'd swept her into his arms and carried her to his room, laying her on the bed and tucking himself around her. They'd spent the next few hours in silence; the only sound was her occasional sniffle and the sound of his large hands rubbing comforting circles on her back.
But she knew, in the silence, that Kenshin was waiting. Summoning her courage, Kaoru swallowed and spoke.
"I can't tell you."
She waited but he didn't speak, and the only evidence of his frustration was the feeling of his grip on her hand tightening fractionally.
"I want to," she amended, her voice cracking with emotion, "but I can't."
Kenshin sat up suddenly, pulling her with him. He cupped her face in his hands, drawing his thumbs over her cheekbones. His eyes searched her face intently.
She shook her head, her lips pressed tightly. Kenshin's eyes narrowed, and she held her breath. But then, he drew her even closer with one arm.
"I will ask anyway," he said, "And you decide how and if you can answer."
Kaoru leaned her cheek against his neck and nodded.
"Were we married?"
"Not in the traditional sense."
"Did we have children?"
"Where did we meet?"
"Where in Kyoto?"
"The Takani Medical Centre."
"So," Kenshin mused aloud, "Megumi and Aoshi did know me. Why didn't they say anything?"
"Hn," he continued, "How did we meet?"
She pressed her lips together, remembering the sounds of gunshots, screams, and her own pounding heartbeat as she fled through the halls.
"You," Kaoru answered slowly, "You visited me in the Takani Medical Centre."
"Were you sick?"
Her answer was a short bark of bitter laughter. "You might say that."
From the way her face closed, he was sure she wouldn't answer any other questions in that line, so he changed direction.
"Where did we live?"
"In the apartment I have now."
His mind's eye drifted back to the lush apartment he'd visited when he dropped her off at the hospital. It had seemed a comfortable living space. He formed a mental picture of the hearth, instantly remembering the twin swords above the mantle. Had they been his, he wondered. His lips twisted into a wry smile; he already knew that topic was off limits.
"What did I do for a living?"
She blinked. "You worked for the government."
"A type of messenger?" She shrugged.
He tapped the tip of her nose with a finger to let her know that he was aware she wasn't being entirely truthful. With a soft smile, he let the matter drop.
"Was I good to you? Did I take care of you?"
"Not in the beginning," she answered honestly, "But we grew together. We loved each other." She closed her eyes. "In fact, I'm sure you would have died for me."
"Then, why did I leave you?"
There was a long and pregnant silence, and Kenshin feared she wouldn't answer. But then, her quiet answer came, and it shocked him to the core.
"You didn't," she whispered, and he could hear the pain in her voice, "I left you."
"Why?" Disbelief, raw and pained, seeped into his voice.
"I can't tell you."
This time, Kenshin pulled away, his hands on her upper arms. His eyes were dark, angry storms of gold brewing in their depths. "This, you must tell me."
She shuddered, but her face hardened resolutely. "I cannot."
"Kaoru," he began, his voice deepening in warning. She was being cruel and unkind to an extreme degree, and he would have this answer, even if he had to wring it from her pretty lips. His grip tightened.
Then, she surprised him. Throwing one leg over his knees, she straddled him and pulled his head into her chest. Threading her fingers through his fine hair, she cradled him to herself and pressed her lips to his ear.
"I want to tell you, Kenshin," she whispered earnestly, "Please believe me, I want to tell you. But I can't, and I won't." She heaved a sigh, and her breath on the shell of his ear made him shiver. "Just know – I didn't want to leave you. I didn't want to leave you. I didn't. I didn't, I swear."
Kenshin frowned. It sounded like she was begging for forgiveness for something he didn't remember. A memory tugged and teased at the edges of his consciousness, but try as he might, he couldn't pull it free. All he knew was that the woman in his lap was on the verge of tears again. She had pulled away slightly, her head bowed and her hands fisting in his shirt.
"But I loved you," she admitted, "And I still love you."
He flipped her onto her back, and smiled indulgently when she cried out in surprise. He pushed her shirt up to brush his fingers over her chest, and she gasped when his rough calluses caught the sensitive flesh. With his knees between hers, he dipped his head to hers.
"Then, if you love me," he murmured against her lips, "Show me."
Kaoru curled into his side, the cooling sweat from their latest climax chilling their spent bodies. He drew her close, content and satisfied.
She began tracing idle patterns on the taut skin of his arms, and he felt himself harden again in response. She had been much more than anything he could remember; snug and slick and exhilarating, even with the sweet pain of her fingernails raking across his back and her teeth clamping down onto his shoulder. Every pleasured gasp, every desperate thrust had been a revelation. Inside her, he had felt complete.
Her hands wandered lower. When she began to stroke him, he stifled his answering groan by turning to cover her mouth with his.
"Insatiable woman," he growled between kisses. "You shouldn't have held this back from me."
"Forgive me," she whispered back.
He gave her bottom a playful slap and chuckled. She laughed then, and it was a sweet, wonderful sound. Unable to resist, he pressed himself between her legs. To his delight, she molded her body against his in response, arching back seductively. He pushed forward, once again filling their room with her impassioned cries.
Kenshin smiled at her appreciatively as she stepped into the kitchen to join him. Swathed in his over-sized shirt, Kaoru gratefully accepted the cup of tea he held out for her. Without hesitation, she leaned into the heat of his body and he hooked an arm around her shoulders.
Dusk had fallen, and they relaxed in the quiet of the house. Kenshin, lulled by the fullness of peace, was quietly contemplating a future involving a vegetable garden and a house in the country – until he felt Kaoru stiffen in his arms.
"It's quiet, isn't it?"
She stepped away, her knuckles whitening around her cup of tea. She turned to him, and in the semi-dark, her face looked impossibly pale. Her eyes, her blue eyes, were alight with an unearthly glow. He stood, setting his cup down on the kitchen island.
"Kaoru?" He reached out a worried hand. "Kaoru, what is it?"
Panic flooded her face. "Yahiko," she breathed, "Where is Yahiko?"
"I'm sure he's fine -"
Her whole body began to shake as the tea cup slipped from her fingers, splintering as it hit the floor. Kaoru clutched at her head, and fell to her knees.
"Yahiko," she said in a pained wheeze, "Please help him, Kenshin."
"No," he said taking her shoulder, "We need to get you help. Now."
"No!" She grabbed his sleeve. "I can manage." She swallowed, pain clouding her vision. "I have medicine from Megumi."
A tremor wracked her body and she fought a shriek bubbling in her throat. "Please," she begged, "Please Kenshin. You have to find Yahiko; you have to save him."
"But I don't even know where-"
"Near the store where I work," she said, horrific images rising unbidden to her mind. "Now, please, hurry."
Kenshin started to rise, a dubious look still clouding his expression. Kaoru steeled herself and pretended to get up, waving him off.
"I'm fine, I promise. I'll just get my medicine." She twisted her lips into a smile. "Now please," she pleaded, "please hurry."
Kenshin nodded slowly and, throwing one last concerned look over his shoulder, rushed out the door, grabbing his sword on the way. Kaoru waited until she heard the door close behind him before giving in to the urge to open her mouth in a silent scream of agony.
Kaoru was in the living room, sitting in the dark, when Kenshin pushed the door to the upper apartment open. He swore under his breath; he'd hoped to enter unnoticed and had thought she'd be waiting downstairs. She stood when she saw them, and her eyes filled with tears at the sight of the boy's limp body hanging in his arms. To his surprise, she didn't rush forward – but rather, waited for him to carefully lay the boy onto the sofa. Then she sank to her knees, her hands hovering helplessly over the small, broken body.
"Yahiko," she whispered, "I'm sorry, Yahiko."
He looked frail, his skin unnaturally pale – especially with the mottled pattern of bruises and bloodstains marring his body. His breathing was choppy and shallow, and Kaoru's eyes were drawn to his shirt, which was ripped to shreds. She gingerly lifted one of the folds and gasped at what she saw.
Lines of blood crisscrossed his chest. Long, shallow cuts made to hurt but not to kill - cuts that could only have been made by one weapon.
Kaoru buried her face in her hands.
"No," she began to chant, "No, no, no…"
She felt Kenshin's hand fall onto her bowed head, its weight familiar and reassuring.
"He is hurt but not in danger of dying," he said, voice low and comforting, "I got there just at the right moment."
"Thank you," she whispered, "Thank you."
"His attackers have been remanded into custody." He added, as an afterthought, "Saitoh has been notified and will be in charge of their interrogation."
Kaoru nodded absently, lifting her head and twining her fingers around Yahiko's.
"It was strange that his attackers were using swords. You don't have any inkling as to why, do you?"
Kaoru pointedly ignored him.
"Kaoru," he began, dropping onto one knee beside her, "You need to tell me. I can protect you. I can protect him." He gestured to the boy.
Her face was schooled into a mask of ice when she turned to look at him.
"No," she said with a finality that was strangely familiar.
"We're going to find the people responsible for this. But I need you to help me."
"Saitoh will get the men I caught to talk, but I need you to tell me what you know," he said, shaking his head, "Kaoru, they were torturing him for information about you. Do I need to tell you the details to get you to talk to me?"
"I already know." Her voice was steel. "And your prisoners will tell you nothing; they will kill themselves first."
"What?" He regarded the certainty in her face, stunned. "How do you-"
His face darkened. "How do you know, Kaoru? And speaking of that, how did you know about Yahiko?"
"It doesn't matter."
Kaoru turned away to look at Yahiko's face. "I can't tell you, Kenshin," she announced quietly, cupping Yahiko's cheek in her hand, "Because I don't really understand it myself. I know only one thing: I need to get him to Megumi, the Takani Medical Centre."
"There are hospitals here."
"No," she answered, "It needs to be there. Besides, I used up all my medicine." She grimaced. "And only Megumi has it."
"Kaoru, you know I can't do that. Besides, Kyoto is six hours by car and Yahiko's condition will just get worse."
"I need to go to Megumi, and I am asking you to help me." Kaoru said, "But I am going, with or without your help or approval, Kenshin." She swallowed and met his questioning eyes.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Kenshin realized he couldn't refuse her. And so, he moved to lift Yahiko. After wrapping him in blankets and settling him into the backseat of his car, they set off for Kyoto.
Light was just beginning to tint the horizon as the grim trio slipped unnoticed into the Takani Medical Centre. Kenshin watched, with practiced, analytical eyes, as Megumi approached, her face tight with worry. Though her eyes misted over with tears, she barked precise orders as to where to put Yahiko. She nodded to Aoshi as her efficient hands went to work on the small boy. The tall man, who had appeared like a silent shadow, guided Kaoru away with a hand at her elbow. Kenshin followed, his eyes catching the cracks in the man's calm façade. Aoshi directed Kaoru into sitting down on a hospitable bed. He handed her a small bottle of white capsules.
When she shook out a small handful of pills, he made as if to protest, but the glare she sent him stilled his words. Without preamble, Kaoru tossed the pills back and swallowed. A look of peace washed over her face and she settled back into the bed, her eyes drifting closed almost immediately.
"You've worked hard, Kaoru." Aoshi sighed, and pressed his hand to her forehead.
"Ask your question," Aoshi addressed the man behind him without turning as he brushed Kaoru's damp bangs away from her face.
"You could have told me."
"She did not wish it."
"It is for her to tell you."
Aoshi could feel the man reign in his battle instincts before speaking again.
"So, you also knew me before?"
"Yes. But you used a different name, then."
Megumi strode into the room, flipping her hair over her shoulder and levelling the men with a glare that would have sent others cowering to a corner.
"You both should know better than to have this conversation here," she wagged an accusing finger in their direction, "Come with me."
"You also knew me," Kenshin narrowed his eyes at her.
"I did," she replied unapologetically, "And I hated you. But come with me and I will enlighten you."
"Megumi-" Aoshi started, warningly.
"Shut up, you stupid ninja." She turned on her heel and marched away. "I don't care. She may not want this, but it's high time someone told this idiot what was going on so he can at least figure out a way to protect her."
The tall woman led them from the room and down the long corridor. Pushing open a set of double doors, she strode purposefully into a room and turned to face them, crossing her arms over her chest. Kenshin entered at a more sedate pace, his eyes searching out every corner. He'd seen this room during his previous visit. A long white conference table and a wall of windows; yes, he had seen this room before.
"We must have met here," he said, distracted, "She said I visited her here."
Megumi laughed mirthlessly, a sharp, bitter sound. "Did she?" She marched up to Kenshin and jabbed him in the chest with her finger. "Yes, you met her here."
Aoshi materialized between them, his fingers tightening in warning around Megumi's wrist.
She chuckled acidly. "Don't even try to intimidate me, Aoshi. You know what I'm doing is for the best; she chose him after all, and he needs to know."
"She doesn't want him to know."
"That's too bad. We knew her first and best," Megumi countered, "And I've had enough of her self-sacrifice. She gave everything, everything-"
"You will explain."
Aoshi and Megumi both turned at the sound of Kenshin's dark voice. His face was unreadable, but his stance was as dangerous as it had ever been.
"And don't think I do not know about the scars on her body." His tone was silky, dangerously so. "They appear to be burn marks, torture marks. I saw them myself. You will also explain that to me. Now."
Megumi smiled at him, and it was not sweet. "You touched her, didn't you? She let you touch her with those filthy hands of yours," she hissed, spite saturating her every syllable, "She is being hunted – as she always has been – for her abilities. She was tortured, yes, because of those abilities. But it was you," her voice rose to a crescendo, "It was you who tried to kill her in this very room!"
Shock flooded Kenshin's senses, but before he could voice another word, his mobile phone pulsed in his pocket. He whipped it out angrily.
"What?" He snapped.
Aoshi and Megumi watched as Kenshin's face widened further in alarm.
"The prisoners killed themselves? How?"
"Seppuku," Saitoh's sardonic voice buzzed over the line, "You seem surprised."
"She knew it would happen."
"She – as in our dear Kaoru Kamiya? Oh my. Here is something that might interest you - I have come across information about one of her acquaintances, one Soujiro Seta." There was a pause as Saitoh continued.
"What?" Kenshin's expression grew thunderous, and he slammed the phone closed. He strode away from Megumi and Aoshi without a backward glance, nearly crushing the phone in his grip. Heedless of Megumi's demands for quiet, he threw the door to Kaoru's room open, ignoring it as it crashed into the wall.
She was gone.
Next Chapter: Through Blood