A/N: Hello there everyone! This is a companion piece to my fic Under the Weather. Although it's better if you read Under the Weather first, you don't really have to read it to get the basic idea of what's going on.
"It's been a while since my last visit. Forgive me, I should have visited sooner. I was neglectful," I offered my flowers to the headstone.
I stood quietly, praying to my friend beneath this dirt. I had been a soldier during the war fighting for the shogun. I'm bothered that I was on the losing side, but the peace that has followed has been enough comfort.
Kyoto. It amuses me that they chose to bury Yoshinori's remains here, seeing how he had never really fought in Kyoto. Then again, it didn't really matter. I was just happy I had been able to find where he had been buried before my service to the shogun had ended. Since then, I've tried to visit this grave as often as I can.
Silently I let memories wash over me. Time got away from me as I thought over the days I had spent with Yoshinori. I would have reminisced all night long, had the soft scraping of sandals on the stone pathway not stolen my attention. Someone else was visiting a loved one.
Not meaning to pry - just curious - I let my eyes wander over to this newcomer. Not meaning to stare either, I just couldn't stop myself. As the man reached up and removed a white bandage from his cheek I felt my heat beating faster and faster. I knew this man - red hair, cross-shaped scar on his left cheek - I knew who this man was.
He ignored me, politely giving me my privacy. I watched as he offered flowers to a grave and knelt down to say a prayer. Unable to control my rude stare, I continued to watch him.
Ten years, ten long years since I last saw this man. Then, he had been standing over the corpse of another man, blood dripping from his sword. He had allowed me to live back then.
I really don't know what I was thinking as I remembered that. I guess I was too focused on the past, but I found myself standing and walking over to that man. I stood a moment behind him, unable to find my voice. I had to say something. Anything, but nothing came to mind.
"Hitoshi-san," he said, standing and turning to face me. He remembered me, but how could he have forgotten after the way I had treated him?
I nodded, finding my voice still missing. "It's been a long time," he stated with a slight smile. How could he smile talking to me?
"Aa. It has." I didn't know what else to say to this man, and it didn't look like he had much else to say. We stood together in the quiet graveyard for a while before either of us spoke.
Again, he spoke first. It seemed easy for him to speak, where I could barely manage. "Hitoshi-san, I know I have taken much from you. If you feel the need to avenge your comrades, I will not deny you. However, this one prefers to avoid fights if possible."
I stared at him for a good long moment. I hoped my stare didn't offend him, but I couldn't take my eyes off him, noticing for the first time that he seemed pale and weak. He looked as if he had been dragged to hell and back. He didn't want to fight, that was easy to see on his face… yet he was offering me the chance if I wanted it. Without complaint.
I shook my head, declining his offer without a second thought. "No, I already had my chance for that. If either of us owe anything to each other, it would be me. Ken-" My voice caught. I didn't feel I had a right to call him by his first name. "Battòsai-san, I had no right to treat you the way I did back then. I've wanted to tell you for so long."
He seemed surprised. He stood a moment as if he wasn't able to comprehend what I was saying. I could guess easily that not many people had apologized to him before. I felt the need to explain myself. "Batt-"
"Please," he said gently, raising a hand to stop me. "I don't go by that name anymore. My name is Kenshin."
I started over with a small smile. "Kenshin, we might have been on different sides, but that was no reason for me to drag you across country and senselessly hurt you." I turned to the grave he had been praying at, choosing to stare at that rather than him. "You killed Yoshinori out of duty, as I would have done to any of your friends."
He smiled slightly. "Arigato." I think he was glad I wasn't mad at him and seeking revenge. Being who he was, I wouldn't be surprised if he was always plagued by people seeking their pitiful revenge.
A comfortable silence descended upon us. I had played this scenario over and over before in my mind. The day I would meet him again. I must admit, it hadn't gone so awkwardly in my mind.
I continued to stare at the nameless headstone. "Is this her?"
I was partly surprised that he had answered truthfully, considering I only knew who slept there because I had broken his fingers when I had been young and headstrong. I said a prayer to her, asking forgiveness for what I had done to her loved one.
I turned back to Kenshin. "I'm glad I was able to see you again. I hope you can accept my apology."
He smiled at me. I couldn't help but to think how much better a smile looked on his face than a scowl. "Aa, but also accept mine for killing your friends."
I returned the smile. "Of course." This meeting was going so well. He wasn't mad at me for the terrible things I had done to him. I looked up to the sky, taking everything in for a moment. "It looks like rain."
He gave a slight nod. "Aa."
"I'd better get home then. My kids are probably driving my wife insane."
He smiled. "I'm glad we could talk once more, Hitoshi-san."
I smiled back. "As am I. Take care of yourself." He gave another small nod as I turned to leave. "Sayonara, Kenshin."
"Sayonara, Hitoshi-san." He knelt back down to pray to his lost love, so I left him in peace. It was a much better parting than before.
I headed back home, happy with the short meeting. Not a lot had been spoken, but a lot had been said through emotions. Words weren't needed anymore.
I grumbled a bit as I left the temple, for it did indeed rain. I paused a bit, wondering if Kenshin had an umbrella. I thought about heading back to see, but decided I had bothered the man enough. Besides, if I was out much longer, Shuhan would be very cross with me.
Running through the streets I nearly ran into a large man in a white cloak. His height startled me and the sword at his side worried me. He gave an arrogant snort at my apology and continued on his way. I sincerely hoped that the sword at his side would never clash with the one I saw Kenshin wearing.
Once more I thought of heading back; that man was heading for the temple. My feet started to turn around, but I stopped myself. Kenshin was obviously a better swordsman than I. I was old; even if I had a sword, it would be useless to me. No, it was best to let Kenshin handle it. Besides I didn't feel any anger from that man, and who would fight in a temple?
Decided, I headed back home to my family. I hugged my wife and kissed my children. I loved my family. The one I would have never had, if Kenshin hadn't given me the option to bow out of the fight. I thank him every day for that.