a/n: Well, here it is. I know you had to wait forever and a day and I apologize for that. But here it is! Done and complete! I put the epilogue into this chapter since it was ultra short and I felt like if I left if out, I would be cheating you... Don't forget to review, okies?
Chapter 21: Persuasion
Kenshin walked down the street with his hands in his pockets, wondering if she had been telling the truth. It certainly seemed like it. He sighed. He didn't know what to think anymore. Every time he turned around she lied to him.
All for her people.
He had been a fool. Continuously. His breath caught on a miserable sob. She had lied to him more than once. So why did he feel like he was walking away from something wonderful? 'Because,' he thought, 'I'm in love with her.'
And there was where his problem stemmed from. He loved her. Completely. And he didn't want to give her up. And yet he was walking away from the very thing he never wanted to lose. He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall of a building.
He was torturing himself.
He wasn't even sure if she was lying when she told him she loved him. Maybe he'd heard it wrong, or listened to snatches of the conversation. He shook his head. It didn't matter anymore.
"Kaoru," he whispered, "I need you."
"Then why did you leave?"
He opened his eyes and stared into her accusing ones. He sighed again. He pushed off the wall and started walking again, assuming she would follow. She did.
"I asked you a question."
"I needed to think," he replied.
"You didn't even listen to me in there," she told him harshly. "I wasn't lying to you Kenshin."
"How am I supposed to believe you?"
It was her turn to sigh. She grasped his arm and made him stop. "Would I still be here if I didn't love you? I finished my end of Hiko's bargain. Technically, I'm free to go. He is going to uphold your end. There is nothing left here for me."
"So why am I still here?" she demanded, her eyes flashing? "Why?"
"I… I don't know."
She made a sound of frustration. "Think! I've laid it out in front of you Kenshin! I'm in love with you, no matter how much I tried to deny it!"
He stood in silence watching her with wide eyes as she ranted on him. "Don't you get it?! I didn't want to fall in love with you! But it happened! And now, when I could leave if I so chose, I'm staying! I wouldn't do that if I didn't have a good reason!!"
"I don't want to hear it! I don't want my feelings thrown back in my face! I've told you all I can to make you believe me!" She threw up her hands in defeat. "I'm done! Take it or leave it, Kenshin."
"I'm sorry," he murmured.
Her heart broke. She let out a pained whimper before turning around and steeling her voice so it was under her control again. "So be it. There is no more I can say to convince you. I love you. That's all I can say."
She started walking off in the other direction. "Idiot," she spat.
He turned after her and wrapped his hand around her arm. "What?"
"That's not what I meant," he corrected her gently. "I'm sorry for accusing you of lying. I… I love you too. And I don't want to lose you."
She couldn't control herself anymore. She threw herself into his arms. "You're so stupid," she whined into his shoulder. "And stubborn."
"I know," he responded, cradling her close.
"If you're going to eavesdrop, you have to do it right," she scolded. "The rest of the conversation was Hiko making fun of me for actually falling for you."
He sighed in relief. "I'm so sorry. I'll trust you from now on. I promise."
He pulled her away to look at her tear stricken face. He cupped her face in his hands lovingly and wiped her tears away carefully. He lowered his mouth to hers and cherished her lips with his ever so lightly. She made a small noise, not satisfied with the light caress.
He shook his head. "Not now."
She laughed. "Yes, I suppose this is the wrong place," she agreed, slipping her hand into his.
"Let's go home."
She smiled and nodded before walking back to his apartment.
She played with the ends of his hair as he slept next to her in the bed. She sighed happily. He had been hardheaded enough to walk away from her, but not for good. She smiled and brushed the ends of his hair down her throat.
He stirred next to her and she frowned in her thoughts. What if he didn't want to come with her back to her realm? Her brow furrowed. She would argue it out, of course, but that didn't mean he would listen.
"Kaoru," he breathed, opening his eyes.
"Kenshin," she turned in his arms to face him. "Will you leave her with me?"
He looked at her, confused. "And go where?"
"Back to where we both belong," she answered.
"Your realm," he guessed. "I don't know."
"Kenshin, this place is killing us both. I know you can't feel it, but it will eat away at you slowly. You've wasted so much time here already," she urged. "I don't want to lose you."
He hugged her tight. "I… I will go. For you," he promised. He brushed a kiss across her brow. "But first, you will marry me."
Her eyes narrowed and she reached for a pillow. "That wasn't very romantic, Himura!" She hit him with the pillow and squirmed out of his arms.
He rubbed his head where the pillow had made contact. "I didn't think you were the kind of girl who wanted to romanticized."
She huffed. "All girls like romance, and you," she chided, "have no sense of romance what so ever."
He chuckled. "Fine. You want romance?" he asked, grasping her tiny waist in his hands before flipping them so she was underneath him.
"Yes," she answered breathlessly as her hands wound themselves into his silken red hair.
"Then I will give you romance," he told her, sprinkling kisses across her face. "Kaoru," he murmured in between kisses, "will you marry me?"
"Hmm," she mumbled, searching for his mouth. "I will have to think long and hard about it."
Rumbling with laughter, his mouth found hers. Their lips clung together, separated, and came together again with more heat than the first. She parted her mouth when his tongue demanded an entrance and she sighed into his mouth.
He dragged his mouth down her neck slowly. "So, will you agree?"
She laughed, holding him to her neck. "I suppose with proper persuasion I could be swayed."
"Then I shall just have to persuade you, won't I?"
Megumi stared at her with tears in her eyes.
"Hey, hey, hey now!" Kaoru warned. "Don't you start crying on me!"
"Y-You look so beautiful though!"
"I didn't choose you over Misao just so you could cry at my wedding!"
"You didn't choose! Misao got pregnant and has morning sickness!"
Kaoru sighed. "Are you going to help me put this damn thing on then?"
Megumi's hands slid over her back and zipped the back of her dress all the way up. She smiled and ordered Kaoru to turn around. When she did Megumi almost started crying again.
"Come on, Meg. Don't do this to me," she insisted.
"I remember my wedding…" she said wistfully.
Kaoru lowered her eyes. "Me too…"
"But that was a long time ago, ne? Time to move on! New beginnings!" she said happily.
Kaoru smiled. She knew Megumi was hurting, but she refused to show it. Not now. She refused to ruin Kaoru's big day with her own sorrows.
"Now then," Megumi announced. "It's time to get married!"
The ceremony was beautiful. Kaoru hadn't tripped down the aisle like she assumed she would nor did she sneeze when she was supposed to kiss her new husband. All in all it was perfect. The only thing that made it better was knowing that she was going home.
Back to her people.
And she was going with Kenshin. The thought made her smile.
He was tucked against her side asleep after the lavish attention she'd given him a few hours ago. That thought caused the smile to grow.
Kenshin was everything she wanted and more. Everything was going to be wonderful, she decided, smiling sleepily.
Everything was going to be absolutely perfect…
a/n: drop a review, let me know what you thought... See you in the next fic! (which will of course be Megumi's love story that branches off of this fic...)