1Author Notes: Yes, I wrote a one-shot. And no, I did not update for 'Remembering You.' I needed a break from the Inuyasha fandom, and I rediscovered Rurouni Kenshin again. I forgot how much I loved this series. So after a three-year absence from the RK fandom I have returned. Honestly, I never thought I would. . . but my love of RK and the KenshinXKaoru relationship is a little too much for me to abandon all together.
-Also, a note about this particular story. Forget the fact that Sano and Megumi left at the end of the manga. I couldn't get myself to write a canon fanfiction without those two involved. . . well, I'll catch you at the end. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: The Rurouni Kenshin world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Watsuki Nobuhiro.
To have met you earlier. . .
You will never be happy
if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live
if you are looking for the meaning of life.
Kaoru slipped into her room glad to see that Kenshin was already asleep. Sighing gently in relief she lifted her side of the futon and slid in trying not to wake her husband. She was startled was when a firm grip came upon her wrist and she was tugged to stumble upon Kenshin's chest. Look up at him from beneath her bang she frowned. He smiled at her and combed his fingers through her long dark hair.
"Are you angry with me Kaoru-dono?"
Her frown became deeper at the honorific but shook her head anyways.
"Then why have you been ignoring me?"
The heartbreaking expression on his face melted her resolve as she wrapped her arms around him and buried her head beneath his chin. "I'm sorry. . . it's just. . . I have something to tell you and I don't know how."
His mind raced with all the possibilities but each one became grimmer as they progressed. Had she burned the kitchen down? Was she going to lose the dojo? Did she hurt her self? Was she ill? Was she in love with another man?
With the lack of his prodding words Kaoru looked up to see serious look upon his features. Rolling her eyes she slapped his upper arm. "I don't know what crazy theories you're coming up with, but I suggest you stop before your hair turns gray."
Taken away from his deteriorating thoughts he pouted playfully at her. "I am not that old Kaoru-dono."
"I hope not." She kissed the side of his mouth and pulled back. Taking his hand and guiding it to her abdomen she smiled nervously. "I want you to be around when he or she gets married."
The hand trembled and his eyes widened. "You mean-"
He pulled her into a firm embrace while soaking in the newfound knowledge. Not knowing the right words to say he remained speechless. What was the right thing to say at these moments?
"You're not upset are you?"
Surprised at her words he looked her in the face. "Upset? No, how could I be upset for such a joyous occasion. I'm just without words. . . nothing I say could make this moment better." Pausing a moment he wondered what were the appropriate words to say. "How far along are you?"
She smiled up at him, "We are two months along. He or she will be born by next spring."
His eyes widened once again at her words. "Spring. . ." The definite coming of this child made him dizzy but he smiled gently down at his wife.
Nodding she fell asleep in his arms, tired from keeping this from him for that past couple days.
His wife's steady breathing that had lulled him to sleep for countless night now did nothing to draw him into slumber. Lying awake Kenshin stared at the ceiling. He could kick himself for the reaction he had given Kaoru for the news of her being pregnant. This was one of the most joyous moments in his life and he could only hold her. She had been acting strangely for a few days now, meaning that it had been that long since she had found out herself. Why had she not told him immediately?
He sighed heavily and covered his face with his free arm. The ex-hitokiri knew exactly why. The doubt that lay hidden within each of her movements haunted his days. As much as it hurt him to see her fear that he might up and leave one day, he could do nothing to relieve her fears. He had no plans of leaving her, with or without the presence of this child, but he did fear that she would run him from her life when she finally realized the mistake she had made in choosing him.
Kenshin had known about the many men that had tried to woo her, he had chased them all away with a glare. Soon the men that had approached the gates of the dojo on a weekly basis faded away until everyone had been afraid to even consider Kamiya Kaoru as single. He had sealed her fate the moment she had confronted him on that hazy morning in the alley. As Jineh had said, she was his woman.
A short month after his plight with Enishi, Kenshin had finally built up enough courage to write koibumi to her. At which she had laughed at his handwriting and his lack of graceful words. Nevertheless she had accepted his proposal for courtship. It was not much longer after that they had gotten married, his reasoning being that he had courted her long enough during his stay with her. She had agreed and smiled at him, knowing that he worried that his age would eventually scare her away.
And now his young bride was pregnant with his child. Did a man that killed so many men deserve such happiness? Was he allowed to be happy after killing off the happiness of the woman he had once loved? And for killing her?
His sunken spirits stired Kaoru and he smiled down at her. She had always been able to detect his moods without him saying it. Kissing the crown of her head he felt her settle within his embrace. Trying to fall asleep Kenshin could not help but think that although he may not be deserving of the happiness that surrounded him, he would be damned if he would give it up. For the life of him, he would not let this woman or this child go. But would Tomoe forgive him for finding a life after her death?
"Shh! Don't be so loud!"
"What? Hey, why are you doing the laundry? Did Kenshin run off on you?"
"Don't say things like that. He's still asleep."
"Shouldn't you wake him?"
"I didn't have the heart to. He never sleeps this soundly, and since there really isn't anything pressing to do today I figured I'd let him sleep."
Kenshin blinked open his eyes as the conversation from outside filled his mind. Seeing an unfamiliar ceiling and noticing that he was alone in a futon that was obviously meant for two he frowned. The amiable conversation continued outside but he did not recognize either of the voices. What was going on? Looking about the room he noticed a katana resting right above the two pillows. This was not this sword. He did not recognize the scabbard or the hilt. Something was at odds here. If he had inadvertently landed himself in danger and was now a hostage for the enemy, they would not leave a sword lying around. Lifting it he studied its weight and felt that it was comfortable in his hand.
The conversation continued outside. The sooner he attacked the better -the element of surprise would be on his side. Tying his loose hair high up he stepped carefully to the shoji. With a deft flick of the wrist it slid all the way open. He frowned at the sight before him. There was no imminent danger here. The laundry flapped in the wind as it had just been hung up to dry, the sun shone brightly, and birds were chirping their irritating songs. There was a man, that looked a few years older than him, and a woman with her back turned to him. The man was tall, built, but a bit on a lanky side; however, he could tell that his lack of muscle bulk betrayed his actual strength. His brown hair was spiked up in all directions as he chewed on a fish bone.
"Speak of the devil! Were you planning on sleeping the entire day?"
He frowned further at the tall man. The familiarity in which he to spoke to him was all too uncommon. Men cowered at the presence of him -they did not speak casually to him. And had he just called him the devil? "Who-"
The woman turned and smiled brightly. "Good morning sleepy head."
Kenshin could not help but stare at her. Did this woman with the warm smile, blue eyes, and dark pony-tailed hair just call him a sleepy head? It was one thing to be called the devil, but a sleepy head?
"What's wrong Kenshin?"
Her sweet voice rang through his ears as he realized that she knew who he was. There was something wrong here. He glanced from one to the other, to the laundry, then back at them. His left hand still gripped on the katana, in case there was need for his battoujutsu, he allowed the question that plagued him spill out. "Who are you?"
Finally changed out of his yukata and into a white hakama and red gi, he sat quietly in a vacant room. After the confused and panicked looks on the man and woman, he had been bombarded with a series of questions. Most of the questions were the basics. What was his name? When was his birthday? What year was it? And how old was he? The last two answers he had given had shocked the two. The man yelled that he would go to get a woman named Megumi. The woman nodded and looked over at him in worry.
She said her name was Kaoru and that they had known each other for over a year now. When she failed to see any recognition in his eyes she frowned. She seemed troubled but ushered him back into the room where he had just come out of and told him to be dressed before the man named Sano and Megumi were back.
Although he had been surprised that this Megumi was a doctor he did not show it. A female doctor was the least of the shocking news. Apparently it was the twelfth year in the Meiji era. The bakumatsu had ended and the Ishin shi shi had won. Japan was still trying to rebuild itself, but was in relative peace. He had "wandered" for ten years until he had taken up residence in the Kamiya dojo, where he had lived for the past seventeen months. The woman named Kaoru had been about to relay more facts before Megumi stopped her. Megumi asked him to leave them alone for a moment. Having little choice but to agree he stood to leave when a young boy had come stumbling in. The boy spoke to him casually as well, but was interrupted by the others. Seeing that no more would be said to him, Kenshin left the room.
Kenshin chewed over the supposed facts that were thrown at him. How could it be ten years since the bakumatsu? That would make him at the very least twenty-five. He frowned at that thought. Looking around the room that he had woken up in, he spotted a cloth-covered mirror. Going over to it he lifted the material and glared at the image that stared back. The cross-shaped scar upon his left cheek was not scabbed and angry, as it had been the day before. The skin there showed evidence that it had been there for years. Looking over the rest of his features, he took note that the boyish face was gone. Although he resented that his slightly androgynous features had remained, he took note that he was a bit older, but did not look a day older than twenty-two. Had they lied to him? Then again, maybe he aged well.
In the reflection of the mirror he could see the futon that he had woken up in had yet to be put away. Who shared his bed? Walking over to the wall that was closest to the room where the others remained he listened attentively.
"I don't buy it. I say he's trying to pull a prank, he's probably faking it." It was the voice of the boy.
"I don't think so Yahiko. Kenshin has never been one for pranks. Even if he was, this one is one is a bit too cruel." That was Kaoru.
"Jou-chan is right. Kenshin's sense of humor is not this intricate."
"We're going to have to believe his word on this. If Ken-san thinks that he is fifteen years old you know what that means."
"He's still the Hitokiri Battousai."
"Kaoru, what do you think could have triggered this? Did he suffer any trauma to the head?" Megumi inquired.
"Haha, not anymore than the usual bokken I bet!"
"Yahiko!" The stern voice of the doctor silenced the boy quickly.
". . . I don't know. He was himself when he went to sleep, but when he woke up. . ."
"I've heard of cases like these. It's usually triggered by something, but this might not be the case. Judging by Ken-san's traumatic history, it might just be his mind playing tricks on it. . . it's best to go through day like any other. Maybe something routine would trigger his memory. . . Kaoru, I know it's hard but refrain from explaining to him everything that has happened, but don't lie to him. He'll see right through that and might leave if he thinks we're trying to hide things from him."
"So do we just wait around for Kenshin's memory to come back?" It was Sano.
"I'm really not an expert in this field. I'll write a letter to a colleague that is a doctor of the mind. He lives in Kyoto so an answer might take a few days, but he'll be better informed on these kinds of things."
With the collective agreement of the group Kenshin heard them shuffling about and dispersing from the room. He sensed that two people had lagged behind.
"Do you want me to stick around the dojo Jou-chan?"
"No, that's okay."
"You don't know this Kenshin, he might become violent. He's not the rurouni right now, he's the most feared hitokiri of the bakumatsu."
"Thank you for worrying but. . . it's Kenshin."
The man in question thought that over. What did that even mean? Was he close to this 'Kaoru'? He glanced over at the futon again. Someone shared his bed and besides Kaoru there was only Megumi, but she seemed to not live at the dojo. It seemed that he, Kaoru, and Sano were the ones that lived there. Was there something between she and Sano? They had a familiar way of speaking with each other. He resolved to stop thinking about it as the image of the woman with blue eyes plagued his mind. Maybe the woman that shared his bed just happened to be out.
As he sat eating his dinner slowly he discreetly glanced toward the shoji. Well, at least he thought it was discreetly.
"Do you sense someone coming?"
Looking back at the quizzical face upon Kaoru face he frowned. She knew about his ability sense his surroundings? How much of him did she know? "No, but aren't you expecting more people?"
She titled her head in question. "More people? I've only set out two places to eat."
He nodded. "But what about Sano?"
"Did he say he would stay for dinner?"
He frowned. "Doesn't he live here?"
She gave a small smile at his confusion. "No, we're the only ones that live here at the dojo. Well, ever since Yahiko moved out to live with Sano that is."
The presented information mulled in his mind. "Do you share my bed?"
She blushed at the direct question, "I-"
"And don't lie to me."
His stern unwavering voice stopped all fabrications from spilling out of her mouth. She had been set on hiding the truth a bit. This was the man she loved, but in his mind he it was fourteen years ago and he showed no recognition of her. The golden gaze burned her with an intensity she felt would melt her. She nodded at his question.
His face was solemn as he fired on his questions, "Have we wed?"
"For how long?"
"Five months." She whispered out.
"That's not very long." Kenshin ignored her hurt expression and plowed on. "Was this arranged?"
She furrowed her brows. "Arranged?"
He became bored at her repetition of his question. "An arranged marriage."
A tear slipped out and she looked down at her lap as she settled her hand over he belly that would expand slowly in the next seven months. "Why do you ask that?"
"How old am I?"
It stung her that he had not answered her question. "Twenty-nine. . . but why do you ask me if this was arranged?"
"If I am twenty-nine as you say I am, I question the age gap. I'm guessing that you're no older than nineteen. That is a decade of age difference. I can't think a girl like you would fall in love with me." Thinking back to his marriage with Tomoe left a bitter taste in his mouth. "Is this a marriage of convenience?"
With a reaction time that he had not expected, she slapped him across the cheek with the cross-shaped scar. She trembled at realizing that he voiced the fear she had kept within her all these months. As many times as the rurouni had declared the words of love to her, she had always wondered if he had simply settled for her. She had followed him around like a lovesick puppy for a year, maybe he had grown weary of her advances, and maybe he had given in. Taking in a shaky breath to calm herself she raised her azure eyes to directly glare into his golden ones. "I love you. I've loved you for over a year now. You said you loved me in return and asked me to be your wife."
He glared back at the girl that showed more insolence than he had encountered from the opposite sex in all his years. This 'Kaoru' would not back down with her stubborn nature, but he saw a crack in her shield. There it was, in her gaze that she settled upon him, a fault in her armor. Smirking slightly at easily finding her weakness he responded. "You doubt my love don't you?"
Feeling the sting of his words that were far worse than any slap of a hand or a cut of a sword she stood up quietly and left. Creeping along the engawa Kaoru sighed as she made her way into the bathhouse. Within the confines of the stable wooden structure she slid against the door to sit on the floor. An onslaught of tears that she had managed to keep back, save for one tear, spilled out as she sobbed. Her cries reverberated back into her ears as she tried to erase the conversation she had just had with her husband.
Seeing the tear soaked sleeve of her kimono she crawled over to where, earlier, she had laid out a fresh yukata for herself and Kenshin. Pulling on her obi it came loose as she tugged at her kimono from the rest of its binds. At the moment she wouldn't care about the wrinkles in the fabric or the tear stains on her sleeves. Finally out of all her clothing she bit back another sob as she glanced down at her belly. She leaned her forehead against the shelving that held the changing room supplies and stroked her abdomen.
"I'm sorry for all of this. . . I don't know if your father will be back to normal when you come to this world." Kaoru sighed as she whispered out her promise to her unborn child. "If his memories never return and he decides to wander again. . . I will love you twice as much. I'll devote every waking moment of my life to you. . . I will make sure that you never feel the emptiness of being without a father."
She thought back to her childhood where a mother was absent through most of it. Her father had raised her, and she knew he had tried his best in providing for her. And because of his efforts, she had never been envious of the children with two parents. Kaoru swore to herself that she would be like him if the situation called for it. Wiping the tears away she took a deep breath and steadied her aching heart. Pulling on a yukata with practiced ease, she then stepped out of the bathhouse.
It was already night and she felt the weight of the day upon her emotions. Coming upon the closed shoji of her and Kenshin's room she paused in front of it. After marriage Kenshin had moved into her room, being that it was the most spacious of dojo. For the past five years this had been her bedroom, and for the past five months she had shared it with Kenshin.
She pondered on the night's sleeping situations for a moment until she decided that the best course of action would be to occupy one of the spare rooms. She went no further then a step when the shoji slid open and a quick hand tugged at her wrist. Startled, Kaoru looked up at the shadowed figure that could only be Kenshin.
"Where are you going?" His voice was low and calm, not like the sharp accusing voice she had heard from him earlier.
She dumbly answered, "To sleep."
"Why don't you sleep in your room?"
Understanding his question she shook her head. "I thought it would be best if I slept in a spare room tonight."
Staring down at her a moment he drew her into the room with his hand still wrapped around her wrist. "This is your room. I won't be putting you out of it.
Snapping the door closed behind her he locked eyes with hers. "You are my wife. There is no need for discretion."
Blushing profusely she was led to the bed where she sat upon the turned down covers nervously. What was she nervous for? She had shared a bed with him countless times before - this would be no different. Steeling herself she settled into the coolness of the futon and shut her eyes as she waited for him to slip in like any other night. But after noticing the light blown out and long moments of silence, she turned to look toward where she could only guess he still remained.
He sat against the wall with his sword propped on his shoulders. His arms crossed and his head titled forward so his bangs hid his expression. Seeing his position she frowned. Her husband never slept like that anymore. Even as the rurouni he had only done so on nights when it called for him to be fully alert, but she would not press him on the issue.
Instead, she whispered out his name as a question. "Kenshin?"
A stretched silence blanketed the two until he answered, "What?"
His tone was not the gentle voice of the man she had promised to share her life with. Instead, it was a low baritone not meant to soothe, but to draw in his prey. She burrowed deeper in the futon as she realized that this man was not the oro-ing idiot she loved, but an assassin from an age of bloodshed.
"Did you have a question?"
Startled, she nodded, but realized he could probably not see her with his head tilted down. "What is the last thing you remember?"
Raising his eye line to look at her, his face remained expressionless. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because I would like to know which state of the Battousai I'm dealing with."
He raised a brow, "'The Battousai'? Is that what you call me?"
She did not falter in answering him. "What else would I call you? Hitokiri? Look, whatever I call you or you call yourself, in my heart, you are my husband."
He stared at her for a long moment, but seeing her unwavering look on her face he visibly exhaled. "Did I ever speak to you about Tomoe?"
Her breath hitched in her throat. She should have expected this, but for some reason she had thought that she had been lucky enough to catch the Battousai before he had met Tomoe. Closing her eyes she turned away from him.
Kenshin stared at her tense back, "I'm guessing by your reaction that you mean 'yes.'" Not waiting for an answer he went on. "She. . . passed away four days ago."
Turning around slowly she saw things she had failed to notice earlier. This Kenshin's shoulders were slumped, his head was in an unrelenting tilt forward, and a mourning look that she had never seen, and had hoped to never see, rested within his eyes. It was one thing to run into the Battousai and it was another to run into the Battousai in love with another woman, but to run into the Battousai in love with a dead woman was something else entirely.
She did not know why she allowed the next words to fall out of her mouth as she stared at his tired figure. "You killed her."
An uncharacteristic flinch went through his body. Shocked, he stared into the eyes of the woman he was supposedly married to. "I told you?"
Kaoru nodded her head but turned her gaze to the sliver of moonlight that seeped in through the crack between the shojis. "but I'm not sure if you would have ever told me if Enishi hadn't shown up."
"Enishi. . ." The name rolled of his tongue as he tried to figure out where he had heard the name before.
"Tomoe-san's little brother." She answered his unspoken question. "He came to get revenge on you. . . and he was attacking your friends so you thought it appropriate to tell us of your past with Tomoe-san."
Getting over the surprising element of the news he asked, "Where is he now?"
"He disappeared after you defeated him."
A silence fell upon them as he pondered the revelations. So much had happened in the years that he had lost, so many things were foreign to him. But no matter how unfamiliar things were, he felt that he was not a stranger when he was next to this woman. "Did he use you against me because you were my woman?"
"We weren't married back then. . . and I wasn't any more special to you then anyone else. . . but he staged my death so you would give up on fighting."
Kenshin couldn't believe that she had been no more special than anyone else. His future self, or rather, his present self must love her deeply if her death had caused him to stop fighting. No more words were exchanged as each threw themselves into their own abyss of self-pondering.
The filtered light from the angry morning sun roused the slumbering kendo instructor. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up, then blinked away the cobwebs of sleep. It must not have been any later than mid-morning as she pondered on the things she needed to accomplish that day. Unlike the morning before where her husband had slept through the majority of the day, he was gone. Her eyes widened as the events from the day before came back to her like a tidal wave. Rushing out of the room her hopes were dampened when she saw that he was not doing laundry right outside the room. She sprinted to the kitchen but saw that no one was there preparing a meal. She took in a deep breath as her emotions threatened to take over. She had hoped that yesterday had been a dream, but she should have known by the coldness of her bed and his side of the futon showing no evidence of someone having slept in it.
Sighing she walked toward her room to change. Glancing toward the dojo at the opposite end of the house she noticed that the doors was ajar. She frowned. She could have sworn she had shut that.
Closing the front of her yukata tighter she retied the sash. If it was a burglar she wasn't about to give them a little show. Stealing a glance inside she gave a sigh of relief when she saw a mess of red hair in a high ponytail. She stared at the hairstyle for a while as she worried her lip between her teeth. She knew exactly what that high ponytail meant and she had noticed it yesterday. Her worrywart ex-rurouni husband had not returned overnight.
He was looking up at the nameplates that hung neatly on the wall. "You're the master?"
His curious tone pulled her out of her trance. Going over the question once again in her mind, she let out a laugh that betrayed his question hurt a little. "I know my kenki is not very strong, but I kind of hoped you would be able to pick up on it. Then again with people like you and Sano around it's no surprise that mine is barely even noticed."
Angling his body to look at her he shook his head. "I did notice your kenki. . . but I thought it was because of your personality."
She blushed at the statement, but huffed a second later. "Why do you think we're living in a dojo if I wasn't the master?" She narrowed her eyes a bit, "Did you think the dojo was yours?"
He shook his head again, "It is not my place to pass on the Hiten Mitsurugi ryu. . . I have not mastered the final techniques."
"What, the Kuzu Ryu Sen and the Ama Kakeru Ryu no Hirameki?"
His eyes narrowed at the names that easily flowed out of her.
Seeing his reaction she shrugged. "You mastered those months ago when you had to fight a strong opponent. But you said you choose not to teach anyone the Hiten Mitsurugi ryu."
"Is. . . Shishiou-"
Kaoru smiled in understanding at the question that he let hang. "He's alive and well. . . and probably drinking profusely."
"You've met him."
"A few times, but only briefly. He's the one that spoke to me about your childhood."
A blush crossed his face as he thought of all the embarrassing stories Shishou might have relayed to her. She smiled seeing the most feared hitokiri in history blush, maybe her husband wasn't too far under the surface.
Noticing her smiled he covered his face with his right hand while he peeked between his fingers at her. "What did he tell you?"
His world stopped as he heard his old name whispered in the empty dojo. The only person left in the world that knew that name was Shishou and himself; however, this woman knew. A name that he had abandoned and not even Tomoe had known. Kenshin stared at the woman as she turned away without saying another word.
Left in the dojo with the namepates, shinai and bouken in neat rows, and with his old name still echoing in his ears, Kenshin contemplated the life that he had created for himself. Looking back at the nameplates he stared at one in particular.
Hearing her name called she quickly finished changing, then walked out of her room to find her spiky-haired pupil already dressed for practice. "Yahiko? What are you doing here so early?"
He frowned a bit then looked around to see if anyone was listening. Assured that there was no one in visible sight he responded, "Sano was worried about you so he sent me off early. He wouldn't stop bugging me."
Rolling her eyes she gestured toward the kitchen. "Have you eaten yet?"
Yahiko was surprised at her question. "Battousai cooked?"
She laughed, "No, but I'll make you some rice balls. I can't think I'll mess those up too much."
Staring at her skeptically he stepped onto the engawa and sighed. "I'll help you."
"My aren't we considerate today."
The young boy blushed as he stomped past his grinning master.
Once the two of them had entered the kitchen Kenshin stepped out from the side of the building. He had heard the entire conversation. Why had Yahiko thought that he would be cooking instead of his wife? He pondered on the thought and sat by the dojo for a while. He was pulled from his thoughts when Kaoru and Yahiko, having finished eating, entered the dojo. The boy had given a threatening glare before he entered the dojo.
Getting up he stepped forward to observe practice but felt he was a bit hungry. Finding himself in the kitchen he noticed food that he could only assume was left for him. Picking up a rice ball he bit into it, noting that it didn't taste very good. He paused in his chewing for a moment but ate all of them.
After filling up on the rice balls he made his way toward the dojo. Standing at the doorframe Kenshin watched as Yahiko practiced his kata and Kaoru sternly corrected his movements. Did Yahiko receive private lessons from Kaoru? Although he saw the promise and potential in Yahiko's movements, Kenshin wondered if private lessons were necessary or to be desired in an age of peace. At that moment he felt the very weak kenki of two young men.
Stumbling into the dojo they looked to be around fifteen years old, approximately his age. . . or what he remembered as his age. He frowned at the way the two looked at their instructor, they obviously had crushes on her. Yahiko deftly finished the kata he had been doing, then quickly lines up along with the other two students.
He looked over at the nameplates again. Only three students. . .
With an enthusiastic greeting from her pupils, they began practice as he turned away. He heads toward the dojo gates, he needed room to think.
"Where do you think you're going Kenshin?"
The strong voice of the tall man named Sano stopped him. Kenshin had sensed him coming but had hoped that the man would not speak to him. Glaring at the way the man had nonchalantly entered what supposedly was his home, he responded. "Out."
"You coming back?"
The hitokiri narrowed his eyes further. "Yes."
Dismissing any other questions Kenshin walked passed Sano. The ex-fighter said with a threat pressed into his tone. "If you hurt her I'll kill you."
Kenshin paused in his step and glared with golden eyes Sano. "Who are you to me?"
The man in question smirked, "Ironically, your best friend."
"And to her?"
Sano frowned at the question a bit. Kenshin could see that the man was thinking it over, and then looked back at him. "Ironically, the guy that's protecting her from you."
After a short beat the redhead turned away and strode down the street. He walked the unfamiliar streets of what Megumi had told him was called 'Tokyo.' The city known as 'Edo' had apparently changed its name, with reasons he had not been explained. Not really knowing where to go Kenshin cut down the path from the road and sat upon a log that was next to the river.
Engrossed in the movement of the water and the occasional sparkling of the fish as their scales caught a ray of the sun, Kenshin fell into deep thought. This was the first time he found himself alone since he had woken up fourteen years older. It had been a little over decade since the end of the bakumatsu. It was the twelfth year of the peaceful Meiji era, but only five days since he had killed his wife.
His thoughts turned toward the misery and darkness that he had been shrouded in for the past few days. It was enough to have to deal with being a widower at such a young age, but to be remarried soon after. He wondered if Tomoe would forgive him for his indiscretions. Granted it had been fourteen years until he had remarried, and it appeared he had courted her for a year (if he calculated correctly) before they wed. From what he could gather by the atmosphere around the dojo and their initial interaction with him, he had been happy. He had not failed this time in creating a life that would not shatter at the hint of betrayal. Kaoru was a young spirited woman that seemed to care for him deeply.
He sighed as he looked upon the river and could smell the blood. It wasn't there. The water was still running as clear and blue as ever, but he could smell it. An assassin could always smell it. Blood's perfume would never leave his skin as it had seeped into his bones. With a man so stained in life, did he deserve the happiness that his future self had built?
He turned toward the quiet voice and saw a girl with dark hair in a bob coming down the side of the hill.
She smiled at him. "I knew it was you. You're the only person I know that has red hair." She jolted to a stop in her step as and her eyes widened. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were-"
He frowned at her, "What's wrong?"
"You're eyes, they're amber."
The shaking in her voice did not go unnoticed. "I won't hurt you." He gestured her over to sit next to him.
She gulped down noisily and nodded. She breathed heavily as she made her way toward him. As she precariously sat next to him she jumped when he spoke.
"You're afraid of me."
She shook her head nervously. "No Battousai-san!"
He frowned, "You called me by my name earlier."
She bowed to him, "I'm very sorry Kenshin-san! It's. . . just. . . your eyes are not purple."
Purple? His natural eye color had always been purple until he had joined the Ishin shi shi. After his first kill his eyes had changed. He hadn't thought much about it but apparently it was an indication of his mental state. "Don't worry about it. I've just had a lot on my mind."
She looked at him a long moment but nodded in the end. "It must be something serious to bring about such a change in mood. Even your speech pattern is different."
"My speech pattern?"
She smiled, "Yahiko-kun once told me that when your temper gets out of control your eyes become amber and your speech changes. You stop calling yourself 'sessha' and stop ending your sentences with 'gozaru.'"
A bored look fell across his face. Sessha? That's bit over top with the self-deprecation. And gozaru? What was a he, a samurai from the Sengoku period? He might as well be calling everyone 'dono.'
"Is everything alright Kenshin-san? Did something happen to Kaoru-san?"
At hearing his wife's name he turned toward the young girl. "No."
When he didn't elaborate further she smiled and nodded. Standing up she bowed lightly to him, "I hope that whatever is disturbing you does not do so for too long."
He looked after her retreating form as she clumsily climbed up the slope back to the road. After he was sure she had gained safe footing he turned back toward the river. How much could a person have changed in fourteen years? He wasn't sure if he liked the impression he was getting of himself, but wasn't entirely sure if he hated it. He was supposedly calm, kind, and apparently cooked and cleaned. Those were chores that he had never really minded doing, but had rarely been told to do after leaving Shishou. From what he gathered from eavesdropped conversation through the past two days was that Kaoru had taken on these duties, and did them very poorly. Tomoe had been what most people would call the idea wife. She was kind, soft-spoken, talented in the arts of the home, and beautiful. He wasn't about to deny that Kaoru was kind, and in his eyes she was beautiful. She had the kind of smile that would stay with a person all day. Even so, Tomoe and Kaoru were polar opposites. Had his taste in women changed so much? Would he have fallen in love with Kaoru if he had met her before Tomoe?
He glanced up at the sun. He raised his brows in faint surprise. A good two hours had gone by during his time of contemplation. Dusting himself off he headed back toward the dojo. Coming upon the gate he prepared himself for the perpetual confusion he had found himself in since waking yesterday.
Just as he stepped over the threshold the blaring voice that could only belong to Sano boomed from the dojo. "Kaoru!"
His feet moved on their own accord as he dashed inside without a second thought. Coming to the doorway of the dojo he found Kaoru flat on her back with Sano, Yahiko, and her two students hovering over her. Soon at her side, he whipped his head toward Sano. "What happened?"
The ex-fighter glared at the student with short unruly hair. "You better fucking leave before I make you!"
The two students froze as they stared at the menacing look in Sano's eyes. Rapidly gathering their things, they stumbled out the exit.
Once they left she sat up, hit Sano upside the head and rolled her eyes. "You definitely blew that way out of proportion."
"Yeah Sano, it's not anything I haven't done before." Yahiko said confused at the apparent anger that Sano oozed from his being.
Sano snapped at the younger boy. "You never attacked her when her back was facing you! God, kids today don't understand the ideals of the bushido."
"He attacked you?" Sano, Kaoru, and Yahiko seemed to finally notice that Kenshin was there.
Kaoru shook her head smiling. "He only did it playfully, he didn't mean to intentionally harm me."
Sano growled, "You ended up on the floor!"
"My foot slipped! That's entirely my fault, not his."
Shaking his head still upset Sano said in a stern voice. "I don't think you should be teaching kendo in your condition."
At Yahiko's question and the confused look on Kenshin's face, Kaoru punched Sano in the arm. "You idiot! You're supposed to keep it a secret!"
Yahiko frowned, "Hey, it's one thing for the amnesiac to not know but your best pupil? What the hell Kaoru!"
Locking eyes with the indignant student Kenshin said in a threatening tone. "Do not take that tone with her."
Seeing the life leaving her most promising student's face as his hero and idol scorned him, Kaoru held Yahiko's hand within hers. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you Yahiko." Without turning to look at her husband she smiled sadly. ". . . I'm pregnant."
A beat barely passed before Kenshin gathered her in his arms and stormed out of the dojo.
Yahiko stood up seeing the retreating form of a stunned Kaoru and a stoic Kenshin. Yahiko had every intention of going after them, but Sano grabbing his shoulder stopping him. "Let them sort things out on their own."
"But he might-"
Sano shook his head. "He won't do anything to harm her."
Within the room where everything had started Kenshin snapped the shoji closed with his foot right after him. He carefully, but forcefully, set her upon the folded up futon in the corner. Kneeling before her he stared into her eyes.
This was far beyond his comprehension. According to his memories he had never even slept with this woman, but from the information he could gather they were married. The genuinely stunned look in his eyes did not stomp away the skepticism. "Is it mine?"
At his blatantly hurtful question Kaoru raised her arm to slap him like she had done the day before, but his hands were quicker this time. The notorious speed of the Battousai kicked in as he grasped her wrist in his hand. Frustrated that her actions were stopped she seethed out, "How can you ask me that!"
His stoic expression did not change. "Just answer the question."
Still unable to contain her anger she glared at the man that used to trust her beyond belief. "Of course it's yours."
What happened next surprised both of them. The words had registered within his mind quicker than he had anticipated. He had lunged forward and kissed her fully on the mouth. Getting over the initial shock she tried to push him off. This man did not trust her fidelity and he was in love with another woman, but the familiarity of his kiss recalled too much of her loving husband. Long moments later he pulled back, only to settle his forehead against hers and whispered, "Thank you."
With wide tearing eyes she gazed at his face. His rasping breaths blew across her face, as his eyes remained closed.
"I'm sorry." Saying the words he pulled back his face and settled it over her abdomen while holding her in a firm embrace. "I'm sorry I don't remember this. But even if my memory never returns I'll never leave you or this child."
"Kenshin. . ." A tear slipped out and air hitched in her throat.
"I'm not sure if I deserve this. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to be happy after killing so many people. . . and killing Tomoe."
Pulling his face up to look into his eyes, she smiled with cheeks wet from tears. "You're allowed to be happy. And you deserve all of this and more." Leaning forward she kissed the scar upon his face and whispered into his ear. "I'm not telling you to forget the past. . . I don't want you to; it makes you the person that you are. But please, don't live in it."
He couldn't help it when he drew back and kissed her deeply. This was the woman of his future. The one that he had built a life of happiness with. He barely knew her, but knew her better than anyone else. He loved her.
Alone and naked. That was how Kenshin found himself the following morning. Sitting up in the crumpled up futon he frowned at not seeing Kaoru there. This was exactly how he woke up two days before, except for the lack of clothing coming into play this time. Kaoru had accepted him with all her being the night before. She loved him, whether he was the Battousai, the rurouni, or the husband that swore to be at her side for eternity.
His attention was drawn outside when he heard a conversation between Kaoru and Sano.
"Is everything okay Jou-chan?"
"You seriously worry too much." The indignant huff of his wife made him smile.
"What do you expect with the way he carried you off yesterday?" Kenshin covered his face as he blushed. Thinking back on his actions, he was very brash and had been so in front of Sano and Yahiko.
His inner embarrassment was put on hold at Kaoru's voice. "He wouldn't hurt me. It's Kenshin. No matter which side of him is on the surface, it's still him. Either way, I'd trust the Battousai, the rurouni, or Kenshin will my life. There is no stronger man in Japan than my husband."
He heard a sigh from the tall man, "I sometimes wonder if you're too good for him."
She laughed, "And here I thought he was too good for me."
"Nah, you deserve the best. You're the one that took in all these strays and gave them a reason to live."
"Oh God, don't get all sentimental on me now."
Sano laughed at that, "Well, if you ever get tired of him you know I'm always around."
Having dressed during the conversation Kenshin slid the shoji open and shook his head in good humor at Sano. "That will not be necessary de gozaru yo."
The two conversing friends turned their attention toward the redhead that had returned to his old speech patterns. Kenshin smiled down at his wife from his position on the engawa. His memories had returned and he wasn't entire sure why, but he would not look a gift horse in its mouth.
Dropping the bucket of water that she had pulled up from the well she took in a shuddering breath. Rushing to him she wrapped her arms around his torso and buried her face in his abdomen. "You're back."
He stroked her raven hair affectionately, "I'm sorry I worried you." Looking up at Sano he gave a shameful smile. "I'm sorry about the past couple of days Sano."
The ex-fighter for hire just grinned and shook his head. He turned away and left the happy couple in peace.
Kenshin held his wife in his arms. This was the happiness that he had questioned. He felt he could hit himself for even thinking that now. After having lost his memories of Kaoru he realized how vital they were to his being. Everything he had gone through as a hitokiri, a rurouni, and then as a person staying at the Kamiya dojo had lead him to this moment. He deserved this bliss, and if anyone were to interfere in it he would give them a good lesson with his sakabatou, even if the person needing the lesson was himself. His past self, that had just recently killed Tomoe, had allowed for this happiness. Kaoru saying that he deserved it settled the heavy feeling that had occupied his heart since his youth.
"I'm sorry for the hurtful things I had said."
Kaoru laughed it off nervously. "It's okay."
Kenshin shook his head. "No. . . the things I said. . . this is not a marriage of convenience." Her heart skipped a beat and he could feel her hands gripping tighter on his gi. "I didn't just settle for you, nor are you a replacement. . . I've loved you longer than you know or I dare reveal. My heart was set on you the moment I met you, my mind took a bit longer to catch up."
He wiped away the tears that continued to flow from her years. She smiled despite the fact. "I'm sorry I'm such a cry baby."
He winced, "I feel as if I am the one causing you to cry."
Burying her face in his gi she shook her head. "I cry for you because I love you so much. And they're not all bad tears. I think I cry more because I'm happy than anything else."
With the past that continued to haunt him, he couldn't believe that she was determined to be with him. "Thank you Kaoru-dono."
She frowned at that. "Stop calling me that."
Kenshin was startled at her expression and words, but a kind smile settled across his features. "Thank you. . . Kaoru."
Nodding in approval she tugged him down by the front of his gi to kiss him chastely on the lips. He grinned and pulled her onto the engawa. She laughed as she kicked off her sandals and nestled into his chest. "Is everything going to be fine?"
He shook his head. "It'll be better than fine. I hope to be deliriously happy with you," He then placed an affectionate hand over her still flat belly. "And with our child."
Kaoru smiled brightly up at him, "I'm hoping later on it will be children."
Nodding he beamed, "Yes, ten or eleven."
Her eyes widened and she sputtered, "Do you expect me to be pregnant for 20 years!"
Kenshin laughed as he kissed her forehead. "Maybe a few will come in pairs."
She shook her head. "No way. Unless you're giving birth to half of them I don't think so. I was thinking three or four."
Cradling her soft cheeks in his hands, he leaned forward and kissed the corner of her eye. "We'll see."
When one door of happiness closes,
but often we look so long at the closed door
that we do not see
the one which has been opened for us.
A/N: And so there it is, my first one-shot. . . and it is extremely long. . . I could have probably spit it up into three chapters, but I felt it should be one piece. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thank you for your time. Till the next round. . .
Japanese Vocabulary used in the fic:
Koibumi- love letter
Battoujutsu- a sword technique in which the katana is pulled from the scabbard quickly and is mean to cut the opponent; the Battousai was named because of his deft and knowledge of the technique
Hitokiri- human slayer; swordsmen with exceptional ability
Bakumatsu- a bloody revolution that occurred in Japan
Ishin shi shi- nationalist patriots
Dojo- a place where martial arts is trained and taught at
Bokken- a bamboo sword used in kendo
Rurouni- a wanderer; a word made up by Watsuki
Engawa- terrace of typical Japanese houses
Yukata- summer/night kimono
Obi- sash tied around the waste when wearing a kimono
Shoji- sliding doors made of wood and rice paper
Kenki- swordsmen's fighting aura
Gi- the top portion of the combination that samurai wore