Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters.

The Heart of a Queen

By Sevick

Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime…

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (EPILOGUE):

The people parted ways as the caravan moved through the streets of the capital. Drawn by two large black horses, the carriage made its way up to the palace. No one dared disturb its trip, as it entered through the gates and stopped in front of the main entrance.

Servants rushed forward to open the carriage door, and an imposing figure stepped out onto the stone stairs leading up to the entrance. With large black boots that smacked hard against the stone, the man took big steps over multiple stairs at once, until he found himself inside the foyer of the palace.

He hadn't been in this palace since almost fifteen years before, before the whole mess of the Bakumatsu Wars.

A pair of figures appeared at the top of the large staircase before him, one with his arm wrapped gently around the waist of the other, as they began to descend. The man in the foyer watched with a growing smile on his face as the pair approached.

"Father…" Kenshin said as he reached the bottom of the stairs, pulling away to walk towards the man in the foyer. As he reached him, King Hiko pulled him tightly to his chest, squeezing him in his large arms. The two stood in a tight embrace for several moments, without saying a word.

Then, all of a sudden, the king shoved his son away violently, so that he fell hard to foyer floor.

"Idiot! You walk away from your throne for ten years and expect me to just give it to you once you change your mind!? So you can marry the queen of our enemy!? I should knock some sense into you, Battousai!"

"I think you knocked some out of me – and it's Kenshin now," Kenshin said as he sat up, rubbing his head, ignoring his father's look of confusion. Kaoru hurried over as fast as she could, with bandages wrapped tightly around her waist and back. Kenshin stood up and took her hand. "Father, meet my betrothed, Her Majesty of Meiji, Kaoru."

Kaoru attempted a bow, but winced as the bandages pulled at her wounds. Hiko held up his hand.

"No need to injure yourself, Your Majesty, please," he said, sounding actually kind. Kaoru smiled.

"Thank you for coming, Your Majesty."

"He may have been gone for ten years, but I'm not going to miss my only son's bachelor party!" Hiko said with a deep laugh.

Kenshin sighed as Kaoru giggled.

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She would have burned her former wedding dress, except she did have pleasant memories of Kenshin pulling it off her body. It hung in the back corner of her closet.

For this wedding, she wore another beautiful white gown, with a sweeping neck and no sleeves, which looked as though it were one piece of silk draped around her delicate frame. Violet and golden jewels covered her neck at her request, and decorated her hair. A white veil hung over her shoulders.

Aoshi, well-healed from his injuries, as was she, took her arm as she reached the end of the aisle. Her second walk down the aisle – but her first time for love. This time, the man standing at the end of the aisle was not in the crowd, but right where he belonged.

A brilliant smile graced her face as she walked down the aisle, step by step, towards the life she knew she deserved.

King Hiko had come to the capital and eased the people's minds. With Tokugawa more socially stable now that their heir had returned, civil war was no longer a threat. The people recognized Soujirou and Shishio's betrayal, and realized Kaoru's sacrifice.

Not many were too happy about the joining of Tokugawa and Meiji through marriage, but they were willing to accept any measure of peace after the revolt. Kaoru assured them that she would be Queen of Meiji, while Kenshin would be King of Tokugawa – they would be allies but not one country. At least, not until their heir took the throne of an empire.

Kaoru finally reached the end of the aisle, and took Kenshin's hands. She didn't hear what the minister was saying, just like the last time, but this time it was for a much more pleasant reason. She was so in love with the man standing before her she could think of nothing else.

Soon they would move to a new capital at the border, where they both would live. King Hiko would remain in control of the original Tokugawa capital, while Kaoru searched for a regent to take control of this capital. She couldn't ask her people to make too many changes all at once.

She heard Kenshin say, "I do", and it stirred her from her thoughts. He squeezed her hands gently and looked at her with molten violet eyes. The minister turned to her.

"Do you, Her Majesty, Queen Kaoru, of Meiji, take this man, His Majesty, King Kenshin, of Tokugawa, to be your lawfully wedded husband, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, 'til death do you part?"

"I do, forever," Kaoru said, fully aware this time around of when the minister announced them man and wife and told them to kiss. Kenshin's lips against hers still stirred her blood from her head to her toes.

With those few words, Kaoru brought peace back to the kingdoms.

As she walked back down the aisle, hand in hand with Kenshin, looking into the sea of smiling faces that belonged to her people, she felt more like a queen than she ever had before. And her heart had never felt so full.

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Author's Notes: Hello everyone - sorry for the shortness. This is just a corny little wrap-up to our story. Thank you so much for the reviews for the last chapter. Don't suppose I can get 20 reviews on this (my goal is 100) - but it isn't about the number, it's about the content and I'm so so SO appreciative of everything you guys have said. Thank you so much for following along on this wild ride - I hope to write more in the future (it probably won't be much like this, but I've got some ideas...) so hopefully I'll hear from some of you then! I hope you enjoyed the finale of The Heart of a Queen!!

Love,

Sevick

The opening line/chapter title is from Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On"