Standard disclaimers apply...

Have I Ever Told You….?

"Yahiko, have you seen Kaoru?"
"Nope, what's wrong?" came the reply from the young boy.
"Nothing, it's just…. It's already late, and she hasn't come back yet."
"Kenshin, don't worry about her. Busu can take care of herself." Yahiko said while he's chewing. "Aren't you gonna go eating?"
Kenshin shook his head. "I'm waiting for Kaoru." But still he couldn't help worrying. After several times pacing around the dining room uncomfortably he finally said, "Yahiko, I'm going. Take care."
"Where? Looking for busu?"
Kenshin nodded slightly and rushed outside, leaving Yahiko eating alone.
"Hmph, told him, but he didn't wanna believe it. Whatever…." He continued eating.

While searching for Kaoru, a lot of things came into Kenshin's mind. *It's not usual that she hasn't been back yet. I wonder what happened. Have I done something wrong? Or did she have a fight with Yahiko?*
Kenshin dropped by Akabeko, asking Tae and Tsubame if they had seen Kaoru. The answer was negative. He asked some other acquaintances, but no one knew where she was. Kenshin was beginning to worry when something got into his mind. *Could it be that she's there….*

***

Kaoru was sitting near a river, leaning her back against a big tree. Her fingers played with her hair. Her eyes gazed blankly at the gently flowing stream. "Kenshin…." She whispered softly as her thoughts wandered to him. *I know deep down there you love me. But you never told me. Why? Is it that you're afraid to love again after having lost Tomoe-san? Or do you still love her….*
Kaoru shook her head. "I should be getting home. They, at least Kenshin, would worry about me." A small smile appeared on her lips. "He's a real worrywart…" Then she stood up. She was just about to turn around when she heard a very familiar voice. "Found you there…." She turned around, and saw the man she loved there standing, his eyes gazed softly at hers.
"I've been worrying where you are when I thought of this place. My feeling was right, wasn't it?"
Kaoru turned around once again. *So he still remembers…* Her eyes gazed once again at the river. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been back…."
They fell silent for a while. Then a firefly came over upon the river. "Beautiful, isn't it?" Kaoru stated.
"Yes, they are…" Kenshin nodded. *But not as beautiful as you…* As he said those words, several more fireflies came around, chasing each other, as if they were playing cheerfully. Each radiated lovely dim light. All together, they made the scene unforgettable.
*Funny...* Kaoru thought, remembering the time Kenshin said her goodbye before he had gone to Kyoto. *At that time there were fireflies too…*

Kenshin took a few steps forward. "Is there something wrong, Kaoru? You don't usually go out this late alone…. There's something weighing on your mind, isn't it?"
Kaoru didn't answer. Instead, she's thinking whether or not she should ask the question she's been wanting to ask. Then she turned around and faced him. "Kenshin…"
"Yes?"
"What are you thinking when you think about…" At first she hesitated, but finally she let it out, "…Tomoe-san?"
"Tomoe…?" Kenshin's voice trailed off.
"Do you… still love her, Kenshin?" *She's everything I could never be. Why would Kenshin even bother to love me….*
Kenshin was silent for a while. "Why did you ask?"
"Nothing, it's just…. I wonder if you could ever…. Uhm… I…." She couldn't tell him that she wondered if Kenshin could love her the way he loved Tomoe. She felt awkwardly. "Sorry for asking…. I shouldn't have done that." Kaoru turned away from him, walking to the edge of the river. *Now I've ruined everything….* She thought sadly.
To her surprise, Kenshin answered her question with the usually gentle voice of his. "What I think about her? Sometimes I still feel guilty that I've killed her, though I know she has forgiven me. It was the last thing I would want to do…." *I think I know why she asked…* Then he continued, "If I still love her? In my heart there will always be a place for her. I know I would never forget her, for I could never do that. As long as I live I will carry memories about her in my heart. She was the sheath that held back my madness. If hadn't been because of her, I would have died…"
*So it's true…. You couldn't love me because you still love her, do you, Kenshin?* Kaoru's eyes gazed sadly at the fireflies. A few from them flew over to them, dancing gracefully around them.
"But…."

Kenshin had come right behind Kaoru. He rounded his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder, his cheek brushing hers. "…she's my past." Kaoru's eyes widened as she heard Kenshin's next words. "While it is true that she was the sheath that held back my madness, it is equally true that you are the one who could heal the scars in my heart. You are the one who kept me from reverting back to the hitokiri inside me. You gave me the reason not to give up when I had wanted to give up. You gave me home, something I'd never expect for a sinner like me. Losing you is something I couldn't live with…."
"So yes, I loved Tomoe, but my time with her was already over long ago. To be honest sometimes I think what could have happened if she hadn't died. But I never want to think further than that. No matter how hard I could think about it, my past would never change. Thinking about such matters wouldn't do me any good. Let bygones be bygones, some would say. Instead, I should keep my focus on the present time and the future. And my present and future, it's you…. Remember that time when we were at Tomoe's grave? I said goodbye to her. That's the first time I've ever said that word to her…."
Kenshin let go off his embrace. He turned Kaoru around to face him and cupped her face with his hands. He looked at her eyes, his gaze was gentle and lovingly as ever. "You could never replace her, for she couldn't be replaced by anyone or anything. But neither she nor anyone could step into your place in my heart as well…. That one thing you have to know…."
They keep looking at each other's eyes. The moment seemed to last forever. Then Kenshin, his eyes full of love, called her name. "Kaoru…"
"Yes, Kenshin? What is it?"
"Have I ever told you that I love you?"
Kaoru's heart was beating faster as she answered him, "No…."
He was quiet for a moment, then softly he said, "Then…, I love you."
Kaoru found herself smiling. "Do you…, do you love me, Kenshin?"
He nodded while he never took his gaze at her. "Yes, I love you. Always and forever…." Then he kissed her forehead and embraced her lovingly.
Kaoru smiled as she rested her head on Kenshin's shoulder. "Kenshin…. I love you too…" She whispered softly, a single tear of happiness escapes her eyes.

Kenshin caressed Kaoru's silky hair with his hand tenderly. The light of the full moon shone on her beautiful face. "I never knew I could feel like this, like I've never seen the sky before. As days go by I know I love you more and more. Kaoru, listen to my heart. Can you hear it telling me to give you everything? Listen carefully and you'll hear it says that seasons may change from winter to spring, but my love for you would never cease until the end of time.
Kaoru closed her eyes, happiness filled her heart. "You know, Kenshin, suddenly the world seems such a perfect place. Suddenly I feel that it moves with such a perfect grace. Since you came into my life, it doesn't seem such a waste anymore, cause it all revolves around you. There's no mountain too high or river too wide. If you just call out my name, I'll be there by your side. Kenshin, storm clouds may gather and stars my collide…" Kaoru smiled sincerely. "…but I will love you until the end of time. Throughout anything I will love you and I will stay by your side."
As Kenshin let go off his embrace, the fireflies were dancing around them and the moonlight shone upon them. He took Kaoru's hands in his hands and earnestly he said, "Kamiya Kaoru, let the fireflies be the witness to this, that today Himura Kenshin vows that come what may, Himura Kenshin will love Kamiya Kaoru until his dying day…"
"Kenshin…."
Kenshin wrapped one arm around Kaoru's waist, pulling her closer to him. With his other hand Kenshin lifted up Kaoru's chin. Then he bent his head down and kissed her tenderly. They both vanished inside each other's kiss, as the dancing fireflies around them seemed to rejoice, for that day two hearts had been united as one.

Author's Note:
Well, what do you think? It was supposed to be romantic, but I don't know….I kinda think it sucks... *sigh*
Sentences between asterisk marks *….* are thoughts by the character.
The have-I-ever-told-you thing, if you feel familiar with it, I adapted it from the movie 'Indecent Proposal'. I've used it in my other fic too, A Rurouni Once Again.
Few last paragraphs were partly adapted from the song by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, 'Come What May'. It's the original soundtrack of the movie 'Moulin Rouge'.
This fic quite represents my point of view about Kaoru and Tomoe. Nobody's better between them, they both are the best things that ever happened to Kenshin at their own time.
Last but not least, reviews are highly appreciated! Hope you enjoyed this humble tribute to the greatest manga ever, Rurouni Kenshin.