Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. If I did, I imagine quite a few things would be different in Kenshin's world.
Tomoe waited silently as the doctor did his work.
She was seated by the fireside, her calm face betraying none of the emotions that raged within as she watched the elderly man tend to the red-haired figure that lay before her.
She watched anxiously as he cleaned, sewed and bandaged his wounds, checking his pulse and administering medicine at regular intervals. At last, after what seemed like an eternity, the doctor rose and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"I'll be honest with you." he said finally. "When you brought me here, he was in a pretty bad shape. Multiple lacerations, a fractured collarbone, some rather nasty bruises, poison in his bloodstream..."
"Then..." Tomoe raised her head, her eyes widened with worry.
"He'll be all right." the old man added in a gentler tone. "His injuries are many, but none of them are life-threatening. He has a remarkably strong constitution. But it begs the question: how did he end up in such a state? What happened?" There was a hint of suspicion in his voice as he stared at the dried blood on Tomoe's clothes.
Tomoe was at a loss for words. The doctor must have heard the rumours. What if he had realised the identity of the red-haired man? What if he-
"Forgive me." he said, as if he had guessed her thoughts. "It is none of my buisness. You have nothing to fear from me. It would be pointless for me to save someone's life if I were to condemn them to death immediately afterwards." He handed her a small bag. "Give him a spoonful of this medicine every six hours. And his bandages should be changed once a day."
Tomoe accepted the medicine gratefully and paid him his fee. As he prepared to leave, she called out to the small figure that lay in the shadowy corner of the cottage. "Enishi!"
The boy stirred from his sleep and, seeing her, sat up attentively.
"Please escort Dr. Hiroshi back to his clinic."
Enishi remained seated, unwilling to leave his sister's side. "Please don't trouble." said the doctor. "I can make it back on my own."
"The snowfall is heavy." answered Tomoe. "Please, Enishi..." Didn't he understand? She needed to be alone, alone with him...
Enishi glanced between her and the sleeping figure with a scowl. Reluctantly, he rose up and followed the doctor to the door.
"Make sure you're wrapped up warmly."
As the shoji slid shut behind her, she once again turned her attention to the unconscious figure. His eyes were closed, his breathing steady. His smooth, round face was marred only by a diagonal scar on his left cheek.
Kenshin Himura. The man she loved. The man she had betrayed.
Then, for the first time since that terrible incident, Tomoe allowed herself to cry.
She broke down, trembling uncontrollably, tears rolling down her cheeks and on to her blood-stained kimono. It was all her fault. She knew, she could have prevented this, but she didn't... she betrayed him, even after she forgave him, after he had sworn to protect her happiness...
The scene remained as vivid as though it were happening before her very eyes. She doubted that she would ever forget the memories, no matter how much she wanted to.
Waking up in an abandoned hut, confused, hearing sounds of battle, opening the door to see Kenshin blind and deaf, locked in mortal combat, beaten into the ground...
Remembering Kiyosato, not wanting her second love to follow his fate, rushing forward with the tantō in her hand, ready to die for him...
And she had almost succeeded. She remembered feeling the body of the ninja stiffen as she plunged the knife into his back, remembered seeing the tip of Kenshin's blade as it sliced through his body, missing her by mere inches, raining blood on her for the second time.
She remembered standing there, paralysed with shock, as her lover fell upon the reddening snow. Hearing Enishi's cry as he ran towards them, intending to finish him off. Remembered pulling herself together just in time to stop him...
And then they had helped him home, together; three damaged people.
Now he was sleeping beside her, grievously wounded in heart and body. He was alive, and so was she. Fate had spared them both, but that did not give her much comfort.
Now that she was assured of his life, she felt no further desire to prolong her own. Her life was worthless. She had failed to avenge Kiyosato, and she had failed in protecting Kenshin. She was unworthy of him, a vile, fickle, treacherous creature. She felt ashamed for every moment she spent by his side, and would have liked nothing better than to rid him of her unworthy presence.
But she couldn't. Not yet. Not till she had seen to it that he had risen above the pathetic state her actions had left him in...
His voice was faint, barely a whisper, but it was enough to pull her out of her musings.
Immediately, she moved closer on her hands and knees. His face was agitated, his breathing uneasy. He was having a nightmare. Tomoe laid a hand on his feverish brow. Another closed around his hand under the blankets, trying to comfort him.
Then his eyes snapped open, and all of sudden Tomoe found herself enveloped in a crushing hug.
"Tomoe..." he muttered hoarsely, tightening his embrace. "I saw.. I had a dream... swords, and explosions..."
Gasping for breath, she slowly wrapped her arms around her husband, trying to soothe him, all thoughts of suicide forgotten. "Shh... It's only a dream.."
"But I killed you!" he yelled despondently. "I saw it... my sword cutting through you..." He loosened his embrace and pulled away to look at her. "I failed to protect you..."
"No, you didn't." She said firmly. I'm the one who failed. She gently caressed the scar on his cheek. Kiyosato's last mark... "All is well now, my love."
"Tomoe..." he said, in a gentle voice. "I love you."
She could not suppress her guilt at these words. "I love you too.. anata."
He leaned in and kissed her fiercely, and repeated the words that had changed her life only a day before. "Tomoe.. I will protect your happiness."
Then she looked into his eyes, and she saw the depth of the pain, and regret, and love reflected in those violet orbs, and she knew then that whether she deserved it or not, she would never leave his side ever again.
They embraced once more, lost in each other's warmth. "Together.." continued Kenshin. "till death do us part."
"No." answered Tomoe, smiling on his shoulder. "Forever."
X X X
January 15, 1865,
Today, Katsura-san came to meet us.
The war is on again. Kenshin does not have to be a Hitokiri any more, thank God, but his skills are still needed by the Ishin Shishi. He has agreed to lend Katsura his sword again as soon as he has recovered.
His decision pains me, but I understand him better than anyone; he must finish what he started, or else everything he has done will be in vain.
Once upon a time, I hated this man and risked everything to bring about his death. But now I love him more dearly than anything else, and as his wife, I will remain by his side no matter what. I will help him fight through these dark times, and afterwards I will help him atone for his actions for the remainder of our lives. This is my own atonement.
It will not be easy. There will be more threats, many more dangers in the future. But for now, we are together.
Author's note: Hmm, it came out a tad sappier than I'd intended... Well, on to the explanations:
As silly as it sounds, I'm a guy who likes happy endings. Needless to say, I wasn't pleased when I watched the ending of Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal and read the Remembrance arc in the manga(not to say they weren't great). In my opinion, Kenshin and Tomoe deserved a better fate, though obviously it wouldn't have been as good story-wise.
After seeing the nearly-dead state of the Tomoe community here on FF, along with the scarcity of K/T AU fics, I decided to join up and write a few of my own. So you could say fics like these were the main reason for me to become a writer, and that I've been waiting to write this fic ever since I started writing.
This fic is actually the alternate version of the first chapter of a multi-part fic that I'd been thinking of writing since December. The latter fic(told from Kenshin's POV rather than Tomoe's) is something I'm holding off writing till later this year because of its size and complexity, and the fact that I'm awkward at writing romance.
X X X
And now the interesting part. Even in AU fics such as this one I try to be as realistic as possible within the context of the fictional universe I'm dabbling in. So to explain how Tomoe was saved, I steered clear of implausible or supernatural reasons. She doesn't miraculously survive being slashed through the torso, nor is she resurrected afterwards. Rather, she is never slashed in the first place.
All I did was to recreate the death scene(manga version) in my head and apply plain logic to it: since Tatsumi(the final ninja) had his back to the hut while fighting Kenshin, Tomoe uses common sense and charges him from the back instead of strangely deciding to run around him and attack him from the front(which is what put her in the path of Kenshin's sword). Since her body wasn't shielding him, Kenshin takes an extra blow(hence the broken collarbone), but overall it seemed more logical to me than even the canon version.
If you read all the way down here, a double thanks to you. Please review.
PS: Now that I've got this fic out of my system, I'm afraid I have little choice but to put all my fanfics on the backburner for the time being. You see, my end-of-semester exams are just around the corner and thanks to an atrocious performance last semester I have to work twice as hard this time round. I'm especially sorry towards all those who've been waiting for an update to 'The Birth of a Swordheart'. If it's any consolation, I plan on adding a major story arc in June.