Author Notes: Another one-shot. This fanfic is based on a picture I drew, which was based on a editorial I saw in a magazine once-upon-a-time. .com/art/I-don-t-140629915 As always, please read and review!
Disclaimer: The Rurouni Kenshin world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Watsuki Nobuhiro.
Kaoru took a deep breath as she stared at herself in the mirror. She couldn't believe her wedding day had finally come. She glanced down at the ring that rested heavily on her left ring finger. A sign of promise. A sign of forever. And he had gotten the most ostentatious ring on the market to show world that she was off the market.
The guests were arriving and she had finally been left alone for the first time that day. Her friends and future in-laws had been doting on her all day. She was exhausted from the attention. After losing her parents at a very young age, Kaoru had been alone for a large portion of her life. She couldn't believe she was marrying into a large family. Her groom's parents were both alive and he had a laundry list of sisters. Although the family had been nothing but nice and polite to her, she couldn't help be feel she didn't belong.
She continued to stare at the mirror. She didn't recognize the woman standing before her. Her lips had been stained blood red and her eyelids swept with smoky charcoal. She had always been more discreet so when her mother and sisters-in-law insisted on the heavy handed makeup she had been worried. She couldn't deny that it was well done, but she didn't feel like herself.
She reached her hand up to delicately rub at her temples. To go along with the harsh makeup was the harshly pulled back hair. Her bangs were pulled back to show a severe hairline and gathered in a low bun.
Kaoru looked every bit the bride who was off to marry a politician's son. He was well connected and she didn't really know what he saw in her. They had met a year ago after he found her wallet on the subway. He acted as a good Samaritan and returned it to her. He was also persistent on getting a date. After two weeks of politely declining, she finally gave in. It had been what he called a "whirlwind romance." He proposed six months into the relationship. She wasn't given the option to say no. He was sweet, thoughtful, handsome, and kind. He was too perfect to say no to.
Enishi was a wonderful man and he would devote the rest of his life trying to make her happy.
She closed her eyes and took in deep breaths. She was expected to walk down the aisle in fifteen minutes. She needed to steel and calm her nerves at the same time. She needed to prepare for the rest of her life.
"You look beautiful." The velvet smooth voice from her past brought her back to the present.
She snapped her eyes open and stared at the mirror. Her face went pale and stared at the man that stood behind her. Turning around slowly she brought her hand to her mouth. A smiled swept across his face. Only he could make a smile look so tragic.
"You look like you've seen a ghost Kaoru."
As her name fell from his lips she choked back a sob. "Kenshin."
He looked her over, "I think I came at a bad time."
"It's been two years. I thought you were dead. We all thought you were dead."
"I know." He stepped forward and closed the space between them. As the inches shrank between them Kaoru could feel the undeniable pull she felt from the man before her. He cradled her cheek in his hands. "I barely recognized you. I also feel a little under dressed."
At his comment she took in his appearance. She had no idea how he blending into the crowd with his casual button up, jeans, and boots. It was a black tie only wedding –upon Enishi's insistence. She brought her fingers to slip through his hair; the familiar texture was silky to the touch. "You cut your hair."
"I needed to fly under the radar. Long red hair doesn't exactly help with that."
The hand that stroked his hair fell upon his shoulder and the other gripped his upper arm. She leaned her forehead against his shoulder. "Why are you here Kenshin? Why now?"
"I… I don't know." He pulled her into a strong embrace.
"I'm about to get married."
"To a wonderful man that has been very good to me."
"He loves me."
His whisper was hot against her ear. "So do I."
She pushed away from him, "You can't say those things to me. Not now. Not after all this time."
"I didn't want to lose you Kaoru."
"Why didn't you come earlier? Any day before today! Where were you for two years!"
He furrowed his brows. "I landed in Japan last night. I've been out of the country since I last saw you. I couldn't see you. I couldn't put you in danger."
Hearing his words she stared wide-eyed. She could barely believe what was coming out of his mouth, but she knew he was telling the truth. "And now?"
"I brought you these." He held a dozen red roses in his hand and extended them out toward her.
"Roses?" She took them in her arms and looked at him quizzically.
"I came to look for you this morning and your neighbor told me about the wedding." He gazed out the window, unable to maintain eye contact with the way her blue eyes searched his amethyst ones. "I came to wish you the best. And I had to see it for myself. I wasn't going to let you go by simple hearsay."
"You're giving me your blessing?" A tear slipped down her cheek, "You're not going to fight for me?"
He reached for her arm and leaned forward. His pleading words ghosted against her lips. "Am I allowed to fight for you? Can I still win you?"
His calm purple eyes were a hard amber. A rush of memories and emotions came back to her. The stormy night when he had disappeared. The way his arms had wrapped around her and his lips memorized the dips and curves of her body. She remembered being scared. Scared that there something was wrong. Scared that he wouldn't tell her. When she woke up the next morning he wasn't there. She hadn't seen him after that. Not until today.
The feelings that she had shoved deep within her spilled forward. "Fight for me."
His lips crashed onto hers. The kiss was strong and passionate. It kindled what he had left two years ago. This time, he wasn't going to let it go. The world be damned. He was getting his happiness.
"Come away with me."
The haze of the kiss lulled her as she nodded.
"Don't marry a man that's not me."
The spell of their reunion lifted slightly at his words. "Enishi… I can't do this to him."
His grip stayed firm on her arm. "I'm not letting you go Kaoru."
"Marrying him about of guilt is not going to make him happy. And he'll never be able to make you happy."
"And you will?"
"There was once upon a time when we were the happiest people in the world. Circumstances of my past robbed me of that. I'm leaving that life behind. I want a new one with you. I'm tired of running. And I'm tired of living without you."
The first genuine smile in two years graced her lips. "If you take me away, this has to be forever. I can't break a man's heart for anything short of that."
He threaded his fingers with her left hand and kissed her palm. "I wouldn't have it any other way." He deftly slipped the diamond ring off her slender finger.
She took the ring from him. "I can't believe I'm doing this to him."
She set the ring on the table next to the mirror. Seeing her reflection she let out a choked laugh. Her makeup was smeared and her hair had come loose. "I look like a mess."
Kenshin reached for her hand. "You're gorgeous. Now, let's go."
She trembled, but nodded. As they headed toward the door, they were caught by surprise by the tall dark haired man that came in. "Kenshin?"
Seeing his old friend Kenshin smiled, "Hey Sano."
The tall man was dumbfounded. He had simply come to the bridal quarters to tell Kaoru that it was almost time, instead he found her with a ghost.
"You're alive." Sano eyes looked Kenshin over, then he caught sight of their grasped hands and her disheveled appearance. "What about the wedding?"
Kaoru shook her head, "I can't do it Sano."
He looked over the girl that he had grown up with. There was a brotherly protectiveness he felt toward her, and had agreed to give her away for the wedding. He had only agreed because Kaoru asked –not because he particularly cared for Enishi.
He was skeptical of the man that had vanished two years ago, but he couldn't stop them. He knew Kaoru better than anyone, and he knew that the mysterious red-head was the only one she would settle for now that she knew he was alive.
Taking his tuxedo jacket off, he draped it around her shoulders. "It's raining out there. Grab the umbrella by the door on your way out."
She wrapped her arms around her surrogate brother. "Thank you."
Turning away she followed Kenshin toward the church exit. She glanced back at Sano, "The guests…"
He shook his head with a grin, "Don't worry. I'll take care of it."
Kaoru nodded and left out the door and into the rest of her life.
Sano sighed and loosened his tie. He marched toward where the guests were waiting patiently. Swinging the doors open he looked onto the expectant crowd. Scratching the pack of his head he shrugged and grinned.
"Sorry to break the news folks, but Cinderella has left the building."