AUTHORS NOTE: This story comes from the Manga NOT the Anime. CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS.
I crumbled to the floor. Me. The man who could take a thousand hits, dodge bullets, and bear the weight of all the lives I'd taken. Fresh blood curled around my fingertips, her blood. The sword protruded from her chest at an odd angle, and an X carved into her beautiful face. For the second time in 11 years I wept for the woman I loved.
Again, though my blade hadn't dealt her the final blow, I had been the cause of her death. My vow never to kill again allowed Enishi to destroy the one person I wanted to protect the most. I have been living a lie.
My body shook with the uncontrollable sobs building in my chest. All the love I'd kept hidden from her, spilled out of my eyes, and joined the red life on the floor.
I heard Sanosuke cursing in disbelief under his breath, and as he walked his footsteps conveyed just as much shock and sadness, as my tears. Megumi, though it was futile, rushed past us and tried for a pulse. I couldn't bring myself to look, the quiet sobs of the doctor told me what I already knew.
My body felt numb as Sanosuke gripped my shoulders and pulled me to my feet. "Come on, lets get her out of here." he said softly. "Megumi would you go and tend to Yahiko?" I asked, my own voice sounded far away.
"Yes, of course." she said, sniffling and rubbing her eyes with her sleeve. Sanosuke helped her to her feet as well, and gently let his hand linger on her shoulder a moment before he watched her walk back into the sunlight.
I knelt beside Kaoru, and tenderly closed her eyes with my fingertips. Then, I braced her shoulders as Sanosuke wrenched the sword from the wall and her body. She fell into my lap and I lifted her into my arms.
Megumi appeared again, "Sanosuke would you carry Yahiko for me?" When she saw the lifeless body of kaoru her head resting on my shoulder, and her feet gently bouncing to the movement of my walking, she burst into renewed tears.
I carried her through the streets, toward the clinic. She was still warm, and I imagined that she had just been knocked unconscious. I would carry her home, lay her in bed and make her dinner. I would be doing the laundry when she woke up, she would call my name and I would smile at her and she would smile at me. I would never see her wonderful smile again, the smile that told me I was home.
The clinic was near deserted when we entered, people gasped and whispered as we passed them, some knowing Kaoru, others referring to her by her nickname 'The Rose of Martial Arts'. Megumi shuttled us into a room with two beds. Sanosuke lay yahiko down and started to strip off the boys clothing so that Megumi could get at his wounds.
She motioned for me and I followed her into another room, with no windows and an unusual table in the middle. "Lay her here, I'll prepare her body for burial after I treat yahiko."
"No, I'll do it." I heard myself say. "I've done this before."
I kept my eyes on Kaoru's face as I heard Megumi quietly leave the room without a complaint. Gently, I began to remove her clothing, folding each piece and laying them at her feet. The fatal wound she had sustained went completely through her body, but she was no longer bleeding. I felt sick, I wasn't her husband, her body was not mine to see. "I am sorry Kaoru." I said aloud.
I cleaned her body thoroughly, and bandaged her cheek. Now she really did look like she was sleeping. Megumi came and helped me dress her in a white yukata, and brush her long black hair. Instead of leaving the ribbon, I slipped it into my sleeve. The memory of her trying to get me to comeback to the dojo, came to mind. She had lent me her favorite ribbon so that I wouldn't leave her. I had to give it back, and this time it would take the rest of my lifetime for that to happen.
"There is so much I should have told you, and I am sorry Kaoru-Dono." I said as I stroked her forehead.
" Kenshin?" Came Sanosuke's voice from behind me.
I let my hand fall to my side, "yeah?"
"Megumi said we can move her to the bed now….do you want me to…." His voice trailed off.
"No…No I'll do it, thanks Sano…"
I moved forward and lifted her again, she seemed heavier than before. Carefully, I maneuvered her body into the other room. Yahiko was sleeping peacefully, and I was glad, the longer he didn't know the better.
"I've sent for….the burial preparations." whispered Megumi.
I nodded once for thanks, and laid Kaoru out on the bed. I straightened her hair and covered her up to her shoulders. I stood there a few moments, imagining that she was sleeping again. "we should spread the news of her death." I heard myself say.
"alright, I'll cover the Akabeko and the various dojo she visited." Sanosuke said.
"and I'll send someone to the police station." said Megumi.
I nodded, the places they chose would insure the message spread quickly, I didn't want to hear the gasps of shock over and over again if we went door to door. I listened as their footfalls disappeared down the hall. I was alone again.
The sun was setting very rapidly. Soon I would need an oil lamp or a candle, however, I could still see her face. I absent mindedly stroked her cheek. With a pang of guilt and regret, I realized that time and time again I had missed my chance to show her affection. Times when she had been unexpectedly close to me, I could have put her face in my hands, brushed her hair behind her ear, kissed her cheek. All these things I could have done to show her that I really did have feelings for her, That every time she'd blushed, or averted her eyes, wrung her hands or even reached for me, I noticed, but foolishly acted oblivious. How ironic now that she was dead beneath my fingertips, that I wanted to comfort her.
I found myself on the floor, kneeling by the bed. I had not felt the blanket someone had placed around my shoulders, nor had I noticed the candle that was now flickering on the floor beside me. Beside that was a meal that had been expertly prepared. All of my senses felt numb for the first time sense the last time my heart was broken.
I ate the food so that I didn't hurt Megumi's feelings, it was wonderful, but I wanted kaoru's cooking. I smiled. Her tasteless, overcooked, undercooked, salty, spicy, magnificent cooking.
"Kenshin?" Sano leaned against the door. I turned to look at him, his young face seemed like that of someone who had lived one hundred years. Indeed, it seemed we both had , from seeing the people we love the most die such horrible and senseless deaths.
I noticed his hands were dirty, a jolt of realization hits me. "I'm sorry, I should of helped you."
Sano tightened his crossed arms. "It was nothing….I preferred doing it alone, kinda making my peace ya know…"
"So the burial box is here?" I hated asking this, I hated talking about it, it made it real.
I was met with silence, and then a sharp intake of breath, followed by a very weak "yes…" Sano was crying. I didn't acknowledge him breaking, out of mercy for his ego.
Then, behind me I heard a rustle of linen, Yahiko was waking. "Kenshin?" I heard my name again. I was blocking his view of Kaoru in seconds. "yes?" I said softly, grabbing his shoulders and gently trying to lay him back down. "Where are we?" he croaked. "Is everyone ok?"
"Don't worry about that right now, you need rest…" I said pulling the blankets around him.
"Who died?" he said abruptly his voice rising in pitch. He sat up again and craned around me looking at kaoru's lifeless body. "No..Oh No, please no!" he started to move towards her and I caught him in my arms as he fell out of the bed. He sobbed for over an hour, and I held him like the child he was.
After I let him cry his self to sleep, I tucked him in, and let my hand linger on his forehead. 'my son.' I thought. I would have be honored to be his father.
I turned and stared down at Kaoru again, Sano had left the room when Yahiko started crying. 'I guess it's time.'
I removed the sheet from her body and gently began to lift her for the third time. She was completely cold now. In spite of that I nuzzled her face and kissed her forehead. Tears welled in my eyes. All the possible memories played in my head, what would have been the look on her face if I'd asked her to be my wife? I smiled, she probably would have lost herself and kissed me. She'd always done that, abruptly shown me affection and then get embarrassed. Sadness overwhelmed me again, and I held her tightly. "I love you…" I choked.
That's was it, I had to get away from her before I completely lost control. I walked out of the clinic to find the undertaker and the rest of my friends, Megumi, Sano, and Dr. Gensai, waiting patiently by the burial box. I slowly walked towards it. That's where my Kaoru would spend the rest of eternity, a dark stuffy box shaped like a large bucket.
I stood at the edge of it, my heart was pounding. I did not want put her in there. I shifted her weight and pressed my lips against her hair. "Wait for me, I'm yours Kaoru." I whispered into her ear. "I love you….I love you.." I squeezed her more tightly as I said it.
Finally, I gathered up my courage and tenderly laid her in the box. She was sitting upright, so I folded her hands in her lap. I pressed my lips hard against her forehead for the last time. I backed away and swiftly started walking towards, well…. I don't know where I was going.
"Kenshin?" Sano called. "You've forgotten your sword." he walked over and handed it to me. I nodded my thanks and wandered off into the darkness.
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