Standard disclaimers apply. Me broke, don't sue. ^_^;

An OOC, waffy, K&K fic during the post-Kyoto Arc.

What if some things went wrong from the way Kenshin planned things for the Aoiya's defense while he was gone to fight Shishio—and the love of his life being the one to suffer his mistake? Can K&K still triumph over the trials thereafter?

"Oblivion"

Chapter One:

"Oi Kenshin, hang-on… we're almost there."

I tried to smile for Sanosuke as I slumped again in my corner of the commissioned carriage for us by Saitou. When we got out of the shrine we found it already waiting for us. The driver helped Sano and Aoshi get me inside because I was almost on the verge of passing out, and it was indeed lucky for me we did not have to walk back to the Aoiya. The driver talked about the police taking care of things from there, now that Shishio has finally been defeated. But as much I had wanted to listen, I'm afraid my body would not, that it did.

My body feels numb from the fight and the cuts seemed to break open as I move. That fight was the most gruesome and energy-draining encounter I have had in my entire life. Shishio… he was a very skilled swordsman—no wonder they had picked him as my so-called 'successor' during the Bakumatsu. But his thoughts and beliefs are twisted, enough to break the greatness any man could have.

In my current situation, I wonder if the people back at the Aoiya would still recognize me. My clothes are tattered—my gi torn in pieces as well as my hakama. I'm soaked in my own blood from the fight and I can still taste it in the corner of my mouth. Oro… my muscles feels swollen. I hope we get there soon…

Aaa, it feels great to know this nightmare's finally over. And I have many people to thank for their support and understanding.

The Oniwabanshuu, for helping me since the day I arrived again here in Kyoto; Okina-san, Okon, Omasu, Shiro and Kuro. And of course, Misao-dono. How could I ever forget her since our journey? I hope I have fulfilled my promise to her. Her Aoshi-sama will come back to them, and he's here—going back home to his friends and de facto family. His self-pity and guilt has already left him. He will probably go back to being the same Okashira the Oniwabanshuu had looked up to.

          I really gave him a pretty bad slash on the chest, that I can peek from here. That I feel sorry for it, de gozaru yo. I needed to do it, for the sake of him getting back to his senses. I had to impose to him the importance of living straightly, and that true strength is measured not by how many lives you have taken with your sword but by how many friends you have made happy and be able to protect and cherish them in the process. I had to be the victor, to emphasize him that value… my will to live for the sake of my friends and loved ones surpasses no one. Not even him.  

          Aoshi sure  had lost a lot of blood from our fight. Gomen, Misao-dono.

I hope Shishou had managed to help guard the Aoiya in time. Though I forgot to give him the exact address…! I can just imagine his face right this moment… oro!

And Yahiko. The brave Yahiko. I can still remember his promise to me the eve before I leave to fight Shishio, he said no matter what happens, he'll protect everyone at the Aoiya. To that I have full confidence. He might be a boy, but in that mere body of a boy sleeps a fiery spirit ready to take on anybody that will try to hurt his friends and loved ones…

Especially  the big 'sister' he had learned to consider as his own…

I was able to talk one-on-one with him and I requested him to watch and protect the Aoiya while Sanosuke, Saitou and I go to battle Shishio. And I have a big doubt that he'd give me an easy time fighting so I could get back in time. And so I entrusted the Aoiya's safety, particularly Kaoru-dono's, into the hands of a fourteen-year old.

Yahiko told me it is impossible for Kaoru not to participate herself with the Aoiya's defense since she is a swordfighter herself after all. That is true and I have thought about that fact a million times over and I always curse myself silently for letting her—as well as everybody—get involved into this. This is supposed to be my fight, but now it seems it already is not.

Indeed Kaoru-dono will surely take her rightful place in the fight. A skilled and cunning fighter to say the least, I bet she could take on any Juppongatana that will face them. But that is not the point. The thought of her fighting is really not a good idea for me. No matter how necessary it seems to be—it makes sessha's blood rage in anger. I can't stand even just to think I have let Kaoru raise arms. I swear if any of those filthy Juppongatana ever hurt her…!

"Itai…"  Kenshin winced.

           Even Aoshi popped open one eye upon hearing his low groan.

"Oi Kenshin? Are you alright?"

My muscle twitched. Ouch. That really hurts.

"Iie Sano, I'm o-okay, that I'am. I just wish w-we could reach the Aoiya sooner…"

Sano pounced the small window that separated us from the carriage's driver.

"HEYYY!! Can't this thing go any faster??!?"

"Maa, maa…"

Whew. Sano could really be impatient sometimes.

Where was I? Hai, Kaoru-dono.

Sessha wonders how she's doing at this very moment. I hope she did not endure the same blows I got. Baka! I trust Yahiko didn't let that happen. I made him promise to me that he'll watch over and protect Kaoru while I battle Shishio. I have passed to the boy the duty I'm supposed to be doing. That I feel sorry for myself… that I do.

Protecting her felt like the only thing that keeps me alive and sane. It's the only thing I can completely live my life with without regret. Sometimes I would think why am I been living for so long despite the fact that I lived a very sinful life—taking so many lives during the end of the Tokugawa era as the hitokiri battousai…

Is it because I have yet to meet her?

And I have named myself her protector since that day I had met her… er, I mean, she had met me.

All of these fights are for her. It's the only way I know how to protect her happiness… by preserving the current Meiji era she had learned to live in peacefully. This era and the succeeding ones to come is her, and is for her. And if anybody would try to snatch the tranquil abode I'am trying to build for her again like Shishio Makoto, I will go through all these pain again—and would die for it if deemed necessary—if I have to. Just to protect her, and her happiness…

And now, peace has been restored—again. I guess its time for me to find my own 'peace'. Now that Shishio faction has been defeated, I can now fulfill my promise to Kaoru-dono and go back to our friends in Tokyo. What will transpire thereafter, that I'm still unsure. But one thing's certain for me: I'm looking forward to live in content at the Kamiya dojo with Kaoru-dono beside me for life…

That is, if she'd have me.

Before I faced Shishio I know that she knows that we have something going on between us. And I already intend to take our relationship to a much higher level once I see her again, now that everything's back to normal.

I bet she's at the Aoiya's gate right now, waiting for me. Ready to welcome me with that enchanting smile that could itself heal me of these wounds. Even just her smile is enough. Enough for me to take her to the nearest shrine and marry her, despite my condition.

I just don't know how I love that woman. She could make my heart swell with pride and love by just looking at her eyes.

Proud.

Hai, she makes me proud even more by standing and fighting beside me all throughout. Taking on a Juppongatana is a big deal, that it was.

I love her, everything about her and all that she is.

I can't wait to see her…

"We're here Kenshin, wake up."

Sano helped Kenshin to his feet. He had lost a lot of blood and now looks deathly pale by the instant.

"Kuso," the rooster-head muttered under his breath. "Hang on. Just a few steps and we're home."

          The Okashira shouldered one of Kenshin's arms and turned to Sanosuke who was clutching the other arm.

          "Try to make Himura talk and talk, that will while draw his attention away from the pain. Try to make him busy in the meantime were not yet there," Aoshi advised. Sano nodded wordlessly.

The driver opened the door for them and offered to help assist Kenshin but Sano gratefully refused.

          Blood was oozing from Kenshin's wound and even Sano's jacket was drenched with it.

Each step feels like an eternity.

How long would I have to wait before I get to see Kaoru's face…?

His breath is getting shallower by each moment.

Just her face…

They almost tipped over a rock and Kenshin couldn't do anything but utter a sharp wince of pain.

"Shit Kenshin! Y-you're getting cold!"

Smile for me…

"There it is! The Aoiya! I can see it from here!"

Kami, I'm ready to die now… just let me see Kaoru's face for the last time…!

"Himura!"

Sano squeezed Kenshin's arm lightly. That had waken him up from his stupor due to much loss of blood. "It's the weasel-girl!"

Misao with a splinter in her right arm was running towards them and helped Sano and Aoshi get me to the Aoiya's gate. But upon seeing him with us, she stopped halfway. "Sano—A-aoshi-sama?"

          Aoshi stared at Misao. Misao's eyes were already beaming with tears.

          "Aoshi-sama… you came back," she whispered audibly. Half-turning to the house, she tried to find her voice in order to call the others. "You really came back… I can't believe this…"

          He came back… He's come back being the gentle and peaceful Aoshi-sama that we all knew! His features hasn't change that much… but what the—!

          Seeing the large rip in his chest, she suddenly looked petrified.

          "D-did Shishio did that to you, A-aoshi-sama…?" deep concern was all over her face.

          Aoshi hid his eyes behind his bangs. "Himura needs to be treated. Where are the others?"

          Surprised by the sudden change of topic, Misao quickly realized Kenshin and Sano's presence beside Aoshi. She gasped in horror upon seeing at Sano's right hand and Kenshin's situation. "Oh God! You two don't look well! What kind of a fight have you gotten into…!"

"Save that for later, weasel-girl! Can't you see we need to get in first?!"

"Shut up, rooster-head! I was just observing!" she retaliated. "And don't call me weasel-girl!!"

The other Oniwabans hurriedly came out of the house. When they saw Aoshi, they automatically raised their arms in protection of the even-surprised Okina. Misao saw this and came in between them and Aoshi.

"Everyone… please. There's no need to do that. He's not bad anymore. Aoshi-sama's back," Misao gratefully said.

The Oniwabanshuus looked at each other. Okon asked back, "Is it true? Is our Okashira, Shinomori Aoshi—the respectful and honorable warrior we look up to, really came back?"

They all looked at Aoshi.

Aoshi was silent. After a few moments, he stared up to face Okina.

The old man met his eyes and nodded. "Yes… that's the look of the Okashira I voted to be the Okashira before," approaching Aoshi and patting him on the shoulder, he said. "Welcome back."

Tears of joy came running down Misao's cheeks as everyone received their leader as their own again. She began to wail uncontrollably. Okon stood beside her and comforted her. He's back… he's really back! I'm so happy…!

"Eherm." Sano scoffed from their corner. "Can anybody be polite enough to lend us a hand here…?"  

"Oh! Grammps!" motioning the others to help Sanosuke and Kenshin.

Instantly, Shiro and Kuro replaced Sano in helping carry Kenshin inside while the two girls offered Aoshi to get his wound treated inside his former room.

As the three disappeared, Okina commended Kenshin while they walk into the house carefully.

"You did a great job, Himura. In behalf of all of Kyoto, we thank you. If it wasn't for you, we'll probably be begging Shishio for our lives at the moment! And of course…" he continued, "Thank you for bringing back Aoshi to us. You fulfilled your promise to dear Misao."

Kenshin looked up at Okina and smiled slightly. He mustered up all his strength and let his eyes roam around.

Where is she…?

Sano quickly understood Kenshin's gesture. He then asked. "Thanks. Its all in a day's work. Hey wait, where's Jou-chan and the boy?"

The welcoming atmosphere changed all of a sudden. Expressions from the Oniwabanshuus dropped upon hearing Sano's query. Misao was most quiet, and couldn't look directly at Kenshin and Sano.

Sano arched a brow from the reactions he was getting. He repeated his question. "Didn't you hear me? I said, where's Yahiko and Kaoru!"

Even Okina was quiet. Glancing at Misao, Misao understood that she was the one who should tell them what really happened.

"Answer me!"

Misao was stunned at Sano's angered tone. Her eyes narrowed while looking at Kenshin, who was quietly listening in one corner being held by Shiro and Kuro.

"It's a long story…"

I've just watched the episode where Kenshin had returned from the fight with Shishio and an idea sparked in my mind. What if he miscalculated his expectations of how the attack in the Aoiya by the Juppongatana would be turning out. The climax of their meeting after the fight is so intriguing and intense and that's why I thought of 'mixing up' the story a little bit.

Please review and send me some of your say about the story. Its my second K&K fic, so please no flames!! @_@x

Constructive criticisms are so very welcome!

Thanks! Ja! ^_^