This is it. The last one. I'll be happy to end it. Not that I didn't like the story, just that I have more ideas roaming in my head and needed to finish this to start them. Anyway, read on and hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Not mine. Belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki and others.
Chapter 14: End of the Visit
Kaoru and the girls were marching out to demand answers from the guys when Akino got in front of them and put up a hand. "Stop right there, ladies!"
Misao tilted her head. "Why? Aren't we supposed to be happy and fall in love and all that good stuff? I'm on my way to claim my man!"
Okaasan giggled at her eagerness. "Child, you have to be patient! Just because I slapped some images up on a screen doesn't mean they'll fall head over heels in one afternoon. This was just to show them that opening up will cause great happiness. They aren't ready to fall in love yet and if you force the isssue, chances are they'll get irritated and never follow this path. Just let them come around on their own."
Megumi sighed. "She's right." Her eyebrows creased and she looked at Akino. "Okaasan? If Sano doesn't have any 'unworthy' issues, then isn't he ready for a relationship?"
Akino shook her head. "No. Don't you remember his reaction to you needing to work?"
"That's because right now he's got some growing up to do. Let him get a job, become more stable, just continue flirting and letting him know you're interested. He'll be ready soon enough."
Misao asked next. "What about Kaoru and I? Anything we could do to help them?"
Okaasan rubbed her chin. "Mostly it's up to those two to heal. The best thing the two of you could do is just be there for them. There will come a time when they are done isolating their emotions from everyone. Be ready to listen to what they're atoning for and be supportive when that happens. That's the best course of action for the two of you."
Kaoru took down the sheet and began to fold it. "So, how long do we have to go?"
Akino smiled. "About two years. Not long at all."
Outside, three men were sitting in a circle silently. Sano broke the silence. "That was some deep shit, Kenshin. What are we gonna do? I want the family, the wife, the kids, all that. But, Kitsune's probably still mad at me and I'm not ready for it NOW. What do we do?"
Kenshin sighed. "I'm not sure. I don't know what to even think about what we just saw. I know we'll be happier if we go the direction of the visions, but I'm not ready to get involved with Kaoru-dono. Perhaps some day, but not now."
Aoshi looked at the sky. "I don't think we're supposed to act on what we saw just yet. The girls were older by a few years. Let's just wait and see what happens in time. I think as long as we open up a bit more we'll get there."
Sano stared at him. "Deep, Shinomori. Deep."
Kenshin rolled his eyes. "Alright. Let's go back inside then and help with dinner. The only thing I don't know is how to breach the subject with Kaoru-dono. If I'm supposed to share my past with her, what do I say? 'Hey, did I ever tell you the story about my dead wife who was actually a traitor?' I can't do that!"
Sano grinned. "You already told her about Tomoe-san. All you need to do is share your feelings with her and answer her questions if she asks you about the past."
They went back inside and started to set the table while the girls cooked.
As they ate dinner, all was silent. Yahiko was at the Akabeko still and everyone was pondering the future. Finally Okaasan could take no more. "Oh, Shinta. If you're worried about whether Kaoru's parents would have accepted you, don't worry. They think you're a wonderful young man."
Kaoru lifted her head, eyes wide. "You know my parents? How are they?"
She slapped her forehead as she realized her stupid question. Akino giggled. "Dead. That's pretty much how everyone up there is. But, if you're asking if they're happy or not, the answer is yes. They think you've grown into a beautiful, strong woman. Just like they wanted you to be."
Kaoru smiled widely. "I really miss them. Couldn't they have come down too?"
Okaasan shook her head. "Everyone knew they were dead. I died in a forest, as far as anyone knows, I was just lost for a long time and now I've finally found my Shinta. It didn't raise any questions if I suddenly appeared. That's part of the reason I was allowed to come down."
Kaoru nodded. "Understandable."
Kenshin began to realize how selfish he had been earlier. There he was angry that his mother would leave again when Kaoru didn't get to see hers one more time. He took a look around the table. Misao, Aoshi, Megumi, Kaoru, Sano and Yahiko had all lost their parents and he had a chance to see his mother one more time and he was upset she was leaving. "Okaasan, I'm sorry for being so selfish earlier."
Akino nodded. "I knew you'd realize eventually what you had said. Don't worry about it. Anyone who is presented with this would not want to let go. And you being so young when it all happened and all the sorrow you went through, it's natural to want the comfort a mother can offer."
Kaoru felt the awkwardness from the visions slipping away and placed a hand on Kenshin's back. He looked over at her sympathetic expression. "How can you always be so considerate of others? I was complaining about my mother leaving after I got to see her again and you didn't even get the chance to see yours."
Kaoru took her hand away and looked at her food. "I knew my mother and father were gone. You didn't. It's different for you."
She got up and went outside. Kenshin stood to follow her. "Kaoru-dono, if I made you upset I'm sorry."
Kaoru shook her head. "No, Kenshin. You didn't upset me. I'm just thinking about the visions. It's all very strange now." She blushed remembering their children. She let out a tense giggle. "That Kenji seems like a handful."
Kenshin smiled softly. "If it's meant to be, it will be."
"Do you want it to be, Kenshin?"
Kenshin gazed at the yard, trying to picture the children playing there. "I do. I want the family, I want the happiness, even the painting on the dojo wall. I'm just not ready for it now. I have a lot left to forgive myself of."
Kaoru scooted closer and rubbed his back. "I'll wait for you to be ready."
Kenshin looked over and stopped himself from kissing her. Yes, he wanted it. Yes, she wanted it. But it wouldn't be fair to her to start something and then have to make her wait until he was ready to continue it. Kaoru got up and went inside, leaving Kenshin with his thoughts.
She went over to Misao who was humming happily while washing the dishes. "What are you so chipper about?"
Misao smiled. "Just the knowledge that I'll get my Aoshi-sama. Sure I have to wait, but it will happen right?"
Kaoru smiled. "Right."
Okaasan was very quiet the next morning. She stared pensively at her tea instead of talking to everyone. "It's time, everyone."
Kenshin looked up, wanting to protest and knowing it would be wrong. "Do you have to?"
She smiled slightly. "You all know now, what you need to do to be happy. There's nothing left for me to do here."
She motioned for everyone to follow her into the yard. "Well, don't just stand there, come over here and give me hugs!"
Megumi hugged her first. "I'll miss you."
Sano was next. "My hair still hurts, but I forgive you. You take care."
Okaasan giggled. Misao came up to hug her next. "It was fun plotting. See you in a long time."
Aoshi lingered behind, not wanting to show emotion when Okaasan went up to him and hugged him. He hesitantly returned it. "Be safe. If you see my men up there, tell them I miss them too."
Akino nodded. "They already know."
Kaoru went up and hugged her tightly. "I'll miss you a lot, Okaasan. Please be happy and we'll think about you everyday."
Akino pulled back and grabbed Kaoru's shoulders. "Be good to Shinta. He needs a lot of support right now. He tries to be strong for everyone else, but he needs to have someone be strong for him every now and then."
Kaoru nodded and stepped back so Kenshin could have his turn. He hung on like he would never let go. "I don't want you to leave."
"I know, Shinta. I don't want to leave either. Being around you and your friends for these few weeks was wonderful, but I don't belong here anymore. Don't worry. I'll see you again one day. It'll just be a very long time from now."
Kenshin shook his head. "I don't think I'll go where you are."
Akino smiled at him. "You've atoned, Shinta. You're headed up there. Just like the Oniwaban group. They did some bad things, but they were good people who did more good than bad."
Kenshin felt relief flood him and hugged his mother again. "I'll see you then. I love you, Okaasan."
Her body turned slightly transparent and her clothes became white. A glow formed around her and she started to float. Next to her, the Oniwaban group and Misao's parents along with Aoshi's parents waved. On her other side, Kaoru's mother and father smiled at their daughter. Her father spoke to Kenshin. "Be good to her."
Akino looked at her son. "I love you, Shinta. Have a wonderful and long life. I'll be upset if I see you up there too early. I love all of you. Love each other." As her words faded, so did her body and those of the others who were with her.
Kaoru put her arms around Kenshin's waist without realizing what she was doing. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and she laid her head on his shoulder. It just felt natural to both of them. When they realized what position they were in, they didn't flinch, they didn't let go, they didn't do anything. They just enjoyed the others touch. Kaoru smiled. "I saw my parents. It was wonderful, Kenshin. They looked so happy. Do you think they all were watching us?"
Kenshin looked up into the sky. "I do. And I think they still are."
Two years later...
Kaoru dismissed her last class for the day and turned to Aoshi. "They're all learning so fast. Incorporating your style sure has built this dojo back up."
Misao came out of the house, she didn't bounce around like she used to, but there was a lightness in her step. "I think it was a great idea to move to Tokyo. Things have gotten brighter since then."
Aoshi smiled at Misao. Maybe I'll ask her to dinner tonight. "Things aren't turning out exactly the way Okaasan predicted, but they're better than they would have been if she didn't come down to help us."
Misao blushed as she always did when he smiled at her. It wasn't long after Okaasan left that Aoshi started to become the man he used to be. He was in the Aoiya more and began doing the paperwork again, much to Misao and Okina's delight. Finding out his old group didn't blame him did a world of good. It wasn't an over night change. He still felt guilt about fighting against Okina and hurting Misao's feelings, but it was easy to overcome once he saw how welcome he still was in the Aoiya. He even played a prank on Misao and had a few pulled on him. He took them good-naturedly, saying it was his payback for leaving when she was young.
Sano and Megumi entered at that time, Sano carrying a toddler. When Misao looked at him quizzically, he turned red. "I'm working."
Megumi laughed. "He wanted to get a part time job along with his full time one to buy this nice medium sized house in a better part of town. I told him once he had a respectable place to live, we'd get married. I didn't think he'd baby-sit though."
Sano sighed as the little boy began to squirm. "He wants down."
Megumi rolled her eyes. "Then put him down."
"But, he'll run amock! It'll be terrible!"
Megumi sighed. "Children are usually better behaved at someone else's house. Let him down."
Sano put the child down and wiped his brow when the little boy just stood there and looked around.
Kenshin came out of the house with a load of laundry. "Oro! It looks like almost everyone is here!"
Kaoru giggled at her husband's lost expression. "Well, class just let out, so naturally Aoshi and Misao are here. And Megumi and Sanosuke came by to say hello. Sanosuke is baby-sitting."
Kenshin looked down at the toddler standing next to Sano. "Isn't that Saitou's little boy?"
Sano looked terrified while everyone else laughed. Misao gaped at him. "Sano, didn't you know whose child it was?"
"No! The mother was the only one home when I picked him up! She said she was going to run some errands and then I could drop him off around dinner time."
He hurried off with Megumi in tow, the little boy laughing as he was twirled around by Sanosuke.
Kaoru giggled again. "Really! That little one looks just like Saitou. I don't know how he missed it."
Kenshin and Kaoru sat eating dinner. Sano had purchased his new house, so he left his row house to Yahiko. Yahiko still came around for most meals, but he ate a lot at the Akabeko as well. Kaoru looked up at her husband and saw him staring at her. "What?"
"Want to make a baby?"
Kaoru almost fainted right then and there. She had been trying for two months to get Kenshin to want a baby and he seemed reluctant still. Plus, there was the added bonus of what you need to do to get a baby. Kaoru had seen him as both gentle Kenshin and Battousai Kenshin in the bedroom and tonight she was really hoping for Battousai Kenshin. Of course, she could always bring out the one she wanted that night. If she kissed him first, gentle. If she bit his earlobe, Battousai. "Ready when you are." She bit her bottom lip as he swooped her up. "Why tonight, Kenshin?"
"It just feels right now."
Kaoru smiled and bit his earlobe. The faint growl excited her, but not as much as the golden gaze that met her when she looked back at him.
Kaoru laid next to Kenshin as he kept feeling her stomach, looking for the flutter of life. She sighed as he kept looking. "You've been trying for fifteen minutes, anata. Maybe it didn't work this time."
Kenshin smiled devilishly at her. "That just means we need to try again."
Kaoru and Kenshin were going through the same test again. Kenshin felt her stomach and his eyes lit up. Kaoru noticed and smiled widely. "Really?"
Kenshin looked at her as if he was about to cry. "It seems so. It's small still, but it's there."
Kaoru embraced her husband and sent a silent thank you to Okaasan. If it weren't for her, none of this would have happened.
The group that went to take Okaasan home sat with her a few years later. Shikijo raised his tea cup. "A toast to Okaasan! She made them all realize where there happiness laid and got them together. A great job!"
They all drank to her and then peered down at their families. The Oniwaban plus Misao and Aoshi's parents cheered and clapped as they saw the first kiss on the first date.
Kaoru's parents along with Akino looked down as the two chatted with Megumi. Megumi pushed a bit on Kaoru's stomach and gave the official word that she was indeed with child. There was a loud whoop from Akino and Kaoru's father while her mother laughed happily.
Hannya patted Akino on the back. "You really did do a good job. Thank you."
Akino nodded. "It was a pleasure."
A/N: And there you have it! Please review and tell me what you think. I'm pretty happy with it. It was bumpy in a few places, but I think all in all it came out well. Anyway watch for my next fic, "Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder." First chapter should be out in a couple weeks once I wrap up "Kaoru...the Saiyan??" Hope you enjoyed this story and I'll see you all later! Hugs & Kisses!