|Disclaimer||The wonderful characters and plot of Rurouni Kenshin do not belong to me, unfortunately. They are property of Nobuhiro Watsuki and the other company that animated it. I can't remember the name right now... shoot....|
Okay, so I lied. I know I promised 'Mud Fight', but this isn't leaving my head so I'm writing it down before I lose it. Enjoy my 'less than romantic, more dramatic (or is it the other way around?)' attempt at Rurouni Kenshin. *rolls up sleeves* Here we go...|
Oh, and I've added another little mannerism to Kenshin's already huge list of mannerisms (besides 'Oro?' and the 'that I do's). His right hand, the hand that held the blade as the Battousai, will twitch whenever he is reminded of the past or something of that sort.
Small note, I haven't seen the movie (unfortunately) so I don't really know if Kenshin had the idea of becoming Battousai during his fight with Enishi. Let's just say, for the sake of this story, that he did. And I'm following the manga plot. Meaning Kenshin and Kaoru weren't married when the fight happened.
'' - means thought. * - means an accent on something.
List of Japanese terms (because there's oh-so-much in this story *rolls eyes*):
Baka - stupid, idiot
Anata - used from the woman to the man (darling, beloved, etc,)
Koishii - same thing as anata, but used from the man to the woman
Gomen - sorry
Gomen Nasai - I'm very sorry
Oro - wha? Or huh?
Rurouni - obvious
Battousai - obvious again.
|Author's page ::: Post a review at FFnet ::: Main fan fic index|
by Sean Montgomery ::: 11.Aug.2003
It occurred to her that something was wrong the moment she woke up and found the other side of the futon empty. It came back to her just as strongly when she came to eat breakfast and not only did he not acknowledge her, he had actually ruined the meal by leaving the rice practically uncooked. It was a little while later when she was reminded of her revelation while she saw him doing the laundry with a head bent so low she almost thought he was in danger of falling into the wooden basin. And it was later that day when she decided she couldn't stand it.
Himura Kaoru sat on the dojo front steps with her knees tucked under her chin, watching her Rurouni husband Himura Kenshin try to clean a spot so intently that it seemed that the entire fate of his world rested on that one spot. He hadn't said anything to her the entire day, no greeting, no small smile, no good morning kiss, not even a small 'oro?' had come from him. He had been distant and unresponsive when she tried to get his attention a few moments ago. At first she began to wonder if it was herself to blame for his sudden turn to quite, but then she realized that couldn't be possible. She had done nothing in the past few days - or years, as far as she could remember - that would make him do this. And, to the best of her knowledge, he had done nothing like this.
He finished with the last kimono and lifted it into the fresh morning breeze, snapping the fabric a bit before laying it over the clothes line. He stood from his position and stretched. This brought a smile to her face. He had made a joke once that the laundry should be done by her now because he thought his back could no longer handle the stiffness that came after he stood. This was resolved by her giving him a rather wonderful and relaxing back massage - Kenshin's direct quote - and him leaving her side muttering a string of 'Oro?'s at the great feeling of a relaxed back. Kaoru almost considered asking him if he would like another one, when all of a sudden he turned to her. She heaved a frustrated sigh. His hair was in the way again.
"It's a beautiful morning, isn't it?" he asked quietly. Kaoru's mood lifted at the sound of him talking to her like he always did. The smile grew.
"It's a very beautiful morning. Not too warm or cold. Sort of unusual for winter, don't you think?"
"Indeed it is." he turned away and lifted his gaze to the sky. She frowned. How she wished he was looking at her instead of the partly cloudy sky. "I might have some things to get from town, that I might. Do we need anything right now?"
Kaoru shook her head. "Not that I can think of. When do you plan to go?"
Kenshin paused. "Now might be a good time. Wouldn't want to get caught in the middle of bad weather if it comes, now do I?" Finally, he turned his head and smiled at her, that darned Rurouni smile of his. Now she knew something was wrong.
She watched him carefully as he walked toward her, removing the rope that held the sleeves of his gi to his torso. He still had his eyes closed as he walked, still had that same smile when he went up a step. She reached up and grabbed one of the sleeves, the fabric rushing down his arms like a waterfall. He continued walking, bit his pace slowed.
"Kenshin... Anata..." she said quietly. He stopped dead in his tracks.
'Ah ha!' she thought. 'I've got you now! There's no way you can avoid me when I use *that* name!'
"Is everything alright?" she continued. Kenshin's frame was still for a moment before turning to her, the darned Rurouni smile in place once again.
"Koishii, everything is fine. I'm just a little tired, that I am." His violet eyes opened and regarded her tenderly. As if to prove some kind of point to her, he took her hand in his own and lifted it to his lips. "There's nothing to be concerned about."
Numbed by his sudden affection, she smiled at him and watched him walk down the dojo hallway. Seconds later she remembered what she had been trying to do all along.
'Baka!' she screamed to herself. 'You should have been interrogating him by now, not watching him walk down the hall as if everything were normal!'
She crossed her arms, angry at herself, and glared daggers at Kenshin, half expecting him at some point to turn around to her with a rather large bump on his head, swirls in his eyes and muttering 'Oro...?'. She expected him to turn around and give a great explanation as to why he was acting why he was. She sighed and watched his frame enter into their bedroom. Her eyes widened.
What she didn't expect was to find his right hand twitching and clenching, almost as if he was trying to stop it.
Kaoru leaned forward suddenly. 'Kenshin...?'
Kenshin returned later in the afternoon, but the tension that had built in Kaoru was put to the extreme once she saw his hand twitching before he left. She had been thinking about it so intently that she nearly forgot that she had students and a class to teach later in the afternoon. She figured it wasn't the best thing for the Assistant Master at the Kamiya-Himura Dojo to be so engrossed in her thoughts that she couldn't teach her students. However, the students had already caught wind of their instructor's sudden change of attitude and had decided to say nothing about it lest they say something wrong and end up with a nasty bump.
She had been leading her class in a number of swings to start out for the day, their cries echoing across the large room and throughout the dojo. During this time she allowed her mind to wander, grateful for her decision to have someone else count how many swings they had taken. She forced herself to pay attention to the positioning of her swings so her students wouldn't do the style wrong, or think something was wrong with her.
Kenshin's hand shook only when things of the past bothered him or someone threatening was nearby. He had the reverse-blade by his side at the time and didn't seem to think something was going on, so it couldn't have been the latter. Something that happened while he was Battousai then. But what on Earth could it have been? It had been a few years since Kenshin had to think about becoming the Battousai. The last time had been the fight with Enishi, but that had been nearly three years ago. Surely the thought of being the manslayer hadn't come back...
Snickers. She was hearing the slightest bit of laughter from behind her. She turned suddenly and found three students had stopped swinging to look at her and the doorway. She ignored their distracted gazes. The opinion of people outside never mattered.
"And why have you stopped?" her voice boomed. The three stared at her suddenly, surprise etched in their features much like a two year old whose mother finds his hands in the cookie jar. They retook their stances and returned to swinging.
"You'll do one hundred more, thanks to these three." she said to the others. Groans passed through out the room followed by glares to the three students. Kaoru turned her gaze to the doorway, ready to give a mouthful to whoever was laughing at the fighting style her father had created. For the second time that day, her eyes widened.
Kenshin was leaning in the doorway looking straight at her. His hands were folded into the sleeves of his gi, and his head was slightly tipped. Kaoru felt her face flush not with embarrassment, but with the knowledge that her students were watching her husband gaze, rather fondly, at herself. He smiled at her, but it wasn't the smile of the Rurouni or the tender smile he would give whenever he wanted to silently show her his feelings for her, but a smile filled with sadness. His eyes drowned in the emotion, and he gazed at her a few more seconds before turning to go back to whatever it was he had been doing.
Her brow furrowed. While she had appreciated his small, albeit forlorn appearance and smile, it confirmed to her that something was, indeed, very wrong. What was going on in that head of his? She continued swinging with her students, determination set in her features. For the life of her, she was going to find out.
The time for finding out came much sooner than even she had expected.
She was sitting with him in what had to be the most quiet dinner they had ever had in their three years of marriage. And all the while she was staring at him, he refused to meet her gaze, only looking around the room or at her food, occasionally looking at her face, but not her eyes. She had decided during this time that she had had it. Using all her frustration as the source, she slammed her cup of tea on the table, successfully breaking it.
"Oro?" Kenshin jumped, the sudden movement making the tea in his cup slosh around, some droplets falling onto his gi. He finally looked at her eyes. "Is something the matter?"
"I've had enough, Kenshin."
"Enough, oro? With the dinner? If you were finished, you didn't need to make it so dramatic."
Kaoru face faulted. Perfect time for the Rurouni to kick in and make light of a heavy situation. Baka Rurouni. "This isn't about the dinner, Kenshin."
He stared at her blankly. "Then I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about, that I don't."
Her tone was somewhat lighter. "You say that, but I know you really do. You've been acting strange today, Anata."
The word was meant for softening and not scolding. Kaoru watched as Kenshin gave a heavy sigh. "I know I have, Koishii. Gomen. I don't mean to make you worry, that I most certainly don't. I really am tired, though."
She searched his eyes and found the truth. She never knew why she didn't see the slight bags under his eyes. Determination was replaced with tender affection as she reached out a hand and traced the lines with her fingertips before cupping the scarred cheek in her hand. "Then go to bed early. I can take care of the dishes."
Kenshin seemed to stiffen at that. He breathed in deeply and covered her hand with his, fake smile in place. "You don't need to. I'll be alright." He took her hand and kissed the palm. The smile faded and was replaced with a mischievous one. "Unless you think I'm getting too old and need to get to bed early."
Kaoru gave the slightest smile. He had been cracking jokes about how much older he was than her and how before he knew it, she would send him off somewhere early in order to find some younger man who would suit her better than the man who was ten years her senior. When he said this once, she told him, quite firmly, that the only man who was ever in her life was himself, besides her father. This lead to kissing him so tenderly passionate, in Kenshin's opinion, that he walked away muttering 'Oro?' until Kaoru told him to stop.
"Never." she grinned. "You'll never be too old. Not for yourself, and not for me."
"That's reassuring, that it is."
"But that doesn't change the fact that I still want you to get to bed early."
Kenshin looked surprised. "Oro?"
"You heard me. If you're tired, you should get some sleep. I'll have no husband of mine working himself to death with the chores then staying up late or doing whatever it is you're doing and refusing to get sleep. I'll get the dishes, you get to bed."
Kenshin knew he would never win. Kaoru had already stood and gathered the dishes from the meal and was walking to the kitchen before she was even finished speaking. He gave a small, honest smile. It was nice to have someone to look after and worry about him.
It was later on that evening when interrogation finally made it's way out of Kaoru's mouth. The answer to her questions was something she hadn't expected.
She was lying on their futon, face to the ceiling that was a blue color from the light of the moon. Kenshin was on his side in a fetal position, asleep for all she knew. Apparently he was able to get some sleep after she had made a bath for him. He had already been asleep after taking a bath for herself. As a matter of fact, he was in the same position then that he was in now. She bit her lower lip in thought. He didn't seem too occupied over dinner from what she could tell. His hand hadn't twitched or done anything that made it seem like something was wrong with him, but she knew something had to be. Why would he act like he did otherwise? He didn't seem to mind the bath she gave him, either. In fact, he seemed very happy...
Her eyes snapped open in realization. When she told him the bath was ready earlier that night, he had the Rurouni smile - that darned Rurouni smile - in place. And as much as he tried to hide it by putting it under his robes somewhere, she could see it. His hand had been twitching as well.
Suddenly, the man in question beside her began to shiver. Instinct told her that he was cold from the winter chill that had suddenly fell over them that evening, but his irregular breathing told her otherwise. As much as she hated to admit it, it almost sounded like the time he was injured while fighting Saito. That put even more fear into her. He had been on the breaking point then. The look in his eyes at the time proved he had lost every last bit of restraint before becoming...
Kaoru turned to him, wrapping her arms around his shivering form. "Kenshin?" she quietly asked. Maybe he was awake. Maybe he was only cold...
His hands grabbed hers on his chest. Both were shaking, but the right hand was almost chaotic in its movements. Her eyes widened in fear. "Kenshin," she said louder. "Kenshin, wake up!"
He suddenly stopped. His breathing slowed. He had to be awake but she couldn't tell. His red hair was in front of his eyes again, and the lack of light made it seemingly impossible to tell. She bit her lower lip and gathered as much courage as she could. "Kenshin?" she asked. "Are you alright?"
He gave a calming sigh. Keeping his head bent, he sat up on the futon, bringing his hand to rest over his eyes and leaned on it in a tired fashion. She sat up next to him and put her hands on his shoulders. "Kenshin, tell me what's wrong."
His form went still. He removed his hand and looked at her. As much as she tried to hold it in, she still gasped in shock. Even though she could hardly see a thing in the dark room, the glow was unmistakable. His eyes weren't the beautiful violet she had grown to love and cherish in her husband, but the deep hue of gold. The color of the Battousai.
"I've been trying to fight this all day. It looks like I can't fight anymore." Battousai said. He turned his eyes from hers to the bunched sheets in front of him.
"Kenshin, what is wrong? I know something has been bothering you for the whole day, and I can see it in you now." she demanded.
Battousai closed his eyes. "I had hoped to tell you before this happened. It seems I no longer have a choice. It won't be easy, but...." he opened his eyes again and looked at her directly. Kaoru shivered. "I know you need to know. You deserve to know."
Kaoru sat and watched his movements. At the last moment before closing his eyes again, she thought he might have had tears. 'Impossible,' she thought. 'Even if he became the Battousai, there would be no way he would cry.'
"Tomorrow," he began, his voice filled with emotion she had never heard before from the infamous manslayer. "...it will be the anniversary of the death of Himura Tomoe."
Everything became clear with that name. Filled with sympathy for the man she loved, she wrapped her arms around his still form. "Kenshin, why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't know how. I knew that you knew about her, and I didn't quite know how it would affect you, if it did at all." She lifted her head from it's position on his shoulders at the same time he turned his to look at her. She didn't feel the shiver down her spine like the last time she looked into the golden hue of the Battousai. He was still the man she loved. "I might be making a few more visits in the next couple of days." he said, referring to his current state. He grew quite again. "I had planned on going to Kyoto to visit her grave."
"Then I'll go with you."
Battousai raised an eyebrow. "Why? In the years before, I've always gone alone. You don't have to join me."
Kaoru lifted a hand and placed it on his right cheek. His eyes, though golden and intense, softened at the rare contact she made to this side of him. "I'll go with you because I want to. And maybe... you might need support, but don't know it yet."
"I'll be fine. I've been fine for the past few years when I've gone alone. Why will this make a difference?"
Kaoru leaned forward and placed her forehead on his. Her eyes were closed at first, but at the contact she opened them and looked deep into the eyes of the Battousai, trying to find the man she loved inside their depths. "Because I want to be there for you."
Battousai closed his eyes and made a noise that could have passed for a quite snort. When he opened his eyes again, Kaoru saw the slightest violet mixed with the golden hue. "Fine."
That morning they left for the train station.
Kenshin had seemed rather reluctant at first to do it. There were too many people, he had said. He wasn't sure how well he could handle himself if the Battousai were to come back. While it was true that the Battousai was sometimes spontaneous, Kaoru had to reassure him that nothing would happen as long as he kept his cool and fought to keep himself at bay. She had even offered to keep his sword at her side just in case, which he quickly agreed to. She was ready at all times to help him, and for that he was grateful.
They had been on the train for only a few hours when Kaoru's eyes suddenly flew open in surprise. Had she fallen asleep?
"I had wondered when you were going to wake up. I couldn't bring myself to do it."
His tone had changed again. She turned to look at him and noticed for the first time his eyes slowly changing to gold. Worry filled her as she turned to face him completely. "Kenshin..? Are you-"
"I'm fine." he answered. "I don't plan on killing anybody. I was just thinking." He had been staring at his hands, she realized. The right one was shaking slowly as his persona changed. "I never noticed it shook before." His eyes met hers. "Is this why you were so worried the other day? Because you knew whom I was becoming?"
"I didn't know what was wrong." she said truthfully. "Usually you are fighting someone when you turned back, but there was no one around. I didn't know what was going on."
Battousai turned his hand, almost fascinated by its shaking movements. "And now you know. Memories are very powerful things, aren't they? They have the power to heal us, to hurt us, or to help us understand. But all my memories are stained with blood." His hand clenched. "Especially hers. That's why I haven't gone to bed early lately; the dreams of her were too real."
Kaoru took his shaking hand in both of hers. It unclasped at her touch, and she wove her fingers through his, brushing against the powerful callouses from the years of holding a sword, setting it down to rest gently on his leg. He only looked at their joined hands, never meeting her gaze although he knew she was looking at him.
"I don't know what I could possibly say that could make this any better," she said quietly. "But if you need anything at all, I'm right here."
Battousai still never acknowledged her, only turned his head to look out the window. Kaoru, taking no offense in his silence, slowly rested her head on his shoulder. Her eyes were beginning to close again, but she could never mistake the feeling of his head resting on top of hers.
Kyoto was brimming with business as usual. No one really took notice of the man with the unusual red hair and the illegal sword by his side. No one but his wife noticed the strip of tape conveniently placed on his left cheek to hide the cross-shaped scar. No one but his wife noticed how his head hung low, trying to hide the evidence to his state. Kaoru could only glance at him occasionally and wonder what was going through his head. He had been Battousai again that morning, waking up early and giving her a fright when she woke to find him in front of her, watching her sleep with those golden eyes and his sword propped against a shoulder, his back leaning on the wall. His face was emotionless when he assured her he wasn't going to hurt her, but it still wasn't the most comfortable thing to wake up to.
"Are you sure you want to do this now?" Kaoru asked the bent form of red. He lifted his head a bit, but he still didn't make his eyes shown.
"It needs to be now. She died today, after all." He answered, his breath visible in the cool morning. "It wouldn't be honorable."
"I understand. I was just wondering if going this early in the morning is the right idea."
He didn't answer, seemingly not wanting to. Kaoru caught onto this and frowned. "I'm sorry. I don't know how this is hurting you, so I should just keep my mouth shut."
"I know you don't understand." he turned and met her eyes, still keeping his head bent so the public couldn't see. "And that's not your fault. Something of this magnitude has never happened to you before."
The rest of the walk was quiet. At some point the sun was lost in the sea of clouds, and the cold air became somewhat colder than usual. Kaoru held her arms over her slightly shaking form. When they entered the graveyard a few moments later. She realized quite suddenly that she had no real idea where they were going. She had never visited the grave of Kenshin's first wife before. He had always gone alone in the past. What kind of headstone did she have? Was it elaborate and tall, like some of the ones they had passed earlier, or maybe one of the smaller ones? Did she have visitors often? Would there be flowers from someone else when they got there?
Kenshin stopped suddenly. He was looking at a small nameless headstone with a small, regretful smile, a strange sight for the Battousai. He turned to it and ripped the tape off of his left cheek. "Himura Tomoe." he said quietly.
Kaoru had to admit later that it sounded strange, hearing your last name shared with someone else. She backed away and allowed him some time for himself, watching his hair cover his eyes once again. He went on his knees and lifted his hands, the motions of prayer. Kaoru observed the headstone. Unnamed? Did he not have enough money at the time to engrave her name? The area didn't have cement around it, meaning he couldn't have had enough money to make the memorial seem more grand.
Thinking her observations rude, Kaoru closed her eyes and folded her hands as well. She wasn't entirely sure what she was going to say - if she was going to say anything at all - but she didn't think it would be right on Kenshin's part to just observe and not pay some respects to Tomoe's grave.
'He misses you very deeply right now,' she thought. 'It was unusual to see his change of attitude and body posture when the time of your death drew near. I know this is just a part of who he is. I love this man deeply, Tomoe, just as I'm sure you did at one point. I hope that, in the best sense possible, you can help him let go of his past and help him look for a brighter future by my side. And I know that sounds selfish of me, but I truly wish for his pain to cease...'
She paused in her prayer at the sound of a whimper. Not the kind from an animal or a small child far away, but much closer than she thought. When she opened her eyes and looked at Kenshin, her brow furrowed in surprise. His body had started to shake, his hands slightly clasping together then releasing. His eyes were still closed in his prayer, but his face was contorted in something she couldn't make out. And he was muttering something. The harder she listened the easier it was to make out.
"Gomen nasai... gomen nasai..."
Kaoru released a breath she never knew she was holding. As far as she knew he was still overcome by the traits of the Battousai, but never had she seen anything like this from him. His body rocked every now and then with his prayer, as if he was trying to hold back sobs. Then, as quickly as it came, it was gone. His form stilled, his breathing became controlled, and his eyes slowly opened to stare at the unmarked grave mournfully. He stood and turned to walk down the path once again. Kaoru was frozen to the spot, looking at the back of her retreating husband, then the unmarked grave where she had seen a display of emotion she had never seen from her husband.
'What is going on...?'
Back home in Tokyo later that evening, Kaoru looked at her husband, strip of tape now removed and his head bent low, and wondered why he was still sitting against the wall instead of coming to the futon to get some rest after a long, and seemingly emotional day for him. She couldn't force herself to say anything if she tried; if he was asleep already, she didn't want to wake him up. Even though she knew he slept like that during the days of the revolution, it couldn't be comfortable after all those years at the dojo in a soft and warm futon.
"I need to apologize," he said suddenly, shaking her out of her thoughts. "I know you understand about the death of a loved one. I shouldn't have said anything. I wasn't thinking clearly this morning."
He was referring to her father, she realized. His death had been horrible and hard to deal with, especially at such a young age. A small smile crossed her lips as she looked at him, touched by what seemed like a touch of the Rurouni coming back, and his ever constant need to apologize for anything wrong. "It's all right. I know your mind was occupied."
A small paused passed. "You need to understand why this is only affecting the Battousai." he said after a while. "Why I am the way I am."
Kaoru gave him her full attention, silently urging him to go on.
"Himura Tomoe.... was a calm in a chaotic time. She seemed to be something I could rest on, something that helped bring some sort of sense into my world when everything was never clear. She helped me understand something," he lifted his head to look at her, the golden eyes hiding something from her gaze. "While the manslayer that I was could be heartless in his killings, there was another side to him, a side that helped with the discovery of the Rurouni. I might have been a heartless killer, and I might have done things brutally in my time, but I also had a more gentle side that had more basic emotions for a person my age. I knew things like pain, joy, and even at one point fear." His eyes fell to the sheath of his sword. "I could be the normal fifteen year old, the boy that had come of age when I wasn't killing."
Kaoru's brow furrowed slightly. Battousai saw this when he lifted his eyes to look at her again. "I'm not always the heartless killer people think I am when I'm the Battousai. I can feel things, too. I'm simply a more intense version of the man you love. Only when you're threatened could I ever think about killing someone."
"So then... when you've been the Battousai these past few days...."
He sighed and paused again, gathering his thoughts. "Do you know why I always went alone to her grave on the anniversary of her death?" She shook her head. "Because I knew that this man, the one that holds the burden of lives on his shoulders, never appealed to you very much. The day I would leave would always be the day I became the Battousai once again, and I knew you wouldn't want to see the person that gave you fear."
"But you're the same man." she whispered. Then stronger, "How could I be afraid of the one I love?"
He gave the slightest of smiles. "I wonder, did you think that the first night I showed up?" His smile grew at her sudden change of face, her face faltering as she thought of something to say. "You've only seen me when I was ready to kill people. Of course you would be afraid. Only natural, I'd suspect. You know I would never hurt you. Although you've grown used to the Rurouni you first met and loved, remember I am the same man, as you've said." He let another pause pass. "I'm just more intense in my feelings than he is."
"Then what about today, in the graveyard? Why where you...?" she let the question hang unsure herself of how to ask it.
The Battousai stared at the floor. "It never hit me until recently how much her death truly did affect me. Because of her I stopped killing, because I understood what people went through when I killed their loved ones. I disappeared because of her. I became the Rurouni because of her. And I truly understood pain because of her. And in all my ten years of wandering I kept asking myself the same question; how could I have done it? Why did I kill her? And why did she have to die by my hands, at the hands of her second love?"
His grip on the sword tightened, and his voice became raw with emotion. Kaoru, ignoring the voice in her mind screaming to remind her of who he was, stood from her place on their futon and walked over next to him, placing a hand on his left shoulder.
"I was telling her I was sorry... because her death should have meant more to me. I was sorry for killing her first love and taking away her true happiness. I was sorry for being the one to kill her at such a young age..." His head fell unto his arms, his breath becoming uneven, the evidence of tears. "It's never been so hard for me to deal with her death before, but for some reason, this time, it was overwhelming to think of what I'd done, and all I could do was say I was sorry..."
His sword slipped from his grasp, falling with a loud clatter on the floor. His hands flew to his face to hide his shame-filled tears. "I didn't mean to kill her... I didn't mean to...gomen...gomen!"
Feeling his need for comfort, Kaoru crept her hand around his chest and over his shoulder, pulling his shaking frame towards her. He immediately responded, burying his face in her shoulder, holding her tighter to him while she whispered words of comfort to him. His sobbing cries echoed through their room for the majority of the night, thirteen years of pain and anguish finally leaking out of his soul in the form of tears.
It was hours later. Early in the morning, she figured, when she woke up again. The orange color of dawn mapped their room in a comforting glow. Kaoru, lying on her side in a twist of sheets, opened her eyes expecting to see Kenshin lying next to her. The space was empty, and after further observation with a hand sweeping over the spot, he had been gone for a while. The space was cold. She looked at all four corners of her room, half-expecting to see him sitting against the wall still asleep. She was the only one.
'Where could he have gone this time?' she wondered, pushing back the covers and standing to grab a robe. Pulling it tightly around her and combing her fingers through her hair, she walked to the door and slid it open. She froze in mid-step.
Kenshin was right there, sitting on the steps with his head leaning against a pillar, sword propped against a shoulder. Just like a few days ago, he hadn't done anything to greet her in good morning. Battousai or not, he was still her husband, and she still deserved to know when he was awake!
"You slept late, that you did."
'That you did?' Kaoru's eyes widened. The tone was soft and comforting, the sound of his voice speaking the words a balm to her rushing emotions. And when he turned to look at her, though still holding a slight swirl of gold, his eyes were violet, the first she had seen in days.
"Kenshin," she spoke, somewhat bewildered. "Your eyes..."
He gave her a small smile. "I'm sorry to have worried you. For not waking you up and for making you go through all of this."
She sat down next to him, grabbing one of his hands and threading her fingers through his. "You don't need to be sorry. It was the least I could do."
"I had to think. Being by you is too distracting." he winked, smiling when he saw her shake her head, trying to hide a small blush. "Honestly, I always tried to leave the dojo before I became Battousai again. I knew you never liked him very much, and I didn't want you to become worried."
"No," he interrupted, giving her hand a small squeeze. "Let me finish. I must say this. For some reason, I thought that not going early this year would help me somehow. I had no idea how, though, and I was very worried when I began thinking about the day she died. I knew it would happen soon, and it took everything inside me to not run out the dojo door." He turned to look at the soft morning sunlight. "When you willingly accepted who I had become and said you would come with me, something told me that I would need you this time around. Once we got to Kyoto, I knew everything would change." He looked at her again, his eyes reflecting peace and tenderness. "I've never broken down like that at her grave before. All of a sudden everything that I'd been hiding for the past thirteen years came out in a rush of emotions. Then, suddenly and gratefully, it seemed, you were there, responding to my needs. Not me, as I am now, but the Battousai. You saw his hurt, his anguish. When you came over to me and held me, comforted me, I felt at ease. And right now, sitting here a day later here with you, I don't feel grief. It's still there; I'm sure it always will be, but it isn't as strong. You helped me through it."
Kenshin paused to see her reaction to his confession. Kaoru lifted her hand to his cross shaped scar. "Baka. Didn't I tell you when you proposed to me that I accepted you for who you were, and for what you are? I'll admit, it startled me to see the Battousai that first night, but even he is part of the man I love. When you need comforting or help, I *will* be there for you, manslayer or not."
Kenshin could say nothing, only stare at her as she smiled at him fondly. His eyes where mostly gold now, and she didn't seem to care. And when she found his right hand twitching slightly, she took it in both hands and lifted it to her face, motioning for him to cup her cheek. He shook his head slightly, amazement clearly on his face.
"How is it," he began slowly. "That you can accept me so freely and unashamed?"
"Because I love you. Both of you. Battousai and the Rurouni. It's that simple, you know. How is it that you can love someone who's loud, sweats, and has an odd habit of beating people over the head?"
"I found other traits, the whole other side of you that was Kaoru."
"Exactly." she said, and no other words were needed. Kenshin could only smile and pull her closer to him, resting his head atop hers. Kaoru smiled happily when his right hand fell from her cheek to take her hand.
It had stopped trembling. Her husband was back.
He was healed.
|Endnotes||Ahh! It's over! My first short story and my first Kenshin story at the same time! Well, how did I do? Would you please be so kind to let me know?|
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