Disclaimer: Kenshin and Company is not mine and I under no circumstance claim responsibility for their creation. Don't sue me, they're not mine!
Author's note: Thank you all for being so patient with me. Life has gone all crazy and it has taken me forever to find some spare time to finish this story. Also, before you kill me after you read this chapter, make sure you read the epilogue!
When the Earth Moves..
There was no enemy here. No battle that he could fight to protect his loved ones. Here was fate. You took what was dealt you, and did what you could.
Kenshin was convinced that fate was playing dirty. He rubbed his cheek against the top of Kaoru's head, breathing her in. Trying to find comfort. He wondered now if help was coming at all. As Kaoru had said, very few knew just which cave was the 'glow cave'. There was at least a dozen cave openings, and if they had all caved in, it could take weeks to clear them out. Also something could have happened to them on the way up to the caves. No, he had to believe that they were looking for them. Aimlessly, for lack of anything else to do, he looked about the cave. The fungus that was attached to the cave walls had begun to get dim. He noticed that it was in correlation to the lack of oxygen. The glow had gotten very dull, and all he could really see now was the outlines of shapes and a little more but that was all. Kaoru shivered in his arms, her teeth chattered. * How can she be so hot yet act as though she is freezing? * He wondered silently. He could feel the heat radiating off her head and on to his cheek. She was dying, here in his arms, and there wasn't a single thing he could do. The helplessness of it was tearing him apart. A solitary tear escaped his eye, sliding down his cheek and slipped onto Kaoru's feverish head. He couldn't remember when he had last felt the wetness of a tear. Had it really been so long? He had grieved before, but he never shed a tear. Could it be that he had forgotten how? How could this be happing? He had always visioned his death differently. Most likely at the hands of an old enemy, or perhaps a young fortune seeker who got lucky. He always thought that he would be alone in his final moments, spitting out his last breath though a mouthful of blood. But never had he imagined it like this, trapped in a dark world, having the life slowly robbed of him, with his love, shivering with fever, and dying in his arms. He had nightmares yes, of her dying because someone wanted revenge on him. Using her as leverage, or as an example. Kaoru's death because of his dark past had become his greatest fear. But in this place, Kenshin had nowhere to place the blame.
In the dark, unwanted emotions snuck up on a person. Like a thief, stalking you in the ally. That was the hopelessness that he felt now. He rubbed his cheek into the top of her head, breathing her in. Amazingly under the heavy scent of dirt and blood, was still the faint smell of jasmine. He remembered another scent, that of white plums. For a while he had found peace with Tomoe, but then when she was gone he had wandered, alone for those long years Those ten lonely years, with not a single friend. Not that he ever really had a person he had ever actually called a friend. He had allies of course, people who believed in the same tings he did. But never truly a friend. He lifted his head and looked down at the shivering form nestled in his arms. Then she had come into his life. Offering him a place to eat, live, and belong. Belong. She wished for him to stay not because of his skills as a swordsman but because of her genuine care for his wellbeing. That fateful night in that Tokyo street had led to meeting many people who he gladly called friend. They were all orphans like he, united by that bond and so many others. Together they made up the family that they each never had a chance to have. In that family Kaoru was the pillar, the one they each confided in. She was the glue that started and held this strange and wonderful family together. And he loved her. Gods knew that they were a mismatch. He was ten years her senior, both in the physical sense, as well as the mental. She was innocent to the terrors that he himself was apart of. It was her innocence, and kindness that drew him to her. But it was her strength and never ending loyalty that gave her that fire that made her so beautiful. She was lovely, Kenshin had to admit. Everytime Yahiko called her a hag, he wanted to bop the kid. Of all the things Kaoru was, a hag was certainly not one of them. Her eyes were her best quality he thought, endless pools of pure blue. They were so expressive, you could see her soul. Those same eyes were dull now, filled with fever and pain. He would die for her in an instant, but there was nothing he could do to ease her pain. No torture could be worse. He hugged her close, and he felt another tear fall, followed by another. Soon it became not just about loosing her, but the years of pain, and loneliness. A childhood that should have been bright and promising, turned dark, and foreboding. The tears of a child who had long forgotten how to cry. They came then, silently flowing from his eyes.
"Crying?" A small voice asked. A slender hand reached up from the dark and traced the track of tears up his cheek. She paused at his scar, feeling the crevasse, each inch slowly, as a child would in fascination. Kenshin did not bother to try and hide it, he felt no shame crying in her presence, he knew that she would understand. She always understood. He instead reached up and grasped her hand and held it to his cheek, taking comfort from the small pressure. Kaoru turned her head back trying to see his face. "Kenshin?"
" Shh, I'm here. Just go back to sleep, your safe." He felt her shake her head slowly, barely a movement at all. She shivered and felt her lifebeat quicken in the hallow of her throat.
" It's so dark in here now." She whispered.
" Are you scared?" He asked quietly, his breath warm on her face.
" I was. I not anymore though, I feel warm and safe. I am not afraid of death anymore." Kenshin was appalled. He shook her, putting his face right up to her's, their noses almost touching.
" You are not going to die!" He hissed tersely, he hadn't meant to sound so angry, he just never would have expected her to give up like that. She coughed a bit, not fighting him at all. She put her hand back up to his face again.
" Kenshin, I've seen death before, and the Gods know so have you." Her head rolled away, her eyes unfocused. " I feel so warm.." Her voice drifted off.
" No, Kaoru." He cried, his hands frantically went to her face, making her turn to him. " You can not die!" He ordered, coughing a bit. Their air was almost gone.
"Why? I'm just an annoying hag who can't cook." She snapped as tartly as her weak voice could manage, her lids growing heavy. *Why won't he let me sleep?* She was so tired all of a sudden. Kenshin was furious now. He pulled their faces even closer, foreheads touching, and his hands on either side of her face.
" Kaoru, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Not just on the outside, but on inside as well. Please Kaoru, you can't leave me. Not now, not after all we've been though. I love you." There, it was said, and he felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. A small gasp came from the dark, then a sound that resembled a laugh. * Is she laughing at me? * He wondered. Suddenly Kaoru was silent and moved closer, placing a gentile kiss on his lips.
" I wasn't laughing at you, just at the irony. Kenshin, I love you too. Its just rather sad that we waited till now till tell eachother. I have loved you since the beginning I think, and I always will. " She nestled her head into his neck her voice barely a whisper. Kenshin could not believe his ears. She loved him! He had only dreamed that she would reciprocate his feelings. He wheezed, trying to get enough air into his lungs.
* No, not now, we need more time! * His mind shouted. He held her close, and realized she wasn't moving, no breath. His lungs burned for air, but it was gone. He lifted her face and kissed her softly on the lips, and nuzzled his face into hers. " As will I my love, as will I." He closed his eyes, and held her close. Kaoru had been right, it was warm, and the burning in his lungs had become distant. He could still feel her in his arms and with her there, he accepted the darkness.
They stayed like that, together until the end. If my friends, and end should there be.
**Dodges thrown objects** To be continued..