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A Rurouni For Your Thoughts (part 10)
               Kenshin scanned the bath house. Kaoru was nowhere in sight. 
"Kaoru-donno?" he whispered, his stomach tightening with dread. Where is she?  The kimono she was wearing before was set aside for washing. Above, a towel
was hung to dry. The room was spotless and yet it had a faint metallic smell. Blood. Kenshin’s anxiety increased.
"Kaoru-donno!" he called frantically. 
"Kenshin, why are you yelling like that?" Kenshin spun around. Kaoru stood at the entrance of the doorway. Relief washed over him followed by self-reproach for
not noticing her leave and for panicking foolishly.
               Kaoru couldn't help but smile. He was worried about me, as always… The unexpected thought warmed her. 
"Well, here I am." 
"Aa. I see that," he answered, a cautious grin spreading across his own face. She's smiling! Her eyes were distant, but her smile wasn't forced like before, it was
genuine. Kenshin was overcome with happiness. The way he was with her now, it truly was as if nothing had happened between them. Still, something didn't feel
right. Small warning signals were flashing at the back of his mind, screaming out against this sudden change of heart. However, the desire to bask in the bliss of
Kaoru’s smile overwhelmed every other thought…
               Sano stopped in the middle of the dojo's yard. Yahiko looked at him questioningly. "Would you look at that…" Sano said softly. Yahiko's face lit up when
he saw what Sano was referring to. Kenshin and Kaoru were talking quietly, almost intimately, together.
"Haven't seen them like that in a while… " A smile played on Sano's lips. Looks like I won't have to beat up Kenshin after all…
               Kenshin’s smile bathed Kaoru in warmth. It flowed over her face, the roots of her hair and down her spine like warm water. Emotions, pure and intense, 
besieged her. Her heart melted and it suddenly became hard to breathe. It's not fair! Her conscience complained, Just looking at him makes me love him even
Even after what he told her, she couldn't help herself. Her love for him only increased, it was turning into something she couldn't control.That's why I
have to leave…I have to forget about him, get used to the idea that he won't always be with me…also…I need to take care of this by myself…
"KAORU-DONNO!!!!" The cries were loud enough to wake the dead, and the speed they were running with snapped leaves off trees. 
Yahiko had long since fallen behind. His short legs were no match for 
Kenshin's speed and Sano's height.  
"KUSO!!! Where the hell would she go?" Sano yelled, finally stopping to catch his breath. “I can't believe we just let her go like that…”
               Ever since Sano and Yahiko had walked into the dojo and saw Kenshin and Kaoru together, it felt like the ice had finally broken. And for a couple of 
days, it really seemed that way. Kaoru was recovering faster from her injuries and had even trained a little with an overly cautious Yahiko. Sano spent more time at
the dojo and the four had gone to The Akabeko more times than their budget allowed. Despite all this effort, their life was still not really normal. Everything was done
tentatively, carefully. It seemed that they were all afraid too to upset the calm state that the dojo had finally reached. That was why, when Kaoru insisted on going
shopping for food alone, they didn't protest as much as they wanted to…
"I'm going to buy ingredients. I'm cooking a special dinner tonight." 
"Oro?" was Kenshin's reaction. Meanwhile, Sanosuke and Yahiko tried not to look too surprised. She was cooking dinner tonight? How come? 
"Shall I come and help you?" Kenshin had asked. He looked at Kaoru carefully, trying to guess what she was up to. 
My God, why is he looking at me like that? Kaoru thought, quickly turning away from his gaze. 
"No, stay here. I want this dinner to be a surprise." 
"Demo, Kaoru-donno, I really would rather not have you walk alone." 
               Kenshin realized instantly that he had stepped on thin ice. Kaoru's demeanor changed and she looked at him with fierce, defiant eyes. "I can take care of
myself." No one answered her -they didn't need to. She knew all too perfectly what they were thinking. Their silence gave away their thoughts. If she really could
take care of herself then she wouldn't have gotten mauled by God only knows who. Their lack of trust in her was a blow to her pride, but what hurt her even more
was the fact that they were right.
               Kenshin wished he hadn't pushed the matter. He could see how much she wanted them to trust her fighting skills. He didn’t need to remind her that her
budo wouldn’t always be enough. She already knew that. It's just that now, he needed to protect her more than ever. He would follow her, but the thought of her
fury if she found him was too disturbing. He wasn’t going to risk doing anything that might shatter the peace they finally reached. Besides, it wasn't his right.
After all, she's not yours. Kenshin angrily pushed the thought aside and attempted to alleviate the tension that had built up.
"I understand. Take care, then." Kaoru's eyes softened at his words. 
She looked at him gratefully, appreciating his attempt to soothe her pride but still not allowing him to patronize her. Still, the instant before she turned, he caught a
look in her eyes that he didn't understand; one that any fool would recognize. Love, mingled with regret and pain; the combination caused Kenshin’s
"Sayonara, Kenshin" She turned and walked away. Kenshin watched her until she disappeared, until finally something seared his gut, an overwhelming impulse to go
after her and stop her. Digging deep into him like an ice pick was a thought, a feeling that he wouldn't see Kaoru again. He turned to Sano, wondering if he felt
anything of the sort, but the street fighter was to busy trying to pull an angry Yahiko off his hair.
               When Megumi was finally able to take a break long enough to visit the dojo, she arrived just in time to see Sano give Kenshin a scolding session tha
t promised to turn into something less pleasant.
"I don't get it, Kenshin. Kaoru's acting okay now, so why are you so gloomy? Snap out of it, you're making me nervous."
"Gomen. I just feel that something is wrong." Megumi joined the group on the porch silently, remembering that she felt a bit of a premonition herself a while back, but
couldn't remember what had triggered it. Sano got up and started to pace around the porch.
"Many things are wrong," he started impatiently, "First of all, we still don't know exactly what happened, then, Saitoh shows up and drops some bombs on us
about Jo-chan, then-"
"I couldn't believe it when Kaoru kicked us out to talk to Saitoh." 
Yahiko interrupted. Sanosuke glared at the kid. He didn't need to remember that. His pacing continued, stepping so hard it seemed he was trying to break through
the floor.
"Would you stop it! You're driving me crazy!" Megumi complained. She was trying to sort her own omens and Sano's tantrum wasn't making it easy. Not 
surprisingly, he ignored her. She leaned back against the wall in defeat, her eyes following Sano's movement. His anger had a certain appeal to it. It showed a side of
him she never noticed before. He's acting like a worried older brother. Sano finally stopped and turned to Kenshin.
"Well, how come you're not angry?" he demanded.
"I still can't believe what happened," he answered quietly. 
"Kaoru-donno was in trouble, and she would rather tell Saitoh what happened than us."
"You mean she'd rather tell him than you." Sano accessed, stopping his march in front of Kenshin. "That's what you really mean." Sano accused.  
               Kaoru walked on the path till she reached the turn that took her to main road. If she continued to walk on it, eventually it would lead her out of Tokyo. 
Instead of taking the turn, she walked straight ahead into the woods. She stopped at the third tree parallel with the road and pulled out a sack. Two days ago, she
had climbed out of the bathhouse's window, packed her things into the sack and hid it carefully here. She took out her Gi and Hakama and quickly changed. I
would be able to walk a lot faster and easier wearing the Hakama instead of this
She shoved her kimono into the bag. Putting on her travel hat so that it hun
g behind her and throwing the sack over her shoulder, she started to walk along the road. I made it. I ran away from Kenshin. Although getting away was half the
battle won, she didn't feel happy at all. She felt like she was losing the most precious thing in her life.
Maybe I already have…
               Megumi and Yahiko waited for Kenshin's reply to Sano. He started to say something, thought better of it and instead got up and entered the dojo. Sano
didn't follow him but he stared after him. Then, sighing, he turned and dropped himself on the porch.  Bakayrou. You know I’m right so why won’t you admit it?
He was still steaming when Megumi sat next to him. Clearly she wanted to ask him something, but was not sure how. Luckily, he understood her. Che. She's so
obvious. If only Jo-chan was like that nowadays…
"No, I still didn't tell him that I overheard Jo-chan speaking to him the other day." Megumi blushed. She didn't want to appear interested, but she couldn't help it.
The sooner Sanosuke talked to Kenshin, the sooner she finds out how Kenshin feels about Kaoru. Sanosuke eyed her. "Try not to be too impatient, fox. I'll get
around to it." Megumi was about to give an indignant reply when Kenshin rushed out of the dojo.
"Sano! Hurry, we have to find Kaoru-donno!!" and took off. 
"Wha-? What about Jo- " Sano stopped mid sentence when he saw that 
Kenshin was clutching a letter tightly in his hand. 
"SHIT!!!" he yelled and took off after Kenshin.
"JO-CHAN!!!!!!!" Kaoru froze. That was Sanosuke. She turned her head to the direction of the yell and heard Kenshin calling her as well. She panicked. Her body
turned itself automatically towards their voices but her mind stopped her from running to them. That's right. I have to leave no matter how hard they call…
"KAORU-DONNO!!!!" Kenshin's intense yell brought Kaoru to her knees in despair. Her very being begged her to go to him and forget about everything else; and
still she refused to give in. Not just because of the deal she made with Saitoh; being with Kenshin was too agonizing. He didn’t want to give her his love and he
wasn’t willing to accept hers. The only thing he wanted to do was to protect her. I don’t want to be protected! I want to... She forced herself to get up and run. She
ran away from the calls that shattered her very essence; away from Kenshin, from the only true joy she had ever known since her father's death, and into the
darkness of the woods.
               I don’t want to be protected… I just want to be loved…

Authors notes:
WHOOHOO! The first season of "Rurouni for Your Thoughts" is now officially over!That's right folks, there's a whole new season out there scribbled on various
notebooks just waiting to be typed. The story will be continued. Special thanks for Amy the Unevitable for helping me with this chapter. If it wasn't for her editing, you guys would still be reading that embarrassing version I wrote earlier. This thanks goes to Sentora as well for lots of feedback and support. THANK YOU!! I'm going to take a little break from writing. Not a long one
though. Just about a full week or two without worrying about the fanfic. I do have a small 'suprise' for you readers to help you wait for the second season.
That will be up soon so keep visiting and I'll see you soon! Information Specialist



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