Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Healing Hands ❯ Day 1 ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Early September, 1878
The ship ride back from Enishi's Island

Day 1

The ship set out on its return journey from Enishi's Island. Everyone was glad to see Kaoru alive and well. They were all going home together! Kaoru couldn't believe the reaction from her friends to her just being there. It was as if they'd all thought her dead!

The most noticeable reaction was from Kenshin. After the battle, he'd collapsed into her arms and refused to be separated from her. He was very badly injured in the fight with Yukishiro Enishi, and then to make matters worse had been shot in the shoulder by Wu Heishin. Kaoru had shielded the wounded swordsman with her body. Enishi, flashbacking to when Tomoe shielded Kenshin from Tatsumi, the Yaminobu leader in the same way, had jumped up and beaten Wu down, almost killing him. Kenshin stopped Enishi from killing Wu. No one must die before his eyes again.

Kenshin was in dire need of medical attention. He was getting weak at an alarming rate with the loss of blood, dehydration and the fact that he had eaten next to nothing during the last three weeks. Megumi decided that now was the best time to act if they wanted to save his life. Sano knelt down and scooped the tiny warrior into his strong arms. Sano left the room, carrying Kenshin with him, Kaoru following close behind.

Sanosuke and Kaoru brought Kenshin to Megumi's room, where she'd laid out the equipment needed to look after Kenshin properly. Sano laid Kenshin down on the bed and stepped out, closing the door behind him. The first thing Megumi did was force Kenshin to drink a concoction designed to numb the pain of the wounds and to help him sleep. Kaoru and Megumi undressed Kenshin, revealing a horrible litany of open and festering wounds on his slim torso. Megumi examined Kenshin from head to toe, checking for internal injuries and any external ones that might not be readily visible. She poked, prodded and probed, only adding to Kenshin's irritation. Kaoru stroked his red hair and talked softly to him as Megumi started disinfecting the nasty wounds that covered his frail body.

Megumi used antiseptic, warm water and a sponge to remove the dirt from all the wounds, especially the very large and nasty wound that ran from Kenshin's left shoulder down to his right hip. Once the wounds were clean and dry, Megumi began stitching them up. Kenshin's body went rigid with pain. Kaoru did her best to hold him immobile so Megumi could work.

"Ssssh. It'll be over soon, then we can go back to our cabin," soothed Kaoru.

Megumi spread an ointment designed to promote healing on each wound before she wrapped it in sterile gauze. Now that the biggest wounds had been tended to, it was time to see to Kenshin's right shoulder. Kaoru rolled Kenshin over on his left side and then wrapped her arms tightly around him, holding his face to her breast while Megumi dug into the wound with sterile tweezers to fish out the bullet. With Kenshin's body in the condition it was in, it was too much of a risk to use anesthesia, so Kenshin felt every turn of the tweezers in his wound.

Kenshin's face contorted and he gritted his teeth, trying not to cry out. The pain was too much to bear however, and the resulting cry sounded like a growl, sending chills down both women's spines. Megumi was able to get the bullet out. She then flooded the wound with antiseptic. Once it had drained out, she stitched the flesh together, applied the ointment and then bandaged it. Kenshin's right arm was put into a sling to prevent him from overusing it and tearing the stitches.

Kenshin had had quite enough of being undressed, drenched in water, poked and prodded and having foul-tasting potions poured down his throat. Achy and tired, all he wanted was to return to the cabin and be alone with Kaoru.

"It's alright, Kenshin. We're all done now," said Kaoru, as Megumi wrapped a clean yukata around his slim body. Megumi went to the door and called Sano back into the room. He picked Kenshin up and carried him back to the cabin with Kaoru following right behind them. Megumi felt as though she'd aged five years.

Sano took Kenshin back into the cabin and set him down gently on the futon. Without a word, he picked Yahiko up by the collar of his gi and carried him off to Megumi's room for his round of treatments, earning himself a string of expletives that would make most sailors blush. Kaoru giggled at the sound of Yahiko's fading protests. She turned her attention to the sedated swordsman who was now wrapped in bandages and lying under the blanket on the bed.

"It's all over now," Kaoru whispered in Kenshin's ear. "We're going home, home for good and all."

"Home," whispered Kenshin. No one could understand what that word meant to him. He hadn't had a real home where he'd felt welcome and loved since he'd lost his parents to cholera at age nine. Hiko had given him a roof over his head, food to eat, education and of course, kenjutsu training, but he was no substitute for a loving and understanding parent. The Kohagiya Inn in Kyoto was an Isshin Shishi hideout where Kenshin had stayed for four years of his life, but it was the furthest thing from his idea of home. Kenshin had stayed in various houses, cottages, inns, caves, etc. during his ten-year sojourn. None of those places had been permanent, welcoming or loving. Sure, some people had been very kindly and friendly to him, but many of them upon finding out that he'd been Battousai, had turned against him and sent him packing. Others had been well-meaning but faced threats against their safety for harboring him, forcing him in the end to leave, rather than put another innocent life in peril.

The Kamiya dojo, with its fiery tempered shihondai who didn't care about Kenshin's past eventhough she knew he'd been Battousai was the first place he'd actually felt at home at in over 20 years. He was welcomed there with open arms despite his past, despite the fact that he'd slaughtered innocent people, including his beloved Tomoe. Kenshin had been afraid of losing the friendship of those closest to him when he'd finally told them his story. Instead of turning against him, they'd rallied around him and supported him, something he'd never encountered before. No one who hadn't lived through the kind of sorrow Kenshin had lived through could understand the full impact of that simple, one-syllable word on his lacerated heart. Home!

Kenshin let the tears fall freely as Kaoru's presence next to him soothed his aching heart. He hadn't cried in front of another since he could remember anything. Certainly, he'd cried. He was human after all. But he'd always waited till he was alone before releasing his emotions. With Kaoru lying next to him after he'd believed her dead, it was asking too much of him in his current condition to be stoic. So he cried and Kaoru kept her arms around him and comforted him with her presence rather than her words.

Tokyo Bay

After two hours, the ship pulled into Tokyo Bay. The little group disembarked, glad to be back on familiar ground after the harrowing ordeal. Sano carried the now-sleeping Kenshin in his arms as they got into the waiting carriage. As soon as the last person piled in, they were off to home.

Once back in the dojo, everyone settled in to where they'd stay for the next few days. Aoshi and Misao would have to sleep in the training hall since the living quarters were full. Misao helped Yahiko to his room since the youngster wasn't in much better shape than Kenshin.

Sano took Kenshin to his bedroom and set the sleeping warrior down on his futon, after which Kaoru thanked him for all his help. She then tucked Kenshin under a thin blanket. Just then, Megumi came into the room with some medicines.

"I'm going to give Ken-san these three medicines. They'll help knock out the pain and help him to sleep as well. He needs a lot of rest and quiet right now, Kaoru-chan," said Megumi. Kaoru nodded and Megumi went to work, pouring the liquid into Kenshin's mouth. Kenshin swallowed it instinctively, coughing on some of it.

Megumi prepared that night's dinner, since Kaoru's "cooking" wasn't something Kenshin and Yahiko would be able to endure in their current state. Megumi decided that since Kenshin had eaten next to nothing for almost a month, it'd be best to start him out on a bland miso soup and see how well he handled that.

To say that Kaoru was shocked by Kenshin's current state would've been an understatement. She was appalled. The wounds he'd suffered in his first encounter with Enishi should've been well-healed by now. Instead they were still fresh and open to go along with the new round of wounds he'd received fighting Enishi on the Island.

Not only that, but Kenshin looked like a living skeleton. Every rib could be counted (at least those that weren't hidden beneath the bandages Megumi had applied). Every knob of his spine was visible. His skin, always naturally pale was now almost deathly-looking. His cheeks were hollow and his normally warm violet eyes were clouded over with pain.

Kaoru brought in a cup of cold water. It was very important to get liquid into his dehydrated body. Kaoru gently shook Kenshin awake until his violet eyes opened and looked up at her with a glazed-over gaze. Kaoru supported Kenshin's rust-colored head with her right hand while she held a cup of water to his lips with her left. Kenshin drank it a bit too quickly at first and coughed some of it up. Kaoru pulled the cup away and sat him up a bit to make sure he didn't inhale any water. Kenshin's whole body shook as he coughed, his face flushed and painful. Kaoru kissed his scarred cheek and held him till the coughing fit subsided.

"Here now. Drink it slowly," she said gently, again holding the cup to his lips. With Kaoru still cradling him, Kenshin drank the water more slowly this time, never taking his violet eyes off her face. When he finished, Kaoru gently laid him back down on the futon. She got up to leave, but was stopped by a weak grip on her hand. She looked down and saw Kenshin staring up at her with heartsick violet eyes.

"Don't go," he said hoarsely, clinging to her with all his feeble strength. Kaoru couldn't deny the appeal of that look. She sat back down and held Kenshin's hand in both of hers, stroking it softly to lull him back to sleep. Only when his eyes closed and his breathing switched over to the steady rhythm of sleep did Kaoru pick up the cup and exit the room.

"Megumi-san, what happened to him? He has old wounds that look like they should've healed long ago. The look in his eyes, it's like he's afraid I'll disappear. He's never been like that before. Why does he look like he hasn't eaten in a month?! Please, tell me what happened," said Kaoru, entering the kitchen where the doctor was finishing up cooking that night's dinner.

Megumi sighed and looked Kaoru directly in the eyes. "Something did happen. But it's for Ken-san to tell you about when he's ready, not the rest of us. Please respect that Kaoru-chan."

Kaoru wanted to protest, but decided against it. Her highest priority right now was caring for Kenshin, not picking fights with Megumi. The last thing that was needed was for him to be woken up by the sound of their bickering.

"Is there anything I can do to help him?" asked Kaoru.

"Ken-san is very fragile right now. He could go either way. If anyone can help him, it's you. Be there for him, Kaoru-chan. Let your smile be the first thing he sees when he wakes up and the last thing he sees when he goes to sleep. Make him laugh. That will help him more than any pill or herb I could prescribe," said Megumi.

Kaoru steeled herself. "I'll do that," she said, her eyes shining with determination.

"Good," said Megumi. "Well I'm done here for today, so I'll head back to the clinic. Just leave the miso to keep warm on the oven for a few hours. Ja ne Kaoru-chan."

"Ja ne, Megumi-san and thanks for everything," said Kaoru.

Kaoru slid open the shouji and walked into Kenshin's room. The swordsman had been sleeping for the past four hours. She loathed waking him up, but Megumi was right and he needed to eat to regain his strength.

Kaoru set the bowl of miso down and gently shook Kenshin's shoulder. "Kenshin, wake up. I brought food," she said coaxingly.

Violet eyes fluttered open and looked up at Kaoru, who smiled at him. Kenshin just stared back at her, always that haunted look in his eyes. Again, Kaoru wondered what could've happened in the three weeks Enishi had had her that could make him like this.

"It's miso soup. Megumi-san made it, so you needn't worry about being poisoned by my cooking," Kaoru joked, trying to lessen the tension in the atmosphere. Kenshin still only stared at her. "Here I'll help you sit up," she continued.

Kenshin was very groggy from the sedatives Megumi had administered and it was asking too much for him to sit up on his own just now. Kaoru sat down on the floor behind him and leaned against the wall, then gently pushed him into a sitting up position and had him lean his weight against her. Kaoru picked up the bowl in both her hands and held it to Kenshin's lips. If Kenshin felt awkward eating in this fashion, he didn't say so. He permitted Kaoru to feed him the soup. The soup didn't have too much solid food in it because Megumi didn't think his system could handle a lot of solids at this point, as he'd eaten so little in the weeks since Kaoru's "death". During that time, he'd functioned on water and adrenaline alone. He'd have to work his strength up gradually.

Kenshin was able to finish the soup and keep it down, which was a good sign in and of itself. When he finished, Kaoru cradled his head and laid him back down on the futon as if he were an infant. She began a slow and gentle massage of Kenshin's belly to help him digest the food. The light touch felt very good to the ailing warrior. Kenshin's eyelids grew heavier moment by moment. Kaoru's gentle touch was more soothing to him than any tea or medicine could be. Before his eyes closed, he said one thing: "Thank you..." Then he was asleep.

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In the thick haze of smoke, he couldn't see anything. His senses were thrown badly askew. All he could smell was the sent of white plum.

"Kaoru-dono! Kaoru-dono, where are you?" he called, coughing as the white plum assaulted him. Gripping the hilt of the Sakabatou, Kenshin fumbled around, trying to find his way to the training hall.

Kenshin made his way into the dojo. The haze seemed to lift, revealing a human form. What he saw was forever burned into his mind. Kaoru sat with Enishi's watou staked through her heart, pinning her against the wall. A cruciform scar was carved onto her left cheek. Her blue eyes were wide-open and stared unseeingly at the swordsman who collapsed to his knees before her, curling himself up into a little ball. An inhuman scream erupted from deep within him as his will to live dissolved into nothing.
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Kenshin jerked awake, his body covered in sweat and his eyes wild with terror. The sound of the shouji sliding open caused him to look up. Kaoru came running into the bedroom, her blue eyes filled with worry for the redheaded swordsman. She was alive! She was safe! It had just been the nightmare, the same nightmare that had relentlessly plagued his sleep during the time he'd rotted in Rakuninmura.

"Kenshin, are you alright?" asked Kaoru, kneeling by the kenkaku's bedside and gripping his shoulders.

"Kaoru..." Kenshin couldn't speak. His throat tightened and his face contorted as the dream and the time in Rakuninmura washed over him, flooding his eyes with tears. It was too much, he couldn't fight the wave of emotion that flooded over him. He started sobbing pitifully.

"Kenshin..." whispered Kaoru. 'What happened to you when I was on the Island? Who did this to you?'

"They took you from me," Kenshin choked out as a sob erupted from his chest. Wanting to be as close to her redhead as possible and offer comfort, Kaoru took Kenshin into her arms and rocked him, rubbing his back soothingly. It was the only thing she could think of to do. She was afraid to ask him what had happened during her imprisonment. She wanted to wait till he was stronger in both body and mind and only then when he felt ready. The last thing she wanted was to pry and hurt him more than he'd already been hurt.

"There, it's alright now. We're all home, safe and sound. Nothing will separate us again," she said. Kaoru held Kenshin close to her till he'd cried himself out. Gently she laid him back down on the futon.

"Do you think you can get back to sleep?" she whispered, not wanting to leave him awake in this state.

Kenshin shook his head. "Please stay," he whispered.

Kaoru was afraid now that if she went back to bed, Kenshin would have more nightmares, keeping both of them up that night. Sleep was what his body needed most right now. It seemed that the only way for him to get that was if she stayed with him to ward off the nightmares. She decided what she'd do.

"Kenshin, I'm going to my room quickly to get something. I'll be right back, OK?" she asked, still holding his left hand.

Kenshin nodded. "Hurry back," he pleaded.

Kaoru left his room and flew back to hers. On her way to her room, she ran into Yahiko who had also been roused by Kenshin's screams.

"What are you doing out of bed?" she asked him in a whisper.

"Wuddya think Busu? I heard Kenshin screaming. He was having a nightmare, huh?" said Yahiko, guessing at what it was. He wondered if Kenshin had told Kaoru yet. He wanted to tell her, but had been sternly warned by Megumi and Sano to say nothing.

"Yes he was, but he's awake now. You need to go back to bed and let me worry about Kenshin," said Kaoru, gripping the boy's shoulders and nudging him back to his own room.

"Yeah whatever, Busu," said Yahiko as he limped back to his room.

'That kid,' thought Kaoru as she headed quickly to her room before Kenshin got upset again.

She quickly rolled up her futon and carried it back into Kenshin's room. After sliding the shouji shut, she unrolled her futon next to his. Kenshin's eyes widened.

"Kaoru-dono, what are you..." he asked.

"I'm going to stay with you tonight. I don't think you'll have any nightmares if I'm here with you," said Kaoru.

"Kaoru-dono, this isn't proper..." Kenshin began. Kaoru put her finger to his lips.

"I am going to do it. I'm 17 years old and just stubborn as you are," she said. "Besides I don't really like sleeping alone either," she added softly.

"Kaoru-dono?" asked Kenshin, his eyes widening as Kaoru slipped into her futon and took his left hand in hers again.

"Kenshin, please don't call me -dono anymore," said Kaoru. "We've known each other for almost a year now. You've done so much for me. Please, just call me Kaoru. Please."

"I will try to if that's what Kaoru-d, Kaoru wants," said Kenshin, his eyelids growing heavy again.

"Thank you," said Kaoru leaning over to kiss him on the forehead. "Sleep now. I'll be here in the morning."

"Good night, Kaoru," said Kenshin, yawning.

Kaoru laid there for a long while after Kenshin dropped off, watching his chest rise and fall as he slept. 'What happened to you?' she wondered again. 'I hope someday you'll be able to tell me.'

Finally, sleep claimed her too.