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Warrior's Spirit
Part 8
Lovers



Megumi sighed and rubbed the back of her neck gingerly. She stood up from where she'd been kneeling beside Yahiko's futon in the dojo. It had taken her practically two hours to examine him and treat his injuries - none of which she was exactly happy about. She looked down at the young man. He was still asleep. In fact, he really hadn't woken up since Sanosuke dropped him on the futon after the fight. He'd passed out there, and he'd stayed fairly incoherent through the entire procedure. But, Megumi was sure he would wake up soon enough - his injuries weren't life-threatening and he did need the rest.

She quietly walked out into the hall of the dojo and into the main room. Those waiting for her to come instantly stood up, hopeful but worried looks on their faces. Megumi stopped in the door and stared at them all.

Kaoru managed to speak first. "Is he alright, Megumi?"

"No." Megumi stated curtly. There was a small gasp throughout the room. "But he'll live. It's not like he suffered a lot of wounds from that battle. He's sleeping right now. It's best he wake up on his own."

"How's his ankle?" Kenshin asked.

"Broken." Megum sat down and poured herself a cup of tea wearily. "I was hoping that if he stayed off of it, it would heal within a few days and he could go back to his normal activities. But it definitely broke during that fight this morning. Thankfully it was a clean break, so the bones should heal fine. I've wrapped it tightly. He isn't allowed to practice or walk on it for a few days, though."

Kaoru nodded and sat down. "I understand. I'll keep him in his room."

"I'm glad he's okay." Tsubame said quietly.

"He's a brave guy." Sanosuke grinned. "But then again, he was always a little stubborn..."

"Some people," Megumi eyed her husband sharply, "naturally are."

"Yea, well... being brave is just part of a man's job." Sano replied arrogantly.

"So is being stubborn." Megumi snapped. "Which you ARE."

"I think you all would have been so proud of him this morning..." Tusbame eyes rose to meet Kaoru's. "He fought so bravely. And he never once thought about his ankle."

"I knew he'd come through!" Kaoru waved her hand. "It only proves what a wonderful sensei I was! My training techniques are perfect!"

"Oh no, Kaoru-Dono!" Tsubame blushed. "It wasn't Kamiya Kasshin that defeated Gasuke. Yahiko DID use Kamiya Kasshin, but in the end it was a Hiten Mitsurugi attack that enabled him to win..."

Kaoru's look of pride turned to flustration. She twisted around to glare at her husband, who tried to wipe the look of his pride off his own face with a usual "Oro?!"

"Kenshin!" Kaoru fumed.

"I didn't teach him Hiten Mitsurugi, that I didn't!" Kenshin protested. "He learned it all on his own, that he DID!" Kenji giggled.

"In any case, it's a good thing he's alright." Misao beamed. "Who cares what style he used?"

"Tsubame?" Megumi knelt down beside the girl. "Are you alright? I think I should give you an examination as well."

"I'm fine, really." Tsubame assured her. "I was just scared. They didn't hurt me or anything..."

"Just the same, if you start feeling bad, drop by the clinic." Megumi instructed. "I'm glad Tae gave you the rest of the week off to rest and recooperate. I would have advised it if she hadn't." Tsubame nodded. Her employeer had been so happy that she'd made it through the situation, that she'd given her more time off.

There was a sudden knock on the door from the outside, and everyone glanced up. Aoshi slid the door open, and Saitoh stepped in. The relieved mood of the group dropped into slight irritation - particularly from Kenshin and Sanosuke's sides.

Kaoru however, quickly stood up and bowed politely to her new guest. "Arigrato, Saitoh-San. For helping us."

"It's just my job." he stated coolly. "That's what police generally do."

"I see you got a cigarette." Kenshin frowned in disgust as the smoke puffed lightly from the end of the cigarette and outside the door. He was thankful Aoshi hadn't shut it back.

"It's about time." Saitoh muttered. "However, I feel a little better having it."

"Why did you drop by anyway?" Sano asked, annoyance hinting in his voice.

"Just to update you all. I figured you'd want a follow up on the case." Saitoh rolled his eyes. "Turns out one of the men we have in jail happens to be the girl's old boss. He confessed the entire plot to us. Said they only captured her to lure in Yahiko, so Gasuke could kill the boy. Gasuke's currently in jail, but I wouldn't be too surprised if he's dead by tomorrow morning, if I were you."

"This is the Mejii, Saitoh." Kenshin stood up, his frown deepening. "I can't believe you still pull off assasinations. Who wants Gasuke dead? Or are you at liberty to say?"

"No one." Saitoh shrugged. "But I'd personally prefer him out of the way. One less moron on the streets to deal with. If I let him back out, he'll just do the same things over again."

"And he knows your real name." Kenshin said darkly.

"Another excellent point." Saitoh replied, his golden eyes flickering. "I shouldn't have ever told him, but at the time I was running off little sleep and a lot of irritation this morning."

"And no cigarette." Sano glared.

"That's really all beside the point though." Saitoh ignored Sanosuke. "I don't think I'll need a testamony from either party involved, since I was there. As long as they didn't rape the girl."

"No..." Tsubame blushed. "They didn't!"

"Good." Saitoh shrugged without care. "In that case I'll be leaving." He turned and walked back into the yard. The gate slammed behind him.

Kaoru arched an eyebrow. "I swear, I will NEVER figure that man out."

"Me either." Misao shook her head. "He's so WIERD."

"He's just Saitoh." Kenshin's eyes softened. "I'll give him credit; he is an excellent spy and an even better swordsman. Though he takes forever to work on a case and I will NEVER call him a true friend."

"Well, I need to get back to the clinic." Megumi stretched. "I'm sure I have patients to see. Kaoru, I'm leaving some pain medication with you in case Yahiko needs it."

Kaoru nodded and took a small vial from Megumi. "Arigrato."

"Guess I'd better go too." Sano sighed. He followed Megumi out. Misao gathered up the tea tray and headed back into the kitchen, with Kenji following her. He seemed to have taken to his aunt in the past day.

Kenshin turned to Aoshi. "How long will you stay with us?" He asked ernestly.

"I don't know. We should head back to the Aoiya tomorrow morning. Okina will be expecting us." Aoshi sighed, his eyes gazing into the yard.

"Well, I'm going to sit with Yahiko." Kaoru disappeared into the hall.

Tsubame watched after her for a moment before settling down to wait. She knew she didn't want to go anywhere until she could speak with Yahiko again. She had something she needed to tell him.

~*~

It was almost midnight. Yahiko was still sleeping, but Kaoru was determined not to worry. Megumi had dropped by late that afternoon and told her not to wake him - that he needed to rest after such a fight.

A single candle lit the room, and Kaoru had even put that in a corner so the light wouldn't bother the young man. She could feel herself starting to doze off every few minutes, and she awoke with a start when the door slid open.

Tsubame stepped in. She had changed her orange kimono and put on a dark blue one. She gazed at Yahiko for a moment before turning to Kaoru. "Go get some sleep, Kaoru..." she whispered. "Let me stay up with him. I'm sure you're tired."

"No, you've had a rough few days. You should get some sleep before I do." Kaoru insisted.

Tsubame smiled. "I'm fine, really. I..." she looked back down at him. "I want to be here, when he wakes up. Please, Kaoru-Dono?"

Kaoru glanced down at Yahiko. His breathing was regular and he seemed fine. "Alright." she smiled back. "I suppose it's best. He probably doesn't want to see my face first thing in the morning." she giggled. "Good night, Tsubame." The door slid shut, and Tsubame waited for a moment before blowing the candle out and kneeling down beside the futon. Somewhere down the hall, she heard Kaoru's bedroom door shut.

An hour passed. Tsubame was still pefectly awake. She was sure Kaoru, Kenshin, Kenji, Aoshi and Misao were all asleep by now. Undoubtly, they were in deep sleep - having spent most of the day taking turns watching Yahiko or walking down to speak with Saitoh. Her eyes drifted to Yahiko, and she allowed her hand to gently brush his long bangs off his forehead.

"Aishiteru..." she whispered, barely audiable. "I promised myself to tell you that." Her hand slid down his arm and touched his hand. "I love you, Yahiko."

She gasped as his fingers suddenly tightened around hers. Tsubame hesitantly let her eyes look back at him. His dark ones met hers.

"Do you mean that?" he whispered, his voice cracking slightly.

She opened her mouth to reply, but her own voice caught. "I... I..."

He sat up, letting the covers slip off his body and fall around his waist. She stared at him. Megumi had taken his gi off to make sure he didn't have any cuts, and no one had bothered to put him back in it. His chest was practically perfect - with smooth, toned muscles due to years of training. She could remember hugging him that morning; they had felt like steel covered in soft skin. She had to admit, she was surprised his skin was so soft, but it was.

"Tsubame, please... do you really love me?"

"Yes." she managed to mumble. Her eyes locked with his. "Yahiko?"

He gently let one hand slip behind her neck, pulling her closer to him. "Aishiteru." he answered softly. His lips gently touched hers nervously, as if he wasn't sure of what he was doing. She felt her body shaking as his hand threaded into her hair, and he kissed her again - this time more deeply.

The moment he parted away from her, she wrapped her arms around his body. "I'm so glad you're alright..." she felt tears building in her eyes. "You've been asleep all afternoon. Megumi-San said you broke your ankle."

"I woke up about thirty minutes ago, but... you were so quiet... I didn't want to bother you." he smiled into her hair, breathing in the soft scent of lavender that seemed to float around her. His hands idly stroked her back, thankful that he could hold her like this.

"Can you forgive me?" he suddenly whispered.

"Forgive you?" She blinked. "Why?"

"For... for not walking you home." He tightened his arms around her. "It was all my fault... I'm so sorry... I never dreamed how much I loved you until you were gone."

"It wasn't your fault!" she traced a finger down his arm. "I promise, it wasn't... It doesn't matter now. I love you... and... if you love me, then it doesn't matter at all."

He nodded quietly, still keeping his arms locked around her. After a moment, he brought his lips to her neck and slowly began kissing her once more. She leaned into his touch, and he brought his mouth back against hers. He never dreamed kissing would feel so wonderful, but somehow it did. She laced her hands around his neck, and he felt his tongue bump hers. It was a new sensation. He eagerly played with her tongue, and she seemed happy to comply.

Then he suddenly stopped, pushing himself from her. "No... this isn't okay..."

"Yahiko?" she stared at him.

"Tsubame, I love you so much." he whispered. "But, if I go any further then what we're doing, I'll be just like Gasuke would have been." He looked away from her, half expecting her to get up and leave. "I'll have taken advantage of you... and I don't want to do that."

He gasped when she curled up next to him, putting her arms around his waist. "You aren't like Gasuke. You never WILL be. It doesn't matter if we go past just kissing each other... Yahiko, I'll always love you. No matter what happens. I won't ever love anyone else."

He leaned his head against her shoulder. "Tsubame... are you sure? About everything...? About us?"

She nodded and kissed him quickly. "Yes..." she blushed.

"I know we're still young..." he gently twisted, leaning over her a little. "But..." his eyes sparkled as he touched her face with his hand. "Tsubame, I want to be with you...forever. Will you... marry me? One day?

She almost giggled at how nervous he sounded, but she knew she was just as nervous as he was. "Yes." she answered - as bravely as possible. "Even if you wanted to marry me tomorrow... I'd say yes." she said hurriedly, blushing in the darkness. "Or a year from now... I'll wait as long as you want. But I want to be with you forever."

"I'd marry you tomorrow if you'd let me." he grinned. "But... Kenshin and Kaoru would probably smack me. And my ankle already hurts - I don't want any more bruises."

Tsubame giggled. "Kaoru will want to plan the wedding."

"Busu." he rolled his eyes. "But... I guess she can help. She's NOT cooking for it, though."

"And you know Sanosuke will just come for the sake." she added, hooking her arms around his neck again.

"If he didn't, it wouldn't be normal. And I'd wonder what was wrong with him." Yahiko started giggling softly with her.

He suddenly stopped however, and pulled her close. "Aishiteru." he whispered. "I can't tell you that enough." He kissed her again, and this time, they both lowered to the futon together, lost in each other for the rest of the night.

~*~

Kaoru woke up early. She felt wonderful - probably because she'd had a night's sleep without any worry. Stretching and smiling, she stood up and got dressed in a light hakama and gi, wanting nothing more then to spend the day comfortably.

Her first task, she decided, would best be to check on Yahiko. She was sure Tsubame had probably fallen asleep during the night. Yawning, she quietly slid the door to her assistant master's room open and peeked in.

Kaoru had to admit, she was NOT ready for what she saw. Her mouth parted slightly, and she quickly shut the door back and turned around, facing into the hall. Yahiko had been sleeping on his side, with Tsubame under the covers with him. Though the blankets covered both of them, Kaoru noticed his arm had been wrapped tightly and protectively around her waist, and the top sheet was slipping off her shoulder just enought to show bare, creamy skin.

Kaoru's face flushed as she debated what to do. She didn't want to embarrass Tsubame, though she was shocked to find the girl wasn't as innocent as she always acted. *Maybe it was just the moment...* Kaoru shook her head. But... glancing slightly over her shoulder, she smiled faintly.

They had looked perfectly content, even sleeping. Yahiko's face had no pain or distress written in it. She couldn't see Tsubame's face, but she was sure the girl was just as happy in Yahiko's arms as he seemed to be in hers. Kaoru sighed, remembering how wonderful it had felt the first time Kenshin had held her like that, and she'd woken up the next morning, secure and safe in his hold. A sappy smile covered her face, and she decided not to wake either. It was their business after all. Yahiko was 18, he was old enough to... Kaoru blushed. Well, she didn't like to think about her own student doing THAT, but...

"Koishi?" Kenshin touched her shoulder. Kaoru jumped.

"Kenshin!"

"You looked like you were dreaming..." he chuckled. "Is everything alright?"

"Hai... fine." She smiled.

"Is Yahiko awake this morning?"

Kaoru's face flushed again. "Um, no... not yet."

Kenshin frowned. "Prehaps we should check on him then. He's been asleep for a day and a night..."

"No!" Kaoru held her arms up, blocking Kenshin's path to Yahiko's bedroom. She bit her lip. "I'm sure he woke up last night... and Tsubame sat up with him. Everything's fine, Kenshin. Maybe you should go make breakfast?"

Kenshin paused. "Well, alright." He flashed a rurouni smile. "I'm sure you're right, Kaoru." he started down the hall. Kaoru breathed a sigh of relief.

But, any relief faded in the next two seconds.

"KAORU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Yahiko's voice shattered any morning happiness or peaceful quiet in the Kamiya dojo. Kaoru literally covered her ears. Kenshin darted back into the hall.

"Kaoru!" His eyes widened. "What the...?"

"What's going on?!" the guest room door slid open, and a half-awake Aoshi stumbled out. Misao was right behind him, a sheet wrapped around her body, and a kunai between two fingers. She looked bleary- eyed as if she were sleep-walking.

"YAHIKO!" Kaoru turned towards his door, but she hesitated on opening it. "Is everything okay?!"

"NO!" he yelled back, pure irrition filling his voice. "GET YOUR SON OUT OF MY ROOM!"

"KENJI!" Kaoru's face brightened into a dark shade of red. "KENJI! GET OUT OF THERE!" Gods, with Tsubame in there... Yahiko had EVERY right to be angry. And Kenji didn't need to see THAT.

"But Mother!" Kenji whined from inside. "I just wanted to wake Yahiko up this morning! It's sunny outside!"

"KENJI! GET OUT!" Yahiko's voice shouted.

Tsubame had dove under the covers, huddling against Yahiko and biting her lip. Kenji seemed completely oblivious to what was going on however - and it took Yahiko actually getting up, grabbing the child by the back of his kimono, and hopping to the door with a sheet wrapped partially around his waist. He opened the door wide enough to shove the boy into Kaoru's arms.

"AND KEEP HIM OUT!"

Kaoru cringed and Kenji snarled back at his brother. "I swear!" Yahiko continued ranting, "when we get married, we're moving into another house!"

"YAHIKO!" Tsubame blushed, peeping out from under the covers. "Didn't we decide NOT to tell everyone just yet?"

Kaoru's eyes widened. "NANI?"

"Married?" Aoshi scowled. "Oh gods." He disappeared back into his room and collasped to the futon, deciding that another hour of sleep was definitely in order.

"NOT YET!" Yahiko yelled. "I meant later!" He was blushing at this point.

A wicked grin fell across Misao's face. "Wait until Sanosuke hears THIS! Yahiko's getting married!"

Yahiko felt his anger building. "MISAO..." he warned.

"I'm going to go into town and tell him RIGHT NOW!" she laughed.

"MISAO!" Tsubame cried from inside the room. "Please don't! We still haven't planned anything out!"

"Misao, we are NOT going into Tokyo today." Aoshi's voice was muffled, probably by the futon. "We are going back to Kyoto. As soon as I get some more sleep!"

"I'm going to make breakfast, that I am..." Kenshin sighed. He took Kenji from his wife. "You can help me, Kenji."

"But I want to play with Yahiko." Kenji pouted. "I don't think Yahiko wants to play with you right now." Kenshin replied. He refrained from saying, 'he'd rather play with Tsubame'.

Yahiko shut the bedroom door again, and Kaoru shot Misao a warning look about the incident. The ninja sighed and disappeared back into the guestroom.

Yahiko sighed and hopped back to the futon, dropping on it and pulling the sheets back around Tsubame and himself. "Gomen nasai..." he blushed. "I didn't mean to embarrass you. Kenji does that almost every morning..."

She giggled and curled back into his chest. "It's alright. I didn't think we'd get away with no one finding out... But at least they understand. Or Kaoru does." she closed her eyes.

"Yea." Yahiko smiled. "Guess you're right..."

"Aishiteru." she whispered.

He nodded and let his body relax. "I love you too."