Two Minds are two to many
Kaoru could feel the storm coming. Which, she thought, was strange since the clear blue sky with nary a hint of cloud was obviously not going to stir up anything soon. Still, her body felt the tension that she always associated with really bad weather and it was making her jumpy.
And Kenshin wasn’t helping.
For the last few weeks he had seemed poised to take action. What that action was Kaoru couldn’t tell but the suspicion that her redheaded boarder might decide to leave, once again taking up the life of a wanderer, gnawed at her mind.
She wasn’t sure what she would do if that were the case.
He had already left once. If she hadn’t followed after him to Kyoto she was sure that he would never have come back. If he left again......
If he left again she would drop kick him into the river and after she dragged his sorry ass out of the water she would chain him up in the dojo until he came to his senses.
Kaoru smiled at the image. The anger it vented made her feel better for a few moments before the tension returned threefold.
Something is coming, she thought. I don’t know what or when but it will be soon and it will be bad.
“Kaoru dono the bath is ready.”
Kaoru gave a small squeal and jumped about three feet towards heaven when the subject of her reflections came up behind her. Hands shaking slightly she turned to look into a pair of concerned violet eyes. “A-arigatou Kenshin.” She said as she moved past him towards the bathhouse. She could feel his worried gaze on her all the way there, in fact she thought she could feel it even after she closed door. Blushing slightly at the thought she started to prepare for her bath, all the while throwing nervous glances towards the bathhouse’s entrance.
Kenshin, still standing where Kaoru had left him, was trying to figure out why she had seemed so nervous when he came up behind her. True he did walk very softly so he may have just startled her. He hoped that was all it was since he really didn’t want to scare her, especially now.
Recently he had had a very surprising visit with himself. While he had always known that his nature was somewhat divided he had still been shocked when his other self, the one even he tended to think of as Battousai, had confronted him during a dream. The two of them had come to terms, both finding common ground in their regard for a certain dark haired, blue eyed kendo teacher.
Kenshin’s face took on a happy, almost goofy look for a moment when he thought of her. He quickly shook it off. He knew he could never let Kaoru know of his love for her. She deserved so much more than a former assassin who would never be free of the blood he’d shed. He couldn’t stain her that way.
Kenshin sighed. Sometimes he felt that it really would be better if he left her. He knew his presence in her home placed her and his friends in constant danger. Common sense said they would be safer if he left. Of course, if he had listened to common sense he would never have stayed with Kaoru in the first place.
Actually he suspected that leaving would no longer keep her safe. Even if he didn’t stay old enemies would still try to use her and his friends against him. His connection to them was too well known.
So he would stay and protect her. Or perhaps, he thought, that should be WE will protect her.
Which brought him back to the problem that had been plaguing him for the last few weeks. If he could not tell Kaoru of his love for her then the least he could do was give her some peace of mind by letting her know both sides of him. He knew that every time Battousai had taken over to fight for him she had been terrified that the Kenshin she knew would be lost forever.
To be truthful he had feared the same thing during his fights against Jinei and Saitou. The duel with Saitou had actually been the worst as it had been very difficult to take control again. Even then the balance between his two natures had shifted towards the hitokiri. For awhile it became far too easy to solve a conflict with a sword rather than seek a peaceful solution.
Kenshin now knew that control wasn‘t an issue. While Battousai would always fight to protect his new found family he seemed to realize that his other personality, the rurouni, was the one that could make them happy. The hitokiri would no longer contest his gentler side’s return.
So he’d thought to bring Kaoru and Battousai together. Then she could know that his other personas regard for her was just as strong as the rurouni‘s was. He wanted her to know that regardless of who he was at any given time he would always protect her. That no matter what happened he would always come back to her. That in this thing at least she no longer needed to fear for him.
To that end he had spent the time since he had spoken with Battousai trying to think of some way to bring his other self and Kaoru together. He’d hoped to work out a calm and peaceful situation where they could at least speak to each other. The only problem with that was that the hitokiri usually only showed up when the rurouni was either in dire straights or angered beyond all reason. True, Kenshin could probably force the issue if he had to but he suspected that doing so would make the meeting a disaster. Mixed with the fact that Battousai wouldn’t like being pushed Kenshin knew his other self was reluctant to face Kaoru. The hitokiri cared for her too much to want to do anything to scare or hurt her and he feared that his presence would do both.
Kenshin shook his head and headed off to make dinner. To think that he would actually want Battousai to come out. It was almost funny. That he would work towards something he had spent the last ten years working against seemed like pure insanity. He had to wonder just how hard his other self was laughing about the whole thing.
Battousai watched the world from behind the rurouni’s eyes as always. Actually he was never as far away from the surface of Kenshin’s mind as the swordsman liked to believe. Although he had to admit that in the early days of the affair with Shishio he had been a lot closer. Two things had backed him off. The first being Kaoru. He had been angry when she followed them to Kyoto. Angry but not really surprised and as he told her somewhat relieved. So he’d made sure to hid a little deeper and thereby avoid spilling any of the anger out onto her. The second thing had been the succession technique. To use it you had to have a strong will to live and while it turned out that the rurouni had that will Battousai knew as hitokiri he was far too willing to throw his life away. That will to live as well as the extra power Kenshin received through the two new techniques he’d learned from Hiko had given him the fighting edge he needed without calling on the manslayer’s abilities. For a brief while Battousai thought he might never get the chance to resurface again.
The current situation, he had to admit, was almost funny. He had fought to be free so many times in the past but except during a few extreme crises had been effectively caged. Now he was actually being invited to take control for a while and he was doing everything in his power to avoid it. As hitokiri he had seen a lot of faces contort into fear at his mere presence. He had, in fact, put his ability to strike terror into the hearts of the men he had fought to good use. However, the same look on Kaoru’s face seemed to slip a blade between his ribs and twist it.
Still he knew he couldn’t avoid the rurouni’s plans forever. The law that says anything that can go wrong will go wrong was firmly entrenched in his life and he knew that if he waited too much longer something would force the issue. It would probably make things ten times worse than if he just did it the way that his other self wanted.
Damn, but the rurouni must be laughing himself silly over this.
Kaoru finished getting dressed after her bath and headed to the kitchen to help Kenshin with dinner. Luckily for the dinner everything was just about ready so Kaoru moved to set the table instead.
Kenshin looked up from the pot he was giving a last stir to. “It will just be the two of us Kaoru dono.”
“Oh” she said looking at the four place settings she held in her hands. It was rare for the two of them to eat alone. While it wasn’t unusual for Yahiko her student/younger brother she never had and still wasn’t sure she really wanted to miss a meal his absence was usually filled either by a freeloading Sagara Sanosuke or Dr. Genzai and his granddaughters.
Actually, she thought, this is good. Dinner together was the perfect opportunity to find out what had been bothering Kenshin for the last few weeks. She went off to set the table, plans for the upcoming interrogation whirling about in her mind.
As Kenshin dished the food out into its different serving bowls he was thinking how tonight would have been a good time to formally introduce Battousai to Kaoru. With just the two of them here they could have had dinner together and with luck perhaps had time to talk awhile after. He’d left the door open for his other self but the invitation had yet to be accepted.
Kenshin looked up as Kaoru came back into the kitchen from setting the table. The red haired samurai was suddenly struck with the uncomfortable feeling that the young woman was plotting something. He felt sweat spring to life on his face. Kaoru plotting was a dangerous thing indeed. Personally he thought that it was even more frightening then most of the old enemies he still found himself coming up against.
Kaoru came back into the kitchen to help Kenshin carry some of the serving bowls that the rurouni was still fussing with. When he looked up at her as she entered her worries about him jumped like a frightened heartbeat. He was planning something. Her mind quickly moved to the conclusion that he was going to use this dinner with just the two of them to tell her that he was leaving.
No, she thought, I won’t let him. She didn’t care what she had to do she would not let him leave again. Heart hammering in her ears she picked up the bowls and took them to the table, buying herself some time to figure out what to do.
Battousai watched the signals between the rurouni and Kaoru like a spectator at a train wreck. He felt an immense panic run through his body, although he suspected that the emotion mostly belonged to his other self. Still, Kaoru plotting was just about one of the most terrifying things he could think of, short of her getting hurt. He didn’t know what she was planning but he felt sure it was trouble. Warily he eyed the door between his two personalities. It was still open, the invitation still extended. Not sure if he was about to make things even worse he stepped tentatively through the door, ready and willing to retreat should the rurouni decide to change his mind and shut him out.
The rurouni was startled to feel Battousai accept the invitation he had extended to him. He considered stopping the hitokiri from taking control but the thought was momentary and not really a consideration. He had been working for this for weeks and despite the current situation and a few misgivings he wasn’t about to change his mind now.
With Battousai’s coming Kenshin felt something shift, and it was more than just his eye colour. The way he looked at the world changed, becoming terribly practical. It was a place where things were viewed in terms of black and white, safe and dangerous, protect and kill. A place where if you had to move from A to B then you did, destroying anything that got in your way. This practicality mixed with the hitokiri’s carefully banked anger gave him the coldness of a predator and an ability to look at just about everything with an impartial eye.
Kaoru, however, was not one of the things he could look at that way.
He really had tried to ignore her at first, much the way he had attempted to ignore Tomoe when they first met. When that didn’t work he denied his interest in her, claiming that the fascination with her was all the rurouni’s.
It didn’t work.
Eventually he had to admit to that he was lying to himself. He loved her and didn’t want to. He was afraid that, like Tomoe, caring for her would get her killed. In fact it very nearly had a number of times. Still he had to agree with the rurouni’s belief that Kaoru was a strong woman. He had rather guiltily suspected that Tomoe wouldn’t have survived half the things that she had. The girl was strong yet innocent and that innocence drew the rurouni just as her fighting spirit drew Battousai. All of him wanted her.
Kaoru came back into the kitchen to get the rice. “I guess that’s everything. Shall we eat?” She asked.
Kenshin simply stood there, his eyes hidden by the unruly thatch of hair that made up his bangs.
“Kenshin?” She asked, panic nearly choking his name off in her throat. Noooo, she thought, no no no no no. He won’t even give me a chance at dinner to change his mind. He’s just going to leave now.
“Kaoru? Is it all right if.... I... have dinner with you?”
Kaoru’s eyes opened to the size of saucers. He called me Kaoru, she thought. He called me Kaoru with out the honour.... ore? He said ore not sessha.
“Kenshin?” She asked carefully, as if the very air around her might break if she did not.
He shook the hair out of his face so she could see what she already feared. Instead of Kenshin’s warm and innocent violet she stared into the glowing hard amber of Battousai’s eyes.
She realized that she had underestimated how bad whatever was coming would be. This wasn’t just very bad it was the worst thing that could possible happen.
Battousai looked into Kaoru’s stricken face and started to curse inside. It wasn’t going to work. All he was doing was terrifying her.
“Kenshin?” Kaoru asked again, looking torn between panic and being ill.
“Hai.” Battousai said nodding. Whether he was the rurouni or Battousai he was still Kenshin, they were just different sides of the same man. “I would like to have dinner with you and talk. If you can’t handle that then I will leave.” Internally Battousai and the rurouni both cringed at his rudeness. Battousai started running through every curse he knew, mostly aimed at himself (a few were for the rurouni). He just wasn’t any good at this.
Kaoru felt her temperature rise with the Battousai’s words. Can’t handle it, she’d show him can’t handle it. Steam practically coming out of her eye sockets she turned to head to the eating area. “Fine then, let’s eat.”
Battousai let a small smile grace his lips while Kaoru’s back was to him. He much preferred her this way. He found her anger to be incredibly attractive. Where the rurouni would have blushed at such a thought the hitokiri just smiled a little wider before returning his face to it’s usual cold look. He followed after the girl, actually starting to look forward to his dinner with her.
Despite her show of bravado Kaoru’s insides were shaking. Her earlier worries seemed childish and simple compared to the one that now ate at her heart.
HE was here.
Yes, even though she had asked she knew that he was still Kenshin. Somewhere inside her she had always known that Battousai was as much a part of the man she loved as the rurouni was. What terrified her was that the part she knew, the part that was dear to her, would be overpowered and destroyed by this colder, darker self.
She sat down quickly at the table and started to dish rice into both of their bowls. Her movements were swift; more to cover up the slight trembling in her limbs than for any need for speed.
Battousai sat down across from her and she steeled herself to look up at him.
His eyes were cold, but wary. It was almost as if he were sizing her up as an opponent. Kaoru felt her palms start to sweat as she pondered that thought. She quickly dismissed it. Despite all the times she had pummelled him in the past she knew she couldn’t stand against him in a real fight.
And if she knew that than so did Kenshin. No, that wary look had to be about something else.
Battousai was reading her as he would an opponent. Only he had no intention of fighting. Actually he was just now realizing how stupid both of him had been. He, or rather the rurouni should have sat down and talked this over with Kaoru instead of just springing it on her like this.
Ruminating over their mistakes he picked up his chopsticks and started eating. Kaoru followed his actions and for the next few minutes the only sound was that of food being picked up, placed in mouths and chewed.
It didn’t take long for this to wear on Kaoru’s nerves. She put her rice down, barely touched, as her tightening throat was in danger of choking on the grain.
“You said you wanted to talk with me,” Kaoru said.
Kaoru waited for him to elaborate on that single syllable but Kenshin continued to eat, ignoring the woman across from him.
Really, if she had thought about it Kaoru would not have reacted the way she did. While she could have gotten away with yelling “Kenshin no baka” and throwing the rice bucket at the rurouni it was something of a bad idea to do it to Battousai.