Laughter is good for the soul.
Battousai stayed seated even though his muscles jumped with the reflexive need to deal with the attack. He reached out and caught the bucket with ease; in fact he didn’t even have to look at it. Instead his eyes never left Kaoru’s face. On anyone else it would have been amusing to watch anger turn to horror as they realised just whom they had attacked. On her it was just painful.
“G-Gomen nasai,” she said, voice trembling and eyes downcast.
Battousai just looked at Kaoru, who was keeping her eyes firmly on her clenched hands so she wouldn’t have to look back. Suddenly he found new respect for the rurouni. He’d always thought that his gentler self was useless around women but now that he was actually trying to deal with one again he realized that compared to him the rurouni was smooth. Mentally he picked out a nice wall in his mind and started to bash his head against it.
This wasn’t going to work. If he stayed he would just end up destroying the trust she had in his other self. He stood up quickly and looked down at Kaoru who had become so still when he moved that he wasn’t sure she was even breathing.
“Goodbye Kaoru.” He turned to leave, intending to go to his room and bully the rurouni into taking control again, when he heard the crash of dinner plates behind him. He twisted back to see Kaoru standing there, breathing hard and looking even more terrified than she’d been after throwing the rice at him. The table lay on its side, the dishes and food from supper splattered across the floor. Apparently she had gotten up so fast that she’d turned the table over.
Kami no he WAS going to leave. She’d messed up everything.
“Kenshin,” the words ‘please don’t leave me’ froze in her throat. It was going to be just like before, just like the time he’d left to go to Kyoto, just like.........
The hell it was.
“Baka, where do you think you’re going?” She practically yelled at him.
Battousai looked at her with something akin to shock. He blinked his amber eyes a few times then said “to bed,” the two words sounding more like a question than a statement.
Kaoru could have fallen over in relief. He wasn’t going to leave her; he was just going to leave the room. She cast around for something to explain her outburst. She didn’t have far to look.
“Anou, could you help me clean up before you go?” She cringed right after she said it. Battousai doing housework, yah right. She didn’t care, even if he laughed or sneered at her at least he wasn’t leaving.
She wasn’t sure who was more surprised, him or her, when he gave a sharp nod and started to pick up the shattered remains of dinner.
He couldn’t believe that he was doing housework. He hated housework. He had never seen what the rurouni had found so interesting about cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry, especially the laundry.
But he had been so surprised, stunned even, at those two times when Kaoru reacted to him as she would to the rurouni that he had started to pick up the shattered china without even thinking about it. One of the things both sides of him had in common was that they liked strong willed women. Kaoru certainly was one but she usually only acted it when Kenshin was the rurouni. True, Battousai would never let himself be hit the way the wanderer did but that didn’t mean he didn’t enjoy it when she tried.
He shook his head slightly, he could have sworn he had just heard a voice give out a little shocked ‘oro’. He ignored it and continued to pile up the broken debris.
Battousai looked up when Kaoru placed an empty bucket in front of him. He nodded his thanks and started to dump the plate shards into the container while Kaoru started to wash down the floor with the pail of water and rags she had gotten at the same time as the empty bucket.
As they worked to clean up the mess Kaoru kept throwing glances at the manslayer. Kenshin threw the last bit of crockery into the bucket and looked at her with a questioning gaze.
“You have something you want to ask me?” He said quietly.
She averted her eyes for a moment then seemed to gather herself before she looked back at him and nodded.
“Kenshin,” she began, sounding if she were trying to tread carefully with words, “why are you here, like this?”
Not entirely surprised by the question Battousai felt a smile pulling at his lips. Kaoru, however, was staring at him in shock. A smiling hitokiri was apparently something she wasn’t expecting.
“Actually,” he told her, “this was the rurouni’s idea.”
Kaoru lost her balance. One moment she was on her knees in front of Kenshin the next she was face down on the floor. Strangely even in her shock her mind decided to notice a spot she had missed while cleaning. She wondered how long she might have stayed there staring at that glob of food if it hadn’t been for the laughter.
She sat back up on her knees and took in the most amazing sight. Battousai was laughing. His eyes were crinkled up in glee and Kaoru felt she should be insulted that his amusement was at her expense but it was such a surprise to find out that the hitokiri had a sense of humour that she couldn’t muster any indignation up over it.
In fact she felt her lips start to stretch out into a smile and before she knew it she was laughing along with Battousai. Their laughter lasted several minutes and Kaoru felt better for the release it provided. The horrible tension she had felt for so long had been, if not broken, then at least diminished.
Battousai was rather surprised to be laughing. He’d never really thought of himself as having a sense of humour. He was someone who did what he needed to do to get the job done and laughter had never been a part of that. In fact any emotion, other than the berserker like rage that he used to kill, would have gotten in the way. It was another reason to love the woman laughing with him; she could prove to him that he was still human.
Tomoe had shown him that he could be more than a killer but somehow over the years he had forgotten that. Kenshin’s struggle to remain the rurouni had branded his war like half a demon and Battousai had almost come to believe it himself.
In her presence he now knew that it wasn’t true. It wasn’t just the two of them laughing together that let him know that. Rather it was the pain in his heart when he thought of never doing it again.
No, that would not happen.
He would give control back to his gentler side. He was better equipped to live in this world than he was. However, he would watch and protect and even if she didn’t know about it he would laugh.
And along with the rurouni he would love.
They would never tell her of that love, in this he was in complete agreement with his gentler side. He knew she had some feelings for the rurouni but despite this little meeting with her she would never really be comfortable with the hitokiri.
And the truth was you couldn’t have one without the other.