Swords and Logs are good thinking tools.
It took a few moments after the merriment subsided before Kaoru realized that she still didn’t really know why Battousai was here. “Anou, you said this was the rurouni‘s idea?”
“Hai,” was all he said.
She gave him ten seconds.
“Mou Kenshin if you don’t start explaining this right now I’ll throw another bucket at you,” she threatened. Picking up the pail of water she’d used to clean the floor Kaoru prepared to heave it at the hitokiri. The look in his eyes froze her place. It wasn’t that it frightened her, because it didn’t. Kenshin wasn’t giving her the look, the one she’d seen when he battled against Jinei and Saitou. Instead he was gazing at her in something close to wonder, his amber eyes glowing with emotions she was suddenly to timid to name.
“The rurouni told me...”
“You can talk to him?” She squeaked, putting down the bucket with a thud and a splash. Kaoru knew that this meeting had somehow been the rurouni’s idea, however, while Battousai and he seemed very different from one another she never thought they were so separated as to be able to talk to each other.
“Only once,” he told her, “we were able to meet in a dream.”
She nodded, relieved. Dreams were where anything was possible and conversations with yourself were almost the norm. “And he wanted you to talk to me?”
He gave her one sharp nod. “When we met we... came to an agreement. He consented to accept my help when it was needed and I promised to return control back to him when the danger was past.”
Another layer of the tension that Kaoru had been building up over the last few days fell away with that statement. Kenshin, the Kenshin she knew, would no longer be at risk of disappearing. A moment later Kaoru frowned at the manslayer. While all of this was good news Battousai still shouldn‘t have been here as there wasn’t any danger, was there? “That doesn’t exactly explain why you’re here, now,” she said to him.
Battousai gave her another single nod in agreement. “The rurouni told me that you believe my being here will destroy him or rather that part of him that you know.”
“Will it?” She asked him, the relief of a moment ago forgotten as panic once again clutched at her stomach.
“No,” he quickly assured her “or at least,” he said, almost to himself, “not any longer.” Battousai shook his head free of old thoughts and continued with what he was saying. “He wanted me to tell you about this because he doesn’t want to hide himself from you anymore. He... we feel that you have the right to know all of him and that includes me.”
Kaoru was suddenly caught between the relief that the Kenshin she knew and loved was all right and a warmth that started in her heart and extended through her entire body.
He wanted her to know him.
All the times she worried if Kenshin could ever love her were brushed away like so much lint. True, this wasn’t a declaration of undying adoration but more one of everlasting trust and respect. While the first would have sent her spiralling into ecstasy the second was something she could hold on to. It was more real and somehow more fulfilling. As long as she was willing to be patient then everything else would come in time.
And if it took too long she could always throw another bucket at him.
Battousai took his leave after that, promising as he went that everything would be back to normal in the morning. He headed to his room, feeling a slight dent in his ego at Kaoru’s look of relief when he’d told her that. He snorted at the thought, annoyed with himself over his annoyance and entered his room. He looked at the bedding waiting to be laid out to sleep upon and gave another snort. He ignored the futon and instead sat down against a wall with his sword leaning against his right shoulder. He’d never really gotten comfortable with sleeping lying down. Even the rurouni often gave into old instincts and slept in the sitting up position that he had used during the bakumatsu.
He sat there, waiting for the shift in his awareness that would signal the return of the rurouni’s personality. Several minutes later, when nothing had happened, he started rummaging around in his mind looking for his elusive other half.
Fine. If the wanderer refused to come back then he would go to him. More irritated then angry he forced his mind to still, willing himself into a deep sleep.
Battousai could see the rurouni sitting on a log by the river. The hitokiri stalked up behind him, thoughts of strangling the other swordsman dancing through his mind. The wanderer turned and smiled up at him before he could get close enough to seriously consider following through with the thought.
Battousai opened his mouth to voice a few of the well-chosen names he’d come up with this evening to call the rurouni. They stuck in his throat when he realized that the man’s smile did not match his eyes.
Those lavender orbs were watching him warily, as if he were looking at something he’d once known that had suddenly mutate into something new and strange. Or perhaps it was more as if he’d suddenly realized he had never really know that thing at all.
It wasn’t, Battousai thought, the first time he had seen the rurouni look at him like that. The same expression had been plain on the man’s face at the end of their last dream meeting. The hitokiri cocked an eyebrow at his other half and waited for him to speak. The rurouni gave him another smile, this one actually reaching his eyes, before he turned back to look at the river.
“Do you remember this place?” The wanderer asked him.
Battousai looked out at the rushing water and growled at the memory. “Aa, I stood here once, briefly. It was just after Jinei took Kaoru.” He looked back down at the rurouni who was nodding his head.
“I really did want to kill him for that.”
Battousai stared at the rurouni in shock. He never thought he’d hear the man admit to such a feeling. Hell, he hadn’t thought the man capable of it. He was all guilt and peace and love and atonement. He was supposed to have locked all of his more violent emotions away with the name Hitokiri Battousai.
The rurouni smiled a little sadly at the manslayer’s expression. “I am still human,” he told him. “And I am just realizing that we are more than violence and repentance. While each of those are our defining characteristic they are not only what we are.”
Battousai sat down beside Kenshin on the log and said “took you long enough to figure that out.”
The rurouni looked at him in surprise. “How long have you know?”
“Oh a good twenty, twenty five minutes.”
With a ‘you gotta be kidding me’ oro the rurouni fell over backwards. Battousai leaned over him. “I’m the fighter not the deep thinker. You’re the one whose is supposed to figure these things out first.” He held out his hand to the wanderer who gave him a little glare before grabbing hold of it and letting the other swordsman to pull him back up to a sitting position.
“So is that revelation why we’re here?” Battousai asked.
The other nodded. “I needed to think and this place is where I like to do that.” The rurouni looked around a little at his surroundings. “Although I usually do not come here during my dreams.”
“You can visit it in the real world tomorrow.”
“No. I believe I will stay here tomorrow.”
Battousai looked at the rurouni with confusion lightly etched on his face. Sudden horror twisted his features as he realized just what the other man meant.
“You are not staying here,” Battousai told him through gritted teeth. “You have to go back and look after Kaoru and keep her safe. You can’t stay here and hide.”
“I would like to think of it as a holiday.” The rurouni turned and looked pointedly at the other swordsman. “Besides, I am not the one who wants to hide.”
The hitokiri stood suddenly, his left hand clenched in anger as the right moved towards the hilt of his sword. “No man calls me coward.”
“Not even when that man is also you? Not even when that man is right?” The rurouni asked him, smiling.
For a smile it was perhaps the most frightening expression that Battousai had ever seen on either of their faces.
His counter expression came close though.
The hitokiri drew his blade and levelled it at the wanderer’s head. “I am afraid of nothing and...”
The rurouni cut him off in mid sentence. “Not even afraid of hurting Kaoru?”
Battousai’s shoulders slumped suddenly and the tip of his blade wavered then fell from its position of menace to bury itself safely in the sand at their feet. He closed his amber eyes and said, “We have worried her enough today and I promised her that you would be back.”
“You did not answer the question.”
“Yes, damn it!” Battousai told him in a voice gone cold with anger. “Yes I’m afraid that I could hurt her. I wouldn’t mean to but it would happen all the same.”
“And that is why you have to go back,” the rurouni told him.
“Are you insane? Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said?” Battousai was seriously wondering if being locked away in his mind for a few hours had driven the rurouni mad.
“Yes I have. You once told me that you would die before you ever hurt Kaoru and I believe that. And I need you to believe it too. That is why I would like it if you would spend another day with her.” The rurouni held his hands up to ward off the hitokiri’s next argument. “Just one day, so she can get use to the idea of you protecting her should the need arise.”
Battousai could taste his own defeat and he hated it. He would do as his other half asked but he wouldn’t say yes without adding a parting shot or two.
“Very well I will spend the day with her, but I will not do housework.” He looked at the rurouni who already appeared disturbed by the thought. “That means no cooking, no cleaning and NO LAUNDRY.” Battousai felt some small measure of revenge when he saw a giant sweat drop appear on the rurouni’s head and heard a small, almost whispered oro escaped from his lips.
“Anou, if you do not cook then Kaoru will.”
That stopped Battousai cold for a moment but he refused to back down from his earlier statement. “So be it,” was all he had to say.
Battousai left him to his river bank shortly after that. The rurouni sat there, trying to think while his mind worried itself in circles.
He really hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.
Originally when he planned to bring Battousai and Kaoru together he had expected to take over again after a very short while. He figured they would have to meet several times before they would be comfortable enough to really talk to each other.
And then Battousai went and laughed.
He never laughed and once again the rurouni realized that he really didn’t know himself very well at all. The killer was supposed to be cold and unfeeling but instead he loved the same woman his peaceful half loved and was able to laugh with more honesty than the rurouni did.
And although he didn’t say anything about it that laugh had startled Battousai just as much as it had surprised the wanderer.
He couldn‘t take control back right now. He was afraid that if he did then the hitokiri would refuse to come out again for anything short of a cataclysm. He didn’t want Battousai to go back to being just his dark shadow.
And if anyone could stop that from happening it would be Kaoru.