I do the laundry.

I do the dishes.

I ready the baths, prepare the meals, buy the tofu and the other heavy items that Kaoru can't (or won't) lift, and beat down the bad guys.

Always with a smile on my face.

Kaoru and Yahiko and Sanosuke and Megumi and everyone else I've ever run into in this life will remember me for my smile first, my skill with a sword second. They think I smile because I'm happy, and I am...most of the time. But the other times I am so discontent that I struggle for my sanity.

They think they know me, but they have no idea.

I smile to keep myself from thinking. Thinking brings back memories, gets you in trouble. So I try not to do it. I try to run from my demons, but not matter where I hide, no matter how fast I run, they always catch up to me.

I can never stop smiling. The dojo is a busy place; Sano comes and goes as he pleases, and Kaoru is constantly chasing Yahiko around the yard, shinai held over her head and her eyes gleaming with anger and malice. I can't stop smiling, even for a moment. My friends worry about me constantly, and if they see me looking despondent or worried, I'll be bombarded with more questions than I feel like answering. It seems the only time I can let my guard down is when I am asleep, but even then I am allowed no respite. With the coming of night follows the dreams, and the memories...

They are more like nightmares than harmless dreams.

On more than one occassion I have awoken to find myself drenched in sweat, my hands covered in cold, sticky blood. I try to shake it off, but it does no good. The more I shake my hands the more sticky and viscous it becomes, and I can only watch in horror as it creeps up my arms, covering my body, smothering me. Before it can cover my mouth and nose I realize that I am dreaming, and then I truly wake up.

I can never return to sleep after a dream like that.

I have also awoken Kaoru with my nighttime visions. More than once I have awoken in her arms, trembling like a leaf in a gale, cowering in her embrace like a frightened little boy. I can never bring myself to look into her face, but I know what her eyes are saying: she is worried and frightened, and with good reason. She never asks if she should leave, and I never ask her to. We never speak in these situations, because I think Kaoru knows that to leave me now would be disastrous. I have come to crave her gentle touch, so much so that I am ashamed by it.

Kaoru and I never speak of these nocturnal events, but I am sure that Yahiko knows. How could he not know, when Kaoru makes sure that I sleep in on those days after my night terrors have awoken me from a fitful slumber? These dreams leave me exhausted, both mentally and physically, and they are they only times I indulge myself and sleep in. I don't know if Sanosuke has figured it out; if he hasn't yet, he will soon. His mind is as sharp as a whip, and if he knows what's going on he was either threatened by Kaoru to not say anything, or he has enough sense to know not to say anything, without Kaoru beating on him with her shinai.

So I go on smiling. Life at the dojo goes on as it always has: (relatively) quiet, routine, with the occassional. hiccupp being the odd, renegade warriors who threaten my life and the kife of my friends. I will always be smiling, for I can never stop. My friends can never and will never know the pain that I have gone through, the pain I am currently going through, and the pain I have yet to endure. All they know is that I will be smiling while doing it.

You don't know,

You don't know my mind--

When you see me laughing,

I'm laughing to keep from crying...