Author's Note: Okay, so I was reading a poem called 'The Wanderer' and guess who I thought of…Kenshin! This is basically just one of those midnight inspirations of mine that I decided to put down on paper and post. Sometimes they're some of my best work; sometimes they suck. It's up to you, the reader, to decide…

Another reason I'm writing this is because I'm getting to that point we all reach at times – where fanfiction starts to feel more like a chore than a hobby (and that's when my writing really falls flat) – so for the sake of my writing and my sanity, I'm taking a little break from my longer fics to try to rediscover the reason I got into this in the first place. This is definitely helping.

Incidentally, this is my first Kenshin fic, though I've written/am in the process of writing several Inufics and Ranma fics, so I'm not exactly new to the process. Anyway, I've said enough – read on…

Disclaimer: I don't own Kenshin – never have, never will…

Regrets

What have I done...

A bitter cold had seeped into every crevice of the modest little house that the two of them had come to think of as home; at least as much of a home as he had ever had. It was so far away from everything, so remote and sheltered from the harsh reality that he had been living these past few years that somehow he had become almost complacent. Deep down, a part of him had begun to believe that it would be possible for him to live such a life as this for more than a matter of months, and at last he had begun to understand just what it was he was fighting for.

But now not only had that feeble dream come to a swift end, thrusting him back into reality at full force, but with it had gone every shred of resolve and certainty and faith that he had lived upon up until now. Before his life had not been pleasant: he had slain, and borne the hardships of a soldier's lot, all the while enduring the wear and tear it wrought upon him, body and soul, for the sake of the cause and the hope for a better future. It was that hope -- not for himself, but for those who would one day live in the era that he fought to create -- that kept him going, that made it possible for him to justify his actions and carry out the bloody tasks that were set before him. Now that hope -- his last tie to reality, keeping him from losing himself to the bloodlust -- had been swept away.

All this time he'd been deluding himself into the belief that the deaths of all the countless individuals whose lives he'd stolen had not been in vain, but for the greater good. Yet now, with her death, all had become clear. Peace could never be brought about through murder -- never -- no matter how skilled the assassin or how noble and lofty his ideals. Hiko had tried to tell him just that before he'd abandoned his training, but Kenshin had been too foolish and arrogant to heed him. Another regret to add to the list...

If only he had listened...if only he had seen...if only he had had the presence of mind to consider his actions before rashly storming off to offer his services in the naive conviction that the world's problems could be solved at the blade of a sword. The taint of blood, the scent of death would forever stain his hands, haunting him, taunting him with the memory of his folly and the price that others had paid for it.

I deserve a thousand deaths for all the pain that I have wrought...

Her pale complexion seemed almost to glow in the dim with an ethereal light, and he found his eyes drifting toward her, mesmerized by her countenance. Do not forgive me Tomoe...I am beyond salvation...

Wisps of hair the shade of blood brushed and curled limply, haphazardly upon the floorboards as the once great swordsman, the feared and mysterious shadow assassin known as Hitokiri Battousai collapsed forward in a broken bow, shaking with grief and despair. He drew an unsteady breath as though it were being wrenched from his very soul.

What have I done...

For hours he remained in that position, either unwilling or unable to move so much as a muscle. One might have thought him dead as well if it weren't for the subtle rise and fall of his back and shoulders, and the faint rasping of his breath that came and went. All the while his thought's continued to tread the familiar path of self-hatred and utter regret that he had carved for himself, hewn from the remnants of his shattered ideals and the means he had once used to achieve them.

Can there be no end? Can there be no redemption? How does one repent for so grand a sin, for so grievous a mistake? Only in death...I should suffer that which I have brought upon others...and even then it will not be enough...

At long last, the man known as Battousai lifted himself slowly from his prostrate position, and with an almost reverent calm he moved to the dresser on the other side of the room and retrieved a long dagger; a weapon that had once belonged to his wife and most recent victim. It was only fitting that he should use her dagger to carry out his sentence, for it was the closest possible alternative to her doing it herself.

Kneeling carefully beside the bed, his eyes dark and narrow, face blank and impassive, he situated the long, glinting blade before his abdomen, positioning his hands deftly at the hilt as custom required. It is the least I can do...it is all that there is...

His fingers tensed over the ivory handle and he took a breath and closed his eyes in preparation to plunge the weapon into his flesh; but the moment his eyelids had smothered what little light there was, a vision seemed to flash through his mind -- a vision of her, of Tomoe, so vivid and kneeling before him, her hand on the blade as well, preventing him from completing his task.

'No, Kenshin...' her voice echoed through his awareness in the faintest of whispers, 'Your death will not save them, nor will it justify their sacrifices...You must finish what you have begun...'

His eyes snapped open at the sound, a small part of him half expecting to see Tomoe herself sitting before him, watching him with her level dark-eyed gaze; but of course she was not. All that was left of her was her corpse -- an empty shell. Nonetheless, regardless of their origin, the words gave him pause, and without even thinking he found himself lowering the knife to the floor.

Finish what I have begun...

...what I have begun...

But what then? What penance could even begin to make up for my crimes?

'You will find your answer...'
her voice echoed once more within his being, 'when you are ready to accept it...

'Seek it among the fireflies...'

-- -- --

A/N: Well, what do you think? Does this go in the 'good pile' or the 'bad pile'?

Well, originally I honestly didn't intend to infuse any references to romance (or Kaoru) in this thing, but when I got around to the end (avid K/K fan that I am) I just couldn't resist.

Ahh catharsis…

(P.S. Did you notice? Not once in this entire fic did I use the word 'atonement', probably the single most overused word in Kenshin ficdom...and no, 'oro' doesn't count... Anyway, considering the subject matter, I'd say that's an accomplishment... --grin--)