Inkblot: GOMEN NE!I know I haven't updated in forever, and I have no excuse. Gomen.

Midterms suck.

Thanks To:

lolo popoki: grins and is happy thank you for your kind words. yes, this chapter has a little more about The Incident. I just figured out the main plot, and i'm rather proud of myself; i'd been writing without one.

Demonsfangs: glomps You found my story!I wuv you! Yes, yes, it would help if you knew what this was about. XD Glad you like Shinta.See ya in History!

Disclaimer: Do not own RK. Wish I did. Snow is pretty.

Dare You To Jump

Chapter Four: The Meaning of Loss

Kenshin woke up screaming.

He had gone three months without this nightmare, and he had thought that it had gone for good. He thought that he was finally healing, that maybe he could forget and move on with his life.

Yeah right.

He was sweating heavily and breathing hard; his heart was beating dangerously fast. Three months without that particular dream, and now it was back, more vivid and horrible than he remembered. He fell back against his pillow staring at the ceiling above him blankly.

It would concern Dr. Genzai, Kenshin knew, that the dreams had returned. He could feel himself shivering just thinking about it. He didn't want to remember The Incident, not even in his dreams. He didn't want to think about, speak about, or talk about it ever again. But IT still came back to haunt him.

He buried his face in his hands, sheets pooling around his hips as he contemplated what the return of The Incident to his life could possibly mean. Kenshin? Shinta peeked out at him from under his shaggy red hair. Are you okay? The teen shook his head silently, negatively. No, I'm not all right. Haven't been for years, he thought morosely, but he didn't say anything. Not to Shinta. Never to Shinta.

The two of them looked up in surprise as Battousai glided in smoothly, with the easy grace of a predator. Battousai? The hitokiri nodded shortly in greeting before seating himself next to them. I think maybe I should explain myself, he said gravely. The two looked at him curiously. About my creation and my birth.

Kenshin raised an eyebrow in surprise. Battousai wasn't usually wasn't one to talk, never mind about his creation. I'm listening, he prompted hesitantly.

Shinta, Battousai said thoughtfully, was the first to be born. Kenshin, you wanted to stay young forever, or at least, keep the innocence you had known before you turned fourteen. Shinta was created in response to that and he is what you see before you today.

He paused, turning his yellow gaze on them. Rurouni and I are a bit more…complicated. Kenshin listened in rapt attention while Shinta clambered into the hitokiri's lap. This was the first time Battousai had revealed anything about his past, and Kenshin himself didn't know all the details of their making.

You created me to fight, Battousai continued distantly, his eyes now looking far beyond them. I was expected to repel anyone and everyone who stood in our way. I was the first to respond to…The Incident, and my goal could have been reached another way. I see that now. But Rurouni was too late, and by that time I was unstoppable. You have to understand that I was born to destroy.

What about Rurouni? Kenshin asked seriously, reaching to touch the hitokiri's hand. Battousai smiled bitterly. Rurouni is my opposite. He was created to protect, and all the restraint that I lack, he received. That is why we fight so much; I cannot let things be, and he cannot prevent them from happening. We were created to hate each other. We cannot help it.

The teen stared at his alter ego, eyes widening as the hitokiri's words echoed in his mind. "You created me to fight…I was born to destroy." "So it's my fault then," he said aloud. "It's my fault The Incident happened." Battousai's eyes flashed dangerously as he launched to his feet. No! he hissed, anger blazing brightly in his amber gold depths. Kenshin, don't you dare blame this on yourself!

Battousai, Shinta whimpered, tears threatening to spill from his innocent eyes. Don't. The flame haired entity ignored him, gaze that could pierce a man's soul fixed on Kenshin. No one, no one, can go through the death of their parents, even you, when their parents were brutally killed like that! Yes, you created me, and in part are responsible for me, but my actions are my own. I was the one who killed the Yakuza, I was the one who took up my sword. I was the one who stained my blade until the ground was bathed in blood. Kyoto went up in flames because of me!

Shinta whimpered again, trails of glistening water streaming down his face. Kenshin stood frozen, reliving the terror of those days and the stench of fresh blood invaded his nostrils. His eyes were blank, unseeing, and Battousai slapped him callously. He blinked and reached up to touch his cheek; it stung upon contact. Battousai watched him furiously, only inches away. It was me, Kenshin, I was the one who killed that day. I do not ask you for guilt or pity, host, because I am my own man.

Battousai's eyes were chips of raging ice now, filled with anger and just the tiniest hint of hurt. Kenshin didn't think he'd ever seen him as alive as he was now. So this, he thought dazedly, is Battousai. The very epitome of darkness, moonless nights, of blood and violent deaths. No wonder men fear him.

That is quite enough, Battousai! Rurouni's voice was as sharp as a whip crack and his eyes were equally furious. You know how Shinta hates people talking about the death of his parents, de gozaru. Why do you force him to relive it? The ronin gently scooped the child up, cradling the head of wild locks close to himself. Shinta sniffled pathetically, his thin shoulders heaving.

Battousai's lips tightened and he straightened slowly. It seems I am no longer needed here then. There was a strange sort of sadness on the normally impassive face, wiped away sooner than one could blink. He whirled around and disappeared into the darkness, into the black of Kenshin's mind. The teen frowned; this wasn't right. It was unlike Battousai to give in so easily. Rurou-

Shinta screamed as an explosion of brilliant red flame swept over them. Kenshin ducked, heart thundering in his chest. Battousai, he thought frantically. Where's Battousai? Crackling sparks fell from overhead and Rurouni rose, eyes widening as he took in the burning refuse around them. Silently, he passed Shinta over to Kenshin, who watched with a growing sense of unease as Rurouni walked away.

What's going on? Shinta whispered brokenly. The teenager shook his head, signaling his lack of knowledge. Something's not right, he said, readjusting the boy. I don't know what it is though.

After a while, Rurouni returned, looking wearily at the two boys. Kenshin prepared himself for the worst, reading the look in the ronin's haunted violet eyes. Battousai's gone, de gozaru, he said hesitantly. He crouched besides them and reached out to smooth Shinta's hair.

What do you mean, gone? The boy asked. Their host looked at the ronin, and closed his eyes. No.

What happened? What happened to Battousai? Shinta's voice rose steadily and Kenshin hugged him desperately. Shinta, Rurouni said patiently, though it was wearing even on his reserves. He tried to smile reassuringly, but the attempt fell sadly flat. Battousai left. That's what the fire was. Battousai's…he left. I don't know if he just disappeared or if he died. He drew a deep breath. But he's not in Kenshin's head anymore.

It was hours before Shinta fell asleep. Kenshin sat back tiredly, staring blankly at Rurouni as he settled into a watchful crouch. How could this happen? He asked wearily. How can part of my mind just pick up and leave. Rurouni shook his head. Sessha does not know. But then again, sessha does not know much about Battousai himself. Nobody does. Kenshin snorted lightly in reply.

Rurouni watched his host gently, a mixture of fondness and steely determination on his face. He sighed and rubbed the cross shaped scar on his cheek. Kenshin, go to sleep, de gozaru. You have school tomorrow.

No, I don't, the host said grumpily. Tomorrow is Tell-it-to-the-Shrink-Day. No school for Kenshin. Rurouni rolled his eyes and shoved the boy lightly, pushing him out of the haven of his mind. Go to sleep anyway. It'll be good for you, de gozaru.

Kenshin huffed in annoyance. Yes, mother, he grumbled as he faded away from the darkness of his mind and into the darkness of his lonely room. Good night.

Kaoru stared in wonder at she gazed up at the Himura mansion. The house was huge, easily double or triple the size of the dojo; and the dojo was no scrap of land. She gulped nervously, approaching the front door slowly, a feeling of doom settling in the pit of her stomach. Kenshin never said anything about being rich.

She rang the doorbell, stepping back and craning her neck upwards to take in the sheer magnitude of Kenshin's home. From what she could see, the house was three stories high, made of old, sturdy looking rocks with impeccable shrubbery. Hot damn, would I like to live here!

The door swung open rather abruptly and Kaoru's gaze snapped back down. "I told you people, I don't want any of your goddamned gizmos!" The girl blinked as she stared at the red headed teen, watching as a slow blush slowly suffused Kenshin's face. "Sorry," he muttered, stepping aside to let her in. "Thought you were somebody else."

She giggled as she stepped inside. "Oh you did, did you?" she grinned, before stopping and drooling in absolute adoration. "Oh my FRICKIN god, I love your house!" The interior was, well, amazingly neat and beautifully arranged. Kenshin coughed sheepishly and rubbed the back of his head. "Um…I'm glad you like it?" With a last envious glance at the couch, she turned back to her friend, dropping an armload of books and papers into his surprised hands. "I got all your homework and lessons for you," she said offhandedly. "Your teachers hope you'll get well soon and Misao wants me to remind you there's Kendo club Tuesday."

Kenshin groaned, dropping his head tiredly. "This day just gets better and better, doesn't it?" He hitched the pile onto his sweatpants clad hip and headed for the kitchen, glancing behind him briefly. "Coming?"

Kaoru followed him, blue eyes wide as she took in the huge, airy kitchen. "Hey, Kenshin. Is your uncle rich?" she asked, gazing at the marble topped counters with something akin to hero worship. He shrugged loosely, dropping the books onto the counter and heading for the fridge. "You want anything to eat? Drink?" She shook her head.

"Why weren't you in school?" she asked curiously, watching as the teen puttered around the gigantic kitchen. He shrugged lightly, almost listlessly. "Didn't feel so good," he muttered quietly. And indeed, he didn't look that well either. His clothes were wrinkled and his blazing hair was a sleep-rumpled mess. He had slight bags under his eyes though his smile was as bright as ever. "You okay, then?" she asked. "You look like crap."

He plopped into a seat next to her with a glass of Pepsi at his hand. "I'm well enough," he said tiredly. He managed a smile for the girl. "I'll be fine, Kaoru-dono," he reassured her. The girl raised an eyebrow. He pouted childishly. "What? You don't believe me?" Kaoru continued her pointed gaze. The red head sighed in defeat and dropped his head into the crook of the dojo girl's neck. "Alright, I admit, I'm not okay," he acquiesced. "But I will be."

Kaoru ran her fingers through the boy's messy hair, earning her a contented purr from the red head. She smiled and continued.

The pair stayed that way for well over an hour.


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