Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Rurouni Kenshin.

Author's Note:

Just a new one-shot that suddenly came into my head as I got into bed. I'm really cold but that's okay, because I'm too haunted by Soujiro's smile. He will probably forever be my favorite character. He's complex and at the same time, simple. It's just too much fun writing about him.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this sloppily written soliloquy. Just as a side note, I'd like to say that most if not all the quotes are from memory, so they will not be accurate. Relax. This was a fun piece for me to play with. Tell me what you think of it, please?

It's the inside of my head. Mine. So why does it seem like it's not mine at all? Why does it seem like the ones controlling my thoughts are Shishio and Himura?

'The strong live, and the weak die.'

It kept me alive for ten years, and then the supposed strongest of the revolution comes along and spoils it all for me. He just has to tell me about his thoughts. Why couldn't he have kept them to himself? It would have made it easier for me.

I am stronger than him.

Correction. I was stronger than him.

Without emotions, without thoughts such as those, I would have won. There is no question to the victor in the duel when one if a sword prodigy and the other is a man who has gotten far too old for something like that.

But then...

'The weak deserve to live, and that's why I'm here. I'm here to protect them, Soujiro.'

Fool. Liar. What does he know about the weak deserving to live? What does he know at all! I know... I knew... I was once weak, I was small and stupid. And... I didn't know anything about life back then either.

Still, the voices battle in my head.

'What would you choose, Soujiro? The motto that has saved your life many a time, or a few words that you just learned?'

I don't know! I don't know what to do, I don't know where to go.

Outside, I look calm. I need to be calm. I need to stop and think and start planning on what I will do.

I am not worried about the police catching up to me. The government is something my thoughts haven't been questioning. It is still weak. It still needs men like Himura and Saitou to keep it turning smoothly.

Maybe I should kill him. Himura, that is. Then I will be able to stop and sleep without nightmares.

But then I remember. Shishio is dead. Shishio is still haunting my dreams even though he is but ashes now. The words drive me insane. Am I already insane?

I cannot go like this much longer. The smile that has forever plastered itself to my face will not ago, so the old woman serving me rice balls and tea does not question me.

'Soujiro, you can still repent.'

Repent for what? I have done nothing wrong. I have just done what kept me alive. Those people whom I killed... Well, they would have tried to kill me if I had not rid myself of them. And besides, Shishio was always right about them.

Remember my relatives, Himura? No, of course not. You weren't there to save me from them. And if you had been there, what would you have done? Offered your sakabatou and smiled your idiot smile, then try to convince them to treat me better?

The thought is so amusing I smile for real. No one can see how bitter I am when I am wearing my smile.

'Will you kill for me?'

The first time Shishio asked me that question, I had smiled. "Yes." That's exactly what I said. A child of eight. Well, what could I have said? His philosophy had already worn itself into my head, and I had promised myself that I would live.

I wouldn't be beaten. The next time anyone laid a hand on me, they would die. Even Shishio. Even God. I do not–did not–care. My life...

What's there to lose if you hold nothing dear? The moment I killed was the moment I lost my soul.

Or, perhaps I never had one at all. Perhaps the sons of whores don't have souls...

'Bottling your emotions aren't going to save you!'

They have and they will, Himura. So shut up. Leave my head. You are probably still in Kyoto, lying down unconscious, so stay silent the way you are to your caretakers. I hope Shishio slashed you good before he killed himself.

Maybe that's what will happen to me one day. I'll just kill myself from trying to find the truth too long. And it will be his fault.

I will die alone and lied to and I will...

I will be fine in the end, right?

"Where are you going, sonny?"

The old woman's question jolts me out of my thoughts. Perhaps I should answer her.

"Where's this road lead to?" It's the only road in site–I don't have much of a choice.

Her wrinkled face looks as confused as I feel. "Somewhere up north, I believe."

I pause. North. Away from Shishio's grave. Away from Himura and his friends. That's exactly what I need right now. So, I answer.

"Well, it's going to be hot soon, so yes. North sounds good." I sling my pack against my bag like I used to and smiled at her. What she answers and asks again I do not really register–I give her a random answer that spoke the truth.

I leave the small inn and watch the road, my feet startled trampling the small plants that were struggling valiantly against the packed dirt of the road. Poor stupid plants. You don't have a chance. Soon enough something bigger than my feet will come. They have no hope, and I have no hope.

But... Perhaps I do. If those weeds try, perhaps I should too...

I have ten years to learn. They do not. There is a chance something will happen. Perhaps I will meet some woman too. Someone like Shishio's Yumi and Himura's... What was her name? Tomoe? A traitor...

The thought makes me laugh. Still, if I laugh, there must be a bit of hope left. If I laugh and keep trying, there is just the barest filigree of a chance left that I will find what I want.

Maybe, soon, as I leave the memories behind, the voices will stop haunting me. Maybe then, I can sleep without nightmares. All I need is ten years.

All I need...