"The dead cannot cry out for justice…it is the duty of the living to do so for them." – Lois McMaster Bujold

Jasmine: Okay, this is rated for extreme blood, language, and violence. If you don't like any of those, then leave right now. If you don't like alternate pairings or universes, then leave right now. I will not tolerate anyone flaming me for the pairing, because I warned you. It will only make you look like an idiot. And, besides, I love fire. Giving me some is a horrible mistake. Now, if there's anything about my grammar you don't like, tell me. Seriously, I could use constructive criticism.Here we go…when it gets to the italics, everything (except the letter) that isn't in italics is being thought. At the beginning, the italics are like flashbacks. I don't own Rurouni Kenshin or Saitô Hajime…but, then again, since he was a real person, Watsuki doesn't own him either!

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The Difference Between Love And Loathing - Chapter 1: Nightmare

"I despise you, Saitô Hajime…"

Words of pure and utter loathing...so long ago she had said them to him in a fit of rage.

"You are incapable of loving…YOU HAVE NO HEART!"

Tears had been streaming unrestrained from her striking, chocolate-brown eyes, her hands had balled into fists intended to strike at him. Those eyes were narrowed in her anger, cursing him from the very depths of her soul. It was clear at that moment how much she had truly reviled him.

"I-I hope you die out there and finally leave me alone!"

They haunted his sleep, his dreams. Even in his waking hours they continued to stay, to torment. She plagued him, the memories of her…her beauty...her grace…her love…

"…I hate you, Hajime…just wanted to let you know…that is, if you even care…"

Her death.

"GO TO HELL, YOU BASTARD!"

The nightmares were the worst.

"DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? I HATE YOU! I HATE YOUR GUTS! YOU ARE THE BANE OF MY EXISTANCE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!"

But...he deserved them...he hadn't earned the right to have happy, joyful dreams…

Because he hadn't been able to save her…his light...his lover…his life…

His Tokio.

And, in a way…

He had died that day, along with her.

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(Present day)

Saitô Hajime rolled over in his sleep and groaned slightly, clutching a worn red pillow to his chest in the process. His white sheets had long been thrown to the foot of his bed as he twisted and turned in the throes of a nightmare. The same nightmare…of the same person…with the same results…

The man moaned, twitched a little, and threw his head to the side. His eyebrows knitted together as he glared at an enemy only he could see. One arm flailed out and struck the black plastic alarm clock off of his bedside table, the flashing red numbers reading two twenty-seven a.m. before blanking out as they hit the faded blue-carpeted floor.

The same nightmare…every night it was the same…damn...one…

(Nightmare)

Two people stood at opposite ends of a small living room in a quaint little house at the edge of Tokyo. One was a somewhat short little woman with long, raven-black hair. Her large doe eyes were smoldering with fury at the one across from her. The other, a man, was at least a foot taller than the woman. His ebony hair was slicked back, but four stubborn bangs had managed to flop into his face despite all the effort he put into keeping them in place. The tension in the air was almost palpable and seemed to thicken when the man crossed his arms across his wide chest, waiting for his wife to speak.

And speak she did. "I despise you, Saitô Hajime..." Tokio glared angrily at the offending man, her temper finally reaching its breaking point. "You are incapable of loving…YOU HAVE NO HEART!"

Saitô hid his wince well and returned his wife's glare with one of his own. "Tokio, you know I must do this...you've known that I would have to do things like these since the day we were married!" They had had this argument over and over again, every time he was called out on duty during one of their "moments". But his job always came first and she knew that and had agreed to it during their vows…so why did she have to insist on being so difficult?

Tokio shook her head wildly and bared her teeth at him in an infuriated grimace. "I-I hope you die out there and finally leave me alone!" Her fists clamped together for a few seconds and then loosened, but her face became cold and emotionless. "…I hate you, Hajime...just wanted to let you know…that is, if you even care…"

Her words unnerved the poor man to his very core. "...T-Tokio?" Saitô cursed the slight tremor in his voice, but found that he couldn't stop it.

"GO TO HELL, YOU BASTARD!" Enough was enough. Him saying her name disgusted her to no end. "DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? I HATE YOU! I HATE YOUR GUTS! YOU ARE THE BANE OF MY EXISTANCE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!" Tokio was now breathing hard and more tears streamed from her eyes. She began to shake uncontrollably.

The wolf stared, shock temporarily hindering him from saying a word to the hysterical woman.

"…I'm leaving, Hajime…I'm never coming back to you…unless…" Tokio looked Saitô in the eye defiantly, her resolve hardening despite her tears. "…you tell me that you'll quit your job…Hajime…being a homicide detective has taken its toll on you over the years…don't you think…that you've had enough? Aren't I plenty for you, husband? Must you try and prove to yourself every day that you can handle the stress of your job when, in reality…" The woman took a few steps towards the stunned wolf, slowly lifted her arm, and gently touched his cheek. "…you're crumbling even as we speak?"

He blinked at her in disbelief, but then seemed to return to himself. His amber eyes nearly glowed with his bottled-up rage. "How could you say that, Tokio? You know what my job means to me, Koishi! It isn't even my 'job' anymore…it is my duty, wife, to protect people against - "

There was a resounding slap and the sound of a body staggering into a wall.

Tokio stepped backwards a few feet, desperate to keep some distance between herself and her husband. "Of course…your 'duty' means more to you than I do, Hajime. Heh…you ignorant bastard…I never loved you, anyway…WHO COULD LOVE SOMEONE THAT DOESN'T POSSESS A HEART, HUH?" And then…she vanished out the door. Just like that, the love of his life…was gone…

Saitô slowly slid down the wall and gripped his smarting cheek with one hand. Was this all somehow his fault? Why did it seem that way? Surely…surely she was to blame, too…

He would come to remember that guilt very well, as Tokio wouldn't be seen again in over a week.

And…by then…it was too late…

…To save her…

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(Fast-forward to a week and a half later)

He stared in horror at the note in his hands, the words wavering unsteadily before his eyes. No. No, no, no, no, no. Dear Kami, no…

Not Tokio…anyone but Tokio…

To my dearest and most loving acquaintance Saitô Hajime,
Your wife is a very beautiful woman, my friend.
It's too bad you can't hear her terrified screams. I am sure you would fancy them…take the same perverse pleasure in them as I do.
Because the detective is not much different than the – murderer – is he? Both constantly surrounded by death…both loving the thrill of the hunt…
Both wanting to kill…and kill…and kill!
But I digress.
It is my job, Hajime, to rid this world of the plague on Earth known as women. And this woman has caused you great pain, hmm? Well, another slice should make everything all better…yes, yes…chop, chop, chop…
You know…she has such lovely skin…as white as marble!
That will make flaying her all the more fun, don't you agree?
And her blood…so crimson and sweet…like red wine…
It tastes the same, too, I can assure you that.
Oh, she's calling for you, Hajime…I'd better go and quiet her down!
If you wish to see her, come to the old building down by the pier at twelve o'clock sharp. If you are accompanied or late, I will kill her. Painfully. And I will make sure the last thing she sees is your defeated form collapsing upon the ground.
Ah…the angst…t'would make a fabulous story, now wouldn't it? Ha. I daresay…I crack myself up…
Remember…the murderer is no different than the detective. Bring your gun, for I am sure that you will want to kill me.

P.S.: I left you a little gift. I hope you enjoy it. Ta.

Best regards and fondest wishes,
-The Han'nya

Saitô swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and unlatched a plastic baggie that he found on the back of the letter. What could The Han'nya have possibly sent him? He didn't want to see…no…he dreaded seeing it.

As soon as he got the bag open, he regretted looking immensely.

For there, covered in blood, was what was undoubtedly one of Tokio's fingers.

Upon closer inspection, he realized that it was one certain finger in particular…

…her ring finger.

And, still managing to glitter despite the rusty substance that covered it…

…was her wedding ring with the twinkling aquamarine jewel.

Tokio…

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(11:56 p.m. At the pier)

Saitô cursed under his breath and pushed the gas pedal down as far as it would go, silently urging his poor little Toyota to its limits. He had to make it in time…had to…

He wouldn't let Tokio die. No…it was his fault in the first place that she left that day. Her getting captured by this – raving lunatic – was his fault…all his fault…

If only he had seen it earlier…if only he had told her that he would quit his job…

Just to see her dazzling smile again.

Saitô Tokio was his anchor. Every person that worked homicide, including himself, had to have an individual to love and keep him or her sane. All the death, sadness, blood, gore…seeing all that was enough to drive someone off the edge.

Tokio had kept him from falling. She had brought him out of his darkness, had given him light and happiness. She banished his demons and kept him anchored to life. The woman had saved him from himself.

But now, he had to save her from someone else. And he'd be damned if he'd let her down…

He slammed his footon the brake pedal, not even noticing the squeal of objection the tires made as the whole truck skidded to a halt. The door was thrown open, and the detective nearly tumbled from the vehicle in his haste. He had to make it…had to…had to…

Saitô flew down the pier, towards the oldest-looking building he could find. She was in there…waiting for him…yes…he would be with her again…

He could see the sructure towering over the water, its silhouette dark and forbidding even in the faded light. Its dull, gray paint was worn and chipping off in places. The many rotted holes dotting its surface were a constant reminder to all that it was abandoned…deserted…

Forgotten.

Saitô pushed himself harder, even as the muscles in his legs protested angrily. In the distance, he could hear the church bell start to chime out twelve tolls. One…two…three…

He was almost there! So close…

Four…five…six…

Just a few more feet…

Seven…

The wolf furiously kicked down the moldy door, wincing only slightly as it flew off of its hinges. "TOKIO!"

Eight…

There she was, lying on the dirty broken floor of the ancient building. The Han'nya stood over her, his hand wrapped around the bottom of her chin. A knife was poised at her exposed alabaster throat.

Nine…

The murderer grinned madly at the detective, transforming his destroyed face into a misshapen contortion. "Oh…so sorry, Hajime…it seems that you are too late. But please, join the party! You are invited to witness the show!" Maniacal laughter followed, slicing into the air like a hot knife through butter. This man was crazy! Absolutely…clinically insane.

Tokio weakly lifted her head up, struggling feebly against her attacker. "…H-Hajime…h-help…please…" Her eyes were unseeing, but she knew her husband was there. Her love…he was there!

Ten…

Time seemed to slow down for Saitô at that moment, as an icy hand gripped his heart. "LET HER GO, YOU BASTARD! I MADE IT ON TIME!" He fingered the gun in his pocket, fearing that any sudden movement would send the nutcase off the edge. All the wolf wanted to do was kill the man…destroy that which would dare touch his Tokio…

More laughter. Damn, this was getting old. "Fool…my poor fool…never trust the word of a criminal, Hajime! Hee hee hee…shall I make her bleed some more, my fool? Rich, red blood…so tasty…so…divine…" The Han'nya's hand traveled upwards and buried itself in what was left of Tokio's beautiful raven hair. "…or maybe I should give her a nice scalping? I could make her hair into a wig…"

Eleven…

The detective's temper flared. In one swift motion, he brought his gun out and directed it at the raving lunatic perched oh-so-happily over his wife. "Freeze! Hands in the air, NOW!"

The man chuckled in twisted amusement. "Say bye-bye to your husband, lady Tokio…" In a single, quick action, The Han'nya jerked upwards on her hair and brought the knife back down, touching it almost lovingly to her throat. "She'll be waiting for you in Hell, Hajime!"

With narrowed eyes, Saitô lowered the gun and charged forward, intent on killing the man before he…

Twelve.

The blade sliced upwards through Tokio's tender flesh, sending little droplets of crimson blood into the air. The detective could hear her gurgling cry of pain, the resonance of her final breath, and…her head hitting the floor with a final-sounding thump.

And then his world came crashing down.

Saitô's knees gave out, and he ended up slamming them uncaringly into the floor. He barely noticed the ache as his amber eyes came to rest on his wife's lifeless body. This couldn't be real...his wife wasn't dead, wasn't bleeding from a nasty wound in her throat, wasn't gone from this world...

The Han'nya slowly licked the blood from his knife and stood up, letting Tokio's body fall back to the floor in a sad-looking heap. "My poor, poor fool…do not look so heartbroken! You wanted this, didn't you? She was only causing you pain…and now she will not be able to hurt you anymore!" The man grinned again. "So rejoice while you still can, because you're next! Hee hee hee!"

She…she was…gone… He'd failed…failed to protect her…

"Get up, Hajime."

It was his fault…all his fault…

"Get up."

He was to blame…all his fault…he failed…all his fault…

"GET UP!"

The silver flash of a blade and a flare of pain startled Saitô out of his dark thoughts. He looked down, noticing with detachment that his white T- shirt was now stained with a blossom of blood. His own blood. Then realization hit him.

The bastard killed Tokio...she was truely gone. This wasn't a dream...nor was it a nightmare.

The detective grasped at his abdomen and shakily pushed himself to his feet, forgetting everything in his own moment of insanity. He'll pay… I'll kill him…he'll pay for taking her…

"Finally, Hajime, I was afraid that I had lost you for a second there!" The Han'nya seemed to think that this was amusing, for he once again burst into laughter. It echoed through the building, taunting the wolf even more.

Saitô lifted his head and fixed the lunatic with glazed amber eyes. "…You killed her…you killed my Tokio…you took her away, snuffed out her light…" He slowly lifted his pistol and pointed it at The Han'nya, almost as if he were in a trance. "…you destroyed her beauty, her grace…and now…"His eyes dulled even more while his voiceturned monotone and blank. "…I'm going to kill you."

He pulled the trigger of the gun again and again, watching with disturbing satisfaction as each bullet ripped a hole into the man he despised with every fiber of his being. Scarlet blood poured from the wounds, covering the ground with its so-called "beauty". Yes…yes…die, die, die…

When the pistol ran out of bullets, he pulled an extra cartridge out of the pocket of his jeans and re-loaded. The detective was determined to fill the damned man with as much lead as he could and he didn't care if The Han'nya was dead already, or not. It wasn't until after the second cartridge was empty that he shakily let the pistol fall to his side. The deed was done. He had killed the man.

But The Han'nya wasn't dead yet. No, he still pathetically clung to life, only to give Saitô some last bit of information. "…A-as you s-see, Hajime…th-the detective…i-is…no d-different…than…the m-murderer…" And then, just like that...he was gone.

Saitô stared down at the crumpled body on the floor - what remained of The Han'nya. The gun slid from his grasp and tumbled to the concrete. The wolf didn't care. He determinedly turned his back upon the dead man and walked over to Tokio – her corpse, anyway – and kneeled down next to her. Gently gathered her in his arms and begun to rock back and forth. Didn't notice the tears that were cascading from his amber, wolfish eyes. His heart ached, bled, and wept for her…he needed her…wanted her back…

She was his anchor, his light…the banisher of his demons…

Without Saitô Tokio, there was no Saitô Hajime.

He held her closer to him to stifle his sob of agony, willing with all of his might for the pain in his chest to go away. If…as she said…he had no heart…

Then why did it hurt so much?

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(Present time, 2:45 a.m.)

Saitô Hajime let out a yelp and sat up abruptly in the bed, his breathing fast and labored. Dammit…not again…

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Jasmine: And there you have it, folks, the first chappie of my new fic. I must say, this is a strange chapter…just a little prologue-ish thing, if you will.Oh, and if this chapter confused you, everything will be explained in full detail later on. I will describe The Han'nya, and everything that led up to Tokio's capture. Saitô/Misao is honestly my favorite pairing of all time, and I hope I can get you guys as hooked on it as I am. Oh, and Saitô's thirty and Misao is twenty-five. Well, 'till next time, loyal reviewers, this is Jasmine Reinier, signing off!

"People only have hope…because they cannot see Death standing behind them…"

Japanese Words:
Itachi: Weasel
Musume: Girl or woman
Hajime: Begin
Koishi: Darling
Han'nya: Female demon (Yes, the same Han'nya from RK)