Anna was sound asleep on couch cushions on Inuyasha's bedroom floor, thumb stuck in her mouth, silvery curls tumbling across the cushion. Inuyasha sat on the floor beside her, watching his niece sleep.

He didn't know how his brother could have given her up like that: he'd just essentially said, "Take care of her," and walked away.

A child. A little hanyou girl who was adorable, and sweet, and funny, and so very smart. He'd discovered that someone -- his father, her late mother, Jaken, or perhaps all three -- had taught her the beginnings of English phonics when he'd read her a story and she'd sounded out words. She knew all her numbers to twenty in English, Japanese and Spanish. She knew her colors, and shapes. Aside from being fluent in English, she spoke Japanese without an accent as well. She had sang songs from the radio with impressive pitch and recall.

She was clearly a happy child, confident, loving. This was not a little girl who was insecure about her place in the world, or who had ever been called a monster. And for a toddler, he thought she was remarkably intelligent.

She liked to ride on his shoulders, and she'd giggled with glee when he'd tickled her. She'd "helped" him with breakfast and lunch, had colored at the kitchen table for about half an hour -- he now had an art gallery on the refrigerator -- and, after one of the Slayers had shown him how to make homemade Play-doh with flour and food coloring, she had proceeded to create a whole bunch of colorful abstract sculptures that were currently drying in the kitchen windowsill.

She'd also cried a couple of times for her father, once for Jaken, and then had said soberly, "My mommy's never ever coming back. She went to heaven. Is my daddy gone away too?"

He'd swept her up then into his arms, and held her very close, and told her that she would always have people who loved her, no matter what happened. And then, after she fell asleep in his arms and he put her down for a nap, he had quietly told Shippou, "If anything happens to both me and my brother, and Kagome, make sure ..."

"Yeah, sure." Shippou had nodded.

Now he sat, and he watched, as she slept. A little girl. His niece. Precious. Children represented the future ... and it struck him that he was fighting for this child's very fate.

He'd been selfish, he thought. He often was -- it was one of his rather basic flaws -- but he'd been unusually selfish when he had wanted to tell Buffy no. No, he wouldn't fight with the Slayers because he hated them. No, he wouldn't fight to save the world because he had a personal grievance with them. His feelings had been more important to him than the fate of the world.

Selfish. Immature. Shallow.

Sometimes, he wondered what anyone ever saw in him.

At that moment, his phone rang. He hastily snatched it up and flipped it open and retreated to the balcony. Outside, it was evening -- half an hour past dark, with just a trace of a golden glow left on the western horizon. "Yeah," he said, low, so as to not wake her.

"It's Hitokiri," Kenshin Himura's calm voice, in Japanese, surprised him. "Kagome didn't answer her cell phone."

"She's in the shower. -- Where are you at?"

"At your gate. I can't seem to pass. Can you let me in?"

Inuyasha, under ordinary circumstances, would have told the demon where he could go, and it would have been a rude and anatomically impossible suggestion. He didn't like strange demons -- or strangers, period -- in his home. However, with a glance over his shoulder at the sleeping child, he said in resignation, "My land's got protections on it. Gimme a sec and I'll update the wards to let you in."

He needed to cooperate, and help, and work with these people. Even if he'd really rather go live in a cave and bite the head off anyone who bothered him that wasn't Kagome.

He walked back inside and touched the mirror over his dresser with one claw. It shimmered, then displayed an image of Kenshin with a young woman. They were both standing at his gate.

"Who's the girl?" He said, very low, hoping Anna wouldn't wake. He didn't recognize her.

"A Slayer. She's with me."

He tapped both images with his claws, murmuring, "Pass. Pass."

He'd set the wards to repel everyone, including humans, because of the need for extra-tight security. Heaven forbid Torin send a few human spies up the road to discover everyone was still alive. That included Slayers, who could normally pass -- his wards weren't quite as sensitive to demonic influence as Torin's binding spell had been in the tower.

"Thank you for trusting me," Kenshin said, over the phone, after Inuyasha had remotely opened the gate and they'd crossed the boundary of the wards.

"Follow the road up. I'll be down in a bit." He knocked on the bathroom door as he passed, "Oye! Kagome! Visitors!"


Inuyasha -- and a couple Slayers -- met them on the deck. Kenshin wasn't entirely sure he would be invited inside, but Inuyasha did so willingly enough. The hanyou gave Kay a keen look, but said nothing.

Kay stared back at Inuyasha, uncertainty in her expression.

"Kay, this is Inuyasha," Kenshin said, unsure of what was going through her head. She'd obviously figured out the whole "demons = bad = kill" part of slaying, and Inuyasha was unmistakably inhuman.

Inuyasha stuck a hand out for her to shake, though to Kenshin's eye, the hanyou looked as nervous as Kay. He said, "I'm Inuyasha, but you probably already know that."

"Kay. Actually, I'm a newbie, so I didn't know your name." Kay dimpled, suddenly, as if she'd made a snap judgment about him. She shook his hand. "Hitokiri's told me a little bit. He said I'm a Slayer? Some sort of mystical mumbo jumbo yadda yadda I'm supposed to kill demons and save the world on a regular basis it's my destiny. But I haven't met anybody yet." She said most of this without taking a breath, then grinned broadly. "You're a demon, yes?"

"I'm a good guy. And I'm half demon." Inuyasha frowned at her.

"Figured things were more complex than he made them sound," she said, easily. "Good, bad, they're never black and white."

Inuyasha visibly relaxed, at that statement.

"Hi." Kagome, her hair up in a towel, descended the stairs to the living room. "Sorry, I was in the shower."

"Kagome, this is Kay." Inuyasha waved his hands between them, making a sloppy introduction. "Hitokiri brought him with her. I guess you girls will need to fill her in on Slayer stuff."

Kenshin was well aware that everyone was giving him a wide berth. However, when a tiny, white-haired toddler showed up, and wrinkled her nose, and informed Kenshin, "You smell!" very loudly, it gave him a convenient opening. He had not been entirely sure how to politely request to use their bathroom.

"Oye! Anna!" Inuyasha scolded. "That was rude, brat!"

"Brat?" Kagome said, in a dangerous tone of voice. "Talk about rude."

Anna said, "Brat!" and giggled, and held her arms up to Inuyasha so he would pick her up.

He did, and said, "Aren't you supposed to be asleep?"

"Yeah." She buried her face in his shoulder. "I miss Froggy."

Inuyasha patted her back and started swaying back and forth.

Kenshin took that as his chance to clear his throat and say, "She is right, and I do desperately need to clean up. Before we start discussing plans, would you mind terribly if ..."

Looks of relief erupted all around him. Kay looked like she was about to cry. Kagome said, "Yeah, yeah, sure. Not a problem!"

Inuyasha muttered, in a low tone of voice that no mortal ears could ever have heard, but which was perfectly within the range of vampiric hearing, "Thank the fuck."

Very quickly, he was hustled towards the upstairs guest bathroom. Along the way, they gave Kay a better-fitting outfit -- Kagome was about the same size. He was loaned a pair of Kagome's jeans and a t-shirt to wear while this things were washed. Kenshin passed his uniform out the door after stripping, and murmured, "Thank you," to Kagome, who carried his clothes off.

This all took less than five minutes. They were rather enthusiastic about the idea of him taking a bath.

And then he found himself alone in the bathroom.

He turned the shower on, and waited for the water to warm up. The mirror showed nothing but an empty bathroom -- he wondered absently why his clothing wasn't visible in a mirror, but sometimes objects he was holding were. He'd never heard a good explanation for all the aspects of vampirism and suspected he answer might be "magic" which meant logic didn't necessarily need to apply.

When the water was good and hot, and steam was billowing through the room, he stepped under the hard spray. The water felt glorious -- the filth that sluiced off him was brown, disgusting. He would need to scrub their tub after he was done bathing.

But for now, he just stood under the hot spray. His cold flesh warmed as the water coursed over him and for the moment, he knew his body would not have the chill of death to it if anyone touched him. The demon was silent in his head, drowned out by the sheer physical pleasure of getting clean.

Gods, it felt good to stand there and just let the hot water pound over his body.

He started to scrub. As he did, he took stock of his thin frame. The vampire had kept up the practice of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu -- probably, that was why it was able to function at such a high level, as a commander for Lord Torin. Vampires normally lacked the impulse control and discipline needed for real leadership. The largest vampire bands usually numbered less than a dozen.

His body was still hard-muscled, still lean, still covered in scars. More scars than he recalled. Some of those scars troubled him, as he couldn't remember how he'd gotten them. Others were attached to memories of killing -- a thin white line across his chest, for example, had once been a deeply jagged gash that a young woman had given to him with a splintered bamboo shinai.

Not just any young woman.

Kaoru.

He closed his eyes, then, not wanting to see any more. But memories continued to surface: of his wife, desperately fighting for her life, never realizing it wasn't Kenshin who was beating her to death with her own bokken. She'd seized a shinai from a rack in the dojo, and had used it to try to fend him off. It hadn't worked. She had died screaming in anger and rage at his apparent betrayal. Behind the fury had been confusion: she'd trusted him with all her heart, and had never understood why he had turned on her. Why he was beating her to death with the dull side of the sakabatou.

Kenshin slid down to sit in the tub, with the hot spray of the shower beating against the lifeless flesh of the body he now inhabited. Kaoru. His wife, his equal, his partner. She had given him a home -- he, who had wandered without friends nor family for ten years -- had found a home in the arms of a sixteen year old girl. Kaoru had been wise beyond her years, braver than anyone he'd ever known, courageous and kind. He'd loved her with all his heart.

If only I had a weapon with me, that day, in the alley.

He shuddered, and tears came unbidden. He'd killed her. Kaoru. He'd killed Kaoru, with his own hands.

He'd given his sakabatou to Yahiko, a few years before. Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu was really designed for bigger men, and he had no longer been able to practice the most demanding moves. Between the injuries he'd taken as a hitokiri, and the simple wear and tear from pushing his body to near superhuman levels of effort, he had been well past the prime of his fighting abilities. It had been time to pass the blade on to the boy who was like a son to him.

And so, when the vampires had cornered him, he had been entirely unarmed. There had been no need for him to carry a weapon in Tokyo: even without a blade, he was a decent martial artist and could more than easily defend himself against human attackers. However, the vampires had come in a swarm of a dozen. They'd planned to kill him, and turn him, because they wanted Himura Kenshin, master swordsman, on their side..

It had not turned out as they had planned, of course. The very first thing he had done was to dust the whole dozen from that nest. Fools, they were, to think he'd ally with them. There had been too many of them, and they'd had some idiotic scheme involving raising a demon that would lay waste to Tokyo. After that, they figured they'd be able to go on a rampage unimpeded. And they wanted Kenshin with them because they thought his fighting abilities would benefit them. Most were former samurai; a few had fought with, or against, him. They'd known him. They had thought they knew what they would create by turning him.

Kenshin, after he'd been turned, had figured that the whole plot was stupid. Raising a demon would simply earn the attention of the Japanese military and/or various religious orders that practiced martial arts and demon slaying -- and he had no desire to get caught in the crossfire, or to draw attention to himself. He'd dusted all of them before they had even gotten a chance to tell him the details. He didn't need to know the specifics to know how dumb the idea was.

And then he had killed anyone who had ever known or loved him. The demon had revelled in their pain and grief and outrage. It had never shown its game face; it had attacked them with the face of the man they had always loved and trusted as a husband, father, friend.

And then he'd left Japan entirely.

And killed a hell of a lot more people, most of them probably loved by someone the same way he had loved Kaoru.

Kenshin sat under the hot spray of the shower, and cried silent tears. He couldn't cry in front of anyone. Wouldn't, in any case.

He'd been at peace ... his soul had been dead, been gone. Not really unaware of what had happened, but gone, and resting. And now he had to live with memories of what had happened. He could hear Kaoru's shrieks of angry, furious betrayal and pain, as if they had just been shouted and were still ringing fresh and loud in his ears.

He hadn't done it. He told himself firmly, he hadn't done it. He -- being the souled, good, decent man -- was not responsible for his actions as a vampire. How could he be?

But oh! If only he'd fought a little harder against the vampires. If only he'd been carrying a weapon, or if he'd chosen to go to the market with Yahiko or Sanosuke that day rather than alone. So many little choices he could have made that would have changed the outcome.

And he just wanted to rest again. To close his eyes and make the pain go away. His time was long past. He'd failed to protect Kaoru, in the end. He had one last job to do -- save the world -- and then he could sleep again, forever.

He sat there until the water turned cold, and a tentative knock on the door made him look up sharply. "Hitokiri?"

It was Kay. Who, probably, also needed a bath. He'd used up all the hot water. Guiltily, he stood up, and shut the faucet off, and then replied, "I'll be out in a minute, Miss Kay."

His hair was now a mass of heavy wet tangles. He wondered if he could ever unmat it.

Kaoru had always loved his long hair. But detangling that mass was going to be one heck of a chore. Still, he thought he should try. Because perhaps Kaoru was watching him, and she would be disappointed if he cut his hair.


"Buffy's going to be here in a couple of hours, and she wants in on the information Hitokiri's going to give us. We'll start making some concrete plans as soon as she's here," Kagome told Kay, when she emerged from the shower. "Is there anyone you'd like to call? Let them know you're okay?"

Phone calls. Right. Real world. She was back in the real world. "What is today, anyway?"

Kagome gave her the date. She'd been gone three days. Kay grimaced. "Well, that means I lost my job. No call, no show, y'know."

"I'm sorry." Kagome sounded like she genuinely was.

Kay shrugged. "I was flipping hamburgers at McDonalds. I'll go to the next fast food joint down the road and get a new job. It's not a big deal. -- No, I don't have any family."

"Friends?"

"Not since I became a ..." the word still sounded foreign in her mouth, "... Slayer. They decided I was too weird, what with all the times I disappeared, or got attacked by something, or missed a date because I was fighting a demon."

"So, you've been fighting demons for awhile, yeah?" Kagome smiled faintly, and Kay wondered what that was about. Her first impression of Kagome was that they were a lot alike, but she was dizzied by the amount she didn't know about these people -- and it hadn't really sunk in yet that Kagome and the other girls were just like her.

"Yeah." Kay nodded. "About three years or so. There were these guys with no eyes that came after me -- I've been studying martial arts since I was a kid, but that was the first time I'd ever actually needed what I'd been learning."

"Bringers." Kagome identified Kay's description. "Did you win?" she asked, with curiosity.

"First time I ever fought demons. But, yeah. A couple of times. Did you fight them?"

"No, I was in the past. Literally. Missed the whole thing. Inuyasha and I had our own Big Bad to kill."

"Time travel?" Kay guessed, boggling at that idea.

"Something like that ... anyway, they weren't demons, they were humans who'd been posessed by the First. But close enough. I can tell you the whole story later, but it's a bit of a long story."

Kay fell silent. Humans? She'd never known that. She'd assumed they were demonkind. She wasn't sure what she thought about that. If they'd been possessed, had she killed innocents? She set that realization aside to think about later, and continued, "After that, I seemed more sensitive to bad guys ... a few weeks later I got a power up of some sort."

"Power up!" Inuyasha snorted a laugh from behind Kagome. She had wondered if the half-demon played video games. By his laugh, she suspected the answer was 'yes.' She found herself instinctively liking him; he was rough around the edges, but there was quite a bit of humor and a very good heart lurking behind his harsh, brash front.

After a smile of acknowledgement at Inuyasha, she continued, "... I've been hunting them down and fighting them ever since. Mostly vampires, the occasional other freaky scaly slimey thing."

"You have got to meet Buffy, she'll give you the Slayer scoop." Kagome said, "There's over a thousand girls like us around the world. -- Anyway. I think Mr. Himura is out on the deck. Do you want to check on him?"

Kay found she actually did. She was weirdly worried about him -- about his emotional state. It was a strange thing, how instinctively she had reacted to him. She had gone from being frankly scared of him to scared for him in under a day. There was just something about the quiet, reserved little man that made her all sorts of fiercely protective. "Yeah, I'll go see what he's up to."

When she walked to the door, however, she saw he looked busy. He had a comb and was trying to pick years' worth of matted snarls out of his gorgeously red hair. It appeared to be slow going, and she wondered why he didn't just cut it short. Had his hair been anything but thick, silky, and very, very straight, those matts would have formed into dreadlocks long ago.

Impulsively, she slipped back inside and spoke to the others. She asked in a low voice, "Do you guys have any spray on detangler -- maybe for the kid?"

Inuyasha frowned, obviously not entirely sure what she was talking about. However, Kagome nodded sudden understanding. "Yeah, Anna's father packed some. I'll get it."

"Thanks." She thought Hitokiri needed a bit of help -- and somehow, she felt very bad for him, sitting out there alone and trying to fix many years worth of tangles.


Kenshin heard light footsteps behind him, then Kay said, "Need a hand?"

"Huh?" He said, genuinely perplexed by the question. He paused while picking at a tangle, and looked up at her.

"Your hair. You look like you've got quite a job there." She had a plastic spray bottle in one hand and a comb in the other, so her intentions were obvious.

He flushed with embarassment and his voice held faint overtones of stubborn pride when he said, "I don't need help with this."

"Nonsense." She started to sit down behind him.

He spun to face her, sitting cross-legged on the ground. Kenshin gestured with annoyance at his hair with the comb. "I don't need help. I think I'm just going to cut it all off. This is hopeless."

Except he truly didn't want to cut his hair. He wanted his pony tail back -- long, thick, shiny. Kaoru had loved to stroke that pony tail; she would come up behind him, when they were alone, and run her fingers through his hair. Then she would hug him from behind, breath whispering against his neck. That quiet gesture had almost always led to other things; the kind of things that a man and a wife shared.

Kay practically growled at him, "Don't be stupid. I want to help."

"I don't need any help!" He clearly felt humiliated by the entire idea.

"Idiot," she snapped. "Don't let your pride get in the way of ... of ... your hair!"

He stared at her. "My pride?"

"Yeah. Your pride. Your hair's gorgeous, you nimwit. Let me help so you don't have to cut it off. Or I'll be really mad at you.""

"Heaven forbid you be mad at me," he felt a small smile touch his lips. He'd always liked feisty girls, and stubborn ones. And, really, she was right -- he needed help. He knew it, but it rankled to admit it.

The last person -- the only person since he'd been a child -- to comb his hair for him had been his wife. Grief twisted his heart into a knot, as he remembered her. However, Kay seemed to take his silence as acquiescence because she shuffled around behind him on her knees. When he tried to turn again to face her, she planted hands on either side of his head and twisted his head back so that he was forced to stare straight ahead. He felt a cold spray of something against the nape of his neck, and then the sharp tang of perfume.

"What's that?"

"Detangler," she said, sounding all business. "Sit still. You can wash it out later if you want. It's a bit girly smelling. But it'll help get the knots out."

Her fingers were cool and nimble against the nape of his neck as she started to work. She paused once, when her knuckles brushed his skin, and that was the only hesitation she showed. He wondered if that brief break was due to the fact that his skin was as cold and still as a corpse's. If she's noticed that, however, she made no comment on it - instead, she muttered in annoyance under her breath at him in a general way as she picked at the tangles. To his bemused surprise, despite her grumbling, she was suprisingly gentle and efficient, and she started to make swift headway on the mess.

His embarassment at her ministrations slowly eased. It felt very good to know someone cared ... it had been a very long time since anyone had cared about him.

No. That wasn't right. He shook his head in confusion. It had been a very long time since anyone had cared about the vampire. Except he was not the vampire. He was Kenshin Himura, forced to share a body with a demon. People had cared about Kenshin, when he had lived. Even as a hitokiri, his superiors had cared about him -- truly cared. He'd never been just a killer to them; they'd seen him as a young boy they were forced into using by circumstances for what they saw as the greater good.

Himura had been loved by many. He'd realized that, after he'd gone to his rest.

The vampire? Not so much. He doubted even Federic Torin cared for his Hitoriki as a person, though Torin had made it abundantly clear that he deeply valued Hitokiri as one of his most important officers. And trusted him, too.

He flinched at that realization. Kenshin didn't like to break anyone's trust. Torin trusted him. There was a weird dichotomy there -- on one hand, he wanted to see the man dead and buried and he would not regret that kill. On the other hand, he'd be breaking oaths given to the man.

"Hold still, you." She flicked him in the back of the head with a finger, scolding him for moving.

Wait, he thought, I am not Hitokiri. I am Kenshin Himura. I made no oath to Torin ... the vampire is the one who has vowed allegiance to him. And the vampire did it knowing he could easily break those promises if it was expedient to do so.

It felt so strange to think in the first person, as if he had been that monster. Or to think he might be responsible for a promise given by the demon that animated his long-dead body.

Kay worked on his hair for almost an hour. He sat quietly, lost in thoughts of his own, and let her work.

Getting the snarls out took less time than he'd expected, really. When she was done, she borrowed a pair of scissors and neatened the ends for him, taking a few inches off. Then she used a clip borrowed from Inuyasha -- who had a pony tail that made Kenshin's pale and wimpy in comparison -- to pull his hair back.

"There you go," she clapped him on the shoulder. "All done."

"Thank you," he said, stiffly.

He hesitated, then added, "Miss Kay, I wish I could leave you here. But Torin's collar will set off an alarm if it's removed while you're still alive. I could not lie and say I ate you if I had not done so, because of the collar. And he could kill you remotely if I told him you ran."

She stroked his pony tail. The gesture startled him with its tenderness. "You're afraid I'll get hurt, aren't you?"

"Aa." His affirmative was soft, barely loud enough for her to hear. It felt strange to him to worry about the fate of another ... and then he remembered he'd always been more worried about others than himself. It was in the memories of the demon that he'd not cared about anything but himself.

"I'm ... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. But ..." She ran her hand through his hair again. The guesture sent pleasant shivers down his spine. He could have sat there forever, letting her touch him. The demon wasn't complaining either, surprising him. "But the alternative would be to sit there and wait for the world to end. If the world's going to end, I want to go down fighting. If I die saving the world ... it would be worth it, too."

He closed his eyes, feeling her fingers in his hair, smoothing out the frizzies with easy, comfortable strokes.

"Kenshin," she said, voice nearly inaudible, "You will need my help. You ignite in sunshine and you can't be in two places at once."

"I know ... and if I hadn't said something to you, you'd probably have died of an anxiety attack. Or managed to kill me or yourself. I commend you for your courage, really. I'm sure Torin did his best to terrorize you before delivering you to me."

"No!" The strength of her denial of that idea shocked him. It seemed to come from the very bottom of her soul. "Kenshin, I'd never hurt you now. Now that I know ... know the truth. I'd never hurt you."

He nodded, "I know that." Then he added, "Did the others tell you my real name?"

"Huh?"

"Kenshin," he prompted.

The hand in his hair stilled. "Kagome called you Himura ... I don't know where ..." She shook her head, clearly confused. "I must have heard it from one of them."

"Don't call me that around Torin." He felt bad, somehow, as if he was rejecting her. "Call me Hitokiri."

"What's that mean?"

"Manslayer."

He felt her wince behind him. "You're not, though. Not anymore."

"Mm." She didn't know about his past as a human. Well, she'd learn soon enough from the others. He didn't need to tell her himself. He wasn't ashamed, exactly, of his past, but he wasn't proud of it either.

She moved to sit next to him, legs dangling off the edge of the deck. "Kenshin, why does Torin want to destroy Earth?"

"I told you: he wants to conquer the ruins that are left."

"No, I mean, why would anyone want so badly to rule that they'd be willing to kill billions?"

He was silent for a moment. It was a good question. "He's a demon, and demons have no souls. No soul ... no conscience. Killing six billion humans so he can have a new castle? Our fears, our terror, would only amuse him. He doesn't empathize with mortals or, really, with anyone. I've worked for him for a century and he'd kill me in a heartbeat if it served his ends, and never miss me. The only reason he hasn't done so is that I'm very useful to him. I win battles for him, again and again. If he killed me, he would need to replace me, and that would be an aggravation for him. He sees me in the same light one would view a fine sword."

"What about Kavan?" She glanced inside. "Does he have a soul?"

Kenshin shrugged. "Probably not. But it is in his best interest to see Earth saved. He's of this world. This is his home, and it would be destroyed by Torin. So he, and others like him, help the Slayers."

"It can't be that simple."

Now it was his turn to reach out and pet her hair. He did so absently, without even realizing he was doing it. "Nothing is ever that simple. Demons can love, did you know that? They can really, and truly, love. With all the selfless behavior that implies. Love ... when you love someone, you put their welfare ahead of your own, you sacrifice for them, you are happy when they are happy."

"How can a soulless creature love, if it has no conscience?" she asked, clearly confused.

"What is love, to begin with?" He noticed what he was doing with his hand when his fingers caught on a small tangle in her hair, and he dropped his fisted fingers into his lap. He didn't want to presume upon her, to assume liberties he really shouldn't take. They weren't lovers -- weren't even friends, really. How could she care about him, or trust him, when she'd known him such a very short time? Besides, he was an animated corpse. She couldn't possibly enjoy being touched by a dead man.

"Why do mortals, with souls, love? And there are men and women who will never know that joy, as well. Do they lack a soul?"

Kay said quietly, "Inuyasha's brother sent his daughter here to be safe. He loves her, I'd say -- Kagome said Inuyasha hates his brother, but his brother sent here here anyway because she would be safe. They're half brothers and Sesshoumaru is wholly a demon. You're right, I guess. They can love."

"Japanese demons believe they have souls, you know." Kenshin tucked his knee to his chest. "Maybe they do. Maybe all demons do. Maybe the evil, the terrible things demons do, are done in spite of a soul -- or because they have a soul which isn't human, and to it, human lives matter no more than the lives of mice matter to men."

"If something has no soul, and you kill it, it's not murder." Kay found a small twig on the deck and flicked it off into the night. "It'd be convenient for humans to justify killing demons by claiming they have no soul."

"Mmm. And easy for some demons to justify the terrible things they do by claiming they are soulless monsters as well. If you have no soul, you face no reckoning after you die. You live for the moment -- for the power, the excitement, the joy of the now. You don't live your life with repercussions in an afterlife in mind." Kenshin sat crosslegged on the deck. "I don't know the answers to the questions I raise here, Kay. Only that I've seen things which raise questions in my own mind, about the nature of what we are."

"Do you think we could ... reason ... with the demons?"

"With the hellspawn that Torin wants to release? No." He snorted. "They've been held in a hell dimension -- one far more hellish than the world where his keep is -- for generations. Millenia. They're angry. They want out. And they will wage destruction and death on the entire world if Torin succeeds in releasing them. There will be no reasoning nor bargaining with them. They've never known anything but savagery."

He shook his head. These discussions made his head and his heart hurt. "Demons ... we can discuss philosophy all we want, but at the end of the day, it's us or them, isn't it?"

Unexpectedly, the voice in his head said, //And you're one of us.//

One of us. A demon.

He growled back, //I chose to lay claim my humanity.//

//Too bad humanity will never lay claim to you.//

Kay's hand on his arm drew him back to the present. Again she was touching him, and this time, there was no pause when she did so. He looked up at her and met her level gaze. Her eyes were a fierce blue. He'd never noticed how blue they were before. "Us or them. Good guys versus bad guys, eh? I suppose I can live with that. The bad guys are the ones who want to lay waste to Earth. Easy enough to know which side to chose."

//And I'm a good guy,// he told the demon, anger in his thoughts. //And I will do my part to see that the bad guys are stopped. Even if the good guys never thank me. I'm not doing this for thanks.//

The demon was silent. Perhaps it had no response for that.