Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin. Now I could weep about that but I suspect that I could never have come up with someone as cool as him in the first place. So getting the chance to borrow him delights me no end. And borrowing is all that I am doing. No money will be made from this fiction as it is just for entertainment purposes. So please don't sue me, I don't have anything you want anyway.

Rating: PG-13 (I guess)

Spoilers: The OVA, or OAV if you prefer. I haven't seen the entire series yet but I suspect that the spoilers would also cover some parts of the Revenge arc and a smidgen of the Kyoto arc.

Info: I have seen the OVA and read the manga translations of the events from the Revenge arc. When I wrote the scenes I sort of fused the two together. I also dumped out Kenshin's visions, too much to describe and the OVA does it better anyway.

Covering my butt: A line in Jade Tatsu's wonderful Hitokiri's Battousai and Wolf inspired this fiction. I won't say what line, because it would give away part of the story.

More covering my butt: I would be very surprised if someone hasn't written something along these lines already. As I have not come across it I will apologise in advance if I am trespassing in anyone's territory. Gomen.

P. S. to covering my butt: I haven't seen the entire series yet so for all I know it got covered there. However I haven't come across it in any of the spoilers so (shrugs shoulders) I'm probably fretting over nothing, but if it should be the case then once again gomen nasai.

Now read it already.

Of Two Minds

Started October 8, 2001

Finished December 19, 2001

(Yes, I write slowly)

By Colleen

A Thought at the Beginning

I would like to say that I have long been of two minds but the reality is quite different. While at times it feels as though there are two people living in my body I know that they are actually two sides of the same person. One side is a slightly goofy rurouni who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life but is willing and able to protect the ones he loves.

The other side is a killer. This side is able to fight beyond the abilities and stamina of the rurouni but is driven by the need to smash his enemies rather than protect his friends.

I was the killer for many years. Now I am mostly the rurouni. For over a decade I have kept the man that I was chained away inside my mind.

Occasionally he breaks free.

There have been some fights where the challenger has been that much stronger than I am. Some conflicts that reached into the well of anger that the hitokiri drinks from and for a moment washes away the rurouni part of myself, releasing the bindings I keep wrapped around the killer.

I fear these moments. I also revel in them and this scares me more than anything else does. During the brief time I give myself over to my darker half I experience a freedom that I have never found as a wanderer. I am terrified that one day I may stay in that freedom. It tries to tempt me but the cost would be too high. The price being the soul I am slowly regaining as well as my friends and the woman I am falling in love with, though she knows it not.

In the moments of my fear I wish to cause one last death. I wish to assassinate the assassin that lives in my mind, chained by my heart.

Then maybe I would truly be free.

And a Dream is Most of it

The dream is always the same.

Only it isn't.

And it isn't like the changes are huge. In fact the differences are often only noticeable in retrospect. Upon waking he would realize that a tree had moved from one side of the path to the other. In some dreams the ink brush that sat next to her journal would roll across the table and fall to the floor when in fact it had originally stayed where it was. Nothing ever very big. Nothing that ever really made sense. Nothing that ever changed anything.

He could have understood if the changes had been for the better or even for the worse. At least then the attempt to move events in a different pattern would have had some meaning. Instead it seemed that even his sleeping mind knew he could never fix what had happened. So it would never allow him to even imagine the alternative of what his life could have been if things had truly been different. If he could have in fact saved her.

"Tomoe."

Kenshin sat up in his futon and shook the sleep from his head. The dream again. The persistent replaying of a more than a decade old memory. Him, trying to save his wife. She, trying to protect him. The shock and horror when he accidentally killed her as she moved to shield him made fresh again. The loss caused by her stepping between him and the man he was fighting forever locked in his heart.

Orange, he thought. That's what was different this time. The clouds were orange. It never makes any sense. Kenshin put the thought aside. He would ponder it later. Right now he needed to start breakfast and see to the laundry. Besides if things ran along the usual lines he would have the dream for several more nights before his mind picked something else to torture him with. Several more nights of losing her again. Several more nights of changes that changed nothing.

()o()o()

Damn, Yahiko thought, Kaoru's really overdoing it today.

"No, no, no. You're pulling your swing to the left again." Kaoru's ponytail swung back and forth across her back as she shook her head over her student's diminishing skill. "Try it again and concentrate."

Yahiko adjusted his grip on the shinai slightly and took a deep breath in, centring himself. Breathing out he swung his bamboo sword, executing a perfect strike. Pride swelled up in his head for a brief moment before his teacher deflated him in the next.

"Much better, now a hundred more just like that."

Yahiko stifled the groan that he dearly wished to utter. He knew better by now. If he made too much of a fuss he would be doing two hundred strokes rather that one hundred. Once again centring himself he started working through his exercises.

Kaoru allowed herself a brief smile while her student was too busy to notice.

The boy really was improving. Despite his griping he put his whole heart and soul into his training. Now if she could just get him to do the same with his chores... ha... she should live so long.

Kenshin smiled at student and teacher as he stepped out of the dojo carrying a basket of laundry. Listening to Kaoru train Yahiko he relaxed into the familiar sounds and rhythms of his adopted family. An almost unrealized tension leaked out of him and the last vestiges of the night's dream left with it. With a lighter heart he continued his morning chores, humming happily as he sorted the clothing into piles before dumping the first load into the wash tub.

"Oi Kenshin, you seem to be in a good mood today."

Kenshin looked up at Yahiko. The boy had his usual mischievous grin plastered on his sweating face. "Aa, it is too nice a day to hold on to anything gloomy, that it is."

Kenshin noticed the young owner of the dojo coming towards them. A big rurouni smile automatically spread across his face. "Good morning Kaoru dono." Kenshin said to the dark haired, blue eyed woman as she came up to stand behind Yahiko.

"Good morning Kenshin" she replied in a sweet voice which turned into a growl as she addressed her student. "Yahiko you still owe me another twenty strokes. Now get going."

"I'm going ugly, I'm going." The young boy said cheekily.

Kenshin smiled for real as the inevitable morning fight broke out between the two of them. As the fight turned into a brawling cloud of fists, dirt and further name calling the former hitokiri reflected on how wonderfully serene his life had become.

()o()o()

Kenshin awoke in a cold sweat, his lungs panting for air as if he had had to physically fight through the layers of sleep in order to escape the dream. He sat up, pulling his knees up to rest his forehead against them. Muffling his lips against his legs he let his emotions leak out of him in something between a sob and a laugh.

Pink.

The trees had been pink. The same pink in fact as the gi he wore day in and day out. He raised his face and wiped away the tears that had formed at the sides of his eyes. He was rather surprised at himself. As terrible as it was to relive the event it didn't explain why the colour change should upset him so much. The trees being pink wouldn't make a difference to the outcome. Nothing could ever change that. No matter how much he might wish differently.

()o()o()

Kaoru was worried. She had watched all day as Kenshin moved listlessly through his chores. Now, even though he had hardly eaten at all today he picked at the evening meal, his mind elsewhere. Dark half circles ran under his eyes and it was obvious to her that he hadn't been getting the sleep he needed.

"Kenshin, is something bothering you?" She asked, not really expecting to get a straight answer. Kenshin tended to keep things in, not wanting to worry her. Of course that just tended to worry her even more than the truth would have.

Kenshin started at her words. He was so tired his mind had blanked out for a few moments. He stared at his food, deciding that he had better give up on it and go to bed before he found himself face down asleep in his rice.

"Kenshin?" Kaoru asked again when he didn't answer her, now even more worried than she had been a few moments before.

He looked up. "Oro? Sorry Kaoru dono, nothing is wrong. I just need to get a little more sleep, that I do."

"Kenshin, you know if you ever need to talk about anything I'll always listen."

Kenshin smiled at her, touched by her kindness more than he could say. "Thank you Kaoru dono, but all I need is some sleep. If it is all right I will say goodnight now, that I will."

"Baka, of course it's all right. You get some sleep before you make yourself sick."

Kenshin nodded and made off towards his room. If he was lucky he could get in a few hours before the dream hit him. If he were really lucky he wouldn't dream at all.

Too bad he wasn't that lucky.

()o()o()

He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, following the trail that she had left in the snow. He was injured, his hearing and sight impaired by the traps he had encountered in his path. Blood dripped from various wounds making a second trail over the one created by her dainty feet.

He was moving forward now on willpower alone. The only thought left in his head that he had to get to Tomoe. He would get to her and take her back from the ones that had her. Even if he died in the process.

Perhaps that would be best. After all he had already failed to protect her happiness as he had promised. In fact he was the cause of all her hurts, having taken her true love away from her with his sword. Still he would get her back; he could do that much at least.

A stray thought in the back of his mind noted that nothing was different, not even the colours. The notion confused him for a moment. What did colours have to do with saving Tomoe? He didn't think on it for long. His mind was using up what resources it had just keeping him from falling flat on his face.

One foot in front of the other and soon he would be there.

Finally he made it to the clearing and cabin where Tomoe was being held. A man was waiting there, the last obstacle between him and his wife. He was saying something but since Kenshin's hearing had been damaged in the explosion of the first trap he couldn't make any of it out. And he wouldn't have cared if he could.

When the man rushed him Kenshin drew and swung his sword on instinct. Unfortunately those instincts had been dulled by the injuries he had taken in trying to get to this place. He missed.

What followed was him swinging madly while being taken apart piece by piece by his larger and healthier opponent. But he could not give up. Hanging on by a thread and oblivious to the fact that his enemy was about to deliver his final attack using Tomoe's knife, Kenshin gathered himself for one last desperate strike. With eyes closed to slits due to the damage they had taken earlier he swung his sword, feeling it connect in a killing blow. Too late he smelled her perfume. Jasmine. Jasmine? No, the small voice in the back of his head said, Tomoe only wore white plum.

He opened his eyes to see a woman standing between him and his foe. His sword had sliced down through her shoulder and back and into the man in front of her. She was in the act of pulling the knife out of his hand. As she fell the knife caught Kenshin across his face, making the single scar he had received at Tomoe's fiance's hand into a bloody X. He caught her body as it fell, Tomoe's name freezing in his throat as he took in the long dark hair and blue eyes of someone else.

()o()o()

Kaoru awoke to the screaming.

Coming awake in the dark she could hear Kenshin hoarsely shouting her name over and over again. Terrified for him beyond all reason she cleared the space from her bed to his door in a matter of seconds. She grabbed the door and slid it open with a bang, wincing at the sound and expecting it to wake the whole house. Entering Kenshin's room she amazingly found him still asleep apparently trapped in a nightmare. He writhed in his blankets her name now a sobbing whimper on his lips.

Knowing it was probably a bad idea she grabbed his shoulders and shook him calling his name.

Kenshin awoke to find Kaoru very much alive and shaking him like a rag doll. Without thinking he grabbed her, crushing her to him and burying his face in her jasmine scented hair. He clung to her in mindless terror as if she were the only safe place in a world of darkness.

Kaoru, startled by his reaction, hugged him back. His arms tightened further and the dark haired kendo teacher found her concern for him mingling with the joy that she felt at being in his arms.

They stayed that way for several minutes. Finally Kenshin brought his emotions under control and with cheeks blushing a furious red slid out of Kaoru's grasp.

"Kenshin?"

"Gomen Kaoru dono I am sorry if I woke you, that I am."

Kaoru grit her teeth and prayed for patience. It was obvious that Kenshin was going to try to pass this off as nothing. She would have chewed him out soundly but he seemed to catch the glitter in her eyes and started to explain quickly.

"Gomen Kaoru dono, I had a very bad dream, that I did."

Kaoru waited. When it appeared that he wouldn't continue she asked him what the dream had been about.

"I am afraid I do not remember." A glance at the storm clouds brewing in Kaoru's face made him add quickly "I just know that you were in some kind of danger and I could not save you."

Kaoru's expression softened and she felt a little guilty as her emotions soared. She didn't want him to be hurt but it made her heart speed up to know he cared so much. She felt her body wanting to move in to hug him again but her common sense (drat) kept her from acting on the instinct.

Kenshin yawned so wide it almost cracked his face. Kaoru giggled a little at the sight and giving a small sigh told him, "well you had better try and get back to sleep. I'm sure if you think a few happy thoughts before you nod off that they will follow you into your dreams."

"Hai hai, I will do that, that I will."

"Goodnight Kenshin."

"Goodnight Kaoru dono."

Kaoru got up and headed to the door. She looked back at Kenshin and smiled. He was already cuddled up again in his futon. His breathing so slow and even that he must have fallen back to sleep in an instant. She quietly slid the door closed and returned to her bed. Pulling the covers up to her chin she hoped that she would be able to drop off again as quickly as Kenshin had.

Kenshin's eyes had snapped open in the gloom as soon as she had left. He waited until he heard Kaoru enter her room before he sat up and buried his face in his hands.

Be careful of what you wish for, he thought. After years of little changes that did nothing he had longed for a large change to happen. For that dream memory to become truly different. Well he had gotten his wish, and it felt like it was going to shatter his heart.

()o()o()

It had been three days since Kenshin had slept, he made sure to keep track of it. He had managed to keep going on adrenaline alone since the night he had dreamed of Kaoru dying in Tomoe's place. Although his friends where a little worried about him he had managed to keep them from their well intentioned butting in, mostly by playing the rurouni to the hilt.

It was, he thought, a little cowardly of him and he wasn't happy about it but he needed some time. He had decided he would give it another two days, assuming he could last that long, before he would sleep again. He wasn't very hopeful of the outcome but the clutching panic in his stomach told him he had to at least try to stop the dream from occurring.

So he kept busy. In fact he had just finished washing the dojo's floor. Yahiko had managed to slide out from under the chore and Kenshin took it over for the day, anything to keep going. He sat down for a moment (on the part of the floor that was already dry) to go over the rest of his duties for the day.

Take down the laundry... wash the rice... heat the bath... make din...

He walked, following the path in the snow that her feet had made away from their home. Blood dripped from the vertical cut that ran down his left cheek. The wound, months old, had started to bleed again when he read what she had written in her journal.

He had taken her happiness. Killed it in the streets of Kyoto without a thought to whom that death might matter. He had told her just last night that he would protect her happiness but already it was a lie. He had destroyed it long before they had met.

But he would get her back. He didn't know what would happen after that but she was his wife and he would take her back from those that had her. He could do nothing else.

He walked on starting at small things. Bird song, snow falling from a tree branch, a cloud going over the sun. His body was tensed for danger but his mind was still in a daze and lingered several steps behind him. A small voice, unheeded by the swordsman, tried to warn him that the first trap was just around the bend in the road.

The snow was marred by blood. It's whiteness melted by gouts of red heat that still dripped out of the pieces of what appeared to have once been a large man. Kenshin stared in shock, the voice in the back of his head practically screaming that it was all wrong. The ninja shouldn't be dead, he was supposed to fight him. The man would lose but before that he was supposed to set off the bomb that would damage Kenshin's hearing. It was the first trap that would lead to the final disaster.

The dream Kenshin was sorely confused. He stared down at the bloody remains and realized with a start that whoever had killed him had used Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu to do it. Someone had used Kenshin's style and his master was the only other person in the world that could do that.

"Iie, in this place there is another person that can use it."

Kenshin jerked his gaze upward, surprised that he hadn't sensed anyone. A warrior stood in the shadow of a tree and Kenshin was unable to make out his features.

"Who are you? And where did you learn to do this?"

"The same place you did." The figure said as he stepped out of the darkness. Kenshin's mouth dropped open in surprise as he stared at the red headed, golden eyed visage of his other self.

"You didn't think I was going to let you kill her again, did you?" Battousai said as he drew his sword and rushed him.

Kenshin's little voice was beyond screaming as he backed up to avoid Battousai's strike. Unfortunately he found himself slipping in the mix of blood and snow and fell painfully against one of the... dojo's walls?

Kenshin's eyes snapped open and he found himself awake, still on the dojo's floor and shoved up against the wall several feet from where he had originally sat down.

()o()o()

Kenshin waited three more days before he allowed himself to crawl into his futon and attempt to sleep. He had expected to drift off as soon as he lay down but after two hours had ironically found that he was staring at the ceiling still waiting for sleep to come.

His mind had spent the last three days (and the two hours) dissecting the dream over and over again. In it he had been his younger self who at the time had been the Hitokiri Battousai. However, he had been confronted by an older image of himself who was also the Hitokiri Battousai. Confusing to say the least. But what Kenshin really worried about was what did he mean when he said he wouldn't let him kill her again. Did he mean Tomoe or was Kaoru once again waiting in her place to save him and die under his sword? And why would Battousai care? He was a killer and a completely remorseless one at that.

When Kenshin gave up the sword that kills and became the Rurouni he had shut away the part of him that was Battousai. Of course no prison was forever and the Hitokiri had, during times of extreme stress, managed to break out. So far Kenshin had been able to control him. It was still possible, albeit with a great deal of effort, to return him to the confines of his mind. Was all that changing now? Was he going to lose control of him and once again become the killer he had been during the Bakumatsu no douran?

He couldn't allow that to happen. Even more so he could not allow Kaoru and his friends to end up in the path of the danger that he could be. It was bad enough that they were constantly put at risk by Kenshin's past. He could not allow himself to become a further hazard to them. If these dreams were trying to tell him that he could no longer restrain that part of him then he would have to leave before it, before he could do any damage.

Once again it felt as if his heart were trying to fragment into bloody crystal shards but he knew how much worse it would be if he ever actually hurt Kaoru. Heart heavy with grief he eventually slid off into sleep.

()o()o()

Kenshin found himself standing about a hundred metres away from the house he had once shared with his wife. He looked around, surprised.

Shouldn't I be in bed about to wake up and find Tomoe gone? He thought. With a start he realized that HE had thought that. He wasn't relegated to the role of the little voice that desperately kept trying to change the events. His mind and actions were completely under his control, not the dreams.

Kenshin's legs wobbled and he sat down suddenly in the snow. His freedom, the ability to finally change what would happen here was so overwhelming that it froze his mind up in shock. In fact he might have just stayed like that if Iizuka's arrival at the house hadn't shaken him out of it.

Kenshin stalked over to the house. Already he could hear Iizuka disclaiming Tomoe as a traitor and instructing his dream self to kill her.

Kenshin placed his hand on the hilt of his sakabatou. He had every intention of drawing the blade and finding out just how far he could drive the man into the ground with it. If he could change nothing else this time around he would at least have the satisfaction of gifting the real traitor with a fraction of the pain his treachery had caused.

Only someone got there before he did.

Kenshin's steps faltered slightly as he felt the build up of perhaps the most powerful ki he had ever experienced. It was incredibly strong as well as strangely familiar. His steps got slower until he came to a complete stop, his mind coming close to freezing up for a second time.

He knew why that ki was familiar. It was his own.

The build up peaked and he heard the swift draw and slash of his own battou-jutsu move. From where he stood Kenshin could see the tip of a blade as it traced a path through Iizuka's body. The move should have separated his torso from his hips (as well as his hands from his wrists).

Only it didn't.

"Damn." The unseen speaker punctuated the swear word with the sound of his katana's hilt clicking against the sheath as he returned it to its place.

Kenshin stood opened mouthed as an unharmed Iizuka stepped into the house and Battousai stepped through the traitor and out of the house.

This Battousai was the one Kenshin remembered from the earlier dream. Although dressed in a blue gi and grey hakama as his younger self had been, he matched Kenshin in age and scars. Where his younger dream self had only the first vertical scar both of the older men had the completed cross-shaped scar on their left cheeks. Strangely the Hitokiri also had the same look of astonishment that the Rurouni did.

Violet eyes stared into amber; neither knowing how to proceed until their younger dream self stepped out of the house to start his trek towards disaster. Panic hit Kenshin in the gut and he walked forward, past Battousai, to place himself in his younger version's path.

Amber eyes followed his movements but made no move to help or hinder him. Kenshin raised his hand, palm out, in a halting motion towards the 15-year-old assassin he had been. He opened his mouth to command him to stop when the younger man simply walked through him. The younger Hitokiri Battousai continued on his way, a memory to be played out without change, without hope.

Kenshin felt his knees wobble again as he realized that he had even less control over this dream then ever. His mind was free but at the cost of being nothing more that an observer. He could change nothing.

Battousai sighed. He had suspected that the Rurouni would be as unable to effect things as he had been.

He would have liked to be proven wrong.

()o()o()

Battousai passed Kenshin where he stood in the snow. The near brush with a part of him that usually remained tightly controlled by his mind broke the Rurouni out of the daze he had fallen into.

"We need to talk."

Kenshin's voice stopped Battousai in his tracks. He turned to face the Rurouni. "We have nothing to talk about," he said coldly. He turned back towards the path and started to follow the now two sets of footprints towards the dream's conclusion.

"Following him will change nothing." Kenshin called out to him. "Either Tomoe will be there and she will die or Kaoru will be where she should not and still she will die."

Battousai stopped. He turned and retraced his path towards the Rurouni until they stood but a few feet apart.

Kenshin stared at him trying to read him as he would an opponent. Oddly he found it difficult to read someone who was essentially himself. "You can not stop it from happening if you can not touch him." He told the other man.

"If I can't touch him perhaps I can touch you." Battousai said as he drew his katana and struck out at his twin.

Kenshin drew his Sakabatou half way out of its sheath and blocked the swing. Metal clashed and sparked as the two blades met. One edge blunt and the other sharp. Startled both men stepped back from the attack and stared at each other. Even though they could not effect the dream it appeared that they could effect each other.

Battousai nodded. "A duel then." He said. "The spoils will go to the victor."

Kenshin looked startled for a moment. "What spoils?"

"Control of course." Battousai said as he drew his sword and stepped into position, waiting for Kenshin to do the same.

Control? Kenshin felt a block of ice settle in his stomach as he stood across from the one man he feared the most.

Himself.

Even though this was a dream he knew that what happened here would matter. If he lost then everything would be finished. His life with his friends... Kaoru... all of it would be gone. He would be what he had vowed never to be again. No longer the protector, he would instead be the danger.

He wondered if the Rurouni would be imprisoned by Battousai's mind the way Kenshin had kept the Hitokiri locked away. Or if being of no use to the killer would he simply be blown away like so much annoying dust.

He looked at his other self, waiting there for him to draw and commit to an action. To lose was not an option. For all the lives he touched and all the living he still had to do he would not, could not lose.

Kenshin drew his sword and stepped into position, mirroring Battousai exactly. He nodded slightly at his golden eyed opponent who returned it a moment before both men crossed the space between them as well as their swords.

Their swords were like two arcs of silver light as they met against each other again and again. Each strike they made countered by the other. The minutes piled up as the two opponents searched for a way to slide their blades beyond each other's guards.

The two of them finally separated to glaring distance. Despite being in a dream both of them reacted as if they had physical bodies, their breathing now taking on a faster tempo.

Kenshin was starting to realize that something was wrong. They were too evenly matched. As the Rurouni he knew he was still a skilled swordsman. However, when compared to Battousai he acknowledged that he could often come up lacking. If that hadn't been the case then there would never have been those times where he had needed him. He could have kept him from ever having resurfaced in his mind and body.

From the start of the fight Kenshin realized that the only weapon he had that might stand against Battousai was the Ama Kakeru Ryuu no Hirameki. While the Hitokiri knew of the technique only the Rurouni was able to use it. Perhaps that was why he hadn't pushed Kenshin into a situation where he would need it. Still, it seemed like something else was going on.

Kenshin shook the feeling off. He started to slide his body back into position when both men were startled by an explosion further off in the woods. Battousai turned towards the sound and eyes narrowing let off a stream of swear words that Kenshin had forgotten he had known. The Hitokiri turned back to Kenshin and slid into position for the Kuzu Ryuu Sen. The Rurouni automatically responded by moving into the battou-jutsu stance for the Ama Kakeru Ryuu no Hirameki.

So, he thought, it comes down to these two moves. Although the Ougi was the only sure answer to the Kuzu Ryuu Sen he wasn't all that certain of how well it would work against an opponent as familiar with it as Battousai must be. Still this is what the succession technique was for, an all or nothing response to impending death.

The two combatants stood there for several minutes, each attempting to read the other.

Kenshin once again started to feel that something was wrong. Battousai's stance was clumsy. He had only that moment to register the fact before the Hitokiri was moving towards him. Without conscious thought Kenshin stepped out of the battou-jutsu position and shifting as he moved met Battousai's attack with an equal Kuzu Ryuu Sen.

Kenshin had been right. Battousai was not trying his best.

On the last of the nearly instantaneous nine strikes Kenshin pushed just that much more and Battousai took the Sakabatou in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Breathing hard he pushed himself up on his knees and staring intensely at the ground said one word.

"Why?"

Kenshin blinked, startled. "Why what?"

"Why did you change attacks? If you had used the Ougi I would be unable to continue fighting."

"Your stance was wrong. I was not sure what you were doing, that I was not."

Battousai looked up at Kenshin and snorted. "I thought it was obvious, I was throwing the fight."

Kenshin looked at the Hitokiri in shock. Even though he had begun to suspect that that was the case it still surprised him to hear it. He never thought his darker half would ever try to lose.

"Why?" He asked, parroting Battousai's earlier question.

Almost as if in answer both men heard a second explosion reverberate through the woods. Battousai closed his eyes as if in pain. He quickly sheathed his sword before levering himself to his feet.

Battousai's golden eyes bore into Kenshin's own. "Do you know why you have never been able to make any serious changes to what happens in this dream?" Battousai asked him.

Kenshin stared at him puzzled and shook his head.

"Because I won't allow it."

"What?"

Battousai looked off into the woods. "While I don't carry the guilt that you do over our acts as a manslayer I will forever regret what happened this day. I refuse to look away from it, to cheapen Tomoe's death by pretending it was different, even if it is only a dream."

Battousai looked back towards Kenshin. "However, all that changed when Kaoru took Tomoe's place. I will not allow her to be hurt, especially by me."

Kenshin felt that shock was becoming a place he might never manage to leave from. Clearing his throat he asked the Hitokiri, "Then why challenge me for control if you don't want it?"

Battousai smiled rather sickly at Kenshin. "You're right I don't want control." He reached down to his sword and pulled it out from his belt, still sheathed. Grasping it in the middle he held the weapon horizontally out to Kenshin as if to give it too him.

"I want you to kill me."

"NANI?"

Kenshin stepped back from the offered sword and began to wonder if he hadn't gone completely insane. He was starting to believe that he had never really understood who he had once been.

Kenshin realized with a start that he had forgotten that the Hitokiri had the same reasons for joining the revolution that he had had. They both wanted to protect. To give ordinary peoples a chance to live happy peaceful lives. But now they were both afraid that they would hurt the woman they loved, again.

"Why hesitate?" Battousai asked him. "You don't really want me here and you know that I frighten Kaoru. With me gone you can finally live the life you want to, without fear of hurting anyone ever again."

Kenshin reached out and grasped Battousai's sword. The Hitokiri released it stiffly, as if fighting against the inclination to use the weapon rather than relinquish it. Battousai stepped back and took a deep breath, waiting.

Kenshin looked at the sword in his hand. He had not drawn a normal katana in over 10 years and the sword somehow seemed heavier than he remembered it being.

"Rurouni?"

Kenshin looked up at Battousai and smiled one of his larger smiles.

"I am sorry but I can not kill you, that I can not." He moved Battousai's sword into a vertical position and drove it into the ground sheath and all. "I have taken a vow never to kill again and that includes parts of myself."

"You IDIOT. Don't you realize what the dreams are telling us? If you don't get rid of me we will hurt, no not just hurt, kill Kaoru." Battousai said, his yellow eyes glowing with a light all their own.

"Iie, that is not what the dream is trying to tell us." Kenshin said. "Although I didn't realize that until you asked me to kill you, that I did not."

Battousai, breathing hard in his anger asked, "Then what is the dream for?" His voice while still full of fury sounded more lost than enraged.

"To show us that we care for Kaoru, no not just care, we love her. She means as much to us if not more then Tomoe did and yes it is also telling us that we are afraid that history will repeat itself. However, our mere presence is a constant danger to her and our friends. Your death would change none of that."

Kenshin held his hand out to the Hitokiri Battousai. "In fact without you I would have even less of a chance of protecting Kaoru. You do scare Kaoru in a way, but then she really doesn't know you."

"Don't you think that's best?"

"Once I did but now... I am not so certain. Kaoru is a very strong woman. If she knew us both then I believe she would not be so afraid. If she knew that she could always call me back to her she wouldn't have to worry that the Rurouni might disappear completely when you are there." Kenshin smiled even wider at his other self. " I do not believe that the possibility of you physically hurting her has ever even crossed her mind, that I do not."

Battousai glowered at the hand that still reached out towards him. "I would never hurt her," he said. He looked up into Kenshin's face. "I would die before I allowed that to happen again."

"I know." Kenshin said. "I feel the same way, that I do ."

"We don't deserve her. All we can offer her is blood and death." Battousai said, sadness and pain etching his face.

"Perhaps" Kenshin said, with an equal expression of anguish painted on his face. "But either way we can protect her." He reached his hand out a little further. "Will you help me do that?"

"I will." Battousai said and moved the last few inches to grasp Kenshin's hand. Stepping towards each other the two of them melded back into one being.

Kenshin found himself sobbing out Tomoe's name as he held her bleeding form in his arms. The dream was once again playing out to its tragic end. The dream, he thought, is always the same. A reminder of what he had failed to protect. A warning not to let it happen again.

Together they would safeguard her happiness and their own.

And a Thought Ends it

I have long been of two minds. True we are two opposite sides of one person but despite our differences we can agree on the important things. I exist under the surface, being unsuited to day to day living, but I am always here. I am a killer tied to a man who will not kill but I am content. Living behind his eyes I watch the woman we love and the friends we cherish. I would never want to do anything to disturb them. So I let him live our life. I am glad just to be part of it, ready to step in whenever I may be needed. You might think that I would be jealous of his time with them but I am not. For while I would happily kill for them, cheerfully die for them, he...

He can live for them.

OWARI.

Reviews: Please do.

Notes: My understanding of the Kuzu Ryuu Sen comes from Hiko teaching it to Kenshin. During the lesson where they use it on each other Kenshin does it correctly but Hiko wins. His teacher then explains to him that because he is stronger, taller and has a longer reach than Kenshin does that his Kuzu Ryuu Sen would always beat Kenshin's. Therefore it seemed to me that two equally matched opponents could probably tie when using it against each other. Yes, I think in such a match that Battousai would normally have the upper hand but since he was trying to lose... he lost.

Glossary: I hadn't intended to use any Japanese words but some still crept in

Gomen/ Gomen nasai Sorry/ I beg your pardon/ Excuse me

Rurouni Wanderer

Battousai Kenshin's nickname when he was hitokiri, means master of the drawing sword

Hitokiri Manslayer/ Assassin

Katana Japanese sword

Sakabatou This is Kenshin's sword/ Reverse blade sword

Kendo The study of sword fighting

Shinai Bamboo sword used during Kendo

Oi Hey

Aa Yes

Gi The kimono like shirt Kenshin wears (unless he does just wear a kimono)

Oro Kenshin's signature saying when surprised or asking what etc.

Baka Idiot

Dono An honorific, very polite and old fashioned

Hai Yes

Iie No

Nani What

Dojo School, in this case a Kendo School

Bakumatsu no douran The upheaval during the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate

Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu Kenshin's sword technique/ Honourable Sword of the Flowing Heavens

Battou-jutsu A move that uses a fast draw of the sword from the sheath in a high-speed one shot attack

Ougi succession technique, also means secret or mysterious

Kuzu Ryuu Sen An attack that hits all nine strike points more or less simultaneously/ Nine Headed Dragon Flash

Ama Kakeru Ryuu no Hirameki A faster than god speed Battou-jutsu move. Usually the only move that can stand against the Kuzu Ryuu Sen/ Heaven's Soaring Dragon Flash

Owari The end