Ai shiteru

Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me (they belong to Nobohiro Watsuki.) - please don't sue. I'm broke right now anywhow ^_^. Err…I…er…don't think I even used language in this…but you can never be quite sure when I write. ^_^ If there's language, it's probably pretty mild, but I don't think there is…no graphic detail (of anything)…and not even that much romance (despite the title). ^_^ Spoilers! For the OAV if you haven't seen it (well, minor spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless)… Author's note: First attempt at a Rurouni Kenshin fan/fic. Extremely short. Fans of Kaoru and Kenshin will have major gripes after reading this. Card-carrying members of the "Why Tomoe Sucks Club" will probably also have major gripes after reading this. Fans of Tomoe will be all right with this. Fans who just don't really care what kind of fan/fic this is and who'll like it and just want to read the !#$!@ fan/fic will be obliged right now. Enjoy.

Ai shiteru. It's just two words. Two simple words. Strangely, it's even harder to utter them than gomen nasai. They frighten me…they always have…and I have once been Battousai Hitokiri, man who fears no one, man who slaughters thousand without flinching once or thinking twice. Fitting that the weakest conquers the strongest, the softest phrase would oppress the hardest man.
I've only ventured to test the words once. I've only been stung with them once. Once is quite enough - more than enough. Almost unconsciously, my cheek begins throbbing, though it has long stopped releasing actual physical pain. I don't want to remember…I can't…I can't remember…I spend too much time reminiscing…I spend too much of the night thrashing about from demonic nightmares.
I trace the scar's formation slowly. I can feel the cold metal slicing mercilessly into my skin as steel knows no kindness or leniency…but now, the pain springs from my heart rather than my face. Why do I even have a heart? If only I had none…no hitokiri should have one, but we all do nonetheless. And sooner or later, our suppressed emotions unleash their true power upon us. The strongest cannot fight that. It is the one enemy we all must face, our one enemy that not even the sword can subdue. The one enemy we are all cursed to never defeat…the one enemy we are all vanquished by… I can feel the small, warm droplets trickling downward. I almost expect to see ruby stains on my finger, the familiar salty smell…the coppery, slightly metallic taste upon my lips…
Her slender fingers grasping the dirk's handle…her dark eyes, pools of clemency, compassion, sympathy…and love…
I almost keel over. I loved those eyes once…but I can almost hate them now. All the more bloody seem my hands, all the more filth seems to coat me…Madness seizes me, and all I can pray for momentarily is death - anything to release me. It takes a few moments of internal shrieking to remind myself atonement must come first.
Her white hands - what a stark contrast to mine - wave before me, her soft voice asking me with concern if I'm all right. The corners of her eyes crinkle, and her lips part slightly in relief. She sees Kenshin, the rurouni, before her. I nod, murmuring, "Arigato gozaimasu, Kaoru-dono." Her mouth droops ever so slightly. She hates the "-dono" honorific. She wants to hear none at all, or "-chan" - or any more endearing honorific. I can't. I can't. As much as it hurts her, I cannot dissolve that distance between us.
Everyone I care about is killed, sooner or later, whether at my hand or one who holds vengeance against me. It is my plague, my curse. I won't let it happen again…not like a repetition of the tragedy involving Tomoe… I slump back against the wall. She has left me now, her stance revealing her disappointment and unhappiness.
I do love her…I love her as much as one like me is able to love, yet I cannot tell her so. I am not worthy of her. I can't be. She is innocent, unstained, and pure…chaste…The blood of others drench me from head to toe, blood I cannot wash away try as I might. I will not soil her, dirty her…I will not shatter her innocence and purity despite whatever her protests she might make that she does not care about what things I have done in the past, and that she loves me for who I am.
But she does care terribly about things I have done. She does not love me…she might think she does, but she does not. She does not know it, but in truth, she fears me and abhors me just as much as she loves me. She sees me only as Kenshin the rurouni - the Battousai she wants sealed forever. She does not even recognize it as part of me.
But I can make no promises. When I peer into the mirror, stare at the two sides of the sword, the answer flashes with cutting clarity - he is as much part of me as I am of him, fused into one body, one mind, one soul. She thinks he is merely a sleeping demon inside of me, a sliver of myself I can suppress and lock away.
She does not know he lives and flourishes with in me, unable to be snuffed out and tossed aside. She does not know I wrestle strenuously with him every moment of my life - sleeping or waking - to keep the devil from raging out of control. I am like my sword, split half in half.
Only one woman has ever loved me completely - Battousai and rurouni. Her fiancé fell at the blade of my sword, and she followed his path. All she gave me to remember her is the scar - my Nemesis - and the image of her eyes, gems of forgiveness I'll never see the likes of again, her earnest whispers of those two terrible words I never want to hear again, that I will never let slip from my tongue again. No one will ever love me so again. Not even Kaoru-dono. She cannot. She cannot understand the little boy Shinta, the ruthless Hitokiri. She herself cried out she wanted Kenshin, the rurouni. She shuns the hitokiri - perhaps even hates him - and dreads the moments he dominates my body in the rurouni's stead.
The hitokiri feeds upon fear and hate, turmoil and grief. Tomoe placed the leash of that monster in the rurouni's hand when her love endured despite the cold-blooded murders, the carnage, the hell I wreaked upon so many. Her love lasted even as my instrument of slaughter plunged through her, damning her to death at the hands of one she loved and trusted. If I remained with Kaoru-dono, the love she would lavish on the ruouni in contrast to the horror and vehemence she would nourish against the Battousai would revive the evil in me once again, bringing her demise. She will never love all my facets equally. She does not even know them all or seen them all. So she does not love me.
And so I will continue to call her "Kaoru-dono". I will continue to set the distance between us. I will continue to shirk from the two words. And I will continue to grope at my cheek, fingering the rough scars forming the "X". For as I look into the mirror which cannot lie, the calm façade of Kenshin the rurouni stares back. But not far beneath lurks the monstrosity of the icy eyes of the heartless assassin.
The sword swings at my hips, my only constant companion who has tasted all my guilt and anguish. My alter ego, embodiment of me. When I peer upon it, the silvery surface reflects my face, splitting it in two. One eye sparkles with the serene gentleness of Kenshin. The other is stiff, radiating with the frozen harshness of the Battousai.
The two halves of a whole. Who will take the sword and hold it against her chest, one side as cherished as the other? No one.
I don't mind. As long as no one does, the words lie dormant on my lips. I will never be stung with them again, though I will never forget loneliness. Although loneliness is a shadow even love cannot drive away. But once…but once love embraced the shadows I possess instead…one person who HAS held the sword and cherished both sides.
And as I hear her whisper the words in my ear, I remember the only time I've dared test them. They seem right somehow…even now…
"Ai shiteru, Tomoe…"

Second Author's note: I have nothing against Kaoru. I like her fine. I have absolutely nothing against her. It's just my opinion that Kenshin may love her as much as he loved Tomoe, but there is no possible way for Kaoru to feel the same for Kenshin. Kaoru is relatively easier to understand than Kenshin, and Kenshin is completely able to understand Kaoru (to a reasonable degree that is) and love her. The same does NOT hold true for Kaoru. She barely knows anything about his past, and there is no way she can understand how he must feel or the pain he's gone through even if she did. It's far too difficult for her to relate to him, as she has never been through what he's gone through. Furthermore, like I pointed out, she doesn't know him at all, really. She doesn't even LIKE all of him. How can you love someone if you don't love them fully, hate parts of them, and don't even know other facets of them? How can you love someone if you don't understand them at all? You can't! So my theory goes that Kaoru and Kenshin just don't make as good of a couple as Tomoe and Kenshin (and please don't hurt me for that opinion).