Author's Notes: This fic takes place after the Kyoto saga, as if the Christian Saga never took place. It is also a sequel to 'Till Morning.'
Category: Anime, Rurouni Kenshin, Yaoi, TWT
Warnings: vague limish content, minor angst, shonen ai, possible sap
Pairings: SanosukexKenshin, Kaoru-Kenshin
Author: Arigatomina

To Be Alone

Part 1

Nervousness and foreboding kept Kenshin awake many nights, but this was different. This time he was surrounded by a peace so comfortable he willingly
clutched awareness. He didn't want to miss any of it, not even a moment.

Strong arms curved over his back, weight pressing the silk of his hair against his skin, and the warmth beneath his cheek lulled him as nothing had in years. It
had been so long since he'd felt the comfort of an embrace that he clung to it selfishly. No matter how much Kaoru cared for him, the girl didn't have the
strength to hold him like this, to wipe away everything, if only for a little while. The vitality surrounding him was an emotional well and he drew from it, bathed in
it as the darkness met its end.

Deep breaths lifted him in gently lapping waves that nearly melted his heart. The comfort and safety he'd known once before, ten years past in the arms of his
wife, but the purity was like none other. Even in sleep, the iron strength was ever so careful not to harm him, the smooth neck vulnerable and bare to his
resting head. There were no hidden motives here, no secret agenda beating in the heart beneath him.

If there were a way, he might have remained in those arms for eternity, just being held, sheltered, comforted. The past could disappear in those arms.

Hours passed before Kenshin pulled himself out of that pleasurable stasis, his violet eyes opening to the shadows. It would be daylight before too long, and
now was the time to face reality.

What he'd done last night was something he had thought of numerous times, a variety of imaginings spawned by the youth's bright mahogany gaze, the warm
smile that drew him in over and over again. He'd even been accused of having done so already, by a man who knew him better than any of them. But he felt
no guilt at having accepted Sanosuke's adamant invitation.

Although young, the man had fought beside him too often to be treated as a child. Sano had come to him, and he felt no remorse. All that remained was the
path this night could lead them on.

Kenshin had no intention of pushing his needs onto his friend. He was accustomed to being turned and swayed by the others, and this would be no different. If
last night was a single occurrence, then that was simply the way it was. It depended not on him, but on the strong soul sleeping so peacefully beneath him.

Stealth was one of Kenshin's attributes, but it seemed even asleep, Sanosuke noticed small details. He'd no more than lifted his head before those arms
tightened around him, pressing his body close.

Kenshin's breath caught in his throat, and he held it, ducking his face back into the curve of Sano's neck. The embrace was so tight he felt the beginnings of
discomfort, but he welcomed that as well and relished in the strength.

The hold loosened after a moment, Sano letting out a mumbled sound, and Kenshin released his breath with a soft sigh. As much as he wanted to prolong the
encounter, his sense of responsibility was too strong to ignore. Kaoru and Yahiko would worry if he weren't there when they woke.

A small smile curved Kenshin's lips, and he brushed his cheek over Sano's neck.  Then he pushed himself up again. The two wouldn't just be worried, they'd
be furious if they woke to find no breakfast waiting for them. He knew that without a doubt. And he didn't want the floating warmth he felt to be ruined by a rant,
no matter how deserved it might be.

Pressing an arm across Sano's chest, Kenshin pushed himself up enough to look at the sleeping man. Heavy arms slid down from his shoulders to pool on the
small of his back, and he winced a bit as the fingers previously entwined in his hair found their way free. Sano didn't seem to notice this movement the way he
had the last one, his steady breaths so deep they caused vibrations to tingle Kenshin's palm.

Dark lashes stood out on his friend's cheeks, and Kenshin's gaze lifted to the man's thick, tousled hair. It was still constricted by Sano's signature headband,
one piece of clothing Kenshin had failed to remove the night before. That brought a twinge of regret, just a hint of longing that made his free hand lift to brush
the red cloth.

He could remove it still, but there really wasn't much point now. Instead, Kenshin did his best to slide off Sano without rousing him. His right leg was pressed
between Sano's knees, and he winced when his friend let out a groan, one hand closing over his waist.

"Too early..." Sano mumbled, shifting the weight with little thought.

A soft laugh made Sano's brows draw tight, and he opened blurry eyes to scowl at the smiling redhead leaning over him. Dark hair framed Kenshin's elfin face,
making his pale skin seem to glow in the dim light.

"It's not so early as that," Kenshin said softly, his eyes sparkling at Sano's sleepy expression.

Kenshin hadn't expected Sano to react so casually, but it was nice to know he hadn't forgotten during his slumber. Kenshin still wasn't sure exactly how much
alcohol his friend had drank before seeking him out. It wasn't enough to cloud those vibrant brown eyes. They blinked at him, awareness clearing some of the
weariness as Sano stared at him. And Kenshin's smile slowly widened, his fingers flicking the dark hair over Sano's forehead.

"I have to go now," said Kenshin, "or they'll worry. The sun will rise soon."

The reminder brought a slap of reality to Sano's mind, and he sniffed, his hand easing off Kenshin's waist.

"I forgot about that,” Sano muttered. “Forgot all about that. Egh...what a mess..."

"A mess?" Kenshin asked, his tone light as he straightened and slid off the taller man to crouch beside him. "Do you regret what we did, Sano?"

It really was too early to be thinking about ramifications, but Sano sighed, rolling onto his side to stare up at his friend. "I don't regret anything. You're the one
who's running off to get back before you're missed."

"I don't want anyone to worry," Kenshin explained, tilting his head as he ran fingers through his long hair. "And so long as you have no regrets, I will not
consider this a mess."

His gaze fell to where Sano had discarded their clothes, and Kenshin smiled a bit, raising an eyebrow at the wrinkles in his magenta and white clothing.

"Although, I may have to explain to Kaoru-dono how I managed to get so rumpled overnight."

"No," Sano snorted, falling onto his back and folding his arms behind his head. "Just tell her you were wrestling around at my house."

"Which is the truth," Kenshin smirked, his gaze moving back to Sano.

The young man seemed completely unaware of how vulnerable a position he was in. It was either that, or Sano really wasn't the least bit embarrassed to be
lying naked next to him. Kenshin didn't know which was the case, but his friend's ease was starting to affect him. His gaze shifted away from Sano's face for a
moment before he shook his head and moved closer.

"Sano, where did you learn to do what you did?"

"Eh?"

Glittering violet eyes were hovering over him, and Sano blinked at them, a sudden warmth swamping his cheeks. That wasn't a question he'd expected
Kenshin to ask him, not when the man was obviously getting ready to leave as if nothing had happened.

"What does it matter?" asked Sano.

"It doesn't."

Dark wary eyes looked up at him, and Kenshin reached out to tweak Sano's nose.  Those eyes crossed in surprise, and an impish smile flashed over
Kenshin's face.

"I have to go now, Sano. You'll come for breakfast at the dojo, ne?"

Sano's mouth fell open, but Kenshin didn't wait for him to get over his seeming paralysis. He frowned, running a hand over his hair as he watched the slender
man dress.

Was that it? Sano didn't know what he'd really expected come morning, but Kenshin's behavior was so upbeat he had no idea how he was supposed to react.

No regrets. That was what Kenshin had said. If he had any regret it was that he felt completely out of sorts. He wasn't even in control enough to enjoy the view
Kenshin's curved back was giving him.

Violet eyes glinted over a pale shoulder, flashing him a smile, and Sano amended that thought. He enjoyed the view plenty, he just didn't have the confidence
to do anything about that. All the hesitation that had turned him away from the dojo the night before was curled in his gut now.

His friend's quick smile reminded him that he hadn't been the one to decide things last night. If Kenshin hadn't followed him home from that aborted mission,
nothing would have happened. But something had definitely happened. So why was Kenshin going back to the dojo as if it hadn't?

"Kenshin..."

"Yes, Sano?"

The short redhead was tying his sash, the sword back in place at his side, and steady eyes moved over him. Sano couldn't seem to stop the nervous flush that
heated his face. Kenshin's gaze was so direct, and there was no doubt the man didn't look at him as if nothing had happened. He would have noticed if those
violet eyes had ever looked at him like that before.

Discomfort twisted him, and Sano sat up, bending a leg and making Kenshin smile at him.

"I thought you were shy," Sano muttered, frowning at his friend.

The sweet Rurouni smiled wider.

"Look, Kenshin, you're starting to worry me. Last night...I didn't think anything would happen. And when it did, well, I didn't think at all. But now I just..."

Kenshin's eyes narrowed at the torment scrawled on his friend's face, the curled fist near Sano's bent leg. He crossed the space between them silently and
crouched, a light hand falling on Sano's shoulder.

A part of him wanted to say whatever it was that Sano needed to hear, but he didn't know what that was. Until his friend told him how he'd taken last night,
Kenshin wouldn't say anything.

The look Kenshin gave was tender and thoughtful and sweetly concerned. Sano winced away from it.

"Kenshin, you're acting like nothing happened. What? Didn't it mean anything to you? You're just going to go back to Jo-chan and..."

Fingers pressed lightly over his lips, and Sano let out a sharp breath, his eyes dark.

"What did it mean to you?" Kenshin whispered, his gaze steady. "I have no regrets, as I told you. If you were to ask me, I'd do it again."

"Really."

Kenshin nodded solemnly, and Sano moved. Catching Kenshin's shoulders, he pulled him into a tight embrace, nearly smothering the redhead's surprised
sound.

Hugging Kenshin was something he rarely did, but if the man was going to say things like that then he'd have to get used to being grabbed without warning.
Just the thought of Kenshin accepting another invitation made him want to grin madly. Instead, he did his best not to squeeze the shorter man too hard.

"You can bet I'll ask again."

He eased his grip a bit and felt a wash of doubt when he saw Kenshin's face. The man's eyes were closed, those narrow brows drawn.

"Kenshin?"

How Sano had found his weakness, Kenshin didn't know, but he wanted to burrow against him. He needed to be going if he wanted to get back in time to start
his chores. He knew there wasn't time to be sitting around. But those arms felt so good around him...

Kenshin sighed, tilting his face to brush his forehead against Sano's bare chest. "I really do have to go now, Sano. If you keep holding me I'll never get my
work done in time..."

"Ah," Sano sighed, letting him go. "Can't have Jo-chan mad at you."

Kenshin blinked at him, and Sano frowned, folding his arms over his chest. "Don't you feel bad about messing around with me when she's waiting for you at
the dojo? If she found out-"

"Kaoru-dono is too innocent to know what may happen between men," Kenshin said slowly, taking in Sano's uncertain expression. "She wouldn't understand,
de gozaru."

Sano stared, taken back by Kenshin's calm tone. "You don't feel guilty?"

"Should I?" Kenshin returned, tilting his head. "I've made no promises to Kaoru-dono that I have not kept."

"Oh."

Kenshin stood slowly, brushing some of the wrinkles from his white pants and straightening the worn top. "You will come by the dojo, ne?"

Sano nodded, and Kenshin smiled as he ran one last hand over his long tail of hair. "Good."

.-.

The sun sparked golden highlights along Kenshin's dark red hair, seeming to set his head on fire. Kaoru might have smiled at the thought if the Rurouni hadn't
been so quiet for the last few hours.

He'd done his chores with his usual spirited banter, accepting the girls' antics with a child-like enthusiasm. But the moment they left for the evening his
expression had fallen considerably.

Yahiko had noticed as well, paying so little attention during their sparring that she'd hit him more times than even he deserved. Now she leaned against the
doorway, not sure what to make of Kenshin's dark eyes.

He was sitting with his feet on the grass, one hand resting lightly on the hilt of his sword, the other curling around a bit of his hair. She'd never seen him do
that before, fidget in general, or touch his hair in particular.  It almost frightened her.

He looked...restless.

"Kenshin?"

"Ah, Kaoru-dono..." Turning, Kenshin smiled a bit, his gaze moving over the girl's hesitant expression. "Do you need something?"

"No," Kaoru said, shaking her head.

She moved to him and sank to the wood beside him, her hands folding together in her lap. "Kenshin, is...is something wrong...?"

Wide violet eyes blinked at her, but she could swear there was still a darkness hiding behind his quick smile.

"There is nothing for you to worry about, de gozaru."

Kenshin looked away, his eyes glinting as he watched the sun sink behind the gate. The fingers of his left hand tightened reflexively on a few red strands of
his hair, his shoulders flexing inward.

He didn't know what he was expected to do now. He'd planned to leave it all up to Sano, but Sano hadn't come as he'd said he would. Did that mean it really
was an isolated incident?

If Sano had said so that morning, Kenshin would have accepted it. But their parting had promised so much more. Sano wasn't the sort to lie, not to him, and he
couldn't suppress a growing sense of foreboding.  His eyes narrowed as a twinge made his right hand curve around the hilt of his sword.

Had he changed his mind? That was certainly his right, his choice, but the least he could have done was tell him so.

A soft ruffle distracted him, and Kenshin closed his eyes, eliminating the scowl that threatened to take over his face. A tiny smile was the best he could
manage to turn on the wide-eyed girl.

"I think I'll go for a walk," he said softly. "Don't wait up for me."

Kaoru jolted after him, her heart leaping into her throat.  "Kenshin! Where are you going?"

The red-haired man paused, one foot on the grass, and Kaoru made herself hold still. "Kenshin...?"

"Daijoubu," Kenshin smiled, the expression not touching his dark eyes. "I just need to think about something. I'll be back this evening, or perhaps in the
morning. There's nothing to worry about."

"Demo..." Kaoru frowned, her eyes bright as she clenched her hands together. "Can I walk with you? I won't get in your way-"

"No."

Kenshin realized the rejection had come out far too sharp.  Wide blue eyes shimmered at him, twisting that part of him that cringed at the idea of making Kaoru
cry.  But Kenshin shook his head firmly, his own eyes shining with fondness.

"Kaoru-dono," he said gently, but firmly.  "I will come back, de gozaru. I promise. But now I need to do something that does not involve you."

Kaoru flinched, staring at the gentle man in hurt confusion. She couldn't remember his ever having said that to her.  Her entire life revolved around Kenshin,
his daily presence, his pain and happiness...his restlessness.   But not his past, that one aspect he refused to share with her, the thing that had led him to
walking out on her life so recently it was a fresh wound just waiting to reopen.  Blinking rapidly, she dropped her eyes. "Kenshin..."

The hurt echoed in her soft voice, and Kenshin sighed, his gaze falling to the ground. "You don't want me to go."

"I just want to know where you're going," Kaoru said, sniffing a bit as her eyes burned. "I don't want you to go anywhere without me. Why can't you tell me
where you're going?"

Silence answered her, and she looked up suddenly, her head snapping back. Dull violet eyes met her, and she heaved a sigh of relief. For a second she'd
been terrified that she would find him gone. "Kenshin."

"...Megumi-dono..."

Kaoru gasped, quivering a bit as her eyes widened till they filled her face. Kenshin didn't react.

"Megumi-dono has a collar you could use," he said softly, his solemn gaze boring into the girl. "If you want to tie me here. You can follow me, never allow me to
leave the yard. You can treat me as a pet to be watched at all times. Or you can trust that I will keep my promise to you."

The girl stared at him, her bright eyes shimmering in the dying light and he turned away sharply. Her trust in him hadn't recovered since they'd returned from
Kyoto.  And as twisted as his thoughts currently were, he couldn't reassure her properly, couldn't focus on her abandonment fears without a smoldering
resentment burning in his stomach.  No one had asked how he'd felt when he'd left behind everyone he loved, but they'd all been quick to tell him how selfishly
he'd behaved.  Now was the worst possible moment to remind him of that.

His hands moved, wrapping around him as he sank where he'd stood, sitting with his head bowed. "I will not go if it will hurt you so much."

The man looked so small, his body curved over his folded legs, the open yard seeming wide and desolate around him.  Kaoru ran to crouch beside him, tears
burning her eyes. "Kenshin, Kenshin, please don't be upset with me. I'm sorry, please, I just don't want to lose you. I don't want you to ever leave again. I
can't...I can't take that. But please, please don't be angry with me!"

Guilt struck him in a painful blow, and Kenshin moved sharply, his arms curling almost mechanically over the weeping girl's back.

"I'm not angry with you," he said softly, staring at the shadowy gate beyond her. "I won't leave you. There is no need to be afraid, Kaoru-dono. I just didn’t
know it would hurt so much. I...had no idea it could possibly hurt this much..."

His hands were cold on her back as the girl sniffled against his chest.

"No," Kaoru mumbled, rubbing her eyes on his faded shirt. "I'm not hurt, I was just scared you were mad at me for being so worried."

"I'm not angry," Kenshin said again, his voice falling to a quiet whisper. "Are you all right now, Kaoru-dono?"

She nodded against him, and he removed his arms. He knew that if he did not she would willingly stay cuddled against him, and he felt far too cold to comfort
her right now.

"It will get cool," he said, standing slowly and straightening his clothes. "You should go inside now, de gozaru."

"Are you going in?" Kaoru asked hopefully, her eyes flashing as her breath caught in her throat.

"I will be in my room."

He moved away from her, and she followed after, shadowing him into the dojo. "Do you want some tea, Kenshin? I'll make it."

"No, thank you," Kenshin said, not looking back. "Good night, Kaoru-dono."

Blinking in surprise, Kaoru paused as he continued toward the room she'd given him. "Kenshin...you're going to sleep this early?"

"I am very tired."

Kenshin moved quietly down the hall, nodding when he saw Yahiko sitting near the cleared dining spot. The boy blinked at him, and Kenshin sighed when he
found himself with yet another shadow. At least this one he doubted would need so much attention. He didn't speak as the boy followed him into his room.

Kenshin slid the door shut behind them, and Yahiko jumped a little, suddenly wary to be closed in with the silent man. He'd tailed him only because of the odd
scene he'd witnessed outside. Now he wondered if he shouldn't have kept his nose out of this one.

Kenshin didn't even acknowledge him, sitting with his back to one wall, knees drawn close to his chest. Taking a deep breath, Yahiko approached him.

"Ano...Kenshin? You want to talk about it?"

The slender man had his elbows folded over his knees, chin resting on one wrist, and he flicked dark eyes to him before looking down again.

Yahiko had worry written all over his wide eyes and young face, worry for him. Kenshin ducked his head, sighing against his chest.

"I do not want to talk," he said quietly, closing his eyes. "Thank you for your concern, Yahiko, but I'd like to be alone."

"Here?" Yahiko shivered a bit, his eyes moving around the bare room as he wrapped his arms around himself.

Kenshin regularly left to be on his own, disappearing for a few hours,  probably wanting some private time away from them. But he'd never heard of the man
seeking solitude in this quiet little room. It was too strange.

"Why don't you take a walk or something?" Yahiko frowned.

A muffled laugh reached him, and he felt goosebumps break out over his arms. The sound was so weird, oddly unnerving, and while it remained quiet and
muffled, it intensified until Kenshin's shoulders were shaking visibly, his face still hidden in his arms.

Yahiko stared for a second before turning sharply. He left the room as quickly as he could without running, that soft laughter echoing in his mind.

.-.

Yahiko was panting by the time he reached the right house.

He'd sprinted all the way to Sanosuke's home only to find the man missing. After that, he'd spent nearly an hour making rounds of all the men Sano was
friends with, at least, all the ones Yahiko had met. He was about ready to give up when he remembered one person he hadn't checked with.

He'd been to the man's house only once, but he wasn't about to forget that instance. Saitoh had followed him there, the day after Kenshin had left for Kyoto.

Katsu's home was on the outskirts of town.  By the time he reached it, Yahiko was ready to collapse in exhaustion. The moment the black-haired man opened
the door, he did just that, falling into Katsu's startled arms.

The boy clutched his arms, gasping deep breaths, and Katsu stared down at him with a startled, dumbfounded look on his face. "Wha-what...?"

"Yahiko?!" Sano shoved off the mat he'd been sitting on and moved to tower over the boy, his eyes sweeping Yahiko's length. He didn't seem to be hurt.
"What happened?"

"Why do you have to be all the way out here?" Yahiko growled, still panting as he glared up at Sano. "The one time I need to find you and you're out here!
You never come out here!"

Katsu snorted when the boy let go of his arm, and he turned droll eyes on Sanosuke. "Well, he's right about that."

Sano winced a bit and Katsu turned away, resuming his seat opposite the dice. Cup in hand once more, he waited to see the scene unfold.

Yahiko was glaring up at Sano with narrow eyes.  Sano frowned back at the boy, folding his arms over his chest.

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" asked Sano.  "And why are you breathing like that? What did you do - run all the way here?"

"I've been all over the place," Yahiko exclaimed, his anger evaporating into exhaustion. "I checked everywhere looking for you."

"Why?" Sano's voice dropped, and he leaned down a bit, actually looking at Yahiko's troubled eyes. "What's happened?"

"I don't know," Yahiko blurted, "but I think Kenshin's lost it or something."

Sano jerked back, and Yahiko let out a shaky breath, crushing a hand over his forehead. "I don't know what's wrong. He was weird all day, and then him and
Kaoru got in an argument and she was crying. I think Kenshin fell down, and then they were hugging and I figured everything was fine, but when they came
back in Kenshin was all weird again. I asked him if he wanted to talk about it but he didn't and then he went in his room and folded up against the wall and
laughed - it was the creepiest thing I've ever heard! He didn't look at me, but he was laughing for no reason and I think he's lost it!"

The boy's eyes were very wide, his voice coming in a heated rush.  Sano let out a sharp breath, the tension draining out of him.  Yahiko was prone to
exaggeration.

"Yahiko, calm down."

"But you didn't hear it," Yahiko cried, his hands curling into claws at his sides. "He was laughing like - like - it was just so-"

Katsu snorted, raising his cup at the boy. "Like he was crazy?"

Yahiko looked at him and nodded adamantly. Katsu grinned in response, catching Sano's dark eyes.

"Sounds like he finally got up the nerve to propose," said Katsu.  "That'd make any man a little crazy. The infamous Battousai's finally ready to settle down."

Sano's cold brown gaze struck him, and Katsu drained his cup, refilling it without breaking eye contact.  This was as close as he could get to an 'I told you so',
and he hadn't even instigated it.

"At least you won't have to worry about things being strange now," Katsu murmured casually.

"Yeah," Sano said softly, his voice void and low. Yahiko turned confused eyes on him, and he brushed a hand over the boy's hair. "Don't worry about it. I'm
sure you'll get used to the changes eventually."

"What are you talking about?" Yahiko demanded, shaking his head at the tall man. "That wasn't happy laughter! It was almost like he was...like..."

Sanosuke moved across the room, catching his coat and slinging it on in a fluid motion. There wasn't the tiniest bit of worry in his eyes when he turned back to
the doorway.  Yahiko let out a frustrated cry, nearly stamping his foot on the floor.

"Aren't you worried at all?!"

"Why would I be?" Sano shrugged. "Kenshin can take care of himself, he always does. Don't worry so much."

"You're not even listening," Yahiko said, his hands fisting close to his legs. His glared heatedly and clenched his teeth. "I thought you would help. I should have
known better. Well, you may not believe me, but there's something really wrong with Kenshin and I'm not going back there!"

That managed to catch Sano's attention, bringing a spark of surprise to his eyes.  Yahiko nodded sharply, glaring daggers up at him.

"I'm serious," said Yahiko.  "I'm not just imagining things. If you don't believe me, just go see for yourself. I've never heard anyone laugh like that..."

The boy's wide eyes made something creep over the back of Sano's neck, fear, concern...and an edgy need to make tracks before he made things worse
than they already were.  He pointedly ignored that protective urge to rush over and make sure Kenshin was safe.

"Think who you're talking about," Sano said tiredly. "Even if Kenshin did...lose it, he wouldn't hurt anyone. Besides, do you really think Jo-chan would let him
hide in his room if something were wrong?"

"No," Yahiko admitted, his face still drawn in a stubborn frown, "but she didn't hear him like I did. Will you just check on him? You're supposed to be friends,
isn't that what friends do?"

His words obviously struck a nerve because Sano winced and dropped his eyes.  But they didn't strike hard enough. Sano sighed and stepped past him to
open the door.

"Just go home," Sano said, glancing over his shoulder at the boy. "I'll try to stop by tomorrow. It's too late to go bothering them now."

Yahiko shifted in the doorway, that cold chill creeping over him again. "But-"

Interrupting the boy, Katsu called out from his place on the floor.  His voice was carefully filtered to sound merely curious. "Are you leaving?"

Sanosuke didn't look back, but he saw him nod. Katsu stood and joined Yahiko in the doorway, something about the scene making him want to look around for
an enemy who might have tailed the boy. It was far too familiar. And he knew the chances of Sano's leaving on another journey weren't too slim at the moment,
especially if he were right about Kenshin and that girl of his.

Sano's friend sighed near him, and Yahiko shivered at Katsu's dark expression, his own worry doubling. "Sano, are you going back to your place?"

"Later," Sano said, waving a hand without looking back. "I think I'll take a walk. I want to be alone."

Katsu sighed again, running a hand through his straight dark hair as he looked down at the boy still standing near his door. "Want me to walk you home, kid? I
don't have anything else to do."

Yahiko didn't answer, and Katsu blinked at the boy's wide eyes, his brows drawing in a frown.

"Oi," said Katsu, "you okay?"

"That's what Kenshin said," Yahiko whispered, staring into the darkness beyond the lit house. "That's just what he said, only Kenshin didn't want a walk. I'm...
I'm so glad Sanosuke didn't laugh..."

"You're creeped out all right," Katsu sniffed, laying a light hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come on in and I'll keep you company. You don't look like you'd get
much sleep tonight, anyway."

Yahiko turned to look up at him in evident surprise.  Katsu smirked, flicking his thumb in the direction Sano had taken. "If I'm bored enough to listen to that
baka's problems, I'm not above hanging out with a kid. Besides, I was your age once. Adults are really messed up in the head."

The boy blinked, a hesitant smile breaking over his face, and Katsu drew him back into the lit house, closing the door behind them.

.-.

PART 2

.-.

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