A/N: Rurouni Kenshin, Airwolf, and Stargate:SG-1 belong to their respective creators, the world of Redwall to Brian Jacques. No infringement intended. RK is mostly from the manga; I've seen one "Samurai X", but none of the other OAVs, so this is somewhat AU. (I am ignoring "Samurai X - Reflection". Live with it.) And I'm gratuitously making up info on the PD around Cheyenne Mountain. (They've got more people than just NORAD there, so they have to have more cops!) Refers to the SG episodes "The Nox" and "A Matter of Time". Story takes place sometime after "Dropping By"; another bit of "Urban Legends".
Laundry. Basket full of grimy, sweat-stained, or just plain no longer fit for polite company clothes propped in his arms, Dr. Daniel Jackson took the last two stairs of his apartment building in a controlled slip and fumbled with the basement doorknob. Nice. Simple.
Not like people. Laundry didn't glare at you, or shoot at you, or declare war on your whole planet.
Laundry didn't negotiate, either. You couldn't appeal to its better nature, or try to point out a different view on the situation, or even ask it for more time. It just was. You did it, or you didn't.
Maybe I've been up too long.
The door opened. Daniel stumbled through, heading for the three washing machines the building superintendent kept for tenants' use, and stopped.
There was an impossibility sitting on his favorite washer.
Scarlet hair, bright as cardinal feathers, bound at the nape of his neck with a faded blue ribbon. A few strands had worked their way loose, dusting fresh scarlet over an old scar on the man's left cheek, drifting red over a pink gi, leading the eye down to loose white hakama pants. From there it was just a short visual jump to the flex of red tabi, socks knitted with the big toe separate to wear the plain, leather-and-wood sandals currently sitting abandoned on the laundry room floor.
Daniel stifled a giggle. There was a Revolutionary Era swordsman sitting on his washer. Reading Brian Jacques' Redwall, if his eyes weren't lying.
Yep.Definitely been up too long.
Well, if this was a dream… might as well go with it. Setting his basket down on a dryer, Daniel bowed slightly. "Hajimemashite Daniel Jackson desu."
"Konban wa, Jackson-san," The voice was light, full of quiet laughter. "Hajimemashite Himura Kenshin, de gozaru."
De gozaru? Nobody's used that form of "existence" in four hundred years….
"But you seem weary for speaking a tongue not your own, that you do." Kenshin jumped lightly down from the vibrating washer, landing in his sandals with easy grace. Without his sleeves to hide it, a curve of black showed clear; the leather-wrapped grip and night-dark metal of a sword's sheath.
"A little," Daniel admitted, suddenly conscious of his own six feet of height by how far up violet eyes had to look to meet his. Next to Teal'c everybody looked small, but this man…. Heck, his katana is half as tall as he is!
Wait a second. This isn't a dream. And hedoes have a katana.
But Kenshin didn't feel threatening, even to nerves drawn taut by too many off-world missions gone wrong. Above the faint, cross-shaped scar, violet eyes were… patient. Kind.
Sword, Daniel reminded himself firmly, opening the lid of the next washer over. "Are you a guest, or…?"
Kenshin smiled, far more open than Daniel ever would have expected from someone so self-evidently Japanese. "As much as any of us here are, Jackson-san, under Mrs. Cercone's roof."
Right, Daniel thought, distributing shirts and sheets around the washer's drum. In Mrs. Cercone's eyes, all her tenants were guests. Though Daniel wasn't always one of the most welcome ones, given the archaeologist had a tendency to keep weird hours and disappear for days at a time, without ever giving her a crumb of gossip about the place he worked to make up for it….
Wait. Rewind. "You live here?"
"Since this Monday, that I do." A red brow quirked up; subtle, polite question.
Soap in. Shut the lid, turn the knob, and stand back.
Monday. Monday he'd been… trying not to get shot at. Again. Though in retrospect, the mission had gone pretty well. Nobody'd killed each other, Lady Daire had been mollified enough by his contrite act to talk to Sam through a "mere male" if she had to, and Jack's recommendation that they send a follow-up medical mission to Aindrias to study the native antibiotic fungi hadn't been denied out of hand. All in all, not bad. "Sorry, Himura-san," Daniel apologized. "My job has been pretty hectic lately. It's nice to meet you. And Daniel is fine. If you don't mind."
"That I do not. And Kenshin will do." A quieter smile. "You are curious."
Was he ever. The old swords and reproductions on his wall were all fine quality, but he'd never seen any blade worn with such casual ease. Not on Earth, at least. "Is that an authentic katana?" Odds were it wasn't; few had ever left Japan to begin with, and the Japanese government went to great lengths to buy back those in collectors' hands. Yet it felt real, in the same indefinable way as the amethyst scarab weighing down papers on his desk.
"A simple question. And the answer - yes and no." Kenshin drew the blade out a few inches. "As you may see."
The sword looked authentic; fine steel alloyed in a fashion that had already been ancient when America had just started to recover from the Civil War, hilt wrapped with rough leather meant to hold a grip even in a sweating, bloody hand. Yet the blade….
Daniel blinked. Squinted. "It's… upside down?" Disappointment washed over him. A reproduction, after all. No one made a katana like that.
"Not a weapon most would value, that it is not." Kenshin sheathed the reverse blade.
"Oh." And the week caught up with him all at once. Daniel leaned against the pale blue wall, head drooping.
He felt violet eyes narrow. "Perhaps sleep would be wise?"
"Yeah," Daniel sighed. "But you know how it is; if you leave things around, someone will toss them out so they can use the washer. Especially when you really need clean clothes."
"Then sit." Kenshin lifted his book. "And we shall read of how brave young Matthias faced the great serpent, Asmodeus Poisonteeth…."
"'…Remember, it is only a sword, Matthias! It contains no secret spell, nor holds within its blade any magical power. This sword is made for only one purpose, to kill. It will only be as good or evil as the one wields it….'"
Kenshin felt his new neighbor's chi soften into sleep, and closed his book. "But then, you know that already, that you do." He folded his hands on the cover, studying the weary young man. "It is the gift of the sword, to save those you care for, that you have forgotten."
It had taken Kaoru a long time to convince him it was a gift. That the Hitokiri Battousai - terrible and frightening as he might be - had just as much right and claim to life as the gentle rurouni, Kenshin Himura.
Odd, that one who taught her students never to kill would plead for the life of the bloodiest assassin her time had ever known.
Or perhaps not so odd. The woman who lived for katsujin-ken, the swords that give life, had seen what Kenshin himself could not; that the sword was his life, and his magic, and to deny both was killing him as sure as any assassin's blade.
Surer. A hanyou's blood would heal a blade-thrust within days. Denying the Battousai had nearly brought him to an early death before his forty-seventh year.
If Sanosuke had not brought me back to her… if I had notfelt that curse in the very air about her, and loved her so much as to set my own darkness free, if it would but give Kaoru a chance at life….
The Battousai is a demon, legends whispered. And, weak and weary and dying, desperate to save his ailing wife who was light and love and compassion itself, Kenshin had done as legends whispered youkai did, and nursed his beloved with his own blood.
The results had been… unexpected.
Kenshin extended his chi sense outward, brushing past the other inhabitants of their apartment building, touching the bright fire that was Kaoru home from the dojo. Alive, well, happy, vibrated in his senses.
Along with a quick flash of irritation at some momentary annoyance. But then, that was Kaoru.
The washers vibrated to a stop. Kenshin waited a moment to see if Daniel would stir; smiled, and began transferring wet garments to dryers.
Let the young one sleep. He needs it, that he does.
They were neighbors now, after all. Thanks to a certain white wolf's meddling. Though it'd barely been meddling, at all; once Kaoru had heard widower, and orphan, little short of a tsunami could have kept her away.
Kenshin settled on top of the nearer dryer, thinking. So. How to begin teaching a frightened young man to respect and care for his own darkness?
Ah.That might do….
"Daniel." A firm hand fell on his shoulder. "Daniel, wake."
Stranger - grabbing - not again!Daniel lunged upward, hands tearing-
And found himself holding air.
Tmp.Sandals touched down on a washer lid across the room. "It would seem," Kenshin said casually, hands not even near his blade, "That you have spent far too much time among your enemies, Daniel."
How did - but he was-Daniel could still feel the nap of cotton against his fingertips. "Don't do that! I could have-" The archaeologist swallowed, all too easily able to picture his hands wrapped about that slim neck. He's even smaller than Janet.
"That would be unlikely." Violet sparkled, honestly amused. "I have dealt with those battle-scarred before, as has my wife, Kaoru."
Wife?Jealous pain flared; Daniel stamped it down. It wasn't Himura's fault he was lucky.
"You should trust in others more, that you should." Kenshin leapt down to the floor, striding toward him, soundless as a breeze. "Your burden is heavy enough. You need not carry all the weight of protecting others from it as well." He stopped within easy reach, looking up with quiet patience. "Sometimes we can protect ourselves."
Great. I'm getting lectured by a twenty-year-old!Yet something in those odd violet eyes looked much, much older. "And if I'd had a gun-"
"You did not."
Quiet confidence; it scraped Daniel's raw nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. "If I had-"
"Forgive me, Daniel-san." Kenshin's lips curved, gently amused. "But while you are skilled… you are not that fast."
"Just Daniel," the archaeologist said automatically. Yeah, right. I don't care how fast you are, you can't dodge bullets-
Except… from what Teal'c and Jack had told him, there were martial artists who could. By reading their opponent's face and muscles, and dodging in that fraction of a second before the bullet, or the staff blast, was fired. "Ah… I hope you don't mind if I'd rather not find that out the hard way."
"It is wearing on the nerves, that it is," Kenshin nodded. "So noisy, modern weapons are."
Noisy. Daniel shook his head, opening the dryer nearest his chair. It didn't surprise him to find his laundry perfectly dry, even to the heaviest denim. The young swordsman had an air of quiet efficiency that matched Janet at her emergency-handling best. "So… how did you end up moving here?"
"An unfortunate encounter between our last landlord, a propane torch, misapplied building codes, and the plumbing." Kenshin shook out a woman's cherry-blossom patterned blouse, folded it neatly into his basket. "The residents escaped unharmed, but the fire weakened the building enough that the city itself demanded we withdraw. We wished to remain in the area, and a friend informed us an apartment was available." Sheets passed through small hands now, folded into neat, snowy rectangles. "Do you like tea?"
So this is the one Aoshi's friend wanted us to look after. Kaoru Kamiya peeked out of the kitchen to see the tall blond professor take off his shoes at the door. Well, at least he has manners.
She'd been prepared to tolerate a lot worse than shoes in the house. Aoshi Shinomori wasn't the warmest of people, even today, but it was hard not to care about the tall okashira who'd arranged their disappearance from Tokyo so long ago.
Lucky for us, Kaoru thought, gathering the tea tray. I was just so glad to be alive, that we both were alive. I didn't think about what it meant….
The bedroom had still held a lingering, bitter scent of her curse-caused illness, though Kenshin had opened every door and panel to let the wind blow through. She'd been so happy to see him moving, more and more flickers of his old grace coming back as rosy streaks of dawn touched the sky. Grace she hadn't seen in years, the pure, swift flow of movement that delighted his allies and terrified his enemies.
He stood in the doorway, one wrist bandaged, face turned toward sunlight to breathe deep of dawn. Her heart contracted. Kenshin.
Kenshin as he'd looked when she'd first met him, half a lifetime ago. Kenshin… who even then had been near thirty, and looked no older than eighteen.
She might have made a sound. Or not; Kenshin's chi sense hadn't faded as fast as the rest of his skills. "Kaoru? Beloved?"
"Come here." Kaoru struggled to sit up. She still felt weak as a kitten; but only weak, as if waking from the flu. Not the terrible, grinding exhaustion her illness had become.
And he was by her, one swift blur of movement. "What is it?"
Kaoru laid a hand along his cheek, studying the sparks of amber still flickering in violet eyes. Only a few hours ago, in the dead of night, she had seen a side of her husband she'd never thought to see again.
Eyes pure amber, hair streaming from red to inhuman scarlet, aura a crackling thunderstorm that for once demanded life, not death.
Live, the demon who was yet her husband demanded, offering the blood from his own veins. Fight, woman! You've never given up in your life. Live!
And even now, the rurouni had not taken full control.
"You're…" Different? But he wasn't different, he was Kenshin. Kenshin as she remembered him best, Kenshin as she'd always thought he should be, before guilt and remorse had worn away his strength.
Kenshin, who could read every shift of her heart in her sky-blue eyes. One sword-worn hand took hers in a comforting grip. The other picked up her hand mirror. Giving her a hopeful smile, he looked.
And sat down next to her. Hard.
"This is not possible." For once, Kenshin sounded truly shocked. "This is-"
"Aoshi." Kenshin didn't even look up.
Shinomori stepped out of the shadows, long trench coat flowing around him, concealing the paired kodachi Kaoru knew he carried everywhere. Still tall. Still cool. Still elegant and untouchable as night itself; eyes of twilight, hair dark as moonless winter sky.
Still no older than the first time she'd seen him.
Lips slightly parted, Aoshi tasted the air. "Chinese witchery," the onmitsu leader said plainly. "The same as that which struck at Misao, and Tokio. Megumi dodged it wholly, fox that she is… one last, vile vengeance against those who defended Tokyo's Circle of Eternity. They must have been years preparing." He laughed once, without mercy. "A pity they will have so short a time to enjoy it."
"Go elsewhere, Aoshi," Kenshin said numbly. "This one is… too old for such battles."
"Last week, yes. Today?" Aoshi stepped closer. "I came as soon as word reached me of how ill Kaoru-san truly was. I knew if anything might goad you to break the Battousai's chains…."
"What-" Kenshin put the mirror down, hands trembling. "What has happened to this one?"
Kaoru punched him lightly in the arm. "Stop that!" Yes, the situation was beyond strange, but that was no excuse for using sessha again. Not after all the time she'd spent breaking him of the habit!
"Yes." A thin smile touched Aoshi's face. "I would stop that. Cousin."
"Oro?" Kenshin squeaked.
"Distant cousin, perhaps. It's hard to be certain. But I know this." A darkened blade sliced bloodstained cloth. Kaoru stiffened, prepared to put pressure on if Kenshin's wound reopened-
The horizontal slash had already knitted itself closed. As if it'd been healing for days, not hours.
"Legends can be true, Himura," Aoshi had said matter-of-factly. "And the legend of the Battousai… the demon of the Revolution, the assassin whose blade fed on the lives of men, whose speed and power was beyond any human… is truer than most."
Thank the kami for Aoshi, Kaoru thought now, bringing out the tea. If he hadn't gotten us moving… well, it could have gotten messy. "So! Dr. Jackson? Is this the one we couldn't find?"
"I think so, yes," Kenshin smiled, seating himself on the tatami.
"Arigatou, Kaoru-san." Daniel sat seiza with only a little hesitation. "I'm sorry, I really can't stay long. But welcome to the building."
"We can always talk more later, now that we know you're a real person, not a ghost everyone else just thinks lives here," Kaoru said pertly. "I was beginning to wonder."
Daniel blushed. "Work gets away from you sometimes. You know how it is." He sipped his tea.
Kaoru waited, trying not to watch. It was just tea. It wasn't as if there was any food in it.
Not that he should complain if there was. After all, anyone could learn to cook. All it took was practice.
And more practice, gently if firmly urged on by Kenshin's patient persistence. Though even today, when it came to sharing the cooking, he usually left her to take out her frustrations on unsuspecting vegetables.
Daniel lowered his cup. Smiled; worn and tired, but a smile. "This is nice."
Kaoru let out a breath of relief.
"…And now that we've scraped Janet off the ceiling, we can let the CDC handle the funny mushrooms," Colonel Jack O'Neill concluded. "Nice leopard imitation, Doc."
Hot cloth pressed to closed eyes, Dr. Janet Fraiser mumbled something about "catheter" and "ice water".
Ooo. I think that was a threat. Jack stifled a snicker. Not wise to tick off the lady who could and would carry it out. Especially given the redhead was just coming down off an accidental exposure to Aindrias' pader-pabi; alien fungi that looked like ivory beads, munched some nasty little bacteria like Mama's best pizza, and just happened to kick the human patient into funky-colors-land in the process.
"Lady Daire did say something about silk ropes being an integral part of the treatment," Daniel observed. "She wanted to tell you more, Sam, but I think there's some sort of taboo against discussing all the details in public. Or at least in mixed company. Considering what they usually use it to treat." Red flushed his cheeks. "Or at least, they implied it was used to treat…."
"I think I get the idea." Sam Carter shook her head. "Sir, we'd better have a female translator ready if SG-9's going to start talks with Lady Daire's people."
"Noted and on the general's desk, Carter. Anybody got anything else to add? Teal'c?"
"I wish to review the videotape of their bola demonstration." The Jaffa's frown had a contemplative edge.
"Pry a copy out of R&D," Jack suggested. "Corporal Shane's pretty good about squirreling away backups." Where most people did triplicate, the tall brunette went for quadruplicate. Which had saved them all a heck of a lot of grief when various could-be-interesting notes and records just up and vanished somewhere between here and the Pentagon. NID slime. "Okay. Anything else?" Jack waited a minute, noted the tired satisfaction on his team's faces. "All right, kids. Let's blow this pop stand."
"So what's on your mind?" Jack asked straight out as he and Daniel headed for the base elevators. Sam had already left to look in on Cassie for the night; Janet seemed fine, but base regs wouldn't allow her out of here for at least another twelve hours. "You seem a little…" He waved a hand. "Distracted."
"Hmm? Oh." Daniel smiled faintly. "I had a weird night."
"Oh yeah?" Visions of white-clad spies danced in Jack's head. Only if it was that kind of weird, he might not tell you.
Depressing thought. But true. He and Daniel had grown apart this last year. Heck, they'd been falling away from each other since Sha'uri's death. He had only himself to blame that he hadn't noticed it before.
Better notice now, Jack. Archangel doesn't waste time when it comes to grabbing people he wants. Let things go the way they're going, and if Hammond can't pull something out of a hat, that white disaster'll snaffle one of the best guys you ever knew into the Firm faster than you can say "undercover op".Jack hid a sigh. Maybe tonight will help.
"I think," Daniel said carefully, "I just met the new tenants in the apartment under mine."
Jack raised a brow, Teal'c-style. "You think?"
"I was pretty out of it. And one of them was dressed like a Meiji-era swordsman. So I'm not quite sure."
"And a Magi is…."
"Meiji," Daniel corrected. "Late 1860's, early 1870's Japan. I think. Except for the red hair, he looked like something right out of a wood block print. Hakama, gi, tabi - the whole works."
A redheaded Japanese samurai. Yep, that fit the weird box. Maybe I should - nah, Daniel didn't go near the mushrooms. "And he was doing what in your apartment building?"
"Laundry." Daniel shrugged. "Then he invited me up for tea with his wife."
Right. Jack almost headed them back to the infirmary anyway. Only - this was Daniel. Goa'uld invited the man in for tea. Why not a weird neighbor? "You need to get out more."
"Tell me about it."
"I'm serious." Jack stepped out on sublevel nine, headed across to the elevator that would take them the rest of the way up. "I asked around… I found someplace I thought you'd like to see. If you don't have any plans tonight."
Behind glass, blue eyes looked wary. "It's not Jello wrestling, is it?"
Down in the infirmary, a creamy swirl of energy pouted in a forgotten corner. The doctor-lady had been so tasty, so unafraid, so different from the humans it was used to sharing with. So much fun….
But her sustenance had drained away so quickly - too quickly. And then the other-strange-humans had grabbed her, and it had felt upset and angry. Just like home-humans.
Notfun. Not fun at all.
So it had slipped out of the doctor-lady's nose and mouth, unnoticed. It was used to being unnoticed; only a few home-humans could see the white wisps of its kind, and those few usually gibbered about corpse-smoke and ended up running off cliffs.
And it was still hungry.
Extending a tendril of itself up along the odd walls, it felt about for another host. Not here… not here….
Someone who could support it would come by soon enough. It could wait.
But not too long.
"Kamiya Kasshin Ryu?" Daniel frowned at the neat Japanese characters over the door. "Never heard of it."
"Neither had I, until about a week ago." Jack craned his head at the black squiggles, turned his attention back to the simple printed Kendo and Self-Defense beside it. "Shane was right. This place really doesn't advertise."
"Corporal Shane comes here?"
"A few times a week, she said. She was going through a bad patch a few months back-"
Daniel nodded. "Messy divorce, right."
How does hedo that? "Anyway. She said this place really helped. Style's mostly in Japan, but there's a few schools in America and Canada. This dojo's been up and running about a year." Hands stuffed in the pockets of his leather jacket, Jack shot the archaeologist a careful look. "I called and asked if we could sit in on a class. You mind?"
Wary. Definitely wary, from that look Daniel was aiming at the door. But interest was starting to light blue eyes. "They really teach swords?"
"Said she had the bokken whacks to prove it." Here, fishie, fishie, fishie….
"Well." Daniel straightened his shoulders. "Why not?"
Open space, lots of headroom, nice, Jack thought, scanning the dojo as they walked in. A few students were already inside unfolding mats to fall on. Most were in street clothes or sweatpants, though there was one small, delicate redhead dressed like an aikido instructor. Except for the pink gi, Jack thought, looking around for the man he'd spoken to on the phone. Lady, where on earth did you pick up a pink gi?
With a quiet word to the girl smoothing out the mat, the redhead turned.
Oops.She is a he.
Old habits die hard, particularly when you're running into bad guys all over the galaxy. The ex-Black Ops colonel automatically catalogued the redhead as the small man walked their way. Five-foot-two, long red bangs, longer hair caught back in a blue ribbon, a little over a hundred pounds, all bone and muscle and a kind, disarming smile.
And an old pair of blade-scars. One traced a faded slash along the cheekbone, almost down to the chin; the second crossed it, slightly younger.
Taking on this guy, Jack thought, suddenly tense, Would be about as smart as stepping on a rattlesnake.
Soundless, graceful walk. Relaxed ready stance. Sword worn properly at his side - and from those tiny marks of wear on sheath and hilt, it sure as heck wasn't there for decoration.
Sweet mother of Mary. Where didyou come from?
"Jack O'Neill. I called earlier, Mr. - Himura?" Jack ventured. A redheaded Japanese, cross-shaped scar… oh, no way.
"That I am." Himura inclined his head. "Daniel."
It figures.Jack resisted the urge to pound his skull on the doorway behind them. Oh man, he'll never believe I didn't set this up.
"Kenshin?" Daniel blurted. "Is this your dojo?"
"Ah, no. That honor belongs to my wife." Kenshin made a slight motion toward the back, where a few folding chairs leaned against the wall. "If you would? Some of our students are skittish, that they are."
"I see that." Jack kept his voice low as they walked to the back of the room. There weren't any visible bruises, but he could see a few flinches as certain students took in large, male, unknown. "We can head out if there's a problem."
"They are stronger than they know." Kenshin smiled. "If you have questions, Ms. Kamiya and I will answer them after class."
"Well." Jack unfolded a chair and sat down, trying his best to project who me, harmless. "Your neighbor?"
Daniel wrestled with his own chair, finally getting jointed metal to cooperate. "I thought I'd dreamed him."
"I can see why." Jack cupped his chin in his hand as a dark-haired Japanese lady in gi and loose jeans came in and Kenshin motioned the class together. "I have got to see this."
They're good. Daniel watched with avid interest, ignoring the specific moves to concentrate on the subtle interactions between teacher and student. They're really, really good.
Kaoru led the class as a whole, a bright, firm voice that guided her pupils through various beginning moves of hand and wooden practice sword, then quickly broke people up into groups of various skill levels to practice more advanced forms. Raw beginners thumped on the mats, learning to fall. Others donned masks and light padding to bow and pair off with each other, with hands, or swords, or one of an assortment of odd items from a box at the side of the room.
Plastic knife, Daniel identified in one hand. And - is that a hand mixer?
Cord and all. The archaeologist swallowed, realizing just what that particular pair was reenacting under Kenshin's watchful gaze. A fight in a kitchen. Slow, controlled - but anything goes, anything at all.
Hence the masks, as the plug snapped against mesh over the opponent's eyes.
"Hold." Kenshin stepped in before the knife could rise again. "Good." He held out empty hands. "Forms now."
The woman with the knife yielded her weapon easily, grinning as she scooted toward her gear. Pulling out her bokken, she waited until the current form was finished, then joined the group of swords working with Kaoru.
Her partner with the mixer hesitated, still shaking. "But-"
"But?" Kenshin prompted when she froze.
"But," the taller woman swallowed. "I wasn't finished!"
No, but you would have been, Daniel thought, wincing. He'd seen that frantic, adrenaline-ruled style of fighting from both sides now; his own first confused tangles with Jaffa or angry planet-dwellers, and his more recent, reluctant practice bouts with new SGC recruits. Like anyone still getting over the idea of I may have to hurt somebody, the blonde had put up a valiant but frenzied defense. So long as her opponent kept a cool head and kept coming, that knife would have been between her ribs.
"The strike to the eyes - good. It distracts. It causes pain. But it will not stop," Kenshin said matter-of-factly. "You must learn to control your opponent's range, Alice. For that the sword is best, that it is."
And so it went for the rest of the class. Kaoru demonstrated moves from the formal sword to down-and-dirty street fighting, her enthusiasm for her craft wrapping her students in a warm confidence Daniel hadn't felt since one of his anthropology professors opened up the marvelous wonder that was the diversity of human cultures. Kenshin was a shadow to Kaoru's flame, approaching those who shook or grimaced with frustration, subtly correcting a stance here, an angle of attack there.
"He's better than she is," Jack murmured, too low for the class to hear.
He is?Though that did seem to fit with what Daniel felt, watching Kenshin move. "So why is he…."
"Better fighter. She's a better teacher."
Oh. That made sense.
"And comes to the bare-handed stuff, she is better." Jack's expression was relaxed, almost lazy; but his eyes had a subtle alertness that meant he was focused on every move. "Himura needs a weapon."
"No kidding," Daniel muttered. "I mean, considering the average height in Colorado, it'd be like Sam trying to take on some of the guys we run into, bare-handed." Human against Jaffa. Usually nasty, brutish, and short - unless the human had a gun.
"Point." Jack shifted in his chair. "I didn't know, you know. That he was your neighbor."
He thinks I think he set this up- Daniel fought the urge to bury his head in his hands. "Jack. I didn't know he was my neighbor 'til last night. If I hadn't seen him on the washer, I still wouldn't know."
"It's just one hell of a weird coincidence," Jack shrugged.
Daniel nodded, accepting the glimpse of Jack's paranoia as just another of those things that made living around his friend so interesting. Black Ops types didn't like coincidences.
And spies don't believe in them.
Oh yeah. He really wanted to talk to his new neighbor.
And it looks like you're about to get your chance. Kaoru had gathered the class together once more, leading people through cooling stretches, then motioning people to sit.
"Before we go tonight, I want you to remember one thing." Kaoru gathered her sweaty students with her eyes. "Kamiya Kasshin Ryu was created as the way of katsujin-ken, the swords that give life. Now, we don't always use real swords anymore, people carrying big pieces of steel tend to get all kinds of weird looks-" She gave Kenshin a wry glance.
"Oro?" Violet eyes blinked innocently.
A chuckle ran through the crowd.
"But if the weapons change, the way doesn't. The goal is to stay alive, ladies and gentlemen. Look out for yourselves, and look out for each other. We've got the usual numbers posted; you can pick up a flyer if you need one. And I'll see you next class!"
"Usual numbers, Ms. Kamiya?" Jack asked as the students thinned out.
"Shelters, Mr. O'Neill," Kaoru said plainly. "Clinics. Some treatment centers. A few lawyers who know how to argue self-defense cases. People don't usually start in this style. They come because the world's already hurt them." She smiled, bright as sunshine. "The best students are the ones who really want to live."
"Kind of a switch from bushido," Jack noted.
"You have seen much death, O'Neill." Kenshin's footfalls were a bare whisper on the polished floor. "You know it holds neither beauty, nor glory. It is simply death."
"I have, huh?" Jack's brow rose. "Funny. I would've pegged you as the type to go for samurai."
"The Kamiyas haven't been samurai for over a century," Kaoru shrugged.
"And the Himuras were farmers, that they were." Kenshin regarded them quietly. "One need not be born to the sword to use it well. And only when one must."
And if that phrasing isn't a hit from the clue stick…."Can I talk to you for a minute? Outside?" Daniel put in, a little more sharply than he'd meant to. Damn it, I don't want to insult him, I just-
I don't want to be lied to. Again. Ever.
Red bangs drifted in the breeze from the door, shading violet. "Of course."
"Who are you?" Daniel demanded, once they were safely out in night air. Jack was good, but he couldn't hear through doors. "Who sent you? What are you doing in my building?"
"Kenshin Himura," came the easy reply. "As for your building, I told you truth; our last residence did suffer an unfortunate fate, and, not being of the kami who may hide whole palaces in a raindrop, Kaoru and I must live somewhere. As for who sent us…" Kenshin shook his head. "We were not sent. Simply asked."
"Asked?" Daniel demanded. His stomach felt as if he were at the top of a roller-coaster, in that hair-fine moment before the sickening plunge. I knew it was too good to be true, I knew it….
"Asked," Kenshin said firmly. "Kaoru and I, we live in the light. Honest folk, that we are. Yet not so honest that we do not have friends who call the shadows home." He drew a picture from a thin wallet. "Aoshi."
Tentatively Daniel took it, tilting it toward a streetlight to study the cool face of a tall, dark-haired Japanese man caught with blade in hand, charcoal-gray trench coat flaring about his quick stride. "I don't know him."
"You may never, that you might not." Kenshin took the photo back. "Yet he knows another in the shadows who studies the blade; a white wolf of a man, who does know you. And who worries, that he does."
Daniel stiffened. "Who?"
"The name I was given," Kenshin said carefully, "Was Michael."
Son of a-Daniel really, really wanted to hit something. Can't he leave anything alone? "So this was a setup all along."
"It was not." Kenshin's tone hardened, silk into steel. "I would have spoken to you last night, had you been awake enough to listen. We have taught at this dojo for a year; that you may check with whomever you choose. We have lived here, and learned the rhythms of this city, and may do so for many years to come. We help, and we heal, and we teach those who listen how to help themselves. And if whatever danger Aoshi and your friend fear from that mountain comes to pass, we will be here to face it."
Danger from the Mountain. Daniel swallowed. Odd; in the streetlights, Kenshin's eyes looked almost… amber. "What did he tell you?"
"Very little." And it must have been a trick of the light, for violet smiled at him. "Perhaps we might discuss it tomorrow. Over tea?"
Tasty, tasty other-humans.
The corpse-smoke drifted through the maze of gray walls, sipping here, tasting there, never lingering too long. The first other-human doctor-lady had shown its presence too quickly. It would not risk being found again so soon. Finding led to binding, and then to painful, angry chants that would drive it out and away from the tastiness.
Mean creatures. Food wasn't supposed to fight back.
Home-creatures didn't fight back. Some lived amongst the brood mushrooms, even fed on them, essence all but untouchable; it could scratch the edges of their energies, but that was all. Some lived in higher ground or by running water, away from the white fungi; those were filling meals when they did stumble in, and every one of its kind hungered for them.
Humans were different. Humans risked gathering the mushrooms, even though their energies had no natural defense. But the defenses they did raise, once they suspected a corpse-smoke was near….
Nasty, mean creatures. It wasn't as if they killed humans feeding.
At least, not too many.
Hmm. Taste and taste, flickers of emotion, images….
Images of other other-humans. Whole nests of them!
And still, not one flicker of awareness of its presence.
The corpse-smoke wriggled with glee, causing its current host to giggle. And pause, and look around.
The creamy energy stilled itself, waiting for the flicker of surprise to pass. More other-humans.…
Now, how could it get there?
"Ouch." Daniel raised a brow as the SGC's elevator doors closed the next morning. "That colored up good."
Jack took his hand away from his bruised cheekbone. Too damn early for this. "You're snickering."
"Am not." But the tips of Daniel's ears were red. "Jack, if you had to let Kaoru take a swing at you, why didn't you put on a mask?"
"Wanted to see her sword-work." Especially since the lady had managed to dodge or brush off just about every question he'd aimed at her background, cheerful as Daniel with a new rock to play with. Honest. The lady feels honest. But there's something going on here, and I'm going to figure out what. Wonder what Sam's found by now?
"Guess you did." Daniel turned a bit redder.
"It's nothing." The archaeologist shrugged. "I just… had a weird morning, that's all."
Coffee in hand, Daniel had walked out onto his balcony, enjoying the faint sounds of a city just waking up. There was a quiet coo of rock doves, a nearby toot of horns as someone pulled through a yellow light, an edge-of-hearing whine of a hair dryer as one of his fellow tenants got ready to face the day….
A faint, cheerful giggling.
Daniel pried his eyes a little more open. Giggling. Definitely. Somewhere above him? He peered up toward the roof. "Is someone up there?"
"Oro..." A mane of red hair appeared over the edge, very disheveled. "Ohayo…."
More giggles. Oddly familiar giggles, though Daniel couldn't remember hearing anything like that since the last time he and Sha'uri had… uh-oh. "What are you doing up there?"
Was it his imagination, or was Kenshin's face lightly flushed? "Anou-"
The giggling stopped. "Get back here, Battousai!"
Kaoru. Definitely. And with a tone like that-
"Oro!" Red hair was yanked out of sight.
Coffee in his stunned hand, Daniel decided that maybe breakfast inside was a better idea….
Checking her watch, Sam tapped her foot. This had better be good, sir. I don't like using SGC resources to check up on civilians. Even if they are in Daniel's building.
Elevator doors slid open. "-On the roof?" Jack asked, grin wide enough to show all his teeth.
"They probably had a futon," Daniel muttered, bright red. "Jack, do you mind?"
"Oh, a futon. Sure. Makes sense." Jack nodded, stepping out of the elevator. "What kind of a pet name is Battousai, anyway?"
"I don't think it's a pet name, Jack. I read somewhere that it refers to a master of rapid sword-drawing technique…." Daniel shot Jack a dirty look as the colonel lost his battle with laughter. "You have a sick, sick mind."
"Sir?" Sam asked, at a loss.
The colonel waved her off, still snickering.
"New neighbors." Daniel rolled his eyes. "Maybe I should invite them to check out your roof."
"Nope." Jack gulped in air, calmed down to the occasional snicker. "That's my spot."
"I knew you weren't just up there for the telescope."
"What can I say?" The colonel buffed his fingers on his jacket. "When you got it, you got it."
"Right," Daniel said at last. "Sam? I'm going to be writing up a basic Aindrias vocabulary for SG-9's translator. Let me know if Jack gets it." Hands in his jacket pockets, he walked out of sight.
"Sir?" Sam's eyes narrowed, suspicious.
Jack took a few steps down the hall to check that Daniel was indeed out of earshot. "Well, whatever else they are, they got a good marriage going. What'd you find?"
"Not much." Sam beckoned him toward her lab. "If this wasn't Daniel, sir…."
"I don't like it either, Carter," Jack admitted. "But you know the rock-hound. Leave one booby-trap in the middle of a ten-mile desert, and he'll trip over it."
"I know." And a pair of people dangerous enough to set off Jack O'Neill's radar cropping up in Daniel's building - well, it could be one heck of a booby-trap. "But I think we're chasing shadows on this one."
"Kaoru Kamiya, 22, born in San Francisco, accredited master of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu," Jack read off the search summary on her screen. "Parents deceased, couple of cousins… bachelor's degree in art. Married three years ago to Kenshin Himura, 24, accredited master, so on and so on… whoa." He scanned the next screen. "That's a lot of charges."
"I condensed the list," Sam said wryly. "Most of them were either dropped, or dismissed as self-defense. Looks like they practice what they preach."
"Got to be the pink gi," Jack muttered. At her questioning look, he elaborated. "Himura."
Sam raised a blonde brow, combining that info with the description the colonel had given her, examining at it from the perspective of the average over-muscled guy looking for an easy mark. Short, skinny, girly guy in pink, with a pretty blue-eyed Japanese young lady just an inch taller than he is. Ouch.
"You said most?" Jack prompted.
"Well… looks like Himura pled no contest to a couple of the property-damage ones." Sam pointed out one in particular. "Sir, how do you take down a light-pole without a car? Or some kind of heavy machinery?"
"Good question." Jack tapped his fingers on her desk. "Why don't we ask?"
Okay, so if he fell fromthat angle…. Eyeing a photo of suspicious blood spatters, Detective Ryan Saitou O'Connell sipped the sludge that passed for department coffee, grimaced, and wished for a slug of milk. Or maybe just a Mickey Finn to end his misery. Damn, still haven't broken Chappell of making Navy coffee.
"Carson PD, how may I direct your call?" A pause. "Can I have some ID, sir?" A longer pause. "Okay, checks out… just a moment, I'll transfer you to Detective O'Connell."
His phone trilled. With an imploring glance toward the one cracked white tile in the ceiling, Ryan picked up. "Homicide. Detective O'Connell speaking."
"Homicide? Huh." The speaker sounded male, older, and not easily shaken. "This is Colonel O'Neill, from the Mountain."
Great. Military trouble. Though this O'Neill didn't sound quite like any of the local MPs he'd run into. "Yes, sir? How can we help?"
"Don't mean to take up too much of your time, just need a little background. Says here that three months ago you were the arresting officer in a property-damage incident on Spruce Lane?"
Damn it, Kenshin, what kind of mess have you fallen into now? Ojiisan warned me you couldn't stay out of trouble if someone chained you in a padded cell… never mind. We'll probably get the call later. "Yeah, had to do it. Happened right in front of me and my partner. Though just between you, me, and the wallpaper, Colonel, that stunt saved our asses. We were in the middle of arresting this fine, upstanding young citizen for various crimes against everybody and his dog, half the neighbors wanted his blood, half his crew wanted ours, backup was late… anyway. We were about to have a riot right there before that pole came down."
"Kenshin Himura." O'Neill's tone wasn't a question.
"Yep. One swing."
Silence on the line. "Excuse me, Detective, I'm not sure I'm hearing you right. Are you saying the guy took down a light-pole… with a sword?"
Ryan grinned. "Sure got the crowd to back off."
"How the hell did he do that?"
"Some weird martial arts trick, I guess." Sword skill, focused chi, and one hell of a lot of youki mixed in. Man, regular people are blind. "Anyway, after that he just came along with us, nice and quiet." Thank god. If 'Jiisan can't take him, I sure can't.
"Just came along." O'Neill sounded highly doubtful.
"Yep. Apologized for the trouble." Ryan shrugged. "He's really a nice guy." Unless you get him mad. "So, anything else I can help you with?"
"No, I think that about covers it," O'Neill said, distracted. "Thanks."
Ryan hung up. Eyed the phone.
Picked it up, and dialed the new number scribbled in his address book. "Uncle Kenshin? I think you'd better know…."
Justwho is Kenshin Himura and why did you set him on me?
The cursor paused on Daniel's monitor. For the second, I didn't "set" Himura on you, Archangel typed back. There's only about four people in this world who could set Himura on anyone, and I assure you, I'm not one of them. For the first….
Kenshin Himura is a sanctuary.
Daniel raised an eyebrow. ???
Hmm, some background…. You may or may not be aware that the United States and Japan, as part of their security treaty and general intelligence cooperation, declare their high-level operatives to each other. So many of us know of each other, and no few of us know each other.
Daniel nodded slowly. A spy's life could be very, very lonely. It could be good to talk with someone who - well, might not be telling the truth, but at least you'd have an idea what they were lying about. Aoshi?
I've dealt with Aoshi on matters of mutual concern. He's one of the most honorable people I've met, in or out of the business, came the swift reply. And apparently he picked up on some of the more… unusual events around your current locale faster than I did. Specifically, a nasty flux in local energy fields when the Stargate locked onto a black hole? I believe you were on a dig with SG-6 on PX3-808 at the time.
Daniel swallowed. Jack and Sam still had a hard time talking about it, but he'd seen enough of the aftermath to have a fairly good idea of what had happened that day. The iris shattered like glass, a team lost… and two weeks outside the mountain slowed to two days inside the SGC.
Aoshi did not, and to my knowledge still does not, know the precise nature of what's going on under NORAD, Archangel went on. But he's dealt with enough unusual circumstances to know when something is very wrong. I suspect if anyone asked Himura to move to the Cheyenne area, it was he.
Himura is not in the business. Not directly; not even peripherally, as some pilots of our mutual acquaintance remain. He is simply Aoshi's friend, who provides aid and comfort to those endangered on his doorstep… and who has a knack for handling odd or unusual circumstances.
Daniel mulled that over for a minute. But you did ask him about me.
Not directly, Archangel typed back. I noticed some of Aoshi's people moving in the area, checked, and found the Kamiya dojo. They're a good school; some of my own people learn the style. Once I knew it was Himura with Kamiya, I did mention to Aoshi there was someone in the area I was worried about, who might possibly be interested in the school if he heard about it, and that I would appreciate it if he would consider your presence before taking any hasty action. That's all. A pause. How on earth did you meet Himura?
Doing laundry in my basement, Daniel typed wryly.
Then Jack took me "somewhere he thought I'd like".
Blank space on the screen. Then-
Laughterskirled across the surface of his mind; warm and wry and surprising as violets hidden among moss.
Daniel blinked, leaning back as Michael's giddy amusement wrapped around him from untold miles away. If he'd needed any more proof that Archangel hadn't set this up…. Michael? he typed.
A pause. Marella, came the neat reply. Michael's currently laughing too hard to type. Did you still need more information on Himura?
Translations from Japanese (Webster's Pocket Dictionary and Internet):
HajimemashiteDaniel Jackson desu. - (Roughly) How do you do, my name is Daniel Jackson.
Konban wa - Good evening.
Hajimemashite Himura Kenshin, de gozaru. - Pleased to meet you for the first time, I am Himura Kenshin. "De gozaru" is a very archaic form of "desu".
Hanyou - Half-demon.
Youkai - "Demon", more accurately supernatural or paranormal creature. (Can refer to aliens.) Usually a shape-shifter, may or may not be evil, always dangerous.
Okashira - "The head", boss. In this case, ninja leader.
Kodachi - Sword mid-length between a katana and a wakizashi. Incredible on defense.
Onmitsu - Spies, now commonly called ninja.
Sessha - "This unworthy one."
Kami - Spirits, gods, Powers.
Arigatou - Thank you.
Seiza - Traditional way of sitting on tatami, especially for the tea ceremony.
Bokken - Wooden sword.
Bushido - the way of the samurai.
Ohayo - Good morning.
Anou - Umm….
Youki - Supernatural energy.
Ojiisan - Grandfather.
"Oro" doesn't mean anything in specific; you can think of it as roughly equivalent to "Huh?", "Wha-", "Who, me?", or occasionally, "Ow…." Yes, Kenshin is odd.