A/N: I regret to inform you that THIS IS THE LAST BIT, at least for a long while. I have become so uninterested in RK that I just cannot write it anymore. Sorry, Skenshngumi, I thought since I was just going to post what I had of this chapter and be done with it, it would be kind of pointless to have it betaed. TTFN
by the sacred night, beta: Skenshingumi
"Look, I don't like it either, but it has to be done."
"But… it can't be that much of a liability. No one will see anyway."
"Someone could see."
"I don't understand why you care."
"I was dragged out here to the middle of nowhere so you could stay out of jail, and I'm not about to let both of us end up there."
He was silent after that.
"So are you going to let me or what?"
"All right, do what you want," Tomoe relented, holding up her hands in a gesture of surrender, one of them still containing the scissors. She walked away to put them back in the drawer where she'd found them, and unexpectedly heard his voice from behind her. She stopped and turned to listen, putting the hand with the scissors down on the counter next to her.
"I agree I should change something, but… just not that," he replied, fingering the end of the topknot that was a fixture of his appearance. It was precisely because it was a fixture of his appearance- his recently publicized appearance- that Tomoe maintained it had to go, but he'd gone sentimental on her and insisted on keeping it.
"No, you're probably right, no one will see anyway. We've got everything we need here, we can probably get by without going outside," she rationalized, but winced at the thought of weeks indoors. She'd spent a lot of time indoors lately, but there had always been the option. Now, the little house set far back from the road seemed like a prison. She curled her fingers a little tighter through the metal loops of the scissors. They were long and sharp, gleaming bare metal. They looked like a weapon in themselves.
"Unless something happens. An emergency."
"Yeah, I guess so. So what are you going to change?" Her hand was starting to fall asleep from the way she was leaning on it with the metal biting into her palm and fingers.
"I don't know, what else is noticeable about me?" He asked, looking her full in the face and waiting for her assessment. There were a number of noticeable things she could have catalogued for him, but 'nice skin' wasn't exactly likely to show up in a police report.
"The only thing that's as noticeable as your hair is your height, and I suspect you'd have already done something about that if you could," she remarked, unable to stay entirely serious. He surpassed her in that respect, and waited patiently for her actual answer.
"Well, there's your eyes, but I don't really see how you could change them."
"Not really anything you could describe to the police," she answered, "you can't change the shape of your face or anything like that, but I guess you could try to put on weight if you think it'd help."
"Nothing?" He asked unhappily. She shrugged, not knowing what else to say, and he sighed. "Fine, give me the scissors. I'll do it."
"You don't have to if…" she stopped speaking and moving at the same instant. Her left hand, thoroughly asleep and sweaty by now, had failed to keep a grip on the daggerlike scissors. This might not have been a problem if Kenshin had been looking instead of prying the tightly wrapped band out of his hair, but as it was, his face had been scrunched with minor pain and his eyes tightly shut. She shrieked as they connected, missing his eye by an inch, although it might've been less if her shout hadn't made him jump a little.
He'd managed to catch the scissors as they fell, although that gesture was useless since they'd already caused more harm than they would just by falling to the carpet. He pressed his other hand to the wound, not as concerned for it as he was with the idea of his DNA ending up marking the house; he didn't really want to have to think back on this from jail and realize he'd been brought down by a carpet stain. He got up and headed to the bathroom to clean it up, Tomoe following, cursing, inquiring, and generally hovering.
Once they reached the bathroom, she wasn't content to let him clean it himself, but pulled his hand away from his face, admonishing him to let her see and then wincing afresh when she saw. Surely it wasn't that disgusting; he didn't think he was bleeding very much.
Amid grimaces, hissed inquiries if her touch hurt, tender commands to turn his head this way or that, and a flood of apologies, the cut on his face was haltingly bandaged.
"There, is that better?" She asked, still wearing the pained expression that had not left her face since the scream. She pulled her hands away and waited for him to nod before relaxing a little. He didn't quite know what to make of the tension around her; nothing worthy of much note had happened as far as he was concerned.
"That solves that problem," he commented, and Tomoe's face changed from strained to confused. "Something's different now. That's all I needed."
His words seemed to have had the desired effect, since she laughed a little bit and relaxed a lot more. That was good; she shouldn't have worried so much for him, and it was better to get her mind off of it. He followed her back out to the living room and decided never to point out that a scar would only attract more attention to his still-distinctive face.
The next days passed slowly. There was little to do, since their whole objective for the time being was simply not to be seen. Kenshin didn't even get assignments anymore. Now he knew what Tomoe must have felt like during her time in the apartment, although she could have gone back to her life at any time then. Now there was no going back for either of them.
They ate a lot of sandwiches and off-brand cereal, since the cabinets were filled primarily with cheap foodstuffs and the occasional dish. Neither of them had thought to bring so much as a book, since boredom had been the furthest thing from their minds when they were being hurried out of the apartment. Mercifully, there was a computer, since now that was the only way the unit could communicate with Kenshin without risking having one of their operatives seen delivering letters or worse, speaking to him directly. Still, only one of them could use it at a time, and even the internet got old after a few days of nothing else.
As a result, they had more conversations like the one they were currently having to alleviate their ennui.
"If you were a crayon, what color would you be?"
This wasn't even the silliest question that had been voiced between them.
"Forget that question, the answer is obvious. Favorite sport?"
He thought for a moment. "Is martial arts a sport?"
She thought for a minute too, and then nodded. "I guess I'd count it. What kind do you do?"
"As far as I know, the style is unique to my particular teacher. He trained me in most kinds of archaic and modern weapons as well as hand to hand combat," he explained.
"Cool," she replied. He still didn't really understand that word; it seemed to mean vastly different things based on the context in which it appeared. She moved on quickly, glossing over any readable comment. "Any siblings?"
"One sister and twin brothers," he answered. He hadn't thought about them in awhile, and it occurred to him that he probably wouldn't be getting any letters while in hiding.
"My sister is fourteen and the twins are eight," he answered, a little embarrassed that he had to do the math in his head.
"Aww," she cooed, "They still in Japan?" He just nodded, and the questions ceased for the moment when she got up and went to the kitchen. "I bet you're looking forward to seeing them again when you go back home," she continued as she made herself a sandwich.
"Yeah," he replied, although he found it hard to imagine ever seeing them again. He wasn't sure why, since logically, he would see them when he returned, but the image didn't fit right in his mind somehow.
"You're really lucky," she said, kind of staring into space. He didn't reply; of all the things he might consider himself, lucky wasn't at the top of the list at the moment.
Kogoro's heavy steps were the only sound in the silence of the first-floor apartment where Ikumatsu watched him pace. "Come sit down," she urged him, "worrying like that won't make him or you any safer." She patted the seat next to her on the couch to punctuate her words, but he just shook his head and kept wearing a path in the floor. She understood; she worried for the young couple, too… if they were even a couple. No one really knew what to make of Himura's decision to let this woman live with him when none of them knew who she was or if they'd had a prior relationship. Still, Kogoro wasn't likely to figure it out by giving himself an ulcer.
"There's got to be a better way to hide them, or throw the police off the trail," Kogoro mused. "There has to be."
He hadn't stopped acting like this since the day before, when the police had come to investigate the apartment Himura had just vacated. There had been an awful three days of waiting, after rushing Himura and the girl whose name no one knew out of there and not knowing if they were being pursued, if they had been seen, if the move had been anticipated… and then the police had come to their doorstep.
First, she had seen them through the windows and heard them pass by right outside the door. Kogoro had come in from the other room, and needed only a grave look from her to tell him who it was. They hadn't knocked or tried to enter anywhere else, just gone straight up to the empty apartment without a word to anyone. No one knew exactly what had happened, but they did know they had all done their best to see that no evidence was in that apartment. All there had been to do for the moment was to wait and hope their efforts had been enough.
Then, there had been more noise. The police were out of the empty apartment, now knocking on everyone's doors and asking for any information that might be of help, assured of the shaken citizens' cooperation. Their door had been next.
Kogoro had answered and spoken with them, knowing better than to send them away saying he knew nothing. They would know he was lying. He hadn't been too overtly upset, or not in ways that were obvious to the officers. Ikumatsu had seen the tension in his shoulders and heard the idiosyncrasies in his voice that told her this weighed on him, as she'd listened to him telling the officers that he'd been acquainted with Himura and been up to the apartment for coffee once or twice, but hadn't known the boy well. He had paced and paced afterward, not coming to bed until long after he thought she was asleep.
Now it was the same. He wouldn't let her rub away the knots or listen to her soothing words, or believe that she understood the gravity of the situation. He paced, he worried, he went over procedures again and again in his mind, trying to find the undetected flaws in their methods, and his efforts had been and would be fruitless.