What A Difference A Day Makes
So much happens beneath, when we are paying attention only to the surface. It can take years for understanding to come to us.

He sat very still, quite aware that he was hearing something denied to most.

She's so young, so innocent…

He'd only mentioned that he admired her father's style and guessed out loud about her father's character, almost more to fill the brief pause as he regained his grip on the wet cloth than with any real intent to start a conversation—the drill hall was large, and they'd finished cleaning only about half of it, he taking the long runs at the practice floor itself, she moving carefully along the raised edges where students—had there been any—would have sat eagerly awaiting their chance to show their skill.

He'd felt her watching him for several turns and so he paused and returned her gaze: it seemed only polite. It also seemed only polite to say something pleasant, so he had.

He'd not been prepared for the flood of revelations: her mother's death, her father's distance, the time—oh, about eight years old—she'd passed their room and heard it, heard more than saw, even, her father's grief and pain as he knelt in the middle of the floor, rocking and keening softly, trembling muscled arms crushing a pale kimono to his heaving chest. How this understanding had created a new bond between them, a wordless pact—he and she against the world; how her swordwork had molded and defined her in unexpected ways, and she hadn't even realized it until he was gone.

He saw her with new eyes.

Her strength runs deep, far below the brightness that is her heart. Perhaps even she doesn't know it.

She spoke feelingly, unselfconsciously, without reserve or façade. It was almost as though he were not there, and he found he liked it, this feeling of being on the inside. Only one day before, he'd been outside everything, exiled from everywhere, intimate to no one. Just yesterday, he'd been wandering. Now, a morning and a noon and an afternoon and an evening and a morning later…

How nice it would be to stay.