A/N: This is kind of a companion piece to my last one-shot. I've always been meaning to write a fic about this subject and now I have the chance! It took second place for rkchallenge challenge of stress.
Kenshin rubbed the familiar, smooth surface of his saya. Ever since the first day his Shishou had given him his first sword he couldn't imagine a day where he hadn't worn one at his side. Although this was different from his training sword, it was a killing sword, he couldn't picture himself without a sword. Ever.
"Dinner will be ready shortly." Tomoe's soft voice broke through his thoughts. He gave her a soft reply to let her know she had been heard.
He looked back down at his sword, unsheathing it slightly. As he gazed at it his unease returned. Ever since they had arrived in Outsu he couldn't wear his sword in the open. To play the part of husband and wife, he had to hide it. It had been so hard, it had felt so strange. Every time he had reached for the familiar, worn hilt it had been missing. Without his sword his felt exposed, vulnerable. He hated that feeling.
Every sound made him jump, every rush of wind made his heart stop, he'd go still and look for any danger. There was never any danger, but he couldn't relax until he went inside and found his sword resting in it's stand.
It had taken a long time for him to finally relax a little bit. He still had to remind himself often that they were safe here. There would be no need for his sword here. Still, the lingering feeling that he would turn and find a blue-green clad Shinsengumi member ready to fight him remained.
Only at night did he fell safe. When he could rest with his sword at his side. He could protect Tomoe as long as he had his sword, as long as it was close.
Tomorrow they had agreed to make their first trip into town. He had been trying to avoid this trip for so long, because they'd be going without his sword. A whole day, one whole day without his sword. He could feel his stomach turning just thinking about it, but there was no way he was going to let Tomoe go alone. Not only would it not look right for a husband to send his wife alone in town for supplies, but there was no point in having his sword anyway if she got attacked by his enemies when he wasn't around.
"It's ready." With a sigh he sheathed his sword and went to join Tomoe by the fire to eat. He caught her staring at the sword in his hand, but she didn't say anything. He always had it beside him when they ate.
It was a small meal, but it tasted wonderful to Kenshin. Tomoe had done well cooking with what meager supplies they had left. He had really put this trip off too long.
Tomoe waited for Kenshin outside of their house. She could picture him in there now, starring at his swords, trying to will himself to leave the house without them. She almost felt sorry for him, it shouldn't be this hard to leave the house unarmed. She did have her dagger, but that was there to protect her from only one person. The man inside the house.
She finally heard the door open and Kenshin stepped out. He looked tired, she knew for a fact he had been up all night worrying about this trip into town. How stressed he looked right now, knowing he was going out into the open without his trusty swords at his side.
"Let's go." He said simply and headed down the road. She followed silently behind him noting how quickly he had changed in demeanor. He walked straight with his head held high, his eyes bright and alert. He no longer seemed tired, but refreshed, if she hadn't know him better she would have missed the way his eyes darted back and forth, always looking for danger.
She didn't say anything, but she had a feeling this was going to be a long day for her husband.
They managed to make it into town without incident, but this was wh;/en the real challenge began. There was so much noise, so many things happening at once. Vendors where calling out, trying to sell their items. Children ran by laughing followed by mothers telling them to behave themselves. Men sat with each other, enjoying each other's company, exchanging stories.
Kenshin bristled when he heard the men talking, what if they were talking about the war? What if they were exchanging ghost stories of the red-haired demon? He wasn't stupid, he knew how fast and far stories could travel and he knew plenty that were about himself. All basically untrue except for a couple base facts, but what if they expected the man in their stories was him?
As they walked pass he overheard their conversations, some were talking about their latest harvest, some about their families, some about their bosses, and such things. Not once did he hear about what was happening and had happened in Kyoto. He let out a small sigh, it was a relief to finally be away from all of that gossip.
They made it to their first stop, which was to pick up some rice. Kenshin quietly bargained with the vendor until a fair price was agreed on. As they moved onto the next stall Tomoe suggested some fresh fish might be nice. Agreeing they made their way to the closest stall selling fish.
As they approached the vendor smiled warmly at them. "Hello, I don't remember seeing you two around."
"We just moved in a little house not to far from here." Kenshin replied as if he had been practicing it all day.
The smiling man nodded towards Tomoe. "You two make a very lovely couple. You'll have very beautiful children."
Kenshin felt his face warm and he hoped his face wasn't too red. Kids? With Tomoe? Of course that wasn't possible. Not for someone like him, he could never have kids. Never. He had given up that happiness when he killed his first man. He could never raise a child with his hands stained so badly, but then again… having kids with Tomoe, with her as a mother they would be beautiful, so very beautiful. He almost smiled, almost, but when he realized where his thoughts had traveled he quickly erased the thought from his memory.
"We'd like to buy some fish please."
Kenshin let himself smile, today hadn't been so bad. Nothing bad had happened, everyone had seemed so friendly, and they had all the supplies they needed for at lest awhile. At lest nothing bad had happened… yet.
They were heading out of town, in fact they were on the outskirts, when they heard someone yelling.
"Help! Please! Someone help us!"
Without another thought, Kenshin dropped what he had been carrying by the side of the road and took off. Tomoe was left blinking behind him.
He followed the sound of the voice until he found a little girl who was crying beside a tree. When she saw Kenshin she immediately latched herself onto Kenshin's legs. "Please sir! Please help me!"
"What's wrong?" He scanned the girl over, looking for any sign that she had been injured.
"My-my- my kiiiiiiiiiiitty!" She wailed and pointed up towards the tree. "She's stuuuuuck!"
Kenshin stared up into the tree, and there stuck on a high branch was a little calico cat.
"Is that what's wrong?" Tomoe asked as she finally caught up to her husband.
"Please help me!" The girl cried starring up at Kenshin with big, wet eyes.
With a sigh he patted the top of the girl's head. "It's okay, I'll get her down."
The girl smiled and let go of his legs so he could climb up the tree. "Be careful! Don't hurt her!" She instructed as Kenshin looked the tree over trying to decided the best way to get up to the cat without startling it.
Tomoe comforted the girl as Kenshin started his way up the tree. Working with his strong legs and arms he pulled himself up to the first branch. He carefully worked his way up to the branch the cat was on. He smiled at the cat as he finally reached it. "Hello there Neko." He spoke softy, not wanting to spoke the cat.
It didn't work.
The cat hissed at him when he reached out for her and climb to a higher branch. Kenshin sighed as he heard the girl start to cry and climbed up after the cat. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty." He called softly when he got closer again. "It's okay, I won't hurt you." This time he held his hand palm up and slowly moved it closer to the feline so it would know he meant it no harm.
A light wind blew, bringing the smell of fresh fish to the cat. It smelt so good, but where was it coming from? The cat sniffed the air again, it was coming from that man! That man smelt like fish! Intrigued the cat moved cautiously towards the man, sniffing at his hand. Yes! It smelt just like fish. The cat gave Kenshin's hand a rough lick with it's tongue as Kenshin wrapped his other hand around the cat and plucked it off the tree.
The girl cried out with joy as Kenshin slowly and carefully made his way down the tree, cat in hand. (Which for some reason seemed to really like licking his hand.) When he was down he handed the girl back her cat.
"Thank you mister! What's your name?"
He smiled. "Kenshin, my name's Kenshin. And this is my wife Tomoe."
The girl grinned. "Thank you Kenshin! Thank you Tomoe!" She hugged her cat. "You are really nice! I'm going to tell all my friends what you did!" The girl took off down the road, scolding her cat for climbing where she couldn't reach her.
When they finally reached home, Kenshin was smiling broadly. He had helped that little girl, and he hadn't needed his swords to do so. True, so it was only getting a cat out of a tree, but he still hadn't needed his swords. He hadn't needed them in town either. He let out a happy sigh, maybe he really didn't need his swords while they were out of Kyoto. He wouldn't wait so long to go into town next time, and he wouldn't need his swords then either.
…but that didn't mean he was ready to sleep without them close by just yet…