Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki. Out of Time, Kano, and Ryu belong to SiriusFan13.
Mice of the Inn
It wasn't so strange, when one really thought about it. Not really.
It was still a chaotic time, of course. One couldn't forget that. Not even for a moment. But that didn't mean there weren't…lulls…in the chaos. Or at least small, soft periods when the minds of men could turn from the struggle and change and see that maybe, just maybe, the planet itself wasn't nearly as interested in the bedlam.
Lo and behold, it was a warm and lazy day.
Kano lay idly on his futon, smoking. These two "activities" alone were not entirely unusual--at least not for this time of day since more of Kano's duties took place at night than not. Combined, though…accidents involving careless fingers and the dry, old fabric of blankets were known to happen.
Still, it was possible the cleanup man could have cared less. He took a long pull on his cigarette, and then casually flicked the ashes into an old cracked sake saucer.
It was a lazy day. Mid-afternoon sunlight, once in a while muted by fat, sluggishly-moving clouds. There were broken notes of birdsong, as if the little flitting thing from somewhere out of vision couldn't muster up any gusto for a real song. Kano's ears faintly picked up two of the serving maids as they passed by his door, walking slowly and talking about nothing.
He grimaced around his cigarette, taking and long pull, and then looking on the burning tip. Even the tobacco and paper seemed to be taking forever to burn away to ashes and smoke.
And even the most unimaginative person could close his eyes on a day so rare and fine as this and dream the world wouldn't again churn in the turmoil of shifting power and a whirlwind of war screams and blooded blades and hidden meanings locked in simple or pretty words.
And yet…Kano was fairly certain he couldn't appreciate a moment like this.
He frowned, dropping the last of his cigarette to burn away in the ruined saucer and folded his hands behind his head.
Could he? The demon, the hitokiri. The "boy" or the "kid", if one wanted to avoid an argument with Ryu, which Kano always found funny since those tags weren't exactly any more respectful and maybe not any more accurate. He wasn't really a demon, as far as anyone knew, and he lately taken on more of a role as a protector than hitokiri. He was young, true, but children didn't have eyes like he did.
Ryu, though…he still insisted on thinking of him like he was when Ryu had first seen him, like he was before he…
…before he lost his ability to enjoy days like this. Kano was certain he was right about that, at least. If Himura could still see the soft, buttery sunlight and the little sailing, easy-going movement of butterflies, or how soothing and homely were the sounds of the unhurried brush of broom straw across the floor, somewhere out in the hall. And he could still perceive all of that, Kano thought cynically, then he probably shut himself away from it. He was willing to bet his best clothes Himura was sitting in the corner of his room or something, sleeping or whatever. Not lazing, that rare and forgotten joy that the day seemed to call for, but something disciplined or practical like that. Something a normal "kid" wouldn't decide to do today. Not a day like this.
Kano grimaced again, telling himself the sudden bad taste in his mouth was the poor-quality leaf he had just smoked. He had a small urge to get up and see what Himura Battousai was doing, just to see if he was right.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a small movement. He blinked, mildly surprised to see a small rusty-brown mouse ambling along his wall.
The mouse was a little, partly-grown thing. It was healthy, shiny with buck grease, but it also looked like it had had a rough time of it, its nose scarred, ears looked chewed, the tip of its tail missing. It had a large morsel of something or another, likely stolen from the kitchen.
Seeming to be in sync with how everything else felt today, the tiny rodent moved as if in no particular hurry with its snack held lightly in its jaws. Then, as Kano watched, another mouse appeared. This one a little bit bigger and older, and whole and unscarred. And unlike the first mouse, it moved swiftly, snatching the unidentifiable scrap from the mouth of its former owner and then scurrying away, vanishing into the shadows behind a small chest of drawers.
The other mouse didn't pursue it. For a moment, Kano thought it might, but it stayed still, its marked nose, missing whiskers, twitching a few times before it began to move again in the same deliberate pace as before.
Kano watched it vanish under the crack of his door, and with the last flick of it's broken tail it was gone, the spell broken. He rolled over, not liking at all a sunken but stirring feeling in his chest, an uncomfortable emotion he couldn't name. He couldn't hear anything anymore, no bird's half-hearted attempts at a tune, no noises of lax cleaning.
Abruptly he swore into the new silence and rolled the other way, pressing his face into the crook of his arm to block out the light, remorseful for the sudden, unexpected loss of his good mood. He had to get some sleep. It would be a busy night, and he had to remember to ask Okami to do something about her new rodent problem.