Written with Teigh Raisa.
Myojin Tsubame took a deep breath, her eyes on the ceiling as she carried several freshly-laundered and folded items of clothing into her room. It wasn't so much patience that she was searching for in the heavens beyond the roof of her home, but the strength not to laugh.
Strength she didn't have.
"Yahiko…please," she said.
"It's not natural!" her husband's extremely annoyed tone came from where he stood in front of the mirror.
"You say that every year." She chose not to point out that it only seemed to bother him on every birthday.
"It's not natural," he repeated, his voice taking on an almost petulant tone. "How old am I, Tsubame?"
She bit deeply into her cheek to control her smile. "You are fifty-six today."
"See!" He thrust a finger into the air as if he had made a point. "Fifty-six," he shouted at his reflection, and fixed it with his most deadly glare, the one that had been named--jokingly, if lovingly--the "Kenshin look", with which only fools and villains were usually favored.
While Tsubame's husband was not a villain, and usually not a fool, his own reflection couldn't be accused of such either.
"Yahiko-kun," she said, the honorific a tool to gain his attention as little else would. "Most men don't complain when they--"
"When they what, my love?" he growled, still glaring at the mirror. Somehow, she thought that maybe these days he disliked her old "Yahiko-kun" more than he had once disliked being called Yahiko-chan, even if he showed his displeasure differently for each title.
One corner of her mouth lost the battle and turned up in a smile. She set the clothes in a neat pile by a chest. "Most men don't complain so, when they are getting old but looking young."
"This young?" he said, and his glare melted away into an expression of near-dismay. "I…well, it's not-- I mean-- Look at me!"
He gestured at the mirror, and Tsubame's smile this time was slightly wistful. She was beginning to wish she had never brought the mirror home in the first place. After all, she had her fair share of trouble with it was well. She was the same age as her man, and the years had been kind to her. Her hair had just begun to be touched here and there with slight streaks of silver, but her face still round and girlish. There was no reason to complain, even if sometimes her hair wouldn't behave itself and she fussed with it with her favorite comb in front of this mirror for far too long each morning.
Yahiko, though…well, where the years had been kind to her, they were outright loving to him. Almost sixty, and he looked to be somewhere in his mid-twenties. Only his eyes told the truth.
"How many children have we raised?"
Another fight to hide a smile. "Seven."
"Right! Seven squalling brats to seven expert swordsmen."
"Yes. Even the girls."
"Why not the girls? I hope you never said anything like that in front of Kaoru."
She held up her hands for peace with an innocent smile. She had, actually, let such a thing slip out to Kaoru once, and had gotten a particularly powerful "Kenshin-look" from her, and found herself on fleeing the wide sweep of a wooden sword.
Through the mirror, Yahiko's eyebrows raised in a knowing look, but he was rolling too steadily into his favorite rant to change directions now.
"Raised seven children," he recounted. "And how many journeys have I been on? How many adventures? How many battles?"
How many blades have you caught? The running joke among the inner circle of Myojin loved-ones that seemed to fit neatly into this line of questioning sprang to her mind. How many indeed?
There had been times, when they were young, that she found herself waiting for him. Waiting, while he went off into the world. Sometimes he came back for a short time, dusty from his travels, lean and hard as the world chiseled his face, his body, his voice. Sometimes he left again, his youth useful, and stories and news about him floated back to her on the wind. Some she had hoped were exaggerated. Some she knew were not.
"Shouldn't some of it, well, show on me?" he asked.
She walked up behind him, rested the side of her head against his shoulder. She grinned up at him when he finally took his eyes from the mirror and met hers. "Maybe it does. Who does this remind you of?"
He blinked, confused for a moment until the person at which she was hinting came to him. He smiled then, sheepishly.
"Well…Kenshin is different. At least, I thought Kenshin was different." He frowned. "Once, I said to Misao Hiten-Mitsurugi must be some kind of secret to eternal youth. Maybe it's not so silly after all? I mean, you know… Kenshin and Hiko Seijuro…"
Tsubame laughed softly, wrapping her arms around Yahiko's bicep. "They looked younger than they were. So do you. Maybe it's some kind of power within all of you. Maybe it's just how you are. But, does it really matter, Yahiko-kun?"
He tangled his fingers with hers, sighing in mock-frustration. "No, my love, I guess it doesn't."
They stayed that way for a moment before he spoke again. "I think it's because I couldn't understand how he felt. Not really. When I was young. To me, he was just…Kenshin. Not young, not old. Not really. But there were sometimes he seemed so silly, looking young like he did but sometimes acting and talking like an old man.
"But I can understand now." He squeezed her hand. "The reason it bothers me I don't look my age is because I don't feel young. My time and my cares don't show on my face, but I feel them inside me. I think it was the same for him."
She nodded. This was a territory that she could never quite approach, a place that Yahiko shared with his friend/brother/mentor. A place that was overlapped with the heart of every swordsman, especially those that lived long years not only taking on the hardships and sorrows of others, but protecting those others from the ones and the things that caused them.
"My love?" she said, a smile in her voice as she mimicked him.
"Would you rather look old and feel young?"
He laughed. "No. No, no. You're right. I'll stop complaining."
"Until next year."
"Yes. Until next year."
He growled. "What, my love?"
He turned swiftly, smoothly scooping her up off her feet and sliding the door shut with just enough force for a small slam.
She gaped at him, but he only grinned at her. "Thank you. Now, I think I am suddenly feeling kind of young. Young and…full of energy."
"Oh, and one more '-kun' out of you, Love, and I may yet find more energy."
Tsubame did not think this would be a bad thing or much of a threat at all but wisely decided to leave that unsaid, tilting her chin up slightly to accept a long, leisurely kiss instead.
After all, she did happen to know that swordsmen of a certain caliber could come up with a lot of energy when they felt the need. It was best not to underestimate them.