Title: Trading Places
Characters: Hiro, Kensei, Yaeko
Word Count: 1014 words
Summary: With Kensei incapacitated, Hiro must don the armor once more, to fight alongside the girl of his dreams. Set early in Season 2, after Episode 203, Kindred.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Kensei groaned, throwing an arm up over his eyes, and turned over. “Leave off… it’s too bloody early…”
Not at all put off, Hiro shook Kensei’s shoulder again. “Kensei-san, you must get up! There are hostile riders approaching!” he pleaded urgently.
All Hiro’s shaking managed to do was cause the Englishman to roll over the other direction. “I’ve had about enough dashing heroics to last me a lifetime, thank you. Why don’t you give it another go, old chap? You’ll do grand,” he said without opening his eyes.
Hiro huffed in frustration. Squeezing his eyes tight, he concentrated on freezing time just long enough to heft the lacquered armor over his shoulders, put on the masked helm and grab the fabled sword. He moved as quickly as he could – the armor was just as heavy as he remembered – and looked outside again. The riders had come near enough to alarm the sentries, who were readying their katana for battle.
To the right, he glimpsed Yaeko, beautiful face set with determination. She stood in a battle stance, blade poised to defend the camp. He longed, just for an instant to touch her fair complexion, to feel the warmth of her skin…
No! Hiro came to himself again, shaking his head fiercely. She is not for you, Nakamura Hiro. He shivered to think how badly he could mess up the timeline if he interfered even the slightest bit with the love affair between Kensei and Yaeko of which the legends spoke.
Before he could become maudlin, he quickly unfroze time. Just as he strode from the overhang, he heard Kensei mutter behind him. “What's the bleedin' point of the power to heal if it won't shift a bloody hangover…?”
But that was all he heard as shouts of alarm and the ringing of blades unsheathed filled his ears.
“Kensei-sama! Yokatta!” Yaeko called breathily as he trotted beside her. He hated to deceive her once again, but there was no time to lose.
<Yes, I am here,> he responded, lowering his voice to disguise his natural high timbre. <We must divide them – separate each from the group so as to weaken their strength. Let not one man have another to guard his back.>
<A very wise plan, my lord.> Yaeko’s voice was tinged with admiration. Hiro longed for her to use this tone of voice with him… how it bothered him to hear her praise Kensei for his own actions! He quashed the stab of jealousy quickly. A hero did not think of himself in times of danger. There was more than the fate of this camp at stake.
She called orders to the men, and he moved the other direction, echoing her commanding manner. The men obeyed without question, of course – but now he could see the pride they took in serving the master who had fought for and won the Fire Scroll. The fact that Kensei had succeeded, all on his own, was the hope Hiro clung to these days that Kensei would indeed finally become the hero of his boyhood tales.
The outriders met with the raiders with the first clang of steel, and soon the battle blurred into a series of moments, Hiro hopping in and out of time to throw the enemy off-balance.
And amazingly enough, Hiro found himself back-to-back with Yaeko as she fiercely parried one swordsman after another. She radiated life, set fire to Hiro’s spirit as he struggled to keep up with her fluid technique.
From the corner of his eye the morning light caught the flat of an enemy katana, and Hiro stopped time. Breathing heavily he pivoted to see the sharp edge only inches from Yaeko’s waist. A rush of fury overtook him suddenly, and he came down on the warrior’s wrist with the butt of his sword, knocking the blade from his hand.
Then he turned to the swordmaker’s daughter, her face captivating him with its fierce resolve… and even though he had refrained before, he couldn’t stop himself from gently running a knuckle down the edge of her cheekbone. His eyes fluttered closed at the forbidden contact, and he breathed in the moment…
Hiro jumped back into place, unfreezing time again. The swordman had only a moment of puzzlement before he was knocked to the ground, Yaeko’s blade at his throat.
Hiro swallowed behind his mask, both terrified by and powerfully attracted to the feral gleam in her eyes.
Within a half hour, the prisoners had been marched off to be guarded, Yaeko seeing to it herself. Hiro wearily made his way back to Kensei’s hut, stripping off the helmet with a tired sigh.
Kensei stood before him, tying the sash at his waist, completely unconcerned. He showed no signs of the hangover he had been complaining of. “So it went swimmingly, did it? Jolly good show!”
“No thanks to you,” he shot back irritably, tucking the helmet under his arm. The sweat had plastered his hair into angles even more haphazard than usual. Kensei’s blond hair didn’t even look mussed from sleep.
“Steady on now—”
Yaeko swept into the tent just then, bowing low before Kensei. <You have saved the day once again, master. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.>
With a lopsided grin, he nodded in return, far too casually for the formality of Yaeko’s bow. No matter that her eyes were demurely downcast. <It was the least I could do, my lady.>
She straightened up then, a brilliant smile on her face. <I cannot believe I ever doubted your courage. Forgive me, Kensei-sama.>
Hiro fought to keep his face expressionless, to let this mockery play out without his interference. But as she turned to leave, she suddenly caught sight of Kensei’s helmet in Hiro’s hands. She looked between them, Hiro in armor, flushed, sweating… Kensei in his yukata, well-groomed and well-rested.
He would never know later whether he had simply forgotten to stop time… or whether it was somehow deliberate. But to this day, the memory of her half-confused, half-astonished expression haunted him… and filled his dreams.
Is your birthday soon? Request a ficlet!