|An Unexpected Love Story
Author: fireblazie PM
Sanosuke realizes he's falling in love. What does he do? [SanoMegu]Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Humor/Romance - Sanosuke & Megumi - Words: 10,059 - Reviews: 28 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 3 - Published: 06-05-04 - id: 1896012
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I own not Rurouni Kenshin. Or the song.
An Unexpected Love Story
Sagara Sanosuke had never fallen in love before. But come on, give the guy a break. After all, he didn't exactly have a very normal lifestyle. At an early age, he joined the Sekihoutai, and he wasn't really able to experience the opposite sex.. and then, he had his fatherly figure taken away from him as well. Since that point, the only thing on his mind was, of course, revenge. The opposite sex and the tricky emotion called love were nowhere near his top list of priorities.
Then he met up with Himura Kenshin, known to some as the Hitokiri Battousai. After getting the crap beaten out of him, he took a couple of days to rest. Then he went to live in the Kamiya Dojo. There, he met Kamiya Kaoru, but there was nothing much about her that really drew her to him, you know? Sure, she was cute enough, but there was this sort of dangerous aura lurking around Kenshin -- the kind of aura that clearly called out, "if you touch one hair on her head, I swear I'll Ryu Tsui Sen you to your grave." Sano then wisely stayed away from Kaoru and refrained from ever hanging around her "that way."
There was also Tae-san. And she, too, was cute and all, but -- nah. She was too... nice, would be the word, maybe. There was nothing that drew him to her. Nothing that called him to her. And so he stayed away.
And then, soon after, he met Takani Megumi.
And that was when he was screwed over.
That damn fox.
There was something about her. Whatever it was, it couldn't be described in words. Sanosuke had tried, of course, because it was human nature to try and explain things in words. It was human nature to try and see things. Physical, solid things. Anyway, he had failed miserably.
He had tried to describe that "thing" about her as an evil spirit. Yes. It would be just like evil spirits to hang around you, flirt, and make up dumb nicknames for you, yes? With evil spirits, you knew that you had to stay away from them. After all, that's why they had the word "evil" tacked onto their name. You didn't hang around "evil" things, did you? So that was what he tried to do.
Whenever Megumi would unexpectedly turn up at the dojo, Sano would mysteriously disappear. He would go to a variety of places. Sometimes, he would go gambling. Usually after that, he would end up losing a lot of money. Sometimes, he would go down to the Akabeko to add more money to his tab. Then Tae-san would usually remind him, over and over and over, about his tab. Sometimes, he would go around aimlessly, just wandering the streets. Then he would get attacked by crazy, vile hobos. [Were they hobos? Or were they just drunken idiots looking for a fight?] Sano was smart enough to realize that this was no way to go around living his life.
Then he tried to describe her as too flirty. She was, really, much too flirty. Always flirting around with Kenshin just to piss jou-chan off? Not to mention him, as well..
Let's forget that ever happened.
Well, the result of Megumi being "too flirty" was pretty much the same thing as Megumi being an "evil spirit." Every single time Megumi suddenly showed up, Sano would suddenly go away. [Apparently, Kaoru was very curious about that. She was also quite happy, as well...]
One day, Sanosuke realized that this was most definitely not the way to live. Hell, he couldn't run away every single time that stupid fox showed up!
So, he came to a decision. A very firm decision. A decision that he would not back down on, no matter what the circumstances were!
He was not going to run away from her, ever again.
And on this windy May afternoon, Sanosuke tied himself to one of the supporting columns of the dojo with the thickest, bulkiest piece of rope he could find. He had attracted some unwanted attention, of course, but he was used to attracting unwanted attention.
"Sanosuke?" Kaoru blinked, at least ten times at the ex-kenkaya.
"What?" he nearly growled out.
"Um.. you do realize that you tied yourself to the dojo?"
Brown eyes glared angrily. "No, jou-chan, I'm just tying myself to the dojo for fun."
Kaoru's eyes glinted dangerously. "I was just asking, you moron."
"Well, then, you can go ask--"
Sanosuke received a large lump on his head that day. It throbbed painfully, sticking out the top of his head. But then, he should have known better...
And there she was.
Clad in that same purple doctor's smock, her dark hair flowing loosely around her, a smile pasted on her face, obviously meant for her beloved Ken-san, Sanosuke swallowed...
She looked just like the devil.
Megumi didn't disappoint him.
After the usual hugs and suggestive remarks Megumi gave towards Kenshin, Sano was more than ready to get out of that hell-hole, and he was willing to take any circumstances. Oh yes, he was more than willing to rip out one of those supporting columns right out of the dojo. He was more than willing to take a couple hundred of whacks from Kaoru's wooden sword. He was more than willing to take a couple hundred of Do Ryu Sens from Kenshin's sakabatou.
The point was, he was willing to do anything to get out of there.
Why? He didn't know himself. But there was just something not very pleasant throbbing somewhere below his chest. Was it his heart? He wouldn't know. He was no doctor, and he wasn't about to ask the one sitting in front of him, thank you very much. Besides, she looked very occupied at the moment.
"Eeeeek!" There went Kaoru's scandalized squeal. "Megumi-san! Get off him!"
"But he likes it, can't you tell?"
At this point, it should be noted that Sano had already turned his head and was proceeding to bang his head against the columns. It attracted more attention than he'd wanted, but, as has been stated, that was nothing new.
"Oh, tori-atama..." Megumi sounded genuinely surprised. "I didn't know you were here!"
"I've been here all this time," Sano muttered. He finally got the courage to turn around, and what he saw caused him to scrunch up his face -- the sort of expression you'd get if you bit into a particularly sour lemon.
Megumi was giving Kenshin a back massage.
Now, if only her fox ears weren't on her head and Kenshin wasn't smiling like he was in pure bliss and there wasn't a livid Kaoru in the background and Yahiko wasn't rolling around on the floor in laughter, it might have been a relatively normal scene.
But cut the crap. A normal scene, in this dojo?
Megumi momentarily paused in her backrub. "You've tied yourself to the dojo," she stated wonderingly.
"I know that."
She looked as though she would have liked to say more, but apparently thought better of it, and turned back around, but not before flipping her hair over her shoulders. "Whatever floats your boat, tori-atama."
"Would you stop calling me that?"
"But it suits you so well!"
Why did she piss him off so much? Because honestly, she pissed him off more than Saitoh and Aoshi combined, and that was really saying something.
"Shut up, kitsune!"
"Now, now --" Kenshin tried to intervene, but when it came to fights between the fox and the rooster, nothing could save anyone.
"You wouldn't hit a lady, would you?"
"Not a lady, but maybe a damned fox!"
Evidently, Kaoru realized that if this kept up, her dojo would end up being a wreck. It wasn't like Megumi could cause too much of the physical damage herself, but Sano -- well, he was another story.
"Does anybody want to eat?" the kenjutsu instructor asked cheerfully. "I just made some dinner!"
"You know, I think I'll go back to my place," Sano said thoughtfully, skillfully manuevering his hands out of the rope.
"Gensai-sensei will be waiting for me," Megumi added, standing up. "It was such a wonderful afternoon, wasn't it, Ken-san?"
"Hey!" Yahiko interjected, crossing his arms over his chest. "It's getting pretty late, you know? What if there are some creeps wandering around the streets, huh, Megumi?"
"Oh, don't worry about me." There went that nasty evil smirk, and to top it all off -- Sanosuke groaned loudly -- those fox ears had magically appeared.
"Tori-atama will walk me home."
Sanosuke was beginning to realize exactly why he had always stayed away from the fox.
Well, lookie there. There were rocks! And pebbles! They were littered all over the dusty road. Who would have thought of that?
"You're too quiet," Megumi complained. "It's eerie."
"I'll tell you what's eerie," retorted Sano. That particular little rock was very shiny...
Megumi stuck out her tongue. "What have I ever done to you?"
"Oh, would you like a list?" Ouch, that little pebble was rather sharp..
His heart was thumping against his chest, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump. It was downright frightening. But why? Why was his heart beating so fast? And so loudly, too?
"You don't have to walk me home if you don't want to, tori-atama. I can make it on my own."
"Nah." Sanosuke crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll do it."
"Oh?" There went that evil smirk. "Are you worried about me?"
"You wish." Sano scowled at the grinning woman. "If you get injured, jou-chan and Kenshin and Yahiko will never let me hear the end of it. That's all." Whoa, was that one rock blue?
Before he knew what was going on, Megumi had stepped right in front of him. She barely came up to his chin, but still, just having her standing in front of him...
Okay. Breathe in, breathe out.
"Are you staring at the rocks?" she asked him, eyebrows drawing together.
"No!" Sano said defensively -- who knew what she would make of such a little piece of info like that. And why, why, why were his cheeks turning red? Dammit!
"Reeeaally?" She was being rather annoying today. "Because it really looked like you were, you know."
"Things aren't always what they seem." He puffed up his chest a little bit more.
She laughed. "Uh-huh."
What had he thought of her before? An evil spirit? A flirtatious woman?
She didn't seem like any of those things now.
Uh-oh. This didn't seem good.
"Look at that," she suddenly said. "It's a full moon.."
Sanosuke failed to comprehend what was so special. "So?"
She threw up her hands exasperatedly. "You really know how to kill a moment."
Sanosuke was about to come up with some sort of remark, but stopped just in time, and settled for saying, "I don't get you."
And she laughed again. "No one does, really."
What was up with his heart?!
"Oh!" She turned around, triumphant. "You haven't been by the clinic in some time. That's why it feels like I haven't seen you in such a long time."
"Oh? Miss me?" Her flirtatious nature must have been rubbing off on him.
"Hah!" Megumi snorted, very unladylike, but she never seemed to worry about being a lady whenever she was with him. He didn't know whether to feel insulted. "I was just thinking how nice and calm it was without you there all the time."
"Ohh, is that so?" Sanosuke raised his eyebrows. "I'll have to stop by sometime, just to check up on you."
When they finally made it back to the clinic, where Megumi resided, Sano stuffed his hands in his pockets, scratching at his head. Awkward moments like these, he really hated.
"Well.." Megumi tapped at her chin thoughtfully. "I guess I should thank you, tori-atama."
"Are you sure you're not sick?" Sanosuke asked, semi-seriously.
Megumi rolled her eyes. "The one time I decide to act grateful.."
And by the time their little verbal confrontation was through, Sanosuke walked down the dusty road, littered with pebbles, his heart still racing, his cheeks still red, his stomach performing flip-flops every other minute.
He really needed to stay away from her.
Kaoru was thinking.
This by itself...well, usually wasn't such a bad thing, but you could never be too careful.
Well, okay, whenever Kamiya Kaoru was found thinking, it was usually the foundation for some sort of harebrained scheme that was doomed to fail. And the so-called Kenshin Gumi knew this very well, so they usually just let her be and allowed her schemes to play out on its own. They usually... didn't cause too much damage. Yeah. Right.
It was just really too bad that she was thinking about Sanosuke and Megumi.
More to the point, how cute and perfect they looked together.
Plus the fact that if they could somehow... what was the term, "hook up," then Megumi would finally leave the red-haired rurouni in peace.
Well, hopefully. You never could tell with Megumi.
But this wasn't a new idea, she thought to herself, even back then, she'd always thought that there had been sparks flying and that there was something going on between the two of them. But you could never tell...
Hadn't it been that for some time, Sanosuke had always mysteriously vanished whenever Megumi came by? And how he always turned up exactly when Megumi left?
Would that be counted as suspicious?
Kaoru gave that a yes.
And today, when Megumi was giving Kenshin that so-called back massage -- Kaoru was trembling from anger by just thinking about it -- she could have sworn that steam was emanating from Sano's ears. And that expression he'd made, come on, it was priceless!
The wheels were turning in her head. You could practically see them!
Unless she was horribly mistaken -- and she usually was, so she prayed that she wasn't -- it seemed that the rooster had fallen for the fox.
It was just too bad that foxes usually eat roosters.
Kaoru blinked. "No!" she hissed loudly, "that's not right! Foxes don't eat roosters! Do they? How would I know? Roosters don't taste good, do they? I've only had chicken. Do they taste the same?"
"Oi, Kenshin.." Yahiko hissed, prodding the red-haired man on the shoulder, making sure that Kaoru couldn't hear him, "she's talking to herself. Again."
"Aa.." Kenshin nodded slowly, "that's the eleventh time this month, de gozaru yo."
"I thought it was twelve."
"No, that other time, she was talking to Ayame-chan. We just couldn't see her, de gozaru."
"Maybe we should leave," Kenshin suggested after a stretch of silence, Kaoru was always quite scary when she started talking to herself. This was worse than when she got drunk.
Yahiko could only nod.
He had done it, yet again.
Sanosuke wrinkled his nose as he surveyed his bloodied hand. He tried to move it, and stopped from the pain. Obviously, he had either sprained or fractured his wrist. Maybe a couple of fingers, too. The bandages he kept on his wrist were soaked with the blood.
"You're lucky I'm in a good mood," he informed the thugs, "because usually I'd beat you up even worse."
They believed him, and scampered off.
Sano didn't even spare them a second glance. He was too busy staring at his injured hand. Yep, that was broken, all right. He was sure he could bandage it and keep it from getting infected, but...
Twice the amount of blood suddenly came dripping out.
It seemed that fate was in a happy mood today.
There was only one thing to do.
He had to see her.
The fox doctor.
"Hm? No, don't worry, Gensai-sensei, I can take the next patient." Her voice was startlingly different than what he was used to. "You can come in --" She slid the door open, "--oh. It's you."
Sanosuke raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. Me."
They stood there like that, surrounded in silence.
"Can I come in?" Sanosuke tried. His hand wasn't getting any better, after all.
"I didn't think you were serious about coming to visit," Megumi said wryly, but made room for him to enter. Her eyes widened, however, upon seeing Sano's injured hand. "Tori-atama! That's in really bad shape..." And he allowed his thoughts to rove as Megumi bustled about, looking for bandages and antiseptic and other things.
His eyes wandered the room, looking at the various framed pictures and the vase in the middle of table, holding a single purple flower.
"Is that flower really purple?" he found himself asking. He'd rarely seen purple flowers, after all.
"Hm? Oh, no. That one's fake."
"Ah." He didn't understand. How could a flower be fake? But he'd never really paid attention to cultural and scientific advances, so he shrugged it off.
"All right. Hold out your hand."
Sanosuke complied, inwardly noting that she seemed so darn different when she was in her "doctor mode." No flirtatious comments, no remarks that stung twice as hard as a bee...
"What did you do?" she finally asked, peeling off the old, blood-soaked bandages and discarding them in the trash. "This is worse than it usually is."
"The usual," he replied, watching as her hands expertly cleansed the wound with the antiseptic -- it stung, but he was used to it now.
"Oh, a drunken brawl?"
Her words hurt him.
"Yeah," he conceded, after a prolonged amount of silence.
"Mm." And the conversation was dead.
For a while, Sano was content just to sit there and look around at the office, trying to decipher this mystery dubbed Takani Megumi. Maybe if he looked around at her room he could find some clues... but everything seemed to be something of Gensai-sensei's, with the exception of that solitary flower.
"I'm done, you know." She stood up and strode over to the sink, washing her hands. "You've been sitting there, spaced out, for the past five minutes."
And then their eyes met.
Sanosuke found that a number of things began to happen to him, all at once. His cheeks, yet again, burned furiously, as if they had just been stuck in a fire. His stomach grew queasy, like when you haven't had food for over a week, yet, he wasn't hungry. His mouth suddenly grew very dry, and he had the urge to down a six-pack. Not that they had those back then, of course.
He had no idea what was happening to him! He had never experienced such -- such trauma...
He considered asking Megumi -- after all, she was a doctor, so she should know about such things... but instinct told him not to. Instinct told him to get out of there. At that very moment.
"Tori-atama?" She frowned. "You look pale. Do you have a fever?"
What was going on?!
He didn't understand anything!
He was so confused!
What in hell was happening to him?!
In his confused and paranoid state, Sano did the first thing that came to his mind.
He bolted out of there.
He was ashamed to admit that he went to Kenshin for advice.
But let's face it -- Sano's options were quite limited. The only people he could possibly talk to about such a thing within five minutes were jou-chan, Yahiko, and Kenshin. Kenshin, of course, was his best pick. Not the best pick, he had to admit, but the best out of what he had.
"And -- and you went -- to -- to sessha for advice?" Kenshin asked incredulously, as if Sano had just blurted out that he bleached his hair.
"Dammit, Kenshin, it was either you --" A malicious glare, "--that brat --" he rolled his eyes, "-- or jou-chan." There was no after-reaction to this.
"So sessha was your last resort."
"But -- what do you expect sessha to do about it?" Kenshin looked like Sano had just asked him to propose. "What on this earth could --"
"I don't know!" Sanosuke was this close to ripping out his hair. "But, well, you are older than me --"
"Mmmph," came Kenshin.
"--no offense, of course, but I figured you might...I dunno, have more...experience..."
Kenshin came very close to scowling. But Himura Kenshin doesn't scowl, oh no. Himura Kenshin always keeps that rurouni grin plastered onto his face, even if it kills him! Or reverts into Battousai. Whichever one comes first.
"Sano," he said slowly, "sessha has been known as Battousai all of my life. Sessha has always been too busy fighting for this new government. Sessha has always been too busy -- trying -- not -- to -- get -- killed -- by -- insane -- and -- mad -- idiots -- who -- can't -- seem -- to -- realize -- that -- the -- Bakumatsu -- is -- over."
Was it just Sano, or was there a trace of bitterness in the rurouni's voice?
"In other words, sessha has not had much experience with the opposite sex."
"In other words, you're barking up the wrong tree."
"You can't just turn me away, Kenshin!" Sano was begging. It was really quite a sight -- but that's not what we're here to talk about. The point was, Sanosuke was desperate. His "situation" was killing him. He was willing to do almost anything to get some answers.
"But..." Kenshin's tone was mild as he looked calmly down on the seething man.
"I need answers!"
"Sessha couldn't possibly give you the right answers."
"I don't care! I need answers."
Oh, why was he burdened with such a thing? Kenshin rubbed at his temples and instinctively fingered the cross-shaped scar on his cheek. Was this his punishment for all the lives he'd taken? If it was, he was very insulted, after all, he'd done quite a bit of things as his atonement, and he didn't need this as well.
The wind blew a gentle breeze, causing some of the leaves to fall from the trees and to land on Kenshin's shoulder.
"Tomoe," he mumbled, "you couldn't possibly --"
More leaves found their way to Kenshin's lap.
Oh, for the love of..
"Sano.." Kenshin sighed. "How -- How long have you -- had this situation?"
"Mm? Probably since I met her." Sanosuke was strangely attentive now.
Kenshin, of course, wasn't that much of an idiot. His rurouni image was just a front. His Battousai image was a little bit closer to the truth. Being the Hitokiri Battousai for so long...well, certain events had occured.
"You're in love."
Well, thought Kenshin, staring at the white sheets he had previously hung up on the clothesline, he had taken the news much better than he thought he would. Now that that was over, he decided that he would make himself a nice, steaming, hot cup of tea. Then, if the clothes were dry, he would take them down and fold them --
"Oro?" It was a habit by now.
"What does it mean to be.. 'in love'?"
Kenshin facefaulted. He could have sworn he heard Battousai cackling from deep within him.
Contrary to popular belief, Sanosuke was not really much of a "talker." No, he wasn't. Yet, he wasn't much of a "listener," either.
So what was he?
"You're quiet. Again."
Or maybe he was just like that whenever he was with her.
"Is it a crime to be quiet?" he snapped, and then cringing at his tone.
"No." Her tone was impassive. "But it's just not you."
Contrary to popular belief, Sanosuke was afraid of the fox doctor.
Some thought that he just owed her extra favors for treating his hand for free -- which, by the way, he did. Others figured that he must be bored and so he tagged along.
None of these were the right reasons.
"Hurry up," snapped Megumi, "I have a patient with a fever. This is no time to take in the sights."
"Coming," he grumbled, taking longer strides.
How had he gotten himself into this mess?
You see, dear reader, it had all started about two days ago. Megumi had unexpectedly dropped by the dojo, and Sanosuke had no time in which to make some sort of daring escape -- he had quickly discarded that vow he'd made about "not running away" -- and was forced to remain in the kitsune-onna's presence.
Two minutes of all that flirtatious comments, and Sano was ready to hang himself.
And then, just when he thought it was safe to leave the scene, that -- damn -- woman -- screwed him over again.
"You know.." She trailed off thoughtfully, "I need some help."
"Help, Megumi-dono?" Kenshin inquired politely.
"Yes," she answered decisively with a nod of her head. "As a doctor, sometimes I have to go around the whole entire town, you know? Going around to treat the townsfolk who are too weak to come visit me themselves? Well, there's a lot of equipment and medicine I need to carry. And I couldn't possibly carry them all."
"I see." Yahiko nodded.
Kaoru's eyes had narrowed into slits by now. "And who were you planning to ask to help, Megumi-san?"
There went that laugh again.
That stupid "Ohohohoho" of hers.
"Ken-san, of course!" Well, there are the fox ears.
Kaoru's shinai had suddenly appeared in her hands.
"Sessha is flattered --" Kenshin stammered, and suddenly recoiled at the sight of Kaoru [and it wasn't a pretty sight], "--but sessha will have to decline.."
"Oh, but come on, Ken-san --"
There was something that stirred inside of Sanosuke. What it was, he couldn't tell. And he still wouldn't have been able to say now. But whatever it was, it took an extremely tight hold on the ex-kenkaya and absolutely, positively refused to let go.
And that "thing" propelled him to stand up..
...in a disturbingly loud voice...
Now, he was stuck with a moody fox doctor, carrying ten pounds worth of herbs and other medicinal -- junk.
There could be no one in the whole entire world that had as much troubles as he did right now.
Kenshin hadn't exactly helped, either. Before this whole ordeal, Sano's picture of love was nothing but a blurred image that wouldn't become clear, no matter how hard he wiped at it. Now, after Kenshin's sorry excuse for an explanation, Sanosuke's picture of love had been torn up into about three billion pieces, and he couldn't seem to be able to put them back in the right order.
"Will -- you -- hurry -- up?" hissed Megumi.
What on earth could possibly make this woman so moody? Sanosuke picked up the pace, glaring daggers at the onna-sensei's back.
"We're here," she suddenly said, making an abrupt stop. She knocked on the door. "Be polite and act civilized," she reminded him, "not any of your usual habits."
Sanosuke stuck his tongue out. "Yes, Okaasan."
"Takani-sensei!" A frazzled-looking woman sighed with relief and quickly pulled them in. "Oh, Ayumi-chan's just been so weak with her fever, and I tried having her sweat it out, but --"
"Don't worry," Megumi told the older woman, something in her voice that Sano had never heard before. "I'm sure it's nothing serious." She bent down to the little girl, no more than Ayame's age. "How are you, hm? Have you been playing outside in this heat?"
She was so..
If only she could act more like that when she was around him. But, after thinking about it, if he had somehow managed to fall in love with her when she was like a bitter cat who lost its mouse, he might have fallen even more in love with her if she was that angelic.
No, best to have the devilish kitsune.
When Megumi finished treating the little girl, she left behind a little pack of medicinal herbs with the instruction to give it to the girl every four hours. The older woman, presumably Ayumi-chan's mother, nodded and eyed Sanosuke.
"He's a keeper, Takani-sensei." She winked.
Thankfully, Megumi had already exited and didn't hear. Sano heard, however, loud and clear.
"Tori-atama! We have three more patients to visit!"
"Yeah, yeah..." Sanosuke let out a sigh.
At any rate, she obviously didn't feel the same way.
Megumi was bored. Bored out of her mind.
She loved being a doctor, don't get her wrong, but now that they were on their way to her last patient, she figured it couldn't hurt to lighten the atmosphere. After all, these people weren't seriously sick.
But that tori-atama seemed like he was.
He was unusually quiet, and although she was glad for a break from his restless chatter [not that he talked a lot when he was with her, but he talked a lot with Kaoru and Kenshin and Yahiko], it was downright weird.
She'd asked him, more than once:
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Yeah. I'm feeling fine."
And the conversation would shrivel up and dry.
Granted, she had never had a very close relationship with the ex-kenkaya. Yeah, he had stopped her from killing herself, yeah, he had saved her from Kanryuu, yeah, they sort of had a weird relationship going on, but that was it. And it seemed like they hadn't been seeing each other lately.
What, did she miss his endless chatter?
Did she miss the petty little arguments they'd have?
The heat must have been getting to her. Yeah.
He sighed every other minute. It was truly getting on her nerves. He looked up at the sky, and then down at the ground, and then moved the bag of medicine from one shoulder to the other, then to one hand to another..
It was really irritating her.
"Tori-atama, if you keep doing that, you'll end up crushing the herbs."
That was definitely the last straw. Sagara Sanosuke, a.k.a. the tori-atama, did not apologize. Ever. Especially not to her, the "evil, scary kitsune."
"What is wrong with you?!" Her voice rose with every syllable, and some of the townspeople stopped to stare. "You haven't been acting like yourself all day! You mope around, you don't talk -- you're acting like a woman on the verge of menopause!"
Normal people would have apologized, or at least come up with a believable excuse for their behavior.
Sadly, Sagara Sanosuke had never been a normal person.
"Is it a crime to be in a bad mood?!" he exploded, "is it a crime to want to be silent for a little bit? Is it a crime to want to think about things? Because some people have some issues that they want to think about!"
For the first time, Takani Megumi was speechless.
With a huff, she whirled around, flipping her hair over her shoulder and walked as fast as she could without tripping. To hell with him, she thought bitterly, she was just trying to be nice, darn it. If he didn't want her kindness, then that was just fine and dandy with her. Who needed someone like him anyway?! He was nothing but a --
He'd said he had issues.
She slowly craned her neck to look at him. She frowned. He didn't look like he had any issues. If any, what sorts of issues would he have?
Well, a cruel little voice in the back of her head said, didn't you always sort of think that he was kind of.. ehe, well, playing on a different team?
She turned around and looked at him again.
Then she promptly looked away.
She decided she shouldn't pry.
He dropped her off at the clinic, restlessly shifting the almost weightless bag of medicine from one hand to the other. It was late afternoon, and the sun was setting... the sky was pink.
"Drop that off over here," she instructed him, letting out a small sigh and pointing to a small table.
She was tired.
Why did that surprise him? She was human, after all. Or had he forgotten that? Maybe. Probably. The kitsune-onna sure didn't act like a human.
"You can go now," she told him. And then, softly, almost unsurely, "thanks for helping."
"Oh." Sano was taken aback by her sudden gentleness. "No problem."
The conversation had died.
Inwardly, he cursed and swore at himself. Why was it so hard to maintain a conversation with her? He carried on just fine with other people. Sure, he wasn't really a "talker" at most times, but with her...
It was only with her that he suddenly ran out of things to say.
Didn't Kenshin say something about this?
No, if he were going to listen to Kenshin, he was doomed.
"Sano. You're in love."
Is this what love felt like?
Because if it was..
It felt pretty damn crappy.
"Of course, this is only what sessha thinks. You shouldn't take sessha seriously, de gozaru yo.."
But Sanosuke wasn't stupid. At least, he wasn't that stupid.
"You look pale," Megumi noted, stepping closer to him. "I noticed that you were looking kind of pale a couple of days ago. Do you a fever? Are you feeling all right?"
"Y -- Yeah," Sanosuke quickly stammered, and instinctively backed away. "I feel great."
Megumi stopped, looking at him thoughtfully. "You sure?"
"I'm feeling pretty generous today, tori-atama. If you want a checkup, I'll be happy to do it for you."
"...." His hands were cold and drenched with sweat.
"I'm serious here!" She stepped even closer to him. The distance between them was quickly lessening, and Sano knew that he had to expand the gap. "You don't look well! I don't want you to go home, and then get a fever, and then get me to come all the way over there!"
"...." Why wasn't his mouth working?! He longed to say something, anything, but his mouth was parched and dry, and only small, incoherent sounds came out.
"Or..." Her fox ears had come out on top of her head now. "Would you prefer if a different doctor looked you over?"
"Eh?" Her statement took him so by surprise that he'd forgotten he was in such an uncomfortable situation. "But you're a decent doctor..."
"No," she joked, laughing, "I mean maybe a guy doctor. There's one a couple of blocks away. He doesn't look half-bad, if you know what I mean."
"What?" Sanosuke said weakly.
"Don't worry!" She winked at him. "I'll keep your secret!"
"But --" And then it suddenly hit him.
She thought he was..
He was really up to his neck in it this time.
"She thinks you're gay?!"
Kaoru's shriek pierced the summer sky, sending a few birds twittering. Sanosuke scowled at Kenshin.
"Did we really have to let her in on this?"
Kenshin was biting his lip tightly -- it was his way of refraining from laughing. But if Kenshin were able to talk, Sano knew the ex-hitokiri would have said something along the lines of "But I'm sure Kaoru-dono won't tell anybody" while having the person in question hold a shinai menacingly behind him.
"Now, now," Yahiko snorted in sheer bliss, "there's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay."
"He's right." Kaoru burst out laughing. "There really isn't. It's just -- I never pictured you --"
"-- Mr. Macho --"
"-- Mr. Powerful --"
"-- The legendary Zanza --"
They began to crack up all over again.
Kenshin swallowed audibly, and then turned to look at Sano in the most serious way he could. "But -- you must have left her some sort of..hint?"
Sano swore. "I didn't leave any sort of hint!"
"You weren't checking out any guys, by any chance?" Kaoru looked up at him, eyes starry.
"Or maybe you made a passing comment about --"
"The point is," Kenshin chose this time to wisely interrupt, for Sanosuke was ready and raring to get out the broken pieces of his zanbatou, "Sano has a predicament, de gozaru yo."
Kaoru burst out into giggles.
Sano's eyebrows twitched. "Weren't you the one just saying there's nothing wrong with being gay?"
"There isn't," Kaoru emphasized, "but to have you in this situation --"
"It's called karma," Yahiko said. "For all the things you've ever done to me --"
Sanosuke was very close to losing it. There is nothing wrong with being gay, of course, for it is as normal as the sun shining on a sweet summer afternoon -- or eating apples on a nice autumn day -- or downing a six-pack during the Superbowl -- or having random, driven-by-madness men who just couldn't let go of the fact that they lost the Bakumatsu drop by to kill your rurouni friend who just happens to be Hitokiri Battousai so they can get the revenge they crave -- but he didn't need this.
No, he really didn't.
"But Megumi-dono isn't the type to just assume things like that, de gozaru," Kenshin pointed out, "you must have left some sort of clue."
"Clue?!" Sanosuke hollered, "I'm not gay!"
"We know, we know --" Kenshin tried to pacify his friend, but he was long gone by now.
"When did my life get turned so upside down?!!" Sanosuke's aura was burning, and if it wasn't for the fact that he now had the eyes of Zanza, this would have been relatively amusing to the Kenshin Gumi. "First, that damn kitsune shows up and screws up my whole life, and then -- and then I start taking advice from Kenshin --"
Kaoru and Yahiko eyed the rurouni weirdly.
"--and then the kitsune-onna thinks I'm gay!"
"There's nothing wrong with being gay," Kaoru repeated.
"I know that," Sanosuke rolled his eyes, "but I -- am -- not -- gay."
"Then there's only one way to change this whole thing around," Yahiko stated simply.
Sanosuke couldn't believe he was about to ask the twerp for advice. "And?"
Yahiko shrugged. "You tell her you're not gay."
Sanosuke facefaulted, and then lifted his face up, very slowly.
"Yahiko," he said, very softly, "and when what makes you think she would believe me?"
Yahiko whacked the ex-kenkaya on the head with his bokken. "Well, tori-atama, it's either you tell her or she believes that you're gay for the rest of your life."
"He's right." Kaoru nodded in agreement.
"He is, de gozaru yo," agreed Kenshin.
Sanosuke had a sinking feeling, as he looked around at his grinning "friends," that something horribly wrong was going to happen.
He prayed, although he wasn't much for prayer, that he was wrong.
It was the perfect day. It was now nearing the end of June, which meant yet even hotter days to come. The sun was high up in the sky, and a few feathery wisps of clouds floated around. The sky was a clear, perfect blue.
Well, okay, it would have been a perfect day if Sano had busted his hand after losing his temper and taking it out on some other idiot who decided he wanted to get his head bashed in. Sano, of course, had generously complied.
His hand was bleeding.
He needed to get it treated.
Well, he reasoned, maybe he could just have Gensai-sensei treat it. Sure, that would work. After all, the man was older and more experienced, and therefore should be a better doctor than that onna-sensei.
Feeling slightly better, Sanosuke hopped up the steps of the clinic, slid open the door, and gaped.
There, lo and behold, was Megumi, sitting on a futon, leaning against the wall, eyes closed. One eye fluttered open, taking him in. When she saw his bloody hand, she rolled her eyes.
"You are an idiot, aren't you." She rubbed at her eyes and combed through her hair. "Come on in."
Breathe, Sanosuke told himself frantically, breathe, darn it!
"Whe--Where's Gensai-sensei?" he finally asked. This had not been part of the plan. He hadn't even counted on seeing Megumi!
"He went to visit his sister," she replied. "Hold out your hand."
He instinctively obeyed, and tried to remove the image of a sleeping Megumi from his head. He failed, miserably.
"But--" He shook his head. "Never mind."
She eyed him oddly, and Sanosuke cringed.
She probably thinks I'm a moron, he thought bitterly.
She always thought I was a moron, another voice said.
True. All too true.
Okay. So Yahiko had told him to tell Megumi, very straightforwardly, that he was not gay. And Kenshin and Kaoru had backed him up on it.
Why was he listening to those dummies?
"I have something to tell you," he said, and his voice sounded stiff and rigid. Like what cardboard would probably sound like, if it could talk.
"Go on," she muttered distractedly, rising to get some cotton balls. "I'm listening."
Sanosuke took a deep breath. Finally, he said the dreaded words:
"I'm not gay."
Megumi laughed at his statement. "Look, you don't have to hide it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay."
Veins began to throb out of his forehead. Why was everybody saying that?!
"I know that," he conceded, in a very strangled sort of voice, "but I'm telling you, I'm -- not -- gay --"
"Oh, of course you aren't," Megumi told him in the type of voice a mother would use on a little boy who had dreams of becoming world famous one day.
"I'm not!" He was growing angrier by the second.
Megumi looked at him, amused. Did he think she was stupid? The tori-atama was clearly gay. He had to be! What else could his issues be? And, come to think of it, she'd definitely felt the sparks fly whenever he'd fight with that wolf guy, what was his name, Saitoh? And there had to be a reason he was so loyal to Kenshin...
"I know that you're gay. Stop trying to lie."
"I'm not lying, dammit, I'm not gay!"
"Oh? Then why don't you prove it."
Sanosuke's head was reeling. What could he do to prove it?
"What can I do to prove it?" he asked weakly. He stared down at her bent head as she wound the bandages tightly around his palm, and then his wrists..
"I don't know..." Megumi shrugged dismissively, "go kiss a girl. Or something to that effect."
There went that swimming feeling in his chest, tightening, constricting, never letting go...
When Megumi finally finished the bandaging and looked up...
She was met with a kiss.
When Sanosuke finally pulled back, she demanded, loudly, shrilly, "What in the hell was that for?!"
"What?! You wanted me to prove that I wasn't gay --" Sano's cheeks were bright, bright red.
"But I -- why me? I was just kidding, you idiot! I didn't think you would --" Her voice was growing higher, and there was an unmistakable splash of red on her usually pale cheeks. "Damn you --"
And there went that indefinite, shaky, stirring emotion again. Sanosuke trembled as he blurted out:
"I love you."
This time, instead of Kaoru's delighted laughter or Yahiko's taunting snickers or Kenshin's muffled snorts, there was only deathly silence.
Kaoru, as usual, was the first to break it.
"You are an idiot."
Sanosuke stared up at the kenjutsu instructor with half-lidded eyes. "Thank you for pointing that out."
"But she's right." For once, Yahiko agreed.
"See? See? See?!" Kaoru grabbed Yahiko and stretched out his cheeks. "Even he agrees with me."
All eyes were suddenly on Kenshin.
"Uh --" Kenshin gulped. "You -- You could have picked a better moment, Sano."
"That doesn't help," snarled Sanosuke. He was in a sour, angry mood. He had convinced the woman that he supposedly "loved" that he wasn't gay. At the same time, he had also possibly lost all the chances he had to ever be with her. Nice going. Really.
Kaoru chose this moment to say something cheesy. "But if you really love her, and if it's really meant to be, then fate will smile down upon you and let you two be together, somehow."
"That has got to be the dumbest --" Yahiko suddenly found his mouth being gagged with some kind of heavy, white cloth.
"I don't even know if I love her." Sano buried his head in his hands. "Damn it all."
"What?" cried Kaoru disbelievingly. "If you weren't even sure that you loved her, why'd you go tell her?"
Angry brown eyes met guilty amethyst ones.
"Oh -- oh. Oh. No. Oh no. No."
Sanosuke nodded grimly. "Oh yes."
The ex-kenkaya suddenly found his spiky brown hair the victim of repeated hits from a dull shinai. "You're at just as much fault as Kenshin is! Why did you go listening to him?! In case you haven't noticed, he's no therapist! God, he's in just as much need of one as you! Maybe even more!"
Kenshin frowned, "Now, that's not --"
"Shut up, Kenshin."
"Shutting up, de gozaru yo."
"Ugh, dammit, just -- just forget about it, okay? I'll figure this out on my own."
"Oh, noooooo." Whack. "I am not about to let you make --" Whack. "--make even more of an idiot of yourself than you've already done." Whack. "Megumi-san is very attractive, you know, and she does have a bunch of --" Whack. "-- suitors. All of which are better than you, but that's beside the point." Whack. "I'm not going to let you lose your last chance." Whack.
Sanosuke blinked. "I have a last chance?"
"Of course you do. You've only confessed to her once, right? You always get a second chance." Whack.
He blinked again. "I do?"
Kaoru sighed exasperatedly, discarding her shinai. "Of course you do. It's in all the romance novels."
"Ah." As if that cleared up anything.
"What do I do now?"
"You wait for the right moment, and then storm in and confess your love! In poetic words, of course. And then, you sweep her off her feet, fall in love, get married, have children, name your first baby girl Kaoru, and --"
Yahiko had smacked Kaoru on the back of her head with his bokken.
"Idiot," he muttered, glaring, "if that's the kind of advice you offer him, you might as well tell him to go knocking on Saitoh's door and confess his love for him."
"I'm -- not -- gay!"
"Sessha thinks --"
Kenshin stopped abruptly, and everyone's eyes were soon on the rurouni. He looked up at the sky, considering something very thoughtfully. Strangely enough, a whole throng of leaves found their way on his lap, and he muttered something that sounded peculiarly like "She still won't let it go" and "Even after all my atoning" and "As if Enishi weren't enough, for crying out loud."
His red head snapped up. "You should do what your heart tells you."
It sounded amazingly cheesy, but it -- in a way, made sense.
"We can't tell you what to do... you have to make that choice for yourself. Your heart has been telling you what to do for a very long time, but every time it tries to, you turn away. Maybe it's because you're afraid. Just listen to your heart. It will all work out..." then, as an afterthought, "-- de gozaru yo."
Normally, they might have shared a little man-to-man moment. You know, maybe a brief little hug, a handshake, a slap on the back, a friendly punch on the shoulder. Something to that effect.
Kaoru tackled the redhaired man and proceeded to glomp him like a fangirl. "Oh, Kenshin, that was so poetic! That was so wonderful!"
Amidst the process of being suffocated to death, Kenshin found the opportunity to look up and grin, a little dizzily, at the man he now considered his best friend. Sano, of course, smiled back, genuinely, and it really was a very touching moment between best friends until he was whacked promptly and sharply on the head. Again.
Angrily, he spun around, ready to swear every word in the book and then some.
"Don't you have some business to take care of?" Yahiko asked snidely, slamming his bokken on the ground. "Or do I have to hit you one more time?"
Sagara Sanosuke had been in some very disturbing situations before. Usually they involved violence. Okay, all of them involved violence. He had once been cornered by a pack of foxes before [he wondered if this had anything to do with it] in the wilderness. He had also been cornered by a pack of wolves before. He had also had the crap beaten out of him repeatedly ever since he met Kenshin.
We think not.
Today was another bright and shiny day. A perfect summer's day, really.
And promptly at nine o'clock -- for Sanosuke had learned that the clinic opened at precisely nine o'clock, not one second earlier or later -- the brown-haired man found himself standing outside the clinic, clutching a bouquet of purple flowers, looking positively terrified.
Was it too late to run away? Maybe not. It didn't look like anybody was awake yet. And to hell with his manly pride. He could not, and would not, go through with this.
"What are you doing?"
He turned around slowly, much like a little boy turns around to his mother when caught in the act of stealing a cookie right before dinner. He raised his hand halfway in greeting. "Good morning?"
She arched her eyebrows. "Yes. Lovely day, isn't it?"
He hated it when she was being sarcastic.
He decided, very quickly, that he had three options. One, he could come right out and just ask her what she felt for him and if it was worth waiting for her. Two, he could stall, stall, stall, and eventually bring up the subject before the Apocalypse. Three, he could run.
Option number three was sounding really good to him.
"Well, do you --" She hesitated, and Sanosuke found himself enthralled by the sight, for it was very rare that you saw the kitsune hesitating. "--want to come in?"
Wordlessly, Sano nodded.
He sat down in a wicker chair near the sink, watching her as she got out her supplies and fixed everything up for the day. He had never felt so stiff or nervous in his life. As his grip on the flowers grew tighter, he felt the stem crack.
"Damn," he hissed.
Megumi heard him, and turned.
"What are those?" she asked. Inwardly, Sanosuke marveled at her composure. But this was Megumi, the kitsune. She had never lost her temper, not really, or her composure, either.
Lovely choice of words. Lovely choice of order, as well.
The corners of her mouth twitched, as though she might smile, but she forced them down again into a neutral expression.
"Hy -- Hydrangea."
She nodded. "Personally, I like wisteria better."
Sano swore. Already he had brought the wrong flowers.
"But those look good too."
Should he be feeling hopeful?
"Who are they for? A special girl?" she teased.
He could only nod.
His mouth, no matter how hard he tried to open it, seemed like it had been glued together with Tacky glue, and then taped over with duck tape.
"Are you going to talk or are you just going to sit there for the whole day?"
When she said it like that, he found that his mouth miraculously opened, and words began to form, and he was saying them without stopping to think about it.
"These are for you."
A look of surprise crossed her face. Then confusion. And then, slowly, acceptance.
"Well, that's not like you, tori-atama." But she took the flowers anyway. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Yes," he answered, a little bit annoyed. He watched as she retrieved a glass vase from one of the cabinets, filled it halfway with water, and stuck the flowers in there -- of course, she threw out the bottom ends of the stems which Sano had so carelessly cracked off.
Part of him wanted so desperately to run. Just run, run, run, and never look back..
But if he did, he would never know.
"Do you remember...what I told you?" he tried.
She looked mildly amused. "What?"
"I'm not kidding." His voice was so deep, and Megumi found herself wishing that the old tori-atama was sitting in front of her.
She sighed. "I know... I -- I know."
His eyes stared straight into hers. "Will you give me an answer?"
"Well..." She leaned against the wall. "It's much too early to tell. You didn't exactly give me a lot of advance warning, you know, tori-atama."
"I gave you two days," Sanosuke cried, "that's plenty time!"
A vein began to throb dangerously at Megumi's forehead. "Two days? You think that's enough time? Yeah, right! That's like two seconds to a woman who's trying to make such a decision!"
"Okay, fine!" Sano growled out, rising to leave, "if you need more time --"
"Will you hear me out for once?!" Megumi shouted, hands clenched. Oh, good Lord, she'd never imagined that they would be fighting during such a scene. "I'm not done yet!"
"Well then talk, dammit!"
Megumi's eyes flared. "I was just saying that if you'd just give me some time then I'm pretty sure I could learn to love you, too! But since you're so hell-bent on getting a definite answer right here and now, then you can just --"
"Wait. Shut up for a minute." Sanosuke took her by the wrist. "Do you mean that?"
She eyed him incredulously. How thick-headed was he?
"Yes. I mean it." Then, added sourly, "although I don't know why I should waste my time with you."
"Because I'll make you happy," he said earnestly, "even though I act like an idiot sometimes --"
"-- most of the time --"
His eye twitched, "yes, most of the time, but I'll still--"
"Shut up," Megumi interrupted him, "it's too weird hearing you say such things."
He glared halfheartedly at her. "What do you want?"
"I want you to kiss me, you idiot."
How could he deny her?
-- owari: the end --
[Futo shita shunkan tsunoru kimochi ja naku
Sukoshizutsu sodatete iku mono da ne
Aisuru kimochi ha]
[It isn't something that builds up in an instant
but a feeling that grows a little at a time,
the feeling called love]
-- omake! bonus! --
Kaoru crept silently -- silently! -- to the one single window in the clinic. Coincidentally, it happened to be in Megumi's room. At least, the room she used to treat her patients. Of course, Kenshin had been roped into coming with her, and she had forced Yahiko to do some extra training [as in, cleaning the dojo].
"Sessha doesn't think we should be here," Kenshin put in nervously. He was pretty sure he could counter any punches or kicks Sano might try to throw at him upon the discovery that they were spying on him, but if Sano had just the right amount of sake and motivation, you could never tell for sure.
"Oh, don't wimp out, Kenshin," Kaoru said distractedly. She stood on her tiptoes, squinting through the dusty windows. Apparently, she had come across a very scandalous sight, for she gasped quite audibly and jumped back as though the window was burning hot.
"What --" Curiousity piqued, Kenshin peered through the window as well.
And saw Sanosuke and Megumi in a liplock.
A very passionate liplock.
Deathly silence crept over the couple, and after a few heart-stopping moments, Kenshin decided to say something, anything.
"We should go, de gozaru yo," he managed.
Kaoru seemed like she was in a daze, but quickly snapped out of it.
"Yeah," she said breathlessly. "Let's -- Let's go."
They swore a silent pact that they would never reveal what they had just seen to anyone.
-- THE END! [for real!] --
- Rosebud - Hee hee, it's all thanks to you that this story was even written! Thanks so much! Of course, this story is also dedicated to you -- to make up for my lack of W/M fics.. ;;
The lyrics at the end are from a song called "Sore ga, Ai Deshou" and it's sung by Mikuni Shimokawa and it's also the opening song for Full Metal Panic Fumoffu. It's a really nice song! And the lyrics went really well with the story, didn't it?
OK, on a last note, I hope that I didn't offend anyone with the whole "gay" thing. I really, sincerely did not want to offend anyone, and that's why it was repeated throughout the whole scenario that "there's nothing wrong with being gay." Thanks for reading, everyone!