Chapter 14:

"A Promise of the Coming Day"

Two weeks. It had been two weeks of constant spoiling, laughter, and joy. Each day had proved to have bested the last and the colors of Megumi's heart continued to grow brighter with renewed love and hope. At the same time, Suzuki had developed a good knack for gagging noises at the sometimes relentless displays of affection his parents gave to each other throughout the day, but he learned to brush it off and move on to singing embarrassing love songs to Yahiko and Tsubame instead. Nights had been spent in the company of their friends, but in the end, simmered down to Megumi, Sano, and their son going home as a family.

Mornings were something that Megumi looked forward to as it brought the reality back from slumber and satisfied the craving for what was and would always be there. Megumi found it easy to leave her dreams behind; as pleasant as they were, they did nothing when compared to waking up to reality. At times she even refused to sleep, not wanting to close her tired eyes and miss even a split second of being in Sanosuke's presence.

For the first week since the clinic's fire, Sanosuke simply denied making love to her because her wounds were still fresh and new, but even so, there were times when she knew he wanted to, badly, but deliberately held back from his desire to quicken the pace of her healing injuries. It was on the seventh day that he finally gave in after seeing that her wounds had made progress and the rest of the day was spent doing nothing else. The days that followed were nothing short of bliss, filled with all and every kind of loving action and word, and always ended with the two wrapped up in each other's arms.

Her lashes fluttering at first, Megumi sleepily cracked open one cinnamon brown eye to take a look at her current surroundings, her head swimming with memories from the night before that had exhausted her to no end. Her body felt a bit sore in places, but she was relaxed nonetheless. Sanosuke's arm lay draped over the sheets of their bed, stretched out under her head, his other arm was found closer to her body, one hand carefully cupping one of her milky white breasts. A small smile marched across Megumi's lips as she watched him stir in his sleep and he unconsciously ran a few lazy fingers down the smooth skin of her leg that she had carelessly thrown over his thigh.

This was one of the things she liked best about mornings: waking up to find yet another creative position they had gotten themselves into overnight. This one seemed to be much more comfortable than the one she had woken up to the morning before when she had found herself sprawled across the tatami mat with her back practically up against the wall. Still half-asleep, Sanosuke leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to her's, awake at last and ready to start another day. Yes, this was a much more comfortable position than the morning before...

"How long have you been up?" he asked in a low voice against her lips and he slowly moved down to nuzzle the crook of her neck, flicking his tongue out to trace down the firm line of her throat that practically screamed to him for attention.

"Forever," Megumi lied, shutting her eyes as he closed the distance between them and continued his kisses down to the deep hollow beside her collarbone, "I was wondering when you were going to wake up... We need to get ready to go soon, remember?"

"Mm hm..." was his diverted reply, the answer Megumi knew as the 'I'm-not-really-listening' response, and she smiled as he finally let her words sink in and stopped in his lip adventuring across her shoulders to look up at her face. He blinked once. Twice. Then his eyes closed. "Do we have to?"

"You don't have to go if you don't want to. I can just go by myself." This reasoning earned her an immediate eyebrow raise that clearly read that he would rather choke on his fishbone rather than let her go anywhere unattended. Megumi laughed. "So you're coming with me then?" she concluded, her smile growing wider as he let out a defeated sigh that was pretty much the equivalent to, 'You win' and she leaned forward and kissed his cheek, "Good."

However, the mischievous look in his eyes that immediately followed the kiss was not caught so quickly by Megumi as she tried to leave the warm place of his arms, only to get startled and instantly pulled back down under the covers.

Turning her back to face him, Sanosuke captured her lips in a passionate kiss, his hands grasping her by her slim hips, and he eased her mouth open to allow his tongue access inside to play with her's. Megumi found it all too simple to give in to his unspoken demand and she sighed, allowing his hands to roam over the luscious curves of her body that he had come to know so well, nibbling lightly on anything that looked sweet enough to taste with his tongue. Slowly, he worked a rhythm with his fingers as he caressed the fullness of her breasts, memorizing the way they spilled into his hands, and he lightly pinched at their stiff peaks until he heard the soft moan he loved to hear escape from her only seconds later.

Pausing, Sanosuke pulled away for a moment to listen for any signs that their son was awake in his room down the hall, and a smile crossed over his lips as Megumi let out an impatient whimper for him to continue what he had started, arching her body toward his for more of his addictive touches that could never end at just that. Knowing that there would be no unexpected interruptions, his attention instantly swung back to her and he slyly ran his expert tongue over her mouth, already pink and swollen from his kisses. Effortlessly, Sanosuke pulled her up against him, their moored bodies aching with the same hot desire flaming within and displaying itself outside in his deep brown eyes as he slanted them, watching as Megumi clung to him, her lips slightly parted in the shape of a full moon.

"Sano..." Megumi breathed, her voice half-whispered and half-panted, torn between trying to speak and trying to gain control over the rising pleasure that he induced on her body, "We... should... get... up..."

But her half-hearted requests slipped past as nothing in his ears and Sanosuke continued in his sensual exploring of her body, skillfully caressing her thighs and he slid them apart, slipping his fingers into her already damp and throbbing core. Megumi sprang forward as his passion devoured her, claimed her, and she dug her nails into the hard muscles of his shoulder blades, her teeth leaving ecstatic love bites down the side of his neck. Sanosuke closed his eyes with a small whisper of her name.

"One minute..." Sanosuke murmured softly into her ear and he held onto her waist as she threw her head back against the pillows, writhing underneath him as he worked her with his fingers, holding her, loving her, and she absolutely soared. A light gasp flared through her open mouth as his thumb found the sensitive bud of her sex and gently stroked it until the only thing Megumi could think of was him. Him touching her, him kissing her, him feeling her, him having her... The faint sound of her sobbing voice broke off into blunt breaths, carrying itself throughout the entire room before it finally reached them again and sizzled the erotic fire burning within. But Megumi's second cry only moments later, was tenderly muted by Sanosuke's loving kiss as he moved over her once more and from there, everything seemed no longer important...

And so one minute passed and so did another and another until finally, close to about half an hour later, Megumi was able to get Sanosuke out of bed and dressed to go out. But it seemed he was in need of another encouraging "push" to follow through with the plan as she watched him scowl at the entrance way of the police station they were about to enter.

The only reason Sanosuke had complained about coming was the fact that they would have to speak with a certain person inside and that did not make him a happy camper. He could already feel the unsettled rage building inside of him, bubbling to a break point in his veins as he took his first few steps inside the door with Megumi at his side. Just the thought of being anywhere near that specific person made his hands tighten into fists, something Megumi did not let go unnoticed.

"It won't take very long," Megumi consoled him as she comfortingly placed a hand on his, the pads of her fingers gently brushing against his tanned skin, and she felt his tensed muscles relax under her touch, "you think you can avoid getting yourself into trouble?"

"I can't promise you I won't," Sanosuke answered honestly, but at the incredulous look she gave him, he flashed her his usual lop-sided grin, "but I'll see what I can do."

"Well, well, well, it seems you really didn't fall off the face of the earth... Hm, that's too bad. I was starting to think you two weren't going to show up,"a deep voice interrupted, the declaration soon followed by a faint ring of smoke escaping the shadowy corner in which the owner stood in. Sanosuke prepared himself for the worst as Hajime Saito finally stepped out of the darkened room and approached them with narrowed golden eyes that gleamed like two fireflies in the middle of a starless night. "I have other business to attend to other than this that probably concerns the safety of an entire city so it just wastes all of our time, mainly mine, if you keep getting yourselves lost."

'Why that...!' Sanosuke opened his mouth to give out a few choice words that aren't exactly R-rated at the golden-eyed wolf, but Megumi spoke before he could, cutting him off before he could agitate the already annoyed police chief. She wanted to get out of there as much as he did, but starting up an argument wasn't going to help things.

"We didn't mean to be late, we just had to drop off Suzuki at the dojo first," Megumi explained and she watched as Saito's gaze fell from it's place in glaring at Sano to her smaller form beside him. His criticizing stare lingered over her for a moment, as if searching her face for any falseness in her answer. Then his eyebrow rose up, indicating that he knew there was more reason for the delay; Megumi inwardly groaned, finally understanding why Sanosuke found the man so frustrating. "And... everything else is none of your business," she added with a flip of her hair and she narrowed her eyes as a smirk curved the very end of Saito's mouth.

"I see..."

"Look, Saito, I don't wanna be here any longer than I have to so let's just get this over with," Sanosuke growled, "you know what we came here for so quit stalling already and tell us where he is."

Silent, the police chief drew in a slow breath from his cigarette, lengthening the drag merely to spite Sanosuke even more, which it did, before he finally answered in a voice that showed he really could care less. "Down the hall to the very end. Right side in cell 43."

"Alright. Come on, Fox, let's go," Sanosuke said and his feet carried him off in the direction indicated; they came to a screeching halt though when he felt a firm hand on his arm, holding him in place. Confused, he turned back to face her. "Megumi?"

"Sano, I think I should do this alone," Megumi stated simply. It wasn't that she didn't want him there; she did, but this was something she knew she had to confront by herself. When it came down to this, she would always be on her own. Her gaze steadied, pleading with him to let her go, and her grip on his arm slowly loosened as her hand slid down to take hold of his. "It's something only I can do."

Frowning, Sanosuke opened his mouth to protest for the second time that day. He couldn't let her do that. It wouldn't be right. If something happened to her, if anything happened to her, it would be because he was stupid enough to let her out of his sight. He had promised himself that faithful day he had pulled her from the fire that he would never, ever, lose her again and this request that she was now asking of him went completely against that promise. But Sanosuke found that it was hard to say no to her as he felt her hand in his tighten it's grip, a reassurance of his anxiety. Again, he was determined to put his foot down and tell her he would follow her and protect her tot he very ends of Hell itself, but of course, Megumi didn't earn the nickname Fox Lady for nothing. It was the famous 'You-know-you-love-me-enough-to-give-me-anything' pout that snapped the last string of his strength and accepting defeat, Sanosuke nodded his head in understanding and Megumi gave him a slow smile.

"Thank you."

Grateful, her hand slowly dropped from it's place in his, and reaching up with a slender hand, Megumi playfully tugged on the end of his red bandana which he had allowed her to put on him earlier that morning. Smiling, Megumi sighed, reading his thoughts of worry as if he had them written all over his forehead for the entire world to see, and she gave him a look that told him he should really be worrying about behaving while she was away. It was a look that read something along the lines of, 'Try not to kill each other while I'm gone.'

Sanosuke smiled and nodded to assure her he would do his best and he chucked her chin so she could look him in the eye. His gaze before held a hint of playfulness, but it had quickly vanished as he met her now with serious brown eyes and told her he would wait where he was if she needed anything. Megumi nodded and quickly kissed his lips once more before she finally turned on her heel and left the two enemies alone, her feet leading her straight towards the police station's row of prison cells.

Silence filled the room as Megumi's footsteps grew faint in the distance and Sanosuke held his breath, waiting for the Ass of Mibu to make his move and generally push him to break his promise to Megumi to avoid throwing a good punch at his ugly face. Moments passed and still there was nothing. Curiosity filtered through him as the quiet air remained still for a while longer, then relief passed over his being as he realized that maybe Saito had gotten bored of chopping up his ego. That is, until the man finally decided to open up his big mouth.

"Took a while to get out of bed, huh?" Saito asked and an evil smirk crossed over his lips, one that Sanosuke easily caught from the corner of his eye as he focused his stare on the hall Megumi had disappeared to, trying to convince himself that kicking the man somewhere vital was not worth the energy. With his narrow eyes closed, Saito carelessly dropped his cigarette down onto the floor and crunched it down with his foot. "Your pants are inside-out, moron."

"Shut the hell up, Saito."

The long corridor seemed to stretch out far beyond Megumi's line of sight, or maybe it just seemed that way because of what she dreaded to find at the very end. The faint echo of her feet meeting the hardwood floors of the police station matched the beat of her pounding heart. But her rib cage however, didn't feel like it would be able to barricade the vigorous hammering for much longer; Megumi was afraid she would burst with her jumbled emotions and leave them scattered all over the police station walls. Her heart drummed so loud in her chest Megumi was sure the entire city of Tokyo could hear it's violent rhythm.

It had been two weeks of happiness and love since she had felt this feeling of paranoia jabbing at her insides, two weeks spent with her family and friends as they helped mend her physical injuries and the one that lay deep within her heart. Now her outside bruises were fading and the pain in her heart was lessening more and more each day, but the heavy ache of her conscious still weighed down on her mind and kept her from enjoying her new life to it's fullest potential.

She had to let go of a part of her that had been left behind to be buried and forgotten, but had somehow survived. She was meant to be buried and forgotten. Megumi knew that to love Sanosuke completely, to live her life like never before, to truly be happy, she had to first face the fear and responsibility she owed to one particular person.

"Tetsu," Megumi said aloud as she finally reached the end of the suspiciously long hallway of occupied prison cells and she turned and looked in the tiny square box that held him inside.

She didn't know who she had really spoken to just then, maybe herself or maybe him; she was never really sure. But she was puzzled that the sound of her voice startled him out of his quiet thoughts and stiffened his back, which was to her. Holding her breath in the bottom of her throat, Megumi waited for what seemed to be a lifetime for him to turn.

She gasped when she saw his face. Honestly, she had had no idea what to expect when she came to see him, she had tried to prepare herself for endless threats to her life, she had readied herself with defenses if he tried for her throat... but Megumi hadn't prepared herself for the look she saw in his eyes as he met hers again, for it was enough to shock her speechless.

He looked lost, indifferent, like a red leaf singled out among a forest of green in the early months of springtime. His eyes held the look of sorrow. They were blood-shot, red and wide, pleading and pathetic. Her heart clenched in her chest as his stare came to hers and held it for a long moment, as if staring through her bones and flesh and peeking into her very soul. He looked like he had visited hell and back and she could imagine that that was also how he felt.

Megumi saw no light in those eyes, no light on his entire face, and it wasn't because of the dim shadows that surrounded him on all sides. She watched Tetsu's hands shake roughly in his lap, quivering like the tail of an angry rattlesnake that had just encountered a hunter near it's home. He no longer held that piercing aspect of his black and white eyes that had once frightened her enough to still all movement. His mouth was now set in a grim line, neither sneering nor smiling as she had grown so used to, but stayed expressionless. He was a different man than the one that had almost killed her two weeks ago.

"Tetsu?" she repeated, this time as a question to check if she had really come to the right cell and she watched him as his face remained still and unmoved, as if he didn't understand who she was. Megumi tried again. "Kurotara? Do you... do you know who I am?"

Tetsu blinked. Then, slowly, his chin dropped low in a small nod-like motion and he brought it back up so he could stare at her again with the same blank eyes.

"Do you know why I'm here?" Megumi asked him, her own voice startling her as she heard the quiver in her whisper, and watched him slowly shake his head from left to right. She cleared her throat. "I came here... to talk to you about Satomi..."

This gained a reaction from him. It surprised her beyond belief when he rose from his seat and practically ran to the wooden bars of his caged room, his hands desperately gripping them to the point that she thought his fingers would begin to bleed and blister. His eyes were wide open now, expectant and awake, waiting for her to continue. But her lips refused to move because in the depths of Kurotara's eyes, Megumi could swear she saw the woman's image that she spoke of; her long brown hair blowing freely in the wind as she stood atop the familiar grassy hill where Megumi had first encountered her.

Satomi's image smiled at her through Kurotara's eyes, beautiful and exquisite. Like a stone statue of a goddess, her smile illuminated and far surpassed anything magical Megumi had ever seen in her life; it was just how she remembered. The picture brought chills to Megumi's spine, it startled her, but it held her in place, staring into the world that was trapped in his weary sight. It was the black and white world of Kurotara's eyes.

But the spell was broken as Kurotara blinked at last, releasing Satomi's grip on Megumi's soul, and she violently shook herself to rid the eerie thought she felt of the other woman's aura in the room. Kurotara swallowed, his throat tightening slightly as his lips began to move and he spoke his first words to her since the day he had tried to burn her alive.

"She was... she was... Satomi was my life," he whispered and his voice shook as he carefully reached out, his hands slipping through the opening between the wooden bars of his cell, and he clasped her joined hands in his own, "I couldn't live without her..." It shocked Megumi that she didn't draw away from his touch, that she wasn't completely disgusted by his closeness; instead, she found herself leaning closer to hear him. "There was so much... so much love, but it was never enough... She left me, Megumi, she left me here all alone. She left and she didn't come back... I stayed and I waited. I waited so long for her... Don't you see? She has come back to me. She has come back to me at last..."

The pace of Megumi's heart quickened as she listened to him speak, his own heart pumping loudly in his chest, but it stood out entirely visible on his sleeve, ready to be torn off and thrown aside. She hardly understood a word he was saying, but at the same time, he spoke to her in a way that she had never heard before and it intrigued her brain. Maybe he was on the break of insanity, or maybe he was merely clinging to a dream that would never be fulfilled, or maybe it was something else Megumi didn't quite understand; either way, she knew that above all else, every voice deserved a lent ear. He needed someone to listen to him mourn and confess, to hear him speak out what had been haunting him for too many years.

"Satomi is with me at last," he said again, his grip on her clasped hands tightening with the intensity of his words, "She has... returned to me. We are together again. We are one. And it is because of you. She has come back because of you..."

Soon after those words escaped his lips, Kurotara's mouth slowly turned up into a smile, one that Megumi had never seen on his face before that very moment, and the light glaze of pain over his eyes slowly withered away until it completely disappeared. His hands loosened around hers, slowly and gingerly, careful with her for he knew he had inflicted pain on her so harshly only days ago.

He owed so much to her, so many things that he could never possibly repay. Kurotara knew that he could never apologize to her for she would never accept it. There was simply no possible way for anyone to ever try and say sorry for attempted murder and the worst deceit. Forgiveness was beyond what he had done to her. It had been the ultimate betrayal. Megumi had trusted him and he had ripped that trust apart into tiny bits and pieces and strewn them along the dirtied floor. He had broken her. But Kurotara could see in her eyes that she was healing, he could see the light in her cinnamon pupils, the face of the man she loved. Sanosuke was in her eyes, as Satomi was in his. They were the cures for Megumi's and his aching and yearning hearts.

The day he had left Megumi in the clinic to burn, Kurotara had run for his life. He had no idea why at the time, he thought that it was in fear of facing the revenge Sanosuke would no doubt bring upon him, but Kurotara found later that he was running away for a different reason. He had been running from himself. He was trying to escape the conscious part of him that had finally awakened from the dream he had conjured up over the many years since Satomi's death and it was now rising from its long slumber. For once in the eight years of having lived without her, he had realized that Tetsu scared him, the man he had created out of the pure hatred that took over his body; he absolutely frightened himself. He began to see the blood stains on his hands, the ones that remained un-washable and stained. He had practically bathed in the screams of those lives that he had stolen so long ago and his entire body radiated with the soul of a demon; the distinct smell of blood flowed straight to his brain.

'Murderer...' the wind seemed to whisper.

'Murderer...' was the faraway bird's call.

'Murderer...' his own voice chanted over and over in his head until he could hear nothing else.

His mind had betrayed him. It had gone completely berserk, obsessed with plaguing him with wild images of the deaths he had seen and done, forcing his eyes to see nothing but red. The world seemed to have cursed him, bringing rain down upon him harshly from the clouds above, and the thunder bellowed out his name in agonizing threats and screams. Kurotara had taken off again in sheer terror, his feet moving against the ground, splattering the large puddles of the streets onto his clothes in deep crimson colors. He had left all pieces of his sanity behind at the clinic of yet another sacrilege and the lost souls he had once thrown into darkness were beginning to reach out with bloodied hands to take him down to hell. They were in every shadow, they spoke only in deep moans of pain, and they all wanted him dead.

It was then that she came to him, glowing and radiant, with the smile he had always loved to see. The screams of death left him with her presence, the vengeful ghosts returning back to the graves from which they had risen, and the darkness had sailed off into the distant forests. Whether it was a dream or she had visited him in spirit, Satomi returned to him.

He had fallen onto his knees in tears, sobbing, screaming, swearing for all that he was worth. Kurotara screamed to know why. Why was she hurting him? Why did she leave him? Why did she abandon him and leave him there to die? His cries had carried to her at last, they had finally reached the ears they were meant to enter, and his pent up hate and love for her poured out of his mouth in incoherent words and sobs until he could speak no more. He had trembled in her presence, under her watchful eyes that pierced through him like a dull knife. Her silence ripped at his heart. Kurotara shuddered at how close she was to him, and he remembered reaching out with his hands to pull her to his body and hold her in his arms once more.

But his fingers had grabbed onto nothing but air, cold and icy air. Her image had simply remained standing before him, smiling all the while, as if torturing him, tempting him with the sight of what he could not have. Yet as he slunk back from her indifference, she had gone to him with longing eyes, kneeling down onto the ground in front of his down cast face. Feeling her presence again, Kurotara had anxiously looked up from his gaze on the dirt floor to find her arms outstretched in welcome. They softly encircled him, shielding his wounded soul. Satomi held him to her body like a mother would to her child, protecting him from the darkness and keeping away the curse of the world, and softly she whispered to him her unrequited love and faith, "I did not leave you, Kurotara. I never left you..."

Tears sprang up to the rims of Megumi's eyes all too suddenly. It was unexpected, it was unnecessary, but she cried. She had seen it, Megumi had seen it all, the images and sights he had seen that day, they had each entered her mind like drops of blue ocean crashing upon the rocks underneath a sparkling waterfall. Satomi had truly come back to him, Megumi could see it glowing behind the colors in his eyes that held hers like the grasp he had on her hands.

The next thing Kurotara did brought rushed tears down Megumi's cheeks, spilling over the rims of her eyes and over the small hill of curled lashes, and she desperately choked back a sob as he carefully lifted her right hand up to his lips and kissed it. The kissed flesh of her hand felt warm, renewed, fresh. It made way for the oncoming ragged breaths of her lungs and the weak feeling in her heart as she finally heard his unspoken words.

Amazing grace...

"Don't cry, Megumi," he said softly through his smiling lips, his hand reaching up slowly to gently wipe away the cold tears that slipped onto her porcelain cheeks that he had once enjoyed to see falling with her pain, "Please don't cry... I have hurt you enough already. But no more, I will do it no more..." And through the bars, Kurotara brought himself forward, tilting her face down, and sweetly planted a kiss on the top of her head, blessing her with his joy and congratulating her on her own.

How sweet the sound...

"One day, Sweetheart," Kurotara whispered into her ear, "one day, black and white will do nothing to us, it will be nothing to us. Soon the darkness will disappear and fade and we will be able to see past it all. Just wait... One day, the black and white veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will finally see... I promise you that, Megumi, I promise you."

That saved a wretch like me...

"Don't..." Megumi quietly pleaded with him, her head bent low against the bars so that her face was hidden from his sight in hopes of blocking out what she already knew he was really trying to say, "Please don't..." Silence fell upon her as she felt his finger move to underneath her chin, lifting it so his eyes met hers, and he smiled. "Tetsu... Kurotara... Listen to me, please. You can repent for your sins. You can. You can start over like I have. You can gain a new life and..."

I once was lost...

But Kurotara wouldn't let her finish. Carefully, he put a finger to her lips, quieting her voice with the gentleness in his touch, and he slowly shook his head, no. Sadly, he caressed her tear stained cheek with his thumb, his eyes and lips smiling down at her through his caged home, his prison, his sanctuary.

But now, am found...

"A new life is not something I can have. It is not something I want. Not without her... You understand that, don't you?" Kurotara asked her, his fingers slowly combing through the dark strands of her hair, easing out the tangles that one could only imagine were there, "You came back to your love because you understood that. This is where it ends, Megumi, this is how it must be."

Was blind but now I see...

"Wait for it, Sweetheart, wait for the light..."

And with those last words said, Kurotara's hand fell from it's place resting on her cheek, the movements of his fingers halting stiffly in the air that had all so suddenly seemed to be swallowing him whole. His eyes held onto her's, capturing them once more in the depths of their black and white worlds, but they were unfocused; it looked as if they saw past her at something completely unreachable to the mortal eye. And slowly, swirling gyres appeared in the galaxy of his pupils, expanding wider and wider to the very ends of the black and white colors in his irises until at last the spinning ceased and slowly shifted into a stone gray. The clouds of his eyes vanished and instead in their place, silver had taken over his sight, and black and white were no more.

Megumi watched in stunned silence as Kurotara's body slumped against the thick wooden bars that had caged him like an animal, like an insignificant thing. Rigid, his form slid down the long barriers of his barred room and his eyes closed as he sunk to his knees to the ground, his hands settled peacefully in his lap as if in prayer.

A tiny sob climbed it's way up Megumi's throat as his limp figure plunged down to the hard prison floor, creating a loud thud as man flesh met concrete stone. Dust particles sifted through the musty air around him from the impact with wide spread wings, gliding along the strange breeze of the warm day before eventually scurrying out the only window he had in the top right of his lonely refuge.

This was the man that had threatened her life, her son's, her friends', her love's. This was the man that had taken advantage of her body, broken her spirit, and bloodied her hands with his own cruel hatred. This was the man that had been the sole purpose she and Sanosuke had been separated. But she could not hate him, not as he was now. Megumi found that she couldn't hate a dead man.

Her eyes overlooked his body, from the long length of his legs to the lightly tightened fists of his hands to the smile that still lay plastered on his peaceful face. In his last days, he had claimed the look of innocence, he had gained happiness in the dreams he had of Satomi's arrival home, and he had found his way out of his own hell in the open arms of Death. For years, his loss had endlessly haunted him through the light and dark of day and now his nightmares and cries had been heard, his questions answered. Kurotara had finally found peace.

Choking on her own saliva, Megumi let out the breath she had held deep in her throat as her tears fell onto the ready and waiting floor. Her right hand, the one he had kissed, grasped tightly, desperately, at the kimono cloth covering her fast beating heart as she tried to keep the horrid anguish from reaching it's attempted destination inside her rib cage.

"Megumi?" Sanosuke's voice came from behind her, his eyes soft with concern as he watched her body shudder with her hushed breath, and his hands placed themselves gently on her shaking shoulders, "What is it?"

"Sano..." was the only thing that had been allowed to leave her lips as she anxiously turned into his caring embrace and openly cried into his chest to let out the flood of her tears, flowing faster than the fishing rivers and harder than the waves of the worst storms.

Immediately, Sanosuke's arms wrapped themselves around her racking form, holding onto her as if he never meant to let her go, and his grip only tightened as his eyes fell on the dead body of the man in the cell.

Kurotara Kajima. Tetsu. The man he thought deserved to have his heart ripped out and thrown in the dirt. The sight of his corpse had once been the one thing Sanosuke had wanted most in the world to see, but somehow now, he could not bear to look.

"O... opium..." Megumi's voice shuddered through her cries and Sanosuke felt her hands tightly grasp at the open part of his gi, clinging to him as if she would fall to her own death if she did not, "He... he died from opium..."

"Megumi, how do you know that he..." his voice trailed off, his hold on her tightening as she shakily pointed a finger to something in Kurotara's hand. It was then that Sanosuke forced himself to look back at the body before him and with his right hand gently smoothing the skin of her back, he cradled her closer at the sight of the unmistakable triangular packet that lay open in Kurotara's palm. The powder was all gone.

Megumi's tears fell like the rain and her hands held Sanosuke tightly around the bandages surrounding his waist so her weakened knees wouldn't give way underneath her. One by one, Megumi's sobs pursued in their tearing at his heart and Sanosuke carefully lowered his lips to her forehead, trying his best to comfort her with his love.

She knew she should have realized it sooner. She knew she should've realized it from the moment she had first seen his eyes. She had seen the look all too much first hand and she had seen that look every time she had been forced to make another packet of the lethal drug. It was as if she had used the wretched powder herself as it slowly killed her inside day by day until at last she was saved. Opium had never caused it's prey to scream out in pain, but it was the cries of the victim's loved ones left behind that echoed through the night and could be heard with each heavy step every man or woman laid down on Tokyo's paths.

One day, Kurotara had told her, the thick veils that blinded their hearts would be lifted from their eyes and they would finally be able to see. They would finally be able to look past the black and white of hunger, pain, greed, and evil. One day he had said it would come, but she had not known that he had meant today.

"Don't cry, Megumi..." Sanosuke soothed, his hand cradled gently at the back of her neck as he traced his long fingers over her tensed muscles, coaxing her to calm her tears, "It's over, love... it's finally over..."

Megumi's eyes slowly came to a close at his words and she placed her head down onto his welcoming shoulder, her body's vigorous shaking decreasing at last as his light massages soothed her body.

"He promised me..." she whispered into Sanosuke's chest, "he promised me today..."

And as the two stood together in the dim light of the prisoners' hall, the sun stretched out it's shining fingers and peeked over the tall vast mountain tops and through the sky length of cotton clouds. The change opened Megumi's eyes and they looked about her in wonder, like a newborn child in it's first moments on Earth, curious and naive.

Holding each other in the tight embrace of love and hope, Megumi and Sanosuke both looked up and watched as the tiny window above the mud covered walls of Kurotara's cell let the light shine through it's iron bars and glimmer down upon their souls. Neither bothered to shield their eyes as the light graced them with a shower of precious gold and pushed back the darkened veil of shadows to a world where it could never return.

A/N: AHHH! IT'S OVER! I had lots of fun writing this fic and it was great reading reviews from everybody! Thanks so much to all of you that read! It was truly an inspiration to write more when ppl cheered me on. Haha. Newhoo... I'm still not sure about this sequel thing I was gonna do cuz I think I have terrorized Meg and them way too much already! Plus, it wouldn't work that great as a comedy. *sigh* I'll see though. I guess it depends on if I get a certain amount of ppl saying it's a good idea. I dunno. It's up to you! So thanks again and hope to hear from you all soon! P.S. about the "Amazing Grace" song and the little lemony scene in the beginning... hehe I just couldn't help myself! ^^