I wanted to write about Saito and Okita and the Shinsen-gumi... So... This is what happened, I guess.

First Article: It is not allowed to deviate from the path proper to man.

Second Article: It is not allowed to leave the Shinsengumi.

Outside, it was raining. Lord, did it always rain here? It seemed that it did.

Cries of Sonno-joi' ring on the streets, Saito-san.

How does it make you feel, Okita-kun?

He smiled a little. Fine. Because I know that we will prevail.

You do not look as well today, Okita.

Don't I?

The older man sighs. Don't lie to me.

The boy laughs softly, a raspy sound. Isn't it a little too late for that sort of reprimand, Saito-san?

The man is quiet. He sips his tea, wanting to smoke, knowing he can't, knowing it will disturb the boy's breathing. Ah, the only place he does not smoke. Only in Okita's presence does the tobacco remain in its pouch inside his kimono.

Why don't you have a cigarette, Saito-san? The boy has always had the uncanny ability to read his mind.

No, thank you, Okita, he says irritably.

You're always so ill-tempered when you visit me now, the younger says with a wan smile.

Saito sets his cup down with a sharp tap.

Come now, Saito-san. Don't-

Tell me what I'm thinking. Maybe this used to be a game they play sometimes. Late at night, when they are alone together, two of the strongest men in Japan. Saito will never tell anyone, that is for certain. And Okita will not live long enough to tell.

His expression is dark. You're thinking about Ikeda-ya. Again.

But you always are, when you come to visit me.

You think I can help it? The words are angry.

A nurse comes in, puts fresh tea on the small table, and empties a small packet of medicine into the youth's cup. She doesn't need to tell him what to do; he's been here long enough to know.

I didn't lie to you, Okita says softly. His eyes are downcast, although his tone is not submissive. He is, perhaps, a little angry, as well.

Such petty talk. Saito scoffs. No. You simply didn't tell me.

I'll ask you to leave, Saito-san. The boy's voice is gentle, but it is clear that Saito has no room to argue. He rises from his Western-style chair with a shifting of cloth, and turns to leave.

Good afternoon, Okita-kun.

Saito stops, turns around. He looks at that sallow face, its sunken feaures. He misses the beauty it used to have. He misses the boy he used to know, so long gone that he is just barely a ghost.

I'm glad, Okita says. I'm glad that you stopped me that night. I didn't want to fight him.

You never did, Saito replies.

Thin lips turn up in a little smile. No, that's true.

Saito nods, and leaves. This time, he does not turn around, even though Okita has started coughing, and he does not stop until he has left the hospital and is down the street. It is only then that he lets himself feel the weight of his lover's impending death.

Third Article: It is not allowed to raise money privately.

Sweet, blue eyes turned up towards him.

You seem distracted.

Okita tipped his head to one side, and gracing the older man a tiny smile. It's the rain, he admitted. It's been raining so much recently.

The crops need it, Saito replied. The years of draught are still too immediate a memory.

Fourth Article: It is not allowed to take part in other's litigation.

You sound like Hijikata-san, Saito. A real farmer, at heart, Harada joked. Saito snorted, indignant. Harada grinned at Okita. He'd just come in, and was probably fresh from some whore's bed, as it seemed he often was. Like this, he seemed unbeatable. You got a letter, by the way, Okita-kun. One of the girls has it.

Okita smiled at Harada. Thank you, he said. He bowed to both of them, briefly, and slipped out of the room. Saito watched him go. Harada caught his eye, giving him a sympathetic look. Saito looked away. In the next room, the new members were still being indoctrinated.

Fifth Article: It is not allowed to engage in private fights.

The rain, he thought, really is becoming a burden. It soaked his sandals as he walked through the dark street.s of Kyoto. The rivers were swelling. Soon, they would have to put levies on the banks.

He'd left his fellows some time ago, feeling rather lonely. Without his lover, time passed slowly. He had not felt Okita's touch in months, and he knew why. Those two reasons ate away at Saito like disease ate away at Okita. It would be a long time, if ever, before his anger was cured.

The letters were never signed, but the paper was of good quality and the penmanship was childishly neat. No whore would have such fine paper, and a geisha would take more care to write well. No, Saito knew who was writing those letters. Those simple, almost heartbreakingly honest letters.

It seemed there was nothing the Hitokiri Battosai had to hide.

Dearest husband -

Your son and I are well, here in Kyoto. He is an active child, clever like his father. I think it will please you. He has your eyes - if not in their unusual color, then in their determination and wit, which sharpens daily.

I visited Kondo Tamako visited recently. Her mother was too ill to entertain, but Tamako-chan assured me that the woman greatly appreciated my sympathies. Ten years, Hajime. She was so young when he died, but she remembers. She remembers, and she grieves.

I am often glad, although perhaps it is cruel of me, that our children will never have to witness such atrocities. You may not agree with me, my husband, but this era is one of relative peace, if not justice. As a mother, at least, I am glad for it. Every mother hopes that her children will not live to see bloodshed and sorrow as Kondo's daughter, and so many others, have.

We here at home wish you the best of fortunes in Tokyo, Hajime, an look forward to your safe return.

With love,

Takagi Tokio, May 6, Meiji-11.

Saito folds the letter once more, and slips it into his pants pocket. Things are escalating with the Battosai. The boiling point is so close that Saito can taste it. He cannot imagine that his return to Kyoto will take place any time soon. At least, he ammends, he will not have a chance to see his family while he is there.

Pontocho has flooded again, Harada said. They were drinking, laughing.

It's too bad, one of the others said. Saito didn't notice who it was that spoke. He was too busy watching the rain pour down like a curse. Harada won't be getting any for a while!

The others all laughed. Harada was always a target for their jibes - His quick anger made him fascinating to torment. Saito wanted none of it tonight. He did not want to drink, or make fun. He wanted to watch the rain.

There was a hand on his shoulder. It was Okita voice, soft and low. Saito did not turn to look at him. Okita said, even quieter. People knew, of course, that the two had been somehow involved - rumors were like a morning mist among the Shinsen-gumi that never lifted. Some thought Saito was courting Okita, others said it was the other way around. Kondo would hear nothing of it - Okita was like a younger brother to him. Hijikata, on the other hand, had a little more insight on the matter. Saito was aware that Hijikata knew about their relationship. He was also greatful that he did nothing to propogate those rumours. It was important to both of them that no one know for certain . . .

Okita leaned down, his lips close to Saito's ear. Hajime. Come upstairs with me . . . ?

Saito clamped down on his anger. Had Okita ever asked Battosai to come upstairs with him? He couldn't help but wonder. His jaw tense, Saito rose, following the youth upstairs.

There, in the upstairs of their headquarters, Saito brought Okita to orgasm for the first time in months. It was not lovemaking - Okita would not let them, anymore, and Saito knew why, although the words were never said. They did not speak, save for Okita's hushed, Hajime! Hajime! Hajime! which he murmured like a mantra until he climaxed. When he was finished, he tried to return the favor, but Saito would not hear of it.

Where are you, Hajime? Okita asked quietly, regarding Saito steadily with heavy, expressive eyes. Don't you love me anymore?

Saito's rage boiled in him. But he did nothing. Here was one man he could never touch in anger. He swallowed. Don't you?

Okita ran a hand under his lover's kimono, over his strong chest. Of course I love you, he replied. I've never stopped.

Years later, in Tokyo, outside a tuberculosis hospital, Saito recalls those words. It hurts his heart . . . Saito, cold Saito, mourns for his lost friend, his lost lover.

I' lost Okita so many times, he thinks. I lost him to Battosai. I lost him to Tokyo, after Boshin, when he came here . . . for this hospital . . . Then I lost him for good. He sighs, and wonders at how long it has been since Okita died. Ten years. Kondo dead for just as long.

Battosai, too, disappeared into the darkness. He left behind him another hitokiri, but that man meant nothing to Saito. It was Battosai's blood he wanted, for the hatred the man - the boy - had managed to arouse in his heart . . . For the gap that was left in Saito, the place where his relationship with Okita had once been. He misses it. He mourns as much for Okita, the person, as he does for his love of Okita.

Both, however, are long-gone. He is married, now, Saito was, and has things other than the ghosts of the Shinsen-gumi to occupy his mind. His grief is not so strong, anymore, really. A family is an almost supernatural instrument. It serves to distract Saito's attention so thoroughly that sometimes he does not think of anything else. At home, there is no room for bitterness.

Alone on the street, however, standing in front of the place where his first love died, there is space for it, so much space that it fills him, making him heavy. In a few days, he will leave for Kyoto again, after Shishio Makoto.

He can feel the fire, the flames of the old revolution, on his back again. Like old times. He remembers Okita at his side, or his men at his back. He remembers fighting, and blood, and the smell of the canals in summer, when it was hot and they started to stink with human refuse. He remembers the feel of Okita's hair against his skin, the taste of his mouth. He remembers love, and hatred, bitter hatred, and the rain that year that never seemed to stop.

would be Harada Sanosuke, captain of the Shinsen-gumi's 10th unit. I don't know if Harada-san was actually prone to debauchery,' (probably not), but he was said to have a quick temper.
Kondo is Kondo Isami, the leader of the Shinsen-gumi.
Hijikata, or Hijikata Toshizo, second-in-command to Kondo. Hijikata, was, indeed, a farmer of some sort. He and Kono were part of a sword school in their youth, and Okita joined very young. Okita, a child-prodigy of sorts, was like a kid brother to Kondo and Hijikata. So that's what that's all about.
Kondo Tamako was the daughter of Kondo Isami, the Captain of the Shinsen-gumi. She was born right before Kondo left for Kyoto, which means she was probably somewhere between Megumi and Kaoru's ages at the time of the story. Her father was beheaded in 1868, almost a month to the day before Okita died.
Takagi Tokio was, indeed, Saito's wife. They had, I believe, three sons. (Someone correct me on that one if I'm wrong.) She was the daughter of an Aizu official - And Saito entered the Shinsen-gumi under Aizu-han. So, it's likely that their marriage ws arranged. He also didn't marry until five years after Okita's death, in 1873. (Don't forget, Japanese women traditionally didn't assume their husband's names when they were married.)
Pontocho was Kyoto's red-light district. It was built on a sandbar parallel to one of the canals in the Gion District, and was so narrow that it was pretty much only accessable by foot - and probably palanquin . . . But, yeah. Because of its position, it was prone to being wiped out by flooding. Not just that, but it was also very succeptable to fire, so if it wasn't flooding, it was burning. The brothels were constantly being rebuilt.
This story is heavily influenced by the the song by Sheryl Crow. Not a songfic, by any means, but I pretty much wrote the entire thing listening to that song.
And, lastly, because I like talking, I'm going to tell you the story of this fic. Ready? You better be.
Originally, this ws just going to be a story about Saito and Okita, and how Saito felt about Okita's slow death from TB. This was mostly inspired by a short (-ish) side-story I wrote for Clarus' if you can believe it. In any case, I let it go for a while, and then decided I wanted to keep working on it, except this time, Okita was having an affair with Kenshin behind Saito's back. Okita was going to die, of course, and Saito was going to sort of forgive Kenshin, and then see him with Sano, or something. But that didn't happen either. This is what did happen, and I'm not sure what it is, or what it means, only that there's a lot of rain and a lot of my waxinv poetic.
So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!