Kiyomisa: Hello. This is a somewhat dark and serious fic. I don't know how well that will come across since I usually write comedic/romance. Hopefully you'll be able to find enough of the plot to follow my weird ideas ^-^.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Kenshin characters, I am only kidnapping them momentarily.
Crimson sunlight fell on two silent figures, one gingerly bandaging the hand of the other. The woman spoke not a word, but a single tear slid down her cheek. The man did not look at her and only gruffly thanked her when she finished.
"Why…why are you doing this? The fighting's only getting worse with you," she whispered angrily.
"Because, this is better than the alternative," he replied, almost callously, not even looking over his shoulder.
"What kind of answer is that!?" she yelled at him, tears stinging her eyes.
The tears blurred her vision, and as he walked away, he became one with the blood red sky. The only thing she could see clearly was the mark on his back. The symbol for 'wicked'.
Sanosuke stumbled down the street, not really caring were he was going. The nearly empty bottle of sake in his hand dangled precariously, and he only managed to re-grip it before it would have fallen to the ground.
"Sanosuke?" a voice called out to him, concerned and confused. The tall brunette tripped to a halt and looked around him blearily. A short, blurry figure approached him. It was purple on bottom and red on top and walking towards him rapidly.
"Oh hi, Kenshin. Fanshy meedin' you 'ere," Sanosuke quipped, failing bitterly at his attempt to be cheerful.
"You got into another fight." It was a calm, disapproving statement.
"Yep, beat th' hell ou' of 'em too." He felt very thirsty and so raised the bottle to his lips. It was tugged gently from his hands.
"You have had enough, that you have," Kenshin informed him sternly.
Sanosuke frowned, trying to get his friend's face into focus. It only resulted in multiple blurs and he fell down on his rear, completely out of balance. "I 'ave not," he whined petulantly and made a grab for the bottle.
"Rest you need. Come, I'll take you home," Kenshin said softly, bending down and lifting a limp arm around his shoulders and bracing the taller man up.
"Don' have a home," Sanosuke replied wretchedly.
"Then we'll go to mine."
"Wha' 'bout Kaoru?"
"You can deal with her tomorrow, that you can."
Sanosuke tried to remember if that was what he had meant, got another headache and gave up, blindly letting his friend lead him on.
Kaoru watched in concern as her husband gently tugged the blanket up to the fierce brunette's chin. The street fighter had made it to the room before passing out completely.
"This is the third time so far this week and it's only Thursday," she said worriedly. "Kenshin, what's going on? He's getting into fights by day, and dead drunk by night. This isn't…isn't healthy!" Kaoru protested as she followed her husband out to the front porch.
"No, that it is not," was the soft reply. "I wish I knew why he's doing this…but I suppose he'll tell us when he's ready."
Kaoru shook her head and laid a gentle hand on her husbands' arm. "Come on, let's go to bed."
Kenshin let himself be led to their bedroom, but even in the comforting warmth of his wife's arms he couldn't banish the worry he felt for his friend.
Sanosuke woke in mid-afternoon, the sunlight golden and solemn as it pressed achingly against his eyes. His head held up a steady throbbing and his stomach rolled from side to side. With a miserable groan, he flipped onto his side. He didn't dare look up at the sound of wood sliding easily across wood as someone entered the room.
A small, delicate hand gently shook his shoulder, sending a new wave of intense throbs through his sinuses. He grumbled ill temperedly and shoved the hand away. A suffering sigh reached his ears and something clinked down next to his head.
"When you've decided to get up, if you ever do, there's some soup and rice for you," Kaoru told him quietly before leaving again.
It was at least half an hour before he felt well enough to even open his eyes, then another ten minutes before he could rouse the energy to sit up. He ate the soup and rice slowly, his stomach only protesting slightly. She'd also left a large pitcher of water and he began to drink it steadily, pausing only for air.
After that he felt much better and he risked standing up. His muscles ghost-ached slightly, but otherwise he was fine. Pressing a cool hand to his head every once in a while, he made his way to the common room. Kaoru glanced up at him, then invited to sit down for some tea.
With a small, appreciative grunt, the brunette complied, rubbing a little at his head.
"You would think that after so many times, you'd learn your lesson," she teased as she handed him the delightfully warm liquid. But there was an underlying concern laced through her tone that did not go unnoticed.
"I'm a big boy, I can take care of myself."
Kaoru arched an unconvinced eyebrow at him. She shook her head and sipped her tea with him in silence for while. After two more cups, she broke the silence. "Why don't you spend tonight here? It's been a while since we've gotten to talk to you."
Sanosuke peered into his cup. The light made dancing circles in the bottom, and bits of leaves swirled lazily in a clockwise motion. It was comforting in its warmth. But inside he felt hollow, as if he were missing something important. He didn't want to burden the happy couple with his problems. "Thanks for the offer Kaoru, but I have other things planned."
The concern in her blue eyes ate at the hollowness inside him. "Are you sure?"
Sano drank his tea in one gulp, nearly burning his tongue in the process, and stood up. "Yes. Thanks for the tea," he murmured and strode away.
As he neared the gate, he noticed Kenshin sweeping the leaves off of the stone path. He felt his stomach lurch. The small redhead could read people so easily…Sano didn't want Kenshin to read him.
"Kenshin," he nodded to him politely. Violet eyes glanced at him and pinned him to the spot. So much for just brushing by the swordsman.
"Sanosuke. Kaoru and I were hoping you'd spend the night with us, that we were."
Sanosuke shook his head. "Other plans."
The fighter fidgeted under the piercingly understanding gaze. "I'll see you later then. Thanks for the hospitality," he added and strode out into the street.
Megumi woke up to a quiet, but insistent knocking. With a small groan she got up and cracked the door open.
"I'm sorry that it's late, Miss Doctor, but he got into a fight with a guy who knew how to use knives," Sano's friend said, supporting the injured fighter.
"I don't need a doctor, it's just a couple of scratches," Sanosuke muttered angrily. Megumi prodded a spot on his jacket where some blood had seeped through and he hissed in pain.
"Of course you don't. Bring him in," she said wearily. Sano's drinking companion complied, then left hurriedly when the elegant woman chased him out. She crossed her arms and glared down at her sullen patient. "What was it this time? Someone look at you out of the corner of their eyes? Or maybe they stepped on your shadow?"
"Leave me alone, Fox."
Megumi clenched her teeth angrily. "Fine. I'll treat you tonight, but I don't want to see you again for at least a week," she said, setting her utensils down jarringly.
Megumi began stitching up two somewhat shallow cuts roughly, only gentling after Sano lost the battle with his pride and hissed in pain. Almost against her will, her fingers lingered softly on his skin once they'd finished stitching the cuts and lightly traced an old scar.
He brushed her hand away. "Don't."
Megumi's heart shrunk in on itself, hurt by his curt tone. She glared at him, anger a much safer emotion than injury. "And just how many more scars are you planning on acquiring? Are you going to try and get your entire body covered with them?"
Sanosuke grimaced slightly as he donned his white jacket once more. "Maybe."
Megumi blinked at him. "Fine! You do that! See if I care, you big, barbaric, muscle-brained, idiot!" she shouted as he headed for the door. He paused, and said quietly, "I know I am," before leaving.
Megumi wanted to call him back, to apologize, but her voice wouldn't listen to her. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. She'd known how dangerous it was, to let herself actually care so much about someone, but she'd done it anyway. She wasn't quite sure just how the big jerk had done it, but he'd wormed his way into her heart.
Maybe one of these days she'd be able to tell him why she got so mad when he came to her for doctoring. Maybe…
No one saw Sanosuke for the next five days. Megumi tried to tell herself that it was a good thing, that it meant he hadn't gotten hurt in any fights…but instead she found herself thinking that he was hurt somewhere, and he was taking her words of not seeing him for a week seriously. It was playing havoc with Megumi's nerves.
Kaoru noticed and decided to take matters into her own hands. She entered the doctor's clinic with a small smile. "Hey Megumi! Are you here?" she called in cheerfully.
Megumi popped her head out. "Yes, I'm here. You're in a cheerful mood today."
"He he, guess who got two exclusive tickets to the Silver Moon Hot Springs in Hokkaido?"
Megumi managed a smile. "That's wonderful. I'm sure you and Kenshin will have a good time."
Kaoru shook her head. "I'm not taking Kenshin. You're coming with me."
Megumi blinked. "I am? But, the clinic-"
"Dr. Genzai managed before you came, he'll be fine for a week without you. Come on, you need a vacation. Girl's day out! Please Megumi?" Kaoru pleaded, her eyes going impossibly wide and pleading.
Megumi was just about as good at refusing Kaoru in this state as she was refusing Dr. Genzai's granddaughters; which was to say not at all.
"All right. I'll go. When do we leave?"
"Tomorrow morning at nine! Subiyosha station!" Kaoru replied, bouncing a little bit. She hugged the older woman tightly then let go again. "Thank you so much for going with me, Megumi!"
"Yes, yes, now get out of here. I have work to do before I leave."
Kenshin, Yahiko, Dr. Genzai and the others waved goodbye as the train chugged away, taking Megumi and Kaoru to their 'week of bliss' as Kaoru put it.
"Well, I should get back to the school, that I should," Kenshin said, resting his hands behind his back.
"And I should get back to the clinic," Doctor Genzai said, taking hold of his granddaughters' hands.
"I'm going out today, I'll see you later, Kenshin," Yahiko called, already leaving.
"Stay out of trouble!" Kenshin called after him, smiling affectionately.
Kenshin leisurely made his way back to the school, enjoying the warm spring day. Sanosuke was waiting for him at the gate.
"Oh, hello Sanosuke. I haven't seen you for a while, that I have not."
Sanosuke tried to shrug his shoulders with his usual uncaring swagger, but the dark circles under his eyes and the paleness of his skin ruined the image. "I had some…stuff to do."
Kenshin kept his expression warm. "Would you like some tea?"
Sano looked slightly relieved and nodded, and Kenshin followed him inside.
With a sigh, Sanosuke stared into his tea. It didn't seem nearly as comforting as it had six days earlier.
"Is there something you'd like to talk about, Sanosuke?" Kenshin inquired gently. The street fighter whipped his head up in surprise to see the swordsman peering at him intently. He was about to say 'no', when something in those indigo depths stopped him.
He looked back to his tea. Kenshin waited patiently. "Kenshin… what would you have done if Kaoru had never confessed her feelings to you?"
"Then I would have eventually confessed mine to her," the redhead replied with a small smile. "I was actually about ready to, but she saved me the uncertainty I was facing by telling me first. Why?"
"I-I wonder if I'll ever find her," Sanosuke murmured, gripping his cup a little tighter.
"I found, that what we are most looking for, is usually right under our noses," Kenshin murmured sagely. The younger man sighed and fidgeted for a bit.
"It's awfully quiet around here, where's Megumi and Kaoru?"
Kenshin raised his eyebrows. He decided not to point out Sano's slip; Megumi was usually at the clinic, not the dojo.
"They're on vacation. They left on the train this morning, that they did."
"Oh." Sanosuke stared back into his cup.
"Was there anything else you'd like to talk about?"
Sano shook his head. "No. Thanks for the tea. I'd better get back to my…business…" He stood up.
Kenshin wanted to ask, 'what business?' but he didn't want to press it. Sano looked frayed, and Kenshin was afraid that pressing him for answers would unravel him entirely.
"Good bye, Sano," he murmured after the retreating figure.
It was Monday; Megumi had been gone for six days. Sanosuke didn't really know why he missed the fox so much. She was always yelling at him, but then she was always incredibly gentle with him when tending to him. Except for the times she was really angry with him. But even then, she wasn't as harsh as she could be.
"Ah hell," he muttered and ran a hand through his hair in irritation. He hated this. His friends were worried about him, and he didn't know what to tell them. He was probably the reason Megumi on vacation. He'd stressed the poor woman out with all his brawling. The worst thing was, he didn't even know why he was doing so much brawling.
These new thoughts sunk heavily into his chest, black and accusing. He reached for the sake bottle only to discover it was empty. Maybe…maybe Kenshin would indulge in a little drinking session.
Kenshin was a little surprised to see Sano standing at his door, smiling sheepishly and hopefully. "Oro? Sano…"
"Hey Kenshin. It's been a while since we've had a guy's night. Thought tonight would be our last good chance."
Kenshin nodded, a bit uncertainly. The cheer in Sano's voice was obviously faked, and it hurt the redhead to know so. He asked the tall fighter if he wanted some tea, but Sano looked at him with disbelieving eyes.
"It's our night to party and he wants tea? C'mon Kenshin, we deserve to have a little fun. We should have sake!"
Kenshin wasn't sure it was such a good idea, with how recluse and depressive Sano'd been acting lately, but Sano kneeled down and looked up at him with wide brown eyes, quivering his lower lip and making small puppy sounds.
Kenshin couldn't refuse. He laughed and waved his hand at the brunette to stop him. "All right, all right. We will have sake, that we will. Wait here, I'll be right back."
He returned with two bottles and sake dishes. Before they took the first drink, Sano looked at him sternly. "No alcohol resisting techniques tonight. Tonight's for real," he said.
Kenshin nodded and they drank. For the first three hours they became incredibly silly, and when Yahiko found them, he shook his head in disgust and went to bed, Sano cat-calling after him.
"Sano, that wasn't very nice, indeed it wasn't," the redhead admonished, wagging his finger at the brunette. Instead of laughing with him, as he had expected him to do, Sano's face fell and he stared into his sake dish, blinking owlishly.
"Saan-oh? What's wrong?"
"Kenshin, do you think I'll ever be happy?"
"Oro?" Kenshin blinked at him. "Of course Sanosuke, why wouldn't you be?"
"No one loves me."
Kenshin frowned. "Sano, you know that people care about you. Kaoru, Yahiko, me, we all care about you."
"Yeah, but no one loves me. I mean, you have Kaoru, and Yahiko's talking to that girl at the restaurant. I don't have anyone." He looked miserable, and his eyes looked red. He downed some more sake and went silent.
Kenshin's heart clenched painfully. Sano was soft hearted, no matter what he pretended. Kenshin had seen too much to let the young man slip into depression like this. He wanted to make Sano happy again…Sano deserved to be happy.
The brunette glanced up and blinked at him, unshed tears sparkling in his eyes. The sight burned itself into Kenshin's mind, and without thinking he leaned forward to kiss the younger man.
Sanosuke didn't think, he only responded, pressing closer into a comforting touch that he needed desperately. Kenshin gently tongued at his lips, tenderly asking for entrance. Shivers ran down his spine and he parted his lips, closing his eyes and giving in to the sensation. He felt like a young boy again, meekly accepting the situation and letting Kenshin leisurely teach him all over again.
Kenshin pulled away and gazed up at him, indigo eyes glowing darkly. Sanosuke blinked as reality came back to him.
The redhead gazed warmly at him, though he looked a little surprised at his actions. The two men just watched each other for a moment before Kenshin moved closer, tilting his head up. He kissed him again, a merest ghosting of lips against lips.
"Tonight, I'll show you love," Kenshin murmured in a soft, determined voice.
"But, I-don't…know-how…" Sanosuke protested softly, his cheeks flaming as red as his favorite bandanna.
The short redhead smiled reassuringly up at him, pressing a nuzzling kiss to his cheek. "Then let me teach you."
Kenshin tugged him soothingly towards the bedchamber, and Sanosuke let him, his mind whirling too fast to do anything to the contrary. Kenshin pulled his head down for another, comforting kiss, sending warm shivers down the taller man's spine as his tongue lightly teased the sensitive areas.
Sanosuke wrapped his arms around him, pulling him closer. Kenshin responded willingly, pressing fully against him, his fingers locking behind the younger man's neck, lightly brushing against the soft, chocolate locks.
Sanosuke ran out of breath and pulled away from the kiss. Kenshin took the opportunity to stretch up and lightly nibbled on the square chin, working his way along the jawbone until he reached the ear. There he alternated between biting softly and blowing lightly on the lobe. He wasn't sure what had gotten into him this night, but it felt nice, he didn't want it to stop.
The tall brunette moaned quietly, tilting his head to the side. Whether he was trying to give the redhead better access or trying to escape the achingly pleasant touch, he had no idea. Kenshin's hand traced their way down Sano's neck, down to his collarbone, then under the loose jacket, slipping it off of the broad shoulder, moving his nibbling kissed down to the poor, abandoned collarbone.
Sano's neck arched with another moan and his hands gripped Kenshin's shoulders firmly as the shivers went to his knees, threatening to collapse under him.
Kenshin backed off and concentrated on getting Sano's jacket fully off while the young man watched him with a heated gaze. Kenshin began to pull off the white wrap, letting his fingers stray once in a while to teasingly trace the contours of the firm muscles underlying the smooth skin.
Kenshin smiled when Sanosuke reached out to carefully tug the loose shirt off of him and Kenshin helped him get it free of the waistband. The swordsman then pressed up against the warm, bare skin, letting his hands explore the new territory lovingly.
The chest shuddered under his touch, breathing shallowly. Kenshin chuckled softly, but blinked when Sano's hands caught his own and lifted them away.
Sano smiled wolfish down at him and Kenshin's breath hitched. The golden eyes were now a dark amber, deep, beautiful and dangerous. Kenshin felt captivated; he swallowed, wondering why he was now blushing furiously.
Sano leaned over him and claimed his mouth in a soft, probing kiss. It was Kenshin's turn to shudder as the larger man turned the tide. Large hands, surprisingly gentle for the numerous brawls they fought, sifted through Kenshin's long, crimson hair. The fingers found the hair-tie and tugged it free.
The hair tickled as it cascaded over his back, but Kenshin was paying more attention to the firm lips locked against his, and the warm fingers massaging his scalp.
Sano's mouth left his and ghosted over his cheek, down his neck to the crook of the shoulder, where, following Kenshin's example, he began nibbling lightly.
Kenshin shuddered and tried to get air into his lungs, arching his back like a cat, silently asking for more. Sano's large, warm hands traveled down the arched back to cup the slim bottom and pull it snugly against his body as he nibbled down past the collarbone to the lithe, slim chest.
The double attack worked like one of his grappling moves, and Kenshin fell off his feet with a small cry. Sano caught him, and pressing soft kisses to the bare chest, he lay the redhead down on the simple mattress.
Kenshin laughed lightly and pressed a kiss to one of Sanosuke's palms. Letting the captive hand go again, Kenshin's slender fingers deftly undid the ties on Sano's pants and he began to slip them off the muscular hips.
Sano shuddered and rested his forehead on Kenshin's shoulder. Kenshin was amused to note that the younger man was blushing again. Kenshin brushed his hands over the thighs, stroking them lightly. Sanosuke groaned piteously, burying his head in Kenshin's shoulder.
Kenshin slowly, slowly let his fingers drift further in and Sano tensed and began breathing shakily. "Ken--shin!"
"Oro?" Kenshin replied slyly. He looked up at the brunette's face. His eyes were closed and his eyebrows drawn in anticipation. The dark eyes opened slightly and burned into Kenshin's, the silent pleading unmistakable.
Kenshin distracted Sano with light kisses while he slipped off his own baggy pants. His hands went back to their positions on Sano's thighs, stroking lightly and the street fighter fell forward, bracing himself with shaky arms so that he didn't crush the smaller man beneath him.
Kenshin took pity on the poor man and grasped the throbbing length firmly. Sano shuddered. Kenshin reveled in the silken smoothness of his member, and he began to stroke it evenly, nearly purring as Sano breathed heavily against his shoulder. Sano's breathing become more erratic and strained as Kenshin continued his ministrations and it wasn't long before he was clenching his teeth together and shaking uncontrollably. Kenshin halted and Sano blinked blearily at him.
"It's time for the next step, it is," Kenshin murmured, gazing up at him through his eyelashes. Sano blinked slowly in quiet confusion. Kenshin smiled and took his hand gently and led it down to his opening. "You'll have to widen me a bit first, that you will," he explained softly. Sano's eyes widened and a blush burst across his cheeks so fast that Kenshin chuckled at the sight. He bit Sano's lower lip to remind him to begin, which Sano did, a little hesitantly at first, but with gaining confidence. Kenshin closed his eyes and moaned as the large gentle fingers slowly worked their way in, stroking and soothing as they went.
Sanosuke kept his eyes on Kenshin's face, watching as his expression went from languid to breathless, then on to exquisite tension. The crimson hair fanned out behind him and the long bangs fell into his eyes, creating the most beautiful shadows on the moon-made-alabaster skin. The scar on his cheek began to blend in as his face became flushed and damp. He was biting his lower-lip in between short gasps. He was absolutely beautiful.
"Kenshin," Sano murmured huskily, "are you ready?"
Kenshin opened his eyes to look at him with burning, liquid amethysts. The cat-like smile that spread across his lips was answer enough. Sanosuke took his hand away and pressed up against Kenshin, pausing as his member brushed against the entrance.
"Are you sure?" he whispered hoarsely.
Kenshin smiled up at him, as certain as the moon's phases. "Yes, I am," he whispered against Sanosuke's lips. With a deep shiver, Sanosuke began to press in. Kenshin cried out a little, biting his lower lip and squeezing his eyes shut.
"Kenshin?" Sano asked in concern, unable to brush away the bangs in comfort because he needed both hands to support his weight.
"I'm all right," Kenshin assured him. "Keep-going."
Cautiously, Sanosuke continued, encouraged when Kenshin began a slight rocking motion against him. He pulled back, then pressed in again, and his entire being seemed to fill with warm, tiny lightning. He lost himself in Kenshin, burying his face in the crimson hair, which smelled faintly like a mixture of cherry-blossoms and soap.
Their hips rocked against each other, and Kenshin clung to him closely, breathing heavily. His head was spinning with pleasure, his own member pressed between the close bodies and he gasped whenever Sanosuke hit a particularly pleasurable spot.
Sano began to shudder, and stilled as a wave of pleasure so intense it almost blinded him, washed over him. Kenshin followed moments later, arching his hips up to press against Sano as tightly as he could. After he was spent, he fell back limply, trying to regain what little breath he had. Sanosuke haggardly pushed himself to the side of Kenshin and rested, his head using Kenshin's shoulder as a pillow, one arm still wrapped around the slim waist.
Kenshin's hand unconsciously began to sift through the dark hair, now warm and slightly damp. He felt a hot, wet drop on his chest and he glanced down in surprise.
"Sano, are you crying?" he inquired wonderingly.
"No," was the muffled reply, followed by a small sniff. Kenshin decided not press it.
Kenshin smiled happily at the younger man and gave him a firm hug.
Kaoru dropped Megumi off at the clinic. The hot springs had helped her relax, and she was back to her usual, elegant, aloof self. Kaoru was glad that her idea had worked, but she was a little upset that Kenshin hadn't come to the station to pick them up.
"He knew we were coming back this morning," she muttered to herself. She saw Yahiko practicing his kataas in the courtyard. He caught sight of her and waved.
"Hi Yahiko. Where's Kenshin? That lazy husband of mine didn't pick me up at the station this morning."
"Oh, well that would be because Sano came over last night, and they were drinking. They were pretty gone when I went to bed last night. Kenshin's still asleep."
"Thanks. I'll go wake him up then," Kaoru said with a mischievous grin. She liked picking on her husband. He was so cute when she did that it was hard not to. Yahiko shook his head and continued to practice.
Kaoru made her way to their bedroom quietly, wanting to surprise Kenshin. Even with a hangover, he was a light sleeper. Smothering her chuckles, she slid the door open, only to stop in shock at the sight before her. A naked Sanosuke was curled up against her naked husband on her bed. Kaoru slid the door closed again and walked out to the front yard in a numb trance.
"Yahiko," she called, somehow getting around the lump in her throat. The boy trotted over, watching her warily. "I think we're out of-rice. Here's some money, could you go get some more please?"
Yahiko took the money uncertainly. "Kaoru, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she said hollowly. "Just…go get the rice."
Still frowning, Yahiko left. The tears didn't slip down her cheeks until he was out of the gate.
Kenshin woke groggily, the sunlight warm on his face. He became aware of a warm body pressed next to him, but it was too…firm, to be Kaoru. He opened his eyes and glanced down.
"Oh," he breathed to himself. This complicated things a bit. He'd have to talk with Sano about it when he woke up. But it was Tuesday, who knew when the brunette would wake up. Tuesday…train…Kaoru! He had to go pick up Kaoru!
The swordsman gently extracted himself from Sano's embrace and dressed quickly, praying that Sano wouldn't wake up before he returned. He dashed out to the front yard, only to see Kaoru already there, standing still , facing the gate.
"Kaoru! You're home! I'm sorry, I must've slept in," he said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.
"Yes. I saw."
Kenshin froze. He'd never heard Kaoru use such an icy tone of voice before. "Ah--K-kaoru-"
She spun around and slapped him sharply across the cheek. Tears were trickling freely down her heart-shaped cheeks, her face was flushed and her beautiful blue eyes were burning with pain and anger. "How could you!? I'm gone for a week-one week- and you cheat on me!? Not only do you cheat on me, but with another man! With Sanosuke!" She yelled, accenting each point by pounding her fist on his chest furiously.
Kenshin grabbed her hand and tried to explain. "Kaoru, listen, I-"
"No! You-you…jerk! Why marry me if you don't love me!?"
Kenshin began pleading with his struggling wife. "Kaoru, I do--"
"Liar!" she screamed, wrenching out of his grasp and punching his already bruised cheek. He stumbled and before he could say another word, Kaoru ran through the gate. As Kenshin watched her, it felt as if she were running out of his life.
"It's all my fault," a choked voice said from behind him. Kenshin turned to see Sano standing there, a horrified expression on his face.
"I ruined my own life, and now I ruin my friend's marriage…" he mumbled to himself, not paying any attention to Kenshin.
"Sano, it's not your fault," Kenshin protested, but Sano didn't hear him.
"All I'm good for is destroying things!" the young fighter cried in anguish, slamming his hands through the wooden floor. Kenshin stared at him in shock for a moment while the fighter stared at his bleeding ands. With a strangled cry he ran off, radiating pain.
"Sanosuke!" Kenshin called after him, but the fighter didn't stop. Kenshin fell to his knees in defeat. In one, bright, sunny morning, he'd lost his wife and his best friend. The painful knowledge that it was his own fault ate up his insides until he felt hollow. He began to shake.
Kenshin wrapped his arms around his shaking body, closing his eyes against the hot stinging tears that burned their way down his cheeks, falling easily in the slight furrow of his cross-shaped scar.
The girls occupied Megumi the minute she entered the clinic. They bombarded her with questions and stories of what had happened while she was away. Megumi indulged them until Dr. Genzai sent them off to play by themselves.
"How did it go while I was gone?"
The old man smiled. "Surprisingly, there weren't as many patients. Several young men dropped by, but when they discovered you weren't here, they claimed they were fine and went away again." His eyes twinkled merrily at her and she laughed.
"Is that so?"
"As sure as my hair is white," he replied with a chuckle.
Megumi's expression grew serious. "And Sanosuke? Was he in while I was gone?"
The kindly man smiled knowingly even as he shook his head. "No. I haven't seen him for two weeks."
Megumi frowned. "Not even just around? In the market or anything?"
"No. You know…I probably don't need any help today. Why don't you go out for a while?" he said innocently. Megumi drew herself up to protest, but she wilted under Dr. Genzai's kind, understanding gaze.
"All right. I'll see you later then," she said, and shouldered a small medical pack, just in case…
Megumi wandered the markets for a while, but she saw neither hide nor hair of the fierce brunette. Before long, she found herself in the apartment district that Sanosuke lived in when he wasn't mooching off of Kaoru and Kenshin.
Without letting herself thinking about it, she found Sano's apartment and knocked quietly. There wasn't an answer. Megumi frowned. Something didn't feel right. She slid the door open and peered into the darkness.
She opened the door a little further and sunlight streamed into the room. Megumi froze at the sight before her. Sano was slumped over his table, a bloody piece of broken sake-bottle lying near his hand, blood streaming from his wrist.
Megumi rushed forward in a near panic. The man was still breathing, though shallowly. Silently thanking whatever gods could hear her, Megumi unshouldered her medical pack and tied a string tightly around his arm, just above the elbow to slow the blood-flow. She then went to work on bandaging the actual wound. She was done quickly and efficiently.
Only when she was sure that he would survive did she let herself cry. "Idiot, you insensitive jerk," she muttered brokenly and hugged him to her, her tears retracing the paths his had taken before.
Kaoru sat by the lazy river, her body wracking with sobs as she peered into the placid waters. The stillness of the water irritated her and she snatched up a stone and threw it in vindictively. The splash was small, and the calm returned quickly. It reminded her of Kenshin…things would happen to him, and he'd just take it with a smile and do what he could to right it.
"There's no way he can fix this," she mumbled bitterly, drawing her knees up and burying her head in her arms.
"Kaoru…" a soft, tentative, familiar voice called to her, only a few feet away. She didn't reply. She couldn't. The pain was a knot in her throat, and the pain evident in his voice only tightened it.
"I want to explain."
"What's to explain?" she replied wearily, not lifting her head. She was too tired to be angry any more.
A warm body sat down near her. Not next to, but near. "Will you let me try?"
"You slept with Sanosuke," she stated, too emotionally drained to be accusing.
"Yes, I did." His voice was soft and calm. "But you still need to know why."
"Because he's better in bed than I am," she quipped sarcastically.
"No." His voice was sharp and reprimanding like a teacher's. "Because he needed it."
"He needed it?" she asked in a small voice, daring to peek over her arms. Violet eyes shimmered resolutely at her and her heart contracted painfully.
"Sanosuke was slipping into depression…he truly believed that no one loved him. I-I needed to prove him wrong; to show him that at least I cared."
"Oh is that all," Kaoru snarled. "Like I'll believe that!"
"It's the truth." Warm, loving amethyst eyes…they weren't lying, they were telling the truth.
"Why did you have to sleep with him then? Couldn't you have done it some other way?" she whimpered pleadingly.
Kenshin looked down at his hands. "I don't know. That way…felt right, at the time…even now, when I think about it, I can't think of what else I could have done. All the possibilities seem small and meaningless…"
Kaoru stayed silent, looking back at the steadily flowing water. It was a while before she got the nerves to ask the one question she truly wanted to. "D-do you love him?"
"…Yes. I love him, as a man, a friend, a human being…but Kaoru, I love you as my soul. I don't know if I have one without you…" his calm voice cracked and she heard his breath hitch sharply. She didn't have to look to know that he was crying. She was crying again too…she looked at him uncertainly. She thought of living her life without him and her heart shrunk in on itself. She peered into his eyes and was shocked at the raw emotion in them. Pain melted into hope, anguish melted into comfort, and despair melted into love.
Her heart swelled as she fell hopelessly into his eyes, and it grew warmer with each passing breath. Her eyes grew blurry with tears and she cast herself into his arms, sobbing anew.
He held her to him as if afraid to let her go. "I'm sorry Kaoru," he whispered fiercely. "I'm sorry that I hurt you so badly. That I ever hurt you."
Kaoru just shook her head and clung to him tightly, unable to say anything. Kenshin seemed to understand anyway.
Sanosuke felt very lightheaded. Somehow he hadn't thought death would make him feel lightheaded. And he didn't think his wrist should tingle so much either. Which could only mean…he wasn't dead.
"Fuck," he cursed softly through dry lips without opening his eyes.
"Ssh," a soft voice said instantly and a warm, satiny hand brushed over his forehead. "You're still weak from blood-loss."
"I'm supposed to be dead," Sanosuke muttered bitterly.
"Are you?" Megumi inquired with a clipped tone. Sano could picture the exact purseness of her lips. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me just why you felt you had to kill yourself?" she said coldly.
"I destroy things," he murmured. He could feel her surprise. He opened his eyes warily to see her peering at him intently.
"Destroy things?" she murmured gently.
He raised a bruised, scratched hand. "Look at these hands Megumi. They've fought and broken more things than I can count. I can't remember a single thing that I've done with them that didn't involve destroying."
Her eyes took on a suspicious shimmer. "What about all those afternoons you played with Dr. Genzai's granddaughters? What about all those kind errands you ran for Miss Yuriko?" She swallowed as a tear slipped down her pale cheek. "What about the time you stopped me from making the same mistake you almost made…" she whispered hoarsely.
Sanosuke sat up, ignoring the dizzy sensation. "Megumi…"
"How can you say all those things are worthless? How could you just throw them away," she continued, her body shaking with silent sobs.
Sanosuke looked at his hands. He felt even worse now.
"Why, why would you even try?" she demanded.
"A life without love isn't worth living for."
"What?" Megumi looked startled and she leaned forward. Gently, insistently, she drew the entire story from him. Her eyes weren't dry for a single moment.
"You see?" he finished. "It's my fault that Kaoru may never trust Kenshin again. I was so starved for love that I didn't care where I got it."
"Kenshin does love you, you know," she murmured.
"I know…but not in the way that I need…"
Megumi bit her lower lip and peered at him. He looked back at her in melancholy confusion.
"I-I care for you, Sanosuke," she whispered.
Sano blinked. Then he shook his head. "Thanks, but-"
"No!" she said loudly, startling Sano. Her eyes flashed angrily at him, like embers catching a fresh breeze. "No buts! I…care about you… It, hurts, to see you like this…"
The hollow blackness inside of him cracked a little. "I-I'm sorry."
"You idiot, what are you apologizing for!?" she demanded, glaring at him.
"Sorry for hurting you…" he murmured.
Her expression softened immediately. "That's all right. It comes with caring about someone."
Sanosuke managed the first real smile he'd had in a long time. "Yeah, I guess it does."
For the next five days Megumi tended to Sanosuke and restored him to health. The haunted look in his eyes was beginning to go away. He laughed again and smiled again and Megumi couldn't think of a time when she'd felt happier.
"Megumi, I think I can eat more than rice and soup," Sanosuke pouted.
She looked up from the meal she was preparing. "You're probably right. I'll get some fish for dinner tonight, all right?"
"I can walk too you know."
"I know." She smiled. "I just want to do it."
He pouted further. "But Fox, you haven't let me out all week!"
Her movements slowed and she pinned him with her coal-black gaze. "You didn't want to go before," she said quietly.
Sano shifted uncomfortably. "Well, that-"
There was a knock on the door. Megumi blinked in surprise and watched as Sano went to answer. Kenshin and Kaoru stood there, both looking considerably nervous. Sanosuke went pale and Megumi went to his side.
"We ran into Megumi at market yesterday," Kenshin began. "She told us that you tried to-"
"It doesn't matter," Sanosuke interrupted hastily.
"Of course it matters!" Kaoru stomped her foot and glared at him. "A friend trying to kill themselves matters!"
"F -friend? Kaoru…don't you, hate me?" Sanosuke said in confused wonder.
The young woman blushed and looked down at her hands. "Well, I'm not very happy with you right now. Sleeping with my husband and trying to kill yourself," here she shot him another glare, "but I certainly don't hate you."
Sanosuke grinned a bit. "You can hit me if it'll make you feel better."
Kaoru smacked him soundly without hesitation. Megumi gasped and Kenshin blinked in surprise. Sano grinned at Kaoru and she smiled.
"Much better," she said.
They both laughed and the doctor and the swordsman watched them warily.
"Oro…ah! We brought food as a gift," Kenshin said, holding up the bag of food. Sano smiled and rubbed his hands together.
"Oh, how thoughtful," said Megumi, glancing at the warm rice and soup. Kenshin laughed and assured her that they would eat that too.
Months passed and friendships gradually rebuilt themselves. Everyone was pleased to see Sanosuke doing better. He was nearly back to his old swaggering self. Megumi had gone back to the clinic, but the fighter dropped by every day to talk with her. This evening was warm, and the setting sun was a blood red crimson. Megumi was doing some paper work when a familiar knock brought her head up.
"Come in, Sano," she said tiredly. She was glad he'd come by, but she was tired from the day's work. He entered, a sheepish smile on his face. She looked at him curiously. He looked anxious about something.
"What can I do for the rooster today?" she inquired teasingly.
"Ah, I wanted to tell you something…" he laughed nervously.
Megumi smiled up at him and waited patiently. She giggled when he blushed and shifted his feet.
"Sano, I won't know what you wanted to tell me unless you tell me," she pointed out.
He swore lightly and took a deep breath, taking her hands in his.
"Megumi…I care for you. A lot. I-dammit, what I'm trying to say is…will you stay with me, always? As, as my wife?"
Megumi blinked at him, her mouth open in a surprised little 'o'. Sano looked at her fearfully, yet determinedly, his warm brown eyes enveloping hers. Tears slid down her cheeks and her hands trembled like trapped foxes in his hands. "Yes," she said. "Yes, I will."
With a look of relief bordering on disbelief, he cupped her face in his hands and stroked the tears away from her cheeks. "You mean it?"
"Yes!" she breathed, pulling him in for a sweet kiss.
The sun's crimson bleed away, leaving it golden once more, and it smiled down at the two as they reveled in their newfound love.
Kiyoimsa: There. I hope you liked it. And I just want to say, it was really hard not to add "no da" to Kenshin's lines. He reminds me so much of Chichirchi...they're both so cute and serious and non-serious. Anyhoo, reveiws would be much welcomed, thank you. *bows*