Breaking up my usual trend of Aoshi/Misao with a little Sano/Megumi oneshot. ^_^ This was written for my sister, who loves the pairing ... I like writing them anyway because they're so much fun.

Standard disclaimers apply. Hope you enjoy.

Promise Me Tomorrow
by Sigel Phoenix

She'd done good work, she decided. The hand looked perfectly whole from the outside; only another doctor would be able to tell it had once been crushed so brutally. Considering how hard he'd made the recover -- the calluses on the knuckles and faded scars were ready evidence of that -- it really was a testament to her skills what good shape it was in. Yes, she thought, tracing the lines on his palm with one finger, she'd done a good job.

She couldn't take credit for everything, of course. Her finger continued its way up his wrist, along his forearm to the crook of his elbow -- all of it covered by its fair share of scars, but undeniably muscled and well-formed. Yes, he had certainly done well with this much on his own. Turning her head, her gaze continued up his arm, over the curve of his shoulder and along the strong line of his neck, to his softly smirking mouth.

"You done with my arm yet, Megitsune?"

"Don't look so smug," she shot back, unable to keep her lips from twitching into a smile that ruined her glare. She felt like a teenager, heady with excitement as she lay in the arms of her lover.

This was insane, she knew, just letting this man -- this wanted criminal -- into her home, her bed, and, yes, her heart. She wanted to laugh aloud at how crazy it all was. True, this was Sanosuke -- but what Sanosuke had been to her in Tokyo and what he was to her now were two very different things. And she had to admit, she found this incarnation of their relationship much more appealing, more ... comfortable.

Escaping from captivating cinnamon eyes, she lay her head back against his chest, pulling his arm around her once again. It tightened around her body, and she found herself liking the protective, dominant gesture. How odd, that one who prided herself on being strong as she would relish the idea of being overcome. It wasn't the sensation of being weak or vulnerable that she wanted, no; it was to be strong and feel one stronger than her.

"Mm ..." Intoxicated by his warmth, she practically purred. "Promise ..." she said without thinking.

"Promise?" It was a low rumble she could feel beneath her cheek. "I hope you're not asking for forever, Megitsune, because you know I can't promise you that."

Of course. How could she have thought anything like that? Twenty-four hours ago, he had just been a man on the run, never staying in the same place for long; and in another twenty-four hours, he would probably be the same thing again. That had been the implicit understanding between them. She was a respected doctor, and he a fugitive, and there were no promises or commitments between them.

What could come of such a promise, anyway? She knew Sanosuke was one who liked to feel needed; what she didn't know was whether he would stay, whether she needed him enough to stay.

"Then promise," she said slowly, suddenly very aware of that word and its meaning. "Promise me tomorrow."

"All right." Fingers ran down her hair, along the curve of her back. She still wasn't used to his touch, not yet. "I can give you tomorrow."

She was not used to promises, either.

And so she settled into the arms of an unfamiliar lover, with an unfamiliar promise on his lips, to sleep.

***

Morning brought no reminders of the words from the previous night. She'd half-expected the light of day to cast harsh reality upon them, jolting them awake from their little dream world. But Sanosuke was as playfully amorous as before, showing no sign of leaving or even acknowledging the outside world.

His promise flitted into Megumi's consciousness, but she quickly pushed it aside. Tomorrow was here, and what would come of it would be revealed soon enough. Currently her priorities were elsewhere, she thought, glancing at where she'd relegated Sanosuke to the table while she prepared breakfast. She felt a moment of regret as he watched her petulantly, then remembered the delightful yet utterly distracting way he'd molded his body against her own, covering her hands with his as she tried to cook. The gentle scrape of his teeth against her collarbone had certainly been enjoyable, but no help to her concentration.

His arms snaked out to grab her as she knelt down to place the pickled vegetables on the table next to the rice, and she slapped him away teasingly. She felt a surge of feminine satisfaction at the way this powerful -- not to mention stubborn and irreverent -- man bowed to her will. He was under her control -- he wanted her, just as much as she wanted him.

He watched her good-naturedly, as if he could read her thoughts and didn't mind anyway. "Admit it," he prodded. "You like making breakfast for me."

"It has been a while since I've cooked for more than one," she conceded. She hadn't had company during meals very often since leaving Tokyo, and that had been over a year ago. Aizu was her old home, but it'd been a long time since she'd lived here and been friends with the people.

Besides, Sanosuke was not only companionship; he brought familiarity with him. She'd known those boyish brown eyes for a long time, having had them imprinted indelibly on her mind since she'd seen them flashing with anger, blood dripping from his hand where it was wrapped around a blade meant for her own throat. Ken-san's words that night had also stuck firmly with her, but her memory of Sanosuke's eyes was a much more basic, sensory connection. She wanted him around, for as long as he would stay.

"Here," she said, laying out the rest of the food. He commenced eating with relish, and she used the moment to broach an uncertain topic. "Today is my day off, and I was going to go to town -- that is, I was planning to go before you showed up. Would you like to come with me?"

He could decline, of course, stay inside where he risked no public discovery, unlikely as it would be in this city. Or he could even choose to leave while she was out, quickly and easily.

"Sure. Let's go."

***

There were certain advantages to having someone of Sanosuke's physical ability around. His arms were laden with medical supplies and personal purchases Megumi normally would have had to carry herself. Less noticeably, but just as helpfully, his presence deterred the usual attentions she received from the male townsfolk. Certainly she was flattered by their offers, and for the most part they were courteous, but they were nonetheless unwanted. None of the men held her interest.

And yet this young, brash ex-gangster did? Certainly there had been an attraction, back in Tokyo, but what of it? Attraction was common enough; she certainly didn't do this with every man she found handsome.

Pausing outside his door. Holding her breath, knowing he was inside ...

To take her mind off her thoughts, Megumi led Sanosuke to the clinic so they could drop off the newly bought supplies and lighten the burden on his arms. She glanced up at the blooming sakura trees by the path, feeling a sudden surge of melancholy. The pink blossoms were beautiful, and yet they faded so quickly.

She unlocked the door, both of them blinking as their eyes adjusted to the limited light inside the clinic.

"Okay, Megitsune, where do you want this stuff?"

She glanced at the piles in Sanosuke's arms. Focusing on the largest of the items, she directed him to the closet to put the bandages inside. "Leave the herbs with me," she continued, opening several cabinets that smelled strongly of medicine. "I'll sort them here."

"Hai, hai," he answered, complying. He certainly was being helpful, listening to and heeding each of her careful commands; he would be good to have around the clinic. And not just there, either ...

No, she was not to think of that. She didn't want any commitment, any forever. She never had any with anyone before. Her parents hadn't had it, even though they were married -- they'd gotten an early death.

The thought stole in unbidden, just as she'd done to Sanosuke's room last night ... Her eyes focused on the shadows of the clinic as the darkness of the previous night, as she continued to arrange bottles mindlessly.

Watching his unguarded slumber, keenly aware of want. Want for this man and his lean, long form, his laughter, his gruff loyalty.

Also aware of the familiar feeling of fruitless desire, in the form of a red-haired rurouni.

It was easier to want what she couldn't have, to declare with her flirtations that she wanted no promises, thus assuring that there were none to be broken. She was safe to want him, because he wanted Kaoru.

She never wanted to be Kaoru, never wanted the burden of being Kenshin's love. She was not like Kaoru; she wasn't strong enough to wait, not knowing if he would come back to her. Pushing Kaoru to follow him to Kyoto, she'd indulged her desire to bring Kenshin back while avoiding any risk herself; for she knew he would not refuse Kaoru.

And so she saved herself, once again, from being disappointed.

"Oi, Megitsune, are you okay?"

Cinnamon eyes flashing open in the darkness, interrupting her thoughts of the past with the immediate desire of the present.

"Yes, I'm fine."

He raised an eyebrow but acceded. Gathering her items in one arm, he took her hand with his free one as they walked out of the clinic. She blinked in confusion.

"Are you afraid of what people might think?" he asked seriously.

"I ..." She was uncertain. It was silly to lay so much significance on a small gesture ... but letting the public see their involvement would lend a certain amount of permanence, of reality to their affair. If they could call it that. She still didn't know if he would stay, or if she really wanted him to. She had no objections to this night, or even the next; but for him to stay longer -- to not leave now and have her wait, knowing that someday he would ...

She did want him, though. What did the townspeople's opinion matter next to Sanosuke? Sanosuke, who was strong and tender and would rather rip off his own arm than give up on a friend. Sanosuke, who was with her here and now.

"No." She grasped his hand with her own, and continued walking.

He grinned at her with youthful exuberance. "I'm glad. Because I kinda like having a nice lady like you on my arm."

The part of her mind that sought to decipher the meaning behind his words, to wonder Is it true? and How long? was summarily silenced. Instead, she smiled and leaned against his arm, savoring his solid warmth.

The bustle of the city swallowed them as they reentered the street. The center of activity was the marketplace, where stalls lined the roadway and colorful people in colorful clothes milled among them. Megumi caught sight of a young man and woman -- lovers -- standing slightly away from the crowd. The boy was carefully inserting a pair of hairpins, apparently bought from the nearby stand boasting various jewelry pieces, into the upswept hairstyle his lady love wore. The gesture was touching, innocently romantic, but made Megumi wary. The actions were bold, an obvious demonstration of interest that would wane, attraction that would fade away. They were nothing but empty, wordless promises.

She was aware of Sanosuke's touch, his fingers carefully combing through her hair. Sakura petals that had fallen into her hair rained upon the ground under his gentle ministrations. The satisfied look in his eyes, however, told of more motivation than a mere need for tidiness.

Her recent thoughts made her uneasy at his actions. Yes, she wanted Sanosuke, but did she want this? To be that young woman, wooing and romance in her present but an uncertain future?

"You don't have to do that," she said, moving away and patting his hand awkwardly. He looked confused, and she regretted her impulsive reaction. She didn't want him aware of the questions and insecurities going through her mind; she just wanted to enjoy this day with him, not thinking of what would happen at the end of it. Quickly, so as to distract him from the concerned question she could sense on his lips, she turned to the other issue that had been gnawing at her. "There was another reason I wanted to come into town today," she began. "Today is the anniversary of the death of my parents, and I wanted to visit their graves."

His expression still held concern, but at least it was for another, more manageable reason. "I didn't know --"

She nodded, waving a hand in dismissal. "You couldn't. I never said anything."

But now that she had, he was ready to be there for her, in the way that Sanosuke always was for those he cared about. And she was grateful for his presence.

"Will you come with me? I'd like you to be there." Her voice was surprisingly normal. It was, after all, a normal day, on a date that just happened to be that on which she had lost her family; and she was a normal woman, going to visit her parents' graves with a friend who just happened to be hr lover. And who just might be gone tomorrow, but the issue was not of monumental importance.

Sanosuke nodded, squeezing her hand. She'd forgotten he still held it; perhaps that was why she'd felt like she could be strong.

Megumi led the way with an easy, confident stride; through the bustling mass of people, down cobblestone streets where the crowd thinned, then eventually disappeared altogether as they reached the path that led directly to the graveyard.

The people may have left, but spring had no such sense of reverence, the sun freely and openly illuminating the grave stones, birds flitting through and above with unabashedly bright song. She found the burial site of her parents easily; the name Takani was well known, and their stone relatively large and prominent.

"These are your parents, huh?" Sanosuke murmured, studying the weathered stone and the old flowers laid before it.

"It's been eight years," she said softly.

His large hand rested reassuringly on her shoulder, and Megumi felt glad for the support as she swallowed against the tightness in her throat. It had been a long time, the agonizing pain faded to a dull ache, but the pain never completely disappeared from her heart. The memories were too strong to let it -- she could still see her mother and father, vibrant and alive, in her mind. Of course, she had learned to deal with it -- or else she wouldn't be able to go on -- but she never stopped missing them.

She lit incense and knelt before the grave to pray. Yet it wasn't so much prayer as remembrance, simply letting the warmth of the past wash over her. She remembered, too, the thought she'd had of her parents earlier that day -- of how they'd been in love, and how they died. They'd loved her, but still left ...

A small part of her actually envied the security they had -- in death, they were assured to be together forever. Another part of her, however, envied what they would have had, had they lived.

But some things were not meant for some people, she knew. Perhaps it was just not for her to have the everlasting love her parents had found. It wasn't necessarily fair, but that was fate. If she'd wasted her time mulling on what was "fair" in her life, she'd never have been able to move on, after what she'd done and what she'd had done to her.

Opening her eyes, she was startled to find Sanosuke's hands placed together, palm to palm, in prayer. Curious, she waited until he was finished to speak.

"What did you say? To my parents?" she asked.

He placed an arm around her waist. "I told them not to worry, and that I was takin' care of their daughter."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you're in good hands now." He looked at her solemnly, his gaze intense. "I'm going to take care of you, Megumi."

She stood up straight, no longer yielding to his embrace. "Why do you say that?" she asked stiffly. No more need to hide her discomfort; he was too serious for her to ignore her uncertainties anymore.

"I say it because I mean it." His arm still grasped her waist, but was now looser, more cautious. "I'm not askin' you to say anything back, not now. You've got nothin' to be worried about."

"You don't know what you're saying with that -- that promise."

"Look," he said heatedly, "you've been actin' wary all day. You felt something last night, I know you did, and you still feel it now. But you keep pushin' me away when I get too close, like you're afraid of something. What is it?"

She frowned down at the ground.

"Tell me, Megumi."

"It's tomorrow, now." It was all she said, still not looking up.

There was a stretch of silence, and then he said, "What are you talking about?"

Megumi thought for a moment that he'd forgotten about his promise from last night, but then she saw the tender, lopsided grin he wore.

"It's today. I've still got a whole tomorrow to give you."

She stared at him, surprised at both his words and at the sudden, almost painfully forceful hope springing in her chest. He was implying something more than a simple, one-night affair, and she found herself wanting it, very much. "And then ...?"

"And then ... I'll probably have to leave. I can't stay here long. But, Megitsune, when I said I wanted you to stay with me last night, I didn't mean just last night." His right hand came up to cup her face. "I want to be with you more."

"Sanosuke," she whispered. His words were dangerously close to promises.

"I'm yours, Megitsune, for as long as you want me."

"I want what you promise me, Sanosuke. I want ... I want forever, even though I know you can't do that." She closed her eyes, now doubly aware of his callused palm against her cheek. The words were hard to say; she felt so weak and helpless, admitting these things. "I do want you, even though you're an ex-gangster and a fugitive and I probably shouldn't even think about wanting you."

"Then why are you so scared?" he pushed, but not harshly.

"Because you'll leave."

"But I'll come back."

"And you'll make promises."

"And?"

"You'll break them."

He sighed. "I can't say I won't ever do that. Nobody can."

She shook her head. "But if you make promises, so will I. When you go, you'll take something away from me." To her horror, she could hear the tears in her voice; Sanosuke's face was a blur as she continued, "If you do give me forever, I'll have to give it to you."

His hands cupped the back of her neck, massaging the tense muscles. "I know this hurts. It hurts me, too, like hell. But you're not losing anything, I swear you're not. I've had to leave my friends, my family, but they don't need me there to know I love them."

Yes. Sanosuke had to leave the people he loved. She was a person he loved.

Megumi leaned forward and embraced him, clinging to him fiercely as if he were about to disappear that very moment. "I'll wait for you."

"I know."

Feeling herself being pinned by his fiery gaze. Listening to him say, "I've been wanting this for a long time." As he lay his hand over her chest, where her heart beat, loudly.

She walked with him out of the graveyard, back to the town. They spent the day together, concentrating only on each other. Eventually, the sun set, ending the day with a splash of fiery color on the horizon. And she let it.