(Author's Note:  This song, "Picture" is a duet sung by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crowe. I've taken the girl parts and put them in *  * and the boy parts and put them in ~  ~ so it's easier to understand and fit to the storyline. ^.^ (Parts sung by both of them have an ~*  *~ around them. Get it?) Oh! And on another note, I have set this fic in modern times, so some events and references may be slightly different then those of the actual manga/TV show.)

Picture

~~~

~Living my life in a slow hell,
different girl every night at the hotel.
I ain't seen the sunshine in three damn days.
~

The leaves spiraled ever downward on a gust of wind as the sun caught their bright colors and seemed to make them shine. The trees waved gently to each other, their half bare branched scraping against the window where he sat, staring out at all of this beauty, and yet seeing none of it.

Sanosuke Sagara ran one hand through his mussed, spiky hair and sighed. He leaned forward slightly and placed his forehead against the cool windowpane, eyes unfocused and a weary, grief-stricken look on his face. It had been a little over a month since she had left; a little over a month since he had seen her face and watched her body with his gleaming chocolate eyes. He had always been fascinated by the way the light had caught her skin and hair, both giving off a glow from within that had appeared to light up the entire room.

Every woman he had been with since, every girl he had seen and spent time with hadn't matched her beauty. He tried to convince himself that he didn't need her or her ways, but no matter what kind of girl he was with, lately he seemed to think only of her. So he had shut himself up here in his room, having his meals sent up, and done nothing but stare out the window for three days straight.

~Been fueling up on cocaine and whiskey,
wish I had a good girl to miss me.
Lord, I wonder if I'll ever change my ways
.~

Dirty plates and rumpled clothes were strewn all about his room, intermingled with empty sake bottles. His breath that was now fogging up the hotel window had a slight undercurrent of the alcohol on it, and the headache he had had earlier this morning was fading to a dull ache. Whenever things seemed to get bad, Sano tended to turn to drinking. The sake helped him to forget his troubles and take away any and all of the pain he felt. After Megumi had left him, he had found himself drunk more often then not and right now he knew it was the only thing that had gotten him through that time.

But now, as he looked back over his life recently, he felt an overwhelming sense of shame running deep within him. What would Megumi think if she knew how he had been acting? If she knew what he had done with his life? Part of the reason why she had left had been his outlook on life. Live life now, for today, and live it to the fullest. To Sano this meant gambling, sex, and drinking almost everyday. Drinking, but not to the point of getting drunk.

Frustrated with his party-like life, and his cocky, confident attitude, she had left him. Couple that with about a thousand other minor things, and she had gotten fed up to the point of insanity. Or, at least that was what she had told him. If she spent one more minute with him and his "Who-gives-a-damn" attitude she would go mad with the stress.

So screaming and yelling, she had stomped out the door, oblivious to his pleading and apologies.

~I put your picture away,
sat down and cried today.
I can't look at you
while I'm lying next to her
.~

Now, as pictures and memories danced in his head, one lone tear slipped out of his clouded eyes and traced a shimmering path down one smooth cheek. She had come back to him a week after the fight to ask him if he wanted one last chance, but his pride had been wounded and he scorned her. And after that and finding out about the other women that kept his bed warm, she had stormed out in a fury even greater then her last.

He admitted it now, that he missed her. He needed her and he wanted her back, but what could he do? He hadn't seen her in a month and wouldn't even know where to begin to look for her. The spiky headed youth shifted where he sat and sighed again. It was hopeless.

*I called you last night in the hotel,
everyone knows but they won't tell.
But their half-hearted smiles tell me something just ain't right.
*

She watched as the skies turned gray, preparing for the storm the weathermen had predicted. Heaving a sigh, and turning away from her window, Megumi flopped down on her bed and listened as the rain began pelting the roof overhead. Usually the rhythmic sound of the water droplets falling outside had a soothing effect on the young woman, but not today. Nothing could seem to calm her these days.

It had been a month since she had seen him last, but the memories were still fresh in her mind. She saw herself walking into the skanky hotel where Sano had been staying and asking for him back. She saw him give her a disgusted glare, which only served to disguise his wounded pride underneath. But most of all, she saw the woman that lay in his bed, waiting for him to come back, and watching her through lidded eyes.

That had hurt most of all. His words, his attitude, nothing compared to this; not even the revolted look he had spared her. It had struck home, like a needle through her heart and hurt her even now.

*I've been waiting on you for a long time,
filling up on heartaches and cheap wine.
I ain't heard from you in three damn nights.
*

Now, looking back, she laughed at herself, mocking all that she stood for.

She had berated Sano for his drinking, for his very way of life, but who was she to talk when now empty bottles lay scattered about her own room. The man was only living life the only was he knew how, and it wasn't so wrong to do so. There was a method to his madness, the dark-haired beauty could see that now. For if you lived every day as if it were your last, then you would be the happiest person alive.

Angrily she swiped a hand across her cheek to stop the flow of tears. Wasn't it ironic that she could only see that now? Only after she had rebuked him and thrown him away. She wished she could take it all back, make it all right again and go back to living with the man that she loved. But things were not so simple as that. She hadn't seen Sano in a month and she wasn't sure if she could work up the courage to go back to the hotel where he was. She didn't even know if he was still there!

*I put your picture away,
I wonder where you've been.
I can't look at you while I'm lying next to him.
*

And even if she did return to him, forgiveness would not come easily or swiftly. For already she had done many hurtful things to him, and if he ever found out how she lived now, he would never even look at the dark-haired beauty again. For while she had been upset over seeing a woman in his bed, there had been other men sharing hers as of late. Megumi knew now she had no room to talk.

But at night, when the lights were off and the empty space next to her filled her head with images of him, there arose a longing inside of her so great, that she knew she would die if someone did not fill it with warmth.

But excuses would get her nowhere with Sano; he did not take kindly to bullshit like that. And knowing this only caused the tears to flow ever swifter. She stood up and slipped into her coat, deciding that she needed to leave here, despite the rain, and walked out the door, wetness immediately consuming her.

*I saw you yesterday with an old friend,*

~It was the same old same how have you been.~

~*Since you've been gone my world's been dark and gray.*~

The water flowed by her feet in miniature rivers, gurgling to itself as it went. It poured off roofs and out of drain spouts, spraying her hair with a fine mist that stuck there and shimmered in the gray light. The chill from the water immediately soaked to her bones, but her mind was adrift on a sea of memories and she noticed little.

Raindrops caught and glittered in his eyelashes, making the world seem to glisten wherever he looked. Despite the fact that he had been walking in the rain for almost an hour, his hair still stood on end, as messy as ever. Tossing his head absently, he flung water out of his bangs and sunk even deeper into his depression. Thoughts of alcohol and the sweet relief it brought danced in his head and he angled his steps automatically towards the bar. So absorbed was he that he did not see the slender form in front of him until it was too late.

He looked up, the beginnings of an apology danced on is lips, and froze as his eyes stared directly into hers.

Megumi's eyes widened as she realized whom she had just run into. Sano. His name waited on the tip of her tongue, but she could not force her mouth open to say it. She was drowning in the dark brown depths of his eyes, reminders of his love and passion swirling in her head.

Sano stared right back at his former love and his stomach flipped and jumped up into his throat. He swallowed hard as sunny days and laughter danced through his head. All of the good times he had had with this women came flooding back as he stared deep into her violet irises.

~You reminded me of brighter days.~

*I hoped you were coming home to stay.*

*I was headed to church,*

~I was off to drink you away.~

Moments flew by seeming like ages and the two remained frozen in their locked gazes; when Sano finally shifted, it seemed as if ice were shattering.

He moved forward as if he were slogging through chest-deep snow and caught her as she fell into his arms.

~*I thought about you for a long time,

can't seem to get you off my mind.

I can't understand why we're living life this way.*~

Tears mingled with the rain on their cheeks as they clung to each other for dear life. Sparks flew in the air and shame weighed heavy on their hearts. Neither knew what to say, so they clung tighter, hoping the message would be transmitted through their bodies.

Sano's hands found their way to her waist and he squeezed gently as she buried her hands in the depths of his dripping hair. Their gazes met and locked once more, only this time love, joy, and lust flared within them. In a flash their lips were pressed together in a soft kiss that quickly grew deeper and more heated. They separated and Sano leaned his forehead against Megumi's. Thousands of explanations and apologies ran through his head and he tossed each one out as it appeared. None of those would work.

Megumi trembled, Sano's hands on her bringing back all that she had loved and wanted about him. But she did not know what she could say to make everything better; nothing seemed good enough and everything she wanted to say sounded like an excuse.

~*I found your picture today,

I swear I'll change my ways.

I just called to say I want you,

to come back home.*~

Taking a deep breath, Sano opened his mouth. "I'm sorry," he said simply.

A strangled sob escaped the dark-haired girl's throat as she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Oh, Sano," she whispered in his ear. " Can you ever forgive me?"

Blinking hard to keep any more tears from escaping his eyes, Sano clasped her to him and murmured soothing words in her ear. When she had calmed down, he pulled back and held her at arms length, staring at her face for the first time in weeks. "I love you."

She smiled kissed the tip of his nose. "I love you too, itoshii."

And the as the rain fell around them in curtains, the two proclaimed their love for each other in ways words could not.

~*I just called to say I love you…

Come back home.*~