DISCLAIMER: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
WARNINGS: None.
TIME LINE: Independent/Before Kyoto Arc.


Red Needle

Megumi didn't mind blood.

Working as a doctor in Edo required someone without a faint heart, and she
certainly qualified. Without so much as a wince, she brushed her hands over
pulsing organs, gaping wounds, dried gashes, tangled nerves and dipped them
into pools of blood like a ritual ceremony. Blue, purple, green, and yellow
bruises and swollen skin flickered past her eyes and there was always, always
red. From katanas, to street fights, to clubs, axes and knives she studied,
diagnosed, and healed them all. Fingers delicately sewed flesh like a torn
doll while eyebrows knitted over the nose in concentration. Each stitch
carefully inserted in almost perfect distance of each other and the skin
started to mesh together once again. She liked that. The body became a whole
like before and being the one who was involved in it made her feel like she
had a purpose. A purpose to mend flesh and bone.

What she did mind was the invisible blood.

Beautiful scarlet flowers blooming out of the ground and the seed pods scraped
away gently. Blobs of white protrude and turn into black tar which was later
to be dried and crushed into fine light yellowish-brown powder. She
remembered: dry at 60°C and the morphine content adjusted to 10%. That
beautiful drug infiltrated the mind and swept thoughts away like the ocean
waves while the body turned ugly and decayed. The creating process was clean
with little mess but she still felt death at her fingertips. It laughed in her
ears, its smile mocking her in every poppy flower she picked under the sun.
Then it will burst into flames and then into black ashes. Every little pinch
of that powder drug gave a small tug at her heart when she wrapped them in
their paper packages. Yes, it was definitely killing her as well.

"Catch it, Ken-nii! Catch!"

She blinked out of her reverie, looking up from the cooking board where she
was chopping up radish, to the figures playing outside. Her mouth almost
twitched into a smile when the clumsy rurouni stumbled forward, missing the
ball thrown at him by Ayame. Their wholesome laughter penetrated the silence
and Megumi couldn't help but feel a prickle of wistfulness when a tiny piece
of the past tapped into her head. She watched the red haired man brush himself
off, a smile on his face that practically radiated warmth. Red trails of hair
swept across his face and deep purple eyes, the color of sorrow and memories,
shimmered in the sun. Such a man daunted Megumi sometimes and she practically
had to tear her eyes away before she called out to him. Because when I do,
you're always there to answer me.
She slowly placed the knife on the counter
and her reflection on the blade stared back at her, twisting into an ugly
frown.

"I hate you," she said aloud.

"Hate who?" A low voice, Sanosuke's, interrupted her thoughts. He was leaning
against the kitchen's doorframe with his arms crossed and that easy smile
playing on his lips. "'Cause whatever it is, I sure as hell didn't do it."

She stared at her reflection for another second before turning to face him
with her customary look of annoyance. "No one."

He looked confused and Megumi expected him to leave for the Akabeko, knowing
how loitering too long in the dojo bothered him. Not because Kaoru made him do
chores, though that was a contributing factor, but because the man Sanosuke
once was demanded it. It stirred in his blood; to keep moving, to keep
fighting for the thrill, for a purpose, for a reason. Kenshin was the same,
she thought, eyes returning to the red haired man outside. He would go and
wander again, trying to find what all men searched for. Like Sanosuke. It's in
your eyes,
she wanted to tell both of them. They're always looking into the
past.
Maybe her eyes were the same. But before she could go deeper into the
subject than it already was, Sanosuke once again disturbed her by stepping
completely inside and choosing to lean against the wooden counter. He didn't
say a word as he watched Megumi continue to cut the radish into neat slices.

Chop chop chop.

"What?" she finally said tightly.

Sanosuke blinked. "What do you mean 'what'?"

"You're staring," she replied irritably, her dark eyes watching him
assessingly. Megumi tended to do that, even if what she was looking at wasn't
an injury or paperwork. People are always being judged, she told herself.

"Just at your hands," Sanosuke admitted unashamedly, his gutterpunk grin
returning slowly.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

"What about them?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. They're nice looking. For a doctor."

The fool. "They're just hands," she said, her voice tense. "They get dirty a
lot."

Sanosuke raised his eyebrows. "Oh, you mean when you get blood all over them
and shit between your fingernails?" He almost laughed. "That doesn't matter."

Because white was meant to be stained.

"Because you can wash them," he said simply, unable to comprehend the
underlying analogy.

Unable to stop herself, she felt the corners of her mouth turn upwards. "It
doesn't work. They'll always feel dirty." She finished cutting and placed the
knife on the cooking board slowly.

"What are you saying, Fox?" Sanosuke rolled his eyes, annoyed with Megumi's
subdued atmosphere. Without consideration, he reached for her hands and held
them in his own. His were large and dark skinned, the veins bulging slightly
from all those years of wielding his zanbatou. Hers were delicate and pale,
but the tips of her fingers were slightly roughened by pressing the needle
between them too many times. And before she could protest or jerk them away,
he said in an oddly soft voice, "They're beautiful."

Megumi stared at him for a moment before slipping her hands away, like a man
exhaling his last breath. As if she didn't hear him, she said, "Sano." Her
voice was steady.

"Yeah?"

She turned her back to him, facing the window once more. "Tell Kenshin and the
girls to come inside. Lunch is ready."

Sanosuke only nodded and muttered "okay" before walking out of the kitchen,
giving Megumi a quick glance before completely disappearing. She didn't bother
watching him go because there he was outside with Kenshin, hands in his
pockets while slouching again. The man could never present himself properly,
but the statement was viewed with a touch of fondness. She looked down and put
the dish of radishes with the other set of plates on the lunch tray that she
would momentarily serve to all of them.

But not before she wiped the wetness away from her eyes.


NOTES: Wow, this is my first Megumi centered fic (an idioticly waffy one, that
is). It's a short one because I'm still floundering with character and her
interactions with Sanosuke. I used to not like Megumi, but now I really do--
even more so than Kaoru. She's so realistic and holds her own. All in all,
she's a great looking bitch with a fantastic personality. Hm, maybe if this
fic goes well, I'll start moving on to my S/M phase. Who knows.