Epilogue: (Can you have an epilogue in a one-shot?)

"Are you alright, Sanosuke?"

"How many times have you asked me that, Yahiko?"

"I'll keep asking it until you tell me the truth."

"I'm fine. Leave me alone."

"That wasn't even slightly convincing."

I snorted; the boy was getting on my nerves. "Go to hell."

"I'd rather not; who would take care of you, then?"

"I don't need—"

"You don't need a lot of things, Sano. But you do need my help."

"I don't need help. I don't need you."

"But you need him?"

I glared at Yahiko out of the corner of my eye. "I don't need anyone."

"Let me rephrase that, then. You want him."

"Shut up, Yahiko." I tied the cloth firmly, swinging my makeshift bag over my shoulder. "He's married now. I—" My voice broke and I clenched my fist, furious at myself for being so weak. "I have to go."

"Sano—"

"What?" I whirled around, teeth bared, ready to fight. "I've stayed here long enough! I need some space!"

"You need to talk to him before you go." Yahiko was so calm, so collected. Such a far cry from the spastic little kid he'd been. "You're running away from the wrong thing, Sano. If you don't end this now, you're just going to keep punishing yourself for it later."

"When the hell did you become a philosopher?"

"Sano. Stop being an ass and go talk to him. Your bags won't run away. You can always leave this evening." He slid the bag off my shoulder with nimble fingers.

I heaved a dramatic sigh. "You can't make this easy on me, can you?"

Yahiko grinned wickedly. "I try, Sano. I try."

"Kenshin?" I rapped gently on his door. "Are you in there?"

"Yes."

I slid open the door. "Hey," I greeted, attempting a smile. I must have failed, because his brow wrinkled with concern. "How are you?"

"Fine, Sanosuke. Did you wish to discuss something?" He smiled gently at me and I bit back a sob. He really was beautiful, sitting there dressed only in a loose yukata, hair unbound and spilling over his narrow shoulders.

"Yeah, actually. You mind if I sit?"

"Not at all."

I folded my legs under me, trying my best to ignore the two futons pushed together, the two headrests, the sounds of Kaoru singing as she cooked, cheerfully poisoning us all.

"What was it you needed?"

"I—damn it," I swore. "I'm no good at this. Look, Kenshin, I'm leaving."

He looked surprised. "Leaving? Why?"

I snorted. "Don't play with me, Kenshin. I've had enough. You know why I'm leaving. I just—I wanted to say goodbye."

"Sanosuke, I—" he paused. "I never meant—I am sorry."

"So am I."

"I loved you. You may not believe me, but I loved you."

"Then why marry Kaoru?"

"Because I love her. And because she needs me far more than you do, Sanosuke. She's not as strong as you are."

"Who are you to judge that?" I asked quietly. "Who are you to decide who needs you and who doesn't?" I can already feel my traitorous eyes pricking with tears. "I needed you. I still do. I still love you, Kenshin."

"I am sorry."

My temper flared. "That's all I get from you? 'Sorry, Sano, but I didn't really mean to fuck you—it just sort of happened.' That's it, Kenshin? This is how we end? You didn't even tell me you were engaged. I wouldn't have—shit, Kenshin, why?"

"I too have known the pain of loss, Sano. You with Captain Sagara, I with Tomoe—and therein lies the problem."

"What are you talking about?"

"It wasn't good for either of us, Sano. You need someone who can make you smile, someone with joy to balance your pain. I cannot be that person for you. I love you, and I have to let you go."

"The fuck?" I burst out. "What, you dumped me 'cause I wasn't fucking happy enough? I was happy with you, Kenshin! I—"

"No, Sano," he said gently. "Licking each other's wounds wouldn't have done us any good. We would have ended up hating each other. I wanted to end it amicably—so perhaps we could still be friends."

I got to my feet shakily. I just got the 'friends' speech from Kenshin. It was time. I was done. Enough already.

"Goodbye Kenshin. I—maybe I'll see you again someday."

"I hope so," he said, sorrow in his eyes. "Take care of yourself, Sano. Come back to us safely, won't you? I'll be waiting."

I nodded, not trusting myself to look at him. "One more thing," I said , pausing in the doorway. "Does Kaoru know?"

"Yes. She knows."

"She's not mad?"

"She said she was honoured to share my love with you."

"She's grown up a lot."

"Yes," he agreed.

"Ja ne, Kenshin."

"Ja ne, Sanosuke."

"Aishiteru."

"Aa."

Owari