"Gifts And Curses"

Author's Note: I don't own anything—I swear! Slightly AU—things happen here that didn't happen in either the manga or the anime but I'm calling Creative License on this one.

Synopsis: Sanosuke and Megumi—who could pick a better couple? But Megumi is rumored to be engaged to another man! Sanosuke can't bear to see her—and she can't bear not to see him… Are the rumors true? Will Sanosuke get the girl he's fought so hard for?

Mary belongs to the words of a song.
I try to be strong for her, try not to be wrong for her.
But she will not wait for me, anymore, anymore.
Why did I say all those things before? I was sure.

Sanosuke turned his back on the crowd and headed for the edge of town. He never liked fairs anyway, or that's what he told himself. He had agreed to go with the rest of the Kenshingumi, but when they all got together, it just wasn't right for him anymore.

He didn't know exactly what was happening to him. He was never one to get nervous, never one to shy away from a good time or a challenge, but, since the battle of Enishi, since Kenshin and Kaoru had made their love public, and he had become all too aware of his own feelings.

He knew she thought of him as a kid; a punk, a street rat who knew nothing but booze and gambling. But he also knew that he was so much more than that. The lady-doctor never saw that he had the heart of a warrior, or that he was loyal to his friends even to death. She didn't see his strengths, because she was always picking out his misgivings. She certainly didn't see that he loved her. So they fought. They argued and they threw things. They screamed and yelled every chance they could get—and he had given them plenty of chances. He came by the doctor's office nearly every day with something wrong. His hand, a broken nose—he got in fights just to see her. But she only thought he was a reckless hoodlum.

What Takani Megumi did not see, was that Sanosuke was a man.

(She is the one), but I have a purpose,
(she is the one), and I have to fight this,
(she is the one), a villain I can't knock down.

Sanosuke slunk into the shadows with a familiar grace. He was used to being a backdrop for society. All his life he strived to stand out—to make something of himself, but even at his greatest moments, it was as though she were blind.

Now, it was rumored, she was engaged to some doctor from China. Sanosuke heard the news at the Akabeko, and even though it was hearsay, he could not bring himself to see Megumi. He couldn't bear to see that starry-eyed look on her face, that look that told him that she was in love with someone other than him. He tried to push her out of his mind, he tried to ignore the way he felt, but it was an emotion too strong for him to ignore. Sanosuke wanted to wallow in his misery alone. So, when he learned that the Kenshingumi was meeting her and a few friends from Kyoto, Sanosuke hung back, and then disappeared. He knew with the merriment and the good news Megumi would share, he wouldn't be missed.

-

Megumi stood outside the doctor's office and sighed. Two weeks had passed since she had seen that rooster-head, and she was getting worried. When Kenshin and Kaoru and the others came, she pretended to feel ill, and told them to go on without her. She wandered blindly around her shop, pretending to clean things up, and after pacing the floor a while, she could no longer stand the claustrophobia the little office produced on her. She stepped back outside, into the moonlight, and headed toward the Kamiya Dojo. She knew no one would be there, and she needed time to think.

Walking alone in the streets at night never particularly terrified her. But then, she never really had to walk alone. Sanosuke had always been with her. She found herself thinking more on the tall man as the days and hours passed, and at first she had not known why. But as she walked she realized that she loved him. When they saw each other day after day, Megumi could pretend that the anger and frustration she showed toward him was real, but when she was left to fend for herself, it became apparent that she needed Sanosuke. She both loved and hated that thought.

Rounding a corner, to take a shortcut, Megumi ran directly into something decidedly warm and firm. Before she could fall backwards, strong arms reached out and grasped her shoulders, steadying her.

"Megumi?"

I see your face with every punch I take,
and every bone I break, it's all for you.
And my worst pains are words I cannot say;
still I will always fight on for you.

Sanosuke cursed under his breath at the sight of her. He thought surely that everyone in town would be at the fair, and even if everyone didn't go, surely Megumi would. Then, unexpectedly, of all the people in the town, he had to run into her.

"Rooster-Head!" Megumi's cry was hoarse and shrill. She stepped back, and replaced her mask and frowned up at him. "Why aren't you at the fair!" But even as she spoke, she realized that something was wrong with the man standing in front of her. "…What's wrong?"

Sanosuke shut his eyes and took two or three steps away from her, back into the shadows. "Why aren't you at the fair, Megumi?" He asked, not looking at her. His head was bowed and his body was rigid.

"I didn't feel like going…" She murmured, her body involuntarily taking a step toward him. She noticed him flinch, as if she'd slapped him, and she backed away. Sanosuke was acting strange, and Megumi didn't know why. It was then, also, that she noticed he'd called her by her name, not once, but twice. Megumi gulped, "Sano?"

"Leave me alone." His voice was cold, and unexpected. Even Sanosuke himself shook his head at the tone. "I have to go." He said, clearing his throat. He turned slowly and began to walk away from her, but Megumi, panicking, reached out and caught his arm.

"Wait. Please." She whispered, emotion filling her, she thought in that moment, she might cry. "Don't leave me alone in the streets; I was heading to Kaoru's. Walk with me." Megumi knew she sounded desperate, and very unlike herself, but what was a girl to do?

Sanosuke choked on his own breath. He did not understand why Megumi was acting the way she was, and he didn't know how to respond to her. 'Perhaps she's trying to tell me—gently.' He thought pitifully. But despite himself, he turned to face her and nodded. "Okay, Megumi, I'll walk you."

-

Sanosuke didn't offer her is arm as he always did, in jest. He walked two or three paces behind her, not looking at her, if he could help it. There was no conversation between them, which he knew was also very awkward, but he couldn't help it. She was engaged, though there was no sign of it, and that meant that she was off-limits.

He shook his head—'this is the girl I risked my neck for. I fought for her, I nearly died for her— she could live in a world without crazy dictators, and civil wars.' His thoughts were everywhere, and nowhere. 'Without her, I have nothing.' He repeated to himself, and shut his eyes tight to keep in the tears.

Mary's alive in the bright New York sky,
the city lights shine for her, above them I cry for her.
Everything's small on the ground below, down below.
What if I fall, then where would I go, would she know?

Megumi grew more worried, and angrier with every step she took. Finally, spinning on her heels, the tears rushed to her eyes, and she screamed at Sanosuke. "What's wrong with you!" The question was more of a plea, but Megumi had gotten his attention.

Sano's head jerked up, and he saw the emotion dripping down Megumi's face. 'Me?' He thought—'What's wrong with you?' He shook head and took a few steps toward her; she had stopped under a street lantern just outside the Kamiya Dojo, and he could see her anger and confusion clearly on her face. "I love you." He said, and the statement surprised him as much as it did her. He wanted to run, but he knew that was foolish. Instead he braced himself for the slap that was inevitable.

"What!" Megumi's voice was incredulous. She didn't know what to say—'Can I say it back to him?' She wondered. But before she could open her mouth to speak, Sanosuke was screaming at her.

"I have always loved you! Every time we fought, every time you scolded me, every time you told me how dumb I looked or how stupid I was, I loved you! I'm a man, Megumi, not some kid you see me as—and now you're getting married, and I can't help it I—"

"MARRIED!" Megumi spit out, interrupting him, "Who said I was getting MARRIED!"

Sanosuke's brows knitted, had he misunderstood? He knew it was perfectly possible, he had been a little drunk that evening. He felt stupid. "I overheard someone at the Akabeko—two weeks ago. Some doctor from China—I don't know." Sanosuke wanted to die.

"I don't know what you're talking about—but I'm not getting married. I don't know anyone from China—or, at least no one I'd marry…" Megumi shook her head and stepped toward the man standing before her. "The only man I'd ever say yes to hasn't asked me yet. He's been too busy avoiding me." She dared a smile when he looked at her.

(she is the one), all that I wanted,
(she is the one), and I will be haunted,
(she is the one), this gift is my curse for now.

Sanosuke could feel the heat between them—and this time, for the first time, he understood that it wasn't animosity they shared, it was passion. Without thinking, he reached out and took a lock of her hair between his fingers. Pushing it over her shoulder, he cradled her head in his hand and pulled her close to him and kissed her gently.

Megumi responded, pressing her palms to his chest, then running her hands down, feeling the muscles quiver under her touch, until her arms wrapped themselves around his waist. She savored the feel of his lips on hers, the way his smell intoxicated her, the feel of his body against her own…

They were both shaking when Sanosuke pulled himself away from her. Looking at her, and then around them, she smiled. "We're going to have some explaining to do—you know that?" He grinned down at her, she knew well what he meant, and she nodded. "I was foolish, Megumi. Forgive me." He whispered, then, closing his eyes.

"All is forgotten, Sano." She savored the taste of his name in her mouth, dragging it out and swirling it around as if it were chocolate. In the back of her mind, she conceived an idea, and, with a sly fox-like grin, she stepped out of their embrace, and tugged on his hand, pulling them through the gates. "No one's here, now." She said, cryptically. "I don't think Kaoru would mind the use of her facilities."

Sanosuke's eyes shrunk into narrow, devilish little slits, "Kenshin's going to kill me." But with that, he followed her lead most enthusiastically.


I see your face with every punch I take,
and every bone I break, it's all for you.
And my worst pains are words I cannot say;
still I will always fight on for you. Fight on for you ...

The room Sano used when he slept over was always kept clean—until then. In their play, Sanosuke and Megumi knocked over tables, sending lamps crashing to the floor, Knocking over water pitchers and armor stands, and shedding the layers of cloth that separated them, they left a thorough disaster in their passion-filled wake.

-

The next morning, when the Kenshingumi returned to the Dojo, they found Megumi and Sanosuke already awake and cleaning up. Kaoru nearly fainted when she walked into the yard and found Sanosuke sweeping. "What is going on here?´ She asked, and Sanosuke and Megumi hid their secret smiles and shrugged.

"We thought, since you and Kenshin and the others were gone, we would try and repay you for your hospitality." Megumi called, walking out into the yard with a towel in her hands. She was a clever liar.

Kenshin grinned to himself, knowing exactly what had transpired the night before. He kept his mouth shut, knowing that the two would share their happy news when the time was right for them. His eyes met Sanosuke's and in that look, they shared all they needed to. Warriors they were, and friends and Sanosuke nodded slightly, gratefully for Kenshin's silence.

Looking back at Megumi, Sanosuke sighed to himself and propped the broom up against one of the large wooden posts that held up the roof. Their fighting had been a gift to him—and a curse. But he knew now, that he had won the fight.

Fight on for you...

(c) 2005

The Fary Tale Mistress