How to Avoid the Sun
Sanosuke Sagara was walking around the small town of Kyoto when he felt his stomach grumble. It only meant one thing: it was time to visit the Kamiya dojo.
It was a pretty summer day. The sun was shining brightly in the azure sky. People strolled around lazily under the cherry trees, talking and laughing. But they cast dark glances at him whenever he passed them by.
Sanosuke didn't mind them and went on his way. He was a tall man with brown hair that resembled a rooster's because of the way it was cut. He was wearing a white shirt with "Bad" written on it as well as a red bandana tied around his forehead. Everyone knew that Sanosuke Sagara was a skilled martial artist.
He arrived at the dojo and noticed that Myojin Yahiko wasn't doing his usual chore of sweeping the yard. Where could the brat be? He thought before shrugging dismissively. With hands on his pockets, he entered the main house.
Kamiya Kaoru wasn't in the training hall either. The dark-haired woman would usually throw rags towards him at first sight. She was normally found there at this time of day. Sano went to the side corridor to peek if he could find his good friend, Himura Kenshin hanging the clothes. There wasn't any sign of him.
Where the hell could they be? Sano thought as he walked around the house. Everything was still and he could even hear the mice scurrying in the ceiling. But as he neared the kitchen, he heard the distinct sounds of someone chopping.
"Aha!" he said as he slid open the door. He expected to find the usual inhabitants of the Kamiya dojo congregated there but found a raven-haired woman chopping vegetables with her back to him. His jaw dropped open as she turned to him, her eyebrows raised.
"What the hell are you doing here!" Sano blurted out in shock.
Takani Megumi flipped her long hair to one side before smirking. "I am the woman of the house," she said matter-of-factly. "And you are trespassing."
"Trespassing my dog, woman, where is everybody?" he asked roughly. "And wait a second, you're delusional again! How dare you imagine yourself as Kenshin's wife?"
Megumi merely turned her back on him and returned to her neglected chore. She didn't mind Sanosuke although he was probably the most annoying man alive. "Ask nicely. And don't swear in front of a woman."
"You still call yourself a woman?" muttered Sano incredulously. His brown eyes were blazing. He couldn't stand this vixen of a woman. She always managed to annoy him and bring him to the ends of his wits.
"You just said so." Megumi replied as she set aside the carrots for the miso soup. She began on the cabbage.
"Where are- I hate repeating myself. Tell me, woman." Sano leaned against the doorway, arms crossed in front of his chest. If she was going to tease him, he'll be ready for her.
"There now, all done. Now it's time to cook it." She was deliberately ignoring him. She knew Sano hated being ignored and she was going to use it against him.
"Hey! Where. Is. Kenshin. And. Kaoru…" Sano said through gritted teeth. This woman was already getting on his nerves. Megumi continued to blab to herself about how delicious her soup was. "Are you even listening to me!"
"Hmmm, did you say something, Sano?" she said with a saccharine smile. Inside, she was smirking at him. He was red with fury and he looked ready to strangle her. Then Megumi pretended to remember what he was there for. "Oh, you must be here for lunch. Kenshin my honey-pie had said something about it."
Kenshin is her honey-pie! "I always go here for lunch. You should've known that by now." he said, trying to calm him although he was positive that steam is coming out of his ears.
"Freeloader," Megumi muttered to herself before smiling in mock apology. "But I'm sorry, Sano. I've only cooked for myself. There isn't any left. I'm so sorry."
"Aargh, I'm tired of this game already! Just tell me where they are and I'll leave!" Sano burst out as Megumi smirked.
"Knew you couldn't handle it… Anyway, they are in a foreign fair of some sort in another town. They will be gone the whole day. Kenshin-dear told me to say sorry they didn't get to invite you. The invitation was only for three people, from the Police force I think." Megumi said sweetly. Sano threw her a dirty look before slamming the door behind him.
How he hated her!
Sanosuke ended up eating at the Akabeko without paying for it. Tae had to add it on his tab that gets longer and longer every year. But she couldn't force him to pay up because he usually was the one to break up fights whenever they got too serious.
He was walking on the bridge at a leisurely pace when he saw a drunken man slump down on the ground right beside the river. Sano, after years of hanging out with Kenshin, sprang into action.
The man looked well-dressed and too classy to be drunk but he held a huge sake bottle on his left hand. Sano was used to drunks and helped them home, especially if they were his friends. But this man was a new face. This was the first time Sano ever saw him.
Sano bent down and lifted the man easily as if he was just a sack of rice. The man mumbled something unintelligible before snoring. The brown-haired man snorted. "You can just thank me later."
There was only one place where he could bring this man for help.
They ended up in Megumi's clinic. The door was shut tight but Sano didn't hesitate in banging on it. He kept on knocking until Megumi opened it at last, out of annoyance.
"What do you want?" she asked indignantly.
"Well, I just happened to drop by and see if my friend, Megumi the Kitsune would cure this guy from a hangover." Sano replied sarcastically. She glanced at the man and assessed his condition. He seemed all right for the most part, just drunk.
"Come in." Megumi slid open the shoji door and let them in. Sano laid the man down on the futon carefully. The dark-haired doctor was already pouring lukewarm water into a basin.
Sano watched her graceful movements thoughtfully. She was candid and intelligent and had a razor sharp tongue. Her long waist-length hair was tied up into a messy ponytail that revealed her smooth neck. Megumi was wearing her doctor's outfit but she tied the long kimono sleeves out of the way to reveal her creamy white arms. He felt his cheeks redden.
He sat down and leaned back on the doorway to watch Megumi work. She was wiping his face and neck with a white towel. As far as he knew, the kitsune was used to treating drunkards.
"Where did you find him?" asked Megumi as she twisted the white towel.
"By the river, apparently he slipped into unconsciousness before he can commit suicide." Sano said lightly. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and surveyed the man with vague curiosity.
"I doubt if anyone would have helped him. You're quite the good Samaritan." Megumi said softly as she stared at the man.
"Nah… just community work," Sanosuke said without a hint of distaste.
She chuckled to herself before getting up to get her tea set. "May I tempt you with tea?" she said, smiling persuasively.
"No, there must be poison in there." Sanosuke said as he sniffed the teacup suspiciously.
"How did you know?" Megumi smiled vexingly.
"There really is!" Sanosuke reacted and nearly threw the teacup at her.
"Just kidding!" she said, laughing. "My, Sano, you're becoming quite paranoid."
He blushed bright red before yelling, "Shut up woman!"
They heard a slight moan and they both turned to the man lying on the futon. He was stirring.
"Our patient is awake." Megumi remarked as she hurried over to assist him. The man sat up and blinked groggily. He had a hand on his forehead and was moaning slightly. "My head hurts…" he said.
"Of course, it would since it seems you've consumed large amounts of wine on such a short period of time. It's only natural for you to have a huge hangover." Megumi explained in a stern tone. She offered him a cup of black tea.
"Thanks." The man said and quickly took a sip.
"Why were you heading for the river anyway?" Sano asked directly.
He stiffened and looked down. Megumi sent the brown-haired man a glare before asking again in a more soothing tone. The classy-looking young man sighed and introduced himself as Kyou.
"I think it would be all right to tell the story now that it's over…"
"What's over?" the other two chorused.
"My fiancée had just dumped me for another man. I went to the nearest bar and ordered their best sake. Then I went to drink by myself in a street corner when I saw the Shirakawa stream in the distance. I thought, well, why not throw it away!" Even though he tried to sound fine, Sano detected some regret and sadness.
"What are you going to throw away?" asked Megumi in an interested voice.
"This." Kyou drew out a diamond ring from his breast pocket. It wasn't that big but it certainly was beautiful. The young man stared at it wistfully. "She gave, or rather, threw it back at me."
"What!" the doctor said incredulously.
"That's why I decided to throw it away… but then I was so drunk…" said Kyou softly "If only I wasn't supposed to marry her… then I couldn't have gotten into this situation."
"Ah, it was an arranged marriage then."
"No… Actually, I love her very much."
"What!" it was Sano's turn to be surprised.
"Then why would he even spend time and money getting drunk? It's obvious that Kyou-san here loves her." Megumi snapped. She turned to Kyou, her brown eyes glinting mischievously. "Why don't we help you out?"
"We-"Sano tried to get the words out from behind the hand clapped on his mouth. Megumi smiled innocently. "We'd love to help restore your love."
"You're so kind!" Kyou bowed deeply.
"I don't want to help…" Sano whispered furiously. "Shut up. We're going to!" she snapped as her eyes narrowed dangerously at him.
Sano frowned angrily while Megumi smiled benevolently. He was stuck with one of Megumi's crazy matchmaking plans. Lately, she's been doing that a lot. It was as if she'd taken to heart that she'd help her patients in every way. May it be on physical injuries or injuries of the heart Megumi was there to help!
He didn't want to take any part on this… but he was really stuck.
"Are you sure it's okay for you to leave your clinic?" asked Sano grumpily as Megumi walked beside him. Kyou was walking two steps ahead of them. The dark-haired woman smiled sweetly.
"Oh, I'm pretty sure that nothing serious will happen…" she replied with conviction. Her cinnamon-colored eyes twinkled mischievously. "I'm pretty sure everything we discussed will go as planned."
"This is called meddling, Fox lady." Sanosuke said through gritted teeth. She waved her hand dismissively.
"Just because you don't have a love life doesn't mean others can't…" Megumi retorted with another of her saccharine smiles. She was at least 99 percent sure that her plan was foolproof.
Kyou was deeply, madly, in love with his fiancée Rin. The young man had confessed that he'd felt this feelings when they were children and they flourished as they grew up. There was nothing against them except perhaps that Rin had taken another man as her new fiancée.
Ah, love. Megumi smiled to herself. She might look like a strict and no-nonsense sort of woman but she was a hopeless romantic. There was nothing else that gives her the sort of satisfaction when she helped couples rekindle love or nudge people along the way. Most of her interventions turned out successful. And they called her 'Nakoudo' or Matchmaker.
She reviewed their short discussion in her mind. Kyou was a shy guy and he hadn't openly admitted to Rin his undying love for her. In fact, it was his first time to get drunk after getting scorned.
"Kyou-san, listen well. This is my advice… You must admit to Rin-san your true feelings. According your story, Rin agreed to marry you after a talk with both of your parents. I understand her feelings. It must've seemed to the poor girl that you were forced into it. She may be testing how far you will go for your love by having another man." Megumi said earnestly.
"She is putting me in torment… Kami-sama, how it hurt to see her locked in another man's arms… and my friend at that!" said Kyou despairingly.
"You give up too easily." Sanosuke remarked dryly.
"It is impossible for a girl to not know about your feelings if you've known each other long enough… She is just testing you. Kyou-san, I advise you to visit her again and this time, propose to her properly. Be romantic and all those stuff… Rin-san might just fall into your arms and admit your feelings…No girl can resist such sweetness." Megumi said as she stared at Kyou's eyes seriously. "If you really love her, you'll do anything to admit it."
"Yosha, I'll do as you say… Arigatou Megumi-san and Sanosuke-san," Kyou bowed deeply.
Kyou was nice and looked like he would make a perfect husband. Although he may get discouraged sometimes, just a little push would send him off like a trooper. What girl can resist such boyish charm?
She sighed softly. If only men were more like Kyou-san. Sweet and sensitive to women's feelings and would do anything to please them. Sanosuke for example, was the complete opposite of Kyou-san.
He was rude, hotheaded, and utterly masculine. Sanosuke does treat women with respect but he rarely showed it and he would usually engage in a cat fight with her. He doesn't hesitate to exchange hot words with either her or Kaoru. And he would definitely have none of that lovey-dovey stuff.
"This is where she lives." Kyou's voice broke through her reverie and she looked up with Sanosuke to a sprawling estate. Their jaws dropped open in shock. Kyou had said that Rin was wealthy but they didn't expect anything like this.
"Well, go on. You can do it, Kyou-san. We'll be hiding behind this tree. Good luck!" Megumi said and she headed for the huge peach tree at the side of the road. She went to a comfortable spot where she could watch everything.
Sano lagged behind and approached Kyou. He slung an arm around the young man. "Look, I can't offer any advice to you except punch the daylights out of that guy. Chances are he might have fallen for Rin too. If he refuses to give her up…" Sano demonstrated a punch at the wall. It cracked in the middle. Kyou watched with wide eyes.
The brown-haired man dusted off his hands and went behind the tree too. He settled against the trunk and closed his eyes. Now he would just have to wait until all of this is over before he can go and have a nice long nap.
A breeze passed and played with the leaves and Megumi's hair. It didn't escape Sano's senses as her natural scent engulfed him like some powerful perfume. She smelled like peach blossoms in bloom. He inhaled softly and smiled unconsciously as stray strands caressed his face delicately. Sano was drowning in her scent.
"May I speak with Rin-san?" The two could clearly hear Kyou's voice. They peered closer as they peeked behind the tree. Kyou had his back towards them and was facing the doorway. Suddenly a lovely young woman came out, followed by another man.
"Wow, that's one pretty girl…" Sano muttered under his breath. Rin had creamy white skin, long jet-black hair, and almond-shaped eyes the color of amber. She was dressed in a beautiful kimono of pinks and blues. Her gracefulness spoke of her rich background.
Megumi didn't know why but she suddenly felt annoyed. Why, she was more beautiful than her! It was only her youth and innocence that attracted Sanosuke. Whichever way she looked at it, she was still sexier and prettier than her. Red patches appeared on her cheeks as she continued to listen to some more of Sano's adoration to the young woman.
"What are you doing here?" asked Rin. Megumi detected a slight tremor in her voice. Aha! She thought with satisfaction, she was just playing with Kyou!
"I came to ask you something…" Kyou started to say and threw a fraction of a glance towards the people hiding behind the tree. Sano gave him a thumbs-up sign and Kyou nodded, feeling braver by the minute. "Will you be my wife Rin-chan?"
Megumi stifled a squeal of delight as Kyou knelt and held out the pretty diamond ring. But she also wanted to hit Sano for being such a killjoy. He kept muttering that he was going to go throw up if she doesn't mind.
"I've always loved you Rin-chan. Ever since we were children. I've never wanted anything more in my entire life. I am not forced by my parents. I do this from my own free will."
"Oh, Kyou-kun," Rin covered her mouth as tears of happiness brimmed at her eyes. She stared happily as Kyou slipped the ring on her finger. They clasped hands and stared at each other's eyes. Kyou's friend clapped a hand on his shoulder, congratulating him for getting over his shyness.
"Let's go." Sano said quietly and grabbed her arm. He silently reveled in the softness of her skin and tried not to hurt her too much as he dragged her away. Megumi didn't protest as she was exhilarated by the way things were going.
The pair went back to the dojo for a cup of tea under Kaoru's expense. Megumi had reasoned impishly that it was for the success of their mission. Sano groaned inwardly; he'd never seen anything mushier in his entire life. He must have developed some kind of allergy for those sorts of things.
Megumi was skilled in making tea. Sano can't help but watch her graceful movements and artful way of making it. She looked like the epitome of a perfect wife. Smart, beautiful, and skillful were definitely up on his standards for wifehood.
Sanosuke made sure that the fox lady wasn't looking before hitting himself on the forehead. What was he thinking! Fox lady wasn't good wife material! It would be hellish to be with her for one day, what more if it was 24 hours everyday of his life?
"Here, you must be thirsty." Megumi said as she placed the cup in front of him. She was smiling. Sano sniffed at it suspiciously before taking a sip.
Silence fell between them as they sat together, drinking tea. It was very unusual for them. One of them was bound to break it sooner or later.
"That Kyou… was getting drunk just because of a girl… baka…" Sano muttered as he drank some more tea.
"Excuse me, Sano, but Kyou-san loves Rin-san." Megumi said with a glare.
"But that's a shallow excuse! Women bring trouble and love brings more trouble!" he said resentfully.
"He loves Rin-san. It is love," the doctor countered. She can't understand why he was so angry about it. Apparently, the rooster head doesn't know what it feels to be in love yet.
"Love!" scoffed the brown-haired man "brings trouble. It led men and warriors to war. And besides, you can stop yourself from feeling it."
The fox lady couldn't take it anymore. She slapped the small table, hard. "You're such a narrow-minded fool! You can't avoid love! How can you? It's like asking how to avoid the sun!"
"But love equals stupidity! And it leads men to more trouble if they pursue it!" Sano said heatedly but didn't answer her argument. He found her cinnamon-colored eyes blazing quite cute. "And you can avoid the sun!"
"How, Mr. Genius?" she challenged.
Sano was momentarily silenced before bursting up again. "Don't open the curtains! Hide under your blanket! Live underground!" he yelled.
He didn't expect such a reaction from her. Megumi was laughing! His brown eyes looked confused for a moment before he smiled too.
"You are so stupid…" she chuckled as she wiped away tears of mirth. "You're impossible Sagara Sanosuke!"
"I guess I am," he said, shrugging with a small laugh.
"You don't know love yet." Megumi said as she stared at him steadily. "It's a wonderful feeling. As if you're feeling so much happiness it threatens to overflow form your heart. Like the sun I suppose, you can't help but share it and lighten other people's lives with your sunshine. Or the person you love is your own sun. What I'm trying to say is you're happy when you're in love."
Sanosuke, in fact, had been in love. It was a secret. He loved Takani Megumi, the doctor a.k.a Fox lady very much. His annoying her was just a front for his real emotions. Sano loved her sharp remarks and witty banters with him; and he worshipped the ground Megumi walked on albeit secretly.
He'd initiated this conversation partly because he wanted to find out what Megumi thought about love and why she kept playing matchmaker and to prolong the time he spent with her.
"Is that so? Love hurts people. Like Kyou, it drives them to do things out of desperation." Sano said, partly inserting some of his own thoughts into it.
"Yes, but there is more happiness than pain you know. Like you warriors, 'no pain, no gain'." Megumi said softly. She met his stare squarely and wished desperately that her eyes gave nothing away. Her face was often a mask but she cannot school her eyes into hiding her true emotions.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" she said weakly. His eyes were burning with undisguised passion and adoration. How she wished that he meant them so!
Sano realized that Megumi's crazy notions on love were actually true. He was happy.
"You know, you're pretty quick at repartee…" he said huskily. Her eyes were reflecting his emotions… were it true or just his imagination?
She realized with a jolt that they were flirting. Suddenly she regretted her decision of making tea for him. She had miscalculated her actions! All she wanted was to spend some time with him and ended up risking her feelings for it.
Megumi loved Sanosuke. She was intrigued and attracted at the same time when he helped save her from Kanryu. He was so cold and so judgmental… definitely not her type at first because she resented and wanted him at the same time.
But then by and by she finally admitted to herself that she loved Sagara Sanosuke although he was far from her ideal man.
"What are you saying?" she croaked as he slowly leaned until he was only inches apart from her face.
"That you're my sun?" he retorted with a sheepish grin.
Megumi's eyes widened. "You love me!"
"Why do you look so shocked?" he asked lazily as he leaned back and gaze her some breathing space again.
"Because all this time I thought you hated me!" said Megumi as a million thoughts and feelings raced around her mind and heart. "You don't show the usual signs, you always fight with me, and you never even respect me! How can I be your sun! You sound so skeptical about love that I almost wanted to give up on you!"
"You did?" Sano looked startled at her last statement.
"Of course, I did. Who in their right mind would love a person who had drawn iron curtains around his heart to stop love from coming in? You sounded like you hated love!"
"I don't…" he trailed off uncertainly until he found his voice again "I love you. You grew on me as time passed. I worship the ground you walk on. Isn't that enough?"
Megumi shook her head smilingly. "No, tell me more."
"I wanted to spend time with you that were my reason why I even agreed to go to this private little tea party."
"Go on." she nodded. So they were both thinking through the same lines!
"And you always sounded like you don't want to accept me too." Sano said with a trace of hurt but he smiled hopefully. "Will you accept me now, Megumi?"
She gasped as she heard him say her name for the first time. Not fox lady or doctor or just woman… but Megumi.
"You know the answer Sanosuke," she whispered and held out her hand. He took it and they held hands.
"You're right… you can't avoid the sun," said Sano as he stared at her.
And they sat together, sipping tea in heartfelt silence like they would for the next day and everyday for their entire lives.
How to Avoid the Sun
Request fic granted for Loneangel… Love you girl! Take care!