Hijikata slowed his steps as he got closer to Souji's room. Ostensibly it was so that he wouldn't make any noise and wake Souji up—should he have been resting like he was supposed to be doing—but secretly he was starting to feel rather foolish for checking up on Souji like some worried mother. He frowned as that thought went through his mind, and he could hear Souji in his head teasing him about it in that silvery voice of his that was aggravating and appeasing all at once. He shook his head, pushing the thought and Souji's voice out of his mind. Souji was his subordinate and therefore his responsibility. It was only right that he check up on him once in a while, like a good vice-commander. He was not worried, he was merely concerned.

It occurred to him that he didn't know what he should do once he reached Souji's room, whether he should just sneak a peek to make sure everything was alright, or maybe go in and sit awhile, or...? None of the options seemed fitting, but he couldn't very well stand outside like an idiot while he made up his mind. He growled silently at himself, getting increasingly irritated with the whole situation. He was usually very decisive and sure of his actions, but lately things had become more…complicated, especially when it came to Souji, and Hijikata had a feeling that this was just the beginning. He resolved to talk to Kondou about what to do with Souji, especially since the men were starting to wonder why their first captain was taking so long to recover from the raid on the Ikedaya. Yes, that is what he should do. Problem settled, he felt the tension he hadn't realized he was holding between his brows loosen and dissipate.

His reprieve was short lived, though, for now he was faced with his original problem, in the form of a closed door. Hijikata was faintly surprised to find that he had already reached his destination, and he did not like being caught unaware of his surroundings, nor the fact that he still hadn't decided what to do. It wasn't like him to be so distracted and off balance. He looked at the closed door un-amusedly, as if everything was its fault. The door looked impassively back at him, not budging. This whole thing was getting more irritating by the minute. Maybe if he turned around right now, no one would notic—


He froze. Damn.

He turned around slowly, bristling with annoyance as he fixed the intruder with a glare strong enough to melt lead. Tetsu took a step back involuntarily and scrambled for a second when he nearly lost hold of his broom.

"Umm…" said Tetsu, suddenly realizing that he may have caught Hijikata at a bad time and wishing very much to use the broom as a shield. "Err, never mind, I'm sure it'll be fine," he said, quickly, and started edging away.

"You're sure that what will be fine?" growled Hijikata, stopping Tetsu's getaway and fixing him to the spot.

Tetsu swallowed hard. There was no point to hiding it from Hijikata-san, so it was best to just spit it out. Besides, it really wasn't that big of a deal, or at least, he didn't think so. Definitely not big enough for Hijikata-san to order him to commit seppuku, he told himself.

"I know you said not to let the pig in, but…" and here Tetsu cringed as Hijikata's eyes flared, "but it ran in when I was getting Okita-san some water, and I haven't been able to get it out since."

Hijikata fixed him with a withering look, as if he couldn't believe that Tetsu was unable to take care of something as simple as getting a small pig out of a room.

"It's really stubborn, and it bites," explained Tetsu, lamely, holding up a bandaged finger as proof.

Hijikata shook his head and turned away. Of all things, to be defeated by a hoofed animal, he thought as he opened the sliding door, only to find himself stopped in his tracks by the glare that said animal was giving him from its master's side. For something that could not speak, the pig was surprisingly eloquent. It was giving Hijikata the dirtiest look, as if outraged that someone would dare intrude on holy ground.

Hijikata, realizing that he was being stared down by a dumb animal, recovered from his surprise and eyed the pig in irritation, his expression making it clear that he would not tolerate any defiance from an insubordinate, and things lower on the food chain definitely qualified as insubordinates.

The pig started squealing at that, outraged that anyone would have the gall to hint at turning it into food. It crouched down low, grunted, and bared its little teeth, daring Hijikata to come and try it. Behind it, Souji stirred. Alarmed that the pig might wake Souji up, and even more alarmed that the pig seemed to realize this and now had a glint in its eye, telling him without words that Hijikata had best leave the room immediately or else it would not be held responsible for the noise it would make, Hijikata knew that he had lost this round and it was time to retreat. He gave the pig one parting glare, warning it that this wasn't over, and shut the door quietly.

Tetsu, who had watched the whole exchange from the safety of the walkway, knew the moment Hijikata turned around with both sides of his mouth turned down and his jaw set that his life depended on keeping the laughter that threatened to overspill from showing on his face. Hijikata looked down at him, daring him to say something, anything at all, about what he just saw. Tetsu wisely decided that the walkway was looking dusty, and started working at it with his broom. He barely caught it when Hijikata muttered under his breath, "the pig can stay as long as it doesn't make a mess," before tramping away, back ramrod straight with what little dignity he had left.

Tetsu grinned as he moved the broom this way and that, and reminded himself to bring Saizou a treat later today.

Hijikata must have somehow heard the thought, because he stopped halfway down the walkway and looked back over his shoulder, narrowed eyes driving straight into Tetsu. Tetsu suppressed a squeak and started sweeping vigorously, as if his life depended on a spotless wooden floor. Hijikata, apparently satisfied that his page was adequately cowed not to spread news of this incident, said nothing and resumed stalking down the walkway until he disappeared around the corner.

Tetsu heaved a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat off his brow. Maybe now he would believe it when Saitou-san tells him that Hijikata-san is really a demon with a hidden eye on the back of his head.

Inside his room, Souji cracked open an eye, amusement glinting in the corners, and laughed secretly to himself, the sound muffled by his pillow.
A/N: I have a feeling that Hijikata is OOC in this one. (pokes at Toshi-muse) Wake up, damnit! It could just be the whole tone and style of this chapter though. Constructive criticism much appreciated.