Characters: Yamanami, Souji
Note: Spoilers if you don't know what happened to Yamanami at the end of his life.
Disclaimer: Peacemaker Kurogane belongs to Nanae Chrono. No money is being made off this fanfic.
He knew the moment he returned to the inn that he had not gone far enough, and he wondered if he'd meant to in the first place. It was too late now for such thoughts, Sannan knew, as he faced the first and last person he hoped would come after him.
Souji looked more vulnerable and tired than ever, but his eyes contained such a terrible mix of emotions that Sannan didn't know what to say, so he waited.
"I was hoping I wouldn't find you," said Souji, at last.
"Ah," agreed Sannan. "And I am sorry that it had to be you who did."
The quality of silence as they rode back toward Kyoto was more cutting than any blade could have been. Hijikata probably thought it was a kindness to send Souji after him, and it was, but not in the way Hijikata expected. Souji's presence opened Sannan's eyes to the truth that he had been trying to flee: that he couldn't stop hurting people, even if he tried. It was futile in these times. No matter what anyone did, someone was going to be hurt.
And now he was about to hurt Souji again. He wondered if Souji would forgive him this last bit of selfishness.
"Souji, when the time comes, will you—"
Sannan set the brush down and read the poem over. It didn't fully say what he wanted it to, but it would have to do. There was only so much he could express with words and ink.
He nodded to Hijikata and Kondou to signal that he was ready, and he heard Souji pad softly into position behind him. He didn't want to think about what his last request was costing Souji now. It was too late for regrets.
He reached for the blade before him.
One swing of his sword was all it took. He made the cut perfectly, leaving just a bit of skin to keep the head on. He knew his technique was flawless, his precision a thing of beauty. One swing, one cut, and it was done. Sannan probably didn't suffer very much in the end. It was the least Souji could do for him.
Weeks later, Souji could still remember the feeling in his hands as his sword cut through tendon and bone. Hijikata told him that the feeling would fade, but Souji knew it wouldn't ever go away completely. Some scars stayed with you forever.
Background Notes: Yamanami attempted to leave the Shinsengumi in March 1865. Souji went or was sent after him and brought him back. Since he violated the code of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata ordered him to commit seppuku. The ritual of seppuku usually involves the person composing a death poem beforehand, then using a short blade (wakizashi or tanto) to make a horizontal cut along the stomach, and then a slightly upward cut to spill out the intestines. His second would then nearly behead him to end his suffering, leaving a little bit of skin to keep the head on. Souji was Yamanami's second.