A disclaimer, in the tradition of fanfiction writers everywhere: I do not own the rights to Rurouni Kenshin, Canadienne boots, the Nissan Jetta, the Bourne Identity, Minority Report, or When Harry Met Sally. I am using them without permission.

Word Count: 2912
Notes: This story is an attempt at realistic dialog, without using large paragraphs of description. Written mainly because I needed SOMETHING to put into my profile, or I might get kicked off.

Night Out Chapter 1: Sano needs a job.
OR "I dunno, Misao, he looks kind of sketchy to me..."

It was one of those days when the sky turns the color of slush and stepping outside feels like walking into a mist shower cabinet. It was the kind of multidirectional rain that makes an umbrella perfectly useless, and leaves you with a dampness all the way down to your underwear that won't go away even after an hour in front of the heater.

It was not dark enough yet to justify street lights, so the road was only partially visible through the haze. The street was covered by puddles of dark water, slightly disturbed by the mist. It was the kind of day best spent inside, curled up with a book, rather than wandering the streets.

Someone who heartily wished she were curled up with a book stepped into this dreary street and halted at the top of the row house steps. Kaoru zipped up her fleece sweatshirt, checked that her messenger bag was secure, and pulled her hands into the sleeves, shivering a little. "Come on, guys! This was your idea."

She was followed out by the tall figure of Megumi and the shorter one of Misao.

"Ugh, I should have worn a hat," the short girl moaned.

"Not a hat, Misao." Megumi chided her, turning and locking the apartment door. "A hat would mess with your hair. An umbrella."

"An umbrella wouldn't do me any good." Misao had bounded down the steps and was bouncing at the bottom. "Look at this stuff, it's everywhere… Let's get to the car as quickly as possible."

The three headed off down the street to the parking lot, single file to avoid the puddles. The car, a black Nissan Jetta, was parked in the middle of a particularly large one.

"Look at this!" Megumi whined. "My boots will get all wet."

"Aren't they waterproof?" Kaoru wanted to know. "I thought you got that nice, slush-tested black pair."

"I decided at the last minute that they weren't as nice as the other ones." Megumi beeped the car open and picked her way through to the driver's side.

"Shotgun! The non-stiletto ones?" Misao had dashed for the other front door, leaving Kaoru to the back.

"Yeah. The ones with the detailing."

"I thought you said they were too cowboy." Kaoru slid across the back seat to sit behind Megumi. "Ugh, I'm soaked."

Megumi pulled the car out of the lot, and they were off down the street. "I changed my mind. Western is in."

"Really?" Misao was already fiddling with the radio. "I thought it was bright colors- you know, the 'I chose my clothes in the dark' look."

Once Misao had decided on the perfect radio station (something about current hits and smooth jazz), she swiveled in her seat to face Kaoru and Megumi. "So, before we pick up this no-good boyfriend of yours…"

"He's not no-good!" Megumi interrupted.

"Okay, the… boyfriend," Misao continued, being sure to leave a sarcastic gap, "I have something to ask you guys."

There was an expectant silence. Then Kaoru put in "about the test?"

"Yes, the test." Misao nodded. "I want you guys to be there. Just in case."

"Sounds fine." They were stopped at a red light, and Megumi took the opportunity to check her hair in the rearview mirror.

"No problem." Kaoru was squeaking the condensation off her window. "And after, we can watch a movie. With popcorn, and chocolate."

The test worried Misao for several reasons. One, of course, was nervousness. She would be testing for her black belt in front of many people, and she wanted some company. But the chief reason, and the one that prompted her to ensure that the other two would come, was a matter of men. She had dated a teacher in the class, and they had had a rather spectacularly awful breakup. It would be the first time she would have had to be in the same place with him since.

It was not the first time one of these breakups had occurred, and judging by her track record--fall in fast, jump out fast—it wouldn't be the last.

"We could watch the Bourne Identity, or Minority Report." Megumi, despite her exquisite manners and elegant taste in clothes, liked dramatic action movies.

"I dunno." Misao tugged and straightened her skirt. "Marching metal spiders would be a bit much. Something romantic."

"We could watch 'When Harry Met Sally'." Kaoru suggested.

"Seen it." Megumi said. The light turned green, and they were off again.

"Is that the one with the faked orgasm?" Misao asked. The skirt had been arranged to her satisfaction, so she smoothed down her hair.

"Yep. Right in the middle of that truck stop, in front of everybody." Kaoru looked thoughtful. "I could never pull that off."

The trio was silent as they considered the machinations of faking orgasms in public places.

"All told, though, I don't want to see it again. Ah--­" Megumi was in the middle of turning left with the light when a car suddenly decided to run the red. She slammed on her brakes as the other car roared by. Kaoru squeaked. Misao swore. "Damn road hogs. The light was red, you f…" she trailed off at Megumi's disapproving look. "… f… fiends…"

"Everybody ok?" Megumi asked, once they had cleared the intersection.

"Yep. Just startled." Kaoru was rummaging under the seat for her messenger bag, which hadn't been strapped in. "The pages went everywhere…"

"Those… yeah, I'm fine. Did you get the license number?" Misao was still peering back the way they came.

Two blocks later, spirits had recovered and they returned to the matter at hand. "So… We could just go to Blockbuster, and see what we find." Kaoru suggested.

"Sure. But no more than two movies—I'll be at work the whole next day and don't want to stay up too late."

Megumi was a general practitioner at the university hospital, which meant she had "all the cases and none of the fun". Kaoru and Misao had quickly learned not to get her started on the evils of 9-minute appointments and rotating nurses.

"Sounds fine. And we can pick up some of that cheesy popcorn and sour patch there." Misao was on board.

"Sour patch give me mouth sores."

"Eww, Kaoru, too much information!"

Megumi pulled up to a three-story apartment complex. "Misao, go bang on the door and get Sano."

"Whaaat?" Misao turned away from the side mirror, where she had been fixing her hair. "I'll get all wet again. Fetch him yourself!"

"You'll be under the arch most of the time. It serves a dual purpose- it's on your side, and I want to sit next to my fiancé."

"Fiance?" The other two girls shrieked. "Megumi, why didn't you say something?" "I would have told you if I got fianceed!"

"Engaged, Misao." Megumi shouted over the commotion. "And I was going to tell you once I had him in here."

"Oh." That mollified them a little. "Well, congratulations!" Kaoru said.

"I'll hop out and get him, then." Misao collected her cute evening purse and scampered up to the door.

She returned in short order with Sano trailing her. Sano was… tall and skinny. He had brown hair that he usually kept in gel-assisted spikes, and preferred jeans to slacks. Since meeting Megumi, he had shifted from t-shirts to button-down shirts, making him more formal than a normal unemployed security guard. He had lost his job when pay cuts hit, and was currently on the market.

"Yo, ladies." He opened the front door and folded his height into the car. "So have you heard anything lately?"

"We have!" Misao kicked Kaoru's bag off the passenger seat and buckled herself in. "Congratulations!"

"Yep. This time for real." He gave Megumi a peck on the lips, which she swatted him for (out of habit, rather than from any ill intent), and buckled himself in, reaching for the radio. "Let's rock and roll, ladies!"

"Touch that dial and you die, rooster boy."

"Sorry, Misao!"

"But why now?" Kaoru said, casting Misao a reproving look.

"Yeah, well… I thought after four years of dating—"

"Five." Megumi interjected.

"Four, babe. I met you summer after college."

"That makes five. Meeting summer, med school summer, med school summer, off summer, and this summer."

"This summer doesn't count yet."

"Okay, four then. But a couple months from now…" After exchanging another kiss, Megumi started the car and they drove off.

"So what's so urgent we have to go to Katsu's place tonight?" Kaoru asked, after Misao had calmed down. ("I still can't believe you didn't TELL me!")

Megumi took one hand off the wheel to pet Sano's gelled spikes. "He's got a job interview. And since we were going out to somewhere similar anyway, I thought we could give him a ride."

"Ooh! I didn't know he was hiring." Misao leaned around the seat. "As a what?"

"A bouncer." He looked proud.

"Like the ones that stand outside, or the ones that keep the bartender from being mobbed?" Kaoru, as usual, was full of practical considerations.

"Dunno yet." Sano swiveled around in his seat to look at her. "I'm hoping for inside, though. I wouldn't want to stand out in the wind. Or, actually… does Katsu's place make you stand outside?"

"Don't remember. I bet you could do it, though." Sano in a black suit, black shirt, and black tie, would be an impressive sight.

Megumi only had to drive around two blocks before she found a spot. Unfortunately, it was so tight that Sano had to get out and direct her in.

"I hope someone leaves before we do…" Kaoru said, looking at the tiny gap between the back of Megumi's Jetta and the sedan behind it. "But at least it isn't in a puddle this time."

"No problem," said Sano. "Megumi's a good parker."

"Your faith in me is… inspiring." They shared another kiss.

"Aww, geez, guys, get a room!" Misao had little patience for standing in the mist. "Don't you have an appointment to keep?"

What Kaoru had called "Katsu's Place" was not, as her moniker suggested, a small establishment. The Black Lagoon was turning out to be one of the city's hot night-spots for dancing, for drinking and for karaoke. They had an actual stage, lots of dance floor, two separate bars, a seating area, and the karaoke rooms. It was able to get the hottest names in local music, and even the occasional radio-caliber DJ. Tonight was a DJ night, meaning the line was as long as ever.

The bouncer guarding the line was built like a refrigerator. And he didn't look happy to see their little party. "Names?"

"Sanosuke Sagara. I'm here for a job interview with Katsu."

The refrigerator raised one of his eyebrows. It was an interesting look for someone who was as bald as an egg. "And these?" He managed to indicate with that one word not only his disdain for them, but also his opinion of line-jumpers and hangers-on in general.

"My fiancée and cheering squad." He gave Megumi a small peck on the cheek. "Feel free to ask Katsu about them, too."

The refrigerator grudgingly pulled out a cell phone, and hit a speed dial number. "Yo. Got a Sagara down here? Yuh. Yep." He flicked the phone shut, and looked very disturbed. "You can go on in," he said grudgingly. "Marissa will take you to the office."

The interior of the club was dim, with flashing strobe lights and a big moveable spotlight. On the dance floor, the crowd was writhing like a heap of swarming ants. The noise was poundingly loud, almost too loud to hear anything but the base.

"…." Misao was trying to say something.

"What?" Kaoru yelled.


Kaoru was just drawing breath to yell back when they were interrupted by a third party.

From out of the crowded dance floor came a short, skinny woman—Misao's size, but with shorter, more puffy hair. Megumi and Sano were trying to have a conversation, and she tapped Sano on the elbow.

"I'm Marissa. I'll take you to Katsu." She handed them some drink tickets, then headed off. Sano followed her, and Megumi followed him.

Misao and Kaoru, abandoned, looked at each other, then at the dance floor. Misao tried to say something else, which Kaoru couldn't hear, and pointed away from where Megumi and Sano had disappeared to. After more garbled shouting and fruitless pantomine, Misao tugged on Kaoru's sleeve, and pointed away from the stage. The back of the club and second bar were in a glass room of their own, presumably to deaden the sound from the floor.

Once the door shut, the noise decreased to a dull roar. "What did you have to say?" Kaoru asked.

"I wanted us to come in here so we could talk without shouting."

This wasn't just any weekend trip to the club. This was an encounter that had been planned for days. Misao, still smarting over the loss of her most recent boyfriend, was out looking for another man. Megumi, with the happiness that comes from the first few moments of engagement, soundly seconded that idea. Kaoru, who was usually the voice of reason in such affairs, had been suckered in by promises of drinks and no shopping trip next week.

They chose a table far to the back, away from the bar and in the corner between the club wall and the glass. Kaoru slid herself into that corner, messenger bag on the seat next to hers. Misao perched on the outside chair, eyeing the bar. "We have three tickets. What will Megumi want?"

Kaoru started getting her editing equipment out, setting up her reading glasses, black pens, and a sheaf of galley proofs. "She usually has a super-dry martini, stirred. You know, the kind where you just swish the glass with the vermouth, then fill it up with gin."

Misao stifled a squeak. "Kaoru, look look!"

"Eh?" Kaoru looked up from arranging her things.

"That guy." Misao gestured to the left corner of the bar, the side away from the bright lights of the dance floor.

"The redhead?" Sitting at a table was a man bearing the most amazing shock of red hair she'd seen in her life. It was red, true red, long and shiny. She was speculating on the amount of time it took him to wash all that hair when Misao interrupted her daze. "Not the redhead, the one next to him."

Kaoru looked again. Beside the redhead was a tall man, with a dark trenchcoat laying over the seat beside him. He had black hair, the bangs just barely hanging in his eyes. Totally Misao's type- he looked like a vampire.

"He looks a little sketchy, Misao." But her friend was already headed towards the bar with the three drink tickets in hand. "And the saga starts once more…" Kaoru sighed. She went back to her correcting- there was little that could be done once Misao began her chase.

Usually they would wait until Megumi got back to get the drinks, then spend the rest of the evening trying to coerce Kaoru onto the dance floor. Today, though, the plans had been derailed. Megumi was upstairs with Sano, and not here to persuade Misao to think before she acted. Doubtless Misao wanted to catch the eye of tall-dark-and-handsome, for at least a flirt. Or she could go in a different direction, going for his friend.

Either way, in a few minutes, she would probably come back, having dropped several hints, brushed past the target table, or done some deliberate staring. The target male would come over, Misao would look surprised, ask Kaoru to watch her drink, and go dance. Then, hours or weeks later, Misao would come back, depressed and alone, and inform then that he had a wedding ring tan, or was a pervert, or a bad dancer. "I know it's dumb," she had told Kaoru once, after a two-week fling, "but I always hope that some time it'll all work out for me. I guess I'm just a romantic."

Misao was back in eleven minutes precisely, carefully balancing three drinks. Kaoru saw her strawberry daquiri, Megumi's martini, and… something blue. "It was on fire before," Misao explained. Kaoru nodded, and as soon as it was down, took a sip.

"Tastes… sour." From her bubbly personality and bouncing, one would assume that Misao was a sweet drinks girl. But her taste tended to run towards the salty and tart, rather than to the mellow and fruity.

"Well," Misao said, after she'd sat down and the rest of the drinks were safely on the table, "I went over there with my tickets, and almost tripped on the guy's chair. And he apologized, can you believe it?" She took a sip of Megumi's martini, and wrinkled her nose. "I can't believe fox-lady likes that stuff."

"You say that every time, Misao." Kaoru carefully circled some italics and wrote "rom" in the margin.

"Yeah, well… I figure it'll grow on me." She fluffed her hair a little, and re-crossed her legs, being sure to let the slit in her skirt slide open. "Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Well, I didn't want to look TOO eager, you know, so I said thank-you and walked over to the bar."

Kaoru nodded absently, pen in hand to make more corrections. Misao would rattle on whether she was listening or not.

"And… don't look now, but he's looking over here!"

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