Hey everyone, Mo here. This is the first installment of my serial. I have no clue how long it will be or how steady my work on it will be . . . I'm already working on another serial for my Jane Austen fanfic board as well as a novel . . . sheesh. Somebody tie me down. :)

Anyway, I always figured Yahiko wouldn't know his birthday, his home life being the way it was. If anyone wants to argue the point--jeesh, it's just a fanfic! As to Megumi's reputation--well, it's an issue for any woman in any pre-women's-lib society, and I've never seen a fic that addressed it. *yanks self out of imminent feminist rant* Ahem. The "hot reds" are shamelessly stolen from the most excellent Audrey Hepburn movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Everyone go watch that movie. Now. It's your assignment. (j/k) Anyway, I thought it fit Sano. Oh, and one last confession. I had Sano calling Megumi Megitsune as a love-name in "Monologues" and probably later on in this. I don't remember where I saw it, but certainly never in the anime, so I probably saw it in a fanfic and forgot the title and the author. Bad Mo. Bad Mo! If you're that author, please email me so I can attribute it to you properly. Hmmm, looking over all this makes me wonder if ANYTHING I write is original . . .

Standard disclaimers, etc. Enjoy!

In the pale half-light of early dawn, he knelt at her side, content merely to watch her as she slept.

In ancient times, he thought idly, this woman would have been called a goddess, a supernaturally beautiful deity sent to steal men's foolish hearts. In times later but still past, she would have been addressed as Lady or Princess, and with her beauty and her wit she would have ruled a thousand men.

In these times, this one man was content just to call her his.

"Oi, kitsune," he whispered.

"Mm?" Takani Megumi mumbled.

"I'm leaving." When that got no response, Sagara Sanosuke shrugged. Dropping a light kiss on her shoulder, he rose and turned to go out the door.

At the tug on his pants, he paused and looked over his shoulder. She had the hem in a tight grip and was smiling lazily up at him. "Is that all I get?"

He grinned and knelt again. Planting his hands on either side of her head, he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed them both breathless. "That, lady," he said, resting his forehead against hers, "is all you get. It's nearly dawn."

"Sano," she called out just as he was sliding her bedroom door open.


She hesitated, casting about for something to say. "Are you coming to the Akebako tonight?" It was Yahiko's birthday--at least, it was the day Kaoru had abritrarily decreed as Yahiko's birthday--and the Kenshin gumi was celebrating.

He gave her another grin. "Free food, free sake, and the chance to flirt with you, kitsune. Sure I am. See you there."

When he was gone, she sighed heavily. Except for that first morning, he'd never stayed past dawn--not even once. He didn't want the neighbors to see him sneaking out of her bed. As a woman doing what was traditionally a man's job, he said, she had to step even more carefully then most women to retain her good reputation.

Megumi wrinkled her nose. She was grateful for his consideration, but really. Of all the people to care about reputation, Sano, the mooching, gambling, brawling ex-gangster was the least likely. And not even his!

Sometimes she felt as if in spite of their new, closer relationship, she wasn't even close to peeling back all the layers that hid the heart of him. It was frustrating, to say the least. The worst part of it was that Sano considered himself so basic that he didn't even understand there were layers to peel back.

She propped her chin on her hands and stared at the door. What do you really feel, Sano? Really? You come to my bed every night, but during the day we pretend everything is as it was before. Is that how you want it? All the pros of a relationship without the obligations, so when this is over you can walk away with no recriminations?

I want so much more. But for now, I'll take what I can get.

"Che," she muttered, flinging aside the covers and reaching for her yukata. Then she had to smile at herself. She was picking up his language. She should watch herself around Ayame-chan and Suzume-chan. Genzai-sensai certainly wouldn't be happy if his granddaughters suddenly started swearing like--well, like Sano.

With another sigh, she began getting dressed, already counting the hours until her lover would return to her.

Sano strolled down the street, whistling softly. In the past two weeks, he'd seen more dawns--fourteen of them, to be exact--then he had in the past ten years of his life. He wasn't counting the dawns he'd seen after a long night of gambling or drinking. Most of the time, he hadn't been in any shape to appreciate them.

He appreciated every single dawn he saw now.

Sometimes he couldn't believe it had happened--that, at long last, Megumi had come into his arms. From the first, everything about her had ensnared his senses, like a trap for the unwary.

The unwary, he thought with a grin, but not the unwilling.

He'd tried to argue himself out of it countless times, listing all the reasons why he shouldn't want her and she'd never want him. She was a lady. She was educated. She was prissy. She was clever. She was beautiful. She wanted Kenshin.

But no. She wanted him. Sano. It seemed like a miracle.

Every night when he walked into the clinic, she would be sitting at her desk, making notes, or grinding herbs, or tidying up. For a moment, as he stood there in the doorway, he would hold his breath. Would he suddenly discover that the events of the past days had been nothing more then a really detailed, sake-induced hallucination?

But then she would lift her head, smile, and hold out her hand. And, letting out his breath, he would cross the room to kiss her.

But she was still beautiful, still educated, still so far above him class-wise it was like daring to love a goddess. What made him think he could ever keep her? And yet if he told her--would her compassion make her stay with him, even when she would rather not?

It would be worse then if she left him.

I want all of you, Megumi. But I'll take what I can get.

"Oi! Sano!"

Sano looked up and grinned. "Oi, Kinji."

Kinji, a gambling buddy, was leaning against a lamppost, grinning at him. "Where've you been?"

Sano shrugged. "Around."

"I haven't seen you in two weeks," the other man complained, falling into step with him. "She must be good."

Sano nearly tripped over his own feet. "Wha--who?"

"Whatever woman you've got now," Kinji clarified. "She must be damn good. Where does she work?"

It took a moment for Sano to work it out--Kinji thought he was spending all his time with a prostitute. He forced a laugh. "Sorry, Kinji, there ain't a woman. Just haven't been around, is all."

Kinji snorted, obviously skeptical. "Want to keep her to yourself, huh? Well, okay--but tell me when you get tired of her."

A twinge of pain in his bad hand made him realize he'd involuntarily clenched his hands into fists, and he forced them to relax. Kinji didn't mean any harm, after all. He didn't know he was talking about Megumi instead of the kind of teahouse girl they'd shared before. "There ain't a woman, Kinji," he said again. "Where you goin'?"

There was curiousity in his friend's face, but he dropped the subject. "Out and about. Don't really know. You wanna come?"

Sano shook his head. "I'm gonna get some sleep."

Kinji laughed and clapped him on the back. "There ya go. Keep your strength." He winked. "See you around, Sano."

"See you," Sano echoed.

It was true, he mused. He hadn't been to any of his usual gambling and drinking haunts in the past two weeks. He'd been sleeping, or at the dojo, or just wandering around watching the sun and willing it to go down. The feeling he called the "hot reds"--that wild, tearing restlessness that would only be assuaged by a fight, or a drink, or a game--hadn't surfaced in a long time. A little more then two weeks, actually.

Maybe being with Megumi tamed them. Not just the sex, although he more then liked that, but the way she would tell him about her day, or the sparkle in her eyes when he would tease her, or the sound of her deep, even breathing as he held her.

Sometimes it felt as if he really lived at night, and only existed for the rest of the time.